This Is Virginia Kerr

How I outed myself to find accountability, freedom and joy. A life without alcohol.

I remember a few months ago…maybe month three of not drinking…telling a friend that I thought everyone should “go through recovery.” I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought that, I just knew that once I stopped drinking, I slowed down my days and started to filter my thoughts.

I started to enjoy life from a different seat.

I wasn’t focused on the not drinking as much as I was the why I drank in the first place. The triggers.

But even if you don’t have a drinking problem or you stopped drinking, the temptation to distract or numb is still there.

The triggers are still being pulled. Buttons still being pushed.

Now when I wrestle with feelings and thoughts I don’t have the option to drink them off so I ask why they’re so bothersome in the first place.

A smart man once told me that tears are a cause to pause. Don’t brush them off but articulate what’s causing you to cry those tears of sorrow or tears of happiness. Give it some attention.

Same goes for anger and frustration. Just like when my son cries and can’t tell me why. I sit quietly with him and encourage him to tell me what he’s feeling. Because I can’t help him if I don’t know what he’s feeling.

We can’t help ourselves if we don’t know what we’re feeling. I never learned that as a child because I numbed my feelings with food, alcohol and busy.

I’m finding that the people, places and things that get under my skin often have nothing to do with them but with me. I’ve allowed some kind of past rejection or insecurity to go unnoticed, bury itself deep and fester.

I need to know what’s under the hood that’s making that awful sound. So I can fix it, take out the damaged parts and move on.

I don’t have room for anger and resentment. I don’t have time to always be right.

I can see how my recent spring cleaning and house updates reflect the spring cleaning and updates I’ve done with myself.

The stuff I don’t like or don’t have use for don’t stand a chance in my home now. They’re either being sold, given away or trashed.

I now walk into a room and feel calm and relaxed because it’s organized and light. I don’t want any tired junk to mess with that peace.

Before, I would throw it under a bed. Cram it into a closet. Or Stuff it in a drawer that is so jam packed I can barely open it.

But I have a new found respect for this old house. It’s mine and I want it to be the best version of itself. I want it to be ready to host and house a friend. But I also want it to speak to who we are as a family not to impress people who don’t live here.

Now that I don’t drink off my frustrations and resentments I have to address them and trash them. Resolve them and put them to rest. Because I have no room to hide them. The drinking closet is gone.

I don’t want to be the person who spends my life trying to convince myself and others I’m always right..because that’s a whole different kind of wrong.

Just like my home, I want to respect myself, become the best version of me so that I have room to help and love others. Not fix, please and impress them. Just love them right where they are.

I want my triggers addressed so they don’t stand in the way of who I’m supposed to be and where I’m supposed to go.

After all, you don’t have time to be offended when you’re busy finding joy.

I remember the day. The day the voice was so loud I couldn’t take it. The day I heard, “you have to quit drinking if you want to become the person you were meant to be.”

I was hungover. Real hungover. I was helping lead a group of 40 women through a leadership training. Normally I would have heard the voice of shame. “How dare you think you know what you’re talking about. You’re a fake. A liar. You’re worthless.”

That was the voice I heard often. Everyday at this point in my drinking career. But on this Saturday morning I heard a calm, caring voice that simply said, “you ARE worthy. I have plans for you but you’re not ready.”

No -these are not audible voices. These are thoughts that are clearly not my own. I’m a Christian and I have been ignoring God’s advice, instructions, commands…whatever you want to call them. For a very long time.

There was a time I was so in love with Christ that I could hear His calm voice on the daily. As soon as self doubt set in or lies surfaced…I could hear Him say. Uh. No. That’s not me and that’s not true.

But I never let that relationship grow to the point that I got through the many layers of shame, distrust and rejection. And so I took a wrong turn and let ego set in. The love story ended. I simply drifted apart.

And when the thorns of insecurity poked me I self soothed with drinking and working and just doing. I never got my head around just how much Christ loved me. Because I never fathomed I deserved that kind of love.

I craved acceptance and approval but I was never still enough to see that I was already accepted. Already approved. Already loved.

So I numbed the pain and kept fooling myself into thinking I could earn it through titles and accolades. Never mind that I worked so hard I lost sight of my health, my home. My family.

I drank at the end of the day because “I deserved it” I drank every day because “no one understood how hard I had it.”

