Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Getting Sober Feel Like Grief

*** Submitted by Andrea, who blogs at Your Kick-Ass Life

Recently I’ve had the privilege of helping out a friend who is trying to get sober. It’s been a while since I’ve been in those early days, and as I’ve helped her and listened to her fears about sobriety, I remember.

And something struck me—something I’ve never thought of before. The grief process many of us go through, as we get sober.

They say in recovery, it works until it doesn’t. When I got sober in 2011 I came to a point when drinking just wasn’t working anymore. And I so, so wanted it to. I tried to make it work exactly like I would in a relationship with a lover. The one you have that intense connection with. So much history. But, you know you’re not good for each other. You know in your heart the relationship should end. But, you can’t even for one minute image your life without that person. It’s too painful to even think about. So you spend day after day with that person. Trying to make it work. Trying to make it fun again. Trying go back to the way it used to be. Reminiscing about old times when things were so good. So desperate for it to work again.

And it never does.

That’s what drinking alcoholically feels like.

And when we finally make that decision to get sober, at least for me, it absolutely felt like I was leaving a relationship. One that had protected me from all my fears in the world. Or so I thought. In the end of these relationships that are falling apart we do everything in our power to paint a picture of love. But, in reality it’s far from it. The relationship is causing us more sadness and anxiety that we can bear, so we hold on tighter to try to make it better. And the cycle starts all over again.

And I know because I’ve been in that intimate relationship with that real-life person when it fell apart and we split up. We were together for 13 years, had so much history and were bonded intensely. The grief I experienced was unlike any other. I was lost without him. I didn’t know who I was without him in my life. It was as if I had to learn how to “be”. The fear and grief were at times unbearable.

And after more than 2 years of sobriety I’ve suddenly realized getting sober feels like same thing.

Heartbreak. Grief. And fear.

I grieved and was heartbroken over the loss of alcohol. I grieved the loss of who I was when drinking actually did work. I grieved the fact that I now identified with a group of people that at one time I judged—at one time I swore I wasn’t one of them. I grieved that I would have to work hard at recovery—because just abstaining from alcohol wasn’t going to be enough for me. I grieved the loss of a part of me.

I feared facing my life without a means to numb and hide from the hard times. I feared that alcoholism really was something that was out of my control. I feared that for me, there would be no turning back once I knew for sure and admitted that I was a true alcoholic.

All of this isn’t to say that there isn’t so much to be gained from sobriety. I have a beautiful, sober life now. But, I write this post for anyone who might think that their feelings of grief and sadness are wrong. You need to feel what you feel. And if you feel grief about getting sober that’s okay. I’ve been one to over-think almost everything and this is one of them. I’ve made up that it has to mean something if I feel sad about it all. Am I headed for relapse? Shouldn’t I always feel happy now that I’m sober? Fear and grief are real feelings that we all feel. In my experience, having a spiritual connection has greatly reduced these feelings and I still turn to that connection every time I feel fear and grief come up. But, I remember in early sobriety, they were quite common feelings.

So if you’re in those early days please believe me that all of your feelings are normal. 

And that it does get better.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014



*** submitted by Anonymous

My last drink was 48 hours ago.  I'm a full time nurse getting ready to complete my final semester of a nursing master's program.  I've been a nurse for 20 years.  I used to work on a drug and alcohol detox unit.  I know what alcoholism is.  My mother, brothers, grandparents, aunts, and uncles were all alcoholics.  Alcoholism creeps up on you like the boogyman.  I've been drinking for about 15 years.  Daily wine (3-4 glasses/night) during the week, heavy vodka on Friday and Saturdays.  I black out once per week.  I don't treat my 3 children right when I'm drunk.  My friends are beginning to complain about my behavior when I drink.  And my husband, the angel, has had to spend many nights getting me home safely, cleaning me up, and reporting my antics the previous night that I could not remember.

It's getting too much.  A couple of years ago, I fell in a hotel bathroom injuring my head and face and did not realize it until I woke up the next day and looked in the mirror.  I have come to the realization that if I intend to complete my degree and continue having a successful career and intact family, I must stop.  I've tried to fool myself too long, "I can handle it.  I'm gaining so much weight because I'm peri-menopausal.  I'm highly functioning-right?"

I have to save myself from myself.  I am an alcoholic.  I'm destroying myself, my family, and soon, my career.  I want to stop before I lose everything.  It took several years for me to get to this point of heavy drinking and I know I am in imminent danger of losing everything.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


*** submitted by Anonymous

When I was a little girl I always felt different than everyone else.  I would often day dream about what it would be like to be the "popular" girl, or prettier, or more talented.  I remember sitting in a stairwell at a family party, listening to my relatives chattering and laughing over clinking glasses, and feeling like I just didn't get it.  I didn't fit.

