5 Years Alive
5 years not such a long time after all- A sober rememberance & Journey
Today marks the last day that I drank alcohol, I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. Scrounging together the feelings, ignoring my gut, forcing myself into an AA meeting after chugging a warm beer in the car. I was nervous, I didn’t want to drink but I didn’t know what it would mean to be sober. My life was a misery, I was constantly flooded with guilt, shame, remorse, self-loathing, I couldn’t stand to be in my skin, I was drowning in a world where I couldn’t figure out how to swim. December 10th was a hard day; I was convinced I needed to stop drinking but I just didn’t have the courage to do it. To inspire myself I popped a bottle of Dom Perignon, left the house and drove around. To this day I don’t know where I drove to, I don’t know why I broke my rule of never driving drunk but alas it’s one of those mysteries that you may never know the answer to. Eventually I was found, wet to the bone, lost, confused, and so unbearably sad. I was given a choice to go to the hospital or to jail- to this day I’m still so incredibly grateful I had a moment of sanity and chose the hospital.
The hospital visit was emotional I had 4 times the alcohol limit inside of me- 0.32% blood alcohol content. They feared I would have a seizure so they gave me Ativan which I kindly spit out and made a scene about them drugging me, and eventually I fell asleep. The next morning, I woke up, my life was changing and I was scared, I didn’t want it to change, I wanted to hang on to the partner who I thought loved me, I wanted to hang on to my life, they suggested therapy but not for the first 6 months of sobriety as I was too weak. In the place of therapy, I vowed to return back to AA — humbled and sober.
I began my AA journey that day, shaky, hungover, numb to the world. I didn’t care that I had been there yesterday drunk. I didn’t care that they probably all knew I was there yesterday drunk I was desperate to get and stay sober. I knew I couldn’t do it by my own will power so I clung onto the only hope that I had. A room filled with primarily old people, people who were double my age but who went on and on about the accomplishment of not drinking, who told stories about drinking mouthwash, and rubbing alcohol to get drunk, stories that made me cringe- surely, I wasn’t like them, but what if I ended up like them? That thought is what kept me going back the first few days, sitting in meeting after meeting, I didn’t want to have a horror story of drinking rubbing alcohol, drinking NyQuil, or mouthwash, my story was horrific enough I couldn’t bear to sink any further, so I vowed that I just had to keep going back.
As silly and cliche as it sounds those first 6 months of my sober life consisted of the daily mantra of one day at a time and no matter what. They kept me going. They were the mantras along with the stories and mentorship of the meetings that kept me going when all else seemed hopeless, when after yet another argument with my partner over things I wasn’t good at, or doing right, feeling humiliated, and having my drinking thrown in my face — those meetings, those mantras kept me sober. I quickly realized there were more options as far as recovery goes, I didn’t just have to go to in person meetings I could also utilize online meetings and groups. I joined a few recovery groups online one specifically called Recovery Elevator, that still exists to this day though its far different from what it was 5 years ago- it still played a massive part of my recovery early on, from that I created my own groups Sober as Shit which also still exist to this day and hosts some of my closest friends who have literally been through this entire recovery journey with me since my early days and there early days or beginnings.
Life is an interesting thing that what can be seen as such humiliating misery, hopelessness, grief, shame, remorse, and from that we can build on and create these lives that we enjoy living. I wouldn’t have thought this was possible five years ago. Five years ago, I could barely stay sober and it was done with meetings, lots of sugar, and friends allowing me to check in with videos, messages, and encouragement. It wasn’t a one-way street they helped me, I helped them, we helped each other. As my group took off, we hosted in person meetups bringing together people from around the world and country to meet each other and strengthen the friendships. We were there for each other as we gained sober days and with sober days, we gained boundaries, self-respect, and the desire to let go of things that no longer serve us.
