Surprise in Abundance

My recovery journey has been peppered with unexpected discoveries these past two and a half years.

Surprise! People in recovery make a practice of serving others and many reached out with support and encouragement when I made my first squeak for help online.

Surprise! I was not the last woman on earth who would quit drinking. I began my blog as a tool for my own recovery – to document the journey and find accountability. It never occurred to me that others would come behind me on this path and find inspiration. I realized that millions had walked the path before me but was blinded to the millions who will fall in place behind. It’s a continuum and the energy propels us all forward.

Surprise! Recovery is only partly about ‘not drinking’. It has a whole lot more to do with self-examination and ruthlessly honest introspection. In order to truly change, we have to figure out where all the discomfort originates and deal with it.

Surprise! Life is not compartmentalized – addiction and recovery relate to everything. I sincerely believed my wine problem only existed between the hours of 4 p.m. to midnight and had no connection to my daytime activities or identity. When the links between various aspects of my life became clear, I ran around like Helen Keller learning her first signs from Anne Sullivan. House cleaning! Body Image! Imposter syndrome! Over-achieving! Shopping! Decorating! My parents! Fear of water! Anxiety! Work ethic! Yes, yes, yes – all connected.

All of this leads to the most recent surprise – the sheer volume of others who share my experience.

I confess that some part of me, (the part that ready Diary of Ann Frank when I was 9), thought I had a pretty interesting story to tell. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by the sheer dichotomy of my life – a business owner, community leader, wife, mom, performing songwriter and mentor to young women who accomplishes impressive achievements by day while hiding an escalating problem with alcohol at night?

Yet of the thousands of emails and responses to UnPickled, not one has said, “Wow, you sound too amazing to be an alcoholic.” Instead they said, “I am just like you.”

It is because of reader feedback that I came to understand my situation is not at all unusual (a classic recovery lesson).  I worked so hard to separate the good and bad parts of my life, ensuring that the positive far outweighed the negative. I built my life around the idea of leaving this world a bit better than I found it and I am truly proud of my achievements.  The mistake I made was thinking the two categories (good and bad) existed in spite of each other and were unrelated.

In other words, “How could someone so remarkable fuck up so spectacularly?”

When I realized that anxiety and fear (disguised as an unrelenting hunger for approval) fueled a lot of my achievements, I saw that they were also behind my failures.  At one time, this revelation would have struck a blow to my confidence and made me feel like I was fighting a losing battle.

Now, with a new compassion for myself and others who are making our way together to our better selves, I know it is more important to work on the anxiety and fear than to keep score of the good and bad they produce.

Surprise surprise.

I am still amazing, perhaps more so now than ever before. And best of all, I’ve learned it’s not a rarity. It’s pretty common here on the pages of UnPickled , where the fabulous gather and find a common thread.


  1. It’s all in your perspective…

    I am so EXTREMELY grateful to Jean for “Unpickled!!” This is exactly what I need. THANK YOU JEAN!

    I’m now on my 24th day of sobriety so I AM NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert in the field of sobriety….but after reading and reading all of these blogs (I can’t stop – it’s wonderful!), what really resonates with me is reading what so many of you have written… “it’s a long, hard road, it’s a tough path to take, don’t know if I can do this, what if I fail, etc.

    Since a lot of us are self professed overachievers (personality / attitude), why not use that trait to our advantage to achieve yet another (this) goal?! How would we approach other endeavors such as a job interview, running a 5k, etc. I don’t believe most of us would approach it with the attitude of OMG, I can’t I do this…it’s too hard! What if I fail?!, etc. NO! We would approach it with the attitude of I’m going to beat my 5k time from the last race!! I’m sure they’ll be interested in hiring me because I’m perfect for the position, I have all the qualities they’re looking for!! AND that is how we can approach our sobriety 🙂 Personally, I’ve always loved a good challenge and this is yet another chance for me to succeed. PERIOD

    If I fall short of my goal, I will do as I do in other circumstances, I will get up and I will go for it with all my drive until I persevere  One of MY biggest lessons (in life!) has been – no one is perfect and that includes me. So, if I have to start from day one again, it’s not the end of the world. I WILL achieve my goal!


    • Well said Lone Pickle!!! A 5k race goal is a perfect analogy! I never thought about how my over-achiever attitude could really be an asset with this sobriety journey I’m on. I keep focusing on “how did I get to this place?” Thank you for the encouraging words. Best of luck to you as your reach your goal. xo


      • Thanx Sccrown 🙂 I read (on one of these sites) that a common issue with “us” is that we don’t know how to treat / be good to ourselves. We’re so busy taking care of everyone else and making sure everyone else is happy that we don’t take time for us. I’m the consummate cheerleader and I’m willing to help and encourage anyone. The differene, this time around, is that I’m cheering myself on and this site is a perfect tool to help me do that!!


