Actions Speak Louder Than Booze...

Another successful #soberholiday weekend. Of all the things I heard in rehab almost 4 years ago, there was 1 unplanned, impromptu conversation that struck me to the core. It literally changed everything. It was one of those where you remember where you were sitting, what you were wearing...

It was Tuesday, July 28, 2015. The two sons of the couple who were caring for me were in their 20’s. Both are popular, successful, attractive men. Why do I share that? Most, if not all, of us assume not drinking means we’re sentenced to a life of lonely, friendless, boredom. We assume we won’t get invited anywhere, we’ll be labeled a loser or goody-goody. We picture nerdy loners, out of touch with modern times.

Ty and Brooks Best couldn’t be further from those misconceptions. One’s, a model, the other a hunky firemen/EMT/first responder. Let’s just say neither suffer from a lack of dates or fun groups of people with whom to hang.

On this particular night, while visiting their parents, (and all of us women in their recovery program) they overheard me expressing fear in returning home. It would have been my 12th day sober. I was whining about not being able to have any fun anymore. I questioned how I could ever go tailgating or boating, again. How would I ever go on vacation, attend cocktail parties, or cookouts? Ty and Brooks began to share about their childhood, what it was like growing up with two sober parents in recovery.

According to them, there parents were always very active and social. Their father, Billy, took them hunting and fishing and boating. Mom, Mary Beth, organized and hosted cookouts and parties every holiday with neighbors, family and friends. But never, during any of those outings or events, did their parents drink. Most times, in fact, there wasn’t even alcohol present.

“Our childhood was fun! We went all kinds of places and always had people around. But no one was ever drinking. To us, now, we never feel like we need alcohol to have a good time. Our parents showed us life was fun without it.”

Insert mind-blown emoji. At this time, my children were 11, 9 and 8. While they hadn’t seen my worst, my need for alcohol all the time, to do all the things, was increasing. I couldn’t go anywhere, do anything, or have anyone over without drinking. And while they hadn’t yet made the connections, it was coming. There was one particular night the spring before I got sober, when we had a several neighbors over. It wasn’t a planned event, just a kind of get together after a school function one Friday night. Naturally, everyone was drinking, most of us were drunk. The next day, one of my kids said that they didn’t like it.

“There were too many people I don’t know in our house.”

I was lucky my child verbalized it. How many times had they felt uncomfortable somewhere, even in their own home, but didn’t have the language to express it? I don’t care how old our kids are, THEY NOTICE.

I’ve been to hundreds of 12 step meetings in recovery and nothing breaks my heart more than hearing a woman with MULTIPLE YEARS OF SOBRIETY cry over the fact that she still has no relationship with her grown children because of the things she did (or didn’t do) while she was still drinking-none of which she recognized at the time…

While I give God all the Glory for shaping my path and softening my heart to be willing to consider sobriety, I also thank Him for Billy and Mary Beth Bestand how they equipped their sons to humanize what I still wanted in my life. They gave me HOPE…

Today, our family is recovering from another #soberweekend on our boat. This will be our 4th summer boating, traveling, grilling out and celebrating life without drinking. I can’t control what my children choose to do about drinking when they get older. All I can do is educate them on addiction (they have known since I returned from rehab that their mother is an alcoholic), pray that none of them inherit the disease and show them the actions we take in response to what life gives us, the choices we make in how we respond, react, grieve, treat and celebrate has a much more positive impact on us than any amount of alcohol ever can. Life is hard. But it’s also so, so good. And today, I’m grateful I get to feel and see clearly every minute of it...with them...the way they do.

Alyssa Adkins
Going Down

I used to try and QUALIFY for alcoholism (more like, DISqualify). Long after I knew deep down I had a problem, I told myself (and others) I wasn’t an alcoholic because I

1.) never had a DUI

2.) never missed work

3.) didn’t drink alone

4.) never lied about it

5.) never humiliated myself

6.) still had my family

7.) hadn’t been to jail

8.) didn’t go to happy hour or close down bars

9.) got up early every day, worked out, and took care of home and family

10.) hadn’t been confronted by anyone else about my excessive drinking

But…I was obsessed. Despite my best efforts, promises to God, country and others, I couldn’t go more than 24-48 hours without taking that first sip. And then….that first sip turned into many gulps, even though I was 100% convinced THAT time would be different. (Insert Eyeroll Emoji)

I was equally consumed by NOT drinking as I was with drinking. If I was trying to control it (you know-only on weekends, or holidays, or insert whatever justification), it maddened me as much as drinking with abandon.

My day was dictated by thoughts of drinking. How soon could I justify that first one? Fridays and weekends were easy. Monday…those were a little trickier. I was always restless, irritable and discontent. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything socially outside of my job, without drinking before and during. Liquid Courage? No. Liquid Tolerance. If I wasn’t drinking within any sized group, no matter if it was friends, family or strangers, I was crawling out of my skin.

