When I first decided to get sober, I went to Belle’s Tired of Thinking about Drinking and signed up for the 100 day challenge. My sobriety date is 11/30/2013.
I then found that there is a whole sober blogging universe. I started reading, voraciously, everything, and everybody I could. I loved it, all the blogs were so helpful, it was like finding a room full of people who all shared my problem. It was inspiring and helped me get through each evening, especially the witching hour.
Then the holidays hit. Sober bloggers were beginning to drop off, this one drank, that one tried to moderate, it was terrible. A lot my new friends were relapsing, and I was working so hard at NOT drinking, and NOT thinking about drinking or parties.
I found a blog, called Running on Sober. I can’t remember what piece she had written, but it was around the holidays, and it really resonated with me. I sent her an email, asking how to deal with all of the relapses I was reading about, and was that going to happen to me? She was wonderful, she emailed me back immediately. She also asked one of her sober friends, Message in a Bottle, to recommend someone who had long term sobriety that I could contact when I was feeling down. had a trigger or really wanted to just forget it all, and DRINK!
My sober email pal is named Jeni, she lives in England. She was a godsend for me in the early months. Anytime I needed someone to vent to, or get advice from, she was there. As time has gone on, I have not leaned on her as much, and we have become “friends”. We chat on Facebook at least once a month, she is great at checking in on me.
Last weekend, she shared her story with me. I am posting it here, because I am amazed at what she has been through.
I am so impressed at how giving she is, with all of the tragedy and drama she has lived through. Most people would not have survived what she has. If they did, I am not sure that they would be giving of themselves, most certainly not to a complete and total stranger.
Jeni has been an inspiration to me throughout my journey. Knowing her story elevates her to my sober email penpal rock star.
Thank you Jeni, from the bottom of my heart. I would not be approaching 6 months if it weren’t for you. And a big shout out to ROS for finding you for me.
Here is here story, in her own words:
I have always enjoyed reading the stories here..always learned a lot from them, and in the early days wondered if I’d ever make it far enough to post here. I have had a little anxiety about posting this, it has sort of bubbled away, but maybe the time is right just now to do it. You see…I haven’t ever told my story. Not to anyone..I go to a few meetings a month, but I don’t share. I’m scared to. I panic. Not even sure why..for my job I have to talk to groups of people all the time, I have to chair meetings, do staff training. I don’t like it, but I do it. But talking in front of a group of fellow alcoholics? No way. I put on my professional head at work, my ‘in control, I’m just fine act’…and it goes like a dream…but that isn’t the real me. Showing the real me…ugh that’s hard, because I’ve spent a lifetime living a lie. OK, well here goes…please forgive the rambling because I’m just going to write it as it comes…
Well I was born in South East England, the first child of a pretty ordinary family..Dad worked in a shop, Mum stayed at home with me and I was soon joined by a younger brother. We had a little house with a willow tree in the garden and my parents grew vegetables and flowers. Dad did well at work and started to commute to London as he began managing a group of shops. He was also a musician and had a second job playing double bass in a jazz band. I went to school and learned how to play the violin and me and my brother were pretty much inseparable…we could read each other’s thoughts and I adored him.
Ok….that picture right there…that is what the world saw…THIS was the truth…my Dad was a violent, sadistic and angry man. He was prone to rages out of nowhere. My brother was always in trouble…I did my best to protect him, but he was cheeky at school, always breaking things, always staying out too late…ugh, my heart pounded every time the phone rang with another complaint about him because that meant my Dad would get out that dog chain and….well I got hit too because you see, I should have stopped him..I was older, more sensible, IT WAS MY FAULT…I don’t think my Dad ever even drank in those days, at least I don’t remember it. In fact I don’t remember a lot really…riding our bikes round the garden, playing with my brothers toy soldiers in the mud in the garden…and FEAR..do not laugh too loudly, don’t run up the stairs, don’t make a mess, don’t spill anything…and biggest of all..don’t cry. Crying was forbidden. It angered him. So me and my brother..we didn’t do that.
