The Truth About Addiction

Addiction does not discriminate.

No one can dispute this fact. Addiction is toxic. It seeps into every corner of those who are caught in its grip, and overflows into the lives of those around them.

Addiction affects children. Every day a baby is born drug dependent, and every day another child buries a parent — because of addiction. For over fourteen years I have worked in this field, and witnessing the devastation never gets easier.  Somedays it feels like the problem is so huge there might be nothing we can do to stop it. And then I get back to work.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

As a woman who has personally struggled with addiction and experienced the miracles of recovery, I many times pause to look honestly and closely at the work ahead of us where addiction is concerned. I do not have the answers. No one has them all. We cannot possibly see the problem of addiction from all of its sides and perspectives. There is no problem that will ever be solved from one standpoint, and we must all work together. I must be open to hear stories that challenge my personal narrative and reality, we all must be open to listening – perspective can always generate new ideas.

Sometimes other’s opinions strengthen my resolve, or they allow me to understand the opposition. I must and will continue to speak my own truths and challenge unethical, inappropriate and harmful means to eradicate addition. When opposing sides can work together – many times there is a solution.  Unfortunately, there is no simple solution.

If we are ever to make even the slightest bit of progress, we must all be committed to stepping outside of our comfort zones and remain willing to listen to the voices of differing perspectives. If we are unwilling to do so; I fear there is no hope for a solution. If we are not willing, addiction will continue to have the upper hand. It will continue to rob families of bright healthy futures and addiction will continue to orphan children.

Through my work with Sober Mommies, I advocate for both mothers and children every day. I am a firm believer that the best way to protect and support children is by connecting their mothers with the help, treatment, and guidance they need to be their best selves. I have received much criticism over the years regarding my approach, and my refusal to comply with the ways in which addiction has been historically handled. I do not and will not ever simply tell women what they “should” or “have to” do to appease society’s view of them, and then send them on their way.Sober-Mommies-The-Truth-About-AddictionI got sober when I was 22, and almost a year after I gave up physical custody of my daughter; because I felt ill equipped to be her mother the way I was living, which was actually dying.

Everyone was talking at me, telling me who and what I had to be in order to get what they suggested I must want — to get my daughter back.  No one was asking me why I was running from those responsibilities, but instead shaming me into acting as if. It was expected that I must know how to take appropriate action to fix my circumstances — that I must be refusing to comply, but that could not have been further from the truth.

I was trying my best every day, with limited resources and confidence, and I just kept “failing” and disappointing everyone. It wasn’t until another woman came along and took my hand to walk me through some of the actions necessary to improve my life that I even realized I was worth that time and effort.

 Addicts are humiliated and demoralized everywhere we look. Words like “dirty junkie” and “choice” get thrown around and we are demonized for the assumption that we are in fact asking for whatever horrific things happen to us during our active addiction. For some of us however, it’s what happened before those addictions started that keep us stuck in the rat wheel of cyclical disaster.

Women trapped in addiction are not monsters. They are human beings trying to survive a world that often seems to set them up to fail. They are women who need to be heard, with a howling pain that needs desperately to be taken seriously.

Many of the women I work with come feeling the weight of the entire universe on their shoulders and unable to climb out. I know what that’s like. Feeling the guilt and shame of walking away from my beautiful daughter, as a means to an end, believing I was nothing — unworthy of her unconditional love and acceptance. I was a terrible mother, and I knew it. I couldn’t see the forest through its ugly trees, and was without appropriate guidance.

The systems in place to aid addicted mothers are insufficient, and play a huge part in the ineffectiveness of treatment. Even if a woman is connected with “help,” it is assumed she’ll know what to do with it. Maybe she’ll be locked up in a psych-ward for two weeks, or perhaps she’ll be medically detoxed in three days, but inevitably she’ll be dismissed right back to the same street she’s spent a lifetime trying desperately to escape.

