I can’t believe we’re half way through Pride month already!! I hope everyone is having a fantastically, queer time and that you’re able to take time for yourself when you need it.
I know that I’ve been VERY light on the blogging lately but, I’ve been pretty immersed in my extended trip back home to New England. However, if you thought I’d leave you hanging with no We’re Here, We’re Queer! you are mistaken!
This month’s installment is a treat. If you’re looking for inspiration or support or encouragement, look no further – Lauren’s story has all of those things! Enjoy:
I’ve been sober since June 2, 2014 and have to say that being in recovery has been the most extraordinary experience – one that I never could have imagined when I first stopped drinking. When I first got sober, all I wanted was to somehow stop the awful cycle of addiction and alcoholism: binge drinking, blackouts, saying/doing things I regretted, waking up at 4am not knowing how I got to bed, my partner asking me “do you remember what you said or did last night?” and not knowing how to answer, and feelings of shame, guilt, regret and self-loathing. I have gotten SO MUCH MORE out of being sober than I ever could have imagined.
Long, long story short… I started drinking at 18 and stopped at 31. I started drinking when I went away to college – a women’s college where for the first time I was honest with myself about being attracted to women. I drank first because I felt awkward and uncomfortable at rugby parties around hot butch women, then I drank because I wanted to feel more confident and sexy. I drank because that’s what everyone did. I didn’t realize that not everyone drinks – not in the desperate way I did – and not everyone has blackouts.
I drank to deal with the anxiety and fear I had about coming out to my mom. I drank because I felt guilty for being gay. After college, I struggled with depression, and drank so I didn’t have to feel the lonely, untethered-ness of my early 20s.
In 2009, my dad died very suddenly – he went out for a walk one morning and didn’t come home. He’d had a heart attack by the side of the road. I drank copiously after that – drank to manage the pain and sadness I felt, the grief and anger. I also felt like a huge victim and all alone in my self-pity about losing my dad. I blamed my partner – it wasn’t fair that she had her parents still!
The last few years of my drinking were hectic. Outwardly everything looked great… I was working full time and started a part-time graduate program at an Ivy League university. I planned and held a big gay wedding with 100+ guests and wore a big fluffy cupcake dress. I ran marathons. I traveled and got promotions. But inside I was completely alone, full of self-hatred and caught in a spiral of shame and guilt that just made me drink more and more.
Things came to a head in the spring of 2014. I was increasingly unhinged. I had hallucinations while I was drinking. When in a blackout, I always had the tendency to be verbally abusive, but in the last few months of my drinking I also became physically abusive. My wife was afraid of me.
On June 2, 2014, I walked into a 12-step meeting where I finally admitted out loud that I needed help. I had no idea what to expect. The first few months of my recovery journey were excruciating – I’ve heard it said that early recovery is like having your face next to a florescent light that never turns off, and that was true for me. I felt EVERYTHING, from all of my suppressed guilt and shame to sadness over my dad’s death 5 years earlier. It was a lot.
The hardest thing about early recovery for me was just staying sober. I used to tell myself that I could have a beer or glass of wine the next day, just not today. That worked for a long time. Eventually the craving just subsided, and now (nearly four years in) I really don’t ever want to drink at all, which is incredible.
My first year was also about facing the consequences of my alcoholism. I had destroyed any trust or intimacy that could have existed with my wife. She moved out when I had 7 months sober and asked for a divorce a month later. It’s a miracle that I didn’t start drinking again, and I’m grateful to folks in the recovery community who picked me up and carried me along when things were dark and scary.
I look back at who I was when I stopped drinking and I am dramatically different now. I am trustworthy and reliable. I was asked to be my nephew’s godmother, and God willing he will never see me drunk. I have a great relationship with my family today – but I also know how to set healthy boundaries. I have learned how to let things roll off my back and how to not take things so seriously.
I will say that the 12-step approach has worked for me, but I firmly believe in MANY paths to recovery. My recovery also includes yoga, antidepressants, and therapy. If SMART Recovery or Buddhist modalities or meditation or Moderation Management work for you – GO FOR IT. If you relapse one or a thousand times, that’s okay. Recovery isn’t linear and neither is healing.
If you’re drinking and don’t know how to stop, know that you are not alone. A lot of people have felt like you do. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to try different kinds / paths of recovery until you find one that feels right. Just be honest with yourself about what you need and what feels right to you.
Lauren is a lesbian who currently lives in Astoria, NY with her partner,Farrah (who is also sober), and two cats: Cheddar and Fat Newby. They’re planning their wedding, which will be in October 2018, at a neighborhood bar (which serves delicious mocktails) and will be officiated by another friend in recovery. In her spare time Lauren enjoys yoga, reading and, cooking. She says pamplemousse is the best La Croix flavor, and is ready for season 2 of Queer Eye to be available ASAP!