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“Your story is powerful.”
Share your story. Put yourself out there. Be authentic. Be real.
None of this is necessarily wrong, but I’ve seen some downsides since I wrote about sharing your story, and it’s been on my mind lately. I write this, knowing full well it’s hypocritical as hell. It’s also purely me writing about my own experience, not any kind of assumption or judgment on anybody else’s recovery or experiences.
Here’s what I’ve realized:
Sharing my story doesn’t keep me sober.
In fact, I’ve started to realize that sharing too much (publicly) can actually put my sobriety at risk.
“Anyone in recovery knows that one of the most effective ways to ensure a relapse is to present yourself as someone who has triumphed over their addictions. ” – Kristen Johnston (source)
Granted, I’m nowhere near any kind of level of notoriety. That’s not the point. And this post isn’t about quitting blogging, because I’m not doing that.
I hope nothing in this blog actually reads like I’ve figured all of this out. Because I assure you, I haven’t. I’m a mess, y’all. Writing is cathartic, even when I try and make it useful to others. That doesn’t mean I’ve triumphed forever. Just for today, or that day that I’m writing.
I’ve realized in the past few months that writing some posts is not the same thing as service work, and I’ve been ignoring actual service work for a long time.
When I do this and nothing more, I can kid myself. I can tell myself I’m being useful when I’m really just patting myself on the back and going about my day. I’m not doing the truly uncomfortable part of carrying the message: getting to know another person who is struggling on a real, personal level. Instead, I’m throwing my experiences out there, and hoping they help somebody.
Yes, that’s scary in its own way. It’s not a walk in the park to publicly write about these things. But it’s not enough to keep me sober.
It’s very important for me to remember that recovery isn’t something I can play around with.
My life depends on my sobriety. When I see something that threatens my sobriety, I pay attention. Not always immediately, but I really try.
When Demi Lovato relapsed recently, I saw a lot of comments about how she would be fine, it shouldn’t be a big deal, etc. There were comments from people saying things like, “I don’t get why it’s such a big deal, I mean as long as she doesn’t overdo it, she’ll be fine.”
Hahaha. How cute.
See, here’s the thing: a relapse could actually kill a lot of us.
This post isn’t about Demi’s journey. I simply know that I have to remember what a relapse would mean for me.
If I were to try to have just one or two drinks, I truly don’t know what would happen after that. The trigger would get flipped. The craving would be set off.
Although I’m fairly certain I could fight off the blackouts for a time if I really wanted to, I’m not certain Icould fight them off for long. Maybe I could do it the first time. Maybe even the second. Hell, maybe for a month or two. But every relapse story I’ve ever heard that started that way, there comes a part where they say, “but then…”
The “but then…” haunts me.
I know how I used to drink, and I know that I never want just one. I could black out and drive my vehicle into a tree, or God forbid, a family minding their own business on the road. I know that a relapse could very well mean death. Not just shame, not just embarrassment. Death. Jail. Heartbreak.
Pride pokes at me, even in recovery. Especially in recovery. The “I’ve got this” mentality. I’ve been sober 3 whole years! I’ve never even relapsed! I’ve got this figured out.
Man. How dangerous it can be to forget what I’m up against.
Just a few months ago, I had a relapse all planned out.
Spring is a tough time for me (and summer, and fall, and winter, but hey). I was done. Sick of it. Everybody could kiss my ass, it’s my life and I can drink if I want to. It wasn’t a sudden desire that hit out of nowhere, it was a rising wave and I was tired of holding it back.
I did not think I would make it to pick up my 3 year chip, and I’d just about accepted that. There was a lot going on, you see. I was tired of holding myself together when it felt like nobody else had to, and they were fine. (They weren’t fine)
For some reason that I still don’t understand, I didn’t relapse. Maybe I’m just that stubborn. Maybe it was God (spoiler alert: it was God). Whatever the case, one day at a time, I continued to refuse the first drink and I got back to work that I’d been putting off.
After a few months of consistent meetings, finally finishing some difficult steps, and working with newcomers, I’m better. A lot better. Drinking barely comes to mind. When I’m super stressed lately, I crave a hard run, a session with some heavy weights, a meeting, coffee with a friend, a good book. Alcohol doesn’t come to mind. That’s progress.
This is a pattern for me. Feel good, feel strong, slack on my recovery work, feel terrible, white-knuckle my sobriety, almost relapse, get back to work, feel good, feel strong, rinse, repeat.
Although I’m insanely grateful that I hit 3 years (plus 2 months, at the time of this post) without a relapse, I’m tired of making recovery harder than it needs to be. And one thing I learned in recovery is to face reality. Life on life’s terms and all.
Here is my reality: the more I focus on “inspiring others” as a substitute for putting in the work necessary for my recovery (for me: meetings, service work, step work, and lots of other things), the more I struggle. I don’t know why that is, I just know that it is.
Something gets all weird in my brain when I’m too focused on myself and being the Queen of Sobriety.
I’m not quitting my blog or anything. However, I’m a little more humble. A lot more focused on doing small things more consistently. When somebody walks into a meeting all anxious and embarrassed, I should be there. I can still write and blog, but I need to readjust my priorities and my motives. If I ever feel like I’m writing something to make myself look like I’ve got it all together, I hope I back up and I refuse to write or post it. It’s not worth the emotional turmoil that inevitably follows.
But I will continue to write, as long as I keep in mind that I don’t ever have this thing figured out completely. I don’t have to. One day at a time, with God carrying me through, I’m sober. That’s what I know, and that’s what I cling to. I’m just an email away if you need somebody to talk to, also. firstname.lastname@example.org <3
**Everybody has their own opinions about what anonymity means and why it’s important (or not), but I’m just going to leave this link here for those interested: Why Alcoholics Anonymous is Anonymous**
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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