Today I am nine years sober. I am very proud of this because walking away from alcohol was NOT easy.
There was a lot of shame …. I mean a really lot of shame.
(Yeah yeah, I know, bad grammar. But I’m tired, okay. It’s been a super busy week. My sober birthday is almost over and I am only just getting around to writing about it and who knows how much sober birthday will be left when I publish this post. So back off grammar-police.)
Nine years ago today, I called my husband bawling, sniffling, and whimpering with shame. That afternoon, I had googled everything I could find on Alcoholics Anonymous, and I was calling him at work to let him know that I needed to join AA pronto because I am definitely an alcoholic.
Hubby was all like, whaaaattt?? Because he didn’t think I was … not at the time of the phone call anyway. Despite needing some days to wrap his head around this new information, Hubby would arrive home from work that very evening, change out of his uniform, and accompany me to my first AA meeting. And Hubby would be with me for at no less than fifty (or more) AA meetings over the following twelve months.
Hubby was my rock during those early sober days. Together we attended these meetings, trying to look less shell-shocked than we actually felt, respectively. It was a new season in our life, wholly unexpected and definitely humbling. I held it together when he was with me.
But on those occasions when I when I went alone? Ugh! Fuck my life! I was a blubbering mess! I never knew when the tears would hit me. Sometimes I would be crying in my car on the way to an AA meeting, or crying in my car on the way back home from an a AA meeting, and more often than I care to admit, I would be crying during the AA meeting. Getting sober was hard AF.
Because I was terrified that I would not be able to stop drinking. Terrified. It had been made clear, if I didn’t stop drinking, death would be right around the corner waiting patiently for me.
I had hit my bottom with alcohol. I got sick and was hospitalized for almost a week. An emergency blood transfusion got me back on the road to recovering health.
About a week after I was home from the hospital, I decided I was out of the health-scare woods and I began drinking again. On April 12, 2010, a nurse called my home and told me my latest lab results from bloodwork showed I was heading towards the woods again. That nurse raise her voice as if she where talking to someone who might be hard of hearing. You have to stop drinking! And she was right to do that because it properly scared the shit out of me.
What I had known in my heart all along, what I dared never say aloud, what I occasionally wondered about (in private moments during the last several years of drinking), had finally caught up with me: What if I can’t stop drinking? What if I am addicted to alcohol?
So I knew, AA was a certainty for me, I needed help. I knew I needed the support of other alcoholics to help me overcome this disease of addiction.
But dammit to all hell, was I fuckin ashamed to admit this! I was! At the time, when I realized it was time to get help, my sick mind was reeling and twisting in shame. My sick mind scoffed— Low-lifes, drunks, and wine-o’s. A bunch of fuckin weirdos and losers. Those are gonna be your new friends, Maria. What the hell? Are you fuckin kidding me? You can’t be serious!
I had to ignore those voices in my head. I forced myself to walk into those AA rooms, sit my ass down and stay the fuck put until every meeting was over for the next two years. An internal battle roared. I felt like I was going crazy. Inside my head, oh my god, the voices—the voices!— they screamed at me constantly. They called me names! They begged me to remove myself from all those
drunkards sober strangers! They laughed at me! They ridiculed me! Don’t you dare tell these people about yourself! Have you completely lost your fuckin mind? Not one more word, Maria! This is your private life you are spilling guts about! Where is your pride! Shame on you! What would your family say?
And then a lightbulb flickered.
A tiny little voice …. she whispered from beneath the screaming voices. It was a trembling whisper, but I heard her.
You could die. If you don’t speak up, Maria. If you don’t tell them the truth, you could die.
Slowly, a little bit at a time, I began to open up in those meetings. Because I realized, oh yeah, I already tried it my family’s way and it almost killed me. I already tried life with buried secrets and it nearly suffocated me. I already let Shame ride me like a wild horse until my neck was ready to snap.
No more cover ups and no more lies.
I have come a long way with my truth-telling and it has saved me …. repeatedly.
Here I am today and I am still standing. I love this sober life!
To myself, I offer these words: Happy Sober Birthday, Maria! Keep going, you’re doing awesome!
P.S. A new podcast episode is available right now. It’s a lot easier to write about my alcoholism than it is to talk about it. And yet, there are such useful gems imbedded in the spoken truth of our lives. You can listen to the episode on iTunes, Libsyn or Spotify.
(Cover picture: A sober birthday card from my beautiful and amazing husband. It came with a gift of gorgeous and fancy crochet needles. I adore him so much!)