“How Did I Get Here?”

“I can’t believe this is my life. How did I get here?”

I asked myself this a thousand times when I was trapped in the cycle of daily drinking. I hear the same words often from readers with whom I correspond. How did this happen? How did I get here? I can’t believe this is my life.

I heard it last night from a strong, beautiful mom who is wrestling with her decision and wrote a heartfelt message about her inner battles.

I am saying it myself this morning, only now it has a happy meaning for me, and is said with a spirit of gratitude: I am drinking coffee all alone in a strange city on a balcony overlooking the hippest neighbourhood I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe this is my life. I am about to spend 4 days with a group of sober women I’ve met through blogs, through recovery retreats, and online support groups. We’ve rented a huge vacation property  and filled all nine bedrooms. I can’t believe this is my life.

How did I get here? I arrived a day ahead of the others and had to wander around the area alone for hours before I could check into the rental house. I explored local shops, got a manicure, bought the groceries we’ll need (lots of coffee and ice cream, plus oodles of healthy ingredients for two big suppers we’ll cook together). I hunted through a used bookstore and scored a 1945 edition of Ogden Nash poetry for my son, and seriously considered a vintage hand-tool leather purse from the 70s that might lose its cool style-value the moment I leave this trendy neighbourhood. I ate borscht alone in a cafe.

I can’t believe this is my life. It was when I finally checked into this house that I came to appreciate how far I’ve come.Stillness used to be my enemy. Staying busy was my drug of choice, drinking was a way to numb myself when the busy-ness of each day ended. So spending a night alone in a strange, huge house could be a big trigger. I watched tv, read, fed myself, drank tea, went to bed, read some more, and finally just went to sleep. I tossed and turned. In truth, it was a horrible sleep. I checked my clock every 30 minutes from 4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and then finally just got up and made a pot of coffee. So what if I am tired when the others arrive? So what if I maybe talk too much or fall asleep before everyone else or act spacey because I am tired. So what, that’s okay. I am safe with these friends. Perfection is not expected or required.

How did I get here? One hallmark of codependency, I’ve learned, is only valuing oneself through the eye of others. One place I catch myself doing this is in the grocery store: what do others think of me when they see what’s in my cart? It might sound stupid to non-dependent types, but I am sure some of you do the exact same thing. So when I was getting groceries for this meetup, I laughed at the giant bag of spinach, three buckets of gelatto, and tea selection I was placing onto the conveyor belt, thinking the average person would say, “A girls weekend? Where’s the wine?!” And then I noticed the lady ahead of me who was bagging her own groceries, which appeared to be dinner for one but with two bottles of wine. Was I imagining that she looked puffy, tired, and maybe a little sad? Was it fair to assume she was trapped as I had been? Maybe she was on her way to book club. Oh wait, that was one of the things I used to say to the store clerk when I was embarrassed to be buying more wine myself. “Book club! Those ladies love their wine!” I caught myself short of judging this stranger, and instead sent up a little wish for her wellness, whatever that may be.

I can’t believe this is my life. I can’t believe all the cool things I have done since I quit drinking. A year ago today I went skiing in Switzerland in the shadow of the Matterhorn with my husband. I went to an AA meeting in Manhattan – which is surreal for a small town hick like me (who doesn’t do AA).  I have travelled alone to yoga retreats and sober meetups in Mexico, Boston, Salt Spring Island, Kelowna, and around my home province of Alberta. I can’t believe the amazing people who have been kind enough to meet up with me when my travels bring me to their region, and I love it when you guys let me know you’re coming through my area so I can meet you.

I can’t believe this is my life. I can’t believe that it feels so natural to live without alcohol when I spent so many years believing it was the only thing that held my life together. I can’t believe it is so easy to share my weaknesses in this blog when I kept them hidden for so long. I can’t believe five years has already passed since I looked at my drinking and asked, “How did I get here?”

Oh wait, I CAN believe it. I DO believe it. It’s real. I acknowledge it all, humbly and gratefully. I am living life fully and fearlessly (albeit still a little anxiously at times).

I don’t drink, and my life is better than ever. It gets better. Believe it.



  1. I have been reading your blog for a long time and just started my own (ahhh..) This post really touched me because I can totally relate to the grocery store scene you painted (extra wine was always for “company”). Also it really gives me hope that you have been able to move beyond the idea that you are losing out by not still drinking, and that you have such a fun life now with new friends and experiences. Thanks!


  2. I can’t believe how productive I am. All the things I said I wanted to do are getting done. I don’t think I could ever want to go back to drinking for many reasons. Among those reasons is ineffectiveness at life. I was deadbeat, now I am never too drunk or too sick to pursue what interests me. That alone, should be enough for me. Being able to pursue your goals instead of just daydreaming about them is a great thing.


  3. Wow, I enjoyed the blog and Comments. It’s strange, the reference point for recovery is so illusive. It’s a thing we earn ,,. not a thing we are gifted. Yet earning it is so painful. It’s only once we’ve suffered the pain of not drinking that we can begin to enjoy and flourish in the not-drinking. I’m sober awhile now and I still wonder, how did I get here? LOL I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I like my recovery perspective much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the bit about being judged by your groceries. Not sure I ever felt like that but I do know that years ago in the drinking days I could have told you ever single car owned by each house up our road. Make, Model, Age… and how I ranked that against what I was currently driving either better or worse and that there was a tipping point where there were too many younger better cars on that list that I’d have to get a new one to restore my place!

    Now… I would struggle to tell you much about my neighbours cars and I care even less about a comparison to mine. I have a functional estate (station wagon) which is 5 years old but reasonably low mileage (under 50K) and it’s ok to drive and comfortable. It is fine for what I need.

