My Story.

My name is Sara and I am a (proud!) recovering alcoholic.  My sobriety date is February 11th, 2017.  As of today, I am 62 days sober!  In this blog, I will share my experience, strength, and hope with other recovering alcoholics, those still struggling with alcoholism/addiction, and those who are interested to learn more about the disease!

I was born on July 5th, 1993. Three days later, I was adopted by two physicians who I call my parents.  I grew up as the only child, my parents’ prized possession.  If I had to describe my childhood in one word, it would be happiness.  Although sometimes sheltered, I had everything a well-brought-up girl should have. My mom always said that I was the happiest (although incredibly stubborn!) child she had ever seen.  I know what some of you are thinking: “how could this girl with the picture-perfect childhood end up being an alcoholic? It does’t make sense!”

As grade school approached, I often wondered about my biological parents. I was always told growing up that I was adopted, but since my adoption was closed, I could never get any information about them.  The curiosity and a feeling of “who am I? was growing stronger as I grew older.  I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was in the 6th grade, and I hated the feeling of being austrosized or heaven forbid I had a disorder.

Around the same time I was diagnosed with ADHD, my beloved grandmother was diagnosed with an inoperable form of lung cancer.  I had a relationship with my grandmother that I will never forget.  Sometimes I would fake sick just so that I could spend time with her and watch Titanic for the thousandth time.  She lived right across the street from my elementary school, so I went over to her house almost every day after school while my parents were at work.  We had a very close bond, and everyone noticed.  When she was diagnosed and given 6 months to a year to live, I supressed every negative emotion regarding her illness.  When my grandmother was really having a hard time emotionally and physically (because of the chemo), she moved in with my parents and I.  At the ripe age of 12, I literally watched my best friend suffer before my eyes.  Her cancer spread to her brain, which caused her to have a massive stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body.  My grandma eventually went into hospice care, and suffocated to death.

When that dreaded phone call came from my mom at 3:02 a.m. Informing me and my dad that grandma had passed, I immediately felt numb.  Absolutely no emotion whatsoever. I knew this day was coming.  Instead of sobbing hysterically or having normal emotions of sadness and grief, I continued to suppress these feelings.   I refused to go near her casket at her showing, and I did not shed a tear at her funeral.  When everyone was going through the “normal” stages of grief, I coped in the only way I knew how.  My mom tried to approach me about my coping mechanisms and tried to put me in therapy to try and process my emotions, but I refused and always said that I was fine.

I graduated from 8th grade and went from a class of 12 students to a brand new high school with over 250 kids in the freshman class.  AKA, I went boy crazy and rebelled like you wouldn’t believe.  I would not do my homework for two weeks straight, I was on behavioral probation, and I even ripped a chemistry test in front of a teacher just for the hell of it.  The only activity that made me happy in high school was theater.  In the words of my drama teacher, “Pandora’s box was opened”.  I was the lead in multiple school musicals/plays and thought I was on top of the world.  My grandma frequently crossed my mind, but I forced myself to forget about it.   Around this time, I also tried to find my biological parents, but my mom (who was incredible for helping and supporting me!) and I always came to a dead end.  I had a lot of hidden emotions about my adoption too, but (surprise) I didn’t want to deal with those feelings either.

As I continued to be a complete asshole throughout my high school career, the end was finally near.  Around the second half of my senior year I started experimenting with alcohol.  I remember the first time I got intoxicated, I remember how great it felt, and that I could pound beers like water and drink all of my friends under the table.  Of course I woke up with a hangover, but as soon as that hangover went away I was always looking forward to when I could get my hands on that next drink.  I craved it.  I was built to drink and I was proud of it.

About two months before I graduated high school, I met a guy that would significantly influence my life in so many ways.  The good, the bad, and the very very ugly.  We started dating two weeks later, and things got very intense very quickly.  The amount of chemistry we had was out of this world.  I had never met a guy quite like him.  I had never met a guy that treated me so great.  I was in love and nothing else mattered.  In the first couple of months that we dated, we didn’t drink and I didn’t crave it.  Around 4 months into our relationship, we drank together for the first time.  There it was again!  That feeling of happiness that alcohol gave me, and that feeling of “nothing else matters.” I missed it.  As our relationship intensified, I put a lot of other important life responsibilities on the backburner.  I flunked out of my first semester of community college, and I gained 40 lbs in less than 4 months.  We started drinking together every weekend, and the weekdays couldn’t go by fast enough until I could get my lips on an alcoholic beverage. I noticed myself starting to get angry if we couldn’t find someone to buy alcohol for us.  My weekend was ruined if we didn’t drink.