    • I have made the decision to stop drinking. I am 44 years old and feel as though it’s time I grew up a little. I have identified for way too long with the ‘party girl’ persona, and frankly I know that it is not who I am. I grew up with two parents who drank too much and a small town filled with binge drinkers as friends. I saw how everyone dealt with pain and adversity….booze. I took the same path. Each and every time I felt ‘uncomfortable’ with something, I would yank out the wine bottle and attempt to numb the feeling. Always backfires though doesn’t it? Phone calls I shouldn’t have made, emails I shouldn’t have written….just searching for approval in my wine induced state only to wake up when the wine wore off with such shame. Such intense shame. I knew I was better than my behaviour….so why wasn’t I projecting that?
      I have had some big changes during my ‘midlife’. I have become a mother and now have the most gorgeous daughters…4 1/2 and 6. They are spunky, sprightly and love everything sparkly. They have never knowingly seen their mother intoxicated and I am determined to keep it that way. I have recently embarked on a lifelong dream of entrepreneurship. Eek. That has caused me more anxiety than I was probably prepared to handle. Before I knew it I was pouring myself a glass of wine around 2 to write pitch emails to bloggers, businesses etc. Liquid courage. Starting the business has made me feel very vulnerable and that is not an emotion I know how to sit with. So I drank. I have done some amazing things, and really should be happy and proud of myself. Drinking wine is the one shame that I carried with me on a daily basis. Was my drinking problem a secret? Well… husband (who rocks btw) knows I drink too much but he also knows I can be as stubborn as hell and had to deal with it on my own. I know there have been times though when he has considered leaving me because of it. My friends…..well the controlled drinkers know I drink too much but I’m a fun drunk so they usually made sure there was wine around to keep me amused. My wine buddies may know as well, but some of them may have their own demons that need to be addressed so mine were definitely never mentioned.
      But I have hit what I now know is called a ‘high bottom’, and I’m tired. Tired of the shame, self loathing, guilt, terrible sleep, worrying about my health (often smoked when I drank) and tired of lying to myself. It has been a year of change for me so I may as well change the one thing that is really dragging my ass down.
      So here I am….44 years old and about to live the rest of my days sober. I’m on day 2 now and I am scared (although I drank too much wine, I love wine. Love the smell, the taste, the warm feelings, the pairing of it with delicious meals…etc) I am going to tackle this one day at a time though. I am going to celebrate each morning by looking at my fresh (albeit a little wrinkled) 44 year old face, my clear eyes and my honest expression.
      I am going to celebrate being present with my daughters and knowing they are getting the best of their Mommy. I am going to celebrate getting things done…being a wino took up a lot of my time. And I am going to celebrate the newfound confidence I will have from kicking this habit and living life honestly and freely.
      So it ain’t all going to be bad is it?
      So dear fermented grape……farewell my friend. It is time to move on.
      livlo’s mom.


  2. I have found myself reading and reading all the comments on your posts, it is amazing when you find one other person, then you find another and another! It’s great! I too thought I was unique, amazing to have accomplished it all, but it’s like being in a meeting when you identify with someone, you get so excited and full of thankfulness that we are the same! Thank you all for responding, I am checking out some of your blogs! Feel free to check out mine too, it’s fairly new but it’s fun!! Enjoy your evening! Lisa V.


  3. Have you had any relapses since you started the blog? It seems they are common when people first quit. Just wondering if you experienced this and if you did, how you dealt with it. Or if you didn’t, how did you fight the cravings that could have lead to one. Mentally prepping for the holidays and a family trip to Hawaii–all sober. Eeeeeeek! lol Thanks!


    • As it happens, I started this blog on the last “last time” I quit. I had many many unsuccessful attempts previously and never made it past one or two days. I think what made my final attempt successful was the connections I made with other people through blogging and online supports, and most importantly the real world experience of having some key people holding me accountable (my good friend and then my husband, too). My advice for holidays and vacations is plan ahead, even if it means packing Perrier in your suitcase, and maintain connection with a support network (by text, twitter, find a local meeting, etc). You will still have fun so be ready to enjoy yourself!



      • I just started reading your blog a few days ago and have been getting so much out of it! (Day 24 here). (after reading one post I went to your first and started reading from there). I just today posted on another site about this blog and mentioned that what I wondered about you was whether you had ever tried to quit (or moderate) before. Now after your reply above, I know! I, too, have tried many times before. And I am wondering what it is that makes the last time actually turn in to the last time. Because I want this to be my last, but I am having trouble saying that and meaning it. So for now I am taking it one day at a time. But someone responded to my post about this that they believe the real key is acceptance. Before you can quit for good, you need to truly accept the fact that quitting for good is what you absolutely need to do. I hope to get there.


  4. Luv it!, When I found this on-line blog I was shocked to find out that other people were out there like me. I could not believe that others were as clever as I. (I thought that only I had come up with ingenious ways to decieve). Loved the way that this blog encouraged self- introspection regarding the root behind my drinking. I did not even see the root or reasons in the beginning. It took everything out of me to ward off the cravings, and literally just go day by day. Than, as I became stronger I also became smarter.


