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pick the weeds, keep the flowers: my year of sobriety

 

Pickedtheweeds ()

 

[ Reader's Note: What I've written here is incredibly long. I've read time and time again that people hate to read long articles online and I completely understand that. Whether you read it all or read parts of it, please know that I've put my heart and soul into this. This is my life. These are my fingers shaking as I type this. This is my mind racing as I think of the people—both those I know and those I've never met before—who will be reading this. This is me. And, much as I would have liked to for your sake, I just cannot cut down on the words I have to say. For so long I have been silent and now that everything is finally spilling out, I have to run with it. I cannot edit down this part of who I am. ]

 

Today marks 365 days of me living without alcohol. It's pretty hard to believeeven though I was the one that actually did itthat I've made it to this one year mark. It hasn't been easy. And I couldn't have done it alone. I am so grateful to my boyfriend, my family, my supportive friends, my therapist. Honestly, I cannot put into words how thankful I am to have some fantastically supportive people in my life who have made this difficult year much easier than it would have been if I'd been flying solo. Thank you, thank you, thank you to anyone who has sat beside me or held my hand or spoken words of encouragement over this past year. I am so lucky to have you in my life. 

This part of my lifemy struggles with alcoholis something I don't ever talk about on Positively Present. For whatever reasonshame, fear, sadness, insecurity?I've held this part of my life close to my chest. But todayfueled by the pride I feel after reaching one year of sobrietyI want to share it with you, readers. You are such a huge part of my life and I feel it is now time for me to be open and honest about this part of who I am, scary as it might be to confront the reality I spent so many years running from...

 

Then: Picking the Weeds 


I said it over and over again: I will stop. I will stop. If I want happiness, I have to stop. And again and again I found myself pouring myself another, recollection of all of the mistakes and the sob-filled mornings melting like ice in a glass. I knew I was causing my own heartache by giving into the sparkly temptation of alcohola comfort I'd known since the young age of fourteenbut the older I got, the harder it was to stop. I could see, from a logical point of view, how detrimental it was to me. There were failed relationships, lost friendships, countless tear-stained pillows, mornings stained with regret, and way too many repeated offenses. Much as I didn't want to see it, tried to ignore it, I knew my drinking was hurting almost every aspect of my life. I knew every emptied bottle was launching a full-fledged attack of negativity on my life, but drinking had become such an intergal part of my life that I wasn't quite sure who I would be without it. 

After over a decade of alcohol consumption, drinking had become part of me. When I thought about my life without iteven though I knew that an alcohol-free life was what I neededI couldn't quite see who I would be. If I wasn't going to parties and bars, getting infamously wasted and waking to wonder what I'd done this time, who would I be? If I wasn't pouring the stiffest drink, making friends laugh at my determination for drunkenness, who would I be? It crushed me to realize that alcohol played a part in every scene in my life. My friendships. My family. My boyfriends. Even school and work had been impacted by my use. Without it, who was I? Would I even be me? 

When I write these words now, I realize why it was so hard for me to give it up, why I was able to do so for eight months before slipping back to it again, sneaking it in like a forbidden lover for one last night of fun. It wasand sometimes still isterrifying to think of who I would be without alcohol to fuel me, inspire me, save me, free me. It felt, back then, like alcohol did so many things for me. It was my comfort. It was my release. It was my push out the door and into the world of other people, a world where I felt uncertain and less brave than I thought I should be. 

But, scared as I was to live my life without alcohol in it, a year ago today I started again down the path of sobrietya path I knew would make my life a more positive one. Over and over again, I listened to Kelly Clarkson's "Sober," her words reminding me that me-without-alcohol was still me. Below are the lyrics that have been inspiring me, helping me to realize that my life is just like an open field, filled with flowers and weeds. And reminding me that it's up to me to choose what to tend to. The flowers and the weeds will both grow, but whichever one I dote on, give attention to, that's what will flourish.

 

And I don't know...
This could break my heart or save me
Nothing's real until you let go completely
So here I go with all my thoughts I've been saving
So here I go with all my fears weighing on me

[12] months and I'm still sober
Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers
But I know it's never really over

And I don't know
I could crash and burn but maybe
At the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me
So I won't worry about my timing, I want to get it right
No comparing, second guessing, no, not this time

[12] months and I'm still breathing
Been a long road since those hands I left my tears in
but I know it's never really over, no...


