Tag Archives: recovery

Why Sober Girls matter.

I want to introduce you to Carrie Armstrong.

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther


We met, like most people these days on Twitter.
There are many interesting things to know about Carrie, but the most important, and only thing you really need to know is, she’s awesome.
Why’s that, I hear you ask?

Well, because she is a Sober Girl who is telling the world.

She is giving a face and a voice to sobriety.
Carrie is a TV presenter in the UK who also blogs for the UK Huffington Post.
She is also smart, funny, talented and gorgeous.

I got sober at 27 and there were no role models for me back then.
The people I saw who were sober, they were much older and I found it really hard to identify with them.
It never occurred to me that I was an alcoholic because I thought I was doing what everyone else my age was doing. Everyone I knew binge drank, partied or got wasted. It was normal, or so I thought.

We have created a culture that normalizes abnormal drinking.

I drank through the years of the ‘laddette’ culture – remember that? Girls who could drink the same as boys, who got up to the same antics and lived to tell the tale the next day on the radio/TV or in a magazine story.
These were my role models, they turned their ‘antics’ into funny stories, they made drinking seem so harmless and fun.
But here’s the rub; I was doing the same thing, I was drinking like the men, I was telling stories about my ‘antics,’ I was a wild party girl and it was awful.
I was miserable, I was scared, I most certainly wasn’t having fun. I knew something was wrong with me I just didn’t know what it was.

What I needed was someone like Carrie. Someone on the TV who was successful and fun, who was saying she used to be a party girl and it sucked. Someone who was proudly saying she was a Sober Girl. Someone who made sobriety look fun and attractive. What a mind blowing concept that would be.
More and more public figures are letting the world know they are clean and sober now. By doing so they are raising awareness of the issues relating to addiction and they are also being role models. We need this.

What Carrie is doing is re-branding sobriety. Away from the preconceived notion that ‘not-drinking’ is glum and boring. She is making it something to aspire to and for that I’m really grateful.

What Carrie needs is our support.
We can change this culture. We can show young women trapped in alcoholism and binge drinking that there is another way to choose. That being a Sober Girl is awesome.
I’m with Carrie.
Are you?

Carrie Armstrong is a TV presenter with Gaff TV and a contributor to The Huffington Post UK

Recovery Rocks – Darlene Steelman

Darlene Nice
I want to introduce you to Darlene Steelman who writes the amazing recovery blog www.lifeatfullthrottle.com. She has been sober for 7 years and when she is not working she is working on her blog and writing her first novel. Like many of the stories featured here, the description of her drinking and rock bottom are really powerful.
Her story is inspirational and a testimony to how miraculous recovery can be.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

My bottom was pathetic. I was living in my enabler’s basement and trading sex for drugs and money. I had lost a lot of weight, my children had been taken from me by youth services and I could not hold a job. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to be anything that I ever wanted to be. I spent a month in that basement (only leaving to get more booze and drugs) feeling sorry for myself and blaming God and other people for my misfortunes.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’

I was in that same basement, sitting in the recliner that I had gotten my period all over a month ago. I didn’t care. I deserved nothing but death. I walked by the full length mirror and took a long hard look at myself. I am tall and weighed about 120 pounds. My eyes and cheeks were sunken in. I looked around at all the dirty clothes, the pop tart wrappers (it was the only thing I would eat) and the residue from crushing pills on the desk. My daughters’ stuffed animals sat on the bed and I dropped to my knees and begged God for help through a tear-soaked face. He must have heard me because I haven’t picked up since.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
The first few days were painful because I detoxed in that basement by myself eating nothing but pop tarts and drinking coffee while chain-smoking cigarettes. After that, they were exciting! I went to an outpatient group
and met some great people. I felt good and had gained some weight back pretty quick. I felt different. Being sober was new to me, but it felt so good.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
I got my youngest daughter back in my custody. I built a relationship with my family. I learned how to treat people. I paid off some debt. I got my motorcycle license. I landed an awesome job. I realized that writing is my passion and if I work really hard, God will put things in my path to make my life amazing. I got in a relationship pretty early in my recovery (not recommended) but I learned a lot from that, too. I ended that relationship and now have an awesome, solid, sober relationship with an amazing man. I learned that it is okay to be me and that problems happen… life on life’s terms. I just deal with it as it comes. I learned that women are not evil and actually have female friends now!

