It’s familiar, this lineup of discomforts. The flu-like state that started with three days of crushing fatigue, tossing and turning in bed, unable to get up for more than a few minutes. The shakes, the headaches, the stomach cramps, the dizziness. The agitation that sets my heart pounding double-time, jumping at every suddenly-too-loud sound, blinking at the sun: was it always so bright? The so-called “sleep disturbances,” which manifest in a combo plate of insomnia, vivid nightmares (relentlessly on-message: here I am, caught in a trap, unable to escape. Here I am trying to talk or scream for help, but only a nearly inaudible whisper comes from my mouth), and sweating so profuse I sandwich myself in towels each night, continually peeling away disgusting, soaking-cold fabrics. The sensation of having electric shocks going off in my brain, triggered by the smallest of eye movements. The anxiety which ebbs and flows, sometimes receding, sometimes so overwhelming I have to remind myself how to breath: slower inhales. Stop panting. That noise is a plane going overhead, a perfectly normal flight path, it’s not going to crash into the house yes it is yes it is no it’s not.

If you’ve ever stopped an antidepressant cold turkey rather than tapering, you might have had a similar withdrawal process. Excuse me: discontinuation. People who are actually prescribed medicine may choose to discontinue something — addicts withdraw.

I had all these symptoms when I sobered up in residential treatment, I have them again now because surprise, I did not stay sober. I had months of sobriety, then sporadic bouts. I was clean for a while. Then I wasn’t.

In the last few months I’ve just receded, bit by bit. I didn’t act out, or embarrass myself, or make huge “life changing” decisions that I thought were amazing and self-empowering. I wasn’t euphoric, or manic, or outgoing. It wasn’t fun. It was numbing. I could get through my normal routines, but I was living a blank existence. No joy, no spark, no desire, nothing to keep me from floating ever inward, further and further away from everything beautiful and beloved in my life.

It was like I have been a forest, eaten by disease, whose canopy hadn’t died yet. It maybe still looked okay from the outside, but underneath: a greying, empty wasteland.

I can tell you why I got sober in 2015. I was afraid of losing my family. I went to treatment because people wanted me to go. (There is a saying in recovery, that you have to want it for yourself, but I was never sure about that. There has to be some good that comes from being pressured into getting help. Why do interventions exist, if not for the hope that external motivation may work when the internal fails?)

This time, I became afraid of losing myself. No: I was afraid that I was already lost, and I was never going to find my way back. I was/am disgusted with myself, ashamed, and so very tired.

There was a day when I found myself with the dull thought that if I didn’t have children, I could kill myself, and at least it would be over then. I tell that specific part of my story to illustrate how unexplainable addiction is. How can a woman with everything she could ever want not only choose on a daily basis to piss her life away with a soul-stealing substance — this, after decades of all the problems I created for myself and everyone around me during my alcohol years, after countless fights and tears and rock bottoms and a stint in rehab followed by months of ongoing treatment — but also get herself to a place where, faced with the realization that things cannot go on as they are, mulls over suicide instead of putting down the goddamn drug? How can I have been so proud of the months I’d accumulated, so sure I was going to make it, so aware of what would happen if I picked up again, and be here instead?

I know and I don’t know. I know, in the sense that I don’t believe addiction completely removes our will. No one sets out to be an addict, but we make choices, and whether or not there is any truth to the theory that some are more susceptible than others, it is the cumulative effect of those choices that brings addiction to life. I know my triggers and I know I drifted away from an active recovery program and I know I starting thinking that eternal red-alert vigilance against my own demons felt like … a punishment with no end, I guess.

At the same time, I can’t understand it because my own actions defy logic or sense. I want to be healthy and sober more than anything in the world. God, why isn’t that enough? Why am I so goddamned broken?

Something finally snapped, or maybe started working again: I quit using. I asked for help: from John, from Serenity Lane. I got back in an outpatient program, 3 hours a day, 3 days a week. I found a new counselor, one who’s familiar with treating addicts. I have been asking for help silently, to my closed eyelids, a whimpering litany that somehow soothes: help me, help me, help me.

And here I am telling my story, publicly, because I need that kind of help too. I need for this part of my life, this most recent humiliating chapter, to be out there, come what may. I need to talk about it because I am scared and sad and I am tired of having so many secrets.

I’m so sorry. It is inadequate, typing that, but it is a whole-heart truth. I’m sorry for so much, maybe especially the fact that I have spent so many years creating burdens for those who care for me instead of helping to lighten them. I wish — ah, but there’s no point in wishing away the past, really. It cannot be done, believe me. Instead, it’s time for action, for confessions and deep breaths and hot baths and hard internal work, for doing whatever it takes to make it through these miserable early days. For not getting mired in shame, for staying in the moment instead of worrying about the future. For picking myself back up, again.

Can I do that just for today? I say to myself. (Yes. I can.)


89 Responses to “Starting over. Again.”

  1. Sirena on November 8th, 2016 2:59 am

    I’m sorry to read this but hope you just keep sober one day at a time and wish you strength and luck. I’m a fellow mom of two boys and am thinking of you, sad and scared for you and for them, and really rooting for you. This is hard, so tough, but so are you. Emerge victorious.

