I never envisioned myself saying this. Never in my wildest dreams. I used to feel a lot of shame around this label but today, I can whole heartedly say, I am Grateful to be an Alcoholic.
What started out as “everyone’s doing it” in intermediate school turned into 26 yearlong love affair with the only coping mechanism I had ever known. Add drugs and bulimia to the repertoire of coping mechanisms and I was off to the races. Somehow all of it got normalized along the way. I now believe drinking, using and food purging was my way of self-medicating against the fear and anxiety of never feeling comfortable in my own skin.
I couldn’t imagine a scenario of relaxing, unwinding or being around others (introvert here) that didn’t include it. House parties, clubs, beer Friday at the tech startup (my husband and I actually got married on our lunch break and came back to the office to enjoy beer Friday with work crew), time to relax, stressful day, celebration, dinner, movie (thank you Alamo Draft House), boating, concert, happy hour, girls night, brunch, baby shower you name it. Can someone please remind me why we drink at baby showers again? For me, it was the only way to get a break from my crazy, obsessive, monkey mind. Ahhh deep exhale … time to “check out.” But I started to notice something along the way; I drank differently than most of my friends. I drank to get drunk (ALWAYS or why bother with the calories?) and had no shut off valve once I started. If I had that 1st drink, I could never predict how the night would end.
I have often found it interesting how we’ve normalized some addictions like busyness, constantly checking our devices (its actually measured by corporations as “engagement”), obsessing over personal development, shopping, Netflix binging, over working, food restricting, obsessive exercising but other additions like drugs and alcohol are still considered taboo. To me it’s all the same shit, just different manifestation. All of it is an escape from the inside job called MYSELF. The inside job of not being able to sit in my own loneliness or fear.
From the outside I was certain no one knew. It was my secret. I was living a double life. The life I wanted to you to see and the other life spent drunk and high on my back patio. High functioning, with all the societal check boxes of success neatly checked off. The degree from a prestigious university, the 6 figure job and homeowner in my early 20’s turned lake house, the body, the car, the boat and boyfriend turned husband of almost 15 years (so grateful for his unwavering support over the years). Somehow though, none of these achievements made me happy. Despite all of it, I was still using drugs, alcohol and purging as a way to fill a bottomless hole in my soul. A hole created by living a life that was deeply out of alignment with my soul coupled with an empty feeling of … is this life ever going to be enough?
I always thought to myself … I can’t be an alcoholic if I am not blacking out right? That thinking is what kept me out of the rooms of recovery all those years. That and the idea that I wanted nothing to do with a “biblical” based 12 step program being run out of a church basement. I am above that. So I thought.
But there were signs along the way. 3 encounters with the law and a DUI before the age 25. Two car crashes. Thank god I didn’t physically hurt or kill anyone along the way. Not once during the 200 hours of court mandated community service or alcohol classes did I think I had a problem until 7 or 8 years ago. When my husband would say things like, don’t you remember talking about that last night? Or wondering how my car got turned around in the garage. Maybe I was blacking out after all? And then I crossed the invisible line of no return. I would wake up so sick and hung over and swear I would never do it again only to find myself drinking later on that same day. I couldn’t stop on my own. It was a vicious cycle. I could control every other aspect of my life, but why not this? Cunning. Baffling. I must have this disease called addiction.
So what did I do? I quit my soul crushing corporate America job in technology to pursue my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. That should have solved the unhappiness problem, right? Nope, I drank even more.
Next, I hired a life coach in the hopes that she could help me figure out how to drink less and find the source of my unhappiness. Did this work? Nope. Although, I am very grateful for her and the many seeds of recovery that were planted along the way. I basically tried everything to stop drinking but to actually stop drinking.
Ironically I found my way into the rooms of recovery of because I felt sorry for a friend that was voluntarily attending “meetings” before having to go in front of a judge for an alcohol related incident. I thought she definitely “needs this”, but it’s not my jam. The day was March 18th 2014. I have been sober ever since.
