Click here to read Kristen’s heartwarming journey to sober living.
As many of you know, I spent 37 years drinking and getting high. (See my About page.) My addiction cost me a great number of things. When I first got sober, I heard a fantastic song on a country music station that I quickly made my “anthem.” It’s by Tim McGraw. I changed a few lines to fit the song into my recovery (which I show in italics), but for the most part it is right on the money. If you are struggling with addiction, consider getting help. Contact your local AA, NA or CA hot line and ask where you can attend a meeting. You too can end an era, turn a page, and start your life anew.
I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from…
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In an earlier post, I quoted another blogger who said: “You should have been understood and loved for who you were, not who they wanted you to be.” It resonated so deeply, having been one of “those” children. (See original post here.)
Got me to thinking about the times I got in trouble as a child for being my inquisitive, curious self. I loved to explore other people’s homes–I just HAD to see what was behind that closed door, down those steps. My mother sold Fuller Brush (remember the Fuller Brush man? If you’re over a certain age, you’re probably nodding right now.) After a while, my mom made me stay in the car while she dropped off her customers’ products. Because she knew I’d embarrass her by “exploring” her friends’ homes.
If I saw a path, I tugged on my parent’s hand and begged them to take me down it. And to this day, I can’t resist a new, unexplored trail. Speaking of paths and trails…when it came time to choose a career, I took two or three paths, turned around when they dead-ended, and finally found a permanent one. What a great feeling, to find a path that goes on and on! What’s around that next corner, anyway?
But I’m getting sidetracked (not much has changed in four decades.) When I was eight or so, it all culminated here:
My family joined several other families at this “castle” in Northern California for a retreat. While my parents were otherwise occupied, I occupied myself by trying to find a way to get to the very top of this place. At the back of the big room where they all gathered, I found an opening, leading to a big empty area, at the back of which were…stairs! Narrow, winding stairs! Leading all the way to the top, and ending in a little round turret room with an amazing view!! I ran downstairs and pulled my friend out of her room and showed her my discovery. Well, word got around, and I got scolded. But not too harshly. I suspect my parents were secretly impressed, and by this time knew it didn’t do any good to expect conformity from me.
It remains one of my favorite childhood memories. I’m convinced that urge to explore, to wander, has served me well in my writing career. But this time it’s imaginary worlds that I’m exploring.
A lot of myths about addiction are believed by a lot of people. This video shows how addiction is no respecter of persons, & strikes almost at random.
Lucky Otter’s letter to her 2-year-old self. Does this resonate with you as much as it does with me? This sentence is almost verbatim what a dear family member said to me recently: “You should have been understood and loved for who you were, not who they wanted you to be.”
I categorized this under Substance Abuse because the lack of love in my family of origin I am convinced led to my alcohol addiction, years later. When I picked up that first drink, for the first time ever, I felt normal.
For most of my life I wanted to pretend you didn’t exist. You embarrassed me and made me look bad. You cried too much and made scenes. You were weak, sickly, scared of everything, and easily frustrated. You didn’t know how to talk to people and usually ran them off by telling them too much too soon. You were easily overwhelmed. You were too sensitive and didn’t know how to roll with the punches.
I am sorry I thought those things about you. I was mistaken, brainwashed by others. I didn’t want to understand you. It was too dangerous. I might have been punished or bullied for it. I was, in fact. I couldn’t let that happen anymore.
It wasn’t your fault you had problems. That was done to you. You had no say. You were a thoughtful and deep child, who loved to analyze and…
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A poignant reminder of a dark time in my past. Have you experienced this as well? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
There’s a lump under my back, and
I’m soaking wet with the sweat of anxiety;
Insomnia has had me in its clutches for a week now.
Images in my head keep changing: I’m free,
No, I’m captive. Different versions of me hide behind the couch,
Pregnant with memories of surviving somehow.
I had more things than this last week, many
More possessions, each with their own story of
Days when I was lucid, sane, solvent.
For some reason I have become willing to settle for
Less in my life, items diminishing, the sun setting, as
I slowly waste away, sleeping on couches.
In keeping with the theme of alcohol addiction, I hope you find the following useful if you suspect a loved one of heading down this road.
Unfortunately, the signs of alcoholism are not identified until the late stages of the addiction. This is generally due to the fact that binge drinking has become acceptable in 21st century society. Yet, while the ‘after work glass of wine’ can be deemed agreeable, it can be a sign of alcoholism if presented with certain other symptoms. Sadly, the lack of information makes this very difficult to notice and increasingly difficult to manage. This article is a brief guide to some of the most common signs of alcoholism.
1. A high tolerance level for alcohol
A high tolerance level for alcohol is one of the first signs of alcohol addiction. It is often undetected by people who choose to drink during celebrations with the user. However, if a person requires greater amounts of alcohol than before to feel the effects of alcohol then they may be experiencing alcohol addiction.
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When I was a practicing alcoholic, I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t want to stop drinking. I would tell people that I was “on the road” to alcoholism. I figured I’d become one if I didn’t stop drinking. Finally, the day came when I saw myself for what I was: an early middle-stage alcohol addict who wouldn’t live much past age 42 if I didn’t stop drinking. (I’m now well past that mark.)
While I was drinking, I often went to AA meetings. Once there, my craving for alcohol only increased because THAT WAS ALL THEY TALKED ABOUT. Imagine a food addict being surrounded by conversations about food. So, on the way home from meetings, I’d stop by the store and pick up a bottle of wine, finishing it off before bed.
In twelve-step programs, the first step to sobriety is to admit you are powerless against your addiction. Once I did so, I finally got sober, and life changed dramatically. I went from gloom to color. Beauty burst around me. The sky gleamed clear blue. I actually cried when an arsonist set a local school on fire. Life was now so vivid, the craving for alcohol diminished and gradually died.
When I was a practicing sinner, I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t want to stop doing my own thing. Finally, the day came when I saw myself for what I was: a rebel against God who wouldn’t make it to heaven if I didn’t repent of my sins.
Prior to this, I often went to church. Since I was raised in church, I had no objections to it. What I objected to was fanaticism. I didn’t want to be like those churchy people. Yet they said things that baffled me. They seemed to care what God thought of them. They talked about their love for God and His for them. But I just didn’t get it. I’d never experienced that for myself, yet I’d been told all my life that I was a Christian because I’d prayed the “right” prayer as a child. And I certainly didn’t disbelieve the message. I simply didn’t care that much.
But once I admitted I was a sinner separated from God, and repented of my rebellion against him, life changed dramatically. I went from darkness to light, death to life. A new warmth filled my heart. God’s presence was all around me. I now cared what God thought of me.
Thus, in both sobriety and salvation, I found out the hard way that going through the motions doesn’t count.