I Am Not Anonymous

Who I Am

A few weeks ago I received an email from a writer for Dr. Oz’s website The Good Life. She had discovered my blog and wanted to interview me for a story she was doing for Alcohol Awareness Month in April. She felt my recovery journey would resonate with many of their readers, the majority being women. My initial response was surprise, gratitude – and fear.

Those who know me are aware of my story and while I have written about my experience here on my blog, I have always had a sense of security knowing that my audience is fairly small; that I had some (realistic or not) control over who knew about my journey and recovery from alcoholism.

For some, I suppose it would be an easy decision. I mean, come on – it’s Dr. freakin’ Oz! For better or worse, he’s probably the most well known Dr. in the world thanks to Oprah and daytime television. But, for me, I was hesitant to have my story profiled on such a large medium. You see, I’m really happy living my little life on our little farm here in Oregon. Yes, I’m open with my story, but I never set out to be the poster girl for “stay at home moms who are recovering alcoholics.”

I questioned how much attention I really wanted. Because, really, there are times I’d like to crawl under a rock and leave it all behind me. To not be known for what I used to be, but known for who I am now. But, that’s just it. I am who I am today because of my past. And, after talking it over with my husband and going through all the maybes and maybe nots, I realized that this was way bigger than me. In fact, it wasn’t about me at all. This was about glorifying God. My story is His story. I’m but a messenger. And, when I began looking at it that way, it made my decision easy. Of course, I would share HIS story of faith, love, forgiveness and redemption.

Some may say, “But wait, aren’t you supposed to be anonymous? Aren’t you supposed to be hiding behind the tradition of anonymity?” And, my response to that would be, “Who am I helping by being anonymous?” We are taught “You are only as sick as your secrets” yet so many of us choose to keep our sobriety secret out of respect to an outdated tradition. For fear of what others will think, say or do.

Sharing your truth is a personal decision. For me, God made that decision for me when I got sober. It wasn’t anything I did to bring me out of the despair of alcoholism – believe me, I had tried before. It was by the grace of God that I went to that first meeting, took my first coin and continue to wake up each morning sober, and grateful.

I will continue to speak my truth – His truth. And, by the grace of God others will experience the gift of sobriety.

Please click here if you would like to read the article featured on Dr. Oz’s website.

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid or endorsed for my story. My ultimate wish is that other women like myself will find courage to seek help.

New Year, New Look

My new look happened before the new year when I told my husband it was either “bangs or Botox” and reassured him that bangs were much cheaper. So, one night after a “DIY bangs” search on Pinterest, I took the “hair” scissors and with a little twist here and a snip there – ta da! The verdict was out for a few days, but after a couple of months everyone seems to be getting used to them and I don’t see those forehead wrinkles mocking me every time I look in the mirror. Oh sure, I could just embrace them, but for now I’m perfectly content hiding them!

You’ll also notice that my little blog here has a new look, which I’m pretty happy about. Like my hair, it was time for a change. I went back and forth whether to start a new blog altogether, but decided in the end that just as I continue to change and morph into the person I am today, this blog can as well.

Mostly, this blog has been focused on my recovery, with a few recipes and DIY projects mixed in along the way. And, while it served it’s purpose during my early stages of recovery, the reality is that I’m at a very different place now than I was then. There are different things I’d like to write about now, like our new adventures living on our little “farm” here in the Willamette Valley. But, when I debated whether or not to abandon this blog and start anew, I realized that my life now still continues to be based on the original reason I created this blog – to document my “life corked.”

I can’t deny or ignore that my entire life as it is now is a direct result of my stopping drinking. I’m totally confidant that without my sobriety, none of this (picture me spreading my arms open wide) would be possible. So, as I continue to write here, I will continue to write about my “life corked.”

I’m grateful for those of you who have stuck with me along the way, despite not being the most consistent writer! While not all of my posts will be recovery related, I hope I can continue to give people encouragement and inspire them to embrace a life of sobriety.

Let the journey continue!

Maintenance Required

Today can be a hard day for those of us in recovery. In the past, Christmas Eve was a day (and I do mean most of the day) of drinking and partying. Today, it’s not about that, but I’m always aware of the extra diligence I have to take around this time of year.

