Sunday, July 21, 2013

Twenty Six Years of Recovery - But It's Complicated

So here is the scoop. Today marks 26 years without a drink for me. I'm really very proud of myself for this accomplishment. I tried to stop drinking when I was 17, and it took me another ten years (and a treatment program) to get the hang of it. I went to treatment for my daughters, not for me. I didn't believe I deserved anything good in my life at the time but I didn't think they deserved a dead mother.

The thing about addiction is - sometimes we switch addictions, and sometimes we relapse after long periods of recovery. That is just the truth.

For the first two years of not drinking I smoked a lot of pot - so I was not "clean and sober." In 1989 I gave it all up, and had nearly 11 years of complete abstinence when in 2000, I relapsed on pills for several days. No big blow out - nobody even knew I was relapsing and it wasn't a gong show. My mother had just died and I couldn't hack it. I'm one of the lucky ones - I didn't go to self-loathing and full-blown relapse.
The thing about addiction is we never know when we pick up if we will be able to put down, or if we will die. That is just the truth.

I celebrated 13 years of completely abstinent recovery in May. The past 26 years has been a trip. I've worked hard (too hard as some of you know) to reach some goals. I went back to school after having quit high school and earned three degrees in recovery, the last one a PhD. I don't say this to impress you - but it impresses the hell out of me. And here's the thing. I'm not unique. I know dozens and dozens of women (and men, of course) in recovery who have as many years of recovery as me, as many degrees, as much success in their career, who have raised children as wonderful as mine. And they all started out as broken as I was.
And here's the other thing. All the degrees, the success, the beautiful homes (ours is tiny and crooked but we love it) and children and travel and boats and cars are just what recovery sometimes looks like, for some people in recovery, on the outside.

Those things are not what recovery is about, despite being happy outcomes of recovery. Here's what recovery is about for me. I know how fortunate I am to have found recovery. I should have been dead, a dozen times. I like myself, almost all of the time. I have healthy happy people in my life and some who aren't - and I try to love them and help them but not change them. And I get to do what I love for work and I play hard for several months a year. And I'm not perfect. I nag my husband and my adult children and I don't get enough exercise. I am reactive more often than I care to be, and I am working on that. I'm a terrible housekeeper (but my husband is not) and there are moments when I lose all the self-confidence that I have worked so hard to find. I am overly-sensitive to most things having to do with my family of origin. But I love all members of that family madly. After 13 years, I still take to my bed every once in a while, overcome with absolute grief for my dead mother. And she wasn't perfect either.

I haven't had to pick up a drink for 26 years. And I'm flipping proud of myself. And believe me, if I can do this thing called recovery, you can too.



  1. Hey Dawn,
    I love reading here!
    wtg - that's a whole bunch of years having not had had drink. I loved your, albeit short, list of character flaws, largely because they are mine precisely. A work in progress - we'll always be! Some of our weaknesses , however, are SO gripping though, don't you think. As if they take on a life of their own within our entire being. I'm grateful for my long drive home at the end of a work day; I use this time to exercise inventory taking and identify where I'm still coming short.

    Thing is, no matter how clingy some of these flaws are, sobriety places everything into perspective; life has so much clarity!

    We kind of look alike, btw :)

  2. Great post! You have been missed. And, being a daughter of an alcoholic, I know the struggles of recovery. Congratulations!