My first sober year I look back and contribute it all to adjusting to feelings, emotions, grief, fear, and growth. It was a year that I dealt with so many emotions. How to celebrate Christmas sober, new year’s sober, how to laugh and cry and feel things all without drinking. How to stay warm in the cold and hot in the Summer without beer in my hand. As silly as it sounds, I had relied on alcohol for so many things in my life, it was the crutch that I thought I couldn’t live without. Now I had to. The hardest part was celebrating and engaging with others without that social lubricant that people use. How do I talk to people without drinking? How do I conduct business in a business situation without wine? What do I gift someone other than alcohol because I really don’t want to buy alcohol?! That year was full of learning. Learning that for example I’m not introverted- I love to talk! Meeting people is fun and entertaining and a lot easier than I could have imagined. There are so many gift options that aren’t alcohol related, have you tried tea?! Coffee!? Business can be conducted so much better with a clear mind. And attending PTA meetings without a hangover made inserting input so much more fulfilling.
Year 2 was the opposite of year 1, I didn’t learn quite as much as I did in year 1, it was more focused on cleaning up my messes. Messes of finances, sugar intake, caffeine content, emotions. I spent the year 2 learning how to not just buy everything that I wanted, I focused on becoming more career focused, and I reduced my sugar, thereby becoming healthier. I spent more time at meetings and began forming closer friendships with women especially women in AA. The best part about year 2 was that I felt a sense of stability. Meaning I wasn’t constantly on edge, I wasn’t solely focused on not drinking and what that would mean, I was able to enjoy life and its many adventures, I began caring about myself without constantly having to remind myself that I was supposed to love myself. I launched my very own podcast after having been featured on other’s podcasts, I hosted twice weekly recovery meetings, I began sponsoring ladies, and for the first time in my life I finally felt as though I was discovering who I was and who I was meant to be. I often think of year two as the year of boundaries and comfort.
Year 3 dawned and with it came new difficulties. I had reached a point in my sobriety where I was no longer comfortable being comfortable. I wanted more. I wanted what I deserved. I knew what I wanted to be- I wanted to help other like me who wanted recovery but who didn’t necessarily fit the mold of AA or online recovery, who wanted a guided practice. I studied and achieved my certificate as a Professional Life coach followed by a Professional Recovery Coach with, She Recovers designation. I felt proud of myself. I had a group of lady friends, solid recovery, I sponsored women, I donated time, hosted online classes, coached ladies. I thought I was stable. Year 3 things started changing for me, half way through the year shortly after connecting with so many women (and men) from around the world in what was the most inspiring weekend of my life at a She Recovers event in Los Angeles I sank into a depression, I had developed an abscess on my body and after multiple surgeries to open and drain it further developed into a fistula which led to more surgeries, and a deeper depression. I was miserable, life felt hopeless. I was sober but I couldn’t sit normally. I couldn’t prepare Thanksgiving meal. It hurt to walk, working out became a distant dream, life was truly painful but I kept sober. I scheduled a 3rd surgery to hopefully cure the fistula after the first of the year relying on my lady sober friends to help me as my partner of the time chose the day of my surgery as I was drifting off to sleep to remind me of all the reasons why he hated me, a pattern that he had done before any surgery of mine (I’ve had 2 knee surgeries, fistula surgery, etc.) a sad pattern and one that hurt me that day as it did every other time. After surgery came the healing, the partner left to attend a work retreat leaving me home alone to care for those at home and the pets, I couldn’t bear to walk, I was resigned to life of laying on my stomach while healing, driving was out of the question as I couldn’t sit, the ladies brought me meetings and treats, and kept me going during those weeks of healing. Yet I knew in my heart I wasn’t cured from the fistula journey so I began researching as online groups helped me with my sobriety I found help for fistula in online groups and found myself longing for a trip to India. Life with the partner was stagnant, sobriety was stable, I knew what I had to do.