I recently started working the 12 steps again with a new sponsor. Not because I was worried about my sobriety (although I’m always a little worried), but because I had become complacent in my sobriety. Things have been good, but I wasn’t “working” my program. I was busy living my life, starting a new business, taking care of my kids – being present. All of that is good – it’s really good. It means I’m reaping the benefits of my sobriety, but at some point I stopped and realized that I wasn’t maintaining my sobriety. Because, at the end of the day it’s my sobriety that made my life as I know it possible, and what happens if I don’t take care of the one thing that got me to this point?

So, I started from the beginning. I’m at step one, which is where I admit I’m powerless over alcohol. Yep, I am – totally and completely powerless over alcohol. No matter how successful I am, how much education I have under my belt, how good I look on the outside, how much I workout to stay healthy – when it comes to that bottle of wine or open bar, I am unable to stop at one. I will do everything (and have done everything) to try and convince myself that I can stop. But, when it’s all said and done, I simply can’t.

As I began reading in my recovery book again, I was just as shocked as I was the first time, three years ago, when I first read through the pages. Once again, I saw myself in those pages. It was me they were writing about it. How could that be? How could they know so much about the insanity that I went through each and every day. Again, I felt the comfort in knowing that it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t alone. There were and had been other people who had felt just like me – who had gone before me and lived to tell about it.

And, I was reminded yet again that no matter how much time goes by; how good we feel; how successful we are in our life and sobriety; we will never be safe from the grips of our alcoholism.

Most of us have believed that if we remained sober for a long stretch, we could thereafter drink normally…We have seen the truth demonstrated again and again: ‘Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.’ Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as ever.

I know this is true because I have seen it more times than I’d like to admit. Yet, I can have all the knowledge in the world, but if I’m not maintaining my sobriety I can give into that first drink as quickly as the other person. No matter how much sobriety I may have, I am no stronger than the other alcoholic who has one day sober.

When I first got sober, I found strength and solace in reading the sobriety website Crying Out Now and the blog One Crafty Mother both started by Ellie, who also founded the podcast The Bubble Hour. I related to Ellie’s story and connected to her as a person and fellow sober woman. After many years of sobriety and much success, she relapsed nine months ago. It was bad and she suffered immensely, yet she is one of the lucky ones. She lived through it and is now talking about it openly and honestly. If you do one thing today, please read Ellie’s post here from yesterday. It might just save your life. Thanks, Ellie, for being so brave.

 

I Take My Sobriety Seriously

Is anyone else a little pissed off? Less than a week after “we” all blogged about Robin William’s death and reemphasized how deadly addiction and depression can be, one of our fellow sober bloggers comes out and says that after almost three years of identifying as an alcoholic she’s decided she’s in fact not an alcoholic and therefore can drink again. WTF?!

I’ve been mulling over this ever since I read her post last night. First, I thought that maybe I should just send her a private message and express my feelings, but then I thought, “No. Nope. I need everyone to hear what I have to say.” I need to say this for all the other sober folks out there who are and will forever be alcoholics – like me.

I take my sobriety very seriously. It saved my family life, my marriage, my relationships – and ultimately I believe it saved my life. It gave me a second chance to live the life I always wanted and it is the sole reason I came to have a personal relationship with God.

We all have our own stories. And, no story is alike. I respect that. However, when someone who has identified as an alcoholic; shared their story and given advice to others in recovery suddenly changes their tune and publicly states that they’re in fact not an alcoholic, it is an insult to me and everyone else who has worked their asses off to achieve our sobriety.

I have all the respect in the world for those of us who relapse and come back to share our stories (I’ve been there). But, for someone to blatantly state that they are no longer an alcoholic and can now control or moderate their drinking, is a very dangerous message to those in recovery, especially early recovery.

