Sober Stories

The Goal Isn’t To Be Sober. The Goal Is To Love Yourself So Much That You Don’t Need To Drink.”

— Anonymous

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What a great honor to be interviewed by the inspirational Lotta Dann … otherwise known as Mrs D:

“Mrs D is the name Lotta Dann gave herself when she began anonymously blogging in 2011. Through her long-running blog, Mrs D Is Going Without, Lotta discovered the incredible power of online support for people quitting drinking. Her best-selling memoir, telling the story of her recovery, was published in 2014, and later that same year Living Sober was launched. Living Sober takes all of the powerful aspects Lotta discovered about online recovery, and condenses it here into one space, making it readily accessible for thousands of people so that they can also turn their lives around.”

Mrs D, a journalist, blogger and author is a relatively well-known name in New Zealand recovery circles. She has written several books about recovery and is an advocate for people in recovery in NZ.

She says her work and social environments made it easier for drinking to become a regular occurrence.

“The main thing that I think contributed to my drinking is the booze-soaked society I live in, where alcohol is normalised and glorified and used liberally at every turn,”
My interview is this week’s Sober Story.
This week’s Sober Story comes from Patti, a 62-year-old from the US now living in Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula. 

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Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?

Patti: This latest time – over six years.

Mrs D: What can you tell us about your childhood growing up and the impact that had on your drinking?

Patti: I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional family. Both my parents were alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic, workaholic and adult child of an alcoholic. All un-treated of course. He was charming at times, Irish and told a great tale. My mother’s alcoholism looked bad – she was a sloppy, sad drunk. She’d sit in our kitchen, drink bourbon and often cry listening to opera records. My dad drank high end booze at nice restaurants, a ‘functioning alcoholic’. He drove a nice car and wore a suit. My mother stayed at home in her bathrobe. You get the picture. My mother died of alcoholism when I was only 16 years old.

Mrs D: That must have been tough.

Patti: This was in the early 1970’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, there were lots of drugs everywhere to help me numb the pain. I learned at an early age how to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol. I drank and used drugs throughout my teens and twenties. I blacked out right from the beginning, almost every time I drank. Somehow I got a degree, sometimes that still amazes me. When I was in my early twenties I was absolutely out of control – waking up in strange places; losing my car, forgetting where I had left it; waking up next to people I didn’t know… it was a time of intense shame and humiliation. Eventually I met my husband, and he didn’t drink much, so I curtailed my drinking and using while I was with him, and that probably helped to save my life. Just before my thirtieth birthday we started talking about starting a family, I knew that I did NOT want my children to have a mother like mine, so I went to my first AA meeting 2 days before my 30th. I found a woman’s meeting and I walked in and felt at home.

Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?

Patti: I was in the pink cloud of recovery for the first year, grateful and excited. By the 2nd year, when I started doing some intense counselling and looking at my family of origin, I went through some intense grief and anger, but also relief that it was finally coming out. There were about twenty women in the room, mostly my age, and mostly caring and empathetic. I was so lucky, at that first meeting, I found my tribe. A few years later we moved to New Zealand and when I went to my first AA meeting I was devastated! There were about five people there, mostly old men who were pedantic Big Book thumpers. I felt like I had lost my tribe. It didn’t take long before I quit going to meetings.

Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?

Patti: Yes. I had two babies and was focused on being a good mother with no alcohol on the scene. But as my sons got older and started school I fell in with other mums who often got together and drank wine while the kids played. These were the ‘cool mums’, ‘The Yummy Mummies’, drinking good wine on the deck after school. I had ventured away from recovery circles and had become very complacent in my recovery, and it wasn’t long before I had my first glass of wine after being sober for almost 13 years.

Mrs D: How did that go?

Patti: When I picked up again, I drank with a vengeance and it progressed quickly. Soon I was waking up feeling remorseful and promising myself I wouldn’t drink so much, or that I’d give up booze for good…until the next time. I started hiding my drinking from my husband. With sheer luck, I didn’t get in any accidents nor hurt anyone in that time, except myself. I felt shame and had horrible hangovers every time I drank. My middle-aged body could not cope with alcohol like it did as a teen or in my twenties. I ended up drinking for the next 13 ½ years until 2014.

Mrs D: What led you to stop again?