At 3.5 years sober I flew to India, 2 weeks after my dog died while I was on a girl’s trip, I flew away from the United States leaving behind my family and all that I knew. I flew to India with only the words of those around me- India isn’t safe for women, how will you stay sober, what will you do, are you sure you can trust those doctors over there. You see what I was about to learn in that year was that while people in sobriety can be the most encouraging and supportive women in the program, the idea of flying off from everything to seek a cure is unappealing, foreign, and dangerous. But Sobriety gave me the gift of courage so I packed my courage and a few suitcases and away I went for a 3-month treatment in Bangalore, India. This is at the point in my life where my life truly changed paths. For years I had toyed with the idea of what it would mean to not be with my SO. What it would mean like for those around me. I was scared if I’m to be honest, what if he found someone younger, better, prettier — petty things I know. All centered around the ego and out of fear to keep me in a crap situation. Every week I complained to my closest friend about how cruel he was to me, the mind games, mental exhaustion, but I thought I had to stay. This was as good as it got surely. Little did I know how wrong I was.
Not even a week into my trip in India my life changed. The day I started my Kshar Sutra treatment the SO pattern continued as usual- except this time via a phone call. Luckily, I had already made an amazing friend who was there for me, she truly was a such a blessing that I’m forever grateful to call a friend. The night after I had my surgery, I started receiving hang up calls from the US, suspicious emails, weird messages, finally another red flag- my SO told me about how his coworkers’ husband was accusing him of having an affair with his wife. We laughed it off. Funny how cliché life can be right? The husband was correct and he told me, and to prove his words he sent me a recording of an incident of the affair. Now my friends at this time I was sober, multiple years sober and for that I’ll always be grateful; I was alone in a country where I knew only a few people for a handful of days, and I was listening to my SO have a sexual encounter with another woman. This is surely only the stuff they do on movies, right? Nope. It’s real life. This woman who always tried to hard to be nice to me, the woman who my SO always called stinky, who tried giving gifts to my kids, now I understood why. Everything clicked into place, every inkling, feeling, it all made sense. Why did I put up with the emotional abuse for so long, why did I deserve this? I just had surgery. I wish I could drink. NO! I don’t want to drink why would I poison myself more over this person who thinks so little of me. I confronted him as in sobriety I was taught to face my fears and confront things head one, he didn’t deny it, why would he-he’s always have been arrogant, instead he suggested an open relationship. No friends Polygamy works for people, it’s great for some people, but I’ve never felt that it’s for me, I believe in the romantic thought of one man forever. I believe in loyalty, love, commitment to one person. I thought my SO was this person, I cried over him, I cried more over what to do. I surely couldn’t do the open relationship I was miserable trying to pretend it worked for me. Talk about feeling lost. I have never felt so lost as I did for the week, I spent dating. I started hating myself and started doing dumber and dumber relationship mistakes. Long story short I eventually found myself slightly again, I was changed, I almost destroyed a new relationship trying to find myself but fate, helped me when I couldn’t help myself.
I never drank last year; I kept my sobriety. I kept it by doing foolish things like wearing shorts in India, going out late at night, flirting outrageously, hurting other people’s hearts, and putting myself in near constant danger. Whatever deity there is-they watched over me throughout 2019 as I was just emotionally unable to. I fell in love right when my life was falling apart. I didn’t know it at the time, I tried to ruin it, destroy it, throw it away, thankfully I didn’t as what I didn’t want to admit at the time was this was what love was meant to be. Now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with being sober. It’s simple. Every painful moment, every experience gives us more direction in our life. 2019 changed who I was. I became stronger, I was broken, I was coming out of a depression to only fall in a ball of anxiety. I had manic mood swings. I was confused about myself. My friends told me to come home so I blocked them. My sponsor fired me so I said good riddance. You see they didn’t understand everything because I was unwilling to share just how broken I was last year.
