This is a story I hoped that I would never have to tell, but telling my story, the triumphs and the failures is the accountability that has helped me stay sober. Nine days ago, in my 3rd year sober, I slipped hard. I drank to a dangerous level, even though I have a toolbox full of sober tools, I’ve learned to use to handle cravings, I understand self-care and self-compassion, I no longer crave alcohol nor do I have any interest in moderation, and I’ve been successful in meeting all my “firsts“ with staying alcohol-free. I thought I was solid in my sobriety. But even with all of this sober muscle, nine days ago I left my mother’s apartment after caring for her, I was angry, hurt, and humiliated because of her behavior towards me and other caregivers. My mother and I have a difficult relationship.
I WENT DIRECTLY FROM MY MOTHERS TO BUY BOOZE !!
YES!! I blew through everything I know about staying sober. I blew through HALT , exercise, reading , writing, reaching out to my community. It was like an out-of-body experience. It was like I was blackout drunk walking but I was stone sober!
I walked right into the liquor store and after over 2 years sober I bought a 350 ml bottle of whiskey!!
I don’t even drink that stuff! Wine was my poison. All my brain was saying to me is TURN OFF. I wasn’t even thinking in full sentences. This has never happened to me before.
I went home and over the next 5 hours drank all 350ml mixed in cola. I couldn’t even feel the booze until I blackout drunk dialed my mother. Then while laying on bathroom floor I called my husband for help to come sit with me because I was so scared I would stop breathing. My saint of a husband sat with me until 2 am when I was finally able to move and get into bed .
The next morning I was horrified !!
I didn’t understand what happen to me and why.
I felt like I was physically attacked but I did the attack to myself!
Of course I had the shame and remorse for breaking my sobriety but this was different. It was a dark pit of fear and panic that I had lost my soul. This felt so much darker than a slip. This was a crash. I was terrified that in the beginning of my 3rd sober year, I was looking at a full relapse.
For 2 days I couldn’t even put my experience into words. I cried because I was so scared at what happened. I think I was scared I would die. I was scared it could happen again.
Now 9 days since my slip I have done a lot of soul searching and so far this is what I learned :
I learned to never take your sobriety for granted. I think my brain went into panic mood and the old coping mechanism took over. I know my off switch is forever broken however I learned from reading this week that if a person hasn’t had any alcohol for a while and then binges it can be life-threatening. I think I was VERY close to alcohol poisoning and needing to go to hospital.
Be aware your next binge could kill !
My biggest question after I calmed down was WHY ????
I am still searching however I realized this week that in this 3rd year sober I’ve reached a level of normality with never drinking that was working most of time. I had no concerns about slips or relapse because sobriety is comfortable for me now. However I never really dug deep down in my soul and worked through healing old patterns of behavior when my buttons are pushed. I am still reacting in my wounded child mode. I also am very aware of how codependent I am and how dangerous this is to my sobriety. I have done lots of readings but intellectualizing is not the same as putting the concept into action.
I have read that around 2 years or so of sobriety it is time to address deeper issues of why we drink and how we need to overcome these issues in order to have long term sobriety. Something I am reading right now which is really helpful to me to heal from this horrible experience is LET GO NOW Embrace Detachment a Path to Freedom by Karen Casey. I am also exploring the effects of growing up with an emotionally unavailable mother.
I tend to think about life in seasons.
Each season has an opportunity for growth in different ways. For example, in spring new growth comes forth after the seeds from autumn have fallen to the ground. In the sleepiness of winter, they gain strength for the new growing season. In spring the seed sprouts new growth and becomes a beautiful plant which in the summer can be appreciated for its flowering beauty or eaten as a fruit to nourish our bodies. Come fall the seeds once again form and burrow into the soil and rest for the winter and so the cycle repeats.
