Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can't Erase Awareness

***Submitted by Monica

It’s such a tricky thing, being comfortable enough… brave enough… vulnerable enough, to own this piece of my story. I could give you the lowdown on the whole dirty truth, but to be honest, I’m not ready to do that here – even though this forum leaves my identity, essentially, unknown. And so, I will tell you about today, about thoughts that come with this ‘living’ thing that I’m trying to do - minus the anesthetic.

I’m 27-years-old. I’m an elementary school teacher and a wannabe writer. I’ve always been a book-devourer. I seem to have a thing for reality TV. And I am an alcoholic.

I wish I was writing something different right now: I wish I could tell you that I’d jumped in to recovery with both feet, surrendered to the solution, and had a significant amount of sobriety. But I can’t, and I don’t. January 9, 2011 marks day one of this day count. I’ve been trying to quit drinking and using for well over a year. As we entered 2011 I had 4 ½ months of sobriety under my belt. But addiction yells so loudly sometimes, and has this fine-tuned ability to conjure up completely believable justifications for another drink or drug.

And it’s never just one.

When I got honest with my sponsor about my relapse I was flooded with intense emotions: anger, shame, guilt, remorse, defeat, sadness. I felt that everything I had gained in the 4 ½ months was erased with the end of the day count. I believed I was a failure: that I wasn’t cut out to do this “sobriety thing”.

As I ‘begin’ this journey again, though, I am coming to believe that while my day count might be beginning again, and my sobriety date has changed (hopefully for the last time), the growth hasn’t been deleted: I can’t erase awareness or un-see patterns.

There are so many moments when I get scared of growth, because it is so unknown. I seem to have the spiraling out of control thing down pat, but this growth thing is totally foreign and scary. And so I get scared, take one – or both – feet out of this recovery thing, put them in running shoes, and bolt. This pattern is something that I can’t un-see: knowing this truth about how I behave is leagues beyond what I could have told you about myself six months ago, or even one month ago. Awareness of this pattern is growth, and it hasn’t been erased.

I feel like I’m re-learning how to do everything. All of the everyday experiences like going to the grocery store and going to work feel brand new as I struggle to take them on without any numbing agents in my system. Thoughts and emotions are felt intensely. Every event is experienced in hyper-coloured extremes. These everyday challenges drive me to run just as much as any growth or tragedy. Many times I crave that numb existence I know so well. My entire being feels like it’s been ripped from the comfort of what comes so naturally and thrown into alien surroundings. Navigating this new territory is tough stuff. And again, I find myself fighting the urge to run… but with my awareness of this – with the growth that I haven’t lost - I am able to interrupt that dangerous thought for a moment.

And so, I take a deep breath, take off the running shoes, throw them in the closet, and shut the door. I put on my comfy slippers and I pick up the phone. I call my friend & sponsor and ramble on about the kids at work today and what I had for breakfast and a new experience that I had at a meeting last night. I get brave enough to spew the thoughts spinning around in this crazy head. And I do the best I can with the rest of this day - keeping my slippers on - because sometimes I get cold feet, and, as my sponsor pointed out, slippers are that wonderful, comforting, ‘stay-put’ kind of footwear.


  1. There is so much emphasis on counting days, and while that can be a useful tool for some, others of us (with an affinity for all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking) can become slaves to it. A relapse does NOT erase all the time and hard-earned experience that came before it, sober or not. It's just a way o understand ourselves further. You are here, you are aware, and that is everything. Today is a brand new day. This is a brand new minute.

    Take good care, and thank you so much for sharing of yourself here. It matters.

  2. I relate so much to the urge to bolt, the fear of growth and the unknown. Like you, spiraling out of control is so much more familiar (like comfortable and nearly worn out running shoes). Being here now, and reaching out for help is hard work. I'm so glad you're back, slippered, for another go.

  3. I think the hardest thing for me was how intensely I felt everything - the edges of life were so sharp. Telling you it gets better probably won't help much, because it didn't help me, either.

    The patterns are so familiar and so comfortable, how can we not want to return to them? It's the most natural thing in the world. What you're doing now feels unnatural and uncomfortable and it's a testament to your strength and determination that you just keep trying. I'm so impressed that you're here, being honest and aware.

    Spend time in your comfy slippers and feel the warm embrace of this community. Know that you are loved and supported, and even though I don't know you? I know you can do this.

  4. Those first few months are so difficult - the feelings, the emotions, the actual feeling of all of them. You're right, it is all new! It's learning how to be us. Sober. And that's crazy.
    (and I completely agree with Maggie - all that she said...)
    Be kind to yourself.
    Thank you for this, today.

  5. your honesty and courage in that story is so clear. you're an amazing person. thank you for sharing your story. i have 75 days, but it took over a year for me to get to this point. i can relate to your struggle with relapse. what helps me avoid relapse is to remember where the 1st drink always takes me which is drunkenness, blacking out or passing out, fitful sleep, hangover, fear of what I did or said while drunk, guilt, shame and the loss of sobriety. no matter how much i want that glass of wine, i want to avoid all of the crap that comes with relapse even more. good luck to you!

  6. Good for you for getting back on the horse and sharing this story.

    As someone very newly sober my emotions are intensely pure...which sounds lik it should be fun but is surpiaingly difficult.

    I don't have any big reveal but to say you are not alone. And you are brave.

  7. You so can do this! Go girl!

  8. So...what did ya have for breakfast...?