A New Freedom

In the last couple years before I got sober, my life was governed by three emotions. I knew others but these three were in charge. They'd belittled and exiled all the supporters of joy  of hope. Instead I was left each day to battle feeling restless, irritable and discontent. I'd start each day with a plan for victory, but by evening I'd been defeated again. Upon waking the first time (usually between 2 and 3 am), I felt restless. I was consumed with the guilt and shame of having drank again...and passed out again. I knew I had a problem. I knew I couldn't drink like "other people." But despite the personal treaty I'd sign with myself each morning, swearing abstinence, I was at it again by dinnertime. My body's attempt to process all the alcohol induced terrible night sweats and interrupted sleep. These middle of the night reflections had become ritualistic, always organized around the same agenda:

I. Review

A. What did I say?

B. What did I do?

C. Did the kids notice?

D. What was Carl's reaction?

E. Shame

II. Introspection

A. How did it happen again?

B. What was I thinking?

C. Why did I even start?

D. Guilt

III. Commitment

A. Pour out what's left.

B. Don't buy anymore.

C. Cancel any social plans.

D. Enjoy the family and go to bed early.

E. Fear

I'd return to sleep feeling better about myself for developing "a plan." Yes, I'd messed up again, but that was the last time. Today would be different! I wouldn't drink again until the weekend, or the next night out, or the next trip. No big deal. But there was still that nagging voice telling me..."There's no way. You won't hold to it...you can't. You're just a workday away from failure."

Within an hour of waking for the day, I was irritable. Life was happening again. When I was still working, I'd immediately begin mentally speeding through the day's obligations to process the evening management of school pick-up, homework, piano lessons, basketball practice, and dinner.  Once I was no longer working, but staying home, I'd begin the daily routine of getting the kids off to school only to spend the next hours questioning my new identity. Another day filled with half attempts to prove myself as an educated professional and/or half attempts to nurture and support my family.

Each new day marked the beginning of the same monotonous, mundane cycle:

Commit, try, fail, drink.

I'd wake with the best intentions, but then transition into questioning my performance in, and dedication to, my job. I'd doubt every single thing about my role as a mother and wife and get overwhelmed about managing it all. I felt irritated and ashamed that I was having all of these feelings so I'd start drinking to quiet the doubting, the guilt, the fear, the self-loathing.

Dry or drunk, I was always discontent. I was always in search of something to distract me, to give relief, to "fill"me. I was always in a rush to get to the next thing, or to achieve the next level. Despite the fact that I had a very high profile, demanding job in which I'd earned lot of respect and positive recognition, I was empty. And even though I considered my marriage to be healthy and our family to be happy and functional, I was lonely.

I advanced in my career and was told often how well I did my job.

Carl and I were in continual communication, had date nights and enjoyed each other.

Our kids were emotionally and physically healthy, we were financially secure and could access anything we wanted.

But I was spiritually bankrupt. I felt empty all the time. Hollow. When you have what world defines as happy and living in prosperity but you aren't enjoying it, the shame and guilt is paralyzing.

What's wrong with me?

Why am I still not satisfied?

What do I need next?

Surely I'm just right around the corner from "arriving."

If only there'd be...if only I had... if I only I could...I'd be complete. I'd be full.

Cheers! Pour me another.

Now that I'm sober, I have moments quite often where I can still taste the wine or the vodka mixed with regret, contempt, disgrace. It's still so real. It doesn't taste good though. It's bitter. Instead of feeling warm and dull, numbing on it's way down, it's like a shot of adrenaline. It sparks an alertness and clarity I've only known for a year. At first I'm hit with a pang of sadness for all those years of self-deprivation. But I'm quickly revived with a relief like no other. It's a feeling of overwhelming gratitude for having survived it with an honorable discharge.

God spared me from injury, legal consequence and family destruction. I now know grace and mercy unlike any other. I'm a breathing example of the redemption found only in complete surrender.

Today, I'm amazed at the peace that saturates my whole life. I've never known fulfillment like this. For years, I searched for the next promotion, another destination, new clothes, furniture or even a house. I thought I needed more friends, appointments, a busier schedule or more important responsibilities. More recognition, more stuff, more plans made or more boxes checked.

Recovery teaches surrender and humility, a life lived in service and selflessness. I now know the encouragement and comfort that comes with conscious contact with God. I understand better the empowerment felt through following His will. I know quiet and rest.   I no longer just hear, I can actually listening. My responses aren't just reflexive. They're reflective.

I worried, all those years I knew I had a problem, what I would do with my time, or for fun, if I stopped drinking? Wouldn't life be a bore?

My life as God intended is more than I can comprehend. My days are filled with meaning, satisfaction and thanksgiving. I've found my mind gets bored and begins to search for something to worry about, to analyze...nothing. I go to bed and instinctively begin examining my day to identify faults and personal transgressions...nothing. I wonder what I need next, where we should go or what we should do...nothing.

There is so much joy in the nothing...else! I have everything I need, and get what I don't have from God. His promises sustain me and the hope I know through His deliverance fills me more than any thing of this world. Nothing ELSE will complete me. Nothing ELSE will carry me to the finish line. I've experienced survival and the saving grace that comes only from God.

My life is full of accomplishments, real relationships and meaningful experiences. I have the strength to serve my family and the desire to serve others. There isn't time for anything else! Not to mention, I have more energy than ever. I'm less anxious and intuitively know how the handle situations that used to baffle me.*

The guilt and shame will always be there lurking in the dark corners of my memory. They tempt and they taunt. But my knowledge of enemy territory and the strategies they employ has sharpened my senses. My armor is stronger, my weapons more lethal. I've won one battle and I'm capable of more. The contentment and fulfillment I've found through a relationship with MY God guards, protects and empowers me to live the life I was meant to, in peace.

I heard a newcomer (those of us new in recovery) worry in a meeting once that she feared something was wrong. She'd begun to find herself trying to think of something to think about but couldn't. She was worried because her "mind was bored."

An old-timer (those much wiser with years and years of sobriety) smiled and said, "there's nothing wrong with you, sweet friend. Your mind isn't bored. That's serenity."



*The "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous, Chapter 6, page 94.