Recovery Blog Post – Janet

I didn’t just wake up one morning dry heaving into my toilet, needing a drink within
fifteen minutes of awakening – so ashamed that I could not even look at myself in the
mirror – wondering again how I was going to get through the day (cursing God for not
having taken me during the night). My spiritual bankruptcy was decades in the making
– what was once a lovely relationship with alcohol had now become my prison – I was
chained to the basement of my soul, imprisoned by a foe that I had tried to fight, but
now had completely surrendered to. I wanted to die – wished for it – all the while
wondering how I ever got to this dark place.

I grew up in Southern California in the 1970’s – warm, sunny days spent with the
neighborhood kids, flying down the street on my skateboard, feeling true joy. That
changed when we moved to Weston, Connecticut in the dead of winter – cold, dark, no
friends, riding a bus to school for the first time. I was 10-years old and frightened. In
response to this trauma, I developed anxieties: fear of abandonment, social anxiety, and
fear of rejection. My parents, thinking this was a phase I would outgrow, did not feel the
need to address this professionally. I came up with my own coping strategies, lead by
the need to be “perfect”. If I could be the perfect student, daughter, ballerina then no
one would leave me because everyone would love me. Outwardly I presented this
façade of perfection, inwardly I was frantic and terrified. It would be another seven
years before I had my first drink, yet the ground was set for something, anything to bring

My relationship with alcohol started out as an enhancement to social gatherings – I liked
the warm, carefree feeling it gave me. I liked how it erased my social anxieties and
feelings of ineptitude, of not fitting in. Alcohol was an elixir of joy – at least in the
beginning of this doomed relationship. For three decades, alcohol rode shotgun with me
– at first being a lubricant to social situations and somehow slowly becoming a way to
run from pain. I don’t remember when I became a daily drinker, and it is even hazier as
to when that daily bottle of wine went to two bottles, and then three. But I can tell you
those last two years were horrific…

If I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking about drinking, or I was recovering from drinking.
Calling in sick to work (I was in sales at the time – a horrible choice in career for
someone who fears rejection) because I was so hungover or wanted to spend a whole
day sipping wine became commonplace. As I became more attached to alcohol,
everything in my life became a distant second. My husband, my two children, food,
exercise, work, self-care, grooming all fell away from me – and I didn’t care.

Alcohol wants one thing – your life – but it will take you addicted, sick and miserable.
That is what became of me… Sick and dying, I no longer prayed for the strength to
abstain (for I had tried so many times with brief success); rather I wished for it all to end.
I was in hell – my brain hijacked by alcohol, my body physically dependent to this toxin,
and any hope for life was dead.

My husband came home one morning and, finding me in my usual spot on the porch
drinking, declared that he was going to take the kids and leave if I didn’t seek help. He
would no longer watch me kill myself. I was so very tired of digging this deep hole in
which I now stood – a muddy, murky bottom where no sunlight shown. Through this
dark prison a shaft of light appeared and with one breath of courage I threw down that
shovel and said to my husband, “YES, I need help”.

Two days later, 49 years old, I entered rehab a walking shell of a woman (90 pounds on
my 5’8” frame) wondering with shame how I could have ended up here. But I had the
willingness to stay the full 30 days, no matter what. Sequestered from people, places,
and things that triggered my drinking, I began to heal. I was given a copy of the book
Alcoholics Anonymous upon admission and while in detox, I read it cover to cover. It
gave me hope that I could fight this disease, that with a willingness to change I could
have a life I had never imagined.

Once I was out of detox, I was introduced to my first AA meeting. My preconceived
notions were quickly smashed. I poured out my heart and my feelings of shame
(horrible wife and mother) and through my tears, I saw complete strangers nodding their
head in understanding. I knew I had found my tribe – a place where love and
forgiveness are unconditional and where I can learn from others who have gone before
me how to navigate life without alcohol. I also came to realize that alcohol was just the
tip of the iceberg – that I would need to address what lay underneath the water.
Working the 12-steps with my sponsor has given me the opportunity to change.
Addressing the anxiety with my therapist has freed me to breathe. By breaking the
bonds with alcohol, I have been able to heal the bitterness and darkness within me that
existed before I ever took my first drink. Reconciling my trauma, my regrets, and my
resentments has freed me from myself. And in doing so, it has created space for my
higher power to guide and love me.

The last decade of my drinking I knew I had a problem but didn’t feel I was sick enough
to seek treatment. Today, professionally and personally, I help others reduce or
eliminate drinking from their lives. What was once my mess, is now my message – that
not only can we survive this deadly disease but thrive in spite of it. I just celebrated my
7 th year of sobriety. I still live in Connecticut with my husband of 25 years, near a
Christmas tree farm that I walk daily with my rescue pup, grateful to be alive and part of
this world.

My recovery has given me a healthy, vibrant love for life – embracing the imperfections,
the pain, and the joys of the human experience. I feel free – like that 10-year girl with
hair flying behind her as she rides her skateboard into the California sun.