Wake up
[12] months and I'm still standing here
[12] months and I'm getting better yeah
[12] months and I still am
[12] months and it's still harder now
[12] months I've been living here without you now
[12] months and I'm still breathing
[12] months and I still remember it
[12] months and I wake up
[12] months and I'm still sober
Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers

 

Those words reminded me that I was in there, just beyond that liquid shield I'd been hiding behind, and it would only be a matter of time before the truth of who I was came out. Living my life without drinking was just me picking out the weedsgetting rid of what was holding me backand without them I would be able to focus on the flowers. In them, I would glimpse the real me, the sober me.

Finding the real me, the truth of who I really am, is awesome, but it's been hard. It's been really hard. Some days are easier than others. Some are painful and leave me feeling isolated from the people I love. Some days I wonder why this had to be me, why I couldn't just have a glass of wine and behave myself. But most days, yes, most days, I am incredibly grateful for my sober life. It has taken so much to get to where I am now and, as Kelly sings, "I could crash and burn but maybe / At the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me." It's still a struggle. One day at a time. But the fact that I've made it through one yearsomething I never in my wildest dreams imagined I could dofills me with such pride and hope. I did this. I can do this. 

My therapist once told me to write up a piece on what my life was like with alcohol versus what it was like without it. Though I wrote this a while ago, it serves as a fresh reminder for me today as to why I stopped doing the one thing that was hurting me more than anything else. In the next section, you can read the words I wrote when I was first living a sober life, when I was first learning that I didn't need alcohol to be me. 

 

Then + Now: Living Without Alcohol

 

On Saturday morning, I wake up slowly, leisurely. It may seem odd, but the first thing I think is this: I am not in pain. My head is not pounding. I do not feel anything remotely like nausea. I feel awake, alive, energized. Now most people wake feeling well on Saturday morning and think nothing of it. For me, this is an accomplishment, the first obvious sign that things have changed. I roll over and engage in a cuddle session with my dog before getting out of bed and realizing that is only eight o’clock. Eight. It has been so long since I’ve woken up this early on a weekend that these hours feel like a gift. Hours and hours of free time—free time I will not spend curled up in a ball on the couch watching movies and moaning about the mistakes I made the night before. I shower. I clean my apartment. I eat a healthy breakfast; no greasy hangover food for me today. I have time (and an ache-less head) for reading. I have the energy to talk on the phone for more than five minutes. I walk the dog without feeling as if each step causes a hammer to begin pounding erratically inside my head. It has been a long, long time since I have felt this healthy and this alive.

In the past few months, a lot has changed in my life. Not only has my social life changed dramatically, but my emotional and physical lives have changed as well. First, let's start with the obvious: the weekends. The focal point of every weekend used to be drinking. Ever since high school, the weekly questions were: Where am I going to go to drink? Who am I going to drink with? If no one is available to drink with me, what am I going to do? Every single week, the questions were the same. Sometimes it was one night, sometimes two, but as long as I could find someone to partake in the drinking, I was drinking. And I was drinking a lot. I was drinking so much that I wouldn't remember what I'd doneor what had been done to me.

I would wake up disoriented and sick. My body went through weekly withdrawals in the form of vicious hangovers. I was physically ill for the majority of my weekends. I was also emotionally un-well. When I was drinking, I often cried. I often got angry at those around me. I did things and said things I was disgusted to recall the next day (if I could recall them). I would wake frequently with the "booze blues"—a feeling of sickening disappointment and despair when I realized what I'd done the night before or thought about the feelings/events I'd been trying to forget when I'd chosen to drink so much. I knew I was wasting my weekends, and this made me angry. Here I was with only two free days a week and I spent them on the couch with pounding headaches and dizzying recollections of my mistakes.

Of course, all of this changed when I gave up drinking. Now that I no longer focus on who I am going to drink with or where I will be drinking, my mind is free to think of other ways to spend my time. When I get together with friends on the weekends now, I am sober. Our conversations and activities are meaningful to me now. I realize now that so many of my friendships were based on a mutual desire to get as drunk as possible as often as possible. The connections with those people were not real. When I spend time with friends now, I realize I am just getting to know them—the sober people they are on a daily basis—and I am, in turn, showing them my true self. It's not always easy to do this. I am not used to being sober with friends. I am used to being uninhibited by alcohol, and without it I feel less open. But with each sober experience, I feel it getting easier. I am slowly adjusting to being social without the mask of alcohol to hide the real me.