I blog for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is to give hope to those who are in early recovery. Often times, this is the first place people will look when they’re trying to get sober. Whether it’s to remain anonymous or not, people come here to find support and encouragement. When I was first getting sober, I can’t tell you how many times I questioned whether or not I was REALLY an alcoholic. Everything pointed in the direction of me being an alcoholic, but I was looking for any excuse to not be one. I mean come on; who wants that label for the rest of their life? If I would’ve come across a post like the one I previously mentioned in early recovery, it would have given me one more reason to question my alcoholism.

Not only are messages like these dangerous for those in early recovery, but also for those of us with some long-term recovery. That cunning and baffling part of my disease still likes to rear its ugly head and challenge my sobriety. It’s like having a little devil on your shoulder that says, “Come on! Look at you! You’re so put together and everything is going great. Surly, you could have just one drink. Surly, you wouldn’t go back to where you were before.” And, that’s when I have to mentally squash that little devil because I know without a doubt that if I ever took even one drink again it would lead me exactly back to where I used to be. And, I truly believe it would kill me. Maybe not immediately; maybe not in a violent way, but, in the end, I believe I would die from alcohol-related reasons. I don’t know about you, but that scares the hell out of me and that’s something I’m not willing to risk – even for one drink.

I have had friends who have identified as alcoholics and addicts who ultimately decided that they could drink again. I don’t dislike them for making that decision, but I know for the safety of my own sobriety I can’t hang out with them anymore. Similarly, I don’t dislike my fellow blogger for the decision she ultimately made, however, I think sharing that decision with an audience of mostly sober people is irresponsible and dangerous.

It’s not my intent to create a big controversy, however, I think it’s important for those of us in recovery to defend our sobriety and remind others why we’re here.

Life In 6 Songs

I’m excited and honored to be featured over on Christy of Running on Sober’s blog today in her final series of “Life In 6 Songs.” Please click here to read more.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend Sadie, who went to be with the angels one year ago today. She was my best friend’s little sister and continues to be missed each and every day. When we look back on our lives, we see people in the background who influenced us and helped to shape us into the people we are today. Sadie was one of those people.

How I Overcame the Stigma of Alcoholism

I recently had the opportunity to share my story of recovery and sobriety in a featured article for Florida Beach Rehab. Please visit the link below to continue reading.

I will never forget the first time I introduced myself as an alcoholic.

It was Super Bowl Sunday 2012 and, while everyone else I knew was drinking beer and eating bean dip, I was attending my first recovery meeting. The fear I had sitting in that room full of women was indescribable to anything I had ever experienced. And, as I heard myself utter the word “alcoholic” during introductions, I knew my life as I knew it would never be the same again because I had finally let the truth escape me.

 The “Perfect” Exterior Unravels

The months leading up to that first meeting were miserable. The harder I tried to hide my secret and keep it together, the worse it got. My “perfect” suburban life had started to unravel. No longer could the white picket fence, or the luxury SUV or the gym membership hide the reality of my drinking. On that fateful morning when my husband sat across from me on the couch and asked me if I was ready to stop drinking for good; I knew I needed help.

It was clear I had a drinking problem long before I admitted it; yet the possibility that I was an alcoholic was inconceivable to me. Like most people, I had a very clear picture of what an alcoholic looked like and it wasn’t me. I had a Master’s Degree; a successful career before having children; a nice house in the suburbs; a devoted husband. But, the reality was no matter how hard I tried to control my drinking or how many times I promised myself I wouldn’t drink for just that one day, I couldn’t stop.

Click here to continue reading.

Going Forward

I admit my last post was a bit depressing and melodramatic (which I excelled at by the way when I was drinking). I partially blame that on the post-surgery exhaustion I was experiencing, but in all truth, I was/am at a crossroads with this blog.

I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve been obsessing over it (okay, maybe a little), but I’ve definitely been thinking and praying for guidance. I guess it comes down to this: my life is not very exciting (which I’m okay with) and, honestly, I get tired of talking about me all the time. Sure, there are things that continue to come up in my sobriety, but I feel like I’ve been putting myself in this little box – and now I’m outgrowing that box (which I think is a good thing).

So…long story short, I have some ideas of where I’d like to go. I’m not going to stop this blog because, in many ways, it’s become a part of me – like another appendage (kind of). No, as a matter of fact, I’m going to dive deeper. Not only do I want to share my story; I want to share others’ stories. And, not just those in recovery, but those who have been molded and shaped by their lived experiences.