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I would tell myself that I am a beautiful human being and everything is going to be okay. But knowing me, I would not have listened. There are just some things that have to be learned a certain way.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That I am an amazing woman. I am beautiful, have a huge heart and am capable of loving and being loved. I learned that I make mistakes, and that’s okay. I learned that there are better ways to cope with life that don’t involve drugs and/or alcohol. I also learned that I am a pretty good artist.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
“Think, think, think.”
“One day at a time.”
“First things first.”
“Let go and let God.” (My all-time favorite)

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery Rocks because I wake up every morning feeling the same way I felt when I went to bed. Living life on life’s terms and dealing with the good and bad that comes down my path as a sober woman is amazing! I have met so many amazing people in recovery.
Using the tools to live the kind of life I want to live, be the kind of mother I want to be and the kind of human being God had planned for me is an amazing gift. I thank God every day for my second lease on life.

Recovery Rocks – Clare Clarke

This week’s recovery rocks interview is with Clare Clarke. Clare has been sober since 1991 and has helped many women over the years get sober. She is dedicated to personal growth and being of service to others where ever she can. As a dedicated Elvis Presley fan, one of the gifts of recovery for her was marrying the love of her life at Graceland!

Clare H&S reduced

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
My first husband had threatened many times that he would not put up with my drinking and associated behavior any more. I loved him and he was a good man. I put him through hell, disgracing myself and him over and over – I lost count of the number of alcohol-related hospital visits (stomach pumps, falls, accidents, alcoholic fits) and times where he would have to literally pick me up and/or apologise for me.

He tried so hard, bless him, but I let him down one too many times. I never believed he would actually leave me. No matter how many times I made earnest promises and assurances from the bottom of my heart that I would not drink, or could stop drinking, I just couldn’t seem to see it through. I was completely addicted to alcohol – I drank every day and needed alcohol to function in every aspect of my job/life. I suffered severe withdrawals when I didn’t have alcohol including fits. Once I had taken the first drink, I was simply unable to control the amount I took and could not stop – yet I couldn’t ever envisage life without it. Alcohol had been my solution since the age of 14 and, as I saw it, had helped me to cope with my fears and feel ‘normal’ – from a young child, I had always been very uncomfortable and ill-at-ease with myself and with life and felt that life did not live up to my expectations.

Eventually, my husband told me that although he still loved me, he no longer felt he could stay with me, as he was sure I would drink myself to death. So he asked me to leave. You’d think I’d have been devastated, but I didn’t really have many feelings left by this time and, actually, deep down I was relieved – my first thought was that finally I would be able to drink as much as I wanted without anyone trying to stop or control me! I had no idea just how sick I was.

I enjoyed the freedom of being on my own for about 2 weeks! For the next 5 months, I drank solidly, around the clock, on my own in my cramped studio flat, weeping and commiserating my awful life and feeling very sorry for myself. I passed in and out of alcoholic stupor, most times unaware of whether it was day or night. I had a vague realization that I had lost someone who had cared a great deal about me. I rarely left the flat – taxis or neighbours would fetch my alcohol – I got an answerphone and ignored the phone ringing until it stopped. I ignored my family and friends (they made comments about my drinking!) I chain-smoked and pretty much stopped eating and washing myself (or my clothes) and didn’t open the curtains or the door. I smelt, was physically very fragile, painfully thin and my skin was yellow and had sores from lying down all the time.

I had started a really good little business a few years back when I was still a functioning drunk – this had fallen by the wayside as drink became more important and, repeatedly turning up drunk, I was asked not to come back by most clients. So I now couldn’t work, stopped paying my mortgage payments and got into huge debt, with the threat of my flat being repossessed.