When I was 6 we moved to a bigger house and my sister was born. And I guess it was at that point that my Dad found alcohol…well it certainly was my first recollection of him being drunk. And if I thought he was mean before…things turned very dark in my childhood. At weekends the house was filled with my parents drinking friends…loud music, laughter, smoky rooms. I had to try and stop my little sister from waking up, because I knew if she cried, it was all over…for me especially. Except I could never stop her crying! She was born a screamer…loud noisy tantrums that went on for hours. I remember my Dad literally throwing her across the room, her bouncing and still crying! Why couldn’t she just learn to be silent?? I was so agitated and anxious all the time..I would walk her up to the end of the garden and plead with her to stop. But…she never did. She argued, shouted, screamed as loud as my Dad…and the violence escalated to new levels. It was about this time that my next door neighbour decided to take more than an unhealthy interest in me. I was about 8. When he and my Dad were drinking downstairs, he would pop up to pay me little ‘visits’ I was safe nowhere…the torture and pain were too much for me to bear. He needn’t have worried about threatening me to keep quiet..I had already been trained in how to do that. It went on for years. I lost myself in books and a sort of fantasy life. At 8 years old I was broken.
To the outside world, we continued to be your typical British family..I belonged to a youth orchestra, I did well at school, my brother was gifted at sports. We went to local clubs, we played cricket over the local park, we had birthday parties and family holidays. My Grandparents were my life…they loved me and my brother and sister unconditionally..and my Dad always behaved when they were over. It was when they left, that the house became that dark place again. To say I was a quiet withdrawn child would be an understatement. I would sleep every night in my clothes, zipped inside a sleeping bag, under the covers…and I kept a cricket bat under my bed. I took no chances.
The years rolled on and my parents went on to have another baby, my little brother when I was 15. I developed an eating disorder…it was not picked up by my parents that I was dangerously underweight, but by a well-intentioned teacher who phoned them. That was a bad move. That night my Dad got roaring drunk because I had ‘worried him’. He smashed up the house, hit my Mother, attacked my baby brother…again it was ALL MY FAULT. Teenage years were eventful in that it was obvious I had no idea at all what a normal healthy relationship should look like. I had fairly long term relationships but never stayed faithful to anyone..I drifted in and out of love, not really understanding what it was. I was either totally manipulated and controlled by men, or I did the controlling. And then….I discovered alcohol. Away at university..no friends..engaged to a man who told me what to wear and liked to give me a punch or 2 if I stepped out of line..I found out what could fix me. Looking back, alcohol became the last and most effective way I’d found to change the way I was feeling. I had escaped through books, I had used food and starving myself, I had tried cutting…but this was the best by far.
Alcohol. It was perfect. I could drink and lose that crippling shyness that plagued me. I could stand up for myself. I could laugh and be funny. People started to notice me and include me in their conversations. Thank God for wine and vodka. I would be ok now. I could fit in. Be normal. What a relief.
I finished university and began teaching children with learning disabilities. I loved working with kids…I worked hard, became obsessed with my job and the little ones in my care. I continued to drink every night. I wanted to move out of home and made an attempt to persuade my parents that my little brother could come live with me. Things at home were dreadful…my Dad was a raving lunatic (that was actually an expression a therapist used to describe him when I finally sought help some years later). The brilliant facade that had been so carefully constructed by them began to slip big time. He lost his job, and several others, my Mum was forced to go out and work nights in a care home. My darling brother…the one closest in age to me slipped into a drug and alcohol fuelled existence from which he still hasn’t emerged. Both he and my Dad practically lived down the pub..they stumbled around our town incoherent and abusive to people they met. My younger brother would pass one or other of them asleep on a bench in the town centre on his way home from school. My Dad brought prostitutes to our home, and made several attempts on his own life. The police and social services were involved and he came under the care of mental health professionals for a while.
I continued to work and was by now pretty much supporting the family. I tried again to get out, but couldn’t leave without my youngest brother…he was more like a son to me. I was scared to death of him being hurt or killed in an act of violence. I smiled and did my job well, and no-one knew that inside I was so anxious that I woke up every morning and vomited before work. I could not have managed without the drink by that point.
And then I met my H..down the pub of course. A heavy drinker like me. We would hold each other up as we walked home from the pub each night. He was funny and kind and loved me. Of course he drank. Everybody I knew drank. But he didn’t hurt me, and he didn’t try and change me. He thought my family were nuts and he wanted us to get married and move a long way from them. He got on well with my little brother and told me we could have him at weekends and during the holidays for ever. And he offered me a way out. I’m not sure I loved him, but he was good to me. And he drank like me.
We got married on 6th October 1990. My kids were born in 1993 and 1996. My brother continued to spend half the week with us. He would ride the 18 miles to our house straight from school on a Friday and leave early on a Monday morning. I loved him with all my heart and still do.