Maybe physically and at first glance my alcoholism wasn’t obvious (you know, the way society determines eligibility), but my mind was tormented. Insanity. The harder I tried to stop, the more I drank. The more I drank, the more guilt and shame I felt. The more guilt and shame I felt, the more I drank to numb the discomfort. I continued to do the same things over and over and over, expecting the outcome to be different. The lies I was telling myself were poisoning me from the inside. My secret was toxic. I was dying inside, I just didn’t LOOK like an alcoholic…YET.

I hadn’t been pulled over or arrested…YET. It wasn’t impacting my job…YET. I hadn’t embarrassed myself or my family…YET. I hadn’t lost my husband or my children…YET.

Thank GOD for plucking my application to ALCOHOLISM before it was reviewed by the admissions board.

The best analogy ever shared with me takes place in an elevator. All of us addicts are sick, riding together on the same elevator. We each step (or are pulled) off the elevator on a different floor. Lucky for me, I wasn’t on that elevator very long. I was miserable the entire ride and got off before it fell any further. Others choose to stay on a little longer. In recovery, I’m told I have a “high bottom.” So what?! That doesn’t make me any better than someone with a lower bottom. We’re ALL SICK. Cancer patients don’t compete with each other based on what stage their disease has progressed. Whether they have Stage 2 or Stage 4 Cancer-they’re all sick and they all need treatment.

Instead of trying to justify my acceptance into Alcoholism because of which floor I walked on, I’d rather show other women with similar “symptoms,”, an easier, shorter way. Alcoholics aren’t measured by the route they take to get to the hospital. Some of us are pre-registered, others are dropped off. Some of us already know the way, others get lost. Some of us are determined to find it on our own, others ask for directions. We’re admitted at all ages, from all backgrounds and places. Our disease does not discriminate based on how we complete the registration. But early admission prevents the pain, suffering, and hopelessness felt when the bottom floor, that last stop, closes in. The sooner we get off and the earlier we get in, the more options we have, and the more time we are given.

Alyssa Adkins

I was mad all day about nothing. I woke up to a messy kitchen after going to bed before my kids the night before. My workout got interrupted to pick up one of them. We had to drive 40 minutes to a basketball game...for our 6th grade 5:00 on a Saturday night. I was on Day 30 of the 80 Day obsession and all I wanted was pizza...and cheeseburgers...and cheesecake.

Did I want to drink over it? NO.

Did it threaten my serenity? YES!


Did I make a gratitude list? NOPE.

Did I reach out to someone? NOPE.

Did I pray about it? NOPE.

I just wanted to marinate in my self pity. But God said, “not today.” I remembered one of my first lessons in recovery:

“Self-pity is just another form of selfishness.”

I knew the only way to get out of my own head was to put someone else in there.

Did I want to? NO.

Did I seek it out? NO.

But again...God...

Three, yes 3! strangers reached out to me in one day via Insta. Did I want to interact?! NOPE. But, by the grace of God, I responded to all three. And you know what happened? My mood changed, my spirits lifted, I was reminded of my blessings, I made a new friend, and I shared a laugh with another.  

First, a strong woman reached out to ask for help. She reminded me of myself so many desperate mornings when I’d wake wondering, “how did I fail...again?” She reminded me of myself as I’d pledge that “today would be different.” She reminded me of the few times when I felt helpless enough to actually reach out. My heart broke for her because I remember it all. Loneliness. Hopelessness. I call her strong not because of her extended length of sobriety. No, she’s strong because she’s still actively drinking and knows she can’t stop. She not only recognizes she has a problem, she admits she needs help to overcome it.

Then, on this terrible, no good, very bad day, God used Instagram (He can do anything) to connect me to a sober sister, (formerly known as “a complete stranger,” now known as @sobersis) who is working with women pursuing a sober mindset. She opened my eyes to this growing population who haven’t yet lost anything, but are battling internally with the what ifs of their own drinking habits. Not only did she open my eyes to a new perspective, but she also opened my ears. She asked to talk on the phone! I hate to talk on the phone!! But it was so, so good for my soul to hear a friendly voice, a sister’s words, a different view, a new laugh.

And then later that night, I found myself messaging with yet another stranger (new friend, aka @allforhim17) about the growing publicity movement promoting alcohol as the miracle elixir to all of life’s problems. Whether it’s “Wine o’Clock Somewhere,” (on a cropped spring break tee), “I’m the Reason Mommy Drinks,” (cute for a newborn onesie, right?!) or “There Might be Vodka in This Coffee Mug,” (insert photo of manicured hand holding thermos at kids’ lacrosse tourney), our kids (and at-risk adults), are being told it’s glamourous, therapeutic, even “cute,” to numb feelings in an effort to escape life’s hard times. But that’s another post…

For a few hours of my “miserable” day, I was talking to people about my own past, being reminded of my own mistakes, how bad things were. But more importantly, I had to relive how far I’d come. I was faced once again with the realization that I’d been rescued. What had caused me to get help with my drinking? What made me finally acknowledge I had an issue? And why in the world had I not only pursued, but actually followed through with a plan for recovery?!