  2. Kirsten on November 8th, 2016 4:33 am

    Beautiful. Thank you. I am 4 months sober and your words touch me. All the best to you.

  3. Penny on November 8th, 2016 6:04 am

    Thank you for sharing. I have followed your blog since you were pregnant with Riley. I wish you and your family strength, understanding and love.

  4. Mary Clare on November 8th, 2016 6:54 am

    Sending you strength and support. You can do this!

  5. JM on November 8th, 2016 6:56 am

    I’ve read and loved your writing for many years, and have been so sorry to hear of your struggles. Sending you all the strength and determination and power you need to take action and get through to the other side.

  6. Jessie on November 8th, 2016 8:13 am

    It take so much courage and strength to admit there is a problem and to ask for help. Some people go their whole lives without ever being able to do this. You fall and you brush yourself off and you try again. You are amazing.

  7. Jen T on November 8th, 2016 9:36 am

    I can’t tell you how much reading this was like reading my own thoughts written out. Wishing light and love and hugs to you.

  8. Michelle on November 8th, 2016 1:03 pm

    You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I’ve read you for awhile. Music always makes a difference for me. During some of my darker moments, there are songs I’d just put on an endless loop. May not help, but when this song popped up on my Spotify, I thought of this entry. Don’t know if the video link will work, but here’s to brighter days:

  9. Gillian on November 8th, 2016 1:26 pm

    Sometimes life is starting over, and over, and over. All your people here love you. No judgement. We will be here no matter what.

  10. Laurie on November 8th, 2016 1:38 pm

    You can do this. You can start over. You are a beautiful talent and I have faith in you. One day at a time. If you fall you can get back up. Much love to you in your struggles.

  11. Catherine on November 8th, 2016 2:17 pm

    You are so much more than this shitty disease. You are courageous and strong and tenacious and beautiful and caring and talented and smart and witty and funny as hell. Keep fighting.

  12. Kathy on November 8th, 2016 2:51 pm

    I’m an alcoholic, too. Sometimes it helps to remember that this disease lies to us, all the time. I have found that I can acknowledge its voice while not taking what it says to heart, or paying it too much mind. I’m lifting up your name.

  13. Amanda on November 8th, 2016 3:12 pm

    Keep swimming, Keep swimming, Keep swimming.

  14. lynn on November 8th, 2016 4:09 pm

    It’s all gonna be ok. :-)

  15. Gina on November 8th, 2016 4:15 pm

    You can do it, girlie! Sending you love, prayers and support.

  16. Valarie on November 8th, 2016 6:40 pm

    I am so sorry you are struggling.
    You deserve to feel good and be happy.
    I will keep you in my thoughts.
    Try your hardest to take care of yourself – You are worth fighting for.

  17. Sara on November 9th, 2016 6:12 am

    I’m a long, long time reader, since your diaryland days, and thank you for your honesty. It IS a disease, no matter what anyone says, and a hard one to beat. I’m 2+ years sober now, but some days it is so hard, almost too hard. Sending you so much love. Even with this sad news, I am glad you are posting here again. I’ve missed your words.

  18. Joanne on November 9th, 2016 12:03 pm

    Fucking life. It’s as hard as a rock! I’m thinking of you, I admire you, I am wishing the best for you.

  19. Alice on November 9th, 2016 3:50 pm

    I really adore you. I am part of your biggest fan club, and have been forever. Sending love and strength. You are SO strong.

  20. Nancy on November 9th, 2016 4:36 pm

    You have NOTHING to apologize for. You are human, strong, weak, part of a family, alone. You are all of these things and more – and I am so grateful you are here.

  21. Christine on November 9th, 2016 5:37 pm

    Sending love, because it sounds like that’s what you need most.

  22. Annie on November 9th, 2016 6:43 pm

    XO. One moment at a time, just for today.

  23. Camille on November 9th, 2016 8:11 pm

    I think you are very brave. If it brings you any comfort, there are people listening and rooting for you. You are valued and loved.

  24. Barbara on November 10th, 2016 6:40 am

    God (Great Spirit, Allah, The Universe, whatever) said it came to pass, He didn’t say it came to stay.

    You are a teacher in this as much as you are a student. Bless you and yours.

    This morning when I am so sad and sorry for the state of the unconsciousness in the world I find you’re back writing – don’t know what made me click on your blog after all these months – but I did and read through all the new posts in order. Thank you for so many things. I’ve read you since the beginning, and am so glad to see your return. You WILL prevail. You kick ass is one thing I know for sure.

    Sending you love.

  25. Lucy on November 10th, 2016 2:51 pm

    Oh Linda. Sending you all the love and light.

  26. Jamie on November 10th, 2016 4:36 pm

    We love you. We keep coming back, and we’re thrilled that you do too. You need offer no apologies.

  27. Melanie on November 10th, 2016 7:24 pm

    You’re not alone. And it’s not just affects. We all do that shit to ourselves, we know what’s good for us, what the right choice is, and we keep turning away. You’re just human. And it sucks to have to stay in top of something – I feel like it’s just not FAIR. other people don’t need to say “this is a feeling that leads to a thought and it’s who and I choose differently” all day long. Other people don’t have to stick to their yoga and meditation practice to stay off meds. But here we are, and it’s okay. It’s life and it’s always gonna be hard and we just go our best, right? Sending you lots of hope and hugs and sorry that things got shitty again.

