Friday, January 4, 2013

A Scary, But Healing, Truth

I write this with some trepidation and no small amount of fear in my heart.

I've been waiting to see if the moment would come when I was ready to talk about this - a little - and was open to that moment never coming at all.

But, much to my surprise, the moment seems to be here.  I don't know why. I don't control these things anymore; that much I have accepted.

And the reality is that this isn't anyone's business but my own, my family's and my recovery community.

But after praying on it, asking for advice, getting some advice I first didn't want to hear and have absorbed and thought about long and hard, I've decided to write- a little -about something that could shock or even hurt some of you.  I needed to be ready for that reaction.  I needed to remind myself of the advice I give on a daily basis - that your truth can never be wrong, because it's yours, and you are under no obligation to share it with anyone who isn't safe.

Once I put this out there I don't control where it goes, but it has gotten to the point where I feel enough past it to be secure in putting it out there, because it is what it is, anyway, and now that I've done a lot of work on myself and come to terms with it, I feel hypocritical hiding my truth out of pride.

Last year, some time after finding the lump in my neck, I had a relapse.  It was brief, and terrifying, and almost took me right down.  I am lucky to have the supportive family I have, the recovery network I have, and the ability to know what to do:  march into a safe, sacred circle of fellow alcoholics in recovery and start again.  

I am not going to share the details -when, where, how, why - those are reserved for my most intimate recovery community.  I have learned I don't have to share every gory detail to still be truthful.  I'm not going to say how much time I have now, because in order for me to come back from this relapse I had to focus on the fact that we all - every one of us - only have 24 hours.  A 24 hour reprieve from the obsession and compulsion of alcoholism.

I will share one very important anecdote, though, for those of you filled with shame (especially mothers) who keep relapsing, and the guilt is keeping you stuck.   Greta knew about this relapse - we talked about it - and she said, "You've always said it's not the mistake you make, it's what you do about it that matters, Mom."

THAT's recovery.  That is a kid who doesn't have a perfect Mom who works a Perfect Program (there is no such thing) and is immune to relapse - none of us are.  But that is a kid who has learned that mistakes are part of life -without them we don't grow - and it's how we respond to them that matters.  Do we deny and stuff them?  Or do we face the hard truths and grow?

I made other mistakes along the way - some say to me "after THAT year you had?  Who could blame you?"

I'm not looking to assign blame or make excuses; I'm looking for the truth, and that fine line between what is everyone's business, what is my business, and what is meant to be kept sacred in my recovery community.

I can see now why that relapse had to happen.  I was in for a long, hard road, and I had to surrender to my disease in a more meaningful way - in other words I had to scare myself silly - because over the coming months I also had to surrender to fear, anxiety, mortality and control, as I lay in my bed, sick and wondering if I was going to make it, and fight it or let it go.  Letting it go brought peace.  I think the relapse reminded me of my powerlessness over so much in life.

I am fearful of judgment, of course I am. I have a massive case of "who do you think you are's", and I'm scared of my community's reaction.  But not that scared.  Not scared enough to finally get this truth out there, and move on, one day at a time.

I write about this here mostly to  help myself, first.  Secrets keep me sick, and I'm not ashamed of the relapse anymore (that was months of work).  What does make me ashamed is hiding the truth.

By telling the truth I'm doing the healthiest thing for me, while still trying to keep some boundaries firmly intact.

I'm grateful to all of you for all the support you have always shown me - I realize that some of you may feel duped and not want to offer that support anymore. That could be a consequence, and I'm ready for it.  People pleasing is one of the things that lies at the heart of my disease, and truth is the antidote to that demon.  Saying my truth and being okay with not being universally liked or respected is healing for me. And terrifying; I won't say it isn't.

No matter how this post is received, I am grateful - beyond words - for my recovery, for the lessons I've learned over the past year, for my family, friends, and for YOU.

62 comments:

  1. You are amazing. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is no yesterday. There is only today, one day at a time. We love you no matter what. No judgement at all. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing, Ellie. It makes me feel not so bad about the struggle I'm having with sober January. One day good, one day, not so good. Someday I will make it and string many 24 hours together. Best wishes on the next 24!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sending you so much love, you honest, brave, brilliant woman. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't have the same gift with words that you do, but I just wanted to comment to say that I, for one, think you are incredibly brave and strong, and I am in awe of what you have been able to accomplish. Greta is right, and you have clearly taught her well. Everyone makes mistakes, it's what you do about it that counts. You and I have never met, so it feels very strange to say this, but I am so proud of you. Not only for re-committing to your sobriety, but also for sharing your truth, and helping so many others in the process. You put so much love out there, and I hope you feel the love coming back. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is exactly the comment I would have left for you as well. Nobody's perfect (that's why we're all here, isn't it?), but the fact that you're still reaching out to people, and helping them with their own journeys is selfless and wonderful.

