I want to share something about myself you may or may not know:
I am a recovered alcoholic and drug addict.
And I have 2 sobriety dates. Why?
February 1, 1999, is the day I came back to AA and I have been clean and sober since then.
I have not recreationally used alcohol, marijuana, meth, benzos, opiates, cocaine, crack, psychedelics, inhalants, etc. (I have used and abused all of the above, by the way.)
2 years ago today, I had a spiritual experience while studying the AA Big Book with my sponsor.
We read on page 31: “Through every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore non-alcoholic.”
My sponsor questioned if:
my use of psychedelic plant medicine for spiritual awakening (peyote in 2018, and “bufo” a year later),
my reckless use of an alcohol-based herbal tincture in which I once got a huge buzz, along with
using kratom a few times for anxiety,
were me deceiving myself and experimenting, as the book said.
I felt like my head exploded and the foundation of my world shook as the awareness avalanched through me that the answer was Yes.
I had been questioning these smudges on my sobriety for a few months as I started the Big Book study and 12 step process again.
But I was not ready to let go of the glamorous status of having 21 years sober – since I never officially relapsed purely to get drunk or high.
It wasn’t until he posed this question 2 years ago today that the conviction came with every cell in my body that I WAS experimenting, trying to prove myself an exception to the rule.
Not that I didn’t think I was an addict – I’ve always known that – but I had an almost unconscious belief that I could ‘safely’ dabble in these gray areas and ‘get away with it’ because I had been sober so long.
In the early years, I would have never considered doing psychedelic plant medicine – regardless of the reason.
I remember a few days before the meeting with my sponsor, I was talking with a friend who only had a few months clean. I explained why I was considering changing my date.
I still remember the catch in my throat and the hesitation to say that I had done plant medicine, because I didn’t want to give her the wrong Idea that it was ok – regardless of my intention for doing it.
I saw the flaw in my reasoning – why would it be ok for me to do it, just because I was 21 years sober, but not her, just because she had 4 months?
As those of us in AA know, once an alcoholic (or addict) always an alcoholic.
We are both equally powerless – my time sober did not give me any power.
Yet I had fallen gradually into the trap that my clean time was some sort of insurance policy, based on years of making concessions with my sobriety.
using alcohol-based herbal health tinctures without trying to boil off the alcohol; then
using valium and opiates for the dentist without telling him I was an addict in recovery, and also, not being accountable to anyone about it.
I took the meds as prescribed, but even now over a decade later, I look back and know that the opiates probably weren’t necessary.
I looked at it as a “freelapse” – a legit use of something mood altering for medical reasons.
A loaded topic, no pun intended.
This health beverage has a small amount of alcohol. When I first had it in 2004, I felt the warm buzz of the alcohol in it and knew I could not use it again.
Then in 2014, someone in AA said they drank it all the time, so I gave myself permission to.
I would not drink it excessively, but sometimes I would go through periods of having one a day. Bottom line, I liked it too much.
All of these little concessions added up to me making the bigger concessions of doing a spiritual ceremony in Bali with peyote, and a year later, bufo (if you don’t know, 5 MEO-DMT.)
Of course, there was a part of me that felt like it was not ok for my AA sobriety, but I justified and rationalized it.
One of these examples on their own may not be categorized as self-deception and experimentation. But all together, they paint a sure picture towards a full-on relapse into recreational alcohol and drug use.
Thank god, I rediscovered the power of recovery through the AA Big Book study and step process and was restored to sanity before that happened.
For those of you who wonder how someone with 10, 20, 30 years sober relapses, now you know.
It usually starts slowly years before.
So this is why I chose to release February 1, 1999, as my sobriety date 2 years ago, and stake my claim on my new date of May 18, 2020.
But it wasn’t that simple or black and white to me as time passed.
Because I didn’t purposely go out and take a drink or a drug to get high, I began to question the new date.
I don’t know if I even have total clarity on this even now… as writing it all out makes me wonder if it is just my ego that still wants to hold on to the 1999 date.
But at this moment, I have 2 dates.
So I call 1999 my sobriety date, and 2020 my rebirth day.
Since then, I have not
taken an alcohol-based tincture without trying to boil the alcohol off (send me a msg to know more about this…because it’s easier said than done).
I have not done plant medicine, nor
kratom or any other mood-or mind altering substance for any reason.
This refinement of my sobriety has helped me reestablish and recommit.
And it has been a wonderful lesson in letting go.
My old sobriety date was how I defined myself.
Now I feel less of a grip on it.
I still acknowledge it, and that’s ok.
There are no rules – our sobriety is up to us.
There is no sobriety police giving me a daily breathalyzer to make sure I’m sober.
For me, these are all further examples of life not being black and white.
My mind loves to go there.
But that is not life.
And it’s not human. and it’s not me.
My story is much more powerful now with this experience than just me being a woman who got sober at 22 and now is 23 years sober.
I know people may have differing views about all this.
I share my own experience and the way I have chosen that feels best for me.
I welcome other opinions and judgments – as the book says on page 19, ” Most of us sense that real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us more useful to others,” and “love and tolerance of others is our code.” (page 84.)
I remain in integrity with my choices as well as respecting your right to have your own opinion, and I share this to share my own experience, strength, and hope on how I have navigated my sober life up until now.
Please reach out if this touches you or challenges you or makes you think about your own sobriety – I am here to support you.
I love you all, and thank you.
(The photos are from 23 years ago, when I was 23 and 9 months sober, and now, a month away from 46.)