    Now my comparisons are internal focus not pointlessly externally focused. That is the change I went through slowly over time in my recovery.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Mine started here three years ago-I must be a very slow learner. I have wrestled it from daily ,to once weekly to intermittent wine and that hasn’t been enough. April 1st was my last Day One-I chose it because I am tired of fooling myself that I can manage this. Your blog has been a lifeline Jean, as have all the comments from everyone else in the trenches.Thank-You all.


    • Stick with it, Sunflower! You deserve freedom and happiness. It is hard at first to break free but it gets easier and easier and soon you won’t look back.


  6. My search for sobriety began here, Jean, almost 2 years ago. I may be a slow starter, but I’m on Day 2 today, and am absolutely determined to do this. I’m learning all the time, and I continue to love and value you and your blog. Annie x


  7. I can relate to viewing myself through others eyes, I’m guilty of that. The ultimate people pleaser. Perhaps that is why I drank, to escape the pain and tiredness that caused to keep up with. It takes a ton of energy to keep others happy. The bottle provided the ultimate escape for that trap. In the end, no one was happy, especially me after hitting the bottle in order to escape. My new goal, not to view myself through others eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loveit! I hope you ladies have an amazing time! I wrote a song in the midst of my darkness titled “How Did I Get Here?” Now, I just need to learn to play an instrument and put some music to it. haha! Today is day 92, and the beginning of the fourth month on my journey of an alcohol free 2016, Im excited to see what is in store. And one day, I plan to be sitting here celebrating my 5th year as well. ❤ much love! have fun, and of course be safe! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this post! The tears were welling up out of happiness for you. The meet up sounds wonderful and trust me, you deserve every moment of joy you experience. You are such an inspiration to me and I am grateful for your courage, honesty, compassion and insight. I wish you all a beautiful, inspiring, exciting and kick-ass four days. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Believe, believe, believe. It is not rocket science or a complex formula. You only need three ingredients: honesty, humility and desire. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. great post and perfectly captured for me that mix between excitement and apprehension before a sober meet-up. it took a huge leap of faith for me the first time I did that – and still does to a certain extent – but every time I do it I am humbled and privileged to see the strength and inner beauty of the women I meet. oh and my cheeks hurt afterwards from smiling so much in such a short time 😉

    I think I missed commenting on your 5 year post so huge congrats from me on that too.

    have a fabulous time, and please give a huge Primrose hug to the others at the meet-up from me! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • IT is all so great that you have a gazillion friends, and many that you can get together with to celebrate your sobriety. What about the lonely individual who drinks because they have no one who actually gets them, who understands their hurts and what drives them to people please. There are far too many people interested in being pleased then in in wanting to share my hurts and reasons for continuing to drink.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know so many here would love to connect with you and help you through the hurts you mention. Behind much of our happiness are days and years of pain. It’s a journey to get from one side to the next. Share with us. What is hurting you? What compels you to drink? …. For me, shame and depression and a loss of my sense of self really hurt me. I drank to forget and to not feel. Many of us did. We’re here. We’re like you, only at different steps along a path.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Yes, I agree, we would like to help and are here. We know that feeling of loneliness and feeling like things will never improve. Please believe me that they can and will change for the better once you get the booze out of the picture. It may seem like your best friend but it does nothing but cause problems and depression. Thanks for your comment so we could reach out. Sometimes just being able to talk to others who get it can make a difference. Hugs.

          Liked by 3 people

      • Hi Anon, I can just feel the pain you are in coming through those words. It is a lonely, shitty feeling and booze can keep us stuck there. I didn’t have a gazillion friends when I was drinking, I had few and I was isolating from the ones I did have. About a year after getting sober, I started to reach out through online support groups and go to meetups so I could talk to other people in recovery who would understand. This is where the friendships I have now came from, and many of the good people who I was isolating from before grew into true friendships again and I began to change some things within myself. I wish the same healing and connection for you, and it all starts within yourself. You are not alone. You can be happy, I promise.


        • Hello. I feel compelled to apologize for my response to your post so many months ago. 3-31 Truth be told, I was under the influence and “wallowing”. I have been struggling to control my drinking for several years. I have stopped or “controlled” it for weeks at a time but as you could guess, in no time end up right back to drinking too much and endless self loathing. I am currently 10 days without the crutch of alcohol. I am not sure if this is a permanent choice. I do know that I feel better, in control of my life and kinda proud of myself. I really don’t have anyone to share my struggle with, perhaps by choice. I am, like many, a people pleaser and like to appear “together”. I realize the disservice I do to me but trying to be “perfect” I have a lot of work to do!!
          Today, I am grateful for you and your posts and your reader’s comments. Today, I will do my best to be truly good to myself.


          • Thank you SO MUCH for checking in. I’m grateful you were kind enough to come back and share. This helps us all. Ten days is magnificent!! Don’t worry about forever, just keep doing the next right thing (hint: alcohol will never fit that criteria!). Hurray for your freedom!!!


  12. Thanks, I JUST wrote a post about how i can’t envision really getting out of who I am now. And this helps. I have trouble with the whole idea of faith (like, even the non-religious kind), but I think this is the time to take the risk.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. How lovely. I hope you have a wonderful time. I love being quiet and still these days and really enjoy having the time and space to recharge. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love this. I don’t know what it is about the silence/stillness that makes us feel we need to drink but I felt that too. And it still crops up from time to time. But thankfully, I have learned that the quiet is OK. In fact, it can be a good thing. Maybe it’s us learning to be ok with our own thoughts instead of using alcohol to try and numb it all away?

    Liked by 1 person

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