When I took my first drink of alcohol at age 14, it clicked.  I got it!  Now I could understand what all the fun was about.  I loved talking with everyone and anyone who would listen, I could be funny, I was pretty and I simply knew every guy wanted to date me, and I felt like I could accomplish anything.  Until the next morning when I would be hit with the worst hangovers and accomplish nothing being bed ridden all day.

By age 20 I had figured out the solution to my hangover problem, I would take a drink the following morning after a late night.  It took the edge off, my hands were no longer shaking, and my "personality" came back.  I felt better when I was buzzed, and learning to maintain it became the goal.

It was around this time that I became unexpectedly pregnant with a man I'd been dating about a week, and was forced quit drinking.  Honestly, it was not very difficult to stop as my obsession with alcohol was replaced by the obsession of a new baby.  A hurried wedding took place, I purchased my first home, and before I knew it another baby was on the way.  I had two boys 12 months apart, and had spent almost two years being pregnant.  Drink time came once again...

My days blurred together as I felt trapped in a house with two babies to take care of, and the stress mounted.  I turned to alcohol as my nanny, my helper to keep me sane as I changed countless diapers, fed, bathed, clothed these children, and did endless laundry.  I was certainly justified in my drinking - if you had my life you would drink too!  But soon I just couldn't sit in the house with two toddlers all day.  We had to get out and go run errands, go to playdates, have fun at the park, and learn to swim.  It was then that I turned the one drink who would lead to the end for me - Vodka.

I believed that Vodka didn't smell - now I know so many in recovery are under the same delusion.  I would poor Vodka mixed with juice, soda, water, whatever I could mix it with into a water bottle, and off we would go.  My boys and me.  I would drive all over the town, attend parent meetings, exercise, go shopping, make dinners, all in a drunken haze that I became very clever at hiding.  Not.

People around me started to suspect I had a problem long before I did.  My mother in particular questioned my choices and behavior.  I believed my husband was the problem, he was the alcoholic one.  So I packed up the boys and left.  Left my house, my belongings, everything.  We moved in with my mother and within six months I was a divorced, alcoholic disaster, and tired of making up new alibis and reasons as to why.

My journey in recovery began one night when I took my two year old son to the grocery store after a night of drinking and making cookies.  I had run out of green food coloring, and I just HAD to have that!  No matter that I was drunk, I was headed to the store with my toddler in tow.  I vaguely remember the cashier eyeing me as I struggled to enter my pin number and swayed back and forth.  She then leaned in and said, "are you drunk?"...  I was humiliated, frozen in fear that I had been found out.  I turned away in a hurry and never replied, just got the hell out of there with my bag as fast as I could, carrying my son who was innocently playing with his new lollipop.

On the drive home it poured rain and I could barely operate my windshield wipers.  I realized I was putting my son's life and mine in danger.  I realized, for the first time, I was powerless over alcohol.

After a few more days of drinking to dull myself from the humiliation at the store, I had finally had enough.  I crawled on my hands and knees into my mother's bedroom one night, knowing she mysteriously had a copy of "The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous".  I didn't know what was in it, but I knew I had to read it and opened right up to the stories in the back of the book.  I began reading and realizing I could identify with every single story - I knew I was one of them.

The next day I went to my first AA meeting and my life was forever changed.  That was four years ago, and today I have 11 months of sobriety.  I never thought one day would be possible, let alone almost a year.  I relapsed plenty of times, always with good excuse - I was offered a drink and couldn't say no, I was depressed, I was trapped with drinkers at a party, the list goes on.  But the truth is nobody can make me drink today, if I drink its because I want to - period.  And the miracle today isn't that I don't drink, the miracle is that I DON'T want to!

I have learned a way to live sober today, and it includes working the 12 Steps of AA, having a sponsor, and giving back to others.  I have replaced alcohol with fellowship with women in recovery, and that is what has worked for me.  I pray every morning, and I thank God all day, not just at night.  I write a daily gratitude list to remind myself to be thankful for something even when life seems dull, and I send it to my sponsor.  I attend meetings and share what it was like for me to drink, I pray I never forget.

I am so grateful for my sobriety today, and the recovery journey has healed inner wounds I never even knew existed.  My growth as a person and ability to help others is a treasure, and I give all the glory to God for intervening in my life.  God speaks to me through other people, and that is why I share my story and continue to hear other's stories.  Perhaps someone will read mine and know its God speaking to them, this message.  Life is not perfect today, but it’s nothing I have to drink over, and if my head hits the pillow each night without taking a drink its better than my greatest day I ever spent drunk.