2 weeks ago, I was video interviewed by Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind – the book that effectively changed the course of my life and began my recovery journey. No big deal, right? Sure. This morning, the interview was posted on her podcast as a part of her This Naked Life Story series. It can be heard here:
In the weeks leading up to the interview and especially just before, I was teeming with anxiety. I spent weeks writing and re-writing my timeline to get a real hold on it, something I had never done before but kept promising I would sit down and do. And that sparked me to grand levels of insight and, of course, even more anxiety. Just as the scabs of my divorce and post-divorce drinking were flaking off, healing up and getting to that itchy phase, I was purposefully slicing into them and reliving some of the worst days of my life.
The day of our interview, I went home on my lunch break for it. I burned incense, did an 10-minute “emergency” meditation on the Calm app, got my fizzy water and notes ready, and I waited. I thought that once we began I would relax and fall into the conversation naturally, but even as we ended thirty minutes later I was sweating, heart racing, face beet red. I was having out-of-body experiences the entire time – is this really happening? My mouth is moving, but what the fuck am I even saying? Am I in over my head?
In the weeks following, I grappled with what Brene Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover.” This morning I woke up and saw it was finally posted. I saw in the description that it said I was over a year sober (an innocent misunderstanding/miscommunication) and immediately panicked and buried myself back into my blankets. Someone sent me the youTube link and my eyes immediately went to the 1 “downvote” it had – I yelped in disbelief and threw my phone down.
I eventually allowed myself to listen (although admittedly, broken down to several-minute intervals throughout the day), and I was overall generally pleased. However, even before I heard it I knew there were things I’d want to change. Things I wish I’d said, or didn’t say. And the biggest of those were my insinuation that I have been sober/alcohol free for a year. I kind of said “that’s when my journey began,” then jumped to my most recent “projects” and never returned to address the whole time period of July 2017 – Dec 2017, when I drank my last drink.
Here is what I wish I had said:
June 25, 2017 began my recovery journey. But I’m no super hero; just like alcoholism isn’t a gene mutation, people who quit drinking are not inherently engineered to be stronger or wiser. We falter, or “relapse.” Today I have 201 days alcohol-free. Here is the story of those other 155 days:
After I quit on June 25, I was sober for a little more than a month and then started to think I could handle it, maybe I was being dramatic, and let alcohol slip its way back in. I was scared everyday to share with anyone that I was on this path lest I fall back to my old ways and embarrass myself. Steve and I first started dating mid-July and I was so deathly scared, uncomfortable in my own skin and constantly questioning myself that, rather than just tell him I don’t drink, I would order Aperol and soda – a very low alcohol Italian liquer topped with seltzer. And I would nurse 1 or 2 throughout an entire 6 hour evening. I drank when I had no desire to drink. Then this paved the way for a mimosa here, a glass of wine or 2 here, until early September when we went away on our first overnight trip together. We got drunk for the first (and only) time together and got in an argument about me smoking cigarettes (a favorite drunk-vice of mine). I spent the entire next day hungover and miserable, in the heat of the desert. When we returned from our trip on Sunday, I sat alone in my house feeling a little defeated for approximately 30 minutes, then decided to grab a drink at a local bar (I know now that this is one of those pivotal, subconscious moments William Porter talks about in his book, Alcohol Explained: when your brain learns, either subconsciously or consciously, that another drink will take away the misery of the last. And from here, we either continue to catapult into alcoholism or slow/halt our descent by engaging in recovery). This one glass lead to several others and Steve and I ended up going out with a few friends that night, in which I again caught a little buzz and we ended up in a fight. When I woke up the next day, my eyes popped open and my first thought was, “fuck you. I’m not going to let you do this again, because if I do, there is no end in sight.” And so I said I was done, I would never drink again. Again.
Fast forward to December 17, 2017 and we were at a friend’s house for a dinner party. I had spent a few days before that wanting, for something, I wasn’t sure what. That familiar “you’re fine, you don’t even have a drinking problem, why are you doing this to yourself?” voice was back (again, perfect example of what William Porter refers to as FAB: Fading Affect Bias. We only remember our drinking days fondly with rose-colored glasses rather than the gut wrenching, soul-devouring, wasted hours they were). I told Steve this, and said “I might drink something tonight.” He replied with “but you’ve been doing so well.” This was a pivotal moment for me because, up until now I don’t think I’d fully committed to this alcohol-free thing and was afraid that I was letting how many “days” I had run the show. I replied to him with defiance, “I can drink as much as I want – it just happens to be (usually) nothing!” So I had a glass of sangria cut with some ginger beer. It was sweet, it made my stomach burn, I was trying to carefully avoid a buzz, I regretted the calories. This was the moment it all flipped for me. Instead of questioning the not-drinking decision, I questioned the drinking one. “Why am I not drinking?” turned into “wait, why the fuck AM I doing this?” That was my last drink.
The other thing I wish I had said was that the relationship I have found myself in, my very first founded without the social lubricant of alcohol has been one of the most profoundly terrifying, exciting and rewarding endeavors I have ever been apart of. I can’t tell you what it’s like to “date” sober because well – I pretty much went out with the only guy who didn’t ask me out for a drink and he turned out to be my/THE person. My person I didn’t even know I needed or wanted. But a relationship without alcohol is beautiful, enduring thing. Our first moment of truth looked like this: when I eventually told him (after that drunken Labor Day fiasco) “look, I can’t and don’t want to drink. If you need to be with someone who drinks then I’m sorry, this won’t work.” And with that, for the first time in my life, I was standing up for me and for what I knew I needed, at the risk of being alone. THAT was terrifying – but Steve responded that he loves that I don’t drink, that he was willing to stick it out with me, he would never let any of his friends give me any shit for it, and he has made good on that promise ever since. He not only accepts my teetotaler status, but has been along for the ride as my inspiration and exhilaration and anxiety and energy and everything else has expanded, blowing open the entire world around me. When I struggled with my first public “recovering out loud” post, he was there to encourage me to share my story but “not obsess over the response.” He has always been gentle, kind, understanding, supportive and proud of me, even when I feel like I deserve none of those things.
So that’s it. I started out terrified to share any part of myself with the world, and here I am now, wishing I had given more of my story. But, as Gabby Bernstein teaches in May Cause Miracles, I choose to view myself and my words as a vessel for love and connection with the universe. As a super control freak and chronic “what if”-er this podcast was a practice in acceptance for me; anything I regret saying or not saying in the interview is simply my ego talking. I achieved my ultimate goal of human connection – not blog hits or some perfectly executed spiel. It wasn’t about marketing myself, it was about marketing recovery from alcohol. Everything I did say came from a place of love and a true desire to share and connect with all of you, for the people who need to hear it most. It’s how I water my roots and how you till your soil – sharing, connection, supporting and recovering. Thanks for reading (and listening!) and being a huge part of my recovery path.