To put it simply, the first 3 years of my sobriety prepared me to break in half and come out a mess but still sober. I had to redefine what it meant to be me. I started working my recovery alone and internally. I reached out to my sober as shit groups and kept in contact but I stopped sharing about my disastrous life. I began proceedings to become single. I clawed my way up from the pit of despair to become the new version of me. NO longer was I willing to let others have influence over me like they had before. I couldn’t risk it. So, I told myself. As I was approaching my 4th sober birthday, I realized a few things while in India-I wasn’t happy. I wanted to give in fully to love my partner, he was everything I read about in my romance novels and I wanted more than anything in the world to be with him forever. Proceedings in the US take forever, and I couldn’t wait any longer, my Partner and I made our promises in a traditional ceremony in India, a truly beautiful experience involving fire, sarees, dotis, ghee, Gods, walking in circles, rice, and so much more. It was at that moment that I realized that this is who I want to be. I wanted to be a wife. I want to be a partner. Happy. Complete. I was finally healing emotionally.
Year 4 has been an emotionally healing experience. I have had to establish boundaries. Have clear cut conversations, fight for myself, and I’ve gained more independence than I could have imagined. It only took giving away all of my belongings, selling my car, and basically owning whatever I had brought to India with me. I was a minimalist by chance. I literally started over from nothing. I got basically nothing from my settlement because I refused to fight for myself when I had the chance. A choice I may regret to this day but a choice I made. At the time it was easier than dealing with more anger and pain. You see I was a brave coward and I gave in as a people pleaser often does to other’s demands to prevent more pain. I was looking at the bigger picture instead of focusing on my survival. Yet It all works out because faith with works works. I got a career of my dreams in an amazing company. I have an amazing partner, and I had reached the point with my mood swings that it was time to start therapy. Time to heal internally and externally. I had developed friendships in India, adopted a family which half the time I’m confused by, as I’m not that close to mine though it’s better than it used to be.
Year 4, I began the healing that I had longed for so many years. I began developing my independence, boundaries, and a life I enjoyed living. I traveled to different parts of India, to Singapore, and began building what I want my life to look like. I’ve had the gift of losing everything physically, emotionally, mentally, and being able to build what I want, all by myself with the support of an amazing partner at my side. I may have lost 95% of my old group of recovery friends but I had friends and a group, who had been there for me at my lowest point, far lower than what my alcohol bottom had been in my opinion.
So here I am 5 years sober. Living back in the US, separated from my life partner due to the pandemic, and the US’s rules of borders being closed. I’m lonely, stressed, worried, but I’m a sober woman who is in the process of continuing to build my life up. I may have come to the US with 2 suitcases, no car or place to live, but since arriving a month ago I’ve secured a home, a car, I’m building my career in my company which I adore and love, my friends and group are surrounding me with messages of encouragement, and my partner and I may be separated by an ocean but our hearts are more tightly bound than ever before which in itself is a mystery. I may be plagued with a flu that rivals no other but I’m alive and I haven’t had any alcohol in my body in over 1826 days. And for that I’m grateful. If you’re asking yourself, how, why, can I?
Yes, you can. You do it just one day at a time. You do it by believing in yourself, having faith and not needing to know the answers of every minute of the day. We don’t have to have a user manual for sobriety all we need is the hope that tomorrow can be better than today and with that we can survive anything. Grandparents dying. Parents dying. Grief. Loss. Divorce. Separation. Long distance relationships. Fear. Happiness. Because we are far stronger than we will ever know until we’re forced in a place of having to be. You can have fun, you can go out and dance the world, you can travel and be happy all it takes is the belief in yourself. It sounds cliché but if it worked for me it can work for you. I didn’t know I would make it a month, a year, 2,3, and I certainly never thought I could stay sober after all of the pain of 2019, but I did and could. Because we’re resilient and we deserve to live.
So, live with me. Share your hopes. Thoughts. Share your fears. Reach out. I’m a human and I’ll listen, but never give in to the despair that alcohol leads you to believe is so real. It’s not. You deserve a beautiful life. So, live it. Work for it, and go for it.