My husband divorced me and cited alcoholism as the cause of our breakup – then he found a new partner. How dare he!!? I was incensed and was now convinced more than ever that it was impossible to ever stop drinking – I told myself that I would not see the age of 30 (I was 27!) and prayed that I would not wake up. I didn’t care about anything any more – my life was over.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’

It is slightly vague as I was very drunk at the time, but I do remember writing a garbled letter to my husband (now ex!) telling him that I was thinking about going to get some help for my drinking, when a clear voice popped into my head saying “instead of saying you’re going to get help, why don’t you get help?!!” At that very moment, I got the Yellow Pages out and started to look for helpline numbers and made a call for help. Thank God for that moment of clarity and that someone who had been where I was was available to help me!


3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Amazing – it was tough, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by (or was that hounded by!?) strong people in recovery who were willing to help me. I identified with the very first person who shared with me about their alcoholism and also with the reading material that I was given. Although if I’m honest, I thought about alcohol every day in those first 30 days, I felt a strong sense of hope instead of desperation for the first time. I took each day separately and broke it down into hours or even minutes when I was struggling. I was so grateful to have regular contact with people who understood and could listen. My physical health improved very quickly and I began eating and sleeping again.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
My obsession for alcohol has been removed
I have found myself through recovery and a God of my understanding
I am comfortable being me and love myself as I am
I have made amends to all those I hurt in the past and have no skeletons in my closet!
I rarely get angry or frightened and when I do I am able to process my feelings appropriately
I have been blessed with the willingness and ability to help others
I have had and continue to have a spiritual awakening
I feel a part of humanity and the universe
I have a deep and meaningful relationship with my husband who I trust and who trusts me
I have a wealth of friends who I genuinely love
I can be in a room full of people and feel comfortable
I can feel the love of my friends for me and feel worthy of that love
I am not ruled by selfishness and fear, rather I tend to think of others
I am trustworthy and honest at work
I sleep well
I laugh a lot
I am truly happy!

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
I’m not sure – I don’t know if I could have done anything different if anyone had given me advice earlier. I was given opportunities for help and didn’t take them. I think I had to reach the point of desperation before I would seek help. Even if someone had told me that there was a life beyond alcohol, at that time, I wouldn’t have believed it! Maybe I would say “There is a solution”!

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That on my own power I cannot stay stopped, I need a Higher Power (the Universe/God)
That I am a good person
That I have a huge capacity for love
That I am not my thoughts
That thinking about my last drink will never work for me
That acceptance is key
That I am never ‘cured’ but have recovered from the physical and mental aspects of alcoholism
That I need to continue to work with others if I want to stay sober.


7) What are your favourite recovery slogans?
There is a solution
Faith without works is dead
It works, it really does!
Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm
God could and would if He were sought
It’s the first drink that gets you drunk
Trust God, clean house, help others
If you get well, everything around you will get well
Willingness, honesty and open-mindedness – WHO – the WHO is YOU!
This too shall pass.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery ROCKS because now I know a happiness, peace and usefulness that I could never have imagined and have a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes. I am free from the fear that used to cripple me and am able to take part in life rather than feeling left out or worrying about what people will think. I know who I am (and who I am not!) and am calm and comfortable being me and as long as I stay that way, I’m able to be helpful to my fellow human beings and God.

I never believed those people who said it would work for me – but it does work, contrary to every fibre of my own self-will, as long as I keep showing up for life and remain willing, honest, open-minded and teachable!

Recovery Rocks – Jillanna D. Mercer

IMG_20130422_084041_867
This weeks ‘Recovery Rocks’ interview is with the fabulous Jillanna D. Mercer (38). She manages to be a mother of three children while working as a hair stylist at Wingard Salon in Champaign Illinois.
One of the first things you notice about Jillanna is the word ‘Sober’ tattoed boldly on her arm.
She’s serious about recovery.
Her life is full with her family and career, the only helping hand she requires now is some good coffee.

