This is me today. While I look somewhat put together, don’t be fooled. I am a good ole’ alcoholic of the garden variety.
The only difference between me and the “drunkies” living under a bridge is… well, none. Perhaps just that I have plugged into a solution, and recovered. And they haven’t. We may look different on the outside, but on the inside we are the same. We have the same problem.
Like them, I have an illness named alcoholism. It means that I cannot control my drinking. When I start, I cannot moderate or stop. When I drink, alcohol becomes my master, and I, its slave.
I don’t have a behavioral problem, or lack of willpower.
I don't choose to drink in excess - or hurt my loved ones in the process.
I can't "just stop drinking", like other people can.
I can't, because I am an alcoholic.
MY STORY - Long, but necessary.
My knees hit the ground in 2009 when my drinking had taken over my daily life. I was 35 years old, was a badass video producer, and the proud single-parent to an awesome little boy. On the outside, my life seemed just fine. But on the inside...ughk.
You see, I had been struggling with alcohol addiction for decades.
Being French and Mexican, I thought I drank differently because of heritage and upbringing. Ahhh, the joie de vivre which others did not understand! My French family drank wine with lunch and ended the day with a nightcap. My Mexican world thought drinking at 15 was no big deal. The more "grown up" I became, the more opportunities for normalized drinking.
College was a liquid blur but I still aced every subject. My first job was a dream, where "power lunches" were washed down with beer and deals were celebrated with Patrón. I quickly learned to "do life" with drinks. Relax with drinks. Celebrate triumphs with drinks. Solve my broken heart with drinks. Bond with my family with drinks. Enhance moments with drinks. Kill emotions with drinks.
Holding a glass lazily in one hand, swinging a curvy hip became part of my identity. It worked for me, so...why not?
Until I spent a decade with more blackout nights than I care to admit. Until I was in my 30s and my drinking had become a loud whisper of shame. Until I barreled through relationships, killed friendships, and embarassed family members. Until I made one wrong choice over another, and realized my life
was a tragic snowball of Cabernet and regret.
One night I took my son out to a "mommy and son movie date". Movie theatres where you could drink were a new thing, and while I did not mean to get drunk (people like me never do!), I did just that - then proceeded to drive us home. Later that night, my son confessed he was scared at how I was acting, and stated tearfully: "It was my fault, mama. I shouldn't have let you drive."
My heart broke in a million drunken pieces.
My only job was to take care of him. Here we were - me, a drunken mess. Him, only nine and feeling responsible for my insanity. I hated myself so much in that moment, I wanted to die. I laid on the bathroom floor all night, bawling. What had happened to me? Who had I become? Who was this monster that would risk her son's life by drinking and driving? How had “a glass of red wine with dinner” turned into two bottles of wine a night? How could I make this stop?
Something had to change. Something. I was dying. I could not continue drinking... but I had tried everything on my own, and could not figure out how the hell to stop or moderate.
Shaking and scared as hell, I took my sorry ass to my first recovery meeting the very next day.
The next month was the scariest, hardest and yet most magnificent of my life. As unimaginable as it was to break up with my lifelong "best friend", booze - I had no other choice. My best friend was killing me, and threatened to kill everyone and everything precious to me.
I was desperate. Hopeless. Heartbroken. Emotionally bankrupt. Physically and mentally exhausted of fighting myself through my addiction. I finally had the guts to look into the mirror and see a broken shadow of me. My skin was puffy, my eyes bloodshot and empty, my soul gone.
I was hopeless and I was helpless.
THAT WAS THE PERFECT PLACE TO BE.
Recovery is funky because it is a personal experience that is hard to explain to others. What happened over the next few months was nothing short of miraculous. Once I managed to dive into the process fully, something inside me started to change. I recovered through the 12-steps. I found a sponsor and followed whatever instructions she gave me, whether I liked them or not. Much like the steps in a food recipe transforms lifeless ingredients into delicious feasts, my life transformed from a million broken pieces into what felt like human form again.
The more I followed the program of recovery, the more my soul felt pieced back together.
To my surprise, what started as a mission to "stop drinking" turned out to really be a mission to "start living".
The obsession to drink got lifted and the focus of the program took a much deeper meaning. Drinking had killed such basic pieces of my emotional connection to life and others, that recovery really felt like learning to walk again. And I did. I walked. I trotted. I ran. Soon, I was teaching others to do the same.
Recovery does not mean that Tinkerbell fairydust gets sprinkled everywhere, and all is lovely, all the time. Not at all. Recovery has excellent days and other days in which you want to crawl out of your skin. However, when those days happen, Recovery gives you tools to navigate through them without ending up at a bar.
In the next 3 years I returned an engagement ring (bullet dodged), changed jobs and met the man I would eventually marry.
As the story would have it, I had the best of times and the worst of times.
Recovery gave me my life back. My joy. My self-esteem. My trust in the Universe. My joy in parenting. My gratitude. My belief in myself.
However after I got married, life got busy. I got busy. Too busy. So busy that I secretly started questioning the time I was investing in helping others, in “doing the work” of my recovery program. I was juggling a new husband, an extended family and three jobs. I decided to put my recovery to the side, thinking I had all the knowledge needed to stay sober and well.
Well.... that didn't work out so well for me.
Five years into sobriety I relapsed and drank again.
Just like that. I drank in secret for the next two months. There is no denying that alcohol always “works” for me, making life less overwhelming. But the more I drank, the more I fell apart inside. My soul started getting dimmer and dimmer. I quickly went into full-blown insanity, hiding bottles in the laundry bin, drinking out of coffee mugs in the morning…brushing my teeth furiously; avoiding kisses and holding my breath when hugging...Telling myself “I was in control” and that "I was not really hurting anyone". I secretly felt that I deserved a break, because I did SO much for everyone.
Dishonesty and Fear were my daily wardrobe. My marriage was heavy. My parenting was detached. My job was on auto-pilot. Shame owned me day and night. My husband finally noticed, breaking my 9-month deceit. My cover blown, I was transported to 2009, broken and bawling on my bathroom floor.
I RELAPSED FOR MORE THAN 700 DAYS
I am a high-functioning drunk who can still “do life” without missing a beat. I successfully ran a house, paid bills, showed up to school events, and even landed a new job as a studio Executive. I wore chic dresses, a solid smile and high heels. Nobody knew what was going inside my head and soul. The anguish of another day. The fear that owned me 24/7. The desperate stop at the bar after work. The terror of my hand raising a drink to my mouth, even if my mind screamed it was a bad idea. The bitter chug of Scope to hide my lies. Doing life either hurting or craving, my mental GPS, always re-routing me back to drinking. It was exhausting.
I tasted hopelessness soon enough. My husband jumped ship, packing a suitcase after another drunken argument at 3 a.m.
My heart broke. My weight ballooned. My brain stopped working. All while my 16-year old son watched, in silence. This was the most unbearable part for me: my son's heart, which I was clearly breaking.
Ready to quit again, I ran back to what had worked once: My recovery Tribe, my meetings and my Big Book. But my head, my fear and my shame kept getting in the way.
What had been easy the first time, was not easy this time around. I was blocked — my knowledge availed me nothing. And even more tragic – the connection with myself had been so severed that I did not have faith in me anymore. Nothing worked.
BACK INTO RECOVERY
I had to get down to the basics. For starters, I had to open my head to embrace that there is no RIGHT way to get sober.
I had to be willing to consider new ideas and un-learn the old ideas that were holding me back. I had to be willing to surrender 100% to a new recovery journey, different from the one I had traveled years before.
Without knowing what I was doing, I started a process of getting connected to myself in the midst of chaos. With a God-given instinct of survival, I started focusing on breathing, pausing and meditating.
I would go through my first sober days honoring my emotions (lots of crying), and being present to what was happening inside me. Some days, all I wanted to do was curl up, cry and sleep. Other days, I had to do a lot of yoga and sweating and screaming in the shower (I know, its a weird visual, but true).
The process of re-connecting to MY BODY was KEY in the process. I went to yoga, spinning and boxing lessons. I drank gallons of water and took care of me for a change. Because addiction is disconnection.
I had to re-connect to my physical being, which resulted in a pathway, a spiritual connection with my heart. In this space, in this clearing, I found a new ground on which to build.
Soon, the 12-steps and everything else started to work their magic in me once more. I had cleared enough space for God/Universe to come in and do His thing.
I was able to put the drink down for good and all, and life got its colors back again.
This is my truth: I am an alcoholic and always will be. The label does not scare me, it empowers me to live my truth.
MY ILLNESS AND I ARE ONE
We cohabit in the same body, but have come to a peaceful agreement to co-exist with boundaries. I know how to keep “her” at bay, and how to quiet her when she screams. Some days, she still puts up a good fight to take over the wheel.
I just have to keep working on my recovery, every day – and so long as I do, she respectfully keeps her distance. My illness has also agreed (begrudgingly) to be a study subject for me, so I can try to better understand her, and hopefully help others do the same.
I am grateful at how “she” sits in a corner, watching silently as my life gets filled back with fabulous colors and dashes of light,one day at a time.
I will not ever be cured of this disease, so I need to prioritize my recovery daily in order to continue sober + recovered. In order for me to keep my recovery, I have to give it away to others. It is in passing the light that I get to keep it. It's simple.
Sober Mami is an effort to share my journey of recovery, raw and unfiltered. Because I am sick as hell as hiding in the shadows and not doing my part in changing the conversation about addiction and life after recovery. It's time to give recovery the voice it needs. And my voice can get pretty damn loud. I bet yours can, too.
I will be so honored if you jump on board with me, so you can be part of a recovery community, a Sober Tribe. A Tribe of support. A Tribe of recovered drunks, alkies, wino’s, “crazies”…
Us recovery warriors. Us, proudly. Us, daily. Us, connected. Us, loudly.
XO - Sober Mami
Alcoholism is a funky lil' thing that affects my body and mind. I have a body that processes alcohol differently. Once I start drinking, I set off a craving for more. My body does not recognize when it's had enough.
I also have a mind which tells me that this won’t happen every time. Except it does, pretty much every time. I have a mind that cannot keep me away from the first drink, and a body that cannot stop drinking once it begins. Pretty messed up cycle, right?