When I was in rehab I had a counselor named Wilma who I adored. Everyone lucky enough to be assigned to her group adored her, except the people who were too overwhelmed by her, because she could be overwhelming. She had long greying ringlets and piercing eyes and wore a series of spunky tunics combined with brightly colored leggings and she accepted exactly zero bullshit. She was ruthless and sincere and she cared, she cared so much I wonder how she was able to survive a job that constantly cycled in people at their lowest point and sent them back into the world 28 short days later, held together with scotch tape and prayers.

She once told me she believed I would use my writing to help other addicts, she said she couldn’t wait to see the strong sober warrior I was going to become. It was profoundly kind of her to say that, at a time when I felt so unworthy, so ashamed and dispirited and un-warrior-like in every way.

Wilma was the very definition of a sober warrior, having fought her way back from the kind of rock-bottom addiction most people do not survive. She poured herself into service work, she said it was the only way she was able to stay clean. I don’t know how many people she has affected and helped over the years: hundreds? Thousands? She certainly made an impact on me.

For a brief time, I considered writing about sobriety in a more intentional way. I thought of a website dedicated to recovery, I thought about sharing my story more publicly, I thought of how I could take what I’ve gone through and transform my worst moments into opportunities to connect with others who have been there.

These worthy endeavors do not call to me, though. I want to write about addiction and recovery in a way that feels natural, like it’s part of me but not all of me. I don’t want to dedicate myself the way Wilma did, even though it makes me feel selfish to admit. I don’t want the focus of my life to be on this one aspect.

Wilma was dedicated to the 12-step program method of recovery. I have never been able to embrace AA, no matter how many times I tried. I think there are many paths; for some it’s a higher power, for me I most often rely on the “play the tape forward” trick to avoid triggers (ie; sure, that cold glass of hoppy IPA sounds good, but let’s go ahead and play the tape forward to the part where you’re hiding vodka bottles in the laundry hamper).

In lots of ways, I envy Wilma for her confidence. I wish I felt driven to help other addicts the way she did, to say “Here. Do this, and things will get better.” The only way I truly know to get better, though, is to stop doing the things that are making everything terrible, and getting from doing to stopping is — in my opinion — a complicated mental journey that works differently for everyone.

I don’t know if I have become any kind of warrior. I have had long stretches of sobriety and setbacks along the way. I have dumped all of my coping mechanisms into unhealthy food habits then wrestled myself back into uber-disciplined eating and exercising then repeated the cycle, over and over. I have peeled back my dysfunctional self-critical thinking to see the terrified protective mechanism that it is, I have felt my feelings and avoided my feelings and traded my feelings for other feelings. In all of my fumblings I have never felt particularly victorious, but I do feel here. I feel alive, I feel present, I feel human. I feel a thousand times more connected and hopeful than I did in those miserable days leading up to treatment.

Maybe being a warrior simply means that you don’t give up, no matter what, and to that end, I’ll accept the honor.


34 Responses to “The good fight”

  1. Donna on January 7th, 2019 8:56 am

    Cheering for you, as always!

  2. Elizabeth_K on January 7th, 2019 9:05 am

    A warrior for good, for calm, for your family, for yourself — what I hope to be, and what you are certainly a model of. A warrior of continuing to fight! (as you said, more eloquently than me …)

  3. Wendi on January 7th, 2019 9:52 am

    I think that’s exactly right. You are definitely a warrior. Just living your life as a person who has dealt with some stuff and kept going holds that space open for other people to do the same, and that’s enough. Some do more, some do less, depending on their own path. We do what we can, and it’s all good.

  4. Jenni on January 7th, 2019 11:51 am

    Just a note to say I appreciate you. Throwing a high-five from someone who also struggles with stuff, and sometimes feels better writing about it, and sometimes feels frustrated when I don’t it to become all I am.

  5. Anne Nahm on January 7th, 2019 11:59 am

    <3 <3 <3

  6. Eryn on January 7th, 2019 12:08 pm

    I just really always love what your writing – be it about your family life, body image stuff, or sobriety.
    Whatever you choose to write about, my heart skips a beat when you show up in my feed.

  7. Amy on January 7th, 2019 1:35 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that I love your writing. You have such a wonderful way of capturing a moment, or putting complicated feelings into words. Keep fighting the good fight, warrior.

  8. TinaNZ on January 7th, 2019 2:26 pm

    Beautifully expressed as always. Perhaps one day you might publish a compilation of your writing on this topic. I’m sure your ‘New to Me’ book has helped heaps of new mothers with that exhausting and overwhelming experience, so this could be your way to warrior-hood.