Wrap around services are great — IF someone is willing and able enough for treatment and somewhat self-propelled. Women who struggle with feelings of worthlessness and unspeakable shame are falling through the cracks in service daily — the gaps between providers and lacks in effective and efficient communication.

A mother may have six different professional aids to help maneuver recovery, however it happens that none of them may speak to the other in her case. One hand may not be helping the other. Often times providers don’t even have the same goals in place, which can be extremely confusing and feel defeating to someone who’s limited in capacity or self-esteem. Providers may often be conflicting in ideas and expectations. She may not even feel able to advocate for herself and her family, out of fear that it will cost her what little rights she currently has.

The stigma attached to addiction and recovery is ugly. It’s cunning and sometimes baffling, and also everywhere. It lives within our system, and infects even the most well-intentioned “helpers.”

Sober Mommies advocates for the rights of both mother and child, and makes no judgement about whose life is more important. This means having really uncomfortable conversations and talking about things we all wish were an easy fix. Supporting families is not easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Addiction is gray, and there are so many aspects to the hows and whys. How should recovery be any different?

Our mission is to provide women support within the gaps of whatever services they choose by offering a judgement-free arena where they can heal. Within this space, breathes hope and opportunity. Suddenly life is not a death sentence, and possibility can live. We get to witness the miracles of sisterhood, and watch women learn from each other and grow in ways they never thought possible. Women use their experiences to help others find their voices and advocate for their own lives and the lives of their children. Within this space we have witnessed reunifications and welcomed newborn babies born into the arms of mothers who know their worthiness of recovery and all its glorious gifts.

I do not pretend the success of our organization or the evidence in the lives of the women we support will serve to change the minds of those who choose to believe in the floppy statistical fact that many will not find recovery. I don’t imagine our mission will much impress those committed to shame and blame to offset the responsibility we have as a society to support the health and wellbeing of our communities.

This stigma will not deter me or our mission, but instead serve as further evidence that our work is a vital part of the entire picture necessary to combat addiction and all its ramifications. We will not be silenced or excused from this conversation. Our voices matter and we shall continue to share our truths and advocate for the women who have yet to discover their own.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  ~Maya Angelou

Click HERE to watch The Doctors TV episode I appeared in

to discuss whether or not struggling addicts should be sterilized.

My Drinking: My Love Story

*This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.*

I am a sober mommy. I have two babies, and one on the way. I honestly don’t believe I would be sober today without my children, the love I have for them, and the fear that if I continued in my addiction they would end up just like me.

I grew up with an absent father and a mother who was very stressed and reactive. Many of the adults in my life would come and go due to their own addictions. I internalized my dad’s leaving, my mom’s emotional and physical abuse, and the inconsistency of my family. I didn’t believe I was worthy of love. I am a very sensitive and perceptive person. Now six months sober, I am realizing my feelings of worthlessness and insecurity coupled with this sensitivity and my past was a breeding ground for addiction.

When I began drinking at age twelve, I remember feeling like I had escaped all of the unwelcome feelings and entered into a wild world of abandon. I began stealing alcohol from my mom’s stash and bottles from stores. I lost my license before I could even get it after I drank in public, got alcohol poisoning, and drove without a license. When I was sixteen, I started attending a drug and alcohol program.

By the time my early 20s rolled around, and I could drink legally, there were days I would be driving to work and hallucinating. I would see pops of color out the windows because of how much I had drank the night before. When I was 22, I met my husband, and he shared my love of drink. I felt like things really settled down as we would share just a six-pack after work at night.

I remember checking out Caroline Knapp’s, “Drinking: A Love Story,” from the library and hiding it so no one would see what I was reading. She described exactly how I felt about alcohol, but thought I could never let myself get so out of control, so I wouldn’t have to stop. We worked in restaurants — cock-tailing at the horse races — and drinking was just the norm for people we surrounded ourselves with.