      Delete
  6. You are far too hard on yourself my dear. There is no judgement here, no resentment, no anger. Just love. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you. Not only in sharing your truth for you, it's makes people feel less alone. Like they too can share their truth and still be worthy of love and support. The holding of silent secrets make them seem soooo much bigger and worse than they really are. I follow you for your insight, your words strike a cord with me. I deal with different demons but still so simular in many ways. Keep your head high sister.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "I see now that the relapse had to happen" IS the biggest truth of all. Sometimes the things outside of our control are the biggest gifts. It's just hard to recognize that and accept them as such. You did.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am grateful for your courage to come out and write your truth. You have helped so many who deal with the shame of relapse. This is a very, very scary disease and you are the second young woman with several years of sobriety I have heard TODAY come forward to speak about her relapse. Earlier this morning, another mom, came back after a relapse. I knew her pretty well and had no idea it had happened. Every time I hear/read of these relapses, I am just that much more in awe of the power of this disease.

    THANK you for sharing, Ellie!

    ReplyDelete
  10. You are human, amazing and wonderful! There is nothing at all to be ashamed of. Greta is an amazing young woman who is absolutely correct. Thank you for being honest.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love you, Ellie!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm sorry - I don't understand. Why would ANYONE feel duped? You are totally honest about everything....and honestly, I'm willing to bet those who MIGHT feel duped have slipped themselves! And they mistaking thought you were perfect. And as you said, no one is. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are a daughter of a loving, caring and forgiving God who sent his Son so you COULD make mistakes and be forgiven and grow and return to Him a better person. Evidence of your goodness is in Gretta's comment. What a wonderful, strong person SHE is becoming because of you and your example. ((hugs))

    ReplyDelete
  13. You are so brave, and I have nothing but admiration and support for you! Sending lots of good wishes your way.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for your honesty - it has helped me today.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Duped? No way.

    Honored that you would share with your readers?

    Encouraged that perfection is not something that any of us do?

    Yes.

    It's your vulnerability that brings people back. Because in a society of women trying to look perfect, parent perfectly, keep immaculate houses, and do ALL THINGS JUST RIGHT we need spaces to breathe and know that when we mess up, we saddle up and try again.

    ReplyDelete
  16. What your daughter said brought tears to my eyes. Because you taught her that, because she is right, and because it is a beautiful sentiment about forgiveness and moving on.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ellie, you're one of the most amazing women I know! Thank you for this. Greta is sage and forgiving just like her Mama! You're right, secrets and shame keep us sick. Sharing sets you free, and inspires countless others to find healing. You rock ninja master!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Your honesty is so encouraging, Ellie.
    xo Christy Kelly

    ReplyDelete
  19. I think it's really brave of you! I'm thankful that you had the strength to get through it and are still here helping all these awesome ladies. I love reading your blog and listening to the Bubble Hour, so thank you so much for all you do : )

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's OK. My yoga teacher says that the greatest thing we as humans can do is to get back up when we have fallen down.

    I hardly ever comment although I ALWAYS read, but I wanted to say that you can let yourself off the hook. I just read something yesterday in a parenting book about how sometimes we need to feel the futility of something that didn't work and the sadness, and then we just have to be really good to ourselves and try again, which is what you have already done. Thank you for your vulnerability and your grace. Here's to the next 24 hours!

    ReplyDelete
  21. You are amazing (as is your family) and I support everything you go through. I applaud your honesty. Thank you for sharing YOU with US.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ellie - your kind words in my early sobriety carried me through some of the toughest days of not drinking. I hope you are able to forgive yourself, because you have been a blessing for so many people and I wouldn't want to loose your voice, part of this beautiful chorus in the recovery community. You continue to give so much of yourself. Your relapse is none of my business, but thank you for giving me an opportunity to see what rigorous honesty looks like. I learn everyday from heroes like you! xo Lori from Venice,CA

