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!
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!