As I got older, most of our married friends became more responsible and drank less. I started choosing single friends who could keep up or out-drink me, so I could continue to feel okay about how much I was drinking. I would ignore comments from my mom about how much I was drinking, and I got really good at hiding the amount I was drinking from my husband; which wasn’t difficult he only paid attention when I got sloppy.

We tried to have a baby for two years, and I remember asking God to please allow me to get pregnant so I could stop drinking and things would change. Having the first baby did change things for a little while, but soon after I was back to my binge drinking ways.

When I got nights out, I felt the need to make up for lost time and began blacking out. I started drinking at nap time, feeling like I deserved the break and relaxation time. As my husband started working late nights I would drink to pass the time. I even saw a counselor to talk about the issue, but continued to drink and try to moderate. I couldn’t wait to get pregnant again to give myself a much needed break from alcohol.

I stopped drinking during my second pregnancy, but my drinking really ramped up after my second child. I suffered postpartum depression and felt completely overwhelmed by how much work it was to take care of two children. Drinking was a way to get through the tasks, while still having something for myself. It became less and less social and more a way to cope and escape from the monotony of motherhood.sober-mommies-my-drinking-my-love-storyDrinking made anything more fun — from cleaning bathrooms to playing make believe with the kids. As a way to moderate my drinking, I tried rules – no more white wine (I drank white wine too fast), no drinking on the weekdays, only drinking four days a week, not drinking IPAs, no drinking martinis. Over the course of ten years, I tried to enact many rules depending on the year and what I liked to drink. Nothing worked. I gave up drinking for 30 days a few times and resumed right where I left off.

Alcoholism is prevalent in my family. My father lost his children, because of drugs and alcohol, when we were young. My uncle died of an overdose, at the young age of 49, after several stays in rehab. My mother’s father got sober after struggling with alcoholism. My mother has a love of the drink, and our adult relationship has revolved heavily around drinking. Despite the alcoholism and drug addiction surrounding me, I had never heard that alcoholism was a progressive disease. I just knew I would never “let” myself get that bad.

Unfortunately, I was already well on the road to alcoholism. At the age of 32, when my youngest child was 14 months old and my oldest was three, I had my moment of clarity. I was the last person who would ever think she would be a sober woman. There were definitely signs, and I ignored them. I knew as a woman I shouldn’t be drinking more than seven drinks a week, to avoid becoming an alcoholic.

I would like to think if I knew then what I know now, I would have been more careful, paid more attention, been more moderate, but alcoholism is a cunning and baffling disease. I think I was more powerless back then than I would like to believe. After a $150 charge for throwing up in an Uber car and a couple of nights where I truly could not stop (a feeling I had never had before), I decided I needed to be done for good.

It was not easy at first. I had psychological withdrawals leading to severe depression, anxiety and mood swings. The first few months were very difficult, and I felt raw and vulnerable. I felt like no one could really understand what I was going through inside. Websites like this one, podcasts, sober blogs and sober memoirs all helped tremendously. Finding people I could be vulnerable with and choosing to avoid spending time with many others was also helpful. In the beginning my bubble was very small. Today I can say I feel very differently than I did in the early days; more healthy, happy and whole.

I know this recovery journey will be a lifetime of discovery, and I am thankful for the beautiful, divine intervention that led me here to the opportunity to be present in my life. I am so grateful for my sobriety and feel it is the biggest gift I can give myself, my children and my family.

Click HERE to check out “Drinking: A Love Story” **(Sober Mommies is an Amazon affiliate. If you purchase this book using this link, we will receive a tiny fraction for referring you.)**

 

 

 

 

This inspiring post was submitted by Anonymous.

 

 

Sober Mommies I Tried To End My Life

I Tried to End My Life and It Didn’t Work

“I’m here because I tried to end my life and it didn’t work.”

The words flew out of my mouth before I felt the weight of their meaning, and I fought back tears once it came.

