12 Years | Breaking The Stigma
When this day arrives, it’s always hard to know how much I want to share with people. I struggle with new people in my life knowing about me, truly and deeply. Because of the stigmas our society holds onto about alcohol and drug addiction, it’s nerve wracking to open up. When people find out about this part of my life, they usually are very surprised. “Wait, YOU are an alcoholic, and now you don’t drink and are completely sober?”
It’s usually the same response, which is totally human & okay. I expect and welcome people to ask me questions since I know this is usually a surprise.
After that, either the same people are super supportive and don’t treat me any differently, or they start to change. And the latter is a big reason why I don’t talk about my sobriety publicly. It’s not that it’s a secret, it’s just that it is such a sacred part of who I am, and I dread people treating me differently because of it. But truly, the stigma will stay around if we don’t begin to speak up. So...
I’m Alaxandra, I’m 12 years sober today. Yes, it’s possible to look “normal” on the outside and still be an alcoholic and/or addict. We come in many different packages. We are every ethnicity, social background, income, upbringing, and career. We are the mom with 4 children who couldn’t stop using no matter how much she loved her family. We are the doctor who is highly educated. We are the person on food stamps. We are the teenage daughter who told herself she drinks like her peers. We are everywhere! We are your banker, your friend, your parent. We don’t have a special label stamped on our forehead.
When I was 19 years old, I had hit rock bottom. In fact, my emotional bottom was so low, the bottom felt like it fell out from beneath me. If I continued on the dark and lonely path I was on, I know in my heart I would be dead in a short few years more. To keep the story really simple, my drinking was never normal. I drank hard and for affect. I drank, I mixed pills and smoked weed. I didn’t care to just get buzzed, I didn’t want to just have a good time, I wanted out. Period. I wanted black out. I wanted to not be present. It was my way of disappearing from a life that I was so confused about. It didn’t matter how often I drank, what mattered was how I drank. But to put it bluntly, towards the end I was drinking anywhere and everywhere, at all times of the day/night. I had bottles concealed in my car, I couldn’t do much of anything without drinking. If I went to a party and my friends told me to slow down, I would leave that party immediately, knowing that I had a bottle in the car that no one would criticize me on drinking. And while my actions were even more horrendous than I have time to talk about, my emotional state was even worse. I just simply did not want to exist. These were the actions of someone who didn’t care if I lived or died anymore. It’s really hard for me to write this out for people to see. To admit this part of my life knowing that people may not understand.
Right before I got sober, I had experienced a voice that told me there was a better way than this. That there was a life to be lived and my potential was infinite. And so with MUCH resistance and fear, I got sober. And no it wasn’t just like that, with the snap of a finger. I went to rehab and immediately began following an AA program-working with a sponsor, going through my steps, helping other women go through their steps, finding Prayer & meditation, attending meetings, staying current and honest with a support group. A ton of work has gone into shaping the person I am today. And I still do these things because here’s what we learn about ourselves when we go through these changes from a using alcoholic to a sober alcoholic: that it had nothing to do with the drink. My disease of alcoholism is internal, alcohol is just the tool I used to cope with my emotional shortcomings. And so, continuation of working on this spiritual, emotional and physical condition, keeps me healthy, sane and sober. That’s the part of this illness that is so greatly misunderstood. “Just put the drink down and you’ll be fine.” Or “learn how to just have a few.” For a real deal alcoholic, neither of those things work for very long, if at all. Because it has nothing to do with the drink, and everything to do with what is beneath the surface. You wouldn’t slap a bandaid on a cancerous tumor and hope it heals, right? You would get the treatment you need to help you internally-chemo, surgery, healthy diet. You would attack the problem from the inside. Well, that’s just like alcoholism.
I love you all who have been on this journey with me thus far, who have stuck by my side through some of the biggest ups and downs in my sobriety and loved me more than ever. You are the real heroes! And to those who are just getting to know me, I love you too. You show me why I continue to travel this journey: because there are so many wonderful people to experience and an incredible life to live.
This shit is deadly, I’m grateful to be alive, able and thriving.