There is a bridge from alcoholism to recovery. I could best describe my active alcoholism as a series of flaming dumpster fires and broken, smoldering bridges. Conversely, my recovery is more about building new bridges and slowly dusting off the debris from the burned ones from my past. For me, regular self-evaluation helps me pinpoint my mental health status. I do this because better mental health bridges the gap between my recovery and alcoholism.
Shame can trap people in a cycle of alcoholism and addiction. Often, this becomes a skewed internal dialogue where the sense of shame exceeds the inciting event. An example would be someone isolating themselves from their family or friends after a potentially embarrassing episode whilst drinking. Rather than suppressing shame or guilt, I believe that exposure by self-evaluation and reflection is the best way to avoid the cycle that links shame and alcoholism.
Over time, I learned that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) wasn't for me. To say my initial response to the concept of AA meetings was poor would be an understatement. I recall being in my first rehab, joining the chorus of naysayers with some choice words. However, this would all change when I could no longer keep telling myself I was in control of my drinking.
Writing has always been a healthy outlet for me to process and express my feelings. I have been writing since I was a young girl, and it has helped me through some of the darkest periods in my life. Throughout my time writing for HealthyPlace, I have had some incredible personal breakthroughs and have been able to connect with many others who battle similar demons. However, my path has taken me in a different direction, and I am saying a final goodbye to my readers within the "Debunking Addiction" blog.
While drinking has been a part of the majority of my life, so have anxiety and depression. I went from sneaking alcohol on the weekends to week-long binge drinking benders. It was a cycle that progressively got worse, and the more I drank, the worse I felt. I would have pity parties and drown in my sorrows and regrets without realizing how damaging this cycle had become. Eventually, the crippling anxiety and symptoms of depression felt so unbearable that I was desperate to try something new. When I decided to start working on healing myself through journaling, therapy, meditation, reading self-help books, etc., I began feeling so grateful for my path and my life. I want to share this to help others in addiction recovery shift their perspective from self-hatred and sadness to gratitude and abundance.
Although I am not a fan of claiming labels as an identity, I have noticed the more I use the term "anxiety," the more people seem to relate to me. But I have had to separate the concept of being anxious versus feeling anxious. I used to say, "I have anxiety," making it a part of who I am. Since starting my journey to enlightenment, I have learned that anxiety is not something that I am. It is something that I feel.
I want you to try a self-reflection journaling exercise because it can be so easy to blame, judge, and criticize yourself for dealing with an addiction or substance use disorder. After all, addiction is a highly stigmatized mental health issue that many people misunderstand. But rather than speaking to yourself poorly, try to view your journey as a beautiful work in progress. Remember, there is no better version of you than the one that exists right now. Today, I want you to celebrate yourself and how far you have come in your addiction recovery journey.
Therapy has been one of the most effective tools I have used in addiction recovery to help heal some of my inner wounds. It has provided me a space where I have felt safe to speak my truth and unpack any trauma, drama, guilt, and shame that has been stuck inside of me. Therapy helped me change my relationship with alcohol and guided me to build a more loving and compassionate relationship with myself.
I wish more of my friends knew how to support me in sobriety in the early days. One of the most challenging parts of sobriety for me is having to explain myself to others who do not quite understand the seriousness of addiction or substance abuse. I have grown more comfortable with this throughout my time with sobriety, but I know the difficulties of turning down an invitation to the bar because you do not want to feel triggered. Or the internal shame and anger that comes after hearing someone say, "Just one drink won't hurt."
I remember when I first came across the HealthyPlace blog site. I was about three months into living a whole new life, alcohol-free, and feeling alone. I was working as a Case Manager, juggling two classes for my Master's program while trying to enjoy the beauty Hawaii has to offer. In other words, I kept myself very distracted and away from any temptation to drink.