Browsing Category

Sobriety

Generational Curses

The process of recovery has helped me make connections from where addiction started and how the insight learned can eliminate toxic patterns. For me, addiction began well before I ever picked up my first drink or drug. Addiction is on every branch of my family tree. Every. Single. One. My father is an alcoholic and drug addict. His brothers, sisters, and father are addicts as well. When my cousins and I were young,  our family’s drug and alcohol usage was clear as day. Joints were passed right by us as toddlers. By the time we were teenagers, joints were passed directly TO us. The harder drugs consumed privately in the bedroom, but we knew what was going on when all of the adults disappeared. Drinking was always in the picture. Always.

My parents split before I was three, so I don’t recall my parents together. I find that a blessing. I only knew a life where I spent the week with my mom and weekends with my dad. I am grateful that my exposure to the drugs and alcohol was limited to the weekends; however, it was enough to have a deeper understanding of addiction than most kids do. I watched my grandfather nod off on a regular basis with dinner in his mouth. My cousins and I would just laugh and say, “Pop-pop took too many Percocets again!” My uncles would get too drunk and start fist fighting and we would think it was a live WWF match. We found this behavior normal. I used to think our family was so close because we all spent weekends together. Looking back, everyone was just relying on each other to bring their share of drugs and alcohol to the three day bender before they all had to go back to work on Monday. In some aspects we were close. We went camping often. We went to amusement parks a few times a year. I remember my dad picking me up on Fridays and he would give me five dollars to get as much candy as I wanted. I also remember him picking me up for the weekend and taking me to the bar with him. Good memories are often accompanied with a memory of abnormal behavior on my family’s part. I try to hold on to the good memories.

When I was a child, my grandmother was the only one who seemed to live a cleaner life. She chain-smoked and drank copious amounts of coffee, but never participated in partying like my dad, aunts, uncles and grandfather did. She played a prominent role in all six of her children being addicts. Mom-mom was a textbook codependent enabler. She would always say, “I’d rather everyone be safe and not go anywhere than be out on the road.” My grandmother gave her children money whenever they asked. She would buy cigarettes and booze for everyone. She had no idea how to establish boundaries with our family.

Unfortunately, not much has changed in my family’s behavior. A few uncles passed away from an overdose. My grandfather’s organs shut down till he passed due to drug abuse. My grandmother’s house is a revolving door of family members who need money or food from her. My cousins and I all grew up to deal with our own addictions, trauma, and abandonment issues.

Generational curses

My father stopped drinking when I was 15, but never entered a program. He never sorted out why he turned to drugs and alcohol, or why he binged all the time. He became a dry and angry drunk. He had resentment toward his parents and took it out on anyone who was around him. He eventually picked up other substances, but never picked up drinking again. Until he works out his own trauma, I don’t believe he will completely abstain from substance abuse.

Growing up and understanding how wrong it was to expose my cousins and I to their toxic behavior has been hard to stomach lately while I navigate my own recovery. When my cousins and I became teenagers, we all joined the party by drinking and smoking pot with our parents, aunts and uncles. A few of my other cousins went from taking pills to shooting heroin. For years, I thought I was better than all of my family members because I graduated from college, held down a good job, chose a loving and compassionate husband, and created a life I am proud of. The truth is, my accomplishments do not take away from the fact that I binged on alcohol since I was fifteen. I was never better, I was just high functioning.

One Sunday morning after nursing a massive hangover and using the TV to babysit my daughter, it hit me. I was creating the exact same scene of my childhood for my daughter. My dad used to be passed out on the couch on Sunday mornings while I watched MTV. I used to pray he would wake up soon to hang out with me. Soon after that realization, I sobered up. I hope my daughter never remembers me in that state.