I craved a drink everyday because it was the only way I could “check out.”

Because I never figured out just how much I was already loved I was grabbing onto things to try and feel accepted.

And I still do. The difference is- I can hit pause now.

If I can take the time to recognize that I’m grasping at things to soothe myself and ask why…I can consciously make a choice. To soothe or to sit.

I just got home from visiting my family in Alabama. The last time I went in December I was only 6 weeks sober. It was awful. I wanted to drink by 2 in the afternoon everyday.

The little girl in me was screaming. So many triggers that I didn’t even know existed. Nothing bad happened. But my brain was remembering…”oh this is when we drink. We always get wasted after a memory like that or to get ready to see that person.”

This time around that never happened. Except one afternoon. I got the urge but couldn’t figure out what the urge was for. I saw someone drink a beer. At first I thought I wanted one but once I pictured myself drinking the beer and remembered what it would taste like. What it would feel like. I didn’t want it.

Then I decided I was hungry so I prepared a plate of leftovers. But as I ate I realized I wasn’t hungry. This was only going to make me feel bloated and uncomfortable. So I put it down.

I just sat with the unease. And that’s when I realized. You just recognized something that’s been with you since you were 13 years old.

You don’t like to feel uncomfortable or explore your feelings to see why. I had just gotten back from visiting with my dad. The visit was good but it also stirred up memories of what was and could have been. I pushed them aside and made good on my promise not to get emotional while I was there.

But that didn’t mean that deep down I didn’t feel something. And when I got back to my mom’s, the feelings came out sideways and I could not put my finger on it. Until I did.

Whether it’s alcohol, food, shopping, work, cleaning, gossip, rude comments…these are ways we try to comfort ourselves.

My comfort of choice just happens to be with one of the most addictive substances on the planet.

I self-soothed with it long enough that it took a hold of my brain and refused to let go. Until I finally had the courage to break free.

So today I am thankful that I was able to cut the cord.

That I learned how to pause.

Today I know that I am being prepared for something.

Today I’m thankful that I realized I have to do some work before God shows me what that something is.

Today I am so so thankful that I no longer hear that voice of shame as often as I used to.

Today I feel loved.

Don’t live your life waiting for the moment to come instead of living your life preparing for when that moment comes.

Hello friends! Just wanted to tell you that this alcohol thing is still a thing. But so is the growth, self awareness and gift.

I get why people go months without it and then start to think they can drink again. The last couple days my brain is telling me I can have one glass of wine. Or that I can go on vacation and just drink there. That I know why I drank and now I’m aware of my bad coping habits.

So here’s what I did. I started doing what I did in the very beginning all over again. I listen to 2-3 podcasts a day. I find similarities in their stories, I remind myself of what it was REALLY LIKE to drink.

To this day. I don’t want one glass of wine. I want to drink for hours. It’s true. Even if I never felt good after that. The initial fix was short lived. But our brains don’t remind us of that part so they?

And if I really was going to be given a day pass, I’d want to drink by myself. So it wouldn’t matter how drunk I got. It wouldn’t matter how I looked.

And on my day pass I would probably eat a lot too. I’d do a lot of the nasty unhealthy things that made me feel like crap and wake up ashamed. And I cannot imagine how guilty I would feel.

Shoot I have dreams to this day that I drank and then I wake up horrified and realize it was only a dream and run out of the room calling after my husband to tell him I really didn’t drink. As if he had the same dream.

I’m in a weird place. Not weird bad. Just different. I no longer fixate on what people think of me. I don’t take their every reaction or response personally.

I am having really candid conversations with my dad about his mental illness and our childhoods but there’s no blame game. We both are just learning more about the other.

My biggest fear of drinking one drink isn’t that I will drink every night and gain back the weight and look tired and haggard and become constipated for weeks (yeah alcohol does that too, so glamorous).

My biggest fear isn’t that I would have to tell you I relapsed. Or go back to wearing makeup everyday.

(This pic is of me with no makeup. NONE. Not even a smidge. Probably the first of its kind since I was 10. Oh and my dog’s name is Bourbon. Ha!)

My biggest fear is that I will go back to verbally abusing myself, to letting people’s opinions control me, to numbing out the bad and the good feelings. My biggest fear is that if I drink again I will forget how to go back to being content. To living in the now. To remembering what’s important. To laughing until I cry with my son. To building up walls between where I am now and where God has planned for me to go.