I am here for so many reasons, but my life restarted the day after I tried to end it — the day I decided it was maybe worth living. The day I realized that ending my life would mean leaving her behind.

The day I got sober was, quite possibly, the scariest day of my life; mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what would happen if I attempted to walk through the fires I’d been blazing between myself and the pain. I didn’t even know if it would ever work or lesson the intensity of noise in my mind, body, and soul.

I didn’t know what I’d find if I really stopped to take a look at what was causing my angst, and I feared I might not be able to handle any of it. I didn’t know I’d have incredible women in my life to pull me through and hold me up. I couldn’t have understood that some day their mere presence in my life would mean I could be okay when I wasn’t and keep moving forward when it was the last thing I ever wanted to do.

This life — the one that I live today — was a fairytale I’d never have or even deserve. I had no idea the possibilities.

Today I live and breathe, not only because my attempt to die was unsuccessful, but because someone was there – the moment I awoke – to take my hand.

The bravery was ours; as both sides took risks on the other. I am here today both because and in spite of those risks. Because someone took the time to see me — to listen — not just to my words but to feel the weight of their meaning. 

I get to be that person today; trusted with inconceivable truths. To wade in silence within the darkness of their walls — to be the light that shines upon the beauty that has always been inside, but couldn’t breathe. I am the woman I have always wished I could be, because, “I tried to end my life, and it didn’t work.” The weight of those words is lighter today, because there exists a happy ending.

Sometimes I think of all the things that wouldn’t be if I hadn’t survived. Every conversation, every hug, my little boys, the amazing relationships and all the experiences I could have missed and didn’t. I once thought a permanent solution might fix my temporary problem, because I couldn’t see the whole picture. I wanted to stop hurting everyone, and I wasn’t thinking of myself as a loss in their lives. I couldn’t see that one day I would have all that I need and be more than I could have imagined. My daughter needed me then, she still needs me, and I am here.

It may be dark where you are, but there is always hope for you (more about that here). Please give yourself another day to work it through and allow someone to help you. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Please keep walking.

 

Sober Mommies I Tried to End My Life -National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. 

CLICK HERE to connect to someone who can help.

 

 

I Had a Miscarriage in Recovery and I Am Not Okay

I had a miscarriage. I was pregnant and then I wasn’t; just like that.

We swore we didn’t want anymore kids, and then life seemed to fall into place. We thought about the possibility, when the time was right. We weren’t trying exactly, but there I was peeing on a stick and a getting a definite positive sign.

What the fuck were we thinking??? Now is not the time for this! crossed my mind a few times, but it felt right. I wanted to hold our news for a while. I just wanted to feel happy and excited, without all the negativity I knew we would get from others.

We told a select group of close friends, and left it at that. I made my first OB appointment for eight weeks. The doctor kept asking if I had my dates right. Was I sure? He wanted to do blood work and then more blood work, and schedule another ultra sound. He said we would “see what things look like in a week,” and my head started to spin with what ifs.

I convinced myself everything would be fine, but I knew in my heart it wasn’t. Monday came and went and then Tuesday came with a phone call from the doctor. He wanted me to go the hospital for an ultrasound. The tech didn’t say word and wouldn’t look me in the eyes. She just stared at the screen in silence.

As I got dressed, I cried. I was instructed to see my OB in the morning. I walked in and the nurse handed me a box of tissues. I knew what the doctor was going to say. He explained that I had miscarried, and informed me about my options. I opted for a D&C, because I knew waiting it out was going to kill me inside even more.

I thought I was ok. I had miscarried naturally twice before. But I wasn’t ok. I’m not ok.

Sober Mommies - I Had a Miscarriage in Recovery and I Am Not Okay

I feel empty and lost. I’m struggling with the thought that I have no right to be upset. I have healthy children, and I’ve never struggled to conceive, so who am I to be upset?