H and I continued to drink when our kids were little…in fact to say we were a little obsessed about it would be putting it mildly. I had no idea I was doing anything the slightest bit wrong. I loved my kids with a passion and never hurt them physically…but I became an emotionally neglectful parent. Everything became about drinking..all our evenings..weekends and holidays. In my warped alcoholic mind I had stopped the cycle of abuse…my kids were and are loved very much…but of course there is so much more to being a parent than reading a bedtime story.
And…of course, it is progressive. I lost my beloved Grandparents when my kids were very young…and with that devastating loss came my own spiral. I became lost in depression and anxiety. Forever the actress, I kept on fooling the world as I had been taught. But soon I was drinking as soon as I got home from work every night, and way into the early hours. I would drive to work still drunk and curl up in the toilets with withdrawals. I latched onto a crowd of drunks and started re-living my teenage years. I left my family behind in the evenings, and went out and behaved recklessly. I did many many things I am deeply ashamed of..ended up in hospital with injuries, behaved inappropriately with other men, was loud and aggressive. I became someone I didn’t know or like, and the guilt and shame followed me everywhere. I couldn’t stop. I had so much to lose, but was already lost. At weekends I would spend Saturdays laid on the sofa suffering withdrawals…I ignored the kids who would tiptoe round me and make excuses to go out. H’s slide downwards included blackouts and some episodes of psychosis. He never physically hurt me, but he scared me a lot. My funny, gentle husband began to terrify me, and I constantly disappointed him. But we continued to live the lie…we were both completely unaware of how bad things were getting. We wasted many years. I started planning my suicide. I worked out how and where it would happen. I just had to work out when. But that plan gave me some relief…I knew there was a way out. It was only a matter of time.
One day as I laid on the sofa in my usual Saturday position and the sun was shining through the curtains, I took some diazepam to stave off the worst of the shakes…and I had my moment of clarity. I don’t know why it happened then…no great drama, nothing out of the ordinary, some shameful texting probably, but I knew at that point I’d had ENOUGH. I wanted to feel again. I was either so drunk, hungover, withdrawing or depressed, I had forgotten how to feel anything. Nothing touched me…I wanted to be up working in my garden like my neighbours were, laughing with my kids, being part of some life that everybody else seemed to be having and I wasn’t invited to. I felt a sadness beyond belief. I had 2 beautiful children, I had a home a marriage and a job I loved, and I still wanted to die. Like, every day, I wanted to die. That was the first time in my life that I prayed…to a God I didn’t believe in. I asked for help. I wanted out. I had no idea how to stop being the disgusting drunk that I had become…I had no idea how it had happened to me…after all my experience growing up, how the hell had I let this happen?
I had heard of AA. I didn’t know anyone who went and I didn’t think I would have the courage to go. I googled AA and recovery websites. That day I e-mailed someone called Ray from a link on the AA website and he answered straight away. I also posted on the newcomers section on SR asking for help. I got pages of answers…for the first time ever I felt a glimmer of hope. I stayed on here for the next few days almost permanently…asking questions, reading others stories…it was a complete turning point for me. I realised there were others like me….I wasn’t alone any more. I went on my own to an AA meeting for the first time..I sat in a corner and smiled sweetly at everyone. I pretended I was ok. Inside I felt like crying and I wanted someone to come over and hug me… But I couldn’t show it. Years and years of conditioning to hide myself away from people was going to take a long time to change.
Now…the next big problem..my H. By this time we had been married 21 years. There had never been any sober time apart from both my pregnancies. He was drinking and blacking out every night. He wasn’t enamoured by my decision to quit. For the next few months, he made my life hell. I started attending AA meetings 3 times a week…he upped his drinking and filled every room of our house with bottles. He invited our drinking friends over and offered me drinks. My new friends on this site were my lifeline. I knew he was scared as hell that things were different, I was moving the goalposts, changing he way our life had always been, and he fought against it with every trick he knew. He wanted his drinking wife back…we had never had an argument in the whole of our time together, we drank and swept every issue we had under the carpet. I stayed sober for a few months…meetings helped but mostly it was the support I got from these forums that held me up. I knew of the steps but didn’t have a sponsor…I barely spoke to people face to face…I was hardly likely to approach someone and ask them to help me through the steps..I felt alone even at meetings because I pushed everyone away by my cheerful nature..I so admired those who came in and spilled their guts and were honest. Honesty. That was something I had yet to learn. That and humility.