Two years into my ex’s and I’s relationship, I found text messages on his phone that were questionable. He had been on free dating websites, and sending flirtatious pictures to girls across the country.  I was basically living with him and his grandfather at the time, so I woke him up, showed him the texts, yelled at him, packed up my shit and left.  Of course I got text messages, and numerous phone calls from him expressing his guilt and that he would never do it again.  I loved him so much, and I always believed that people could change, so I took him back less than 72 hours after I found those messages.

The relationship was never the same after that.  I continued to drink, and by this time I was 21, got my shit together when it came to school, and I was on my way to graduate with my bachelors degree in social work with a 3.95 grade point average.  Of course the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, so I bought alcohol on a regular basis, and would often hide the bottles/cans because I knew what I was doing wasn’t normal.  My ex and my parents would find the bottles but I swore up and down the table that I did NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.  I found myself drinking to intoxication at least once during the week, and Friday and Saturday of every weekend.

Around this time, right before I was about to graduate, the law that closed adoptions could apply to get their original birth certificate became legal.  Of course I jumped on this opportunity.  I received my original birth certificate about a month later.  When I found my biological mother’s name on that birth certificate I jumped right on Facebook and found here.  There she was! I started crying as soon as I saw her picture on that computer screen.  Instead of suppressing my emotions like I had done throughout most of my life, I let the tears of happiness flow like a river.  I let those emotions in because it was a happy emotion, not a negative emotion. I contacted her and met her two weeks later, and it was one of the best days of my life. We still have regular contact today. 🙂

Shortly after, my boyfriend and I moved into our first apartment together.  I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in social work, and I was about to start graduate school (to get my MSW) in the summer. I thought that moving in together was going to “fix” everything, and all of our hopes and dreams that we talked about together would come true.  We lived together for about 8 months, and my drinking started to escalate and he started to notice.  He started saying things like “we don’t have to drink every day, Sara.” That scared me.  But of course, I ignored his comments and the emotions that came along with it.  I quickly noticed that living together full time was a lot different than basically living part-time together.  We started arguing about my alcohol use, about how I didn’t tidy things up around the apartment like I should have, and numerous other arguments that I don’t want to delve into.

One day, I came home from my graduate-school internship and I wanted to surprise him for lunch.  We had gotten into a pretty intense argument the night before and I wanted to  “clear the air” so to speak.  Instead of making up, we broke up.  My ex basically said that our relationship “wasn’t the same anymore.”  I did the same thing that I did when he cheated on me for the first time– I packed up my shit and left.   But this time I didn’t go back.  I was done.

Despite the breakup, I managed to graduate with my Master’s degree in social work with a sky-high grade point average.  I hung out with girlfriends that I had put to the side when I was with my ex, I went skydiving, I did a mini-marathon, and I got my first big girl job.  Everyone around me (except my parents) thought that I was embracing my independence.  Little did everybody around me know that I was suffering an incredible amount. I was completely heartbroken. Behind closed doors, the bottle was my way of coping. I would lock myself in my room and drink.  At first the alcohol gave me a euphoria so to speak.  I had all this confidence that I could move on from him, and that life was great.  As the night progressed and drank more, this confidence became depression and I would end up in tears.  This became and every day/night occurrence and it was starting to effect every aspect of my life in a negative manner.  I continued to gain weight, my health was starting to deteriorate, I was putting myself in situations that I would NEVER get into if I was sober… I was basically going through the motions of everyday life, but not really feeling what was going on around me.  My parents were so worried about me because the alcohol bottles that they found around the house were astronomical.  But of course, I STILL DIDN’T HAVE A PROBLEM, DAMNIT.