So right now I am in the winter season of my sobriety. The last 2 years have been seasons of growth and recovery from alcohol controlling my life and my relationships. When I was new in recovery I focused on staying sober and learning to live without using alcohol to numb my feelings. I remember all my “ sober firsts “ and the anxiety that came with them and then the strength and confidence I felt when I successfully met them.
I learned to sit with all those raw emotions stored up in my body and soul just waiting to be released.
So here I am now starting my 3rd year of sobriety with all these emotions and looking for a way to heal so come spring new growth can lead to a peaceful beautiful summer harvest.
I know if I don’t heal old wounds my recovery will not be sustainable long term. Resentment leads to anger and these emotions keep me from growing into the best version of me that I can be. I have so many issues to work on in my 3rd sober year, this winter season. I especially have a strong desire to release the feelings of resentment and anger. Sometimes my anger scares me. If I don’t learn to release the anger I risk another slip and possible relapse.
So you ask how do I rid my heart and soul of anger and resentment?
Well for me it’s not easy. In fact, it is so far the biggest challenge to my recovery.
It is a very simple word but yet it can be so difficult to achieve.
I must forgive those who have hurt me. I hold resentment and anger towards them because of this hurt. In my season of winter, I must forgive so that I can again experience the growth of spring and reap the summer harvest of long-term sobriety.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean I pretend what has happened to me never happened.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean the person isn’t accountable for their actions.
Forgiveness doesn’t even mean they understand how they hurt me or that they ask for forgiveness or even want forgiveness.
Forgiveness to me means I understand the hurt I experienced was real. However, it is in the past and is something that can never be undone therefore I must forgive so I can move on in life and not be stuck reliving the past over and over and not being present for the one precious life I have now.
Forgiveness gives me the power to put past hurts where they belong and destroy the power anger and resentment hold over me. If the person who hurt me isn’t even aware of the damage done then my resentment only hurts me as they go happily on their way not giving a thought to their actions. I don’t want to miss living my life because I am stuck in resentment.
Forgiveness forces me to humble myself and not live with a self-righteous attitude.
The person who has caused me so much anger and resentment is not perfect and did not have a perfect life either.
We are all products of our past and family of origin. I am not perfect and have made mistakes so if I humble myself to my imperfections I will realize I need forgiveness as much as the person I am forgiving.
In my situation I am not able to discuss my hurts with my mother whom is the cause of my pain. She is very old now and doesn’t remember. I do put up healthy boundaries on her current behavior. However, boundaries without also forgiving her doesn’t stop the resentment.
I have learned not to punish myself by drinking in order to numb my anger and resentment.
I am a work in progress and I am gaining strength.
I do know if I can forgive I can keep my hard-earned sobriety and most importantly my heart will not grow hardened.
I believe extending forgiveness is the ultimate act of love to ourselves and to others .
As I rest in this season of winter I work on planting the seeds of forgiveness to grow in myself. I slipped but I will not relapse in this 3rd year of sobriety.
Come spring, my hope is new sprouts will grow and blossom into a summer season of forgiveness.
After I reached my goal of staying sober I always felt there is still something missing in my sobriety. Now I know it’s time to heal from the WHY I drink. I don’t have all the answers but I do believe I must truly search for what is still burning in my heart and really find peace with it so I can truly forgive, heal and continue to grow in my own life journey and in my sobriety. I am so grateful to be in year 3 sober and I will not let go
Follow down the page to see my Sobriety Tool Box
More thoughts from year 3 sober :
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“Toolbox” is the buzz word around recovery groups .
Have you read about people building their toolbox and putting something they liked in their toolbox?
Some folks in recovery for longer, like me here in year 3 having recently slipped, say they need to dust off their toolbox.
My brother is a diesel mechanic and he is responsible for purchase, maintaining, and adding to his personal toolbox tools to repair diesel engines. If he had only one old rusty wrench in his toolbox I doubt he could rebuild the engine of a broken truck. Hum are we somewhat like an engine in need of a tune-up 🤔
Back to the question what is a toolbox?🧰🧰🧰🧰🧰
Drum roll please 🥁🥁🥁
A toolbox is anything and everything that we use to support our sobriety plan and goals.