My family and I aren’t close anymore. I distanced myself from them in my mid twenties. I am  sure they believe that I look down on them because the life they lead. I don’t. I just have to protect my sobriety. My father and I don’t have much of a relationship. My expectations of him were always higher than they should have been for our dynamic. He went on to marry a woman who despised me and he allowed her to treat me poorly. She was also an addict. He never stood up for me the way I thought a father should. They went on to have a daughter, my little sister, who is 13 years younger than me. My sister spent a few years living with me when she was a teenager. I think I was trying to save her from the same behavior I saw, but it was too late. She had seen plenty. She even witnessed my binge drinking, so who am I to say which poison is better; theirs or mine. She eventually chose to live with my step-mom and dad again by the time she was 15. When I processed everything that happened with my father; how he seemed OK with his 26 year old daughter taking care of his 13 year old daughter, how he didn’t step up and take care of us, and how he stayed in a toxic relationship that put a wedge between himself and his children. I needed to step away from it all. The pain was too much.

I began seeing a therapist after I stopped talking to my father. She was an addiction/trauma specialist. I learned in therapy that my father was never going to live up to my expectations. My idea of what a father should be was to be protective of his children, to always strive for a relationship with his children. But he can’t give me what he doesn’t have himself. He never grew up in a nurturing, loving and caring environment. The abandonment and trauma is what he passed down to me because it’s all he knows. I had to make a decision to allow him in my life with boundaries and no expectations. I had to learn to forgive him whether he decided to change or not. Some days are easier than others to forgive.

My dad and I now talk on the phone a few times a year and we text here and there. We don’t see each other more than once or twice a year. He seems to be OK with how our relationship is, so I have to be as well. He and my stepmom divorced a few years ago. I don’t see my extended family. Most of them are all playing the same roles they did when I was a child and will likely remain active addicts until they die. Processing how my childhood molded my own binge drinking behaviors has led me to understand that I need boundaries with my family. What I was subjected to was never normal; it was severe addiction. I have chosen not to subject my daughter to the same behaviors I witnessed as a child.

Today, I am grateful that my daughter will not have these generational curses passed down to her. I know I cannot fully control what she does when she is older, but I can ensure she will never feel abandoned, unloved, or unprotected. She will never see me in an altered mental state. My daughter sees her parents practice self-care by exercising and eating well. She sees us respecting and loving our minds, bodies, and each other. The family addiction crisis stops with me and my family unit that I am creating with my husband.

 ~CnS Mama

The Disturbing Drinking Culture

When I quit drinking seven months ago, I began paying even more attention to the strong drinking culture in our society indulges in. I used to think the “coffee now, wine later” mugs and the “rose all day” t shirts were cute. Now, I find them downright disturbing. While shopping in Marshall’s today, I found a nightgown that said “hangover shirt” and thought to myself, why are hangovers being glorified?! Hangovers are our bodies telling us how much we over did it the night before, not something to chuckle about. I know my hangovers were accompanied by headaches, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, severe anxiety. There was nothing funny about a crippling hangover.

There are a number of ways the drinking culture is not only accepted, but almost a rite of passage for everyone. I began drinking in high school as a way to fit in and to be more comfortable in my skin. The number of kids in my school who didn’t drink or dabble in drugs were very few and far between. I was talking to my mom on the phone last week about my drinking in high school and she admitted that she thought it would just be a phase, and that all kids have to go through the partying stage. I don’t know if anything or anyone could have stopped the behavior. I justified the partying because all of my friends were doing it and all of my friends were in honors classes, making good grades and on the path to college… that we could handle partying.

Binge drinking in college is another example of the party phase young adults go through. The reality is, a massive number of college students lose boundaries with alcohol early by binge drinking often. I had my fair share of happy hours, frat parties, thirsty Thursdays, and house parties while playing games like flip cup or funneling beers. Eventually, the drinking days became every day of the week. Managing classes through a hangover while trying to hold down a part time job was absolute torture, but the option to abstain from partying was unfathomable. In college, students drink to get wasted. No one at parties were establishing healthy boundaries with alcohol, or drinking water in between every keg stand. The consequences of binge drinking are terrifying

The following statistics were compiled and released by the Addiction Center regarding college students and binge drinking:

About 1,825 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries

More than 690,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking

More than 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape

About 599,000 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol

About 25 percent report academic consequences of their drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall

More than 150,000 develop an alcohol-related health problem

 

This isn’t a culture, this is a crisis.

