I got sober today.
Eighteen years ago today, I held up the white flag of surrender. I admitted that alcohol and drugs were beating the shit out of me, and decided I wanted out of the ring.
I left my daughter, whom I hadn’t really seen in about a year, to escape my empty existence and check into rehab for 30 days. I didn’t have a choice after telling the emergency room physician I tried to kill myself. I just couldn’t handle life anymore the way I had been living it. It was too painful and I just couldn’t stop hurting people. I had successfully placed a safe distance between myself and anyone who actually cared about me, and I was lonely.
That first day of detox I told the truth about my use for the very first time ever. I remember thinking I should have been embarrassed, but I was far too defeated for pride. It was during those 30 days that I learned about addiction and why my life was such a mess. I made a few friendships based in truth, without the armor of a substance, and was reminded what actual connection feels like.
For the first time ever, after that first drunken night at 15, I was told that use was a choice. After cleansing my body of the substances that were running and ruining my life, I could decide not to allow it any more destruction. I could choose differently. I could have the life I wanted.
BUT… It would not be easy.
There would be many things I would have to do, on a daily basis, if I wanted to remain free from the grips alcohol and drugs had on me. I would have to decide every single day. I would get to decide every single day to participate in my recovery and change the girl that walked into that ER on May 2, 2000
Some days that decision has been a no-brainer, and other days it hasn’t. Life has still been life, and I have experienced some really horrible days. I still have to live with the realities of my past, and there have been days it’s felt like the guilt and shame might swallow me up. The depression got worse after I got sober, and the list of diagnoses got longer and then shorter again.
It has been vital to my recovery on many days to lean on and trust others with my truth. Sometimes that truth has felt ugly and isolating, but most of the time it has been met with identification and encouragement. I would collect and learn to use new coping skills and tools in order to make the right choices for me. I would find these tools in other people, healthy and unhealthy relationships, and the lessons that resulted from making the same mistakes over and over and then once more for good measure.
I have leaned on the wrong people and on the right ones too much. I have stumbled, and fallen flat on my face. The lowest points have taught me the most about who I am; whether I’ve believed it or not. Those low points have brought me closer to God, and allowed me to see the incredible strength inside of me.
Putting one in front of the other, and stayed on the path I chose, I have continued to grow and change. Some of those changes have terrified me, because change is sometimes terrifying.
There have been MANY TIMES I have desperately needed relief, and disappearing into oblivion has sometimes seemed like the easier, softer way. I have needed to rest, but never settle, to continue the journey.
I have tired. I have doubted myself and my worth. I have wanted to throw up my hands and give up. I have been forced to trust in the Universe and believe that life is on purpose for reasons I do not always understand. I have had to learn how to trust in process and in myself
And one day, the fight didn’t feel so much like a fight. I found that the life I wanted had surrounded me, and the past had worked its way out. I found peace.
BUT… It has and will always be a choice.
As the hours turned into days, the days into weeks, months and years, it is today that I get to decide if I wanted to keep this life. If I want to keep it, I have to remember. To remember I share my experience.
It didn’t make sense at first, but I understood the first time I saw the eyes of another woman light up with excitement when I told her the details of my journey. When I told her about the dark place I used to live and I how moved into a bigger, brighter space. She trusted me and allowed my experience to strengthen her own. And when she decided she was ready, I received the incredible honor of walking beside her, as living proof that this kind of peace is possible after all that noise.
Not only was I gifted the opportunity to mend the bond with my little girl, but I have also been blessed her two little brothers. I have learned what it means to be a good wife, and provide stability for my children in a home of my own. I have been there for the moments in their lives they have needed me, and I have been 100% present. My daughter’s graduation proved to be one of the most gratifying days of my life, because it was on the list that saved my life.
Recovery has allowed me the opportunity to cross off all the things. It has given me a second chance at life and the opportunity to really live it.
I got sober today so I could live.