Eventually, (eventually meaning 8 months later) I hit rock bottom.  I don’t want to delve into the nitty gritty details just yet of what my rock bottom was, but what I will say was that it was a wake up call that I needed to get my life together.  Alcohol was ruining my life. My grandfather (who has over 30 years of sobriety), and my mom and I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting a couple days after my night of rock-bottom deubochery.  I was slowly admitting that I had a problem, but I was so embarrassed to walk into my first meeting.  I walked into that room lookin’ a HOT mess.  Hair in disarray, eyes puffy from crying, hood up, arms and legs crossed, and avoiding all possible eye contact.  But, my plan to hide in the back row and pretending that I didn’t exist did not work out in my favor.  Every single person in that room came up to me, shook my hand, and welcomed me to the meeting.  My stone cold expression on my face slowly softened. I was confused as I looked around the people in the room.  They all seemed so happy. I thought “how in the hell can all of these alcoholics be happy? I am absolutely miserable!”  The first meeting that I went to was an open discussion, and the moderator picked the topic “what it felt like to be a newcomer to Alcoholics Anonymous.”  I was overcome with emotion from the stories that the group members shared.  But, when the meeting was over, I felt a sense of hope. I wanted to get sober and stay sober.  I admitted that my alcohol use was making my life unmanageable.

At the next meeting I went to, I admitted to myself and the group that I was an alcoholic.  I can’t even begin to describe to you how GREAT that felt.  I was free of the secret that I had been hiding for years, and I was surrounded by a group of amazing people who were just like me.  As I went to more and more meetings, I became happier and happier.  I FINALLY let myself deal with negative emotions, learned better coping mechanisms when these negative emotions come, and that it is okay to FEEL emotions that are uncomfortable.  And, I am never ever alone when I am processing these emotions, and I am certainly never alone in my journey in sobriety.  Last but not least, I finally let go of the anger, hurt, and sadness that was left after my breakup with my ex.  That was probably the most freeing emotion of all.

My life has changed for the better in more ways that than I can count in these 62 days of sobriety.  Alcoholics Anonymous has saved my life!  I am the happiest that I have ever been.  I no longer have to lean on alcohol to get through the day, I no longer have to stuff my face with obscene amounts of food, and I am no longer embarrassed that I’m an alcoholic.  I will fully admit that I am an alcoholic and I’m damn proud of it, and I am proud of my sobriety.  I am working through the 12 steps, going to meetings 6 days a week, have a home group and sponsor, and I am continuing to repair relationships that I have broken in the past.  I am establishing a relationship with my Higher Power that I never thought was possible. The list could go on and on, but that’s what this blog is for, right?!

Some people say that “its not about the journey, its about the destination.”  My story can relate to this saying, that’s for sure. My journey has led me to my destination of sober living, which has been an incredible blessing.  I will end with this quote: “I have survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.”

One day at a time, my friends. One day at a time.

5 Reasons Why I Got Sober.

69 days sober, y’all!

I had to hit rock bottom before I made the decision to live a sober lifestyle.  Now that I’m sober and have a clear head for the first time in years, I reflected on the reasons why I became sober.  My life has certainly changed in so many positive ways since February 11th, 2017!

1.) My life was becoming completely unmanageable.  

Alcohol was taking over my life.  I was spending money so irresponsibly that I would be late for multiple bills because I needed alcohol.  My cable was even shut off at one point.  I was putting myself in risky situations that could cause physical harm to myself or others.   I was isolating myself and was ripping apart a relationship with my parents (who are my #1 supporters).

2.) My physical health was quickly deteriorating.

When I was in the heat of my drinking, I was eating junk food almost every day.  My body craved it.  I wasn’t drinking nearly as much water as I should have, and it was rare for a fruit or vegetable  to cross my mouth.  Exercise was a foreign concept for me.  As a result of these poor nutritional habits, My cholesterol was over 300, and my blood pressure was in the “pre-hypertensive” phase.

3.) My happiness had disappeared. 

