We all have something and sometimes we are buried in our something, running from sobriety. Your something might be grief. It might be alcohol or binge eating. Maybe it is work or gossiping. We all have something that we use for numbing. Something that is preventing us from inner peace. Every time we allow our something to temporarily ease the pain, we are running. We are running from true joy and healing. We are running from sobriety. Sobriety isn’t just about alcohol, it is about whatever feels out of alignment. It is about detoxing our souls from the anger, the fear, the shame, and the hate. Sobriety is choosing to feel and heal instead of numb and avoid.
My First Something
I woke-up blackout drunk in the middle of the street. I don’t remember much to be honest, but it’s a night I will never forget. It was dark, the street light was flashing, the ground was hard and my dog was by my side. All I could think about was, what the hell happened? What got me here?
It would make for a great story though, right? Drinking was what we did. Hangovers were a part of young adulthood. I didn’t have a problem.
Your somethings will always follow you.
I left that life behind when I made my way to Colorado. The road trip out here was my last big hoorah. I would smoke my last pack of cigarettes, I would drink my last drink at our stop in Omaha. I was ready to become an adult, but what I wasn’t prepared for was my something to still be there in a new town. A move that I thought would help detox the shame and anger drove me farther from sobriety than ever before.
The blackouts continued. The weekend binge drinking was a badge I wore proudly. Weekend binge drinking turned in to drinking while bartending. One shift drink turned in to poor decisions at 2am. It turned in to hurting people I cared so deeply about. It turned in to burying my shame and my guilt in the bottom of a bottle of Jager or a bottle of Jameson. I still didn’t have a problem though. The letter for my acceptance in to grad school had just arrived in the mail. Physically, my body was the smallest it had ever been and I had more money in my bank account than I ever did. On the surface everything looked ok, but under it all I was completely broken.
Vail to Denver
I ran again in the hopes of finding sobriety, this time to Denver. It was a gorgeous fall day and I was unpacking what little I chose to bring from my past life. It was mid-afternoon, and there I was with a Coors light in hand. I remember thinking at that very moment, “This is it. I am free.” I wish that was my last drink or something profound happened after that day, but it didn’t.
Life continued. Drinking continued. Yes, it was less, but it still happened. Blackout nights. Puking in a cab. Falling down in my front yard. Crippling anxiety.
I’ll Drink To That
I married the love of my life and kids came. We were celebrating our daughter’s first birthday. I remember leading up to it everyone saying “this is more of a party for you. You carried her for ten months. She is still alive after 365 days. You get to celebrate.” Of course I’ll drink that. I woke up the next morning, thankful my mom was there to help take care of my tiny human because I was not capable. For the first time, I cried because shame made its way to the surface. That didn’t stop me though.
It is not like I was an alcoholic. I just drank too much that night.
December 2020, I thought why not try dry January. I lasted all of nine days. January 9th, we had dinner plans with friends to celebrate their engagement. Margaritas, led to vodka. Vodka led to shots of Fireball. Shots of Fireball led to a gut-wrenching hangover and the worst anxiety I have ever felt. I am sure you are thinking “wow she drank a lot that night,” but the thing is I remember every drink I had. I didn’t blackout, so how did I get here. How did I get to this racing heart, sweaty palms, and foggy brain? The total opposite of sobriety.
The simple answer was alcohol.
The hard answer to uncover is why?
Why do I need alcohol as a social buffer? Why do I feel a need to drink when others are drinking? I hate the way it makes me feel. Whether it is one or ten, I am left with a foggy brain, crippling anxiety, and a feeling of helplessness. I am left feeling more anxiety, more shame, more hatred more of everything that cripples me.
Our culture is one that questions more if we aren’t drinking than if we get blackout drunk. To me there is something wrong with that. Please know, I am not judging you if you drink.
We All Have Something
The thing is, we all have something. Maybe it’s more than one thing. Is it your need to please everyone? Do you struggle with body image? Maybe it’s your need to save others. Maybe it is your need to portray everything is ok by having a clean house. (I listed all of those first because those are all my somethings!) Do you work too much? Maybe it’s your need to be perfect. Maybe you wrestle with addiction whether it be food, alcohol, or pills. We all have a thing. This thing doesn’t always lead to rock bottom, but it forces us to feel inadequate or leaves us with a knot in our stomach.
Before you read on, what is your thing?
I followed Laura Mckowen on Instagram for a while now and I actually recommended her book to an old colleague. It wasn’t just this idea about relationships with alcohol that made me interested in her book. I was interested in it because of everything she shared. It is like everything spoke right to my soul. The thing is, it was not just about learning about her relationship with alcohol. It was about self betrayal and all of the things that were burying me.
That morning I ordered her book. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know where it would lead.
What I did know, I had some work to do. Sobriety would allow me to plant my roots and grow.
In Lauren’s book, We are the Luckiest, she states “we must know about our thing if we are ever going to survive them. We believe we can bury them, when the truth is, they’re burying us. They will always bury us, eventually.”
Things were and still are burying me and they will continue until I can figure out my whys. I am tired of being buried. Freedom is tugging at my heart and soul.
Progress Not Perfection
I still drink. The need to have my kitchen counter clean will probably always be one of my things. Instead of saving people, I am trying to support people. Instead of crippling perfection, I am working on loving all of me, including the broken parts. I am not free, but I have taken the first few steps on this never-ending journey and I am feeling more free than I ever have before. There is joy in my heart and I can finally see more life in my eyes.
I am finding alignment and sobriety. I am detoxing the bullshit and I am learning how to feel all over again. Numbing the pain was just a part of my life, but what I didn’t realize is I was actually numbing my joy. The cleaning, the organizing, the drinking, the eating, social media–I had so many somethings that numbed me and I was buried underneath it all. My whys aren’t clear, but I am working through them.
I encourage you to start the process of asking yourself why for whatever your something is.
Are you free underneath it all?
I will leave you with this thought from Laura McKowen as you think about your something.
“The normal question is, ‘Is this bad enough for me to have to change?’
The question we should be asking is, ‘Is this good enough for me to stay the same.’
And the real question underneath it all is, ‘AM I FREE?’”