Why me?

Why share all of this? Sobriety isn’t always easy, or pretty, or comfortable. Life is still real, and hard, and unfair sometimes. I still feel feelings I don’t like. I still feel sorry for myself over stupid things, I still compare my journey to others (along with my outfits, my party planning, my vacations, my Insta feed, etc). I still question my parenting, my wife-ing, my friend-ing. But now, I don’t have to drink to cope with the negative.

I have a newer, fancier tool kit (the DELUXE model) to help me repair tough situations. I have a smarter crew of experienced people to advise me when I encounter things I don’t like and to help me navigate days that feel impossible. I have a clear mind that sees when my serenity is at risk. I’m more aware of my own character defects and the situations that threaten my inner peace. But most importantly, I have a God who reminds me I was never meant to go through this alone. Not only is He with me all the time, but so are many others with this disease, who were also created to live, and love, and grow, and heal together.

Being stuck in my own head...alone with my thoughts...kept me drinking for many years. While I don’t feel tempted to drink now, I recognize that “going there,” is dangerous for my emotional health. My sobriety is more than just living alcohol free. It’s living my whole life free. How I interact with and treat others, the way I live daily, what I feel and believe about myself - they’re are all impacted by my daily choice not to drink. I want to be, need to be, the healthiest version of who God created me to be- free from shame, guilt and self-doubt. So on the days I’m not feelin’ it, when I don’t want to get out the tool box or request a personal consult, I’m thankful for a God who intervenes with exactly what I need, at the exactly the perfect time, always.

Alyssa Adkins
UN-Happy Hours


I'm not a fitness coach or nutrition specialist. I'm not documenting my 21 or 80 Day progress, although it IS progress and I’m very proud. No, I've finally, after 3 years, realized I can apply what I know about my alcoholism to another area I fear is becoming an addiction-food. Since I got sober, I've justified unhealthy habits by telling myself, "it could be worse, I'm not drinking." While true, and I will never think twice about indulging in a fattening appetizer or sweet treat if it keeps me from drinking in a desperate situation, I cannot start another pattern of excusing bad choices out of self-pity.

Over the last few months I've felt more helpless at my lack of control over binging or eating certain things when feeling sad, bored, or wanting to celebrate. Happy Hour has transitioned from cocktails and appetizers to energy drinks, kettle chips and cookies. That unforgiving period of time between naptime and dinner time drove me to drink many years ago. Eventually, I convinced myself I HAD to drink between 4 and 6 (and then on until 10) to relax from my full time job while I prepared dinner and did laundry, helped with homework and listened to recess stories. Now, I don’t drink, but those hours still aren’t “happy!” Even though I’m no longer working, it’s a whirlwind of homework, driving kids back and forth to clubs and practices, mediating sisterly “love,” driving kids back and forth, monitoring teenage social media accounts, driving kids, advising on the latest middle school drama, driving, cooking dinner and washing uniforms, and...driving some more.

My inability to "control" something I didn’t like started feeling all too familiar...and it sickened me. Too many mornings I'd wake up asking myself, why did I do THAT (that = eating something terrible just because, OR overeating long after I was full, OR choosing something terribly unhealthy when the better choice sounded just as good). Then, I'd follow it with, "well, TODAY will be different!" (Until I failed again as my fist flew, on autopilot, between the Doritos bag and my mouth). I was becoming restless, irritable and discontent inside another vicious cycle. And then, as I started feeling those familiar feelings of shame and guilt and helplessness, God reminded me of the familiar (and comforting) lessons I learned early in recovery...

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.”

Today marks DAY 18 of not taking the FIRST bite of something I don't need. I have a plan. I haven’t bought foods that tempt me, I avoid taking “just a taste,” I don’t lick the spoon or finish my kids’ plates, I look at restaurant menus before I get there so I don’t order on impulse, and I remind myself, I. CAN. DO. THIS. I’ve done harder things. I got sober!

I've gotten through two snowed in weekends without comfort food, three Friday nights home alone with Carl, a house full of tweenagers, and no pizza. I'm feeling better, sleeping better, and have more energy. Sound familiar...?

In the big picture, I’d let my eating fears go if it threatened my serenity and sobriety. Not drinking will always trump calorie counts. But, I don’t like feeling like I’m losing control, that something else is keeping me from living my best life. I don’t like feeling like a failure.

Every day, I’m doing the work, practicing what has helped me not drink, to help me with my unhealthy relationship with food. I’m just ocusing just on today and avoiding the “firsts.” I ask God to give me strength when I feel weak, to show me where I’m feeling sorry for myself or resentful, to reveal other ways I’m “avoiding,” and to keep me sober in both my physical choices, and my spiritual life.

My sobriety is about more than not drinking. It’s about self-reflection and evaluation, taking responsibility, and spirituality which ultimately improves my serenity. It’s empowering. My sobriety has the power to influence my whole life, and for that I am so grateful...most of the time...except maybe when the kids are eating Oreos.