When I was drinking, I numbed all feelings. Period.  I did not want to feel anything.  Even if I did feel happy for a split second, I felt so low about myself that I thought I didn’t deserve happiness because of my behavior.  I felt so guilty and shameful for the way that I was acting that I though drinking was the only way to get rid of those emotions.  In reality, drinking made it 10000000x’s worse.  As I have said before in a previous post, clinical evidence has shown that alcohol is a depressant.  And that’s exactly what it did for me.  I felt almost euphoric when I first started drinking for the day, but that euphoria went downhill very quickly as the day progressed.  More often than not, my evening would end in tears and/or tearful drunk calls.

4.) I lost interest in things that I once loved. 

I have been classically trained to sing opera and musical theatre for over 10+ years.  When I was active in my addiction, I did not want anything to do with singing or performing.  I sang for a couple of my cousin’s weddings, but I only did it because alcohol was involved and it would make my family happy.  I basically never wanted to leave my apartment except to buy alcohol.  Watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians and drinking rum and Coke was my definition of what I was interested in. When I first started my job as a social worker, I loved it! But then alcohol became the #1 priority in my life and my job performance was slipping. And everyone around me noticed.

5.) More often than not, I was isolating myself from social activities that did not involve alcohol.

It wasn’t worth going to any social event if alcohol wasn’t involved.  An activity like that wouldn’t be fun for me.  Even if I was forced to go, I would drink beforehand so that I could be social and not “lash out” at my parents or people around me.  If I wasn’t at least slightly intoxicated, everyone around me was the most annoying person on the planet.  I would get upset at the littlest things, for example: If my mom was breathing loudly, I would snap at her. If I was asked to help out, I would whine and bitch.

 

As always, One Day At a Time my friends. 🙂

it gets better

 

Stay tuned: 5 reasons why I’m happy to be sober will be my next post. 🙂

Read This if You Think Alcoholism is a Choice.

Hey, friends!  Happy Easter! I hope you all are spending time with your families and enjoying beautiful weather, wherever you are!  For those of you who read my post about me dreading going to my first family function since I started telling people that I am living a sober lifestyle, it went SO much better than expected.  My cousins even asked me to go see Beauty and The Beast four wheelerwith them on Thursday.  They haven’t asked me to do something with them in years.  Being around the alcohol was slightly annoying, but I let out the stress on the four-wheeler!  And yes, I stayed sober and did not pick up a single drink!

So, I guess its time to put my two degrees to work.  Some people think that alcoholism is not a disease, but I beg to differ.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I ask that if you choose to comment, that you keep it respectful! 🙂

When I was in school to get my Master’s degree in social work, I had to take a semester-long class about learning the different types of mental illnesses.  At the Master’s degree level, I am licensed to diagnose people with a mental illness (For example: depression, alcoholism, post traumatic stress disorder). The book that I was given is the universal textbook that all mental health providers use: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Edition.  Popularly known as the DSM-5.

In the DSM-5, there are 7 whole pages dedicated to Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. Specifically, the manual elaborates on Alcohol Use Disorder, Alcohol IntDSM-5oxication, Alcohol Withdrawal, Other Alcohol-Induced Disorders, and Unspecified Alcohol-Related Disorder. According to the text, In the United States, the 12-month prevalence of Alcohol Use disorder is estimated to be 4.6% among 12-to 17-year-olds and 8.5% among adults ages 18 years and older in the United States.  Rates of the disorder are greater among men (16.2%) than among adult women (4.9%). I’m going to focus on Alcohol Use Disorder- how it’s diagnosed, what the symptoms are, and how the severity of the disorder is determined.

In order to meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, you must meet two of the following:

1.) Alcohol is taken in larger amounts over a longer period that was intended
2.) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
3.) A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
4.) Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
5.) Recurrent alcohol use resulting a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
6.) Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
7.) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
8.) Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
9.) Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
10.) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
  • A need or markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect
  • A markedly diminished effect with continued use to the same amount of alcohol.
11.) Withdrawl, as manifested by either of the following.
  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol.
  • Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

If an individual meets the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, it can be specified as:

Mild: Presence of 2-3 symptoms.
Moderate: Presence of 4-5 symptoms.
Severe- Presence of 6 or more symptoms.

Depression isn’t a choice, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t a choice, and alcoholism is not a choice.