Her interview is breathtakingly honest, Jillanna has been fearless in describing how low her addiction took her. She lays bare the reality of being a young mother in addiction and how close she came to loosing her children. Thankfully she turned herself around.
If you are a mother struggling with addiction or you know someone who is. Then you need to read this.
Sobriety date: 08/10/09

https://www.facebook.com/jillanna.d.mercer
http://wingardsalon.com/stylists/jillanna-mercer/

Recovery Rocks Interview

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
(Deep Breath)
I remember the exact moment I hit rock bottom. I can describe the room I was in, the time of day, and what I was wearing. I was 7 months pregnant and in a state run rehab. I had no money, no job, no car, no friends or family willing to talk to me. I was homeless. I had lost my rights to my oldest son and hadn’t seen or talked to him in months.
I was pretty sure I was going to lose the rights to my unborn child. I had been in the rehab a few days and had gotten to know some of the women. Most were either coming from jail or going to jail. None of them had any relationship with their kids. A lot of them had drug and alcohol related illnesses, like hepatitis and HIV.
All the women looked rough. Hardened.
Some didn’t even have their teeth. I looked around and saw what my peer group had become. I could not continue down this path any longer. I knew I had to stop and not ever, ever, ever use again.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?

I had spent my few days there also reading recovery literature. I recognized that a power greater than myself was necessary to make any permanent change. But I did not have a clear understanding of how to do this. I found a woman who had struck me as somewhat spiritual. I asked her to pray with me. We went into a small unused office and she prayed for me. We both cried a little. I can’t really tell you what words she used but it was a plea for help. I felt an indescribable peace come over me. I believe this was my ‘spiritual awakening’. Since that moment I have found the strength to overcome any urges I may have to drink or drug.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Honestly, they were pretty rough. No one trusted me. No one believed I could stay sober. No one could appreciate the changes I could feel inside that this time was different. My biggest struggle was my pregnancy. There was a very real fear that DCFS would take my child. I was honest with my doctors and was preparing myself for the worst. No one around me could really get excited about the baby because they too knew she could be taken into foster care and they were concerned I would not stay sober if that happened. I kept to myself. I did a lot of recovery reading. I prayed a lot.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
There are so many!
The very best thing is I am a get to be a wonderful Mom. My relationship with my first child has been restored. The first year I was sober, I was not allowed to see him. But I could call. I called every night. Gradually I was allowed short visits and now I have just as much time as any other divorced parent. My second child, the one I was pregnant with when I got sober, was not ever involved with DCFS. She is happy and healthy. I also have a third child. I absolutely love being a mom to my kids.

I also went back to school to get my cosmetology license. I now am a self-employed hair stylist.

Finally my relationships with my friends and family have been restored. I am now trusted and appreciated.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were dinking/using what would you tell yourself?
My first rehab was in 2007. I could stay sober for 3 months or maybe even 6 months but then I would relapse. I would be triggered by something and then start obsessing about the drugs. I felt I HAD to use. I did not feel I had a choice.
Now I know that those feelings of wanting to use will pass. Before I thought I would be struggling with them forever. I never realized how quickly the intensity of wanting to use can go away. The same is true for how mad I get at someone or how sad I feel or how hopeless a situation seems. This too shall pass. Without a doubt it is the most valuable tool I learned.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
It is amazing to me how much easier my life got once I stopped self-destructing. Just by doing the right things, I eliminated a ton of stress. No more worrying about hurting people I care about, or going to jail. No worries about losing my job or my boyfriend finding out I cheated on him. No hangover headaches or overdrawn bank accounts.

I have learned that my life is pretty simple. There is very little I can actually control. If I make the very best decisions I can and have some faith in God, everything works out.

