Did you know September is National Recovery Month?
Probably not. Hell, I didn’t know or even care until recently, to be honest. I’m willing to bet that unless you, or someone you know and deeply care for is currently or has previously struggled with addiction, substance abuse, and/or mental illness… you probably think this has nothing to do with you, and will most likely skim over this like the vast majority of your feed. Which is fine, and maybe this (*~recovery thing~*) will never be something that infiltrates its way into your life. Should you be so fortunate to not have to really try and understand and digest what all this entails of, that’s awesome. It really, really is. However, for me, this is a subject that I have become really well-versed in and heavily focused on over the last 385 days, and I’m here to be as evangelical as shit about a multitude of things because I’ve finally found my fucking voice, and it’s about time I speak up and use it for something good.
The world needs more good in it, yeah? The world def needs more good… and love, understanding, empathy, compassion, and the list goes on and on.
Anyway, in regards to the few friends I’ve managed to keep in touch with via Facebook, I’ve stayed mostly quiet about my past struggles with alcohol abuse, minus a few milestones I’ve hit over the last 385 days (as I should, because I’m REALLY fucking proud of myself and how much I’ve evolved and grown as a person, woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and working professional). However, since September is winding down, I found it appropriate to write an open letter to those same people, about mental illness, addiction, substance abuse, sobriety and recovery, because today I don’t feel like being quiet. Today I feel like being unapologetically honest, real, raw, vulnerable, and explicitly vocal about these things, because I have a firm belief there are several people (unbeknownst to me) that need to see and read something such as this – this testimony of mine, and how insanely important it is to COPE and COMMUNICATE.
Those two “c” words can be awfully overwhelming for some people, so I’ll throw in COURAGE and CONQUER for good measure, because those words are more motivational and powerful sounding, and aren’t nearly as intimidating.
I’m not really sure where to start, because I’ve got a pretty colorful past that’s heavily punctuated with shameful moments (some I remember, some I don’t), narrative redundancies as they pertain to my interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, mental breakdowns, spells of deep depression, and an overall lack of honest perception and perspective of myself and the world around me. If we’re being honest, I truly believe almost all of my friends-turned-acquaintances have seen me drunk out of my mind, and sadly some of them saw me that way more than once. And while most (all) of them have moved on from those times… (and let’s face it) moved on from me and them knowing each other, except for what’s shared on social media… I still hold onto those moments, and they usually come to me in stabbing strobes of fragmented recollections, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say it can be excruciating and almost panic attack inducing.
My flashbacks are terrible. They are terrible and vivid, and I hate them as much as I love them. I love them because they’re a part of what’s helped me stay the course, and serve as forever humbling reminders that I don’t EVER have to be that person again. While I know I can’t change the past (and somedays I have to really try to let things go completely), I know I can use the past to help shape my future. A future I once honestly believed was unattainable.
I did a really good job at convincing myself that a lot of things in my life were shitty, and am eternally grateful I am fortunate enough to have been able to wake up and see things for what they really are, and it’s bonkers how much I have fallen head over heels in love with things that have been right in front of me the whole time. All these magical things I’ve found in the mundane are 100% thanks to the gift of sobriety and entering a life of recovery.
Anyway, as far as my personal story goes, at this point in time, it doesn’t matter about the tipping point(s) that occurred which set this transformation and lifelong journey into motion, what does matter is this: I feel fairly comfortable and confident enough to open up a bit more about the intense, euphoric, and incredibly desolate revelations since I entered a life of sobriety and in recovery. I feel even more comfortable with sharing this because it’s quite apparent we’re not all who we paint ourselves to be. I feel I am a fairly decent example of that. I mean, I’ve got this really cool guy who loves me unconditionally, I’ve got two healthy and happy kids, I’ve got a college degree and a job I’m great at, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of how awesome things are in my life.