Alcoholism as a Disease

Toward the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, addicts/alcoholics were often looked upon as morally corrupt and even labeled as being a bad person or a terrible sinner. This type of thinking led many doctors and mental health professionals to fight to change ordinary.  They wanted to try and help addicts instead of punish them. The founding of AA – Alcoholics Anonymous – in the 1930’s and the publication of noted psychiatrist and Director of the Center of Alcohol Studies at Yale Medical School E. M. Jellinek’s famous book defining the concept of alcoholism as a medical disease facilitated moving alcoholism into a different light.

Jellinek is often called the father of the disease theory or model of alcoholism. His theory listed alcoholism as having stages that drinkers progressively passed through. These stages are:

  • Pre-alcoholic phase, which includes social drinking when drinkers often start to develop a tolerance for alcohol and drink to relieve stress or feel better
  • Prodromal phase, also considered the early-alcoholic stage where blackouts begin to occur, the drinker begins to drink alone and in secret, and thinks about alcohol frequently while their alcohol tolerance continues to grow
  • Crucial phase characterized by a spiral of out-of-control drinking at inappropriate times and problems with daily life and relationships as well as physical changes to the brain and body
  • Chronic phase which includes daily drinking, drinking as the main focus of life, health problems cropping up, cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and physical and mental long-term alcohol abuse issues.

Alcohol works largely as a depressant on the central nervous system and due to the relatively small size of alcohol molecules, it can affect many parts of the brain and body simultaneously.

Alcohol changes brain chemistry, initially increasing neurotransmitters that drive the brain’s pleasure centers, but over time and with chronic abuse, depleting them. As the tolerance to alcohol increases, the abuser must take in more in order to feel the effects, which further damages both the body and brain.
Disease Model

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence likens alcohol dependence – alcoholism – to a medical illness through the disease model. The disease model of alcoholism depends on it being a physical addiction that cannot be controlled, distinguishable by specific symptoms and requiring specialized medical treatment. Cycles of physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms, including shaking, sweating, nausea and dizziness, are part of the reason alcoholism has been classified as a phHow alcohol attacks the brainysical disease. As alcoholism is an addiction, it is considered a disease of the brain. The brain has been physically altered by extended exposure to alcohol, causing it to function differently and therefore creating addictive behavior.
This disease model may not take into account the reasons some people become addicted and others d
o not. Cultural and environmental factors need to be considered, as do traumatic events. Compounding on this disease model, the theory of addiction being genetic or hereditary was born. This theory states that addicts may have certain predispositions to addiction, or genes that may help determine whether or not a person becomes an alcoholic. Many believe that it is a combination of genes and environmental stimuli that actually lead to addiction. Still, others argue that addiction is a psychological symptom and not necessarily a physical disease.

Personal Reflection

When I met both of my biological parents, I found out that my biological father and his father both suffer from alcoholism.  Unfortunately, that gene was passed on to me.  I was raised in a very stable household, neither of my parents drank to excess- but I still wound up being an alcoholic.  For those of you who think that alcoholism is a choice, I would encourage you to read what I have to say next.  Sure, my first drink ever was my choice, but the literal insanity that alcohol did to me is certainly not my choice.  I did not choose to worry my parents half to death, I didn’t choose to constantly crave alcohol during the work day, I didn’t choose to shake in the mornings, I didn’t choose to have an addiction– alcohol messed up the chemicals in my brain.

When I was in the heat of my alcoholism, nobody could stop me from drinking.  Whatever you had to say about my alcoholism went in one ear and out the other, and probably a lot of less-than-nice words out of my mouth. I didn’t even know who I was at the time. Sober Sara is hell of a lot different than intoxicated Sara, thats for sure.  I had to hit rock bottom before I realized that I had to make some major lifestyle changes.

When I look back on it, I’m actually glad that I hit rock bottom at such a young age, because if I kept going on the path that I was on, it could have been so much worse. Unfortunately, some alcoholics/addicts never truly hit rock bottom and addiction takes over their lives (either leading them to an early grave, various medical issues, suicidal ideations, homeless, etc.) I’m very humbled and lucky to be sober today and to have broken the insanity. They say in AA that “the first drink gets you drunk”, and thats totally, completely, 100% correct. Because if I pick up that drink, I lose absolute control over myself- and I can’t help it. It was not my choice to spiral out of control, but it is my choice to live a sober lifestyle.

