One of the first people I met in the recovery online community was Veronica Valli who has her own blog, Recovery Rocks. She interviewed me earlier this year and I wanted to re-post and share it – especially this week as we are gearing up for the UNITE TO FIGHT ADDICTION rally in DC on October 4! Veronica and others have been instrumental in helping me share my story and sharing the message of recovery!
1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
My bottom came at the perfect time as I knew I had a problem with drinking and cocaine for years, but I just didn’t care. I needed a strong jolt as I had resigned myself to the fact that this was my life and I’ll just keep plodding along until the wheels fall off . By age 18 I had become a cocaine addict, as well as a daily drinker. Fast forward to March, 2004, the wheels fell off! After drinking for 7 hours – a normal Saturday occurrence – I was served my 2nd DUI by the State of California. It was midnight, in front of a liquor store, and I was with someone I had just met at a nightclub. It was 5 years after my first DUI and I was surprised it actually took that long. I was 37 years old and had been living my life as if I was still 18. I was a functioning alcoholic and “recreational” cocaine addict with a career and my free-wheeling lifestyle was typical because most everyone drank and used the way I did. I had lowered my companionship and knew I needed help, but I also didn’t want to give up my best friends – alcohol and cocaine. I waited 6 weeks before I entered a self-help meeting (encouraged by my DUI attorney). I just went to get the court card signed and soon after I left that meeting, I went on to drink for the next week. During that week, I kept thinking that if others could do it, maybe I should give it a shot? I heard hope in that meeting and I felt that at this point in my life I had nothing to lose. It was complete blind faith. I realized that everything bad that had ever happened to me in my life was due to my drinking and drugging. I decided to give the sobriety thing a try. I had no other options at that point. I remember my last drink like it was yesterday. It was red wine, and I drank it right out of the bottle. The next day I went to my 2nd self help meeting and have been sober ever since.
2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
I was in a fog and felt quite robotic. I was living on auto-pilot and just started going to self-help meetings every day, and listening to what other women told me to do. Within my first week I started talking to some of the women and most were woman that I could have seen myself drinking with. I felt like I connected with them. The difference is they were sober. Some had weeks of sobriety more than I did, and some had years, either way, I wanted what they had. I couldn’t sleep much or I slept too much. I cried a lot. I felt ashamed about my past and started journaling to get the thoughts out of my head. I didn’t tell a lot of people (back home) and pretty soon I had 30 days. I couldn’t believe it. I just kept doing what the elders at the self-help meetings told me to do.
3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
Since I got sober, so much has changed. The best things for me have been internal. Dignity, integrity, honesty, helping others – living life by those principles has guided me to be a better person. I want to help others and give back. I have choices today. I have moved four times in sobriety and I get to live life the way I want to – not the way alcohol wants me to. I have a career where I get to work from home, because I’m a sober person with a good work ethic who is accountable and can be trusted. I met my husband in recovery and we get to share our journey together. I have great relationships with my family and friends – they are full and I am a participant. Physically, I take care of myself now. I try to stay fit and eat healthier and I wash my face before I go to bed now! I would have none of this if I wasn’t sober.
4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
Gosh, I’d tell myself to listen to my inner voice. Listen to that voice that kept telling me “you have a problem, this isn’t normal.” I was so afraid of admitting that I had a problem and I was scared to let anyone think I did. I wanted everyone to like me and to be loved. I would tell myself that its ok to be true to yourself. That’s the first step in recovery – getting honest about who you truly are.
5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That it’s ok to be who I am. I’m not a bad person. I was just a sick person doing sick things. Now I’m a healthy person trying to live healthy – emotionally, physically and spiritually. I’m much more apathetic than I used to be and I try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Nothing is earth shattering and horrific any more. I don’t have the impending sense of doom that I used to live with every day. I lived in a very black and white world before. The fear that used to rule my life is gone. It’s ok to make mistakes and be human.
6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
The list is so long! Every day I get up without a hangover is still mind boggling to me! But, a few weeks ago, I was able to surprise some friends in San Diego. I got sober in Encinitas, CA and that’s where I feel most “at home”. I got sober with a core group of woman there. One of them recently got married and she had a party to celebrate her nuptials. I was able to get on a plane and surprise her (and my other friends) and visit with them for a long weekend. If I was still drinking, nothing like that would have occurred. I never went anywhere or did anything when I was drinking. I didn’t have money to travel, I didn’t get invited to nice parties and I wasn’t thinking of others. My husband and I are now saving for a trip to go to Italy to celebrate my Dad’s 75t Birthday later this year. The fact that I’m saving money to spend time with Family – again, never would have happened if I was drinking!
7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
I like a lot of them actually, but a few I like to say to myself and use with others:
We will learn to love you before you can love yourself.
Don’t leave before the miracle happens.
8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
FREEDOM! When you live a life of recovery, you have the freedom to do anything you want. Nothing holds you back. You have more money, more options, more choices and more dignity and integrity than you’d ever imagine.