Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why am I doing this?

A few years ago, I decided I was tired of living a lie.  From the outside things looked pretty good.  I was busy "having it all" – career, marriage, kids, an active lifestyle that others seemed to admire – but deep down I knew I was a fraud, and every moment of every day I was waiting, almost hoping, for everything to fall apart.  I was a wife, mother, lawyer, athlete, and an active alcoholic.

I was also tired of spending all of my time and energy maintaining my addiction.  I was, as they say, sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Getting sober wasn't an easy process, and it certainly didn't happen overnight, but I can tell you that it was worth it, and I can tell you that it is possible, and I can honestly say that I don't believe I would have experienced one moment of true peace in my life without it.  And yet, my recovery is not something I openly share with everybody I meet.  My relationship with alcohol is still my biggest secret, whether it's my addiction to it or my hard-fought freedom from it.  Once again, lately I have been feeling tired of living a lie.  I'm a person living in recovery, and I want you to know that.

I recently watched a documentary about recovery that was recommended by a friend.  It's called The Anonymous People, and you should watch it too.  Everyone should.  It's what ultimately moved me to start this blog and put myself out there as a face and voice of recovery.  Recovery is something I think about and work on every day; it shapes every part of me and every aspect of my life; it's something that I and my family and friends celebrate and something for which I am deeply grateful.  It's not something I take for granted, and it's not something for which I feel shame.  So why do I continue to hide it?  There is the stigma perhaps, but it's more that I hesitate to share for fear of making others feel uncomfortable.  When they feel uncomfortable, it makes me uncomfortable, and then we're all uncomfortable.  But why shouldn't I make us all uncomfortable?  As with almost everything in life, outside of our comfort zones is where most growth and change takes place.

A few weeks ago, I ran the Boston Marathon, and a friend approached me after an AA meeting and told me that she had relayed that fact to her daughter.  Her daughter's response was an incredulous, "Someone in AA ran the Boston Marathon?"  Uhhh, yeah.  We laughed at her daughter's obvious misunderstanding of how driven and determined a person in recovery can be.  After all, I spent 20+ years being obsessively driven and determined to get a drink at all costs.  Not surprisingly those same qualities can be redirected to accomplish amazing things.  I am certain I wasn't the only person in recovery who ran in Boston, although I didn't see anyone wearing a shirt announcing them as such.  We are runners and mothers and wives and lawyers and everything else under the sun.  We are productive citizens, and we are everywhere.  I can't help but feel a responsibility to share my experience in the hope that it may help someone understand what recovery means to a person living it and what it could mean to a person who can't access it. 

I believe there are many paths to recovery; that there is no one right way.  I choose to attend AA, but I don't follow the program to the letter.  I do believe that being of service to others – sharing experience, strength, and hope – is a key ingredient, and I often find myself struggling, not feeling as if I'm doing my part.  I attend AA meetings regularly, but I never share.  I get so much out of what others share, but an intensely introverted nature and a crippling fear of public speaking keep me silent, which brings me to the written word.  I'm coming late to the blog game, but I feel compelled to do it, to share my experiences in recovery and encourage others to do the same.  Let's get uncomfortable . . .    

What this blog IS:
  • The experiences and musings of one person happily living an imperfect life in recovery.

What this blog IS NOT:
  • An instructional guide on how to work a recovery program.
  • A scientific explanation of addiction.
  • An attempt to convince anyone else that they are an addict or alcoholic.
  • A place to judge me - you may, of course, but I probably don't really care if you do.


12 comments:

  1. Wendy, I love this first installment and I'm really happy you're writing a blog about recovery. I feel much the same about my recovery and I cherish it mostly because through this experience, I've become a person who copes with life on life's terms in peace. Peace is something that is new to me, without the AA program and all the people in it, I never would have found my way. Keep on blogging!!

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    1. Thanks, Jane. I'm glad you've found some peace too. Who knew it was a real thing?!