 

one day at a time

 

 

Sources: Diagnostic and Statical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition
http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/alcohol-addiction/disease-theory-alcoholism/

I Lost (almost) All My Friends When I Became Sober.

 

Hey, friends!  First of all, I want to thank you guys for reading and supporting this blog.  It’s been awesome getting to chat with some of you, and its even greater to read your supportive comments! 🙂

So, I just realized something today while I was scrolling through my various social media accounts.  I never talk to the people that I used to drink witfriend 2h. Never. All of them are still bar-hopping, and posting videos/pictures of their night out of heavy drinking. And that’s exactly it- they were my drinking buddies– and that’s it.  On my sobriety date, I severely sprained my ankle and I had to wear a walking boot for 7 weeks.  I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t do many of my normal day to day activities.  Out of the 25 people that I thought were my friends, 3 of them were concerned about my well-being and even drove me to doctors appointments (bless their hearts!).  When I started telling the rest of my “friends” that I am living a sober lifestyle, they magically disappeared. Shocking, ground-breaking information… right?!

When I was drinking, I wanted (needed) almost everyone’s approval.  Even people who would put me in risky situations.  When I would get an in argument with somebody, I would be the first to apologize because I absolutely could not stand when somebody was mad at me. I would apologize even if I didn’t do anything wrong. At the time, I thought: “well hot damn, these people have seen me blackout drunk and still want to hangout with me! They’ll go to the bar with me when I’ve had a bad day and even buy me drinks! Those are what real friends are.” You wanna know why I did all that stuff? Because I felt so incredibly low about myself.

Because in the heat of my drinking, I didn’t even know who I was. I was so sick. My heart breaks for that girl. I distinctly remember looking at myself in the mirror after a night of heavy drinking. It’s hard to even write about this because it still haunts me from time to time. I had bloodshot eyes, bloated face, hair in disarray, smeared eye makeup, bruises on my body from falling/running into things at the bar— as I reached to gulp down a glass of water, I noticed my hand start to shake.  I looked at the bottle of vodka that was next to the sink, took of shot of it, abefore and afternd felt the warmth going down my throat… and I instantly felt better.  I said to myself word for word in the mirror: “who the hell are you? what have you become?!” I sank to the floor and cried. I wanted to punch the mirror so I didn’t have to look at the girl who was destroying her life.  In that exact moment I wanted to stop the insanity.  But later that night, I was back at it again— and with the people who were enabling my alcoholism. The picture on the left is me in July of 2015, and the picture on the right is me in March of 2017. Fake happiness on the left, real happiness on the right.

 

Now that I’m sober (by the grace of God!), I am constantly evaluating my friendships. I am so lucky to have 3 best friends that completely understand/support my sobriety, and only want the best for me.  I am also incredibly lucky to have such a supportive sponsor and my new friends that I have made in AA.  I am finally free to be friend 3unapologetically myself.  I no longer feel the need to change who I am for somebody else’s approval.  And that is one of the amazing blessings that sobriety has given me.  My dad said to me today “you look so much different than you did on February 11th.” And that is 100% correct! Physically, I’ve lost 30 lbs. Emotionally, I am a happy, confident 23 year old girl. Even though I am still early in sobriety, I can see how much my life has changed for the better in so many ways. In the first couple days of sobriety, I was so sad that I would probably loose many of my “friends.” Now that I’m sober and have a clear head, I’m happy that I did a bit of “Spring Cleaning”, so to speak.  It’s a great day to be sober. 🙂

 

“Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable breakthrough.” 

“You’re an Alcoholic? Wow, I’m Sorry.”

I come from a very conservative, traditional, extended family on my father’s side. Basically the complete opposite of me! 🙂 I have never truly “fit in” on this side of the family. I have been teased for my upbringing, and I almost never get asked to do things with them. It hurt when I was a teenager, but I’m okay with it now.  They are passionate about certain things, and I am passionate about other things.  And that’s okay! I love them for exactly who they are.   Being different is okay!