We all have a story and I’m fascinated to learn how others have coped and overcame life’s unexpected circumstances. I’m still working on how all this is going to look, but I’m excited. And, in an effort to better promote my vision, I’ve created a Facebook page for my blog. Yes, I’ve taken the plunge, so if you’re interested in “liking” my page and following along you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/lifecorked. It’s a work in progress, like the rest of me.

Thanks for your support as I continue to map all this out! Grateful to be on this crazy ride together!

Oh, and by the way, on a totally different topic, it still baffles me that my most viewed post on a typical day is my healthy chicken enchilada recipe. And, then the second most viewed post is my “about” page because I’m sure people are thinking, “Why the heck is a recovering alcoholic writing about chicken enchiladas?” Well, leave it up to me to mix the two together! No one alcoholic is alike, right?!

 

A Harsh Reminder

When I first got sober almost two and a half years ago (I had a relapse at six months), I came across the website Crying Out Now, which shares stories of recovery and of those struggling with substance abuse. I soon discovered that it’s founder, Ellie, also had her own blog called One Crafty Mother. As I got further into my own recovery, I communicated with Ellie and at one point had a portion of my story featured on Crying Out Now. Later, Ellie founded The Bubble Hour, a podcast featuring discussions about sobriety and interviews.

I related to Ellie and in many ways looked up to her. She was like me – mom, wife, otherwise pretty “normal” person – and alcoholic. If she could get sober; I surely could. Over the past couple of years, I’ve followed Ellie’s journey, becoming one of the most well-known sober bloggers and online recovery advocates.

I hadn’t heard or read anything from Ellie in a long time (time is all relative in the sober sphere) and I had this nagging feeling something was wrong. A couple days ago my fears were confirmed, when I came across a recent post from Ellie. She had relapsed and after spending two months in inpatient treatment, was currently living in a sober house with three other women.

I have hurt a lot of people over the past few months. I lost myself, and instead of asking for help, I thought I could tough my way through it on sheer force of will. I was so, so scared, but I kept madly weaving myself a tale of strength and hope, instead of admitting that fear had me by the throat. I would like to say I should have known better, but the irony is that all the knowledge in the world can’t help against addiction. I forgot about God. I took my will back.

Her words hit me like a brick. I sat there, staring at her post in disbelief, but also in fear. Because, if she could relapse, so could I. It was a harsh reminder that no matter how much sobriety we have; how well-known we are; how respected we are; how far we’ve come since that last drink – we are always an alcoholic just one drink away from going right back to where we began or worse.

I’ve been feeling comfortable in my sobriety – maybe a little too comfortable. I haven’t been going to meetings, I haven’t been reaching out to other women, I haven’t been talking to my sponsor – the list goes on. I haven’t been feeding my sobriety and that is a dangerous place to be. Because, I know from stories like Ellie’s, that when we stop feeding our sobriety, our all-to powerful self-will starts taking over. That little voice that says, “I’ve got this; I don’t need any of that other stuff.” And, that is a very, very dangerous place for me to live. Because, eventually, that voice gets louder and it takes over the voice of God.

Yesterday, I had what we often call in recovery a “God shot.” I was on an important “business” call and all of a sudden the call got disconnected and my phone was ringing, as if I had hung up and called someone else. A woman answered on the other end and I said, “Hello, hello? Who is this?” And, the woman said “Hi Chenoa, it’s Dana. You just called me.” What?! Huh?! Dana was a friend from my recovery program who I hadn’t talked to in a while. I quickly explained what had happened and said I would call her back after I finished with my original call.

Later in the day, Dana and I talked for a long time, catching up on our recovery and life in general. We both struggle with reaching out to other women in the program, and we agreed that we needed to get together soon. She had been spending time with a few women who she thought I would enjoy. After we got off the phone, I got a text from her asking if I could make it to the 5:30 meeting tonight. I think I will.