And the real me has experienced extreme emotional changes over the past few months. I used to feel so sorry for myself. I would make mistakes while drinking. I would drink to erase dealing with them. I would make more mistakes. It was a vicious cycle and, rather than taking responsibility for it, I would simply cry, "Why me?" I was sad both when I was drunk and when I was sober. I was angry at myself for being sad. I would lash out at myself and at others. I would act and speak irrationally. I would blame others and I would also accept a great deal of blame that was not mine to take. I drank to numb the feelings that were aching to come out. I did not want to feel and, when sober, I avoided my emotions at all costs. When I would drink, however, they would boil to the surface and splatter everyone around me. I would be covered in the mess and I would spend most of the next day (or days, depending on how bad the mess was) wallowing in it. Swimming in sadness, I would find a way to avoid it again. I would drink or sleep so I did not have to feel.

Now I allow myself to feel without the cloak of alcohol. The feelings I have now are rational, followed by a series of questions I can ask myself when I am sober (and logical). What is making me feel this way? Why is this feeling important? What can I do to address this situation? The task of asking, of course, is not simple. It is (and may always be) hard for me to feel. My instinct is push the feelings away, but I am learning to sit with them, to be okay with their presence, and not to avoid them. It has been months since I cried for no known reason. It has been months since I've uncontrollably sobbed, felt sorry for myself, or classified my state of mind as "miserable." This is not to say that I am constantly happy. I am just much more mindful now and aware of my emotions. If I feel something, I think about it. I sit with it. I do not run from it. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have been pushing away from emotions of any kind (good or bad) for so long that it is extremely difficult to embrace them. However, not all emotions are bad. Without alcohol in my life, I have felt emotions more strongly than I did in the past. This means I can feel the good emotions more too. I feel happiness in a way I'm not sure I can recall having experienced before.

Happiness is not as elusive as I once believed it to be. If it leaves, I know it will come back. Happiness is part of me; it is not just a visitor. Sometimes it's not obvious, but it's always there. When I feel happy now, sober, I let myself be happy. To some, this might sound odd—either you're happy or you're not—but it is not that simple. Happiness used to scare me and, like all other emotions, I would avoid it. Learning to embrace it, to be in a moment and to feel joy without thinking about the future or the past, is an amazing experience and it is something I could not do before I started down this road to recovery. I used to look over my shoulder, waiting for the next bad thing. Now I know that I have the ability (though I may not always do it) to just be

The removal of the frosted glass clouding my vision has clarified things. Everything—friendships, conversations, feelings, daily tasks—is clearer now. Through sober eyes, I can see my life—and my past—from a more objective point of view. Now I can see why I am the way I am, and it is not and never was my fault. My emotional state, my physical state, and my social life have all been affected by the past, but I know now that I don't have to live in the past. I don't have to keep repeating the same mistakes. I can—and I do—live now.  

 

Now: Keeping the Flowers


Everything I wrote about what had changed in my life when I first stopped drinking is still true. Everything is better for me now. That doesn't mean it's easy to be around alcohol and not drink. It doesn't mean it's easy when I think about my past and I have to see it as a separate part of my life. Every day it's hard. Every day I have to experience my life without an escape from my emotions. If I am upset or unhappy, I cannot cloud my mind with something that makes me forget. I have to deal. I have to be present. And it's hard sometimes, but it's also real

Before I was living my life in a field filled with weeds. Some of them were beautiful; some I even mistook for flowers. But now that I've cleared the field of them, picked them out one by one, I can see the true beauty as the flowers unfurl their long stems. I can see the way the field was meant to look, filled with vibrant color. I know now that these flowers were there all along, waiting in the weeds. It just took me a while to clear things out, to give them the room they needed to grow. 

Comments

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Thank You.

As someone affected by someone else's drinking, I've had tears streaming down my face pretty much from the first paragraph on.

Thank you so much for this post and for your honesty.

I was especially touched by what you said about dealing with your emotions. As someone who has never touched any kind of drug and still made it through years of mental illness, I know the overbearing power of negative feelings. I've never taken anything, but I too have tried, in some ways, to escape from them. But in the end, they're there to be dealt with; otherwise they'll never go away and they will eat us up from the inside. Only confronting them makes us stronger and better and able to go on with our life.
You've also confirmed something I have believed for a long time: that a sober mind can feel and appreciate the good feelings in a way that a mind clouded by drugs never will.

What you have achieved is amazing and incredibly inspiring. I can only imagine the strength and willpower it took for you to make it this far, and I wish you all the best for the future.
Again, thank you for this post.