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ellie - you are so courageous and strong to share this story and your life with us. Anyone who judges you or has negative thoughts or comments is not worth your time. You rock!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. So brave, Ellie. I so admire your courage. You are even stronger than you know.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ellie-You are a survivor. you are an overcomer. you are an alcoholic. That's what we default to - drinking. We are all the same. We are all in this together. Trudging the road together. One day at a time. You are brave for sharing the truth no matter what. You are real and your struggles are real. It just adds more confirmation that you have found a solution to alcoholism and are definitely qualified to offer real hope in this area. Thank you for being transparent and sharing your struggles with us.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ellie. I write this in tears. Tears flowing from gratitude - honestly. I have so much admiration for you; for who you are, what you stand for, and for your courage to share your truth. This honesty is what helps remove the stigma we alcoholics face. There is so much fear that if we falter and our disease strikes with venom, we can't reveal the truth. At least, that's how I feel, but your courage is contagious. Of course, your relapse is only your business, but you demonstrate integrity like no one I've known so it makes sense to me that you would want to openly share this. I'm guilty of putting you up on a pedestal and I think it's hard not to do that given your gift for words and all that you have accomplished. This revelation does not bring you off the pedestal in my book(!), but it helps me see you as human - like myself and all the other women (and men) you have inspired and continue to inspire with your mission. I'm grateful your cancer is in remission and that I am on this sobriety path with you. I love you. Christine M.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Will you ever stop amazing us? I can not connect as some of these posters can...and it is sometimes why I don't comment. I don't fight the same battles in my life, but as I have mentioned to you, I have those I love who do.
    We all fall. We are all imperfect. And that alone places each and everyone of us on the same page.
    I am so very thankful you didn't stay there. So many do.
    It is your honesty and openness that always draws me in. I am so very God has gifted you with that.
    I know many will continue to draw strength from you, your words, your honesty, and your battle and the overcoming of it.
    My prayers continue for you.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oh my goodness. I've spent a lot of today crying very, very grateful tears. While my recovery community (in "real life") has known about my relapse for a while now, coming out here was terrifying, and I am SO grateful for all the supportive comments. I would even be grateful if I got (or get) unsupportive comments. I'm just plain grateful for the power of truth, and the compassionate and love you have all shown me today.

    I want to respond to everyone individually, but I'm too emotional. I just can't do it - but please PLEASE know you have each made a HUGE difference in my life - today and every day. If I were out there sharing my truth and meeting judgment and negativity there is no way I'd be strong enough to keep going. Thank you for your open minds and hearts.

    And for reading the words I write here in my little corner of the internets. For keeping coming back (terrible grammar, but you get my point). :) I am so, so grateful.

    -xoxo

    -Ellie

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love you and your messy, beautiful heart. Once again you're healing yourself by sharing to help heal others. I admire your tenacity for finding serenity.
    xoxoxo

    ReplyDelete
  30. Duped? No, not at all. I don't come here looking for perfection or anything close to that. I read what you write because of your way with words and your honesty. This blog is your space to tell your story and that is all you can do. I do hope that this community you've created doesn't feel like a burden to you. By that I mean I hope you don't begin to feel like you owe us all sobriety, inspiration, perfection....whatever. You don't owe us anything. Just continue telling your truth for however long you like. Also, I love what you're teaching your kids about mistakes. That's so important.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thank you Ellie! You are so inspiring to me. It was very brave to share this and I admire your strength and recovery.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Well I pondered for a brief moment last year after one of your posts if you had a relapse and wondered on and off for a year. It was sort if in your words, in between the lines, the tone. I'm not psychic....I just know relapse because I have lived the same thing.

    I don't feel betrayed in the least and I think that has been your greatest fear - that you somehow betrayed all of us out here by not telling and then felt even more so by waiting so long to tell us. I know you have been trying to process the experience until the time was right. You didn't really have anything to say about it until now. And you really come from the heart in this post. I know it was hard.

    I hope we can talk more here on your blog about relapse - not the gory details- but why we throw away hard earned sobriety in a moment for a drink. There's just not enough discussion about the signs you are heading for a relapse. We never seem to recognize them until we are there. The longer I try to walk this path of sobriety hearing past drunk stories - my own and others - really get boring.

    Hugs and love and healing prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thank you for sharing your truth. It is very inspiring to see such honesty. I'm sure it took a lot of guts for you to post this, but please know that it doesn't make you "less than", it only makes you more human and stronger.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thank you - for being here, and being brave enough to share so much of yourself. Each of us struggles with our own demons, and yet with your words, you help show us how alike we all are. I feel very honored to read your words, listen to your truth, and see into your soul. I usually don't comment, but I read you faithfully - because you are real, and human, and aren't perfect. Your words give hope, which is priceless.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thanks for your honesty. Whenever a person is forthright and proactive in recovery it's a victory and takes guts. Love your posts. Bless you as you continue 24 hours at a time, along with the rest of us.

