Dawn Dawn’s Story: Soberly Living, Loving & Learning
Hi, my name is Dawn… I’m an alcoholic in recovery, and I LOVE life! A little over two years ago, I never imagined that those words would come out of my mouth. As a matter of fact, I had a difficult time even saying, “My name is Dawn, and I’m an alcoholic,” because those very words brought me shame. Today, I am happy to say that I love living my life because I kicked shame to the curb and replaced it with acceptance, connection, healing, and joy.
Like many people, I had some pretty traumatic events occur in my young life. When I was 14 years old, I started drinking. As a result, I lived 24 years surviving, but not really living. In order to really live, it is necessary to be fully present in your life, and my addiction kept me from being present. Sure, for a long time I thought drinking was just a blast or very relaxing… until it wasn’t. When I drank, my integrity was almost never intact, and the shame from my drunken actions slowly ate away at my soul. Most of my behaviors provided myself and others a lot of laughs over the years, but at a cost. The biggest problem was that my actions on the outside were not matching up with who I really was on the inside, and when integrity is compromised… shame sets in. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to experience authentic joy in life when shame prevents you from even living in the present because you are stuck in the regrets of the past. The thing is that even when I had periods of time in my life when I didn’t drink at all, I still couldn’t really connect to living… surviving was all I knew.
Once I had children, the consequences of my addiction became even more devastating and shameful. I just wanted to be a good mom, and in many ways I was a great mom (survivor mom), but there were barriers getting in the way of a having a fully connected relationship with my children, leaving them with a lot less than they deserved emotionally. My dysfunctional relationship with myself, which was fueled by alcohol, completely hindered my ability to be all that I wanted to be. The crazy part is that outwardly I walked around with a smile on my face. I was very sociable, always worked hard, had a lot going for me, had a lot NOT going for me, raised great kids, and kept my head above water (until my addiction kicked me down one last time). Prior to my final alcohol-induced smackdown, I knew that my addiction was getting out of control, but I thought I could just manage it. In retrospect, I also realize that I didn’t believe I was worthy of living a better life. I didn’t know there was a level past surviving called living. Ever since I was a little girl, I had trained myself to just be “okay,” and survive like a champion! As I got older, I subconsciously used alcohol to numb out enough of my pain and shame to keep me slowly stepping forward in life. Isn’t that just weird? The very thing that kept me trudging through life so that I could be “okay,” was also the very thing that took me down! Interesting, isn’t it?
The good news is that, 27 months ago, I used my own superhero strength to utter these words: “I NEED help, because someone who is ‘okay’ doesn’t destroy themselves with mass amounts of whiskey!” After detox, my next step forward was gratefully placed in Palm Springs inside the doors of a residential treatment facility. At 38 years old, I started my life over again, and it’s been amazing! Lots of hard work has been involved, but still… amazing!
So… after treatment, I flew home on my perfectly puffy pink cloud and all was fantastic. The end! (Yeah, right!) The reality? Every step I walked in recovery for the first few months or so felt a little bit awkward. It’s like when I was in the Navy and I had been out to sea—walking on land felt really weird because I still had my “sea legs.” I didn’t really know who I was, what I liked to do for fun (real fun), nothing made me genuinely laugh, and I had a difficult time connecting beyond the surface with my friends and family. So, what did I do to overcome the obstacles early in recovery? I cared for myself, that’s what I did! I developed a friendship with myself. I got to know me for the first time by trying new things and observing whether or not they brought me joy. I put myself into situations where I might actually have fun, and I didn’t judge myself if I didn’t enjoy something. Also, I made sure that every day I learned something new: either about myself, recovery, how to do something, or just anything! My biggest goal was to have a great relationship with my kids, but that one took some time and serious patience! Whenever my head got full of doubt, frustration, desires to drink, etc… I used the tools I learned in treatment, like music mindfulness, which is WAY more effective than using alcohol to remove my obstacles. Actually, using alcohol to “help” cope with life’s hard knocks is like using dirt to clean the kitchen floor! Today, I still use many of the tools I mentioned, and I strive to collect many more. Soberly loving, living, and learning is a continuous practice that I am really happy to show up for one day at a time!
Have you ever driven home and you didn’t remember any details about the drive? Well, before I started living in a fully sober state of mind, I mindlessly lived my life whether I was drinking or not. Just like driving home sometimes, I went through the motions but just didn’t connect long enough to truly experience the process. In order to have fulfilling relationships and experiences, we have to turn off the automatic pilot and navigate life manually. For me, life is absolutely fantastic today because I am connecting, enjoying the moments, experiencing joy, and having an attitude of gratitude. I have accepted myself for who I am and have come to terms with my past, and I am allowing hope to be my co-pilot instead of allowing shame to fly my plane. The greatest gift of recovery? My children and those closest to me are benefiting from my new ability to live rather than just survive! Actually, I have a new ability to live and love. I mean, REALLY love myself and others. The best part of my journey has nothing to do with where I am going; it’s how I am getting there that brings me so much joy. Do you want to know what is really cool? Sometimes I turn around and I can see how far I have come, and that is very healing. The healing then becomes motivation for moving forward. Also, when I look ahead on my journey, I can see rays of sunshine lighting my path!
The most important part of my story is the part about how sober life has greatly exceeded my expectations! Just two weeks ago, my kids and I packed up our car with camping gear and headed out on an 11 day road trip. I have to tell you, my life and the life of my family will never be the same… it was THAT incredible! We traveled 1,600 miles, hiked, mountain-biked, courageously jumped off a cliff into a pool of water, camped, roasted marshmallows, listened to the crackle of the fire, fished, rode horses, laughed, talked, reconnected with old friends, made new friends, were in constant awe of the beauty around us, listened to some great music, and simply soaked up each and every experience right then and there! I got to go on that adventurous road trip and create unforgettable memories with my children because of the limitless possibilities that come with being sober. I mean, that was only one example of how recovery has changed my life, and I know that many, many more good things are to come because I am sober today!
Healing Experiences in Recovery give me the Opportunity to love living my life!