I stepped into the light, and now I can be whole again.
My name is Robyn, and I'm an alcoholic.
I've been sober since 2013.
The worst moments of my addiction will stay with me forever.
That's a good thing, though. I'll tell you why.
In early sobriety, I had yet to see how beautiful the world could be. I didn't understand what I was working towards. Therefore, if I were to keep going, I had to be motivated purely by the ugliness of the beast I was leaving behind.
To that point, I am thankful my addiction years were so dark.
During that time, I lied to others. I lied to myself. I lay curled in the fetal position on the dirty tile of my bathroom floor. I spent hours there, sweating and shaking. I remember that feeling vividly - too hot and too cold at the same time. I remember the nausea and the full body aches. I remember the confusion. I remember the fear. I remember the blackouts.
Most of all, I remember the shame.
It was because of that shame that I learned to hide everything - from others, and eventually, from myself.
Living like that is to be profoundly alone. It's to forget the healing power of acceptance and honesty, forgiveness and trust. It's to opt out of the magic of humanity.
I still feel sad for all the moments I missed in those years.
The irony of this choice is that I drank, in the first place, to block out my emotions. I lived in constant fear of feeling...anything. In the beginning, I would drink to cure loneliness, anger, and grief. Eventually, I drank to fight fairly benign emotions, as well. Boredom had to go. Exhaustion and overwhelm we drowned into submission.
Most of all, I drank to muffle the shame that I felt...over drinking.
I drank with the goal of experiencing nothing at all...
...and the thing is...it worked.
My emotions were muffled - the good ones and the bad. My heart adjusted. My tolerance for feeling became smaller, as my capacity for alcohol increased. Soon, even small discomforts seemed insurmountable. Everything was a reason to drink.
So I did.
I was so determined to stifle the unpleasant feelings that I hardly noticed when the positive ones began to fade away, too. There's no joy, after all, without pain. There's no warmth or friendship without vulnerability. There's no comfort and bliss without righteous anger and aching l0neliness.
There's no growth without any of these things.
It's a strange loop. Heather King put it beautifully in Parched: "I couldn’t understand why the happiness never came, couldn’t see the flaw in my thinking, couldn’t see that alcohol kept me trapped in a world of illusion, procrastination, paralysis. I lived always in the future, never in the present...and all my efforts were doomed, because already drinking hadn’t made me feel good in years."
Sobriety didn't just save my life in a medical sense. It gave me a life that is worth living - and the ability to do so fully. These days, I experience every emotion - even the awful ones - with a profound sense of gratitude. I know what life looks like without them.
I can't live like that again.
These days are very different. I've learned the difference between numbing and coping, between comfort end escape, between true hope and fooling myself. I've learned to trust a power that is greater than I am. As Anne Lamott explained, "Being sober delivered almost everything drinking promised."
I've become, as they say, a productive member of my community.
Life isn't always pretty - but I'm thankful to be fully present and engaged in it. I am honest with myself, and I do my best to live with integrity. I find value in spiritual work. I find beauty in the ups and the downs of daily life.
Most of all, I find meaning and warmth in the women who walk alongside me.
I've seen girls who used to black out on a regular basis grow up to be solid rocks. I've watched my friends in recovery earn degrees and build careers, write books and run marathons. I've stood with them as they became wives and mothers. When I met them, we were broken into pieces. I've watched with pride as we've made ourselves whole.
I've cried with them as they endured tragedies - death, infidelity, divorce, job loss, miscarriage - without reaching for the bottle.
I never used to cry at all.
This, most of all, has been a miracle.
These women are mighty. Sometimes, with their help, I can be mighty too. I open my heart and my mind to them. They love me for all of it - the good parts and the bad.
As long as I am sober, I will never truly be alone again.