I don’t believe in coincidences anymore. I believe that God puts certain people and situations in our life for a reason. God knew I needed that “God shot” yesterday from Dana. And, thankfully, I’m at a place in my life where I can recognize that, listen and take action.

I’m saddened by Ellie’s story. But, I’m also grateful that she has the courage to write about it and share her story with others like me who might need a wake up call…before it’s too late.

 

Drinkers Wanted; Believers Needed

I drove by a bar the other day that I drive by on a regular basis and they had changed their sign to read, “Drinkers Wanted.” I chuckled a little bit because I would’ve been all over that when I was drinking, and then I got a little sad. I thought about my life then compared to my life now. And, I thought about all the people out there who are still searching for that “Drinkers Wanted” sign above anything else in their life.

Forgive me if this post reads like a stream of consciousness. I haven’t written in a long time, and I feel like the words are coming out faster than I can type them. For ease of reading, I’ll try to condense my topics.

  1. Thank you for all your thoughts, prayers and well wishes for my husband, Tyler, and his recovery from neck surgery. He is healing up nice and this morning got the go ahead from his doc that he can start driving again. I’m happy and he’s happy because it means my duty as wife/taxi driver are over and he gets his freedom back. But, in all honestly, I’m kind of sad. As frustrating as it was at times (hectic mornings out of routine, driving twice as much as I would normally drive and shorter work days for him), I’m going to miss our extra time together and our morning chats after dropping the kids off at school. This was one of those lessons in seeing the positive in the perceived negative (which I could always use more of in my life!).
  2. Life is B-U-S-Y right now (which explains not writing more). I had NO idea what I was getting myself (actually, our family) into when I signed both kids up for t-ball this spring. I’m not kidding when I say that almost every day/night of the week we have either practice or a game. It’s by far the busiest this family has ever been. A couple years ago when I was drinking this kind of busy would’ve sent me over the edge. Actually, back up. When I was drinking I probably would’ve never even signed my kids up for t-ball because it would’ve seriously infringed on my drinking schedule. So, fast forward to today and I’m loving it! Yes, we’re crazy busy and I barely have time to think and I sometimes feel like I’m in the car ALL day, but I’m happy and I know these days won’t last forever. One day, my kids will walk out the door, waving goodbye and I’ll wonder where the time went. So, each day I wake up and brace myself for another crazy busy day and hope for the best.
  3. I’m sponsoring someone for the first time, which has been an amazing experience so far. I write and blog to help others and pass on what I have been so freely given, but it’s completely different (as many of you know) when you’re working with someone face-to-face. I see so much of myself in her when I first began this journey and I just hope and pray I can be an example of what is possible through recovery and working the steps.
  4. Holy Week. I have so many emotions and thoughts running through my head right now. This Saturday night I will be baptized for the first time ever at our church’s Saturday night Easter Vigil. As I’ve written before, this has been a long and personal journey for me. And, it truly is just that, a journey. I am reminded of so many years past, but I’m especially reminded of four years ago on the Easter Vigil. It was my grandpa’s 90th birthday and friends and family from near and far had come to celebrate with him. I started drinking early in the day and never stopped. Eventually, my husband put me in the car and drove me to our hotel (with our kids) where I passed out on the bed. I briefly remember my husband trying to wake me, but I was completely out of it. The next morning I woke up to discover that without knowing who got what, he had assembled the kids’ Easter baskets because I was too drunk to do it. Up until then, my husband was one of the few who knew how bad my drinking had gotten, but after that night it was no longer a secret. It still pains me to think about that night and the shame and guilt I felt the next morning. But, it’s those memories that make my upcoming baptism mean even more to me. I know those moments and incidents are not what defines me. I know that change is possible and forgiveness sets you free. And, what means more to me than almost anything is that my grandpa who just turned 94 has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my recovery.

Today, I am humble and grateful for this messy, beautiful life I have been given. If you’re at the beginning of your journey, know that despite the shame, guilt and desperation you may be feeling now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just give the journey a chance.

Happy Easter, friends – oh, and play ball!

