Although my life has had its share of adventures, I have lived in the same community for most of my 46 years. It’s a mixed bag of blessings and burdens – sometimes a strange time warp descends over every moment. Here’s where I got my first kiss. That’s where I used to catch the school bus. Here’s the path I used to walk my kids to baseball practice in the park. My friend’s dad yelled at me here when I was 8, accusing me (wrongly) of bullying. I puked by that picnic shelter in junior high after drinking home-made chokecherry wine at a friend’s sleepover. There’s another friend’s house – we used to suntan on the roof of her garage (before we got boobs. After that her mom made us stay in the back yard). Oh and right here a handful of teal pompoms blew off my dad’s car while we were driving to the church for my wedding.
I took up running a few years ago. While exercise clears the mind, it requires effort to not be distracted by the memories all around and the emotions associated with them. It’s an effort to relax, so to speak.
Whether I am writing a song, thinking about a blog post, or sorting out a problem in my head my thought process works the same way. All of the ideas, images, feeling, insights, and such mix together; swirling around in my mind like a cross between a tornado and a cauldron of soup. It all has to mix together for a long time (as verified by the sometimes lengthy gaps between my blog posts). Running can speed up the process if I allow myself to focus on the simmering tornado pot. So can long a car ride (alone), kayaking, and sitting on a beach.
After an indeterminate amount of time, something miraculous happens. The centrifuge slows down and out of the bottom of this funneling mess emerges a crystal clear drop of truth.
And there it is – the answer, the understanding I’ve been working on and waiting for is suddenly there. Perfect and real. A thought fully formed that seems to appear out of nowhere but which in truth has been in production for quite some time.
What’s been bubbling in the “pot of recovery” lately is the realization that so much of what morphed into alcohol addiction in my adult years started in my childhood. When exactly did I start to think I needed to be perfect to be loveable? And when did I start hating being a kid and begin acting 28 instead of 12? My parents were loving and stable – did that make me feel safer to take risks? Thoughts like these all bubbling and swirling around as I continue down the path of recovery.
Yesterday, I was running through the park where I played as a kid, puked as a teenager, pushed a stroller as a young mom, and now where I work out my middle-aged ass on a regular basis. I was listening to Ellie, Lisa and Amanda chat on The Bubble Hour podcast in my earbuds when suddenly PLOP!
A drop of truth fell out of the sky and stopped me in my tracks. I was right under a grove of trees.
I pulled out my headphones and took a sharp breath.
These trees are the size of my recovery.
You see, I was there the day these trees were planted. I lived up the street and I remember the day this park opened to the public. I was nine and my friends and I were so excited to have a park with paths, trees, and even a lake with footbridges to explore.
These trees were nothing but little sticks back then.
What stopped me was this – I was still innocent when these trees were planted.
Later that summer, something happened that became one of the many seeds of my addiction: I was molested on several occasions by another kid. It wasn’t a violent experience or even particularly horrible, to be honest. But I catalogued it as something that made me bad, and now I can see how I started to change afterwards.
See these trees? They’ve been growing since that summer. They are the size of all I seek to overcome; they are the size of my recovery.
So there I was yesterday – sweating from my run, sobbing from this realization, and marveling at the physical presence of my addiction all cool and shady in the morning sun.
These trees are big. No wonder it takes so long to heal. No wonder it sometimes feels overwhelming.
Should I burn them down? Kick at them? Chop them down?
Do I climb up them or sit down under them?
I walk among them, passing through. They can’t move, but I can go wherever I choose.
On my way through the grove, I spot something else. A slender stalk emerging from a trunk – a new beginning.
Life goes on.
Your blog is fantastic. Thank you for pouring out your heart in a poignant,selfless manner. Any inspiration or help for a two day sober would be much appreciated. I, too, am doing so privately although my husband will catch on when I don’t drink this weekend. Today, I feel weepy. I feel like I am losing my best friend and I never got to say goodbye appropriately. All I can focus on is that I have an hour left of work and then I can get in my car and cry without anyone seeing me.