Patti: In 2014, after drinking at a work gathering, my business partner said to me, “You really shouldn’t drink with workshop participants; it’s not a good look.” And I knew that was true. I talked too much, got too loud, and made stupid jokes. I thought I was the life of the party, but no one else did. At the same time, I was writing my first book, a self-help book for women. I felt like a total hypocrite! I was advising others to ‘live their best lives’ and yet I was screwing my own life up. So I decided to give up alcohol again. This time I was not giving up alcohol for my husband or for my kids; I was doing it for me! That was in 2014, and I haven’t had a drink since.

Mrs D: Where have you found your support this time.

Patti: I was still in that same small town, and the meetings had the same old men with the same pedantic ways of doing meetings. If I had an emotion, any emotion, I was told “Just don’t pick up and go to meetings.” Sigh. So another woman in recovery and I decided to start our own meeting. We started it under the banner of NA – but opened the doors to anyone with any addiction. We focus on Emotional Sobriety, empathy and caring. I consider my sobriety now, a bit of a patchwork approach. I read voraciously and am in the process of writing my second book now – focusing on women and recovery – finding our own path on that journey.

Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?

Patti: I really liked my own company! That totally surprised me. I was afraid of being along with myself when I was drinking, thus drank alone at home quite often.

Mrs D: What are the main benefits that have emerged for you since you last got sober?

Patti: My health improved: I started meditating daily, doing yoga, eating better, sleeping better, and ALL of my relationships improved – every single one!

Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

Patti: I wish I had started my own 12-step group earlier on, before I relapsed. It makes all the difference in the world to feel like you’ve found your tribe. However, with that said, my relapse taught me a lot – about humility, about empathy and I can totally be there for anyone else that has relapsed.

Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this
journey?

Patti: Jump in completely! Immerse yourself. If you don’t like a meeting, if you don’t feel at home – then go to another meeting or find someone you like and respect and ask them what meetings they like, or start one yourself, or go to a Zoom Meeting – there are hundreds of them from all over the world! Find good TED Talks, read good books on various topics related to sobriety and keep going – Don’t Give Up On Yourself! You are Worth It!

Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?

Patti: You can read more about me and my journey on Thrive Global, on my blog site, or my website.

 

 

In other news … I will be a part of a free online summit this month that might interest one or two of you:

How-To face a Devastating Diagnosis or the anxiety of “What If”…

This Online Event will be nurturing and informative:
Here are some of the topics to be covered:

  • How someone outlived her Doctor’s diagnosis by 20 years
  • How-To let pain out instead of numbing it.
  • How-To empower yourself when facing a devastating diagnosis
  • To move through emotional pain with confidence
  • How-To face future fears after a diagnosis
  • Strategies for emotional freedom
  • Why creativity is powerful

The summit begins on July 13, lasts for 5 days, and ends Friday July 17. 

Each interview is about 30 minutes, packed with helpful information. You can join me on Thursday July 16.

I hope you can join us. Reserve your spot now!

 

I’ll close with an informative talk about addiction by one of my favorite addiction specialists – Dr Gabor Maté

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what I have shared. It’s always a bit awkward being so visible . . . so feedback is always appreciated!  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Heroes and Role Models

“Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine – that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace.
– Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is my favorite author.  There I’ve said it.  I struggle to say that because there are so many amazingly wonderful writers out there. But really, it’s true. Lamott never fails to bring me to tears and to laughter, usually within the same paragraph.

The first book I read of hers was Operating Instructions, A Journal of My Son’s First Year. I laughed til I cried, and I hadn’t even had my own kids yet.  And then after I gave birth to my son, I read it again, and I cried even harder.

I follow her on FB, and she doesn’t disappoint, even though she just sort of writes stream of consciousness there. A couple of days ago she wrote this post.  I loved it so much I sent it to a couple of friends, and they both loved it too. But I want to share it with you too.

I have recently been going through my own bouts of what she terms  psycho doing-ness and achieving-ness. And it’s always nice to read about someone else going through that stuff:

Nearly twenty years ago, I arrived at a fancy writer’s conference, in what were some of America’s most majestic mountains, where I was looking forward to meeting a great (and sexy) American director, who’d given a lecture the day before. But he had already left.

There was, however, a letter from him, to me: to not-all-that-well-known me. It began well enough, with praise for Bird by Bird, and gratitude for how many times it had inspired him when he got stuck while writing screenplays. He singled out my insistence on trying to seek and tell the truth, whether in memoir or fiction, and my belief that experiencing grief and fear were the way home. The way to an awakening. That God is the Really Real, as the ancient Greeks believed. And God is Love. That tears were not to be suppressed, but would, if expressed, heal us, cleanse up, baptize us, help us water the seeds of new life that were in the ground at our feet.

