LIFE LESSONS: Finding myself after alcohol

I feel compelled to share a very personal story today, many of you have heard parts of it before. For me, today, it’s cathartic to remember who I was once upon a time.
Nine years ago today, four days before my 50th birthday, I took my last drink of alcohol. Days later as I sat in a room and shared my story, one guy said, “Damn, I’d have waited until after my birthday to quit.”
When it’s time, it’s time… and it was way past time for me.
I was one of the lucky ones as I hadn’t lost any of the big things: my house, job, or marriage, and I – surprisingly – never had a DUI. My two best friends – my Kate & Tully a la the show ‘Firefly Lane’ – had died of alcohol related illnesses years before and yet that hadn’t been enough for me to quit. So what was the last straw that made me walk into the rooms on February 11, 2012?
I lost my self-respect.
Nothing earth-shaking happened at the pivotal PTCO bingo night at my daughter’s elementary school nine years ago tonight. No one said anything to me about being intoxicated, but the shame I felt when I got home was immense. The next day I found a meeting and went. No one in my family knew and they were shocked to discover the extent that I’d been hiding my day-drinking. When you’re hiding vodka bottles in purses in the closet, that’s a bad sign… trust me.
My message today is about the struggle that followed. You don’t wake up sober and all of a sudden everything is better. I didn’t recognize myself. I had no clue who I was or what I even enjoyed doing. I didn’t like the woman I saw in the mirror… at all.
In my darkest moments, it seemed like I could hear one of my departed friends whispering in my ear, “Denise, I’m proud of you. You’re doing what I couldn’t do for myself. Keep going. It will get better.” I felt like I was losing my mind hearing her voice, but I kept going. One day at a time. One step at a time.
Little by little I started to discover myself… for what was probably the first time in my adult life. Eventually I made radical changes and cut out that which was draining me; from those changes my company – You Define Wellness – was born.
Over the past five years, I’ve met so many healers and coaches who could have helped me on my journey… but I didn’t know there were people out there who could help. Or if I did have an inkling, I didn’t know who to turn to and – quite frankly – I was embarrassed to ask those I knew for advice. Remember, I’d lost almost all my friends and those who were still around I didn’t feel I could turn to; they all seemed to have it together and by showing my vulnerability in needing help… well, that would be showing my weakness.
Several years ago I came out of the alcoholic closet and started sharing my story with amazing acceptance and an unexpected result: people started privately sharing their struggle with alcohol. They thanked me for my openness and it emboldened them to take a step towards their own healing.
I’m determined to keep telling my story. My passion is to help people find their path, to introduce the healers to those who need them.
For those who have been with me on this journey – perhaps sitting beside me in a room (you know who you are, AA sisters) – I am in deep gratitude to you. I am who I am today because of your support whether you knew you gave it to me or not.
And today – nine years later – I kinda like the me I found. ❤❤❤