 

Most survive college, only to find more sophisticated ways to get hammered. There are winery tours for a girls day. Brunching at fine restaurants with bottomless mimosas. Happy hours after work. We become beer connoisseurs by understanding the difference between a double IPA and a Belgian tripel.

We even find ways to blend the exercise world with drinking. Any race I have participated in had beer trucks and free vouchers for us to “celebrate” with. There are 5K’s located at local wineries, so after running the vineyards, you have the option to stay and drink their wine. Wine and Vinyasa Yoga is a new movement I see advertised often. Now looking at these events through sober eyes, I find myself extremely uncomfortable with how often exercise and drinking are intermingled. So many of us in the recovery community turn to exercise to keep us balanced, however feel automatically excluded from these events because of the party that is to follow after the workout. Not to mention how counterproductive it is to drink after vigorous exercise. Alcohol can affect muscle recovery and growth if ingested right after exercise. The concept of pairing booze and breaking a sweat is contradicting and infuriating.

The marketing world has paid attention to our growing drinking culture and jumped on board, making water bottles that say “not not hungover”, pillows that say “Xanax and chill”, workout attire that says “workout now, wine later”. Why is numbing out from life being glorified? Why is this being marketed?

Every stage of life from the formative years through to parenthood has an alcohol soaked undertone. When I became a mother, I fell right into the marketing trap of taking a “timeout” from parenting to reward myself with wine. The consequence of that was numbing out and checking out of life in such an unhealthy way. I see it on my closed Facebook mama groups. Moms posting pictures of their glasses of wine with a caption saying, “it’s been a rough day”. I have even purchased wine that is labeled “Mommy’s Time Out,” justifying my drinking because my mama tribe was doing the same thing. The idea of taking a load off and numb out from the life I helped create now feels so wrong. Instead of drinking, why aren’t we marketing more productive and fulfilling ways to take a break from a hard day? We need to be better than this.

I understand taking a break. I understand being completely overwhelmed and wanting to run from the world for a bit. The problem with running away from things that overwhelm us is those same issues will be there when we check back in. Choosing to drown our sorrows in a bottle of Malbec only means that when we sober up, we are left with the same issues we tried to run from and added a massive hangover with crippling anxiety. Problems never go away, so it’s best to face them head on with better coping mechanisms than a bottle (or 2) of wine.

I find that exercise helps me tremendously with staying mentally balanced. My local Y offers childcare for an hour and a half so I can take a break from mothering for a small amount of time guilt-free. Filling my cup up by taking a workout class with other women is a million times better than numbing out with wine. The best part about this is I come back to my family better than I left them. I’ll take feeling stronger, more confident and strong over being sluggish, foggy, nauseous and anxious while trying to be a functioning parent any day of the week. Exercise has replaced alcohol in my toolbox as a way to decompress, boost my mood and feel accomplished. One of these days, I hope to see a fresh juice vendor at the end of the finish line instead of a beer truck.

Statistic reference from Addiction Center https://www.addictioncenter.com/alcohol/binge-drinking/

Braving the Waters in Early Recovery

My first few weeks of sobriety were rough to say the least. I felt raw and exposed with nowhere to run. Looking back on the first few weeks without alcohol, I realize I was “white knuckling” through life. I knew quitting was the best for me, but I couldn’t see the positives in getting on the wagon in early sobriety. I wasn’t sleeping well and when I did get some shut-eye, I would have bizarre dreams. I suffered from crippling headaches and became really forgetful. I was short fused with my family. I cried all the time. At the time, it was hard to see the positives that were happening.

After a very necessary conversation my husband had with me three weeks into my sobriety, I began to seek out activities that brought peace and healing within. He essentially told me that since I chose to quit drinking, I didn’t have a single good thing to say about it and it was time to work on being more positive. He was absolutely right. It was time to stop being a dry drunk and start actually recovering.