My biggest fear is sabotaging all the work. My biggest fear is just existing.

I want to live. I want all of it to count. And one drink. Well that just isn’t worth the risk of me never doing that.

But I have to remind myself by staying connected to others and their stories. To people who get it.

If you struggle with this or something similar please don’t wait for the big “wake up call” for something awful to happen or for someone to tell you that you need to get it together.

Act now. Like your life depends on it. Because it does. Stop settling to exist. You deserve to live.

Don’t just lie there and wait for it to be over. Get up and go!

Polo, Obsession by Calvin Klein and Chrome.

Not sure what that says about my taste in boys and men but those are the colognes from my past that to this day will take me back in time to the days of dating in high school and living in Spokane Washington. It wasn’t too many years ago I caught myself standing at the counter spraying a sample card with Chrome just so I could smell it while I walked around the mall.

It wasn’t that I missed the boy. Or that it even really made me think about the boy. But it some how untapped a part of my brain that relaxed me and made me smile.

I know there’s some kind of science behind it. The scent stimulates some “lobe” that ignites some memory just enough to remind you that – yeah those were good times. But not enough to make me want to go back and relive it. I mean-that’s my guess.

Well, turns out I could probably walk around the mall smelling Apothic Red on a sample card too. The only red wine I liked (told you I’m no wine snob. Still won’t tell you the Chardonnay I drank by the gallon. You’d never be seen in public with me if I did.)

Apothic Red was the last alcohol I had on November 3rd. It was a bottle of Apothic and 5 beers….couldn’t tell you what those were. It was either beer or another bottle of Apothic. But more wine and I wouldn’t remember the end of the game.

And then I’d have to get up early and watch sports center or catch the replay before I spoke to my husband the next day. That’s usually what my Sunday morning’s at 2/3 AM during football season looked like.

I didn’t know that night would be our last time together. Nothing special about it except that Alabama beat LSU while we did our thing. Glorious.

I have a social business. And guess what. There is wine at our gatherings. And guess what…I can now attend my business events and not once have the desire to drink. That. Is. A. Stinking. Miracle. In fact, I didn’t even have a drink of anything in my hand last night. Would you look at that!

But the last two events including last night- I got a whiff of red wine. Apothic Red even. And I just had to inhale. Not a sniff. But a deep, long inhale. Ahhhhhh. Soooo good.

It didn’t make me want to drink. It just untapped that almost memory just enough to make me smile. Didn’t make me want to get back together.

Just remember the good parts. The days when it seemed innocent and playful. Before she flipped on me and took over my mind.

If you can’t figure out why you say you don’t want to drink but then the urge takes over and you do. Or you wake up and until 3 in the afternoon you have convinced yourself you’re done. You have no desire to drink and then the thoughts pop up. And you find the craving so intense that by the time you get to 8 o’clock you have lost all control.

Just know- it’s not you. It’s her. She has taken over your brain. Tricked you it into thinking you have to have her. She is a cunning, crazy B.

It’s not you. It’s her.

And she doesn’t. Just want your brain. She wants your memories, your body, your time. She wants your potential. Your future. She wants your life.

Sometimes it may even feel like she wants your soul.

She has made enough promises and tricked you into thinking you need her all the time. At least everyday. She has gotten her claws in. And they’ll only get deeper.

It’s such a slow process that you won’t even know how you got there.

No. She won’t get away with this with everyone. But she’s really good at what she does.

And even though her aroma still gets me giddy. She is nowhere close to getting me back. Because I never want to feel imprisoned and misunderstood. Possessed like that again.

If you think her claws are too deep and you can’t get her out of your mind. You’re letting her win.

You are better than her, you are stronger than her. You deserve more and your family sure as hell deserves you more than she does.

I’m living proof that you don’t have to be a full blown, in the gutter, DUI, lost family, lost job alcoholic to have a problem.

I just got rid of her before she took me down that far.

Maybe that’s why her scent makes me smile.

That’s the smell of sweet victory.

I sold more furniture on social media today. My poor dogs probably think they’re next.

Last year when I came close to a nervous breakdown because of my addiction to busyness …I redecorated my living room. It was a very confused space. For months I bought pillows and returned them. Random items sat with price tags until I’d had enough and said goodbye. It started off very grey. Very dreary. Very lifeless.