I wish I could reach through this screen and hug you while you cry out all that grief. You feel like you’ve lost a friend because you really are saying goodbye to a companion who has become dear. It’s like falling head over heels in love and then realizing the guy forgot to mention that he’s married – you know you have to end it because only bad things can come of continuing. You fell into a deep, disfunctional kind of love with booze and are realizing that it can’t be good to continue. Cry cry cry and the grief will pass. Keep writing about it because you need to be able to look back at this time and keep motivated to stay away from it. Muck through the sadness and it will start to get easier. Xo, UnP
Hi G, I remember in my thirties when the kids were little thinking what you are thinking, that the bottle emptied itself but I still felt in control. In those days I knew I had a problem but there was no reason for me to stop drinking altogether.It wasn’t until twenty years later that my habit became so much worse, a bottle and a half a night all by myself. Hidden bottle, glasses hidden behind sofas, red wine stains on the carpet, that I made myself stop. I only wish it had never become so serious. Looking at what you are doing by stopping now is so wise as you will never have to worry again. Your social events will still be good fun and you can love who you are.
Thanks so much. So far so good!
That is so true. In my mind I always thought i’d stop later on in my 50’s so why not now? What is the point of doing this for 15-20 more years? The odds are not good that the situation wouldn’t escalate.
Over the past five days I keep coming back here to read posts because your story seems so close to mine. I had been having trouble relating to most of the other sources out there for the same reasons you outline. I embrace the whole idea of wanting to stop quietly, but also understand the amazing benefit of sharing and relating to others. I was going to reply to some of your older posts that spoke to me, but I thought I’d drop this here.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole notion of “i’m not broken enough” for something like AA. I find it easy to spin the story that way and I often do! I am in my late 30’s. I have a great family with a loving wife, happy healthy young kids and a dog. I am more successful in my career than I ever expected I’d be coming out of college. We are financially secure and live in our dream house. I still play rec sports, work out, and people would say I am in really good shape. I have never had a DUI. I have not had a fight, arrest, etc. I’ve never been reprimanded or even pulled aside at work for any behavior. I’ve never missed a meeting or called in sick. I pride myself on “answering the bell” after drinking. You get the point. That is the positive spin… now, if I am being honest:
I COULD have gotten a DUI hundreds of times if pulled over. The top ten most embarrassing/regretful things I’ve done in the past 20 years have all been related to alcohol. I have been drinking consistently since I was 16 or 17. I don’t think I have gone more than a week without a drink in all that time. About once a month I have a BIG night where I blackout. It could be anything. Big client dinner with cocktails, wine, and then a car service home where everyone is asleep. It could be happy hour, where I have begun to outpace everyone else. Last Friday (my last night drinking) I was home with my wife and we were going to sit outside and have a glass of wine while the kids played. I opened the white that she likes and poured a glass and took out a glass for her. We never got around to going outside but the kids were putting on a show for us and we were having a blast.Before bed, I realized that she hadn’t poured a glass for herself but the bottle only had a swig left. I had continued to top off my one glass to keep it looking half-full and had finished the bottle myself. I unconsciously put the cork back in the wine and stuck the nearly empty bottle back in the little wine/beverage fridge to hide it. In the morning it was back in the big fridge. She never said anything about it, but she must have thought it odd when she found it. (She has in the past expressed some concern in passing. Never a big sit down talk, but some comments that I brushed off). I wasn’t drunk,I read to the kids, and went to bed at 10. On Saturday I was slightly foggy, a little snippy with the kids, and really wanted a nap. I went for a run and felt sluggish. By the end of the day I felt better, but really wanted a beer. I didn’t have one. This is day five.
I am capable of having one or two, but very often “grabbing one” with someone turns into five. That leads to a foggy next day. Even if I am not completely hung over, I am irritable at work, foggy, etc. I rarely have a great idea that day. I am just getting through it. Doing the bare minimum.
I have snapped at my wife or said mean things. I have sent work emails that I regretted. They weren’t disasters, just not what I would have liked to send. I figure I lose a day a week to the “fog”. That is almost two months a year of lost productivity.
