When I first started attending a 12-step program, people told me in order to stay sober, I had to “change the person I brought in.” They said the way to do that was by taking the 12 steps. I looked around the rooms, compared myself to others (based 99% on appearance), and assured myself I wasn’t that bad.
I didn’t need to change.
And yet, just weeks earlier, at the age of 21, I had tried to kill myself. Despite all positive thoughts, I hated myself. I hated that no matter how hard I thought I tried, I always felt like I was doing something wrong. Nothing I did was ever enough; I was never smart enough, athletic enough, or pretty enough.
I didn’t know I had an issue with alcohol.
If you had asked me why I felt the way I did I would have given you a list of reasons: my weight, my parents’ expectations, my love life, my grades…the list would have been endless. But alcohol would never have made that list. In my mind, it wasn’t the cause of my problems, it was the solution.
Drinking made everything better.
At the end of my drinking, I was a liar. I lied about where I was going, what I was doing, and whom I was with. I was a thief. I spent my parents’ money to make myself feel better (and make people like me). I slept around. Because being with anyone felt infinitely better than being alone. Because maybe, for a second, I could believe I was likable, and then it wouldn’t matter that I didn’t like myself.
In retrospect, I know I didn’t want to admit the need to change, because that would mean admitting I was an alcoholic; something I wasn’t ready for.
It would take another year (and a whole lot more pain) for me to get there. When I did put the alcohol down, I felt worse than before. Alcohol had been the solution to my life, and without that solution, I grasped at other things to “fix” me. I tried shopping, sex, eating, not eating – you name it; and when the pain got bad enough, I drank again.
During a three-day relapse, I did everything I hated myself for doing before. After those three days, I was defeated; and ready.
Going through the 12 steps changed my life. Taking an honest and thorough look at the person I was and the harm I caused, gave me good reason to never go back there again. I made amends, helped others, and slept around (hey, old habits die hard).
When I finally made peace with myself and found the ability to be comfortable by myself, the right man came along. Five years later. we’re married, have a beautiful daughter, and an imperfectly beautiful life.
At over seven years sober I am finally beginning to understand what people mean when they say that the longer you stay sober, the closer you are to your next drink.
Because the longer I stay sober, the less I feel connected to that girl who hated herself so much she wanted to die. I barely recognize that girl—the one who routinely woke up next to men she did not know, or worse, men that she knew belonged to someone else.
The further removed I am from that girl, the harder it is to remember the pain of being her, and the easier it is to convince myself I no longer need to chase my recovery with the same passion I once did.
My active recovery looks a lot different than it did in the beginning. Sobriety has given me many gifts that keep me busy, and I am beyond grateful. There are weeks without meetings – days without prayer; and not surprisingly, the occasional thought of a drink slips in. I find these days I don’t recoil from those thoughts as quickly as I used to. The fear of becoming who I once was doesn’t hit me immediately anymore. But inevitably, something happens. It may not come in the form of a reminder of how bad it was then, but I somehow remember how good my life is now. Because, even on the bad days, my life is really good. I have this life because, against my better judgment, I changed the person I once was and, God willing, I will never have to go back.
This post was submitted anonymously.
photo credit: chaosphoenx via photopin cc
This post originally appeared on SoberMommies in January, 2015.