Three months later I finally asked someone to come give me an expert opinion. She picked out a rug. Told me I’m a “very symmetrical person” and left.

She’s right. I like balance. I like everything evened out. I like perfection.

Her interpretation of my style helped give me a clear vision of what I wanted and finished the room a few days later. I’ve never second guessed it. I walk in it to this day. And it makes me feel at home. It’s me.

Ever since I quit drinking I’ve thrown out, revamped, repainted, rearranged, and second-third-fourth guessed my downstairs. Laundry room, office, den. I live in my husband’s childhood home. It was born when yellow oak was all the rage, windows were small and I’m pretty sure no one believed in overhead lighting.

Even tonight..I was told I needed my eyes checked. No. I don’t see in the dark.

I want light. And I don’t just mean the kind that illuminates a room..I want light weight. I want less. I want air.

I want more space on the floor, on the walls and in the closets. I want room to breathe. I want more quiet.

Less noise. Less clutter.

I’ve been off social media for a few months now. I quit cold turkey. Just like the wine. I had to turn off the noise. The distraction. The numbing.

The downstairs is finished. Three rooms in three months.

As I walked upstairs and into the kitchen this morning. I saw more noise. Wall hangings, word signs , knick knacks. Maybe I was trying to distract from the original cabinets that still live here. But the vases were blocking sun light and the signs were no longer necessary. The console was only their to hold glass decor and an empty basket. It had to go. So I posted it on Facebook. Had it sold by noon.

And now I realize there’s nothing left to edit. Every room has been downsized. Every room is brighter. Airy-er.

All this extra space isn’t just in my house. It’s in me. Ive decluttered my head. I’ve learned to be quiet. Be still. Be real. And I don’t want that to end.

I struggle everyday with the right words. I have posts in my mind. I jot down notes of my thoughts. Scribble a draft here and there. But I don’t publish. I don’t dare.

Because I want to be able to write that it’s over. That I quit drinking and I’m cured. That I have all the answers. That my unhealthy thoughts are gone. That I don’t miss drinking. That I don’t care what people think. That I am back with God and a reborn spiritual leader. That I am ready to take charge.

But the truth is. I still have thoughts about drinking. Dreams about drinking. I’m still mourning the loss. I don’t know how to tell someone to quit or quiet the addict inside them. I just know what worked for me. I don’t know if I will never drink again. I just know I haven’t for the last 137 days.

I catch myself thinking awful things about myself. I still find it hard to pray. I still struggle to remember Gods grace. His unconditional love. To remember He’s already accepted me. I don’t have to prove my worth.

I know I’ve got to get back out there. Out of my house. Out of hiding.

I’ve got to tackle the addiction that feeds them all. I’ve got to stop trying to please people and live for approval.

It’s ok if everyone doesn’t agree, doesn’t like you, doesn’t get you. Doesn’t care about you.

Someone told me a few weeks ago that when you get sober, your world shrinks down to just you and your immediate family.

For the first few weeks or maybe even months you just tend to you and the people in your home. It’s like when you bring home a newborn child. Your world shrinks down to just you and that baby and your goal is to keep that baby thriving and figure out your new normal.

And eventually your new shaped world starts to expand. It grows back to its original size. It’s just a different version.

Sobriety is my new baby. And I have to take care of her. I had to shrink down my world to figure out my new normal. And slowly but surely my world is getting a little bit bigger.

This new world looks different. Brighter with a lot more room to breathe.

I purposely didn’t take the time to “celebrate” and talk about my 90 day mark. I was warned that your cravings and irritability increase around significant milestones like the 30, 60, 90 day and year mark. That the addiction tries to trick you. It’s like the Devil sabotaging your success.

And looking back those weeks around those milestones were especially hard. The week of Day 90 I was quite emotional. Didn’t talk to my husband for a week. It was part me being stubborn and feeling sorry for myself and part me standing up for myself. Albeit it wasn’t the most mature move, I realized I have found a new sense of strength. I have found a voice in me that I never let out before. I have found confidence.

Because when you can no longer drink off the people and situations that frustrate you- you have to speak up and work through it. Otherwise you will find a new way to numb it out. A new distraction or addiction.