And then came my bottom..my inevitable relapse. I had no defence. No tools to help me when I had a difficult day. The house was filled with booze and I picked up. And I was lucky to survive it. I sat in my garden on 25th May 2012 with a bottle of vodka, a handful of diazepam and a pack of cigarettes and proceeded to work my way through them all. I gave up pretending to be ok. I was far from ok. I screamed and cried and drank my way through the next 12 hours…i was aggressive and destructive…I told H our marriage was over…I posted my goodbyes here on SR that was comprised of the only real friends I’d ever had, and they weren’t real, just nameless anonymous people from all over the world. I didn’t care if I died. In fact I would have liked it. I blacked out at some point.
And that was my turning point. It was the last time I drank. Because despite my best intentions, I did wake up the next morning…fully clothed, on top of my bed, with a tear stained face, and a very scared husband beside me. I went online and found many many messages of concern and support from the people who had been good enough to befriend me. I phoned one of the ladies who had given me her number and told her what had happened. I met her at a meeting and asked her to become my sponsor and to help me work through the steps.
H and I made a commitment then to our marriage and to sobriety…and nearly 2 years later we are still doing it. Very differently, but we are both still sober. I won’t talk about his journey because it is his and to be honest I don’t understand it.
This past two years…it has been an amazing time for me. I think I had to pretty much start from scratch. I hadn’t a clue who I was sober…any emotions I had were buried under a cloud of depression. I’d been on meds for several years, and at 3 months sober I started to wean myself off them under medical supervision. I wanted to find out who I really was…no artificial support. And I hit a long dark tunnel..a road with sides so high that I couldn’t see any sunlight. I kept trudging. I worked the steps using the 12×12 with my sponsor. We met every week and as difficult as it was, I laid it all out for her to see. She was the one who first advised me to seek outside help…which was just an unfathomable suggestion. How the hell was I ever going to go and speak to anyone about stuff I didn’t understand myself? Anyway, as far as I was concerned, my problem was the drink. If I could only stop drinking…I’d be just fine. Then the nightmares and flashbacks started…night after night I would wake up screaming in my bed. I would be physically sick, I would end up walking around in my garden in the early hours of the morning until my fingers and toes were so cold I couldn’t feel them, and my brain went numb. I started praying every night…pleading for God to stop this happening to me. I couldn’t go back to drinking, yet to move forward felt so utterly frightening.
Eventually I did go and see a therapist. I was diagnosed with PTSD and a dissociative disorder. I went every week for a year and we went back and forth. I talked unemotionally about my past…she wanted me to feel some anger, but there was nothing. I started a course in meditation…and that helped so much with the insomnia and anxiety. Things started moving right along. I started getting resentful of my meetings and my sponsor at about 18 months sober. I knew very little of the Big Book…my steps had not been taken from there..I was virtually never in contact with my sponsor and still found some stuff, especially to do with my family, very difficult. I skipped making any amends to them because I had no clue how to or even if I should. I did a lot of service work, but I still never shared at a meeting.*
And then someone I had made a lasting friendship with from here on SR and I got chatting about life…and I told her about my frustrations. She asked me whether I had started sponsoring and I told her that I didn’t feel equipped to as I didn’t know enough about the process myself. She offered to re-take me through the steps as laid out in the Big Book.
That was 6 months ago…and I don’t think there are words big enough to describe the transformation in me. I don’t know if others can see it in me…but I can feel it. I woke up. It’s as simple as that. My heart thawed out and I started to feel things again for perhaps the first time since the traumatic events I’d had as a child. I feel such huge waves of love for my children and my family. I have to tell them constantly…it’s all I can do not to follow my daughter around stroking her hair!! I can see such beauty in the world around me now…the sky, nature, the changing seasons. I feel hurt and pain and upset and anger too…but it’s ok…I’m learning what to do with those things. I feel such overwhelming gratitude for everything in my life..I am so blessed.
And this is just the beginning of my journey…I’ve taken my first tentative steps in sponsoring. I will be 2 years sober on May 26th. I am for the first time ever opening up my eyes to the possibilities of what I can offer others. I have made my amends to my parents. I speak to my brothers, both of whom have problems with alcohol now..I am letting go of the past.
And all I ever wanted was here in my life all along. I just couldn’t see it.
Thankyou for reading