When the Lights Go Out

I am an addict… specifically, an alcoholic… and I am enjoying a sober life. But addiction is ever present. It rears its ugly head in many areas of my life. Of my many addictions, there are also what I like to call “vanilla” addictions. By this, I am referring to addictions which are not quite as harmful to me as my addiction to alcohol, but are present nonetheless. For example, I am addicted to Netflix. My 19 year old daughter and I will watch tv shows non-stop on any given Saturday. We will look at each other at 11pm, and wonder if we can make it through another episode of Grey’s Anatomy!

netflix

Okay, okay… so there is an underlying point to this absurdity. In all seriousness, there is a theme present in the show, Grey’s Anatomy, that is incredibly relevant to an alcoholic like me. I have seen all of the shows over the years, but my daughter has not. So as we watched season after season, over the course of only a few weeks, my daughter made comments about one of the main characters… Chief Webber.

You see, Chief Webber was this full of life, inspiring character, who was also a recovering alcoholic with long term sobriety. He leads his hospital with integrity and fierce determination. Over the course of a few seasons, you watch his character deteriorate. He becomes dark, withdrawn, and unfocused. My daughter commented that she simply “didn’t like him anymore”.

It comes to light that the Chief has been drinking again. This explains the change in behavior. His portrayal of an alcoholic in the throes of relapse is astounding, and spot on. In fact, my daughter, upon realizing this, looked at me and said, “Mom, this is exactly how you acted before and right after your relapse”.

It made me seriously examine my own behavior in the months leading up to my relapse. I was relapsing long before I took that first drink. I was dark and shaken. The behavior I exhibited was much like the character on the show. The only way I can explain it now, is that it was as if the light in me had just gone out. The sparkle in my eye… the one that showed up as I got sober… had disappeared.

Getting sober again after a relapse can be difficult. You suddenly know exactly what it is you are giving up by going back out. You have tasted sobriety… and it was so damn good. But you gave it up for the old, sad life you were living. It is frightening.

good to be scared

As Chief Webber said on the show… “It’s good to be scared. It means you still have something to lose.” So today, I choose to allow myself to have just a little bit of fear. Fear keeps me on my toes, and it makes me realize that I do have something to lose. In fact, I have everything to lose.

~ Paige Loveland

Don’t Turn Your Back on Someone Who Slips

We live and learn. Each day in sobriety is another opportunity to learn new lessons, meet new friends who get it, and a chance to improve the quality of our life. In talking with another alcoholic tonight after a meeting, I found comfort in having a conversation with someone who completely understands who I am simply because we share the same disease. We talked about my relapse a few months ago. I spoke of how I felt that I had not been truly working a good program before, and that although my relapse was short-lived, I had been on a downward spiral for months. I had been consumed with fear, loneliness, and uncertainty and I didn’t do what I should have done… ask for help.

Silence can be deadly for an alcoholic. When we don’t reach out for help when we need it, we risk our sobriety. What I have found here in my new AA community since moving across the country has been priceless. I’ve met women who care, listen, and support me, and that in turn makes me want to offer the same love and compassion. What I find sad is that I have found more love and compassion from my newfound AA friends than some of the people I spent a great deal of time (almost four years) with in AA back in Illinois.

I told a few trusted friends back in Illinois about my relapse, and since telling them, I had no further contact with a few of them. They simply stopped calling. Now, of course, there were a few friends (mainly a few old-timers that I loved and trusted immensely) who continued to support me, but like the good alcoholic that I am, I focused on the ones who shunned me. It was as if I let them down.

When I was struggling with my emotional sobriety months ago, I dared not share how I was feeling for fear of being seen as not being a solid AA member. I had a reputation for being one of the “winners”, so how could I go into meetings and express how scared I was and how lonely I was feeling? So here I am, in a new state and a new AA community. I share openly here, and receive the support necessary and am being handed the tools for dealing with my fears. It all lies in the steps outlined in the Big Book.