Alyssa Adkins

Self doubt and impatience overshadowed the last half of my 2018. As people starting talking about goal setting and New Year’s resolutions, I already felt discouraged. I’d gotten hung up on my failures as I began focusing too much on everyone else...

“I never finish anything.”
“I always give up.”
“I can’t do it.”
“It will never work.”
“Why am I so lazy?”
“Why can’t I be more productive?”
“Why am I not more social?”
“Why don’t I feel that way?”
“Why can’t I be like her...?”

For months, while I may have hid it on the outside, on the inside I was poisoning myself. Toxic lies like these were suffocating my confidence.

I began to wonder if I wasn’t “cut out” for my skincare business. It wasn’t growing as fast as I HAD PLANNED.

I doubted by humility. Was I not supposed to share my sobriety story with people? Am I showing off? Why isn’t anyone interested in hearing it? I want to HELP!

I questioned my ability to grow/do anything like everyone else is. I’m private, quiet, like my alone time. How can I consistently market and share through social media if I’m uncomfortable? What’s wrong with me that I’m the ONLY one who doesn’t ENJOY being on INSTAGRAM?!

And while I began looking ahead to 2019 and turning 40, I prayed for relief, change of mind, encouragement or direction, as I remembered the major decision I’d made in 2009, just before I turned 30. That January, I decided to exercise for the first time in my life (much to my children’s disgust, I’ve never played a sport in my life).

On our ski trip the last week of this past December, I read Hillbilly Elegy (um..NOT a self-help book, it just happens to mimick my own husband’s childhood). The author, having been raised in the white working class where he was surrounded by the message that his bleak future was already predetermined, talks about what enlisting in the Marines taught him about himself. He describes several accomplishments he never thought were possible, and the strength and confidence it gave him. But most importantly, he talks about his shift in MINDSET.

“I’m not saying ability doesn’t matter. It certainly helps. But there’s something powerful about realizing that you’ve undersold yourself—that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability.”

Who knows why THAT flipped the switch, but since then, I’ve stopped focusing on what I HAVEN’T done, and instead on what I HAVE...which reminds me what I CAN:

I’ve worked out regularly for 10 years now.

In 2015 I walked away from a job I loved, that I’d worked 10 years to get,  to take better care of myself and my family.

I’ve not had a drink in 3 years, 5 months and 35 days. If you’re not an alcoholic, this will seem meaningless. Instead, think of the thing you love to do the most, and trying to give it up forever.

In 2016, I started (and am still growing) a business that terrified me for so many reasons.

This past year, I  developed (and am growing) a little platform to share my very vulnerable testimony with the world.

On December 30, the morning after reading that passage by JD Vance, I skied for the first time, since tearing my ACL, after vowing I never would again. It was terrifying. My body wouldn’t cooperate. I felt paralyzed, but I got down the mountain.

Today, I’ve completed 4 days of the strictest, most complicated fitness and nutrition program I’ve ever tried.

My 2019 is going to be defined by, “I CAN DO HARD THINGS.”

Cliche? Maybe. But I say I believe Matthew 19:26, “with God all things are possible...” If I do, then it doesn’t matter what I THINK I can or can’t do. He tells me, “He’s got this...” All I have to do is trust in Him and believe in myself.

Yesterday morning, while still collecting my thoughts for this blog post, I read the Jesus Calling devotional for January 9:

I AM WITH YOU AND FOR YOU. When you decide on a course of action that is in line with My will, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop you. You may encounter many obstacles as you move toward your goal, but don’t be discouraged—never give up! With My help, you can overcome any obstacle. Do not expect an easy path as you journey hand in hand with Me, but do remember that I, your very-present Helper, am omnipotent.

Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close to Me and do things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment. Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence.

Hm. And there you have day at a time.

Alyssa Adkins
The More The Scarier

More people…

More thinking…

More anxiety…

More drinking.

More pressure…

More thinking…

More discomfort…

More drinking.

One of the beliefs that held me captive in my addiction, long after I knew I had a problem, was the assumption that I could never “do life” without alcohol. Vacations, football games, festivals, girls’ nights, date nights, holidays…HOW?!

HOW in the world could I ever attend a black-tie event with Carl’s clients, a holiday party or tailgating without a drink in my hand? For years, I justified drinking excessively, restrained by the lie that it would be impossible to survive socially without it.

I didn’t, until I gained clarity in sobriety, recognize that one (just one) of the reasons I drank was to cope with my social anxiety. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, felt like an outsider, and dreaded situations that would require excessive interaction for long periods of time. Liquid courage? No. Liquid tolerance. I wasn’t insecure, just uncomfortable unless I was drinking. Then I felt funnier, smarter, more engaging.

For years, and years, and years, I was in complete denial that I wasn’t social. I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I didn’t want to be “anti-social,” or a snob, so I forced myself to be more, going places and doing things that were terribly uncomfortable and never worth the discomfort.