For the first time in 5 1/2 years I really thought long in hard about breaking my sobriety. I wanted to numb all that I’m feeling and hide from it all. I didn’t, and I won’t, but everything I feel is swallowing me whole right now. The anxiety is overwhelming.

The doctor reassured me that none of this is my fault, that it happens and is more common than you think. But it feel like I must have done something wrong.

I feel so alone.

I hate feeling feelings when they’re hard and they suck, but I’m feeling and trying to process them as they come.

So there it is. I was pregnant and then I wasn’t, and damn it, it sucks.

 

 

This brave and beautiful post was submitted by Anonymous. 

 

How To Work Through A Deep Craving Episode

I beat my drinking demon to a pulp today.

My illness and I fought — good and hard on the wrestling mat — and against all odds, I won. It was a terrifying match. I finished bloody, messy and exhausted…but I won.

In the middle of an otherwise ordinary workday, after months of sobriety, I suffered a very acute and sudden craving to drink; to sit in a bar and just…drink.

This is what I call a “deep craving episode.” They are powerful and real, and hard as hell to get through. Today, one almost took me down.

Suddenly I wanted to drink. Hard. I ached for the hit of alcohol sliding down my throat. I yearned for the rays of sunlight traveling through my veins. Slave to this thought, I sat at my desk and started to crawl out of my skin. I was craving with the deep desire of an addict – violent, unexpected and very real.

A frozen shot of vodka – A tall glass of Stella – The thick lovemaking sip of red wine. Relief – Lust – Beauty – Darkness. Something. Everything. Just a sip. Just two. Just a thousand. Please. I need to drink.

The craving, which started as a whisper, quickly became a storm. My mouth watered, my brain screamed, and my lungs ached.

A voice that sounded like mine whispered that today a drink would feel amazing. A drink would make me feel whole and perfect. I would be able to breathe deeply, and fit “right” inside of my skin. My problems would evaporate, seeming weightless and unimportant. Life would feel wonderful.

So. Fucking. Wonderful.

It would probably ruin and break me into little pieces again. It might throw me into another cycle of relapse. Yes, BUT…it would be so worth it.

It’s only been a few months of sobriety, it’s really no big deal if you drink today… You know the way out. You can do it again. My body started to tingle.

The voice wanted to give me permission to drink. It was out to convince me that I needed and deserved a drink.

Stop. Breathe.

This voice is not mine. I have enough years in this process to know this voice is not mine. The illness is a separate being. It lives in me – but it is not me.

After five years sober, it convinced me to pick up a drink, and caused a two year relapse. Two – horrible – years of emotional, spiritual and physical devastation — from which I barely crawled out from alive.

Drink. Just one. Just today.

I closed my eyes as I snowballed into insanity. I was prey to this force, and could not do anything but ride the wave. Like The Hulk, I was both victim and villain; virtually unfolding from myself as the voice continued to scream. 

It’s lunchtime. Leave your desk and go drink.

My body shuddered; her words bigger, better, and bolder. My throat started to pulse with desire. My heart skipped a beat. Fuck. It was on. The wrestling continued.

God, please get this asshole off my chest. God, please.

A wave of strength took over me and I pushed her off unexpectedly, freeing myself.

I jumped out of my chair, grabbed my keys and fled. I cried as I ran down the parking lot. I needed to drive somewhere. Anywhere.

To your favorite steakhouse… Wouldn’t a steak salad hit the spot? Maybe paired with a nice thick French Cabernet in a beautiful, fat wineglass?

Tears trickled from my eyes as I turned the ignition. I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. Think through the drink – a crazy old slogan in my head.

That won’t work, Bitch. Playing the tape doesn’t work. Every consequence I pulled from my mind resulting from my drinking seemed minuscule and manageable – and worth it.

God, please don’t let me drink. I looked up through hot tears.

You might become a better recovery advocate if you drink. You will help others better if you go back to the drinking battleground. You can do this just one more time. For others. They deserve it. You deserve it.

