Rachel (32): 2 Years in Recovery

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

When I told everyone I was in alcohol recovery, a lot of people in my life were shocked. To many, my alcohol use seemed pretty normal, and I guess that’s where the problem laid.

I wasn’t someone who would drink massive quantities and could live without a drink. I was a typical weekend drinker, but I almost always overdid it. I easily drank three to six bottles of wine myself from Friday to Sunday.

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But then, this pattern started to bleed into the week, too. It became 4 days of wine in the week, then 5, until it was almost all of them. I was also noticing how this was changing who I was as a person. I spent most of my time hungover. I lost all my motivation.

My writing career was basically nonexistent at this point. The booze fueled my anxiety and self-pity, causing me to drink more. I thought I drank, because I couldn’t write. But I only learned after I stopped drinking that I couldn’t write because I drank.

Most worryingly, I was becoming angrier and caused more arguments with my now husband. I knew if I kept drinking, our relationship wouldn’t survive. But, again, nobody thought I had a problem because of how normalized casual drinking is.

Everyone drinks a little too much wine and shouts at their partner, right? Well, maybe they shouldn’t.

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The final straw came on my wedding day, when I drank far too much, having barely eaten all day. I made an absolute fool of myself and started screaming at my new husband in front of our closest friends. The next day, he made me promise I would stop drinking. Hours before, though, I’d already downloaded a sobriety tracker.

That was 2 years ago, and every year on our wedding anniversary, I renew my pledge to him and myself.

How do you define sobriety?

To me, sobriety is totally abstaining from alcohol. It’s the only way it works for me. I tried moderation and only having a couple every so often, but that doesn’t work for me.

I also avoid drinks that smell and taste like alcohol, because they can trigger me.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself in recovery?

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The biggest thing I’ve learned about myself in recovery is that I’m actually an introvert. I always thought I was a big bubbly extrovert who was the life of the party and loved dancing and shouting, but it turns out that was the booze talking.

Now that I’m sober, I much prefer seeing people in small groups and relaxing with a lovely cup of tea.

Was there an element of recovery that was harder than you expected it to be?

As a woman who can’t have children, constantly being asked if I wasn’t drinking because I was pregnant was especially hard. It’s such an insensitive assumption — not to mention one that can really hurt.

Was there an element of recovery that turned out to be easier than you expected?

I thought I’d really have a hard time with still hanging out with friends and having fun without the drink. But I ended up having an even better time. I was more present in conversations and remembered everything that happened. It made me a better friend.

Was there a popular approach or strategy that ended up not being helpful for you?

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I’m really not a fan of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), as I find it quite misogynistic and privileged in its belief that we need to surrender and give ourselves over to something bigger than us before we can recover.

As a disabled woman, I’ve been doing that all my life. But I know it helps so many others, so I won’t detract from that.

If you could tell your pre-recovery self one thing, what would it be?

That 2 years after getting sober, you’ll have carved out an amazing life for yourself. It’ll be everything you’ve ever dreamed of.

Rachel Charlton-Dailey is a freelance journalist focusing on health and disability. Their work has featured on Verywell, Huffpost and Business Insider. She is also the founder of The Unwritten, a publication for disabled people, by disabled people. When not writing they can be found walking their dachshund, Rusty.

Read more on: addiction


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