  5. Oh, I am so happy to have come across you in this wide wide world! I am working on my own journey (today is day 4) and this site, your story, the comments are so inspiring. Thank you for putting this out in the world, it has touched my heard and I hope will make me even stronger.


    • I am glad you found this blog and there are so many great folks out there tell their story, which is also your story and mine. Congratulations on making this change and surviving the first difficult days. Many successes and surprises ahead – may you embrace them all!


      • Thank you for sharing. I am on day 6. I have had a nagging feeling for years that I have a problem but only in the last few months it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was running an errand with my newborn when I realized I was hungover, again, & I just started sobbing in my minivan. I’m ready to take back my life & be the mother to my three kids that I know I can be. I’m tired of being hungover, tired for waiting for the clock to hit 5 o’clock, tired of chugging diet cokes to get thru the day, tired of wondering if I smell like alcohol, dousing myself in perfume, using visine, hiding from who I am, feeling ashamed and disappointed. Thank you for sharing your journey. I see myself in you and I hope you know that you are an inspiration.


  6. So many wonderful surprises! Who says sobriety is boring? Thank you for expressing this so well. Achievements fueled by fear and anxiety. Ah yes. I’m so happy to be included in the gathering of the fabulous.

    Arms stretched out welcoming all newcomers!


  7. Beautiful insights! I’ve been posting under “anonymous” the past few days and am on Day 4 of sobriety. I have realized this isn’t a physical addiction and am looking forward to the clearheadedness needed to figure out the psychological reasons why I’ve relied on alcohol in secret for so long. Plunging myself in to the online world dedicated to sobriety, I am gobsmacked at how common this is. I think we all feel so alone…and we’re not. Thank you.


    • I completely agree! That’s what I’m realizing…it is not a physical addiction (for me). I just can’t accept this as a “disease.” I don’t even have cravings (guess I’m lucky!). It’s an emotional thing for me. Since so many of us are saying we’re over achievers, etc. Makes me wonder if we all basically have the same issue…we want / need to be accepted and approved of. I read on one of these sites that one common theme with “us” is that we don’t know how to be good to ourselves. That has done me a world of good in my sobriety (22 days!). That is now my focus. To be kind, gentle and loving to MYSELF. The energy I have spent on doing that has taking my focus away from trying to constantly proving that I’m good enough, smart enough, etc. The interesting part is others already think that about us…maybe we are the only ones who don’t?!


  8. It’s interesting, I have noticed that a lot of other people have similar issues who do not have an alcohol problem at all. I guess this is why we are lucky…having a problem with alcohol forces us to look at these issues. Without it, we might go on living a life filled with fear and anxiety without ever finding the root cause and confronting it…or figuring out how it is all tied together. Thank you for the lovely post! Best, Jen


    • That’s such a cool perspective, Jen…I never thought about it that way but if I didn’t have this problem maybe I wouldn’t be thinking about why I feel like I need to numb myself. What I’m finding, so very new into this sobriety thing, is that it’s not just a segment of my life, it’s integrated into all my life. So much to explore.


  9. “Recovery is only partly about ‘not drinking’. It has a whole lot more to do with self-examination and ruthlessly honest introspection. In order to truly change, we have to figure out where all the discomfort originates and deal with it.”

    Perfection! I love how it changes, too; I LOVE going from thinking I’m unique to KNOWING I’m not, and taking both solace and broader commitment to be the BEST ME I can be in that knowing. Thanks for every beautifully written word here!


  10. The anxiety — yes. The “terminal uniqueness” — yes. The ego saying, “but look at all of these good things I am doing, look how nice I am!” — yes. And, for me, the endless list of reasons I thought justified my drinking, “if all this was happening to you, you’d drink too!”.

    I am continually surprised how deep-rooted this fear and anxiety truly is. Our drinking, our alcoholism/abuse, was really just a symptom of something bigger going on. By quitting drinking, we removed one of its symptoms, but that “something bigger” is still going on, and one day we have to deal with it. But not all of it in one day, of course. It’s kind of like moving a mountain–how do we do that?–we move a mountain one pebble at a time.

    So to you, and to all the other beautiful, brave, and amazing pebble-movers, I say keep shining. You matter. Both to the ones who came before and to the ones who will come after. Be a lighthouse.

    ~ Christy


  11. Thank you so much for your blog and your bravery. Your latest post arrived at just the right moment. I’ve been struggling with sobriety, and I’m so tired. Could today be the day I just quit for good? You’ve inspired me….


  12. Great post, and thank you. I too thought I was special, that no one would “get” my dilemma. That feeling of specialness, the terminal uniqueness I had, is what kept me out of the rooms of AA and kept me from creating a new, freer, happier, better, sober life. It took me a long time to realize I was just like everyone else. I am an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.


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