Stories can save you in your rocky moments of recovery if you listen.
My recovery has been a pleasant experience. I have begun to rebuild relationships that my actions and words when drinking had damaged. I have physically seen drastic changes in my appearance for the better – gone is the puffy face, the circles under my eyes, the stomach aches, the acid reflux, and the acne, and in its place is a lightness and clarity that shines in my eyes. I have gone from fearing any rocking of my daily schedule or emotions to embracing what comes and finding joy in each moment. I have gone from anxiety over the past and future to a grounding in being in the present moment. I have learned that my imperfections are ok and make me who I am; they are not things I need to mask or destroy (I tried drowning my imperfections in merlot but that didn’t work out). My recovery has been a miracle, with so many promises for an improved condition coming true within my first year.
However, my recovery has been hindered until recently by my mind’s desire to forget my own stories of drinking and by my total belief in the bullshit I was telling other people about my drinking. In the beginning I couldn’t understand why I struggled to share my stories with people and not feel like something was off about it all. I think there was some concern for vulnerability, some fear of sharing an idea or drunk moment that would be against program protocol, and a fear of letting down the walls I very carefully built around my drinking. Recently though, I heard a woman say, “We know in recovery that we will never fully be able to know the truth of what happened when we were drinking because we have foggy memories of that time, we blocked out the painful truth, we blacked out, or we lied so much about it we don’t know the truth from the lie. “ As I processed this moment I also realized that when I ask someone from my drinking time about their memory of how I acted, seemed, etc., the person’s memory is subject to the same issues or to a rewrite of the facts based on information the person now has of my addiction.
Once I had this in my brain, and when I listed and reviewed my resentments, I had a wall drop in my memory that showed me many more moments in my history with drinking that were shameful and really pointed to early indications that I had an unhealthy response to alcohol. I recalled that as young as high school I drank to black-out point; I said and did things I would never do sober. By my twenties I had my job performance impacted by my drinking in a way that could have gotten me fired. I also was very emotional all the time.
Then in my late twenties and early thirties I quit drinking as a way to support medication I was taking to help me quit smoking. While I was only supposed to not drink for three months I found that I felt better and was less emotional, so I kept going. I ended up being accidentally sober for almost 8 years. I say accidentally because I had never quit drinking because I thought I had a problem with booze; rather, I quit because I began to see the life I had imagined coming to pass for me in good health, great career, and a wonderful relationship, plus I had kicked cigarettes to the curb.
When I came back to drinking it was with a total dumbness to my issues with booze. Yet my disease had progressed and I began to drink in a very dangerous way and with no control. I drank to numb out and shut down my anger and fear. I didn’t need to drink every day because I would wallop myself in a night or two to put myself out for the rest of the week. In the back of my head the voices started that said, “This seems abnormal. Why does one become four? Why does a month off become two days off? We have a problem.”
Yet it took me five more years to come into a recovery program. And in those five years I hadn’t gotten clearer on my stories. In fact I had gotten more deceived with my own words and with the chemical changes the alcohol brought on my body and brain.
So when I couldn’t clearly hear my own story I listened and read the stories of others in my program and in books. Recently I was cracked open by Jennifer Weiner’s book “Things Fall Apart.” This book has provided me the story I needed to crack into my own stories. The gut wrenching unease I felt as I read the main character’s movement further and further into addiction and away from herself and her life made me realize that I could never turn away from my program. I can’t always hear my own stories, but hearing another’s is often all I need.
Susan Aplin Pogue
began her career in personal development after many years focused on self-development and improvement work. Her experiences led her to discover tools and practices that she was inspired to share with other people through her blog work. Additionally, she has created and facilitated leadership trainings for executive teams in corporate and small businesses. Susan is a public speaker, and has addressed audiences on topics ranging from leadership to time management. Her mission is to share practical and powerful self-management techniques to those in recovery from any aspect of their life that has begun to negatively impact their well-being and quality of life. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a Certification in Emergenetics ® , and a Certification in DDI Management Skills ®. Her work draws upon her background in corporate training and human resource departments, as well as her life experiences. Susan’s blog work is published by The Neurosculpting ® Institute. Transform, Inspire, Thrive.