I am nervous about a few things and could use some help. I think I can handle the work stuff with the exception of some big annual meetings that seem to revolve around socializing (Vegas, South of France, etc…) I will need a plan for those. I have an annual guys trip. It doesn’t revolve around drinking but that is a featured activity during golf, fishing, etc. I have some great friends that I really only get to see after work once in a while at a bar prior to the commute home. The texts are not “hey, would love to catch up” it’s always “grab a beer?”. I love throwing parties, BBQ’s etc. Not sure what my plan is for that. Stop having them? I’m on a sports team where we tailgate after games. This will be a tough one.
I did not mean to make this so long and now I realize I have a lot to think through, but this decision feels pretty awesome so far. I don’t want to make a big proclamation and I don’t think I need to, but I also don’t want it to become a weird unspoken issue either. It basically comes down to this: drinking no longer works for me at this point in my life.
Thanks to all who have shared and inspired me here.
Hi G. I want you to know that I read your comment on my smart phone in the middle of a golf tournament – a situation that seemed impossible and unbearable when I first quit drinking but now is fun and comfortable for me. While the rest of my group had a beer or two on the course, I had a vitamin water and then a non-alcoholic beer – no big deal. I quickly checked my email between holes and saw your comment. Right then I stopped for a moment to send you some prayers and positive energy. You are not alone at all and this new vision you have for yourself and your life is very do-able. If you find you can’t get it off the ground on your own, there is a ton of help available. My heartfelt congratualtions on your revelations and a huge whoop-whoop cheer for your new life ahead! Best, UnP
It is so funny you say that. And THANK YOU for sending thoughts my way, I think it worked. Yesterday was one huge test for me that I had been building up for. Is it odd, that I am looking forward to these challenging events? I think I feel that if I hide at home I would be delaying all the hard situations… I want to deal with them head on.
So we had yesterday booked for a while as a big golf day with some friends I don’t get to see much, but usually revolving around drinking. 2pm tee time followed by dinner with our wives. In the email planning I couldn’t figure out how to write that I wouldn’t be drinking so I figured I’d deal with it on-site. I showed up last and they had already packed the carts with a CASE of beers on ice. It wasn’t until the 15th hole or so when someone noticed. They had already had 5 or so each and my art mate said “I don’t think G has cracked a beer today, maybe he is in AA”.
In the locker room one of them handed me a beer and they toasted. I thought, well it might be easier to just drink this one. I didn’t. I just left it on the window sill as we showered and changed.
In the bar, they ordered four of the famous local cocktails and I finally had to address the situation. “No thanks guys I’m in a bit of a self-imposed alcohol exile” WTF?? With nine days to think about what’s was going to say, I pulled that out of left field. They were awesome. “Good for you”etc etc. they asked if something had happened but that was all.
When our wives arrived, it was a non issue. When we got home, I finally told my wife about the change and she cried and is so happy for me (us). She said she was kind of dreading dinner becasue she thought we would be drinking all day and it would be a mess. I would have had six beers, 2 cocktails, 2-3 glasses of wine (trying to pretend it was one), and a scotch. I would have been hung over this morning for my four year olds birthday. Now I feel awesome and I’m going running.
Apologies again for the long post but it was a huge hurdle on day 9.
Thanks again. I love this blog. I also love reading any interviews I can with people (famous or not) who have quit. Best to all of you. G
It looks like I wasn’t logged in, but that is indeed my comment under anonymous. G
One more try here to log in (I swear I’m not drinking).
I love your writing. I just started a blog similar to yours – mine is iamthefaceofanaddict.org – maybe we can help each other 🙂
I am at 154 days! Yeah! I had a terrible summer and have remained sober. I even went to an office party and was 1 of 3 people not drinking. The hostess used alcohol to cook with. I found out late into the evening that had happened. But, none the less escaped without any bruises. I had a rotten day yesterday and had to fight back the demons. I did not drink…I decided the person and the situation was just not worth it. I have worked so hard to get to where I am.
