I have been sober for 749 days, 11 hours, and 13 minutes. I did not go to AA meetings, I did not check myself into rehab, and I didn’t call any telephone hotlines. Many people that knew me then and know me now tend to look at me in astonishment.
“You did it all on your own?” they ask.
“No,” I reply. “I had thousands of people helping me.”
It all started with a conversation with my Co-writer that took place after a disastrous visit from my brother and his family during which I spent the first half of their vacation drunk and the second half in bed in the throes of physical withdrawal while my guests tip-toed down below.
Following is an excerpt of that conversation taken from my first blog:
It’s been over a week now and I’m still haranguing myself and I’m black and blue all over although it’s not visible to the human eye (except for the aforementioned broken toe). I finally quit yelling at myself and said, “Okay God, I’ll shut up and listen now.”
Yes, I talk to God. And he talks back. Swear to God! I don’t want to get too heavy on the “God” thing right now but he insists on being a co-author. I don’t really care if you believe or not or what you believe in. He doesn’t either. That’s not what this blog is about. I just have to make me shut up long enough to listen.
“Forgive unto yourself as you forgive unto others.” (See, I know that’s God because I don’t use the word “unto” a whole lot)
“Dude, (I’ve had my 6 yr. old grandson for two weeks) that’s not how it goes,” I replied.
“Who says?” says God. “The point is, if your brother had done the same thing, would you forgive him?”
“My brother doesn’t drink.”
“You get my point!”
(I think he was gritting his teeth)
“You promised you’d start the blog” He reminded me.
“I want to wait until I have a success story,” I whined. See, God and I had been talking about me doing this blog for years but I kept putting it off. I had kept a journal of my many attempts at prolonged sobriety but I kept waiting for those milestones. I thought l’d wait until I was sober for a year to start a blog so I could be an example for others. Hasn’t happened yet. 100 days? Hasn’t happened yet. 28 days? Nope.
I haven’t even been sober one day if you prescribe to the popular theory that an alcoholic has to quit drinking completely in order to gain sobriety. But never mind that, that’s not what this blog is about either apparently according to my co-author.
“There are plenty of success stories out there for people to read,” God said. (That made me feel a whole lot better, not.) I need someone to write about what it’s like to want it so bad but still fail…
“You can count on me for that,” I said drolly.
“…so they won’t feel alone.” God finished.
“You know, this could make a great book like Eat, Pray, Love except we could name it Drink, Detox, Live”
“No, book deals, Kary”
“No, movie deals, Kary”
“It wouldn’t have to be Julia Roberts that played me. It could be a lesser actress. Someone like Lindsay Lohan.”
“Lindsay’s just a kid. She doesn’t have your baggage.”
“So you’re saying there could be a movie?”
So I started a blog per request of God, my Higher Power, and my Co-Writer. At the time, I had no idea how a blog was going to help me. How was my writing about my struggle in a public forum going to help me combat the demon I had been fighting for so long? God knows I’d already written about it, if you were to visit my house there’s no telling where you’d stumble over a journal in which I’ve scrawled passages about my inner torment. 2001. 2002. 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009…They are all full of the same descriptions of my daily life, the denial, the acceptance, the shame, the determination, the failure of my battles with booze.
Several people have asked, “Why didn’t you go to AA or rehab?”
My answer is, “I couldn’t.”
They look back at me and say, “You mean, you wouldn’t.”
And I repeat, “No, I couldn’t.”
I knew where they were coming from, I had asked myself the same question for years and I had promised myself endless times that the next time I put myself in abject misery and physical danger, I would get help. But I didn’t. I wasn’t strong enough. I was too ashamed. I didn’t have the support of my loved ones. There were a myriad of reasons and they all balled up into an avalanche that left me buried in my alcoholism and paralyzed to do anything about it, except to struggle on my own as I had for the whole thirty years of my drinking career.
But then the conversations began. If you’ve ever gone through withdrawal, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve had them. Those one-sided conversations that come in the middle of the night when your heart is racing, and you’re praying for it to stop one minute, terrified that it actually might in the next minute. When your mind feels like a short-circuited microwave, and it is taking all of your will not to go downstairs to the liquor cabinet or the refrigerator where you know you will find relief. Where the ants are marching under your skin and you call out to God or whoever else is out there, “Please help me.” Followed by the promise, “If I make it through this night, I’ll never drink again. I swear. Are you there?”