But about the drinking. Well I haven’t wanted a drink in weeks. But let me be clear. I’ve also not been the most social being either. I limited my time around drinking. I do feel it’s getting easier though. I find that the more experiences I have in situations that once involved me drinking, the easier it gets.

I also took a break from social media. I didn’t want to feed my never ending need for approval by blasting out my every move and then wondering what “they must think of me.”

It’s like I’ve been in my own personal rehab. Now that I’m not in a drunken fog I can see the garbage in plain sight. I needed time to clean out the clutter. Decide what and who needs to go and can stay. I’m very particular with what I put back and where I place it.

So in the last 90 days, I’ve kicked my daily cravings, I’ve lost 11-12 pounds (had to get that 12 in there), I’ve established a solid bedtime routine with my son, and perfected the art of producing nerf war videos.

I’ve had some real doozies of arguments with my husband. Poor guy, his wife stopped numbing herself and now she lets her feelings spill out everywhere. That gets messy.

I’ve made incredible new friendships and rekindled some oldies but goodies. The kind of relationships that don’t require drinking to have a good time or connect .

I’ve read more books than I have in the last five years. I’ve started dancing in the bathroom again. I’ve gotten more sleep than I have in 10 years. I’ve started working out again. I’ve learned to breathe and let go. I’ve started praying again. Like real talk praying.

I’ve taken the absolute worst, ugliest, creepiest room in our house and revamped it.

If I posted a picture of this room you wouldn’t believe it was ever really here. It’s our laundry/storage room. Dude. I’ve discovered mice, snakes and killer spiders in this dark neglected room. I’m talking. Scare. EE.

And what do you know? It is now the cheeriest, happiest, cleanest, most defined place in the entire house. The one that truly represents my taste and personality.

It is the alcohol addiction section of my home. The one I was so afraid to tackle. The one I gave up on. The one I just knew would never improve. The one my friends and family were not allowed to see. The one I rarely went in and therefore rarely did my laundry.

I let the dirty clothes pile up. I let clothes hang on lines to dry until they were forgotten. I just threw new clean clothes on top until the layers were so deep..I didn’t know what was in there.

Until one day I had had enough. I told my husband not to worry about getting me anything for Christmas. I was going to turn that room into my favorite place in the house. I just wanted his trust and the design freedom to tackle it head on.

I planned it, sketched it, researched it. I picked out and purchased the cabinets, counters, hardware, paint, floors. I cleaned off the disorganized, dusty shelves and sorted through the random junk and forgotten clothes. I hauled it out and threw it out. I brought in the people I trusted to help me rebuild.

I was patient when I felt the progress was on a freeze. I reminded myself of what it would look like when it was done. What it would feel like. The joy it would bring me. I put into place a system so everything had a home and a purpose. Structure.

I trusted my gut when people questioned my choices. I refused to let the worry of it not turning out the way I wanted stop me. I stayed focused on the vision and could see it through the unfinished project.

Upstairs in our home everything looked clean and tidy. While all along I had a dirty room I wanted no one to ever see. One that made me feel embarrassed. Ashamed.

Much like my life of perfectionism and my nasty little secret I wanted no one to discover.

So now I’m tackling the largest room in my home. It’s also the last one. The family room. I started this remodel of my husband’s childhood home around the time I tried to quit drinking last year. That sobriety run lasted two weeks. It was right after I stepped back from many of my commitments and vowed to slowdown and get healthier. One by one I removed wallpaper and carpet, updated vanities, fixtures, paint and furniture. But the laundry room and den were the beasts that I knew would be the hardest to revamp.

Just like my drinking and spirituality.

My personal rehab is almost up. It’s time to open the doors. It’s time to apply what I’ve learned. It’s time to enjoy this new found space.

Was up late last night. Reading. It’s my time. It’s what I look forward to at the end of the night.

I remember not too long ago dreading the evening. The witching hour. The time when I would have been drinking. One beer while I cooked. Sometimes two. But it wasn’t wine and no one saw the beer go down but me. So it “didn’t count.”

The wine didn’t start until 8 or 8:30. It’s strange when I picture the images of me and my oversized glass filled to the tippy top. It’s like I’m looking at a different person.

Now mother son kitchen dance offs and homework are enough to make me smile through meal prep. I don’t rush through my son’s bedtime routine anymore either.. I enjoy it. After all, it’s when my inner weirdo gets to come out and play. His laugh. I need to record it. I live for that laugh.