It is an actual physical box filled with tools.
It is also a virtual toolbox filled with mental and physical tools and ideas to support our sobriety.
Let’s get specific.
First, if you don’t have a toolbox have fun building or purchasing a big box. Decorate and write on it anything that supports your sobriety. Craft stores have great boxes ready to use with all sorts of coverings on them in all kinds of sizes.
Now have fun filling it with quit lit books and articles about how to build a recovery program which speaks to you personally. Add other supportive tools.
My box started with all kinds of books about alcohol use and abuse and recovery. I had to move my box to a bookshelf because now over 2 years later I have 40 + books.😂 My books now relate to areas in my life I want to grow such as forgiveness, understanding codependent relationships, healing the inner child …. I buy most of my books “used “ to fit my budget. (Actually, this allows me to buy more books !) 🤣📕📒📔📘
I also fill my toolbox with journals. I wrote why I drank and why I wanted to stop. It has very personal experiences and regrets I experienced because of my drinking. One page is filled with people I have let down or hurt and how I can rebuild the relationships. Another pg is a very graphic description of what physical symptoms my drunkenness and hangovers were like including blackouts, fights, and bathroom grossness. 😱. I don’t want to ever forget what alcohol did to me. The booze monster wants you to forget! I don’t live in the past but I sure want to learn from it and not repeat it. I journal now on different situations I am stressed over and need to resolve.
I have a folder filled with quotes, pictures, and sayings I have collected from different places .. I use my phone to take a picture then print it out. On a difficult day, I go through my folder and choose a quote or inspirational picture and hang it up for encouragement. One time I was having a super difficult day. I took a quote and folded in my pocket so I could press it and feel the paper whenever I wanted. It kept me grounded in my sobriety and I didn’t drink 😊
I have essential oil’s and coloring books and markers and bubble bath oils etc in my box. I love slow deep breathing instructions by counting what I can feel, see, touch and taste to calm me down when I have anxiety.
Put in your box anything that you can go to and use to build your recipe for recovery. My bible and other Christian authors are in my toolbox. Whatever your higher power is maybe add something that supports you. I have a gratitude journal for naming my blessings. It really helps my self-pity moods improve.
Now let’s talk about tools for the VIRTUAL toolbox. This BOOM Rethink the Drink group is a huge tool to use for building your road to sobriety. So many ideas are on this blog that your toolbox will overflow with ideas and resources.
Any blog like Annie Grace or Ted Talks are tools. Support groups like AA and others. Exercise and music CD’s, Yoga classes, walk in park , screaming into your pillow is ok too. ( I say pillow because last summer I let out a scary scream of frustration in my yard and kids next store called the cops thinking I was in danger ) 🙀
The point is to pick and choose what helps you in your sobriety. Search for tools that work for you.
Why even bother to have a real or virtual box? It is so much work!
Living an alcohol-free lifestyle IS hard work so you must have a plan. Your plan has to have practical tools you can actually use to help you reach your goal.
It is not a burden or a punishment to build a toolbox. It is a blessing so have a spirit of adventure as you work on your box. If one thing doesn’t help then find something else. Your sobriety depends on it.
Trying to live a sober life with only one tool and that tool being “willpower“ will get old and rusty really quickly!
🙀 You must have multiple tools and USE the tools!
Keep your toolbox from getting dusty, musty and rusty by adding new items as you grow in your sobriety. Don’t wait till you have a horrible day and have nothing but willpower as a tool. Have that toolbox ready so you can battle the tricks thrown at you by the booze bitch with success!
I hope this gives a few ideas about how and why to build your very own personal wonderful and powerfully effective toolbox.
Happy toolbox building! It is totally worth the effort! I promise