On June 6, 2015, the unthinkable happened: my children witnessed me out of control drunk and they were apologizing to my sister and her husband for my behavior. The next day, I did not remember it. All I knew was I had been having a good time dancing to great music when my sister suddenly refused to serve me more red wine. I passed out in the dress I had worn that day, and the next morning I had a mother of a hangover.
Today, 90 days into my sobriety with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), I thank God for my ability to still feel shame, otherwise I may have never stopped drinking.
It was pure shame that led me to my first AA meeting 3 days after the incident. Because, in my mind, nobody had ever noticed I was drunk (nearly nightly) sitting quietly on my couch at home, I had never until that point had to confront the brutal truths about my drinking.
The AA “Big Book” refers to alcohol as “cunning and baffling.” Indeed it is. Cunning because I wanted it in spite of all the reasons why it was a bad idea. Baffling because it never once made my life better – yet I continuously sought it’s soothing comfort (with strings attached). I can see now, after 90 days in recovery, how my disease was progressing rapidly. I changed my definition for needing a drink from feeling “stressed” to the mere fact that it was 5 o’ clock in the afternoon (a cliche because it is true!).
After about 2 weeks of attending AA meetings, my shame began to fade and, in its place, I felt something I had not experienced in years: optimism. I started thinking about all the things I wanted to do instead of have! That little inkling of hope called possibility started growing in my consciousness. I was starting to think that a better future might be possible because of the tools I was learning from AA.
Before getting some sobriety under my belt, I would give up before I even started because I just knew I would fail. One of the phrases I kept hearing repeatedly at AA meetings was, “You don’t HAVE to live your life like this. You CAN HAVE a better life.” Okay, that’s a big promise – show me HOW. And AA delivers. By talking to people with many years of sobriety, I am learning how to recognize my triggers for self-destructive behavior before they overtake me. Check out the cupcake photo from my first birthday – I really dig excess! My new friends with more sobriety than me are teaching me that I don’t have to be a slave to the self-esteem killing, excess-loving beast inside of me. I can conquer the beast, if even minute by minute some days, by being honest with myself and living a life that sustains serenity. For some people, this involves daily rituals like starting each day on your knees and thanking God for waking up sober. I am not ashamed to say that I need to practice healthy rituals to stay sober – I am grateful that I now know other people who share this need!
Tomorrow, when I wake up and officially have 90 Days of Sobriety, I will begin my day in somber gratitude to my Higher Power who is showing me that to be good to others, I must first be good to myself.
I can’t believe that in just 90 days I, the “Queen of Dread,” am looking forward to the rest of the journey with anticipation and excitement. At my lowest point, I told my incredulous husband, “I cannot imagine enjoying anything right now.” That was the beast talking. I don’t serve this creature anymore. But it takes conscious effort, every single moment of every day, to keep the beast quiet. And I will never forget that it might have been shame that led me to this journey……but it is gratitude that propels me forward.