It Hasn’t Happened…Yet

Speak Truth

My voice was shaking as I stood at the podium and stared across the sea of faces. A friend had asked me earlier in the week to share my story as part of a panel at a local recovery center and I was starting to wonder if I had made a mistake. It’s one thing writing about my story from the comfort of my own home, but standing in front of others and sharing the details of my life is a different thing all together. But, at this point in my life and recovery, if something makes me nervous or uncomfortable, it’s usually a sign I need to take the plunge and face my fear – this was one of those times.

As I began to speak, my body relaxed and I continued to share my story with those in the room. I was the first to speak and was relieved when I was finished. As the other speakers followed me and shared their stories, I started to feel a dangerous sense of superiority. Instead of focusing on our similarities, I started focusing on our differences, which is a really bad place for this alcoholic to go. Out of four women and one man, I was the only one who hadn’t spent time in jail or prison; I was the only one who hadn’t gotten a DUI; I was the only woman who hadn’t had her children taken away from her; I was the only one who hadn’t been addicted to pills or meth; and I’m pretty sure I was the only one sitting up there with a graduate degree. So, immediately my mind went to, “Wow, I was never THAT bad,” “Boy, compared to them I really had it together.” HA! And, this people is the crazy, insane mind of an alcoholic! And, with that I found all those old judgments, insecurities, fears and better-than-yous coming back in vengeance – the same stuff that made me drink.

And, from there, for only a slight second, my mind went to that very scary place where I started questioning if I really had been THAT bad. And, then with one quick interaction with the woman sitting next to me, I remembered that, yes, I was THAT bad. During a short break we had started chatting and I joked that my story looked pretty uneventful compared to hers, and she looked at me and said, “But, yours is just as important because not everyone is going to relate to mine.” No, I hadn’t been arrested or spent time in prison, I hadn’t gotten a DUI, I hadn’t lost my children, I hadn’t lost my marriage, I hadn’t been addicted to pills or meth – YET. None of those things happened to me, but my life, as I knew it, had become completely and totally unmanageable because of one cunning and baffling reason – alcohol. And, I’m convinced that if I hadn’t stopped drinking when I did, those things would’ve happened to me – and maybe worse.

As I sat there and looked out at the other men and women in the room with their family members sitting by their sides, I wondered if anyone related to my story. Did anyone see the similarities or were they simply focused on the differences? Because, until we can stop looking at our differences and instead focus on what we have in common, there will be no hope.

After the discussion was over, and I was signing out, two women came up to me and thanked me for sharing my story. They saw themselves in me and could relate to much of what I said. While both older than myself, they found the similarities and it gave them hope.

Despite my initial reservations, I plan to keep going back and sharing my experience, strength and hope.

I’m here because others chose to share their stories with me. It’s my responsibility to pass it on. That’s what we do.

21 responses

  1. “…until we can stop looking at our differences and instead focus on what we have in common, there will be no hope.” Yes! My recovery couldn’t start until I learned this lesson. And taking it beyond the rooms and into the world at large, comparing myself in with the rest of humanity instead of seeing myself as ‘other than’, allows me to grow in spirit, serenity, and sobriety. Thanks for posting this.

  2. My mom is an alcoholic (17 years sober) and her life experiences couldn’t be more different from mine but we’re both still alcoholics. What we have in common is the pain, anxiety and shame our drinking caused. I actually had to convince her that I had a problem because I looked so functioning on the outside. Those of us with “high” bottoms can be tougher nuts to crack because we’re experts in manipulation and denial. Stereotypes keep people locked in denial. That’s why sharing our stories is so important.

    • Wow, Karen. That’s awesome about your mom’s sobriety! And, you’re so right about the stereotypes. I had to convince a few people that I had a problem too – or I just pointed to my husband and said, “Ask him!” He was more than willing to tell people how bad I really was! Always appreciate your comments! Thank you!

  3. Congratulations on being able to tell your story to a large group. There is no doubt that someone identified with your story. That’s the beauty (horror?) of this disease: as different as our stories appear to be, there’s a big common element of un-manageability. Big kudos to you for being so brave!

  4. Good for you for recognizing where your thinking was taking you!! And for facing your fears about speaking. It only gets easier and you see more and more its not the events but the feelings that bond us all:-)

  5. Good for you ! Your story is touching others and I’m glad you are able to share it.

    I have not stood up to tell my story but I have been the person to start the meeting with my story for 20 minutes or so. I aspire to one day do what you did. 🙂

    • Thanks, Fern! I have no doubt that you’ll get there one day too! In the meantime, I think that’s great that you’re taking the lead in meetings. Service comes in all shapes and sizes – finding what fits for you is the key. Always enjoy hearing from you – thanks!

  6. I knew you’d do great!!

    I have always felt that having a blog like yours and a story like yours will reach way more people than mine or some other legally challenged / arrested / hospitalized / detox / rehab dude is that you are furthest from the “typical” alcoholic and yet you are as alcoholic as I am or anyone else is. It’s just that you can touch more lives because you represent all those women who have similar circumstances as you and perhaps may be thinking “oh wow! Someone who looks, speaks and acts like me…but also drank and thought and plummeted in many ways like me”. Amazing! God has put you in a position to show so many other women in your shoes that yes, it does happen and yes, recovery happens too!