Coming from a world famous director, it felt like the New York Glitterati was stamping it’s FDA seal of approval on me, and my work.

Unfortunately, the letter continued.

He wrote that while he had looked forward to meeting me, he’d gathered from reading my work that many of my closest friends and family members seemed to have met with traumatic life situations, and sometimes early deaths. So basically, he was getting out of Dodge before I got my tragedy juju all over him, too.

I felt mortified, exposed. He made it seem like I was a sorrow-mongerer, that instead of being present for family and friends who had cancer or sick kids or great losses, I was chasing them down.

And I flushed in that full body Niacin-flush way of toxic shame, at being put down by a man of power, that had been both the earliest, and now most recent, experiences of soul-death throughout my life.

My clingy child was drawing beside me, What did I do? You can’t use your child as a fix, like a junkie. That’s abuse; plus it won’t work.

Well, duh–I fell apart, on the inside, like a two dollar watch.

I had stopped drinking nearly 15 years before, stopped the bulimia 14 years earlier, and so did not have many reliable ways to stuff feelings back down. Also, horribly, my young child, two thousand miles from home, upon noticing my pain, clung even more tightly. I wanted to shout at him, “Don’t you have any other friends?”

What I did was the only thing that has ever worked. After finding a safe and stable person to draw with my son, I called someone and told her all my terrible fears and feelings and projections and secrets.

It was my mentor, Horrible Bonnie.

She listens.

She believes that we are here to become profoundly real, and therefore, free. But horribly–hence her name–she insists that if we want to be free, we have to let every body be free. I hate and resent this so much. It means we have to let the people in our families and galaxies be free to be asshats, if that is how they choose to live.

This however, does not mean we have to have lunch with them. Or go on vacation with them again. But we do have to let them be free.

She also knows, and said that day, that Real can be a nightmare in this world that is so false. The pain and exhaustion of becoming real can land you in the an abyss. And abysses are definitely abysmal; dark nights of the soul; the bottom an addict hits.

And this, she said, was just a new bottom, around people-pleasing, and the craving for powerful fancy people to approve of me. It was a bottom around my psycho doing-ness, my achieving-ness.

She said that because I felt traumatized, and that there had been so much trauma in my childhood, and so many losses in the ensuing years, that the future looked like trauma to me.

But it wasn’t the truth!

There was a long silence. (Again: she listens.)

Finally, I said in this tiny child’s voice, “It isn’t?”

Oh, no, she said. The future, as with every bottom I have landed at, and been walked through, would bring great spiritual increase.

She said I had as much joy and laughter and presence as anyone she knew and some of this had to do with the bottoms I’d experienced, the dark nights of the soul that god and my pit crew had accompanied me through. The alcoholism, scary men, etc.

She said that what I thought the director had revealed was that I am kind of pathetic, but actually what I was getting to see, with her, and later, when I picked up my luscious clingy child, in the most gorgeous mountains on earth, was that I was a ral person of huge heart, laughter, feelings and truth. And his was the greatest gift of all.

The blessing was that again and again, over the years, we got to completely change the script. Thank God. We got to re-invent ourselves, again.

But where do we even start with such terrible days and revelations? She said I’d started when I picked up the 300-pound phone, told someone the truth, felt my terrible feelings. Now, time for radical self care. A shower, some food, the blouse I felt prettiest in. Then I could go get my boy and we could explore the mountain streams.

Wow. We think when we finally get our ducks in a row, we’ve arrived. Now we’ll be happy! That’s what they taught us, and what we’ve sought. But the ducks are bad ducks, and do not agree to stay in a row, and they waddle off quacking, and one keels over, two males get in a fight, and babies are born. Where does that leave your nice row?

I got about five books out of the insights I gleaned from our talk. I still have a sort-of heart shaped rock my son fished out of a stream later. Sadly, this director’s movies have not done well in the last twenty years. Not a one. And all of his hair has since fallen out. Now, as a Christian, my first response to this is, “Hah hah hah.”

But Horrible Bonnie would say, Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine. Tell it, girl– that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace. That our parents were a bit insane, and that healing from this is taking a little bit longer than we had hoped. Tell it. Well…okay. Yes.

I want to close with a great video clip:

Hanging Out with Anne Lamott – Point Loma Writer’s Symposium By the Sea 2014.

 

I’d love to hear about your favorite authors and your role models.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.