    ReplyDelete
  36. You are awesome.
    Konnie

    ReplyDelete
  37. Thank you for your vulnerability. While addiction isn't my struggle, I still stumble in ways that are embarrassing, with behaviors that I think I've put behind me. It's encouraging to hear about others who stumble, get back up, and set things right again.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Brave, strong, caring, supportive, loving and truthful. Words that come to mind when I think of you. Peace, comfort and joy wished for you :)

    ReplyDelete
  39. I'm so glad you shared this with us. It's real. It's honest. And it's human. We can all relate in some way. And what a special little girl you have! She sounds like an old soul. No, I don't feel duped at all. As others have said, you're much too hard on yourself. Thank you again for your vulnerability and authenticity.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Your honesty is amazing. I have stayed sober for over three years, and Ihace learned a lot from your journey. By sharing this, you help others to know that it is possible to just get back up and not let a relapse take you down. And that daughter of yours is very wise.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Fall down 7 times; get up 8. This is God-given courage to change what can be changed. That you share it is ... is the miracle that is Ellie in recovery.

    Truth always trumps temerity. Telling truth is courageous even if it doesn't feel like it. Honesty inspires, heals, encourages, strengthens... and transforms.

    ReplyDelete
  42. congrats on making it back! it is SO HARD to come back, at least for me. after my relapse it has taken me three years just to get 90 days. love your blog and will keep reading.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I was so tempted to go with good British sarcasm here - "Of course, Ellie, we only read your blog because we see you as the pinnacle of perfection that us mere mortals can only wonder at." See a seriously raised eyebrow along with that.

    I'll be honest that I, too, had wondered at some point last year if you had a relapse - because of what you *weren't* saying, as much as anything. I also thought it was none of my business, because the words you wrote were still your truth; and were still a joy to read, even with all the heartache and anguish you were going through. And I knew you were coming/had come through it.

    Your honesty now about speaking your truth is such a Good Thing - for you more than anyone else, although I know your words will touch chords with others. Guess it was a Truthful *Friday* this week ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  44. Ellie, I'm so very proud of the courage to change you displayed by pressing "publish." Your admission will help countless others feel a little less ashamed and can get them that much closer to sobriety. This is a huge service that you've done. You are so brave and I'm so honored to call you friend. Let's stay sober until midnight, k? I love you. Court

    ReplyDelete
  45. Ellie, this is not my struggle and nor do I know anyone suffering. However it makes me think that this gives your other projects -more- authority as they are rooted in your current reality, that you are not standing as 'how you could be if you do everything just like me' but 'we're in it together, right now'. For those you are passionate about helping, coming from a position of humility and togetherness rather than a [seemingly] unattainable pedestal will make you more accessible and your words carry more weight.
    So I'm sorry that you have struggled with these feelings for so long, I'm delighted that you have such a wise young woman for a daughter and a supportive family and community, and hope that -all- of your remissions hold up for a long long long long time to come.
    Bless you. Lydia x

    ReplyDelete
  46. When I was broken from drinking, it was your blog that gave me hope that I could change. It was your blog that made me less ashamed of the choices I'd made over the past x years. It was your story that led me to take the first step.

    Your blog continues to remind me that the path of sobriety is never ending and that the work to stay honest and true will always continue. You remind me to keep taking the next step.

    I am so appreciative and so thankful that you found your way back.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi,
    You are a beautiful writer - I just found your blog. I do disagree however, when we rationalize away relapse, but saying a myriad of things:

    It had to happen.

    I'm so glad it happened, I learned so much.

    Relapse is a part of recovery.

    This is one of my biggest gripes with AA - relapses do NOT have to happen, nor are they part of recovery. In fact, that one relapses shows that one is not in recovery at all. I just think with your influence, this is something you should be careful repeating.
    I wish you the best on your continuing journey and realize that this post may be deleted. It's ok. Just wanted to share my point of view from a belief system that drinking ever again is NOT an option for me.
    Nancy



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy -

      I appreciate your truth, your opinion, and as such I would never delete your comment.

      What I share here on my blog is MY truth - and my truth includes relapse. And in my case, I can see why I relapsed, and have worked very hard to learn from it so I can hopefully avoid a similar situation in the future.

      I don't think any alcoholic is immune to relapse - as I say in my post - but I never claimed that relapse is a part of recovery. It's part of my recovery, now, and as such I shared my story here.

      After I relapsed I saw I had two choices: to make my relapse part of my recovery, or part of my drinking. I chose recovery.

      If alcoholics were immune to relapse they wouldn't happen. If statistics are to be believed, around 10% (and that may be generous) of alcoholics stay sober forever after their first attempt. That means 90% relapse. I also thought relapse wasn't an option for me, and I thought right up until the point I drank. I don't think sticking my head in the sand and ignoring my truth is healthy for me, and so I wrote about it here. I also wrote about it because it may help another person who relapsed dig past the shame of it and find their way back.