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Back To Basics

Finally, the media is actually presenting some real truth about moms and alcohol! If you haven’t seen Maria Shriver’s segment featured on the Today Show this morning, click here. And, coming from one of the morning shows that basically promotes daily drinking, it meant even more (I’m talking about you Kathie Lee and Hoda!).

Many of us in recovery are familiar with the author Stefanie Wilder-Taylor who was interviewed for the segment. Oh, how I can relate to her story! She pretty much sums it up when she says,“All of a sudden I was like, I don’t have an off switch.” But, as a mom who looked the part, she didn’t feel like she could be an alcoholic.

I talk a lot about my life living sober and what that’s like, but I think once in a while it’s important to go back to the beginning when I finally realized I was an alcoholic and the fear that consumed me then. I’ve been contacted by a number of women in my community who have read my blog and know my story and I’m constantly reminded of the intense fear in admitting you have a problem. Most of these women are like me. They’re moms and wives who on the outside look like they have it all together, but inside they are suffering and questioning their dependence on alcohol.

I cannot begin to express the fear I felt in admitting I was an alcoholic. I was fearful of what others would think, how they would react to the news and how they would respond to me personally. I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol, mainly wine because that was my “thing.” It had become such an ingrained part of my everyday life, that really (as horrible as it sounds now), I couldn’t imagine life without it. Date nights, happy hours, weddings, parties, girls’ night outs, work events, conferences, and yes, even play dates – you name it. The thought of not having a drink at any of these was incomprehensible. I even briefly thought about becoming Mormon because they didn’t drink anyway, right? Yes, these are the thoughts that went through my head.

Most of the women who have contacted me haven’t followed through with getting help. And, believe me, I get it. It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. It takes major desperation, defeat and humility to walk through the doors of treatment or your first recovery meeting. You’re afraid of giving up what has become your comfort, your best friend; you’re afraid of what people will think and say; you’re afraid of who you will see and who will see you. We all have our bottoms; our lowest point when we realize we can no longer go on with the way we’ve been living. As much as I want to tell them how amazing and gratifying sobriety is, they have to truly want it. It’s one of the hardest parts of being sober – seeing yourself in others and knowing what is possible for them as well.

I know there are people who aren’t crazy about me sharing my story. And, I know there are people out there who think, “Just shut up already about your drinking and sobriety.” Or, those who think it’s a personal matter that I should keep to myself. And, to all of those people I say, “Hell, no.” Hell no I won’t shut up. Hell no I won’t shut up because if I can share my story and save one life – just one life – I will have accomplished everything I ever set out to do in sharing my story.

I know we have all seen the “Are You An Alcoholic?” quizzes, but I think it’s important to go back to some of those basic questions. Our society still has this image in their minds of what an alcoholic looks like, but the reality is we are all over the place. Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Do you drink alone?
  • Do you look forward to drinking?
  • Do you drink to relieve boredom or loneliness?
  • Do you drive after drinking?
  • Do you drink to maintain a “buzz”?
  • Do you have memory loss after drinking?
  • Do you drink before leaving the house for an event?
  • Are you uncertain about going to events where there will not be alcohol?
  • Do you drink to feel more relaxed or less anxious?
  • Do you create situations (outings, parties, etc.) so you can drink?
  • Do you become defensive when someone questions you about your drinking?
  • Are you concerned about your drinking?
  • Do you drink while angry, upset, depressed or under stress?
  • Have you switched types of alcohol to prevent becoming too intoxicated?
  • Do you limit the amount of food you eat so you can get a better “buzz?”
  • Have you tried not to drink, but find yourself drinking anyway?

Just because you answer yes to some of these questions doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. However, if you see yourself relating to many of them, there’s a good chance you have a problem. Believe me, I’ve been there. I knew way before I ever admitted it that I had a problem.

I know it’s scary to think about opening yourself up to the possibility that you might have a drinking problem. But, there are SO many people out there who have been where you are and are willing and able to help you take the next step. If nothing else, check out some of the other recovery blogs on my site. Or, read some of the books listed. It’s easy to feel like you’re alone and the only person in your situation, but know that you are not alone. And, of course, I’m always available to answer questions or just talk with. Please feel free to e-mail me at chenoaawoods@gmail.com.