    Too many folks feel that they don’t belong…just because they haven’t been to jail, or been in fights, or lived on the streets, drank gallons of vodka daily, etc. A woman drinking expensive wine in a crystal goblet is as easily an alcoholic as a dude who drinks Purell under a bridge.

    You have shared your life and story bravely, and you saw the immediate beneifits of that. I am so proud of you…thank you for doing that.

    Congrats and blessings 🙂

    Paul

    • Thanks, Paul! That means a lot coming from you. We all have a story and I believe mine is just as important as someone else’s but I get what you mean. Like Karen mentioned in her comment, I had to convince some people that I really was/am an alcoholic. Because I looked good on the outside and seemed like I had it “together,” they doubted that I could be a “real” alcoholic. I’m glad that more and more people (especially women) like myself are starting to come out and share their stories. It’s important that we see the many faces of alcoholism and addiction. Thanks again!

  7. When I first went along I wanted to find the differences – but everyone was being knocked away as I looked around… I hadn’t lost my job, ok he had and she had but they hadn’t, I hadn’t lost my family and friends – well they had but they hadn’t… and so it went on. I could identify with almost anyone who spoke if I looked for the similarities. It didn’t seem easy, or indeed natural, at first. Now it is. I meet someone who has been in prison (I never was), lost their licence (I never did), their wife deserted them or vice versa (she stood by me), ended up on the streets (I still had a home) but they’ll say something like “I just tried to control it and then I’d find myself already drunk with no idea how that happened”… Oh yes I know that one. “I’d lie to anyone I met to fit in and feel secure, but then I’d have to maintain all these lies and that was such hard work” – Oh boy that was just like me… etc. etc.

    I sometimes get asked to be the speaker and share my story – I still “worry” that it’ll not be relevant and people will think “What a jerk!” or “He doesn’t belong here” etc. But although sometimes people may share back “It was different for me…” they normally to identify with my journey both down to the depths of my nadir and then my slow trudge back up the hill to happy destiny in recovery. Everytime it is still like the first time I connected with other alcoholics and thought “Blimey, I’m not the only one that feels like this”

    Great post – got me thinking a lot about how grateful I should be for that connection and insight – it has helped keep me sober.

    • Thank you! I always appreciate your thoughts and comments. And, I too, no matter where I am ALWAYS relate to another alcoholic’s story. It doesn’t matter if they were sleeping in a gutter – we’re all the same at the core. That’s the thing about this disease – it never discriminates.

  8. I relate to your story – not as an alcoholic – but as a person with a painful past hidden under achievement and work. I finally broke down a few years ago and started working with a counselor – turns out it was worth it not to think I could handle it all by myself.

    Once, I told my counselor that I hadn’t had such a bad past because thus and such hadn’t happened and that I thought I should just be able to get over this and move on. Obviously, my habits and person showed I couldn’t handle it, but my evaluation wasn’t based in reality – it was based in shame that I couldn’t deal with life alone and fear that no one would help, really stick with me if I asked. My counselor told me that my experiences had been bad enough, and from that kind and simple refuting of my perspective I have been able to change – to own where I was, appreciate my progress and look forward to even more growth.

    The worst and best things I’ve learned about people in general through all this are 1.)people are hurting so much – in obvious and hidden circumstances – but 2.) people are very resilient, especially when offered a little perspective and hope.

    Thanks for sharing so candidly.
    Best,
    Emily Grace

    • Thanks, Emily Grace! I’m a huge advocate of counseling! I’ve been in and out of it since I was six years old when my parents got divorced. I’m scared to think where I’d be at this point in my life without it! Perspective is huge in dealing with any personal situation – what might be easy to some, might be the hardest thing ever for someone else. Through everything I’ve been through, it comes down to the fact that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. We’ve all got something we’re dealing with. Thanks again!

  9. I feel this way when I am asked if I was ever an alcoholic (man I hate that word). As I believe an alcoholic is someone who loses control of their drinking, and that I was never in control in the first place, then I guess I am that name I hate.

    But when I declare my problems to the world, my friends in particular, think I’m nuts because in their minds eye my life was pretty solid, I dealt with most things and I was never hanging around street corners with a brown paper bag in my hand.

    So for a brief moment I feel foolish for telling people that alcohol was ruining my life. Fortunately, I catch it and bottle it again.

    Keep on telling your story to the world. I’m glad the two ladies approached you at the end because it would have given you some confidence. There are so many people who get caught like you – and I did – and they will all see a part of their own life in your drama.

    Well done.

    Lee Davy
    http://www.needyhelper.com

  10. I am amazed how similar our journeys are – right down to the English degree, grad school & things worsening in the year and a half after my second child was born. Thank you for sharing your story. It is both encouraging and inspiring!

    Barby

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