If you know me at all you know that I am a former whiskey loving wild woman with an affinity for partying. If you asked me two years ago if I ever thought I'd ever stop drinking I'd probably laugh in your face and pound a beer to really drive my point home, but on January 25th I celebrated 365 whole days of living life without my old friend, alcohol. It's bittersweet. Alcoholism has taken so much from me, that I find it surprising that I am sitting here feeling bittersweet without it. But I am and that's something that I should and want to talk about. It's a really conflicting feeling craving the one thing that ruined most of your life, but that's the nature of addiction. It's downright ugly. I have anticipated hitting the one year mark since the day I decided to quit drinking, but when the day finally came I was greeted with feelings of overwhelming shame, guilt, and embarrassment rather than feeling overwhelming joy and accomplishment... it was rough to say the least. On my first sober birthday all I wanted to do was go to the bar. I think I expected sobriety to feel a lot better, but the truth is that so far it hasn't. I don't want that truth to deter you from overcoming your addiction because there's a lot more to that truth than "it doesn't feel good being sober." The real truth is that it feels great being sober, it's the best thing I've ever accomplished and I feel a great sense of pride in myself for taking that step. However, I'd be lying if I said that it didn't also come with some really nasty shit. And you all should know by now that I'm the kind of gal that talks about it all. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I've known addiction my entire life. My father was an addict as was his father and mother before him. Addiction runs strong in my family. I never really believed that addiction was a disease until I was trying to overcome it. I had accepted my role as an addict almost with pride. As if addiction didn't take my father away from me and his father away from him. I didn't think I had a problem until it was too late. Until I had already burned a lot of bridges and made a lot of people in my hometown hate me. And for good reason. I wasn't always the greatest to be around...I was the worst and I know that now. I do have hopes that one day I will be able to right those wrongs, but I also respect the fact that I don't get to choose whether or not people forgive me. I'm working on forgiving myself which is proving to be very difficult, but that has to be enough and it is. I didn't ask for the trauma and abuse that lead me to drugs and alcohol so I need to cut myself a little slack. I made mistakes, but those mistakes don't define me. It's a daily struggle to remind myself that I'm only human. What actually matters is what you do after you make mistakes and right now I'm trying to change my ways and not repeat any of the mistakes I made. Baby steps, right?
The person I am today is completely different than I was just a couple years ago. My personal evolution game is strong. But not matter how much I evolve as a person I wont ever be able to undue what has already been done. The struggle I'm finding being sober is that I have an overwhelming amount of shame and guilt. It's crippling at times. I feel it so intensely that it drives me insane. I want to curl up in a ball and just disappear when I think about my past behavior. I guess when I was numbing myself with drugs and alcohol I didn't have to feel that so it was easy to keep adding things to be embarrassed about to that pile (and its a big pile.) I am not a liar or a thief at my core, but drugs and alcohol brought that out of me. It's the nature of addiction, it brings out your ugly sides (we ALL have them.) I treated a lot of people poorly. I lied to them, I stole from them, and sometimes I would even verbally assault them. As I sit here writing this I am absolutely mortified at the things I even remember doing. It hurts my head to try and think of the things that I don't remember doing. But I can't dwell on any of that because like I said, my mistakes don't define the person I am today. I've learned from them, and I look back at them and continue to find valuable lessons. I don't expect anyone to ever forget those mistakes, I just hope that people find it in their hearts to understand why I behaved the way I did and what a bad place I was in. But mostly I just wish they knew how sorry I am. So I do hope they are reading this. I'm sorry.
Sobriety has been one of the most difficult and most eye opening experience of my life. Regardless of how much it can suck at times I never think that I made the wrong choice. I believe the fact that it is so difficult means that its worth it...and it really is. I turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the thoughts and feelings I have been dealing with for as long as I can remember. There's not a time in my life that I remember not being depressed. Maybe thats because of my childhood and a lot of abuse that went on or maybe I was just born this way. I couldn't tell you for sure, but drugs and alcohol helped me to not feel those things and I learned that trick from all the addicts that I had been raised by (I learned from the best). Being sober brings all those feelings to the surface and you have to deal with them. Doing it without the bottle is something I have had to learn how to do and it's not always easy...it's hardly ever easy. Even just feeling those things and knowing that it's OKAY feels impossible. When you've conditioned yourself to run straight to a numbing agent at the slightest sign of negative feelings you feel pretty lost and helpless when thats no longer an option. And now I have even more negative feelings to deal with that are a direct result of that coping mechanism. Addiction is a dirty fighter....you know, like pocket sand kind of fighter (if you got that reference I love you.)
What do you do when the bad memories flood in and you want to use? What do you do when you feel shame, embarrassment, and guilt because of using? The simple answer for any addict is that you want to use. Isn't that a bitch? So what I meant when I said that sobriety hasn't always been the greatest is that it can feel very conflicting and frustrating at times. All of the hardest things I've ever done ended up being the best things I've done. I look at sobriety on my hard days and I say, "challenge accepted, motherfucker!" If you can't tell, I'm kind of a competitive person and I'm determined to win. I have that going for me. I feel like I have a lot to prove to other people, specifically the ones I have let down. But mostly I feel like I have a lot to prove to myself. Being a user for as long as I was really did a number on my self confidence as an adult. It stunted me in a lot of ways that I'm just now learning how to deal with at the age of 26. The fact that I'm just learning how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way is a big pill to swallow, but I continue to make effort and for that I applaud myself.
My biggest word of advice for anyone trying to overcome addiction would be this, find a good support system. People who don't hold your mistakes against you or think that your mistakes or your past define you. Every day is a new day and that brings a new opportunity to be a new person, you just have to make that choice! Hell, sometimes I have to make that choice multiple times in one day! Life will test you, so be ready for it. Cut yourself some slack and just do your best. That is all anyone can ask of you and that is all you can ask of yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for help, you don't have to and you shouldn't take on sobriety alone. You need friends to be there on the days when all you want to do is use. It's okay to have those cravings, they might not ever go away (you're an addict after all.) It's what you do when those craving surface that matters. Are you going to cave and give into addiction, or are you going to keep challenging it and proving yourself to be worth sobriety. No matter what you think about yourself, I guarantee that you are worth all the amazing things that come along with being sober. It's just as fun and you actually remember it all!
On monday evening I'll be holding a Q&A session on periscope for anyone dealing with addiction on any level in their life. Username is @ladystilts and I'll be sure to announce the exact time for those who are interested.