What I have learned over past 4 years is that the actual recovery program is just one piece of a multifaceted puzzle which is why they only a 3% success rate. Remember that the next time a friend or family member relapses. Extend some grace. As of today, I am so incredibly grateful to part of the 3%. But tomorrow is never guaranteed. One day at a time, so they say. So how I have I managed to stay sober?
1. I decided to SURRENDER to the disease of addiction and seek help through the ROOMS OF RECOVERY.
It has been the best decision of my life. I haven’t used or purged since. Learning much needed coping skills through working the 12 steps, mentoring other women and staying close to the recovery community has been a big component of my sobriety puzzle. I have met some of the most incredible human beings on the planet through this community, including my sponsor who I can’t imagine living a day without, and for that I am eternally grateful.
2. I developed a strong MEDITATION practice.
Meditation helps calm monkey/obsessive thinking mind and relax the prefrontal cortex (the least evolved part of our brain responsible for decision making). I started with transcendental meditation (TM) which eventually evolved into Vipassana meditation after attending my first 10 Day Silent Retreat back January of 2016. Meditation has definitely been a key component to my sobriety puzzle as I can now literally feel the front of my brain stop swirling and release as part of this practice. If you are new to meditation I would suggest you start with the beginner meditations from Tara Brach by going here. I never miss a week of her talks either. She brings so much sense to this chaotic world.
3. I got in the habit of practicing GRATITUDE and RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS on a daily basis.
Gratitude takes us out of scarcity and self-pity and shines a bright light on all the abundance in our lives. Seriously, we live in the richest country in world and yet we rank 26th on the happiness scale. Why is this? Because we are running around like busy bees focused on “self.” To get out of that, I try to approach each day with the mindset of – who can I serve today? Who can I lift up? This has greatly increased my happiness levels while decreasing my craving to “check out.” After all, this life isn’t all about me. Another light bulb moment in my sobriety puzzle.
3. I healed my LEAKY GUT, restored my GUT MICROBIOME DIVERISTY and did a GUT-BRAIN AXIS nutritional intervention.
Shortly after getting sober, I started experiencing a myriad of mystery health symptoms. Symptoms that made me question whether or not sobriety was worth maintaining. Anxiety, depression, insomnia, memory loss, extreme fatigue etc. Had I been self-medicating all those years because I was masking a mental health issue OR had the using created the mental health issue(s)? Either way, on July 20th 2017, I found myself in a very dark place walking out of the Dr.’s office with scripts for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. I never filled those scripts because 2 days later I was divinely introduced to AMARE (which means “To Love” in Latin), a new company that was positioned to help people to optimize mental health through restoring gut microbiome diversity and healing the gut-brain axis. As it turns out, 60-90% of our feel good neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, norepinephrine etc) are produced in a healthy gut environment (not in the brain as once believed) and communicated to our brain 90% one way through a complex nerve system, primarily the vagus nerve. As a health coach, all of this was new information for me and understanding it has been a BIG missing piece of my sobriety puzzle.
It started with Reboot+, a 3 day gut balancing protocol, which was crucial in helping me lower levels of bad gut bacteria followed by Fundamentals, the gut-brain axis restorative protocol – this protocol alone has healed my leaky gut, gotten my neurotransmitters communicating between the gut and brain correctly again, removed ALL of my sugar cravings (one of the reasons why relapse rates are so high and why people who are trying to stay sober crave sugar) and greatly reduced my anxiety and depression. I have since added on Mood+, GBX, Omegas and Probiotics. So many of my mystery health symptoms have been resolved by doing this and I now feel EVEN STRONGER in my SOBRIETY.
Addiction rates are at an all-time high in our country and I don’t know of a single family who hasn’t been touched by the disease. Just know if you or a loved one is battling addiction that there is hope. Addiction is not a curse but rather it’s as an enormous blessing. A blessing because of all tools gained through the recovery process that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Does my journey resonate with you? If so join our “Trust Your Gut” online recovery community where we share lots of tips, tricks, gut microbiome-healing recipes and most of all LOVE, HOPE and INSPIRATION.
Love, Light & Hope,