Then later I get time awake when the rest of the family is sleeping. Drunk me did this too. In front of the tv. I picture the zombie with glazed eyes staring at the tv from her recliner. I don’t even watch the same shows as I did when I was drinking.

Last night it was the rain that had me buzzed. So peaceful. Serene. Like a lullaby. God’s version of humming me to sleep.

I often forget that I’m a child of God. A. Child. A daughter. I know His love is unconditional but I forget about the forgiving part. I forget about the grace part. I forget about His desire to be with me part.

The doer in me just focuses on the doing for Him. The proving to Him. Not the being with Him.

That’s the part I need the most right now. No wonder I was so thirsty. My soul is parched. I’ve over medicated with a dirty drug that never heals. Alcohol only inflames old wounds and creates new ones. You just go numb while the wounds grow deeper.

I’m ready to be. Be still. I know He has plans for me. And the project slayer in me is secretly salivating to get her hands on the blueprints.

But for now, I am learning to just be. And listen. I’m getting used to the quiet.

I only write here on the days I have the discipline, strength and guts to do it. Everytime I write I get a vulnerability hangover.

I go back. Reread what I wrote. And always want to delete it.

Why did you say that? What will people think? I leave it be.

So it stays. Sits here for all to see. Dirty laundry flapping in the wind.

I thought this season was depression, then I was afraid it was self-sabotaging isolation then I was again convinced it was depression.

I just couldn’t catch the feeling. I couldn’t put my head around it. I’m not sad. Just aware.

The other night I took my son to a movie. We ordered hamburgers and were both looking forward to sitting in the big fancy chairs. The kind that recline.

As I took a bite of my burger I was confused. Why did it seem as though I’d never eaten this before? I knew it had been a while. But this was my fourth or fifth time here and we always ordered burgers. Every time.

Then it hit me. I always ordered my son a burger but no food for me. Instead I would get a double Chardonnay to start and maybe eat a few fries of his. Wouldn’t want a full stomach to prevent my buzz.

As sick as that was, when I realized that while chewing my bite of burger – I was so proud of myself. So proud of how far I’ve come.

“I would never drive my son while under the influence.” That was a rule of mine. One I broke last year.

For someone who has a relationship with alcohol like I do: drinking rules will always be broken..eventually.

And in that moment I realized I had not even thought about the theater bar or drinking the entire day until then. I didn’t want to drink. I was ecstatic to be present with my son. And thankful that I could be.

Ditching alcohol has cleared my mind but the not-running has quieted my head. Tuned out the white noise. I don’t just feel- I listen too. I hear the voice I was trying to drown out for so long. The voice of self reflection. The real me buried under denial.

Quitting drinking opened up a pathway to something that I’ve been avoiding for so long.

I was on the phone with a man this summer. It was a business call. He said something that may sound like a compliment but it seared into my brain as a harsh judgement.

“You’re not typical.” He said. “You do big things. You don’t stop until you reach your goal.”

I took it as though he was saying I was not approachable, relatable or accessible.

I didn’t know how to respond. I accepted his description. After all he doesn’t really know me. I simply replied, “yes, when I believe in something I go full throttle to see it through.”

And that is true. But is that completely true?

Or is their another reason I run so much. Juggle? Do? Fix?

Yes. Quite a few reasons I believe. Fear. Shame. Anxiety. Self doubt. Pride. They’re under piles of rubble. They are what lie beneath.

Reach another goal…you will be happier.. gain another title..you will be admired. Complete another project…you will be content.

But I never was. There was always another project. Another goal. And the thought of not reaching them..well I didn’t let that happen.

I said yes to everything and everybody…because I didn’t want to let them down. I kept myself so busy that I was numbed out morning to night. And then the wine would shut my mind off so I could sleep.

Last year when I failed to quit drinking something inside me changed. I didn’t see it as a failure, I saw it as practice for when I really quit. I knew deep down that a switch was flipped. That the game was over.

This life of running and chasing and wishing and hoping. Denying. Was winding down. In fact the motor was off..the mental hamster wheel was losing its momentum. The train was slowing to a stop.

The energy to run was dwindling. Pair that with the fact I stopped drowning my thoughts each night in alcohol.. I now had nothing but time and truth.