Congratulations, Dani! This is a fantastic post and you should definitely be proud of getting to 365 days.

First....CONGRATULATIONS!!! Second...THANK YOU for being so raw, open and honest. This world would be a much better place if people went through life not trying to pretend so much and just be open and honest with others. Nothing but respect can come from it (I hope that makes sense). Third...I'd already grown to have a great amount of respect and admiration for you since early on in reading your blog, and this just multiplied that tenfold.

Interesting, I have this strong sense of being very proud of you even though I don't know you personally.

Thank you again for sharing this and I wish you continued blessings and success on this journey.

Meghan - You're welcome. Thank YOU for reading. It means a lot to me that you read this post, where I shared so much of me, and took the time to thank me for it. I appreciate that.

Steph - Though this post brought you to tears, it makes me so happy to know that you really connected with my words. This was, as you can imagine, a very difficult thing for me to put out there, and to know that it moved someone to the point of tears makes me feel as if I have done the right thing in sharing my story. Thank you for sharing your experience and for opening up to me and Positively Present readers. It's great to hear that you are living a sober life. Hard as it is at times, it's the best way to experience the world.

Belinda - Thank you! I'm definitely proud of what I've accomplished and I'm looking forward to making it, day by day, to another year. Thank you for your encouragement and support!

Saggleo - Thanks so much! It's been a long road, and it's a path I'll always be traveling on, but I've made a lot progress over the past year and am really happy about how far I've come. As a loyal reader (thank you!!), you probably know that I struggle with opening up and sharing a great deal about myself, but it feels really good to receive positive feedback on this post. To read that you, someone how doesn't know me personally, are proud of me has put a big smile on my face. Thank you so much for supporting Positively Present and me. It means so much to me!

I read the whole thing and I am going to print it out and send it to my boyfriend who has struggled with alcohol all his life and is currently in prison for a dwi. Thank you for your words. I wish you the best in your journey. Know that you are never alone.

Thank you so much for being able to share your story with us. I've made a few bad decisions while drunk/blacked out myself. While I don't drink very often, when I do (with a certain group of friends) it tends to get out of control before I realize what is happening.

You inspire me to go to a party or hangout with friends and just tell them I don't want to drink. I hope your next 365 days are even better than the last! Stay strong!

I AM PRESENT!

Namaste'
{(~_~)}
_/|\_
.

I raise a glass (of iced tea) to your year and your bravery. My 2nd husband was a "recovering" alcoholic, and now my 4th (because I am a glutton for punishment I suppose) is an active alcoholic/prescription drug addict and mentally ill. Before you ask why would I make the decision to choose someone like that AGAIN, my defense is that he and his family hid his illness very well, and I'd still like to believe that there is still some goodness in humanity. When I wrote my first book about my abusers, I thought I had healed enough to grow. Now as I'm writing a fourth book with an ending yet to be determined, about my current marriage and feelings, it also deals with the issues of alcoholism and mental illness. And one of the hardest things I have had to learn in this writing (purging, healing) process is that it is not my fault, and it is not his fault. Both are diseases with different ways to be treated, but the thing that is most important in "healing" for all who are affected is the knowledge that there are no fingers of blame to point. No one asks to be an alcoholic or to be mentally ill, and blaming or feeling guilty only prolong the healing process. Forgive. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Love. Love yourself.

Congratulations! And thank you for bravely sharing your moving and inspiring story.

Amanda - Thank you for reading! I'm so happy to hear that you are going to share this with your boyfriend. It sounds like he is in a difficult place and I really hope this helps him.

Dana - It can be really hard to go out and say no to drinking, but once you start doing it it becomes easier and easier and you'll realize that you can still have an awesome time (and not make terrible mistakes) with your friends. Best of luck to you! And if you ever need any words of encouragement, let me know!

Jalus - That is wonderful. Being present is so important - and it's something I wasn't fully able to do with alcohol in my life. Without it, I am much more able to live in the moment.

Cierra - Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience here. As you said, no one is to blame when it comes to alcoholism. It is tempting to blame those suffering, or even those who choose to be around those people, but blame is never going to help anyone. As you wrote, love and forgiveness is the way to healing. Thank you so much for sharing what you've been through. I wish you nothing but the best with your marriage and your healing process.

Carol - Thank you! Even though it was scary to share all of this, I'm really glad that I did. It's been a tough road for me and I'm so happy that was able to connect with my readers by sharing this journey. Thanks for reading!

