For me, gaining substantial sobriety didn’t happen overnight. Sure, I was willing to admit that I had a problem. However, when trouble and self-inflicted chaos circled my way, I dodged it like a groundhog afraid of its own shadow and ran. Attempt after attempt of sobriety, there was always something that sent me back into a downward spiral, whether I knew it or not. Sometimes I rattled my brain and cursed myself and the cravings of liquor that crept up behind me, once again tumbling down the slippery slope of “just one.” Throwing caution to the wind, I immediately considered myself weak.
Was I a failure because I couldn’t avoid the temptations like my fellows in sobriety could? Why did I continually relapse? Was it that failed romance that burned me last summer? Why couldn’t I muster up the courage and willpower to avoid the temptations that others seemed to do with little hesitation? Did society label me as a failure because I couldn’t “drink like a lady?” I thought of myself as a hopeless female lost in the world of a masculine addiction. However, much to my satisfaction, I found myself to be wrong in a multitude of ways.
So what were my pitfalls? What are the traps of others? What did I learn from this? And what did I do about it?
As a woman who has relapsed multiple times before achieving long-term sobriety, I’ve often wondered what the difference was between female and males. I needed a new approach, and I needed to do life completely different. Here are some common pitfalls that I’ve run into.
Feeling Alone In A Room Full Of Friends
The truth was, my self-esteem was little to none. When I took a look in the mirror, my shield of emotional ammunition melted away. The abyss and low self-confidence drowned me in vodka on the rocks. During my multiple attempts of sobriety, I felt a loss of control from the absence of the substances that I was using. My emotional pain of unresolved depression, anxiety, trauma, and abuse had me feeling like the band-aid was ripped off, but my wound was still lacking stitches. I felt alone and lost in the world, and more importantly alone in a room full of friends. When my emotions reared their ugly head, I felt apart from and misunderstood. The discomfort sent me back into a tizzy of self-deception and liquor. I honestly had to learn how to deal with my emotions healthily and develop new skills to manage them.
Drinking Like A Lady
Those times when I said I was just going to have “one drink,” and then immediately after the third glass, I ended up thinking, ‘what the hell, why not have another?’ later turning into ten more. That thinking became a shameful cycle to keep wrapped in secret, and the stigma of being a daughter, caregiver, and woman addicted to alcohol became disgraceful to me. However, treatment after treatment, jail after jail, the bewilderment of embarrassing mugshots, hospital visits, and psych-ward trips caused me to like-minded women myself who were going through the same thing. Once considered a man’s disease, little did I know that today, addiction affects an estimated 2.7 million women.
No, that guy didn’t make me relapse, I did. I ended up getting into situations for which I was ill-prepared. At the time, I felt myself reaching for anything outside myself that made me feel better, and for that guy who complimented me at a couple of months sober, I was now swapping addictions and becoming codependent. In early sobriety, thinking can be cloudy, and emotions can run high. When this happens, we as women are at higher risk of attracting or becoming attracted to someone who is addicted, abusive, or emotionally unavailable. In early sobriety, when our significant other relapses or when the relationship crashes and burns, it makes it that much easier to justify getting high. When this happens, and I have a little more time under my belt and improved coping skills, I find the outcome is usually much better. No matter what, I have to place my sobriety before relationships (whether romantic or platonic).
I Didn’t Believe In Me
When we don’t believe that we can stay sober ourselves, we don’t have a fighting chance of doing it. What did I like when I was sober? Who was I when I wasn’t using? What did I love to do for fun? These were the questions had to ask myself and find out. Doing this helps create my identity and helps me start to feel normal in my skin. Nobody else can want sobriety for me, and nobody else could find my purpose and passions in life for me. Without discovering myself and without finding out exactly who I was and ways to have fun, I was sure to live a mundane life full of boredom. I found that if I didn’t take an alternate approach in the perspective that I looked at the world, I would relapse. I had to take a look at who I was and what I wanted in life, for the very first time.
Despite these pitfalls of relapse, there are strengths of women in recovery. As women, we are more likely to be receptive to help offered to us. This can ultimately contribute to our sobriety and help safeguard us with newly formed support systems, coping skills, and relapse prevention strategies. Studies show that women are more likely to engage in group counseling and “more willing to admit a problem” subsequently benefitting us in the long run.
No, I’m Not A Failure
Do my failed attempts at sobriety mean that I’m a failure? Am I less of a woman? No. Relapse can teach us things about ourselves that we may have never thought about before. We shouldn’t lose hope. We can take our slip and turn it into a stronger, more vigorous program of action.