I really don’t know who I am. I’ve been so consumed with making sure everyone else approves or is impressed..that my reputation as a doer and achiever is intact..that I never really asked what I think about me..because I didn’t want to know the answer.

And so I am here. In the purest, rawest most vulnerable state I’ve ever been. And while it is extremely uncomfortable and confusing and quite frightening..I’m excited.

This is what rebuilding is all about. I had to turn off the sound machine of distractions. I had to be still.

I had to get down far enough to reach my foundation. That’s where I have to start. With the Core. With my soul.

Everyday I lay another brick of clarity and make sure it’s securely layered in grace and forgiveness.

Funny thing is, I’m anything but lonely. I’m enjoying this time. I don’t allow pressure. No expectations. No deadlines.

God is preparing me for something.

He has greater plans. They may not be significant in the world’s eyes but they will be meaningful nevertheless.

I had to look up what day I am on. When I set out to quit drinking I told myself. 90 days. Give your mind 90 days without alcohol and see what happens.

In the beginning, the number was a big deal. “Holy Cow, I actually went a week without drinking.” “I cannot believe it’s been two weekends since I drank.”

Now the number is really just an indicator of how much time I’ve given my brain to heal. I’m realizing that my recovery didn’t start the day I quit drinking. It started the day I started to get curious about why I drank the way I did. It started when I suspected I had a problem.

But it wasn’t until I stayed off alcohol that I began to see my life through clear lenses. I can actually identify why I drank. I can see the self sabotage. The co dependency. The people pleasing. The need for approval. The desire to numb out what I didn’t and who I didn’t want to address. I had to allow the fog to lift.

It’s about taking the time to feel all the emotions you blocked out for so many years. Your brain needs to remember how to function on a normal level. And you need to see your life and yourself in the raw, unfiltered state so you can make the changes necessary to want to live without checking out everyday.

I don’t need the number of days to prove I am ok. I need the time off alcohol so my brain can heal.

I’ve read that alcohol stays in your blood for up to 6 hours. 12-24 hours in your breath and saliva and up to 90 days in your hair. But it’s how it restructures the brain overtime that affects your memory, emotional well being and senses. In my case, I have been drinking since high school. Every day for the last 5+ years. Plenty of time to do some damage.

Just two weeks of sobriety after alcohol abuse can begin to reverse brain injury..the first two weeks I noticed extreme mood swings and irritability. It took a good 4 weeks for this to calm down but I still experience it in certain situations. That’s why a routine and planning my day is key. Exit strategies, self care and a support system who truly understands.

Alcohol literally shrinks your brain and causes cognitive damage. That affects memory and emotional stability.  History of depression or other mental illnesses? Childhood trauma? Then you’re even more susceptible.

Alcohol doesn’t just numb your feelings it numbs your senses too. Food tastes differently to me now.. smells are much more potent since I have quit.

They say the first 90 days is crucial when it comes to social interaction. For someone who has drank almost her entire life..I don’t know how to socialize comfortably without alcohol. Maybe it’s social anxiety. Maybe it’s insecurity. Maybe it’s being an introvert. But what I know for sure is that my brain assumes I will drink when I’m doing certain things, with certain people and at certain places. Socializing sober is like learning a new language.  Drinking is my socializing mother tongue.

I find that it’s way easier to “speak sober” or socialize with sober people as opposed to drinkers. People who also are in recovery from alcohol abuse.  They get it. They get me. I get them.

But when I throw myself into a social situation with drinkers… I forget my socializing sober language. I’m stumbling to find the right words..I’m self conscious, awkward..quiet.

My native socializing language is drinking. My brain says if I drink I will feel comfortable. The brain wants to respond with the easiest route. It’s doing what it was taught to do.

But that’s not forever. When I talk to people who have been sober for over a year..they tell me that it’s not hard anymore. That they can speak the sober socializing language around drinkers with no problem.

Researchers say your brain has to restructure. Learn the new “Language” and it can..but it takes time. They say that’s why it’s smart to stay away from triggers in the first 90 days especially.

That’s why the two trips I have taken in the last few weeks were so hard and in many ways painful. The restructuring wasn’t completed. My brain wasn’t there. I wasn’t ready.

I read every night trying to figure out the why, the how and the what next. I don’t crave a drink every day anymore. I do crave knowing the real me. The stronger version of me. Some days I think I have found her. Other days she’s nowhere in sight.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while. To catch you up..I was celebrating the holidays, traveling home and back and coming the closest to drinking that I have since I quit. But I didn’t drink. I didn’t write either.