So that’s exactly what I did… I began seeking recovery!

Below are a few things that helped me through the first few months of sobriety.

I Exercised

Even through my active drinking, I kept a good workout routine. I now rely on that natural serotonin and endorphin boost that I achieve with a heart pumping workout. I belong to our local YMCA and I absolutely love the sense of community it offers. The Y has a kid zone, so my daughter can spend time with peers while I take a class. I enjoy fitness classes that combine strength and cardio. I also love the trainers who help guide the class and push us to give it our all. The group setting doesn’t allow me to slack off in my workout.

I Rested

Toward the end of my drinking run, I boozed at home most of the time. When the sun went down, the urge would hit and I would open a bottle of wine or a beer and begin the bingeing. When I quit drinking, I would go to bed after our daughter went to bed. It took some time for me to quit associating night time to drinking at home, so to avoid that urge, I would hole up in our bedroom. I didn’t sleep well the first week or so, but when I began to establish a better workout routine, I started sleeping more soundly. When I woke up, I felt refreshed not groggy. I hadn’t felt so refreshed in years!

I Read

In order to improve the usage of my down time, I began devouring books. My go to genres include; self help books, nutrition books, thrillers, and science fiction. However, I really found comfort in reading about books about women who were in recovery. The first week of sobriety, I read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle. Her book knocked the wind out of me with how brutally honest she was to herself and her audience. That book was exactly what I needed in the first week to keep going. I wanted to be authentic again to learn who I was without the barrier of alcohol to soften the blow of life. I needed to be present again to participate in living no matter how much it hurt. To achieve living in my truth, the booze needed to go. I had no idea how to be sober, but she helped to guide me in the right direction. Reading allowed me to stop obsessing about drinking and focus on other stories.

I Built a Sober Community

I did not know many people in recovery when I quit drinking. Most people in my life drink. I needed sober sisters fast. I joined women’s recovery closed groups on Facebook. I joined mama groups as well. I made an Instagram page geared toward recovery and clean living which helped attract a group of other sober people. Sobriety Instagram pages are full of stories of recovery, inspirational quotes, and others sharing what keeps them clean. I also attended a few AA meetings. The meetings helped me see what long term sobriety looks like. Listening to others share their stories about how their lives are fulfilling without alcohol was so important for me to hear in the early stages of my sobriety.

I Created a Pinboard

The day I decided to quit drinking, I started a private page on Pinterest where I posted inspirational quotes about sobriety, books to read about quitting drinking and sober blogs to visit. Having a lock on the Pinterest page meant no one else could see it but me. I visited that page every night the first few weeks to help me prepare for the next day of deciding not to drink. As cheesy as it sounds, it was a pin board cheering me on with funny or inspiring words.

If you in the first weeks in recovery and are feeling lost, just know you aren’t alone. I felt completely lost, but kept digging for things to make me more comfortable in my own skin. Keep seeking. Keep searching.

I Think I’m An Alcoholic

“I think I’m an alcoholic”

Those words came out of my mouth in 2015 when speaking to a close friend of mine. I came to her afraid that I had a problem with drinking. I knew I was abusing alcohol to cope with anxiety/depression/sadness/anger. It took a few more years between the thoughts like, “maybe there’s a problem with how I drink” to “I can’t drink because I don’t know how to stop”. I was not exempt from addiction just because I was high functioning.

I am grateful my rock bottom wasn’t so low

I drank to celebrate happy times… I drank to celebrate holidays… I drank when I had hard days at work… I drank when mothering was tiring and felt that I “deserved” that bottle of wine when my daughter went to bed. I gave myself excuses to drink all. the. time.

I cannot tell you where and when the line was crossed with alcohol. I justified how I drank because I didn’t fit the “alcoholic” mold our society underhandedly shoves down our throats. I have a healthy marriage and a beautiful daughter who is loved so much. I didn’t allow my performance at work to be affected (well that one time I called out because I was so hungover).