Thank you for this post, and for all your blog entries. I stumbled on your blog after typing something random and depressing into google months ago, and it has been a lifeline for me the past few months. First time I've ever subscribed to a blog and so glad I have. What you share is so honest, and uplifting, without ever being cheesy or fake, I really aspire to be as open and honest as you with my feelings and experiences. Thanks again, I just wanted you to know that you are helping someone you don't even know, 1000s of miles away on the other side of the globe, so please stay strong and keep up the great work. virtual hugs :)

Angel - You're welcome! It really makes me so happy to know that, even all the way on the other side of the world, you're reading this and finding inspiration from it. It's my own personal lifeline, being able to share parts of myself here, and to know that it's working as a lifeline for you as well is amazing. Thank you for reading (and subscribing!). I really appreciate it!

Like Angel, I also stumbled upon your blog after searching for something to make me feel better on Google (this was more than a year ago, I think). And, like Angel, I'm also on the other side of the world and you also inspire me.

I'm struggling with depression at the moment, and this post has inspired me to also write more (I do have a blog, which I sorely neglect), as I believe healing takes place through writing.

Here's to the written word and all it does for us!

Mooi bly, en sterkte.
(That means "keep well, and good luck" in Afrikaans). xx

ilde - I'm so glad you stumbled upon Positively Present and are inspired by it all the way on the other side of the world. Writing has really helped me when it comes to dealing with difficulties and I'd highly recommend it if it's something you like to do. Thanks for sharing that Afrikaans saying with me. I love it! Same to you!

Oh wow! I never cease to be surprised to find out the women I so admire because of their blogs are in recovery! WE are ordinary women who can do the extraordinary because we are sober. Any post (short or "long") about huge struggles and little victories can possibly save one person's life. The journey often sucks but with time it becomes less sucky! You are amazing!

Sharry - You're right, with time, things get a lot less sucky. It was hard to realize that in the beginning but I'm definitely starting to see it now. Thanks for your support!!

Dani,
This post is a gift to the world. It's powerful enough to changes live's... families, friends, colleagues, couples etc. Stand up and take a bow. You're just plain awesome. Woot woot!

I'm here for you and you can be "there" for me! Can never do this alone (thank God)!

Tess - What a nice thing to say! I never thought about it quite in that way, but I hope these words are able to change lives in the way that others' words have impacted mine. Thanks so much for your enthusiastic support!

Sharry - Absolutely! Doing this alone would be incredibly difficult. Support is everything.

you're amazing... truly amazing.

As someone who has been struggling with this for some time now, it was incredibly inspiring for me to read about your experience. I appreciate your honesty and I feel a new sense of hope for my future thanks to you. Good luck and thank you for all of the guidance you've given me through your posts.

Sarah - Thank you so much! I feel pretty great right now, having received so much wonderful support from readers like you. Thank you for reading!

Tesha - It makes me SO happy to know that this has inspired you. This struggle has been so difficult for me and to know that I have been able to inspire someone with my words makes me so happy. Good luck to you as well!

Congratulations on your one year anniversary, may there be lots and lots more! Thank you for your honesty on such an emotive and personal topic. It takes a lot of guts to admit you have a problem, and even more strength to deal with it. Your attitude to life is awesomely positive!

I am so proud of you, it takes a lot of courage to be sober. You have really inspired me. This is kind of the same thing. I was a self-injurier. I haven't self injuried in one you as well. Just like you I still have to take it one day at a time. This also has been one of the hardest things I have done. But it is well worth it. I am also going to print this out to my friend, she could use this.

Sincerely,
Stephanie

Jules - Thank you! I'm hoping for many, many more years (a lifetime?!) of sobriety. It was definitely hard to talk/write about this, but I'm so glad I did. It feels good to speak the truth - even if my voice was shaking. Thanks for your support!

Stephanie - Thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad to hear that you're on a road to recovery too. No matter what the addiction or dependency is, it is very hard to change one's habits. I'm really happy to hear that you've stayed so strong for a year. Keep it up! And thanks for sharing this with your friend; I hope she is able to take these words to heart.

Wow, what a heartfelt post! Thank you for being so open and for sharing so much about your journey and about you.

Congrats on 1 year of sobriety and for all of the hard work it took to get to this point.

You are an inspiration Dani!

Gina - It was difficult for me to open up. It seems like only yesterday that I was having trouble just sharing my name on the blog, but now look at all that I'm able to share with readers like you! Thank you for reading and thank you for your support! It means so much!

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