And the not writing slowed down my recovery. I wasn’t a fan of the word recovery.  Just like I didn’t love the word alcoholic or sobriety..but all three words found me and revealed their true meaning. To me.

Alcoholic…to me means I am a person who can never just have one drink. I don’t want a glass of wine. I want 8. I use alcohol to avoid people and feelings that make me uncomfortable. I use it to remove myself from life. To check out from responsibilities. To numb.

Sobriety. Well that just means I don’t drink anymore. Not a glass, not a sip. I just don’t.

Recovery. That’s the part of this whole process that carries the biggest meaning. The one that brings the most gifts. It’s also the one that will slap you upside the head…and that hurts. Most times.

Recovery is the act of recovering. Recovering your true self. The person God sees you as. The person you were meant to be. But you got stuck. Your emotional growth was stunted. That same person never learned to cope, never learned to effectively deal with negative, painful feelings. Never learned to care for herself, to protect herself. She is lost. She is scared.

A little girl buried in years of neglect.

Some days you don’t want to find her and help her.

Some days you’re just there. Sitting with feelings. You’re hurting because of something someone said about you behind your back.

Some days you get into an argument because you vowed to stop being a people pleaser and to stand up for yourself but you don’t do a great job at communicating. Because you’re still learning.

Some days you just don’t know how to do the next right thing…so some days you just want to drink. Because that’s what you know how to do.

You don’t want to recover her, you want to drink her back to where she came from. You want to leave her. Again.

Then there are days you chisel away at a fear, at an unhealthy pattern. You write out your thoughts.

The writing is crucial to recovery for me. I honestly don’t know what I think until I write it down. I don’t know how drinking affects me or how sobriety is changing me until I write it down. Organize my thoughts. Recognize my- self.

Other days you talk with a friend who gets it. And there are days when you not only do the next right thing, you surrender all the worries and what ifs. You let God take you through the impossible.

That was last night. Last night was January 5th. A date that was on my calendar before I decided to quit drinking. My preacher asked me and my friend to speak at church. I said yes on behalf of both of us without a plan. Without an inkling of what we would talk about.

I eventually told Preacher Man that I was newly sober and asked if he still wanted me to speak. He said yes. He said he wanted me to share my experience.

That’s when I knew that God and I were getting in a better place. Because I knew there was no way I could do that unless I just gave it to Him.

So I asked God on a father daughter date night. No. I really did. I looked at January 5th at 5pm as our first official date since I got sober.

I put on a dress, curled my hair and jotted down a couple notes. Little notes that I felt He’d sent me along this journey.

I put together a simple slide show of video clips with my friend’s help.

But most importantly I pulled out all the thoughts of how I don’t belong on that stage, of how I am a fake, of how I don’t deserve to share my story…yet.

I also pulled out all of the whispers and assumptions of what other people thought of me. I threw them off to the side and let them rest on top of the shame I had boxed up and moved out for the night …

During the worship..God reminded me that He was on my side. He is for me. Not against me. That’s when I reminded myself that this was His night..He’s leading this dance.

God went up on stage with me. He did His thing. He carried me through the impossible.

Last night, I not only shared my biggest secret, I told on my addiction. I gave ugly details. I told my church I was broken.

That I showed up on Sundays, got Baptised, went to small groups, hung out with church leaders…and all along I was drinking bottles of wine behind closed doors.

When I got in my car I reached for the phone to call a friend to share this feeling I’d never felt. I wasn’t just proud. I wasn’t just happy. I was full. Full of joy. And I mean JOY.

FREEDOM. Not wanting for anything.

The feeling alcohol promised to give me all along….but never did.

My friend didn’t answer. Alone in the car, I heard myself giggle. Like a little girl. I sat there and just smiled before starting the car. I helped her last night. I helped recover that lost girl . She’s getting bigger. She’s getting stronger.

Later I would pile up in bed with my husband and little boy to watch a movie. Sandwiched in together watching Benji and laughing. I never thought about drinking. Not once. I thought about how amazing this life of mine is in that very moment.

Today my son asked me to promise him that I would never drink again. I said, “I can’t. All I can promise is that I won’t drink today.”

Because today I am recovering her.