Two Years.

The alarm on my phone goes off, melodically warning me it's time to rise and shine. I slowly roll over, my left hand fumbling to silence the noise, grazing a small stacks of books on my nightstand as I locate the source of the sound. My dream-like state starts to fade away and a smile slowly spreads across my face as I unceremoniously remember that it's been two years since my last drink.

The sound of Brandi Carlile's voice is what I wake up to every morning without a hangover. The lyrics of her strong, heartfelt ballad The Story, help me usher in the beginning of a new day.

Photo credit: Laura Schneider Photo

Photo credit: Laura Schneider Photo

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true, I was made for you

For years, I used to think she was singing this love song about or for some other person. She sings of loneliness and alone-ness. Of hitting her flat broke bottom and then feeling like a million bucks. It wasn't until I quit drinking that I realized she could be singing these lyrics as an anthem, a kind of love song to herself. 

I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines, and I broke all the rules
But, baby, I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do
I was made for you

Two years ago today, I went in for my annual physical and told the truth on the patient intake form when asked how many drinks I had in a week. Looking back on it, it wasn't the whole truth but, rather, the best version of the truth that I could muster up at that time. 

21 drinks a week.

But, really, they were all doubles the last six months of my drinking. Bourbon. Double Manhattans. Three a night. Every single night of the week. 

42 drinks a week, really.

You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what
I've been through like you do
And I was made for you

On the outside, I know it looked like I had my life together. I had a nice home, a good husband and a great kid. I was the PTA President and an over-committed community volunteer. I never said no to things, but quickly became a martyr when it all became too much. I never got a DUI, never landed myself in jail and never lost a job due to my drinking.  Hell, I owned a wine bar for six years, drinking was my job. I used that fact to present myself as a wine connoisseur and cover up the truth that I was drinking alcoholically for years. I threw epic dinner parties that enabled me to drink before, during and after the evening ended. I woke up with a hangover almost every day for a decade.

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true, I was made for you
It's true, I was made for you

I think this song reminds me that I needed to return to myself.  The line "I was made for you" is like a mantra reminding me to seek out my higher self.  And the lines about being "flat broke" "and how I got to where I am" hit home, too. Somewhere along the way, I lost access to the person I once wanted to be.  I stopped moving towards her and started moving away from her; at first with little baby steps and, in the end, with great big strides. I think I was so ashamed of how empty and hollow and fake I felt in my life that I then felt like I needed to drink to fill up that part of me. I had a gaping hole of emptiness in terms of self-worth, truth-telling and acceptance for where I was in my life. I was flat broke on the inside.

Self-respect, rigorous honesty and self-care have been key to my recovery. Having and maintaining an open mind has also been crucial in allowing me to try things on for size when it comes to different recovery modalities. The concepts of acceptance, willingness and a power greater than myself have helped re-frame my outlook on living a life sans booze. When I choose grace over drama, my life gets better. Not just a little, but a lot. I attend 12-step meetings, have a sponsor, listen to podcasts and communicate with another sober woman every single day. I write a daily gratitude list and keep my word (and if I don't, I make amends as soon as possible). I use essential oils and take scalding hot showers as a reset button. I recently removed caffeine from my diet to help manage my anxiety.

The radical self-care that I've exhibited over the past 24 months has shown me that by putting myself first and getting well, I can love my people harder, give from a more authentic place and show up in my own life in a much, much healthier way.

This is just part of the story of how I got well. There's more to tell and I'll continue to write about it if and when the need arises, but not religiously every month like I have been. That practice of sharing monthly served to keep me on the path during this two year journey, but now I feel the need to just live this way and not overly analyze and dissect it.   

My life story is still unfolding. This little space on the internet has been a big tool in my recovery, too. A safe place to deposit my feelings and let them percolate. Today my life is drama-free.  I feel emotionally sturdy and calm. I feel fulfilled, motivated and happy. I feel like I've finally met the real me and I like who I am.

The stories I've shared here about my recovery from alcohol are all true. If you've read them and they have helped you in any way, then I guess I was also made for you.

(click here for the video of the anthem that I wake up to every morning, The Story by Brandi Carlile) *The Story written by Phillip John Hanseroth • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc