My recovery date is 11.11.09. I had a long-ass period of relapse in 2014, but I still consider 11.11 my recovery date. Why? Because that day changed my life. And my relapse was just part of the journey - it did not invalidate my process.
In fact, without that incredibly hard relapse I would not be who I am today. I would not be a stigma-stomper, an open recovery advocate and a recovery coach. I would not have seen the dark side of the moon again and come out with different eyes. I would not appreciate the several 11.11 days that went by without me having a choice on stopping, like I did the first time. I would not have had the opportunity to explore all the corners of recovery (the good and bad ones) to land where I am today. My sobriety date is in early 2017. My recovery date is 11.11.09.
My life has changed so radically in these years. I am a different person for sure.
In 2009, when I understood I had a problem with drinking, and that I would have to either give it up (death sentence!) or live in the same nightmare until I died, I was terrified. While I had always called myself a woman of extremes (my Latina nature took pride in the description), this particular extreme situation panicked me. To understand that for me, to drink would be to die...and to stop would feel like dying... was a moment that just brought me to my knees. It made me feel like I could not breathe.
I was SO tired of living in this sub-world of drinking, craving, recovering from drinking --- and then drinking again...just to feel normal...I was so tired of not remembering (or wishing I didn't) what I had done or said the night before; of wrecking my body, my spirit and my soul; so tired of disappointing everyone around me; so tired of aching in my skin, my brain shaking inside my skull; so tired of not being able to focus on the real world because the voice of craving was so loud. Always. I was so tired of throwing promises like confetti, only to sweep them away to the trash the next day; of justifying my actions without understanding why I was doing them in the first place. Tired of looks of pain in my loved ones. Of the look of pain in my own eyes. I was SO tired of betraying ME. Over and over and over again.
I drank my last glass (ok, it was a bottle) of Cupcake Cabernet on 11/10 of 2009. I drank it, I threw it up (my body rejected it completely) and made 11/11 my sober date. I bawled on the floor, hopeless and helpless.
Today I understand how powerful that moment was. I put down the gloves and surrendered to a concept that terrified me, but that would save my life. What felt like a death-sentence (how would I ever laugh, converse, have sex, dance, enjoy a meal without wine????) turned out to be the key to a mind-blowing shift deep within me.
My job was not to quit drinking. It was to run to the solution as fast as I could. My beautiful sponsor Lisa knew that, and walked me through the program of AA like a badass warrior in 2009 - and never let go of my hand since then. My second sponsor Caroline would have the huge and daunting task of keeping me alive and hopeful in 2014 when 5 years into sobriety I relapsed for a long, long time. She helped me stay aware that my relapse was serving a higher purpose, even if I did not understand. She was incredibly right. My current sponsor Sabrina has given me the space and grace to let me bloom on my own recovery path, with no judgment. She is so real and crazy and open that I can be the same with her. Lauren has been a mentor, a badass unicorn who has picked me up from the ground on her shoulders when I could not even lift my head. And of course, my spiritual doula Elizabeth. She is my recovery coach and to her I owe what feels like the world. She has sat in a dark room with me, pointing me to the toolkit on the ground...patiently watching me carve a window from which I could step into the world again. I hold her hand daily.
I am so grateful for these strong women who have helped me in my path to sobriety. Frankly, I may not be alive without them. If I add my other mentors to that list (Dawn, Taryn, Elena and my She Recovers tribe), I could just explode with joy and gratitude.
Today I celebrate life. I write while sipping (really good) coffee in this beautiful 11.11 morning.
I take a moment to look at the past. I honor the beauty of the process, and draw a parallel to my new journey letting go of all that does not serve me, just like I did wine in the past. Recovering from codependence is, surprisingly, a very similar process to recovering from alcohol addiction.
Mostly, today I honor the beauty of my life because I am an alcoholic. Not in spite of.
What felt like the end of my life 8 years ago, has actually been the key to a life like I never imagined. I thought about that this morning, as I spoke to a person who is just beginning to understand the journey ahead of her. I wanted so badly to tell her that this is the best thing that could have happened to her. That being an alcoholic may be hard as fuck some days, but what it brings to your life by far outweighs the bad. That the filter through which we process everything gets changed, and nothing is ever the same. That there are almost mythical promises in a lovely blue book that come true, as impossible as they sounded at the beginning. That when you pass on recovery to others your life feels justified and validated. That I love, love, love being a drunk - a recovered one, anyway. Its just hard to say that without sounding like a lunatic (especially by email).
I am an alcoholic and will always be. The label does not scare me, it empowers me to live my truth, and to access a life which I would not be able to touch, otherwise. And when I pass the grace of recovery onto others, I get a joy like no other. My path gets validated. It all comes full circle and makes tremendous sense.
Grateful for this process. Grateful for my addiction and my solution. Grateful to my sponsors and mentors. Grateful to my supportive family.
Especially grateful to God. For me, He is the higher power who did for me what I could not do for myself. You may call your higher power Universe, Life, Energy, Flow. You can call it whatever you like, it makes no difference. You may call it Sebastian, like Glennon's friend. It doesn't matter.
I call mine God. He brought these women in my life. He helped me down to my knees. He gave me the key to recovery. He did it all, when I put the gloves down.
So there. I re-read my words and realize I may have sounded preachy and sticky-gooey for a minute or two. I would say "sorry" but hey, it is a day of celebration so I won't really apologize for my happy-ass heart. It is what it is and it is nothing more than that.
11.11. Hell, YEAH.