Six years ago today I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. That day I also happened to be celebrating 30 days sober. I was terrified. I never really intended to stay sober. I intended to prove to those around me – and myself – that I was in control, that I could go without alcohol or other substances. Somewhere in my mind, I figured that I would get to go back to my old life after some short-lived sobriety. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted help, but I always felt the addiction would win out.
I loved kids, was a nanny in fact, and wanted them sooner than later. But I knew I had to be sober before I could be a mom. I was torn between excitement for motherhood and absolute fear that I couldn’t be the mother my baby needed. That fear propelled me to continue my sobriety throughout my pregnancy. When I gave birth, I was grateful that I could deliver a beautiful baby boy who had never been exposed to drugs or alcohol.
I didn’t realize at the time that sobriety was not synonymous with recovery. Over the years, I white-knuckled my sobriety, continuing to refrain from alcohol while still living a life of chaos. I later learned I was what many call a “dry drunk,” someone still living a chaotic life while maintaining technical abstinence from chemicals.
Eventually, the emotional pain was too overwhelming, and I was sure I was going to drink. One day I found myself in a grocery store, holding a bottle of alcohol and crying, as I debated whether I wanted the escape from my pain. The year before I had experienced a one-time drug slip, something I was sure would never happen, and the alcohol cravings were coming with an intensity I couldn’t deny much longer. I was scared.
I had adamantly refused to become part of Alcoholics Anonymous, so sure that I was different. I thought I could do it on my own, and I scoffed at the program’s belief in a higher power that actually cared. Finally, despite the years of sobriety, I had nowhere else to turn. So I became one of them; I joined AA.
The slow process of working the steps and trusting my Sponsor has been more cathartic than anything I have ever experienced. I am slowly learning that I can ask for help and that I have a whole community willing to be there for me, people who truly do understand exactly what I am going through. I am uncovering things that I never realized contributed to my destructive patterns and am gradually healing from so many terrible things in the past.
When I stopped drinking and using, I was still unable to cope with the deep pain inside that had driven me to use. Without a chemical outlet, I continued to engage in self-harm, using it as my escape when life was more than I could handle. After beginning my recovery journey, I realized that self-injury could be just as much an addiction as drugs and alcohol, and that, in order to truly recover, I needed to end the cycle of self-destruction.
Utilizing the steps and the community I have found has enabled me to start feeling and experiencing emotions without catastrophic effects. Yesterday was eight months since my last incident of self-injury; it was the longest stretch in 13 years, something I never thought I would achieve. I am slowly mending the deep-seated pain I have felt for most of my life. I am learning when to forgive, when to let go, and when to make amends.
I work hard at my recovery. I chart my mood daily, take my medications, exercise appropriately, get adequate sleep, attend counseling, participate in AA, and connect with my Sponsor almost daily. I still experience the sadness, the guilt, and the shame regularly, but now it doesn’t overtake me. Now I know where I can go. I look at my little boy, whose conception was the impetus for my sobriety, and I know someday I can tell him that, through the gift of his life, I have mended the tears in mine. I am proud to be free from alcohol, drugs, and self-harm. Even if it’s one day at a time.