At twenty-five, I was working as a waitress and not using the fairly impressive-sounding degree I held from a fairly prestigious California university. From an outsider’s view, it didn’t make much sense. Why was she working in the restaurant industry and not using any of her potential? I frequently got asked by the customers I was serving what I was planning on doing with my life, what I was planning on becoming, as though working six nights a week and every weekend and most holidays wasn’t respectable enough or grueling work. It paid the bills and it bought me time. Oh you have a Bachelor’s of Science in Neurobiology, why aren’t you doing something with that?
Great questions. Tough answers.
I kept my family and longtime friends at arm’s length, hiding what was really happening for me. I felt that all I had to show for my life was a trail of abandoned dreams- consequences of my own poor and desperate choices. I was always covering up. I was always managing.
Inside, I was internally reeling from deep issues I refused to confront and had no idea how to deal with in a healthy way.
And I kept trying to fix what felt unfixable by pouring alcohol all over it.
I was never a daily drinker. Yet. I was never physically addicted to alcohol. Yet. What did happen for me is that whenever I put alcohol into my body, I was off and running. Once I put alcohol into my body, just enough to feel the feeling it gave me, I craved more. Once I put alcohol into my body, I didn’t want to stop.
I drank for effect. I drank to get drunk. I drank to become someone else. I drank to forget. I drank to silence myself. I drank to disappear.
A small voice inside of me told me to pay attention to my drinking. I told it to shut up. I knew that the way I drank wasn’t normal. I knew that the amount I drank wasn’t normal. I knew that the things I did when I was drunk weren’t normal. I knew that the choices I made when I was drunk weren’t normal. I knew that the person I became while drunk wasn’t normal.
I hoped that I would grow out of it. I hoped that an opportunity would arise to snap me out of it. I hoped that finding the right relationship would fix me. I hoped the right job offer would fix me. I hoped time would heal all of the wounds.
I never tried controlling my drinking. I didn’t try many of the methods that alcoholics normally try in order to convince themselves that they don’t have a drinking problem. I drank alone; mostly at night after work because I couldn’t get to sleep without a bottle of wine helping me along. I never eliminated hard liquor. I never tried switching from liquor to beer. I never tried limiting my number of drinks. I never tried going periods without drinking or only drinking on the weekends. I never tried a lot of things when it came to alcohol because alcohol was my escape. Alcohol was my reprieve. Alcohol was my pause button.
Mostly, I didn’t try controlling my drinking because when I enjoyed my drinking I didn’t control it and when I controlled it I didn’t enjoy it. I hated how I felt and I hated who I was and I didn’t know how to make it all better. A lot of the time, it felt like alcohol helped. Alcohol silenced the part of me that cared so much about the mess I was.
I stuck to hanging out with friends who drank and partied like me, and pushed away those family and friends who would be seriously concerned if they knew what was really happening. I didn’t know how to get out of the hole I had dug for myself and I put on a different face for everyone. I was a one-woman show, being whoever I needed you to believe I was, however and whenever it was convenient for me.
In the months leading up to my final drinking episode, I knew that I couldn’t keep on living the way that I was living. I wanted and needed the bad shit to stop. The walls felt like they were caving in. I needed deliverance.
They say in Alcoholics Anonymous that you find your bottom when you stop digging.
I finally stopped digging.
When I hit my bottom, it was gloriously defeating. It was the kind of bottom that leaves you terrified and trembling. It was the kind of bottom that knocks the wind out of you. It was the kind of bottom where you only have yourself to blame. My bottom destroyed me. My bottom beat me into a state of reasonableness. My bottom made me desperate for salvation. My bottom set me free.
Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m an alcoholic.
A lot happens in four years of sobriety. Recovery has been brutal and it has been awe-inspiring. It has gifted me with much needed healing. It has blessed me with a deep relationship and faith in God.
Sobriety has untethered my voice, my soul, my inner light, and it has revealed to me my truth.
Getting sober was the jumping off point for my spiritual awakening. It is progress. It is figuring out who I am. It is all new. Everything has changed, in subtle and in big ways. A lot of the time (most of the time) I feel really really uncomfortable in my new skin.
Today, I am becoming. I am processing. I am blooming. I am grieving. I am mending. I am rebuilding. I am forgiving. I am (working on) letting go. I am giving the benefit of the doubt. I am trusting, blind. I am working on it, working through it, and working it all out.
I’m a daughter, a friend, an employee, a writer, a contributor, a sister, a member, a volunteer. While the outside stuff looks pretty good today, the inside is where the true transformation has taken place. I am worthy. I am worthwhile. I am trustworthy- not only to others but also to myself. I am passionate. I am capable.
I have something to give and a deep need to give it.
I remember the woman that I was at twenty-five, lost and drowning. My life was small, my circumstances were bleak, and I lived a life without much purpose or fulfillment. Today I have strength. Today I have stamina. Today I have grit. Today I have peace. Today I have a hope to transmit. Today, I am much more interesting than I ever was when I was drinking.
I am a woman full of faith, honesty, truth, and perseverance. The only rub is that I had to do the work. Abandonment, rejection, and abuse are an integral part of my story, both drinking and in sobriety. I’ve had to pour all of myself into the breaking and into the healing. I’ve have had to lean into all of it. Sometimes I have leaned in kicking and screaming, but I have always leaned in. The work has been grueling. The work has shaken me to my core. The work has broken me wide open.
The parts of myself that I have had to draw upon and grow, the parts of myself that survived these events and overcame them and became better because of them, that is the me I want you know. I want you to know that it’s never too late to start over. It’s never too late to completely throw away the life that you are living if you can’t stand it. I am living proof that anything is possible, if only because when I look at where I came from and who I am today, I would have never believed I could make it this far.
The healing is a miracle and the truth has delivered me.
My transformation began with putting down the drink. It began with admitting I couldn’t keep living life the way that I was living it. It all began with one step, on one fine day, when I believed in the depths of my soul that everything was certainly ending.
Over 1,500 days later, I see that these events were a reset. A second chance. A miracle in the making. Now, I leap from heights that used to terrify me. Now, I am proud of myself. Now, I can truly begin.