But the mental obsession of needing to drink to get ready to go anywhere, wondering how soon I could get a drink once I arrived, and trying to manage my drinking so as not to get sloppy, embarrassing myself or my family, was driving me crazy.

“The anxiety that came from obsessing over drinking was becoming as bad as the anxiety I felt when I didn’t.”

I was stressing over my behavior more, questioning my condition more, fearing the potential consequences more, worrying about who was noticing more, and agonizing over decisions more. I was more irritable, more restless, and more discontent.

It wasn’t until the second day in my recovery program, when my behavior, my condition, and my situation were simplified into LESS, that I began to heal. Simply put, I was sick. I wasn’t a failure, or lazy, or a snob. I had a disease. I could not, would not, ever cure it on my own anymore than someone with cancer can will away their disease. I needed help and that too came in the easiest of explanations. All I had to do was GIVE UP.


That’s it?



Not I. Not Me.

When I was in charge of my life, I over complicated things. My own thinking was destructive, hopeless. I put so much pressure on myself to do more, to be more, that I drank more. I didn’t like who I was because I thought I was supposed to be someone else. I never felt like enough. And I was doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result. Insanity. Something had to change. I had to get out of my own way and ask God for help. I had to give up managing my life, especially my drinking. I didn’t need to control it, or try harder to change me, or worry about all the “what ifs, when…”

I just needed to focus on not taking the first drink, right now, today. And in the moments when it felt impossible or I was overwhelmed with temptation, I had to ask God to take away that craving. If I use whatever means necessary to avoid the FIRST DRINK, TODAY, I won’t drink the second, or seventh. I can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

In the beginning, I was careful in choosing which social situations to attend. I knew these environments were triggers.  I didn’t attend things that were centered around drinking. We traveled a couple of times that first month, short weekend trips with family, but I attended meetings and stayed in constant contact with my sponsor.

Slowly, over time, I was able to venture out, to visit a few more places. And by then, I had started to get stronger, more confident. I’d gone many “one” days without a drink, so my obsession, my temptation was weakening. I was still careful, reading from my big book, praying, and talking to my sponsor. I always had a predetermined “exit” plan should I need to leave due to unhealthy cravings. And more than anything, I gave myself grace. I didn’t feel so much pressure to go everywhere, all the time, with all the people, doing all the things. If I was feeling good, I’d go. If I felt weak, I’d avoid it and work on my recovery.

Today, after years of making choices about what I can handle and where I can go, I don’t feel left out, bitter or resentful. I don’t feel sorry for myself.

“The peace that has come in sobriety is immeasurably more than any of the temporary relief I got from drinking.”

Sure, I’ve had meltdowns, crying, scared and confused (see The First Thanksgiving), but the need to drink to cope has faded.

People ask how I do it, if I tell servers that I “can’t” drink, if I pretend that I’m pregnant, or if I just accept being miserable. The answer is no. I don’t go if I think I’ll be uncomfortable, and I tell everyone close to me which allows for a safer, more inclusive experience. I practice what I’ve been taught, staying connected to others in sobriety, serving those who are still sick, and asking God to keep me humble. I can honestly say that at this moment, I have been relieved of my desire to drink and empowered by God’s grace to live as I am. I know I have a progressive disease, always lying in wait, and if I get too confident, compliant or think I’m “cured,” I’ll relapse into a much worse state. I’m still very careful, staying vigilant about my comfort zone.

I no longer overthink things, I don’t worry about being more or doing more. Giving it all over to God has transferred the burden so there’s no more pressure. I’m just me, thanking Him for saving me so far and asking for the strength to not take the first drink, today. Surprisingly, my life is more fun because my mood is no longer situational, dependent on when and where I can drink. Instead, I lean into the simplicity of my recovery, following the lead of others and depending on God for strength. I’m healthier and happier. I can go places, do things and have a great time, free from mental obsession and full with self confidence.

Alyssa Adkins
The First Thanksgiving

Large crowds, parties, and family gatherings that involve extended socializing are hard for me. I was 36 before I accepted I was an introvert. I’d always felt that was a negative characteristic. I didn’t want to be an introvert. But the truth was, denial was more painful than dealing with it. I couldn’t understand why I dreaded social events, why small talk was so awkward and how I couldn’t get comfortable interacting with Carl’s co-workers, other parents at kids sporting events, and even my in-laws.

I have one sister and while we grew up celebrating Easter and Christmas with my aunts, uncles and cousins, we all lived in the same city so the few times we got together each year were only for a few hours at a time. It was bearable, and for the most part, it was just the four of us. We didn’t ever entertain in our home, we never had houseguests and never traveled to stay overnight with other families or friends.

When Carl and I started dating, I was introduced to how the rest of the world does holidays! He comes from a large family with four sisters and a brother and they’re very close, celebrating every holiday and birthday. They love to be together, and do so frequently for extended periods of time. It was so overwhelming for me in the beginning.