But, here’s the kicker: almost nobody on my dad’s side has ever had an alcoholic in the family (that we know of 😉 ).  “Blessedly ignorant” as my mom likes to call it.  My extended family is lucky that they have never had to deal with an active alcoholic/addict. My grandma said “we got a lot of IMG_0047problems, but alcohol isn’t one of them.” My aunt called my mother and told her that “this is just a phase Sara is going through, she’ll get over it.”  All of this is incredibly new to them. My thought process was “I’m already different as it is, this is just going to put it over othe edge!” Two of my cousins have had baby showers over the past couple of months that I did not attend.  I didn’t feel comfortable being in an environment where alcohol was involved. This has also been upsetting my family- they think that I am deliberately ignoring them for reasons that are unclear.

Easter Sunday is coming up, and quite frankly, I am dreading it. I recently told my grandmother that I will be attending the Easter Sunday family party, but I proceeded to tell her that I will stay as long as I feel comfortable.  I told my grandmother that I am not ignoring family events out of hatred, and being around alcohol in early stages of sobriety may lead to relapse. I told her that I am an alcoholic and that I will never be able to (and don’t want to) drink again.  Her response was ” Oh, I am so sorry. Yes, you’re probably right… you will probably be never be able to drink again.” I wanted to yell through the phone “what do you mean PROBABLY? I won’t be able to drink again! I’m a damn alcoholic! Don’t you know?! Don’t you understand?!”  Through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, and processing this with my sponsor, I am learning that I cannot control people, places, or things. I can only control myself.  I am accepting the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.

What really stuck out to me when I had that conversation with my grandma was that she was “sorry” about my alcoholism.  I actually get that more often than not.  My friends have said the same thing. Or, the “…oh” with a disgusted look.  Or they have absolutely no idea how to respond.  I went to a Mary Kay party that my friend was having recently, and when she offered me a drink and I said, “no thanks, I don’t drink” she shuffled around her kitchen trying to find me a bottle of water like she just committed a serious crime.  I actually thought it was funny and assured her that it was okay!

I mean, I get it.  I feel “bad” for alcoholics who are continuing to use and have not found solace in sobriety. I feel bad for the alcoholic who is actively tearing families apart, ripping through finances in an irresponsible manner, getting into legal trouble, damaging essentially every organ in their body— the list continues. This individual is sick, and that breaks my heart. So many alcoholics have been there. Even individuals who aren’t alcoholics do these actions! But, I happen to think that recovering alcoholics/addicts are some of the strongest individuals on the planet. We are facing our demons, making amends, doing a complete self-inventory, and have the strength to say “no” to that drink/drug. Let’s face it, society does not label IMG_0044alcoholics/addicts with sunshine and rainbows. Instead, society labels alcoholics/addicts as junkies, wine-o’s, meath heads, stoners… etc.  These stigmas all infer (in my opinion) that substance abuse is a lifestyle choice, not a disease (I’m already planning on making a post about this topic- don’t you worry!). Many alcoholics keep their disease a secret in fear of losing their job, or fear of harsh judgement. Those are just two examples, but the list could go on and on. These fears are a result of the “skid row” alcoholic stereotype, so to speak.  Breaking “anonymity” is often a personal decision to help another alcoholic, but often doesn’t come up in general conversation.  Outside of a meeting, its not like I go up to someone at a social gathering and say with a huge smile on my face “Hi! I’m Sara, and I’m an alcoholic!” I have a very strong personality (shocking, right?!), and whenever I have a chance to advocate for vulnerable populations, I tend to do it- especially if I have a personal connection/experience with it.  What can I say? It’s the social worker in me. 🙂IMG_0043

I’m an alcoholic. But I am SO MUCH MORE than that.  My alcoholism does not define who I am.  Even individuals who are still using are so much more than their addiction. I am a daughter, I am a grand daughter, I am a niece, I am a cousin, I’m a friend, I’m an opera singer, I am a social worker, I am a free spirit, I am confident, I am human. I am beautifully and uniquely created in my Higher Power’s image. I am a recovering alcoholic working through my disease one      day at a time. 🙂

I always like to end my posts with a quote than can connect with the topic:

“You can hurt her, but it will be temporary.  She knows how to love, but she also knows how to love herself.  And if you cross that line where she has to choose, understand that you will lose.”