      Getting sober a second time was the hardest thing I've done yet. The first time I thought I was a sick person trying to get well. The second time I thought I was a bad person trying to get good.

      That thinking keeps a lot of people stuck, I think. We feel we "should have known better", and perhaps we should have, but that doesn't change our choices if relapse happens. We either get sober again, or we keep drinking. It's that simple.

      I am a little stung by your feeling that relapsing means you aren't in recovery at all, although I understand where you're coming from. All of us only have our own truths, and the consequences of our own actions -- to me that IS recovery, from anything. I guess we simply disagree on this.

      I commend you and anyone else who never relapses. Relapse doesn't HAVE to be part of anyone's story. I wish it were never part of mine. But now that it is, I have to own it and grow, or die. That's the way I see it.

      I don't think I have "influence" either - at least I hope I don't. This is meant to be a place to share my experiences, so that someone else who may feel alone can identify. If they don't, that's okay, too.

      I respect you speaking your truth, though. You have my admiration for that, truly.

      -Ellie

      Delete
  48. Thanks for replying, Ellie. I just got smacked around on my usual site for,saying relapse means one is not recovering! I thinki tis hard to put yourself out here like you do, because people think you owe them your whole truth. And in a way, since this blog is about sobriety, a relapse is part of,the story. It took courage for you to admit to it, and I really admire that.

    No, I am not saying, actually, yes,I am saying I,will never drink again. I cannot even contemplate any other ending to my story. For me, and a lot of other smart people, and you are obviously smart, the AA sayings of relapse being part of sobriety gave my crafty, sneaky brain an out. Once I start to listen to my Beast, it is all over. The only way I weakened it was to not engage in conversation. So thatis what worked for me.

    And perhaps I was too harsh to say relapse means that one is not in recovery. It is just the logical part of me that says if one drinks, one is not in recovery. Not that work hasn't been done, and not that there aren't serious reasons, such as illness, for relapse. It is just a signal that maybe different
    work needs to be done. AA didn't resonate with me at all - but Women for Sobriety did. It is all about empowerment, rather than being powerless. Maybe take a look over there one day. We would welcome your voice.
    Peace,
    Nancy
    Excuse this stupid ipad typing. Grrrrrr.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you got smacked around for sharing what you believe. It happens a lot in recovery communities, I think, because people are so passionate about what works for them. You should be commended for your determination not to drink again - I certainly think it's admirable. Your message is powerful, and should be shared.

      The powerless aspect of AA's program can be confounding, I agree. I spent years thinking about this, and this is where I ended up: my disease isn't my fault, but my recovery is my responsibility. I am powerless over alcohol - the day I stop believing that is the day the Beast gets a foothold again. However, I am so totally not powerless over my recovery. I don't think I stay sober on my own - I believe in a "higher power" - a force bigger than me, and that included the love of other people - and I believe my recovery choices matter a lot. The day I think I'm powerless in recovery is the day the Beast gets that same foothold.

      This is a really important conversation, and I am grateful to you for speaking up about how you feel. My biggest problem with recovery - in any program - is when someone thinks they have an "answer". We all need to stay open - in my opinion - to every thought, idea and concept - because not one think works for every person.

      I'm happy to have 'met' you, truly. I hope you continue to put yourself out there, too. It's so important.

      -E.

      Delete
    2. Freudian slip, lol - I meant to say "not one *thing* works for every person" .. not one "think". :)

      Delete
  49. I am really glad to have met you, too. And ironically, most of the later women who,responded on WFS had the same basic viewpoint as I did, so the smacking wasn't too bad! :)

    Keep sober, keep trudging. I, too, am always leaning into the next best thing, and I am working on how to slow down my ADD brain and my enthusiasms and enjoy the moment.
    Peace,
    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
  50. Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it!

    - Happy Wheels
    - FNAF

    ReplyDelete
  51. Let’s keep out sites for your child! click:
    brain games | puzzle games | tetris | happy wheels | agario | abcya | fnaf 4 | super mario games
    To play for free!

    ReplyDelete
  52. Thanks for posting. I want to know the Galaxy Note 7 release date

    ReplyDelete
  53. baixar facebook é um rede social maior no tudo mundo. O desenvolvimento de Facebook no celular é realizado e desenvolvido pelo Mark Zuckerberg. Foi conhecido como um aplicativo gratuito de mensagens mais famoso e popular no mundo, baixar whatsapp é um metodo perfeito para segurá-los contatos com os seus amigos que não tem de pagar mais nenhuma taxa.

    ReplyDelete