I am still strong not having touched a drop since early January. Many functions, weddings, dinners and parties! I am proud when I say I am a teetotaller. I have always wanted to say it and now I can say it convincingly. I won’t even take the wine at holy communion. The hardest thing is when I go to dinner and fill up on fizzy drinks it makes me tired very quickly. I start getting restless and start wanting to make a quick exit. I would love some ideas on how to stay still and enjoy the dinner without wanting to bail out. I have been able to attend much more to business than I used to making me more productive. Since my last blog I have found out that i am going to become a grandmother! I now have another interest far more fulfilling than filling my mind and body with the mind numbing drug, alcohol. I want to be a responsible grandmother, one who can be relied on to take good care of my grandchildren. If I hadn’t sobered up I might have been sneaking a drink while babysitting or unable to drive to an emergency. Thank you Unpickled for keeping me accountable.
Mmmmmwah! Big hug and a kiss to you, soon-to-be granny! I can’t wait for the same blessing in my life – one of the big motivators for me to get my act together!
I trace my alcoholism all the way back to my first ever drink. I was like 8 or so at a wedding reception. Somebody decided it was ok for me to have a glass of champagne. I remember the warm feeling after drinking that glass. The next thing I remember is that I wanted another at any cost. It’s like the addiction was always there. It kicked in right at the first drink.
Enjoy the blog! I’m only 9 days sober, so I am discovering all these great blogs and they have been a great help in a therapeutic way.
i am frolicking (or more like, greedily proceeding, much like a character in a video game, snapping up the valuable fruits and coins) through the soberlicious blogs due to an article … which led me to belle’s team 100, which led me to yours… and i have a background w incest and violence as a youngster… it is a big thread running through the fabric of ‘recovery’ community. i used dance as my drug for a long time, but unhealed emotions kept on showing up. as i started learning to drown them out with alcohol, and as hip and spine issues made dance less do-able… OH- (chemical symbol for alcohol!) became its own little pond of quicksand. i am glad your recovery is strong like a tree, or a stand of them; right now mine feels like a small plant. but i joined team 100 and boy o boy reading real people’s stories and feelings and successes AND failures is helping. a lot. thank you. 🙂
Eileen. Same here! Read an article which lead me to the blogs. It encouraged me to start my own as well.
Hope you all enjoyed Independence Day. I don’t live in the USA but reading these blogs makes me feel as though I am your neighbour, your sister, your friend. Today is a very sad day for me as it is the anniversary of my son’s death. It is the first anniversary I have been there for and been completely off the wine. I am so strong now. So in control. It is now almost six months since I had a drink. I love my sober days and am so proud of my achievements since January. I will not go back, ever again. It would be too easy to slip back to where I was. As much as I crave the simple pleasure the wine gave me each evening there is nothing live the freedom I now have with the luxury of self discipline.
My heart aches for your loss, just as I cheer for your strength. I have no brilliant words, but I stand beside you as a sister in so many ways. xo, UnP
There’s a Facebook page named Talking Trees, in light of the experience you shared from long ago you might check it out. I too am a survivor of sexual abuse. Strange coincidence, the name of the Facebook page. I know that traumatic event led to my feeling not good enough so much of my life which led to addiction which led to feeling even less worthy. I told my story to some ‘friends’ a few weeks ago and faced some ostracism but I don’t even care, I have a right to finally speak out, if they don’t like it they don’t have to, I don’t particularly like it either. If they can’t be supportive, I don’t need them. I don’t need pretend friends, I need real friends…period.
Anyway, I’ve really found Talking Trees very helpful with regards to that. Take good care of yourself. How odd that we have that in common too? Or maybe not…
Happy, Happy Independence Day to you and everyone else!!!
It seems to be a fairly common thread, based on the emails I get from readers. One of the many ways we learn from our early days to hide away shameful bits of ourselves. Childhood beliefs we keep tucked away, only to realize are foolish when we haul them out as adults to examine them in the light. I surprise myself constantly with the junk I have squirreled away up in my head!
