I’d had 5 years of sobriety the day I found myself in the parking lot of a CVS, pouring warm Chardonnay down my throat. That was the first day of my relapse: a two-year tumble back down the rabbit hole of addiction.
Two years is more than 700 days. At least half of those mornings, I woke up vowing I would quit. My drinking was a bleeding gash through which everything good in my life was dissolving; my marriage, my son’s trust, my self-esteem. My mind gave me every logical reason to stop, and looked hard for the will to follow through.
But the more I tried to reason myself into sobriety, the more I failed.
One night, after a massive hangover that kept me horizontal all day, I sat up straight on my bed. Around me laid an almost-empty apartment. My husband had finally packed his stuff and left a few weeks earlier. This was another weekend that started with “only one” and merged into a snake of hours, one slithering into another, wrapped tightly in the haze of Cabernet.
I blinked at my surroundings, trying to capture the enormity of my reality. Relapsing had not been in my plans. Drinking away my dreams had not been in my plans. Losing everything I loved had not been in my plans.
I took a deep breath and prepared to bawl. Woe-is-me bawls always made me feel better.
But to my surprise, the deep breath did not give way to a sob. Instead, it was followed by another deep breath. Then another one. The familiar feeling of victimhood which normally anchored my tears (or fueled my next bout of drinking) gave way to a space of clarity. A rare, impeccable moment of honesty opened up in front of me, inviting me to walk into it. I did.
I want to stop drinking. I do.
Because my husband left.
Because my son is scared.
Because my job is suffering.
Because I am ruining everything.
Those reasons felt old. Empty. Full of victimhood.
When was I going to truly, truly own this choice? When was I going to stop, deep down inside, feeling like a victim? When was I going to be brave and confront that story?
That story where I blamed everyone else and I secretly felt I deserved the relief of the wine. When was I going to get honest and admit that my good intentions flew away when I got even the tiniest bit uncomfortable?
With every question, I felt more disarmed. It was liberating.
For the very first time, instead of diving into my usual story, I shifted into a parallel one. I had only been a few degrees off, but that this small shift made all the difference in the world.
I had understood addiction was a disease - it had freed myself of self-loathing thoughts that I was choosing to be a drunken, horrible human being. I understood that I was at the mercy of a disease - not a lack of moral standing.
However, ironically enough, this notion had also given my inner-victim a loophole through which to slide herself permission slips. My inner-victim had been quick to justify trying to get sober for other people, secretly hoping for failure. For her, getting sober meant dying — as sobriety requires accountability and responsibility for oneself. Sobriety requires work. Sobriety requires cleaning your side of the street. None of those things support the life of our inner-victims.
Sitting in that empty room, dusk surrounding my silence, I shifted to a place where two opposite truths can exist at once: I could understand my drinking as addiction, and addiction as disease. My addiction was not my fault — yet, it was my responsibility.
I could not “choose” to not drink. Yet I could choose to do the work of healing.
I could be inspired by other people, and use them as motivators to get sober. But I had to get sober for — and only for — ME.
I opened my eyes and stood up from the bed. I walked to the center of my room, looking at the mirror on the wall. I could still smell the wine on the surface on my skin. I took off my clothes, staring at my naked reflection.
Are you ready to stop?
Are you ready to get uncomfortable?
Are you ready to do the work?
Are you ready to come back home to you?
Yes. To the fears, the unknown, the seemingly impossible, the discomfort. Yes, to the things I’ve been avoiding: honesty, accountability, discomfort.
It was time.
In that place of desperation and hopelessness, true bravery and honesty had been born. In that place of brokenness and isolation, the seeds of Recovery had begun.
Things would never be the same from that moment on.
If you're ready for that kind of decision, for The Deep Yes, then let's get you home.