Monthly Archives: August 2013
Secrets: The Superfood of Addiction
How many green smoothies are clogging your news feed on Facebook and Pinterest these days? Every day it’s another picture posted by another person gushing about the merits of their baby-poop-coloured concoction.
Now I like smoothies on occasion and yes I, too, have been delighted to find that adding a bag of spinach to raspberries and yogurt in a blender tastes surprisingly good. I swear, though, that half of these folks really just want you to know that they gagged it down and are digesting 5 cups of spinach RIGHT NOW. (Note: give it a couple of hours and then update us on the outcome…or…don’t.)
Between the weird smoothie craze and all the noise about gojii berries, acacia juice, and coconut oil, we are constantly bombarded with the notion of “superfoods”.
When I hear that someone is on a whole food, super food, raw food diet I think, “Wow, how do you even manage that?” There was a time, two and a half years ago, when I wondered the exact same thing about people who don’t drink, or even those who drink normally.
“How do you manage an evening without drinking?” I’d wonder. “Do people just, like, have water? Or tea? And then read or go to bed? And feel happy about that?” I’d spent so many years unwinding with wine in the evening, (or eventually at the end of the day because evening didn’t come fast enough), that I could no longer even imagine life without it.
Since I pledged recovery (a new phrase I’m liking better than “got sober” or “quit drinking” – let me know your thoughts, please) – since I pledged recovery I have not looked back. It was hard at first but it got easier and easier with time to form new patterns and habits. And yes, a cup of tea and a good book really does make for a fine evening.
Perhaps most surprising to me is that the changes continue, the recovery continues; even after all this time. My peace has grown exponentially in recent months as a result of examining the secrets I’ve kept hidden inside.
Have you ever run into the store to pick up one or two items and instead ended up filling your arms and tottering to the cashier? And when a helpful clerk says, “Here, hon, let me help you”, it’s almost a bother because you can’t seem give over one thing without toppling the whole load? You finally start setting it all down and it’s kind of a shock to realize you had a six pack of Gatorade hanging off your right pinky and a tube of toothpaste tucked under your chin and a can of tomatoes centered perfectly in your palm with a watermelon nestled in the crook of each arm. “Whoa, why the hell didn’t I use a cart?” you marvel and feel slightly impressed with your juggling abilities.
That was exactly my experience when I started to realize the shitload of secrets I was protecting. Yes, yes I am familiar with the good old AA mantra, “you’re only as sick as your secrets”. But I hate clichés and especially those with alliteration.
And besides, I thought the secrets that particular expression refers to are only DRINKING secrets. I didn’t have any left really – well except that I had drank in secret. And recovered in secret. And blog secretly.
But lets talk about other secrets. The “peed my pants in sixth grade” variety. Or maybe those private things we call “indiscretions”. Secret things I dislike about myself. Dumb stuff I’m embarrassed I ever took part in. Weaknesses and failures. None of these things have ANYTHING to do with my addiction, though. Right?
My vision is of a garbage can that I have to drag around with me and sit on top of at all times to make sure that nothing gets out and no one peeks in. Of course, I have painted that garbage can and bedazzled it so it looks good on the outside. I can tap dance on top of it and pretend it is a stage. Or a soap box for mighty narrations. But inside, inside are all those secrets piled together. I don’t know what all is even in there after all these years but I know it will stink if I lift the lid and I’m sure as hell not going to let YOU catch a whiff.
Dragging this can around is exhausting. The job of sitting on the lid limits my activities and freedom to choose. I’m tired of waving my arms and telling knock-knock jokes to try and distract from its presence.
Fuck it. Let’s tip this sucker over.
Whoa – metaphor overload! Green smoothies and shopping carts and garbage cans. Are you still with me? Let’s bring it on home.
Addiction feeds on secrets – especially those sneaky ones you don’t even realize are tucked under your chin or dangling off your pinkie. The things we think are true about ourselves that must be hidden from others are especially destructive. That’s the spinach in addiction’s smoothie. The stuff you know you hide, the stuff in your own garbage can, that’s just old junk holding you back.
Dump it out. Set it down. Have a look – it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as you think. Face it, think about it. Look in the mirror and say, “Yep, that really happened.” You’d be amazed how quickly the power dissolves when you share it with another person, if you dare.
It feels great to be more than just sober.
It is great to truly be recovering.
Before I quit drinking, I worried what people would think if they knew how much wine I was *actually* sipping each night. You’d think that recovery would have brought instant relief from those concerns, but ironically I was just as embarrassed of not drinking at all.
Emphasis on the “was”.
Well into my second year of sobriety, I have begun to feel more open about this part of my identity. The words “No thanks, I don’t drink. I brought my own” just rolled off my tongue at a party one night.
Suddenly at restaurants I could look the server in eye and smile sweetly while saying, “I’ll have an O’Douls, please – the green label if you have it. And could you please bring me a nice big wine glass for that?”
What a huge relief it is to be able to just spit out the words now. I haven’t tattooed “Alcoholic in Recovery” on my forehead, but when asked why I’m not drinking I feel absolutely comfortable saying, “My nice nightly glass of wine quietly grew into an addiction and I had to quit altogether.”
Most people are fine with that and some will ask, “Does it bother you that we are drinking around you?” “Not at all,” I’ll say truthfully, “but what I do find is that I sometimes need to leave earlier that I used to so don’t be offended if I slip off, okay?”
What can be hard is that sometimes it’s the people closest to us that seem the most awkward. It can be really annoying when the people you most expected to count on ask you if you’re ever going to be able to drink again. You’ll notice I mention this particular line of questioning in a few different blog posts, so obviously it gets to me. I’ve thought about it a lot and here’s what I have come to understand:
It’s possible for people who love you to want you to start drinking again because they want you to be “fixed” and for your “problem to be over”. They have the misguided idea that you’ll be “cured” and return to your “normal” self, the old you they used to know.
It took me a long time to accept that I would never be able to drink again. For a long time I stayed open to the possibility that I might be able to return to moderate drinking. Some can, I get that. I’ve learned though, that it won’t be me. I confess that when my eyes fall upon a chilled bottle of white wine across a crowded room, for the briefest of moments it’s just the two of us and I want to grab it and run. I recently heard Anna David (afterpartychatter.com) say on the Dr. Drew podcast that the disease of addiction “does pushups” while you are in recovery and if you let it back in it will be even stronger that before.
This is not an easy idea to understand, and an even harder reality to accept for oneself. If it takes those of us in recovery forever to sink out teeth into these concepts, surely it will take our friends and family even longer. After all, they’re not living and breathing the changes of heart, body, and brain required in recovery. They’re not reading every bit of sobriety lit they can get their hands on, listening to The Bubble Hour constantly, or watching what every single person at a party pours in their glass like we are.
Sure, there will always be a-holes out there who make us feel like party poopers for staying true to our recovery. But some people, some, are just trying to catch up to us on this new path of ours and we need to be as patient with them as they are with us.