What an amazing revelation! I was molested by another child too and it helps explain why I acted 28 when I was only a kid. But to see something tangible that stands for the size of your recovery…what a gift. I want to look for something that will help me put my own recovery into perspective like that. Beautiful post.
I love your blog. I’m reading it from day one (since that’s where I am). I’m a red while you were a white, but wow – so many connections. Thank you for giving me hope!
“When exactly did I start to think I needed to be perfect to be loveable?” isn’t that such an interesting question. i was 9, too. I was left alone too much, left in charge too often, which i guess made me feel not good enough. never thought of this before. thanks for sharing your story – it helps you and it helps us!
Thank you, my friend.
Yep, another posting that I can most defiantly relate to. And very touching. I can recall the what,where,when but not the WHY..Wander why others act in a way that they cause such harm to others. Wander if they lose sleep, worry, or even think about the aftermath of their actions. I hurt my family and myself over the actions of a bad person. Not sure why…
I love the analogy of the new limb on the tree…a new beginning. Most defiantly!
Wow. Well written post! What a sharp metaphor, too… Really loved reading this. My dad still lives where I grew up, and when I go back, the trees, the grass, the lanes–they all make me feel melancholy, like they’ve just seen SO much. That point you made about recovery taking so long because it’s just so…big. Thank you. Needed to hear this tonight. GREAT post. xx
Beautiful post. I can really relate as I have lived in the same place since I was 8 years old. A lot of the people, places, and things that are around me seem to haunt me. I think it’s because my alcoholic mind tends to remember all of the bad things that happened (and that I caused). I love how your perspective changed into something so positive and affirming. It is definitely something for me to think about.
Wow! That was powerful. It is amazing how things are revealed to the sober and present mind. Thank you for sharing your stories. They are helping me resist the temptations and i have found that my life has been very similar to yours. Thanks for making this not such a lonely journey. One month sober yesterday.
Thank you. I needed to read this today. Everywhere I go, I too am reminded of my past. Wanting to leave it behind, yet at every turn it’s there to greet me. Maybe for a reason. Maybe to let me see how far I have come. How happy I am now. Maybe so I can finally see how beautiful life is and can be. Something I never knew when I was drinking.
Great post, well written and wonderfully revealing, thanks
Perfectly understand your message, thank you. Alcohol acted as a buffer for me, a buffer between wanting to be perfect, and the stesses of life that prevent perfection. A buffer, a time out from trying to be perfect, a brick on the head, a buffer from the anxiety of not achieving this self inflicted need to do everything perfectly.
But it doesn’t stay that way, the buffer morphs into a monster that makes you do things you would not normally do and the guilt and shame that come with it null and void all self respect, until one is so far from feeling perfect the gap seems impossible to overcome.
Screw perfect, its overrated, im going for the best i can do today.
I love your comment. “But it doesn’t stay that way, the buffer morphs into a monster that makes you do things you would not normally do and the guilt and shame that come with it null and void all self respect, until one is so far from feeling perfect the gap seems impossible to overcome.”
So true and undeniable. The monster is real.
That’s exactly the way I describe my experience with drinking… a buffer from life’s problems that grew into a monster. Shame an unexpected side-effect.
I refuse to be stuck in a guilt phase any longer, I’ve outgrown that role. There were people in my life that found that beneficial. I’m redefining myself.
Many circumstances in my life robbed me of my peace of mind and joy for my whole life, I no longer have to deal with those situations & I simply don’t need a crutch anymore. Funny how the need to drink just fell away from me.
Unpickled, that road through the trees is a mighty fine place to make memories.
Thank you for the extra inspiration to go for the things that bring me joy. I love painting, I finally have the time to.
My days are finally mine to fill as I please. Its a wonderful phase of my life to enter.
I hope all is well with you this lovely evening, tomorrow we will be celebrating Independence Day, on a more personal note, I will be celebrating my own.
Thanks for your truly inspirational blog!!
It is my sincere pleasure to share these writings, and I am so grateful to you for reading and providing your feedback. It is in connecting that we find such strength and realize that we are all so similar. What a relief! What a joy! xo UnP