Except they weren’t always authentically awesome because I didn’t give these things the love and attention they deserved, and I could paint the prettiest picture in town about how great my life is. And again with the whole “you can’t always believe what you see on the internet” but how about the smiling, successful person living the American Dream… do you/we/I believe that when it’s shown to us? More than likely. I mean, like, I know we take a lot of things at face value and are pretty confident that all of us are sharing a decent amount of “edited for television” snippets of our lives, but how about the person who’s in a darker place than the average person, how can we tell them apart? We can’t. Simple as that. We can’t tell them apart because they/you/me convince themselves that either nobody has time for them and they don’t want to be a burden, or maybe they would feel shameful about the way things in their life are going, or maybe they just bury it all together and try to tell themselves these “bad” things will disappear if they keep them buried long enough.
People suffer in silence, and that’s a fact.
That’s why I’m here now, doing this whole “recovering out loud” thing, because I think people who are hurting are the last people that need to keep quiet or ignore their pain altogether. We’re really good at finding temporary quick fixes to alleviate, or drown out, or (again) ignore our pain. And when these fixes wear off, we face the same demons again, and we go ‘round the circle again and again. That circle is fucking exhausting, y’all. Getting off that damn merry-go-round was the best decision I ever made.
Fortunately, I was never “addicted” to alcohol (I only say that because I mean in the physical sense, I never got DTs or withdrawals or anything like that) but I became addicted to the way it made me felt, even if I knew deep down what I was doing was nothing more than keeping the devil company. I’ve hurt a lot of people, guys. I’ve hurt a lot of people, burned a lot of bridges, made myself unavailable, and never cared about making amends because those people weren’t waiting for me all nice and frosty in my fridge when I had a hard day. Or a good day. Or a day. Because I started making all these excuses to myself that I wasn’t doing anything more than rewarding myself for doing nothing more than living. Except the day I started doing that, I stopped living, and I started merely existing. Then I’d get depressed and look for scapegoats to pin my pain on, and again… would seek relief in something that never did anything but make my situations worse. These problems continued to get worse, and more frequent, until I just couldn’t do it anymore and I surrendered to all sorts of things, but mostly to my poor heart and brain, because I’d hurt them most of all.
So after I threw in the towel, I started the most terrifying thing of my life: intensive outpatient program for addiction/ substance abuse. Slowly but surely, I started picking up the pieces of everything I’d destroyed, I started being completely honest with everyone and everything, I pulled all my skeletons out of their closets, and I got up close and real personal with my demons. It was the most painful yet liberating thing I’d ever done, and it saved me. It did. I couldn’t have done the things I did, made the progress I did, explore the grotesque intricacies that added up to a heaping mass of pain that I had doused with alcohol the way I did – I couldn’t have done any of these things without this program and the guidance of my counselor. My counselor released me back into the world with an arsenal of coping mechanisms, a newfound intuition to recognize and acknowledge when self-care is needed… I could go on and on with the amount of free crap my counselor gave me, that have come in handy numerous times, and ultimately helped me become the me I was meant to be.
ALL OF THIS being said, you can no longer say you don’t know anyone who has struggled with addiction, substance abuse, and/or mental illness. You can, however, say that you know someone who overcame these struggles and is no longer a victim, but a survivor.
P.S. – I have every intention of going back to school once the kids are older, so that I can become a professional, active member within the sobriety + recovery and have my eye on becoming a counselor as well. I’m just getting started with this journey, and I finally have genuine faith that the future holds great things for me, and I’ll get to that future – one day at a time.
P.P.S. – EDIT – To be very clear, and I’m going to quote a gorgeous badass I follow on IG (where my whole account is dedicated to my mission) and hold in high regards, “I’ve never had an issue being around alcohol since I made the decision to get clean. My rock bottom was so bad, so ugly, so life-threatening, so devastating that I’ve never even been tempted to pick up again. Doesn’t mean that I’m always going to be impervious to the temptation, doesn’t mean that I’m immune to relapse—but it also doesn’t mean I need to keep myself locked up away in a padded room in order to keep myself ‘safe’ from it.” – My rock bottom was the very real acceptance that if I kept going the way I did, I would lose those around me who love me the most, and them to me. I can be around booze and don’t get bothered, at all.