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  2. Bravo. Here's a favorite quote of mine that makes me think your doing pretty close to "perfect"

    "The warrior’s approach is to say 'yes' to life: say 'yea' to it all. Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. When we talk about settling the world's problems, we're barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It's a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives."

    Joseph Campbell in a Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

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    1. Thanks, Karl. I love this - how true!

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  3. Wendy, I do not know you but admire you tremendously. A beautifully written piece. How can I follow your blog?
    AC

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  4. Thank you, AC. I've added a place to sign up and follow below. Thanks for pointing that out - I'm still trying to figure out the blog set up . . .

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  5. Wow! As I read your blog, I seem to do something that I do a lot when you are around. I cried!
    Who would have thought that 2 friends that met some 13 years ago for a short period of time, could be on the same path in life?
    I, too, have been an alcoholic for 25+ years. I have a good job! A great wife! Great kids! A great family and friends that have been there for me and supported me as I lived that same lie! Only hurting the people that I loved the most! All behind closed doors hoping that nobody outside could see. I wonder at this point, who really knew but never said a word?!?! I have been recovering for 6 months.
    We all are super proud of you, Wendy! I am super proud that you wrote this blog to try to help others. All awhile, I have chosen to feel sorry for myself and the pain that it has brought to my life. It had made me realize that I (and only I) am responsible for that. Because of my alcoholism, I have osteonecrosis in my hips. I had 1 hip replacement @ 3 months ago and am scheduled to have my other replaced on June 10th. What I realize now is that I should be happy! I still have my great kids, great wife, awesome family and friends, and my entire life ahead of me!
    Thank you, Wendy! You are an inspiration!

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    1. Well, I guess it's no surprise why we got along so well on that booze cruise . . . haha. Thank you, Rodney, and congratulations on 6 months! Sounds like we have similar stories and both finally found a way to live for everything we have to live for. I'm proud of and happy for you too, and I hope your recovery just continues to get better.

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  6. wow. I knew you were into endurance sports, but I had no idea you were a recovering alcoholic. Sure, you partied a little in college, but I saw much worse - including myself. I quit drinking in 2002 on my own. I have never been to AA and I never went to any program when I was drinking. Like you say, quitting works differently for each person. The bottom line is we quit, and we are better off now. I took up Tennis when I quit drinking. It is almost a positive addiction. Maybe endurance sports are the same for you.

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    1. 12 years! That is so great! I don't know how you did it on your own - I just couldn't - but whatever you're doing is working for you, and I absolutely think that's what matters. Endurance sports are where I funnel my more obsessive, extremist tendencies these days. I did them before, but my training and racing serves a different purpose these days. I'll be blogging more on that, I'm sure. Thanks so much for sharing this with me.

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  7. Great start to your blog and incredible message to share Wendy, I saw it in the UltraRunnerPodcast Daily News. This is a very common story in the ultra athlete community but not often shared. I got sober 5 years ago at 38 after two decades of drinking daily. During that time I knew I was an alcoholic and could not fathom being sober. I dabbled with exercise during those 20 years but remained 50lbs overweight and everything in my life revolved around drinking and hiding how much I was drinking. Once I figured out I didn't have to live like that anymore it was easy to channel that compulsion into endurance sports. I attended AA for about a year and because I work in law enforcement I traveled out of my local area to do it and have never publicly shared as you have. I have struggled with this and have felt like I should share my experience with new staff members in my profession. Thanks for sharing your story, it's inspiring to those who don't think they can do this and those who think they are the only ones at the finish line who crave the free beer and abstain.

    Jason

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    1. Thanks, Jason. Hearing from someone who relates really reinforces my decision to put myself out there. It was a bit nerve-wracking. I can certainly understand and respect your need to keep your recovery private. I hope that some day there is a greater level of understanding of addiction and recovery in society at large so that sharing our stories isn't so daunting. Congratulations on 5 years and on all the finish lines crossed!

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