Sticking With It

By Stephanie S.

I was not a “one hit wonder”, the term used for those who stop drinking after their first AA meeting. My road to recovery was more aptly summed up by the expression, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again”.

My drinking became problematic only in my late 40’s. Up until then, I loved alcohol, but hadn’t crossed that line from wanting a drink to needing a drink, which to me is the definition of addiction. So, it took me a while to realize I NEEDED to drink every evening. I couldn’t imagine ending my work day without that magical potion to lighten my mood, lessen my irritability, and allow me to walk through the door of my home with a smile on my face and not feel that making dinner was burdensome or that the world was coming to an end if my kids left their dishes in the sink. I couldn’t imagine any social event, celebration, or vacation without it. It insidiously became my go to when feeling bored, frustrated, angry, tired, unmotivated, happy, relaxed. Just about everything.

After a while though, other effects became more apparent. I would be more impulsive, saying things I would have censored when sober, overreacting, sending off unedited, rambling emails, forgetting conversations I had the night before. I had trouble sleeping, felt tired most days, increasingly anxious.

That was bad, but the worst part was when I started trying to stop. It was the rare occasion that I appeared noticeably intoxicated, so my kids and my friends never picked up on it. Only my husband did and he was getting increasingly concerned. When I very reluctantly started going to AA meetings, I told my family and friends of my problem. No one seemed shocked. Everyone was supportive. Instead of the disappointment I was expecting, I received praise for facing my problem. It was a huge relief. But, when it turned out that I wasn’t able to stay sober for more than a few weeks or months at a time, I found myself drinking secretively. I could no longer drink in front of the people I had told.

The hiding and lying that resulted, became as much of a problem as the drinking. I had never known this part of myself or imagined I could behave this way. It created a split in my mind. It was as if their were two TV channels – the AM channel that announced emphatically every morning that I was no longer going to drink, and the PM channel that said equally emphatically-screw it, go ahead! I felt out of control and increasingly disconnected from myself. Every day, the same 2 channels would come on the air, and never at the same time. It was crazy making.

Only after many, many attempts to stop did something finally click. Now, each time I thought of drinking, I was able to access the voice that said, “Who are you kidding? You can’t just have one! And, not only that, the moment you do, you will fall into the same quicksand you have fallen into each time you thought you could. And, remember how hard it is to come out.” Only after many, many attempts to stop did it click that it was no longer worth it.

The experience of having piece of mind, clarity of mind, room to think about other things now that the constant obsessing was gone, being unburdened by the shame that comes with lying and hiding-it all felt so wonderful! To think of jeopardizing this no longer made sobriety all about willpower and deprivation. Instead, it felt like a precious gift I never wanted to lose.

A number of years ago, I wrote a song about my road to recovery. My voice and piano playing are not robust, so I asked my son who is an aspiring hip hop producer to sing it and embellish the music a bit. He said he would, but being busy with his own projects and not feeling comfortable singing outside of his genre, it never happened. Last month was my birthday, and his gift to me was his making of my song. It was another precious gift.

Here are the lyrics and the song, Until You Try:

Stephanie lives and works in the US with her family. She is a lifelong agnostic who is very connected to her Jewish roots and culture, believing that religion is very separate from one’s ethnic identity and spirituality. She struggled for a long time to feel connected to the program, in large part due to the religious language and emphasis on reliance on God throughout the literature. Overtime she has found a way to hear and appreciate the underlying wisdom of the program and see the connection and support of the people in her home group as the power that helped her get sober and continues to help her stay sober.

John S, the founder of the website Beyond Belief Sobriety, focused entirely on podcasts, has podcast number 212 with Stephanie: “This episode features a song written by Stephanie S. and performed by her son David. She then shares her story and we have a conversation.” You can listen to the podcast here: Until You Try.

13 Responses

  1. Bob K says:

    A nicely crafted essay.

    I’m sure many will join me in loving the AM – PM TV analogy. Stephanie was a “late bloomer” while my own drinking became obsessive at a much earlier age. That we’re not all the same, is a lesson learned from our stories.

  2. Nina C. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Stephanie. As a mother I can relate to your life and how alcohol touched every aspect of it. Very well written. Like you I cherish my new found freedom. Your song about recovery is absolutely amazing! Thank you again.

  3. Lance B. says:

    It feels familiar even though I was in trouble much earlier in life. The AM-PM analogy became real much earlier and remained in my life much longer. But then, after many attempts to stay sober, I too gave up and felt, like you Stephanie, “Who am I kidding?” and that knowledge is the main reason I am able to avoid the first drink for 35 years or so. Knowledge is my solution rather than magical thinking and that is what I like described in your story. Thank you for the clarity and similarities, Stephanie.

  4. Maureen says:

    Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your precious gift. I found many similarities to my own decades long path to sobriety.

  5. Cathy B says:

    Beautiful post and so similar to what I went through. Thanks for sharing….

  6. Doc says:

    Thanks. For me, it was important to view my alcoholism as a disease, There was no going back to “normal” drinking – I’m not sure if I ever really did “normal” drinking.

  7. Thomas B. says:

    Thanks Stephanie for a most interesting story of one’s powerlessness over alcohol. Though I was gifted with recovery at age 29, I also greatly appreciate your AM-PM analogy.

  8. Susan B. says:

    Stephanie, thank you for your story. There are many similarities and some differences in my own story. But it is in the feelings where we really connect. The sharing in the agnostic community has made all the difference in my recovery path.

  9. Stuart T says:

    Great article Stephanie. I identify a lot, not completely. I firmly believe I was born with the alcoholic gene, a disease rather than addiction. At 14 booze was my answer for 25 years. I’m sober 31 years, but only found secular AA during the lock-down; not many meetings in the UK but I’m so glad I found you people. Thanks again.

  10. Jeanne S. says:

    Beautiful Stephanie! Thank you for that song, it’s my story too.❤️

  11. Larry g says:

    Beautiful story, insights, and music!! Thx for sharing.

  12. Sally J says:

    I, too, was a late-bloomer. Thanks for sharing your story and I loved the song.

  13. Lauren K says:

    Thank you, thank you, about 1million times! You wrote my story when you wrote yours, and I’m ecstatic to learn I’m not alone, not the odd duck I have been feeling I am! Your sharing here has helped many it seems, but for sure it has reached into my soul! Bless you.

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