But the real eye-opener, the real introduction to family gatherings came at Thanksgiving. For over 40 years, they’d been annually converging on Salt Fork State Park from the Tuesday - Saturday of Thanksgiving week. They reserve a cul-de-sac of cabins for four days of eating, game playing, hiking, and lots and lots of talking.

After we got married, alternated holidays between staying home and traveling with small kids for a few years, I agreed to commit to his family’s Thanksgiving tradition every year if we could always stay home for Christmas. And while my appreciation for the purpose of the holiday, and the way the family sincerely exemplifies gratitude, I just couldn’t ever fully acclimate to the experience. It always felt like so much work, packing everything needed for my level of comfort in a state park accommodation, food and cooking equipment/utensils needed for a traditional Thanksgiving meal and all of the other meals that week, winter gear for the whole family, swimsuits and towels for swimming at the lodge and indoor activities for the kids. Include the added pressure of engaging and interacting with 40+ people throughout 4 days, and the resentments grew year after year.

It didn’t take long for me to respond to those resentments. To numb the stress that came with the week long anticipation of the event, and to treat my social anxiety throughout the four days, I drank… a lot. By Thanksgiving 2014, I’d needed Carl to unpack the wine, opener and glasses as soon as we unlocked the cabin door. I’d just driven over three hours without alcohol and now needed a rush of warm relief to unpack and begin interacting. I remember my body physically humming in anticipation of what was to come. That feeling you get when you’ve had too much coffee, or not enough food. KEYED UP. I was drinking all the time by now, but this particular annual event was like the mecca of my alcoholic pilgrimage. Four days of interacting, engaging and socializing in closed quarters outside of my familiar environments was a prescription for a medicated haze. Eat-drink. Spend time alone to recuperate-drink. Socialize-drink. Spend time alone to recover-drink.

That following July, I got sober. My first Thanksgiving enduring this tradition was November of 2015. I’d come prepared. I’d gone to four meetings the week leading up to the trip. I’d touched base with my sponsor and was reading my book regularly. And while I was smart enough to know I wasn’t immune from the temptation to drink, I knew I’d done everything I could to prepare, outside of not going at all. We arrived on Wednesday night and I wasn’t humming while we unpacked. I wasn’t keyed up. While I wasn’t all of a sudden an extrovert ready to party, I was okay, comfortable.

Thanksgiving morning, I woke up feeling good. I felt strong. I was doing the deal, following the recommendations of my friends with more sobriety. I was being a good student, a good listener. I knew my limits and I’d set boundaries. I felt ready.

And then, I was thrown a curve-ball. Much like a child who needs routine, schedule and set expectations, my sobriety was delicate, fragile and prone to tantrums. And just like a child who can change their demeanor, their attitude in an instant, I FREAKED OUT when my mother in law decided the weather was nice enough to move the traditional meal for 40+ picnic tables. Fun, huh? It’s a beautiful park, set on a lake, surrounded by trees of autumn leaves. Picturesque. Who wouldn’t want to eat a Thanksgiving meal among loved ones in such a venue?

An alcoholic early in recovery who is experiencing life for the first time in all its rawness, that’s who. An alcoholic coming to terms with all of her character defects while seeing...and feeling...and learning things about herself for the first time. An alcoholic who’s been accustomed to control and who’s numbed any lack of, with wine...or vodka and tonic...or even cheap beer.

I hadn’t had a drink in over 4 months, I’d started the day feeling untouchable, but within minutes of saying grace, I was in the fetal position in our dark cabin. I was a mechanical toy left unsupervised on the table that buzzes right off the edge, crashing below.

I didn’t break. I didn’t drink. But I was miserable. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I was angry at having to eat such an important meal outside. I was angry that the kids’ Thanksgiving skit went so long the food got cold. I was angry that everyone else could drink with dinner, that they could drink to not care about where we ate or how it tasted. I was full of anger, resentment and self-pity. That Thanksgiving, I cried myself to sleep after I called my sponsor. Carl brought me food on a paper plate that I ate in bed, in my pajamas. But that experience opened my eyes to one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my sobriety. My sponsor, listening to me sob as I tried to understand how I fell apart in spite of everything I’d done to prepare, simplified my entire recovery in just a few words.

“It’s not surprising that you got caught off guard.

“You’re feeling feelings for the first time, that you’ve never felt before. They were always there, but you avoided them.”

You’ve been medicating that discomfort for years. Today, you couldn’t. You had to feel it, but you got through it. And each time you do, it gets a little easier.”

Pain is a necessary human function communicating there’s a problem. It literally is defined as a suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury. If we are in a constant state of ignoring that pain, that important “alert,” by numbing, we’re essentially ignoring a problem that will continue to grow worse because of lack of treatment, or attention.

My in-laws never were, and still aren’t the problem. Neither is the holiday, my husband’s desire to go, or anything else associated with the experience. The problem was my own denial of being an introvert. I’d put so much pressure on myself to be like everyone else, to enjoy things I couldn’t, and to feel how everyone else looked, that I felt I was under a microscope anytime I was in a socially uncomfortable situation. Rather than simply accepting this reality about me and learning to cope with it, I numbed my insecurities and discomfort with alcohol. I never dealt with the root of my issue.

This past week, I celebrated my fourth Thanksgiving* sober, and while it still isn’t the easiest event all year, it was nothing like that first year. There were no meltdowns. My mouth didn’t water, I didn’t feel sorry for myself when everyone else was drinking. And I never felt like I needed it to endure any discomfort. Sure, more time has passed since I’ve had alcohol in my system, but I’ve also learned how to give myself grace, that God created me as a quiet, private introvert for a reason. I’ve learned how to interact in small doses, and how to focus on just one or two people rather than trying to work the crowd. I know when to say no, and never to feel pressured.I know how to be alone with myself, when to get out of my own head, and that feeling feelings, no matter how uncomfortable, is a good thing. It’s healthy, and a whole lot easier.

*Feature photo is of most of the family, some didn’t make it this year.

Alyssa Adkins
Favored to Win

So many mornings, Sunday through Saturday, I’d wake up overwhelmed by defeat. I’d lost once again. Before my brain even registered what day it was, I was reminded of the failure from the night before. I’d wake to the realization that despite my best efforts, once again, I’d succumbed to the reigning champion. Alcohol was the victor.

I’d attempted to take on different players from the team, but never had enough willpower or strength to have any chance at beating them. Draft beer, wine, vodka-tonic. They were all stronger, better trained, more experienced.  I thought I could win. I’d start with a head full of strategies and a heart full of determination, but it was never a fair match. Slowly, as the day wore on and daily life unfolded, my early morning resolve would waiver. Before I knew it, I’d been overcome by what I used to think were “trick plays…”

“If only I’d seen it coming…”

“If only I’d planned for that…”

I’d even make excuses, “it’s not playing fair…”

How I did it, I don’t know. But morning after morning, I’d drag my dehydrated, emotionally battered body to the home gym in our basement and I’d work out. Literally. Some days it was 30 minutes of cardio or up to an hour of interval training. I’d lift weights and run miles on the treadmill. Afterwards, I’d feel better. I’d accomplished something. I had atoned for my bad choices the night before. I could justify my drinking thinking, so I’d revisit the same locker room pep talk with myself:

“I don’t have a drinking problem.”

“Of course not! Look at what you just did!”

“Alcoholics don’t get out of bed early.”

“Never! They can’t workout like that-they’re too hungover.”

“I just drank the way everyone else did last night.”

“You clearly care about your health!”

“Obviously, tonight I won’t have any at all.”

“Or, just have one to sip on…”

Today, on this 172nd Sunday I’ve woken up sober, I woke up confident. Rested. Free. I no longer wake up obsessing over what I did last night, or not drinking on the coming days. That vicious cycle of trying, and failing, and trying again is over. I’ve finally strung together enough victories that I understand the game plan that keeps me winning.

I love what @holly of Hip Sobriety posted this past week:

“The thing that everyone who has quit drinking has in common is: they kept trying until they quit.”

Before I got sober, I held fast to the fact that I WANTED to beat it. I just wasn’t convinced I COULD. It wasn’t until I enrolled in a program where two things happened that changed my entire outlook on the game.

First, I was forced to assess my situation and admit the obvious: my life had become unmanageable. I was “continuing to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”  Insanity. What I was doing day after day wasn’t working. The more I tried to stop, the more I drank.

Secondly, the director of the program said, “it’s time to fire yourself as the General Manager of your own life. You’re failing at it. You are not qualified to manage your future.” I wasn’t getting the job done alone. I needed God.

Common sense, right? I was embarrassed when I started hearing these cliche slogans repeatedly. But that’s the thing about my alcoholism.

I’m stubborn. I think I’m an exception to the rules. I think I’m better. The description of an alcoholic wasn’t me!

I’d be the ONE person who’d defy logic, the underdog who would beat the #1 seed, despite the statistics. It’s not just stubbornness. It’s arrogant!

Today, while I still have plenty of character defects, I think I know more humility. I’m not perfect, I’m still a work in progress, but I’m stronger. I appreciate the quote, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.” While I believe there is a lot of truth to that, as I continue to evaluate my plays, work the 12 steps, stay connected in a team of other alcoholics, list my gratitudes, and ask God to help me, I don’t drink. Yes, I’m stronger and smarter, but this continued work has allowed me to outplay every party, holiday and vacation since July 2015. It’s definitely gotten easier.

But when it’s not easy, when my old rival comes to town, boasting of its record, I come out swinging. I’ve been practicing. Regardless of the conditions, with the right playbook, the right team, and the right coach I’ll wake up a winner again tomorrow, confident and eager to take on the day.

I still work out several times a week, but now, I enjoy it. I do it for pleasure, not repentance. Physically, I’m stronger and healthier than ever. Emotionally and spiritually, I’d say I’m stronger too. But more than anything, I just want to remain coachable.

