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.
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.