As a woman in active recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and eating disorders, I have been provided with an incredible opportunity to help others through my own experiences.
Watching the women and men that I work with open up like beautiful flowers, dropping the shackles and chains of their self-made prisons, has become a passion that I can’t imagine my life without. I never doubt my purpose, which I do believe is to be a useful human, a useful member of the human race.
When I was new to sobriety, I carried a lot of doubt around with me. I walked around like someone who was set on fire, and doused with water. Everything hurt. I felt like everything was touching my torched skin, and I just wanted to crawl into darkness, and never come out. I began to really doubt so many things.
I started attending 12-step meetings right after I had become desperate enough to raise my white flag. I was meeting other sober women, women that shined with life and had something about them that I didn’t. It was probably self-assuredness and self-confidence.
I didn’t have any of that. I cowered into myself. I displayed what I felt on the inside on the outside with my slumped posture and always having my arms crossed in front of my body. I figured if I couldn’t actually crawl into a cave and die, I’d just cave into myself.
Around this time my eating disorders came back full tilt, thanks in part to the addiction whack-a-mole, and in addition to losing weight from quitting drinking, I was also losing weight to my pain and self-doubt.
My plan to become completely invisible didn’t work. In fact, it backfired tremendously. The women in the rooms would come find me before and after the meetings, to come around, and support me in my lowest moments, and encouraged me to keep coming back. I started to watch them and pay attention to them and I noticed that they were friends, friendly, and having fun and laughing. I didn’t get it. This wasn’t real.
I doubted the women around me who said I was worth something. I doubted my husband when he said that being sober was more than necessary for our life together and for our children. I doubted the individuals speaking at 12-step meetings I attended, sharing their experiences, strength and hope. I doubted their authenticity and their stories. They had to be lying from the podium. How can they stand there and say they’re happy? How can their lives be any good?
Most of all, I doubted myself. Could I do this thing? Could I really get sober? Could I let go of alcohol, the one thing that I could rely on to tear me down?
Oh, no, no, no.
No, it didn’t tear me down! It was there to give me that warm hug, the feeling of acceptance, the ability to be “my most authentic self,” and to let loose. Right? I never doubted myself while living with alcohol as my best friend, my confidant.
Maybe at first.
At first alcohol was fun. But at some point, liquor went from something I drank to have fun, and something to drown all of my pain to something I had to have to stop the shakes in the morning. The hair of the dog had become part of my daily routine. I never doubted that not only was that a good idea, it was the only idea.
I had become more and more physically and mentally enmeshed with the bottle. I doubted my self-worth. I doubted any identity of myself being grateful, happy, joyous and free. I didn’t see that as a possibility. But slowly the doubts that I had tucked neatly in my back pockets where I could easily access them started to fall out, and with that weight lifted,
I stopped slumping. I started looking people in the eyes, and I was smiling more than I wasn’t. It was amazing.
It was only with a solid group of sober friends and a solid footing in my sobriety that I stopped doubting myself. The doubt was gone with each day that I kept waking up in a posture of gratitude. I’m grateful my plan to disappear was thrown off by women who knew the life that lay before me that I couldn’t see, because they’d done and experienced the same things.
I started to really get it, and I can sit here today and say, without a doubt, life on the other side is incredible. There’s real laughter, powerful relationships, friendships unlike anything else, mended fences, stronger bonds and I am grateful every single day I wake up and have the opportunity to help others find their confidence and release their doubts, just like I did.
Photo by Arthur Rachbauer o Unsplash