I had a friend who just celebrated six years of recovery from alcohol and when she spoke at an AA meeting, she said, “I didn’t lose anything from drinking so much… just my soul.” That statement knocked the wind out of me because it was exactly what happened to me! In such a short amount of time, I sabotaged my soul by binge drinking and numbing out from life.

It wasn’t until two years after my realization that I decided to finally throw in the towel and quit drinking. During those two years of still actively drinking and knowing it was making my life worse, I tried to scale back on the booze but failed. I took two week breaks from wine and beer just to make sure I could; however, I was a bear to be around when I took those breaks. I knew deep down I had to stop all together and face the reasons why I wanted to be numb all the time.

Once I understood that I had to quit drinking for good, I quietly put the bottle(s) down. I didn’t make a big announcement to anyone in fear that I wouldn’t be able to succeed in stopping. With each passing week, I became less quiet about quitting and more confident that I could defeat the addiction.

As I approach 6 months in recovery, I am certain that life looks and feels a lot better without booze in it. I still question whether I am really a true alcoholic because I was high functioning and not physically addicted. The more I learn about the recovery world, I think we all have those questions when we piece together enough time without alcohol. When I question my relationship with alcohol, I don’t look to my past for answers. I look at my present life. I look at my relationship with myself, and it is so much healthier. I look at my continuously supportive husband and my daughter and know our connections are thriving because I am being authentic. Everything has changed within me in such a short amount of time. Am I an alcoholic? It doesn’t matter if I am or not. I am not trading in who I am anymore for a bottle of Pinot Noir.

Tools for Recovery

The tools we seek during the healing and recovery process has everything to do with how successful we are in sobriety. In the last few years of my active drinking, I felt unhappy and depressed with where my life was. Self medicating and numbing the feelings became the norm instead of actually dealing with why I felt sad. When I started realizing how unhealthy it was to escape the real world by binge drinking,  I wanted to change but didn’t know how.  I spent time researching what recovering addicts and alcoholics used to stay strong in recovery. More importantly, I wanted to know if life could be fulfilling and fun without booze.

I started to realize people in recovery can cope with the ebb and flow of life by seeking out healthier coping skills and resources. I began to accumulate tools to put in my recovery toolbox prior to quitting, so I could learn how to deal with the inevitable stresses life brings. The first tool I found was in the form of a podcast. I was getting ready for work on Monday morning and having the toxic inner dialog I always had at the start of the week. The weekends were spent binge drinking and by Monday morning, the shame and anxiety I felt came spewing over. While searching for some sort of resolve, I searched “alcoholism” in my podcast app so I could listen to something helpful while getting ready. The first podcast that came up in the search was the Shair (sharing helps addicts in recovery) Podcast. I downloaded and listened. Then I binged on all episodes available. I was hooked! Omar Pinto, the host, has a guest each week who is in the recovery world. The guest talks about how they were introduced to drugs and alcohol and the wreckage it caused, how they hit rock bottom and what their life looks like in recovery today.

One of the first interviews I listened to was a wife/mom who was addicted to alcohol and almost lost her life to the disease. Listening to her talk about her years of being sick then finally getting better, something clicked in me. For years, I have been uncomfortable with how much I drank, yet never felt like there was an option to quit. It was in that moment, I visualized my life without the anxiety and depression that alcohol brings.  In her story, relationships have changed for the better because of sobriety, especially the relationship with herself.

Listening to her story was the first time I realized I can have an even better and more fulfilling life without alcohol. Listening to stories about addiction and recovery became an essential tool in my tool box. The relationships I had with the important people in my life had the chance to grow even deeper. I had the power to change anytime I wanted to. I listened to Omar’s podcasts for over a year before I made the decision to quit drinking. Each episode I devoured was one step closer to joining the sober community.

If you would like to listen to Omar’s show, The Shair Podcast, go to your podcast app and search “Shair”. There is also a private accountability group on Facebook called “SHAIR Podcast – Addiction Recovery Group”. It’s a wonderful online forum for people in recovery or seeking a community of recovery.

The Shair Podcast
Continue Reading