I had variations of that same conversation for years. I wasn’t too good at keeping my promises. But then in the midst of my agony, I started hearing another voice. Its conversation always started with, “I love you.”
Auditory hallucinations? Perhaps. I didn’t care. It soothed me and gave me rest.
Somewhere during those endless nights, the topic of a blog about my struggle kept coming up. Who would read it? How did I get it out there? I argued.
“You know how,” my Co-Writer replied.
He was right. I’d had other blogs. I knew how to get out there and “pimp” a blog.
I finally sat down at my computer keyboard and with shaking fingers keyed in the search for “recovery forums.” A cyberworld full of people just like me, too afraid, too ashamed, too weak to go to a meeting, to make a phone call, or to stand up to others who couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just quit on their own, was out there waiting for me.
I started out at Moderaton Management because, yes, even after thirty years of trying to slay the dragon, I wasn’t finished. I had read about MM when it first formed, back in my late 20’s and now I was almost fifty. I realize now that I probably knew how my attempt at moderation was going to turn out, but at the time I thought maybe by putting myself out there and making myself accountable to strangers, I would find the discipline and strength I needed to finally tame my drinking. I needed to put to rest the question of whether I could learn to moderate in order for me to embrace sobriety fully. It took me a year. A year of attempts and failures at thirty day abstinence periods, followed by painfully short attempts at moderation, followed by binges, followed by withdrawals. I did that pretty much on a six week rotation until one fateful day, following another binge, I joined another internet forum, Women For Sobriety. I still hadn’t accepted my fate of a life without booze, but I wanted to do an extended abs period with some additional support. In my introductory post, I described my journey up to that point. One member responded, “Reading about all of your Day 1’s of starting over is exhausting me.”
Well, that pissed me off and I decided to go back and read through the year of my blog posts to see just how many Day 1’s I’d had. When I read back through that year of blogging, I recognized a cycle and I had my answer to whether I could moderate. It was a resounding, “NO!”. However, not only had that year trying to moderate given me my answer, all of my attempts at 30 day abs periods had showed me what mornings and afternoons and evenings and restful nights looked and felt like. I had to admit they looked and felt amazing. They’d made me feel alive for the first time in a long time.
I was now ready to quit drinking and in my year of blogging I had found an amazing network of fellow bloggers and various forums out there to support me.
That was over two years ago, and I’m still sober and still active on the forums, and still blogging on my blog, God Walked Into This Bar . My brother who recovered with the support of AA over twenty years ago is one of the skeptics. He tells me, “If you want to keep it, you have to give it away.” I tell him, “ I do. On a daily worldwide basis”. I have fellow sober bloggers on whom I depend and who depend on me on every continent, well, maybe not Antarctica. I have held the “virtual” hand of a friend as she went through withdrawals on a midnight train in Tokyo. I have spent time in chatrooms with other people from places such as Playa del Carmen, Paris, and Sydney who were going through the same things I was. The internet provides 24 hour support with the click of the keyboard mouse.
During this voyage, I have been a member of various online groups, Moderation Management, Women for Sobriety, SMART Recovery, and AA online. Some were a good fit for me and some were not. I am still very active on Moderation Management because, although I still believe that some people that find their way there can learn to moderate, I want to be a gentle reminder for those that can’t, that there is an alternative and that total sobriety is not the dark world we all once imagined. As far as sobriety forums, I found my home at mmabsers, a sub-group of former Moderation Management members who have embraced permanent abstinence from alcohol. MMabsers, does not promote any single form of recovery, instead it supports whatever works for the individual members. Our members are comprised of AA members, SMART Recovery members, WFS members, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, and people like me who choose what works for them from a multitude of disciplines.
Have I missed something in not having a warm body sitting next to me on a chair at a meeting? Yes. It gets lonely sometimes not having a real sober person to hug you or to go to lunch with. Someone who gets it. I still haven’t chosen this route, I’m not really sure why, but I may someday. I’m strong enough now. But at the time, I did what I could do and I know that if I had not found the support I found on the internet back then, I would not be sober today.
Do what you can.
This was a guest post from Kary May Hickey, the author of God Walked Into This Bar, detailing her journey to sobriety and the creation of her online blog.