Fuck you. To the illness – to the voice – to me.

I shook violently as I pulled into the parking lot of the steakhouse.

I had no idea how I got there. The entrance looked inviting, dark and sexy. I couldn’t feel my fingertips or toes. I was having a panic attack of the worse kind. I couldn’t breathe. There was no air.

What do I do, what do I do? Breathe, breathe. I want to drink. Please let me drink. Oh God, please do NOT let me drink. I looked at the door of the restaurant. Drink. I turned off the ignition. I was terrified of what might happen next. God, I don’t want to do this. My phone. Yes. Where is my phone?

I dialed, and got my sponsor’s voicemail. Shit. I dialed another sober sister. I needed a human on the other end of the line. Another miss. Fuck. My hands were shaking, and I was sobbing. I’m not getting enough oxygen to survive. I am going to die. I am going to die!!

Drink. I dial again, third try. Four rings. “Hello?” Oh, thank you, Jesus. “I want to drink and I need you to talk me off the ledge.” I blurted with desperation. My friend paused for a beat, told me to breathe, and that everything was okay.

I will be okay. I will be okay. I will be okay. 

My friend took me back through my relapses, and reminded me how hard it was for me to find my way back. He reminded me how much I hate myself when I drink; how difficult it is to get back on track once I pick up again. He reminded me that the biggest consequence is the complete disconnect from the light when I drink. 

Sure, I might get temporary relief and comfort from red wine, but my spiritual self is walking to the outlet on the wall and unplugging from everything that is positive and real. Everything that I have worked so hard to get. The lights go out with the first glass. I disconnect the minute that wine hits my throat. From myself. From God. From everything.

I closed my eyes and my breathing slowed.

We shared some silence, and I stopped crying. My friend reminded me it was Friday, that I had gotten divorced the day before, and my body and spirit were beyond exhausted. He asked me if I had been running on self-will and had taken on the stress of managing everything on my own… if I had worked on letting go.

My friend asked if I had eaten; if I’d slept enough lately. Had I exercised? Gone to a meeting? Talked to my sponsor? Helped another alcoholic? Taken time to pause? He asked if I had taken care of myself and not just others. No. No. Nope. Not much, no. No. I had not.

The air returned to the car, and I took a deep, shaky breath. I felt serenity spread from my center on out. His voice faded into the background, as I visualized a plug on a wall. The wall was made of light, and that plug, firmly attached, represented my recovery. It represented many days of connection, and all the beautiful work needed to get there.

I cannot unplug from that light. I just fucking CAN’T.

“Go eat now,” said my friend, snapping me back to reality. “Cry a little. Pray, breathe, and go eat.” Wise advice.

I thanked my friend, hung up, and drove to my favorite Mexican restaurant. 

This may happen sometimes, if you are an alcoholic. This is the dance. Sometimes its easy, sometimes it’s not. 

Sobriety can get a little fucked up, and sometimes it hurts like hell, but we never quit. We ask for help. We pray. We connect. We fight. For a lifetime, every day… one day at a time.

Today I am grateful for such a different experience. I am grateful for the battle, the knowledge, and the terror. Mostly, I am grateful for the grace of another sober day.

 

A version of this post first appeared on Pamela’s blog Sober Mami, and was edited for this audience. Follow Pamela on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and You Tube!

 

 

Sober Mommies Syndicate Pamela

Pamela started her Recovery journey from alcohol addiction in 2009. After five years of being sober, she drank. It took two years of chronic relapse to find her path back to sobriety. Those two years turned out to be pivotal in her approach to recovery.

Today, Pamela is an advocate for recovering out loud, putting a face to alcoholism and life beyond addiction. She is a Certified Professional Recovery & Life Coach and has developed the platform SoberMami, an online resource for those seeking hope and recovery support.

Pamela is a studio executive producer and lives in Dallas with her son Stefan.