Saturday, March 19, 2005


Here is something I posted over at the Brennan Manning Message Boards. Sobriety weaves itself into my thoughts, especially in March, when I celebrate 17 years of being on the wagon.

Posted: Mar. 19 2005,13:25

Dear Clare,

God bless you for your honesty and vulnerability. It is easier to do almost anything else than face ourselves.

When I sobered up I had been in Al-Anon for a year. I had been going to the meetings because my mom needed fixing and I was going to be her saviour. Thank God we can't see around corners. I would have never guessed in a million years that I would one day be saying, "Hi, my name is Cheryl and I am an alcoholic." But in my Al Anon meeting one week, one of the women talked about the alcoholic in her life and said, "You know how alcoholics are, they never sip their drinks, they guzzle them." Boom. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.

There was no going back. With her innocent statement I saw myself clearly and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I was an alcoholic. I had become one of 'them.' Memories of me finishing my drink before my husband even took a sip of his flooded my mind. The ensuing panic of how to cover up my drinking alcohol like it was water. Memories of being at a family gathering and standing at the liquor table drinking one glass of wine after another and then realizing I had no idea who was watching me do that and no idea how to turn around and act like what I was doing was normal.

I was so good at sneering at others as if to say, "What's your problem?" Once I went to a bush party and took my toddler and newborn and left them in the vehicle. Late in the night I brough my newborn out to feed him, and couldn't understand why these other women were sneering at me!

There were a few blackouts. Several times of almost choking on my vomit. Times had I not vomited I could have died of alcohol poisoning. I am grateful I hit bottom before I lost everything. I have no doubt that had I not sobered up my marriage would be a thing of the past and I would have lost my kids to social services.

After the revelation at the Al Anon meeting I knew I needed to be going to the AA meeting and doing so took every ounce of courage I had. I held the hand of a friend and shakily stood and said, "Hi, my name is Cheryl and I am an alcoholic." There were tears and I couldn't say anything more. My worst nightmare had come true. Not only was I repeating the cycle in my family by being an abusive mother I was an alcoholic as well. Two things I said I would never, ever become. And if my admittance of them put me on the same level as my mother where did that leave my anger?

It was like being sucker punched. It didn't feel like freedom. It didn't feel like relief. It didn't feel like hope. It felt like full blown disgust. Disgust towards myself for becoming the scum of the earth. No other person could have ever judged me harsher than I was judging myself.

Thank God the story doesn't end there.

Week after week I went to meetings and trusted the words of others when I couldn't trust them for myself. People held out hope for me when I felt hopeless. I reached out my hand. I read the big book. I learned it was possible to cope without a drink. Slowly my being relaxed into a place where I felt safe to take off my mask just a little. There is real beauty in being maskless. I remember telling my AA friend that I rarely looked in the mirror because I couldn't stand what I saw. Sweet victory is that I no longer avoid the mirror. Someone once told me I would look in the mirror one day and see Jesus looking back at me. I didn't believe it. I now see what He sees more often than what I can still negatively dream up about myself.

I have found most of the people in AA meetings to be the most honest, vulnerable and real people. There are times when that scares me. But it is better than church. There is hope in being honest. In being broken. In being in the company of others who readily admit their brokeness instead of scrambling to look like they are fixed.

Being sober is not easy. There are no quick fixes. It has been the most painful work of my life. To assume responsibility for me and only me? Are you kidding? I still want desperately to pin it all on someone else.

But - and this is a big but - there is incredible freedom in taking responsibility for myself. I get to choose. I get to stop giving my power away to others. I get to see what God sees in me. I get to have hope. I get to be free. I get to like me.

I have been so independent most of my life. I learned early that I could not depend on others and so have tried to handle everything on my own, on my own terms. I really regret not going into a treatment centre when I first sobered up. My pride was(is) so huge. I think had I gone I could have avoided some of the pitfalls along the journey.

Listen to your gut. Even my own family(siblings and parents) still find it hard to believe I am an alcoholic. They didn't see what it cost me because I kept up appearances. They couldn't see the self loathing that coated my soul.

Do I still want a drink? Yes and double yes. For the first 10 years or so I didn't. But the past few have been difficult as life has thrown curveball after curveball my way. There are days when the want of drink gets strong. But one tiny step at a time I maintain my sobriety. On my own I would be drunk tomorrow. With God's help I remain sober.

Reach out your hand Clare. You are not alone.

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