Why did those few people give up on me instantly when they heard of my relapse? Why would they pretend to be my friend when they thought I had it all together, only to toss me aside the moment they heard I didn’t? I’m not sure. I suppose to dwell on the reasons is pointless. But it hurts.

The lesson I take with me from my experience is to never toss someone aside for having a slip. This program is about progress, not perfection. I need to remember that every moment of every day. Because all we really have is today!

~ Paige Loveland

The Hurt Behind the Smile (Tribute to Robin Williams)

I won’t pretend to know a great deal about Robin William’s story, but I know enough to feel a strong connection to him and his struggle. For someone like me, it is not unimaginable that a man who could bring so much laughter to the world was probably dying inside much of the time.

robin williams

It matters not that Robin Williams had fame and fortune. It matters not that he had a family who loved him and friends and fans that adored him. Depression and addiction do not care what you have, who loves you, or what your name is.  Anyone is fair game to the grips of addiction, and depression also holds no favorites.

I do not know if Robin Williams was heavily involved in AA or NA. I only know that after 20 years of sobriety, he relapsed. In an interview with Jon Stewart, he spoke of taking that first drink after many sober years. He felt the grips of the disease after one sip, and it led him straight to the abyss. I am still searching for articles to see what happened at that point, for how long his relapse lasted, and for how long he had been sober before the tragic day of his suicide. But I do understand the hopelessness that comes with our disease, and the shame and guilt that come along with relapse.

Robin Williams on The Daily Show

What I have learned from the program of AA, is that I cannot hide behind a happy facade. If I am feeling sad, frustrated, or lonely, I need to be completely honest with another person, whether it is my sponsor or another trusted friend. I cannot pretend to be happy when I am not. Putting on a happy face only allows the low feelings to fester… and when I am living in my own muck, my disease is waiting, ever so patiently. I need to always be in the right frame of mind, and I also need to be spiritually connected. If I am not feeling that way, then I need to talk about it. To hide is to suffer. I wonder if that was what Robin Williams was doing… hiding, suffering, dying inside.  Again, I will not pretend to have any idea what Mr. Williams was going through in the days leading up to his death.  I only know how saddened I am by the loss of such a great talent. I pray for another one of US… lost to this insidious disease, whether directly or indirectly. I will let this be a lesson to keep my sobriety at the forefront of my life and my connection with my Higher Power number one.

RIP Robin Williams

~ Paige Loveland

Get the Hell Up and Keep Moving Forward

stumble

Today, I should have been receiving my 4 year chip. However, that one night slip just over a month ago changed that.  Working with a new sponsor, praying, and re-reading my Big Book have become the focus of my days this past month. When I slipped, I had a moment, a brief moment, in which I thought that since I screwed up, I may as well just keep on drinking. But thank God that moment was brief, and I got my ass back to AA the next day. As mentioned, I got a new sponsor, found some women’s meetings where I could share more openly, and opened back up my dusty Big Book.

So on this particular day, I have been feeling quite uneasy. I started feeling sorry for myself.  Then I got a text from an old friend from AA back in Illinois who I haven’t seen in quite some time wishing me a happy anniversary. That made me feel even worse. So I sent a text to my sponsor letting her know how I was feeling. She simply said, “Imagine how much worse your life would be if you did not quit drinking back in 2010! One night does not erase all the good!”

At a meeting last night, I shared my shame and guilt. After the meeting, an old-timer who I had never met before came up to me and said that the only thing that matters is that we achieve longevity in sobriety… and that we continue to move forward. He said there will always be bumps in the road, whether they include relapse or not, and that we cannot use those as an excuse to go backward.

They were both right. The important thing is that I did not continue to drink. I could easily have just said f*** it… but I didn’t. I got right back on the path, and continue to grow. I did not lose the lessons I’ve learned these past four years. I have a very long way to go, but don’t we all?

So, I will keep on trudging the road to happy destiny. I simply will NOT allow this stumble in the road to be the end of my journey. Instead, I will see it as a slight detour… and get right back on the road… this time, using God as my GPS.

~ Paige Loveland