  28. Angella Dykstra on November 10th, 2016 11:59 pm

    Big hugs and love, friend. I love you and am just a text away, any time.

  29. Nicole Springer on November 11th, 2016 3:00 pm

    Sending you lots of love and strength. xoxo

  30. Shelagh on November 11th, 2016 5:36 pm

    Sending love to you. Hang in there.

  31. Anonymous on November 11th, 2016 6:04 pm

    Know you are loved. Loved loved loved. You will never not be loved.

    My mother was a hard core alcoholic. I never stopped loving her. And she never stopped loving me. I just want you to know that.

    Being present and alert and open to the events, the pain, the suffering, and the feelings, as confusing and difficult and horrendous as they are – being conscious…you have this! You will get through it.

  32. Rachel on November 11th, 2016 6:11 pm

    I knew somehow we were “sisters” … your words always have touched me. Thank you for your honesty. You will be OK. We will be OK. One day at a time.

  33. Niki on November 12th, 2016 6:43 pm

    I love how human you are. Keep moving forward- that’s all you can do because your life is worth it.

  34. Sara on November 14th, 2016 7:29 am

    I feel so much when I read what you’ve written – no matter what it’s about. Your voice is so familiar, Linda. And I feel your pain and disappointment and sadness, but also I feel your hope. We all want you to succeed. We’re all rooting for you. I hope you feel this slow swell of good wishes right underneath you. We’re here.

  35. Dawn on November 18th, 2016 9:20 am

    Your writing is beyond amazing and there is so much bravery in sharing your struggles. Pulling for you and thankful to hear you keep trying.

  36. Lynn on November 21st, 2016 2:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing.

    I am the daughter of an alcoholic and step-mother to recovering addicts. There’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know except you already know.

    My kids started using drugs somewhere around the age of 12 and 15. They are now sober about a year and a half each. They are now 28 and 31. Both have kids ranging in age from 4-12.

    It took a long time for them to embrace sobriety. Oh, they tried. I can no longer remember how many times. How many dollars.

    The thing I had to learn was they had to do it themselves. I couldn’t make them. No amount of money would help. (In fact, $ probably did more harm than good.)

    I had to let go. Easier for me than for my husband, their father.

    There was no magic but when it finally happened they both told me that if they knew they could be happy in sobriety, they would have done it a long time ago!

    They knew what it would take a long time ago. What they didn’t know was that they could do it. They didn’t know why they should. That they could be happy.

    They point is, you’ll have to find your own way. When you find it, you’ll know. Surround yourself with the right people. You’ll know.

    Al Anon saved sanity.

    Best to you.

  37. Layni Perry on November 27th, 2016 3:29 pm

    I find that talking candidly and unashamedly about my past alcohol use is KEY! Seriously, just own that shit. It seems to be both cathartic and healing for those who had to endure my ass-clownery. Like, it makes it as easy to work into conversation as recollection that one thanksgiving turkey fiasco. Example: yesterday my daughter (23) was talking about how nice both thanksgiving and my granddaughters birthday party, Saturday, were this year. “Jeez, probably because I wasn’t drinking!” Laughter, concurrence, moving on…if that makes any sense. AA was a no-can-do for me :::shudder::: Detoxing was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever been thru (didn’t stop me from having to do it more than once. Am slow-learner/self-defeating, maybe). I no longer know how long it’s been since I drank last. I don’t fucking care. I kinda felt like tracking it kept it right there, y’know? I never thought I’d never want to drink. But I don’t. I even bought wine/beer to offer at thanksgiving dinner. Never even contemplated drinking. Didn’t obsess about its presence (that’s new, and awesome). I know I’m all over here, but I guess my point is, “OWN YOUR SHIT, UNASHAMEDLY”. You didn’t set out to be an addict. Fuck it though, you are. Sorry y’all. Tell the stories, rehash the obnoxious shit you did, “oh my gawd, remember when I fell off of the curb and my boob flopped out of my shirt!?” (<– true story) Don't dwell on making amends (I know that goes against every credo we learn), your people just want your best self back — so just keep doing you and they'll be HAPPY! Dwelling on what you done did is the opposite of moving forward. Own your shit. Don't be embarrassed. You'll be surprised how rarely it comes up, but when it does, just talk about it casually…like it was a shopping trip last week. Then move on. Also, you're my favorite and thanks for so much <3

  38. kate on December 14th, 2016 5:19 pm

    really happy to have you back here. take care.

  39. JJ on March 6th, 2017 6:03 pm

    I’ve been saving your posts in my reader for the past 4 months, trying to find the courage to read them all and really take them to heart. In 2015 I felt the same way, and cheered you along with your sobriety, and quietly wished I could find it in me to do the same. Fast forward 2 years and I’m still feeling crushed by the weight of it all, and I don’t know how to stop. It’s so fucked up, isn’t it?

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