Alyssa Adkins
Empty Colored Glasses
ABOUT ME_alyssa adkins.jpg

In junior high, I couldn’t wait to go to high school.

In high school, I couldn’t wait to go to college.

In college, I couldn’t wait to graduate and start teaching.

Once I started teaching, I couldn’t wait to meet my future husband.

Once I met Carl, I couldn’t wait to get married.

Once we got married, I couldn’t wait to have children.

Once I had my children, I couldn’t wait to get promoted to my dream job.

By 2012, Carl and I were happily married with three healthy children, and a gorgeous home. I’d worked my way up to becoming the principal of the perfect little elementary school. I’d achieved everything I’d ever wanted, my life was better than I ever imagined, and I’d done it earlier in life than expected. But I was empty. Why wasn’t I satisfied, fulfilled, content, cup overflowing, dancing with joy, sharing the love and singing to the Lord?!

“I wanted to FEEL how everyone else LOOKED.”

I feel like my early life was one big rush. I don’t recall ever “enjoying the moment.” You know the quote “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” Yeah, that was probably written for me specifically. What about “stop and smell the roses,” or “take the scenic route?” I was always a sprint by the roses...on the highway...while mentally writing my grocery list...and applying mascara...before lurching at the stoplight at the end of the exit ramp. I was too oblivious to see the approaching stop light in time to slow down, so I’d get the stoplight!

We had our son Ben one year into our marriage, then Mia and Addy followed immediately after. I had three kids under the age of three while working part time as an elementary administrator. I thought I could do it all! I had a happy marriage, three healthy kids, a beautiful home and a job I loved. I had arrived! I was determined to be the hot wife, the playgroup mom, the favorite boss, the community volunteer And while I was doing all of these things in some capacity, I wasn’t doing any of them well.

One day, I looked around and realized that despite my seemingly perfect life, I was always restless, irritable, and discontent.

I tried to feel better with new clothes, renovating a new house, taking on more at my job. I hoped to feel complete when I was thinner, hosted more parties, gave to more charities, or received more professional accolades. I looked for fulfillment in new outfits, new relationships, new projects. But nothing changed, I still felt the same inside: less than. Unequipped. Incompetent.

Why wasn’t my house always clean and organized? Why didn’t I always have seven nights of meals planned and the grocery shopping done before leaving for work Monday morning? Why didn’t my kids always have everything they needed on the day it was requested at school? Why did Carl feel like he wasn’t getting enough attention, and I preferred to stay home than go out? Why did I want to stay in the car in silence instead of socializing with the other moms at soccer practice? Why did I dread kids’ activities, being around other people? Why didn’t I want to be more involved at church? Why couldn’t I stick with an eating plan, a workout plan or a morning devotional?

Every time I measured myself using someone’s else’s ruler, I came up short. I was always off, late, unprepared. Things didn’t come together the way they looked like they did for everyone else. Clearly, I miscalculated somewhere, preventing the perfect execution of how I envisioned the perfect woman to live. If I viewed the PERFECT LIFE as a Pinterest Post, my attempt was an epic fail. No matter how hard I tried, I could not nail it.

Unless I was drinking.

When I was drinking, I was fun mom, sexy wife, sophisticated professional.  I was more mature, more social, more outgoing, more creative, more productive. I was less uptight, less sad, less anxious, less worried.

Life through my wine glass was perfect.

“Until the next morning, when the bottle was empty

…and so was I.”

No matter how perfect I thought my life looked, I was never satisfied. I wanted more. Nothing was giving me a sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment, of being “finished.” And while drinking temporarily removed those feelings of restlessness and incompletion, once I “came to,” I felt more lost and hopeless than ever. The lowest, loneliest and most pathetic I’ve ever felt in my life, were those moments after I’d failed yet again, to control my drinking. I’d become dependent on alcohol to numb the feelings of failure, yet it was giving me something else at which to fail. It felt like a riptide pulling me under, the more I fought against it, the closer I came to drowning.

Today, I am 39 months sober. And over the course of these last 3 years, I’ve learned I’ll never feel fulfilled with any thing in this world. I’ll never arrive or finish, or achieve a gold medal. I’m not perfect, my life isn’t perfect, and neither are supposed to be. I’ve come to accept who I am, how I’m different, even embracing it. I’m learning to look for ways that God can use me the way He created me. I’m appreciating relationships more, and things less. As much as I don’t want to, I’m choosing to feel feelings, dealing with them instead of numbing them. And while it doesn’t come naturally, it definitely requires some effort, I’m trying to choose to see the positive, the learning experience in situations that don’t go my way.

I have three kids watching how I respond to stress, grief, rejection, and anxiety. And while I’ll never be a perfect example, my hope is that through my transparency, and admission of my weaknesses, they’ll learn to focus less on the glass being half full or half empty, and more on the fact that they have one, and it’s refillable. Comparison and competition are exhausting. Acceptance and authenticity are empowering.

Alyssa AdkinsComment