7) What are your favourite recovery slogans?
One day at a time. This too shall pass.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Today I live a life I never thought possible. My whole life I felt uncomfortable in my skin. I was filled with depression and sadness. Those feelings led me to drink and drug and that led to utter chaos. There are days I am still in shock that I am sober.
I am totally amazed that I can be so happy. Not that I don’t have problems or struggles, but I feel I have been giving the tools to live my life. The best part is that I know my feelings are genuine. Happy or sad, they are mine. And that totally rocks!

If you are clean and sober and would like to take part in a Recovery Rocks interview, please message me through my Facebook page. I would love to include you!

I’ve been sober longer than I drank for.

Me at 15

Me at 15

Me at 40

Me at 40

Today is my birthday.
I’m 13 years sober. It’s a big deal for me because I’ve now been sober longer than I actually drank for.
I drank from the ages of 15 to 27.
That might seem weird, that if it’s been that long then surely the problem has gone away.
Unfortunately not. Because as an alcoholic my drinking was only actually a symptom, it wasn’t the real problem.
The problem was deep in my soul, I was dying on the inside and alcohol just relieved the pain.
When I stopped drinking I had to heal my soul and learn how to live as my problem has always been living not drinking.
I found tools, I got help, I worked hard and I found freedom. It hasn’t always been easy but there was no other way for me. What drinking taught me was that I didn’t want to die, that I wanted to live. I just didn’t know how.
Sobriety has been the biggest and most rewarding adventure I could possibly imagine. It has been more fun, more exciting, more fulfilling, more rewarding, more, well just more…
And I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the drinking and the horror that came with it. Because without that I wouldn’t have this, and this is better than anything I could ever have imagined.

Saying ‘No.’

HPIM0844

When I was drinking I was the worst ‘people pleaser’.
I was so scared you wouldn’t like me, that I would do whatever I could to please you.
Because then I believed I would have your approval (whoever you were) and everything would be ok.
That was my formula for life. Be liked, no matter what.
My self-esteem and entire sense of wellbeing became based on other people’s approval.
So I never said ‘No.’
I said ‘Yes’ and often regretted it.
I’d often have to back peddle out of my ‘Yes’s’ because I rarely meant them. Or I’d just lie, or not show up, or avoid you or, manufacture elaborate reasons that sadly, unfortunately and regrettably I couldn’t do what I had so fervently agreed to just a matter of days (or hours) ago.
Saying yes when I didn’t mean it made me a liar, a manipulator, a false friend, a time waster, an idiot and unreliable.

You know the sort of person I mean.

I was also very easily manipulated, because it was so apparent that my desire for you to like me, was so much bigger than my desire to be true to myself.

When I got sober I soon realized that saying yes when I didn’t mean it caused me all sorts of problems and quandaries. That if I continued behaving this way it would become so uncomfortable I’d drink again.

So I had to learn to say ‘No’.
My ‘Yes’ had to mean ‘Yes,’ and my ‘No’ had to mean ‘No.’
Easier than it sounds.
The first thing I learnt was I had to learn to like myself. That what I thought of myself was actually far more important than what other people thought of me.
So I had to learn to say ‘No,’ because when I said ‘Yes’ and didn’t mean it, I liked myself less. I became uncomfortable in my own skin and that is a dangerous place for alcoholic to be.

I had to take a deep breath and say ‘No, thank you.’
When I did this, I learnt that your feelings were your responsibility, and my feelings were mine.
That if you were upset by my ‘No,’ that as long as I’d said it politely, how you felt wasn’t up to me.

It revolutionized my life.

Firstly, I began to like myself more. By uttering this one small word honestly and were necessary I began to become a person of integrity. I became reliable, I showed up when I said I would, I did what I had agreed to and I meant what I said.
You could trust me.
Now after 13 years it’s easy, but at the time it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I know I’m not alone. Lots of people get sober and discover there’s a whole bunch of life skills they missed out on developing. Staying sober isn’t just staying away from alcohol. It’s learning a whole new way of living in the world.
And learning to say ‘No’ can be one of the most lifesaving.
Because one of the best things about getting sober is all the wonderful things you can say ‘Yes’ too.