  9. Jen on January 7th, 2019 2:39 pm

    I just wanted to say I love your writing, and I have for many years. In fact, I was just thinking about you as I just fed my kids frozen waffles as their after-school snack, per their request. They usually eat cereal after school, and since they are picky AF, cereal and waffles it is! Keep on keepin on.

  10. Jennifer on January 7th, 2019 2:54 pm

    This is breathtakingly honest. Thank you for being willing to admit to not knowing, figuring it out every day, and the terror of confronting weakness, failure, misery, self doubt. I think you’re right that’s different for everyone; and maybe even different for each self day to day. You have an enormous toolbox and a huge heart. With admiration!!

  11. Chris on January 7th, 2019 4:48 pm

    Keep fighting, and thank you for writing.

  12. Courtney on January 7th, 2019 6:50 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing in this moment. My fiancé just had a set back after a year of soberity. I have a million questions to ask him but ultimately just wish I knew how to help. I’ve always loved your honest writing approach and appreciate this post more than you know.

  13. Anne L. on January 8th, 2019 12:13 am

    Thank you for that. ❤️

  14. Anne L. on January 8th, 2019 12:14 am

    Thank you for that. ❤️

  15. April on January 8th, 2019 6:54 am

    My mother is very entrenched in NA, and it works for her but the rhetoric never feels good to me. Good for you for finding what works for you.

  16. Sandy on January 8th, 2019 10:31 am

    You helped me. Writing about your experiences with addiction and recovery as they unfolded more than a dedicated recovery website or speaking tour ever could have. I wasn’t looking for and couldn’t hear such direct messages when I needed I the most help. Instead I was reading blogs because I thought inhaling other people’s lives would make mine more palatable. It didn’t, but it doesn’t matter, because I recognized myself in you, realized I had a problem I couldn’t fix myself, and got the help I needed. Thank you for that.

  17. TheRachelSyn on January 8th, 2019 11:41 am

    I’ve followed you for many years, Linda. Cheering you on, as always!

  18. sooboo on January 8th, 2019 12:15 pm

    “and getting from doing to stopping is — in my opinion — a complicated mental journey that works differently for everyone.” So true and it applies to so many learned, coping behaviors. Your honesty has helped me and many others tremendously.

    This also got me thinking in a larger way that society (social media particularly) tells us that to lead a modest, balanced life of serving others and enjoyment is somehow not enough if you aren’t Doing Big Things and it’s nice that you’re questioning that toxic message. I have been too.

  19. JoAnna on January 8th, 2019 2:19 pm

    My husband has been sober for three years. SMART Recovery is the program that helped him. He believes in it so much that he became a facilitator and hosts weekly meetings at our UU church. I think it does help him with his sobriety to help others and focus on the program often. I think he sometimes pushes others to join him to become a facilitator, but I remind him that that’s not a path that everyone wants to take. You do you. I always love to read what you write, no matter what the topic.

  20. LD's Mom on January 8th, 2019 2:43 pm

    You are a warrior in my book.

  21. Em on January 8th, 2019 3:05 pm

    Wonderful post, and something I needed to read today. Thank you!

  22. Jenn on January 8th, 2019 5:50 pm

    Thanks so much for your beautiful words. My addictions are different than yours but the struggles are so similar, and I always feel a little less alone after reading your stories. Sandy said it better above, but you are making a difference right where you are. ❤️

  23. Jess on January 9th, 2019 5:11 am

    So we’ll written, as always!
    As others have said, and it’s so true… you make such a difference doing what you’re doing. Thanks

  24. Jess on January 9th, 2019 5:11 am

    So well written, as always!
    As others have said, and it’s so true… you make such a difference doing what you’re doing. Thanks

  25. Pat on January 9th, 2019 12:07 pm

    I love your writing and cheer you on in my heart. This helped me, although i don’t suffer from addiction I have been affected by it. keep it up you are doing amazing!

  26. Nix on January 9th, 2019 2:46 pm

    “Maybe being a warrior simply means that you don’t give up, no matter what, and to that end, I’ll accept the honor.”
    THIS!!! I think so many people forget that is exactly what it’s about: showing up, being present, not giving up in the face of everything in the world that makes you most want to. You ARE a warrior and you inspire me, even when you don’t know you are. Thank you for sharing the raw edges as well as the smooth, and for letting us be your cheering section, just as you have been without even realizing.

  27. Sunny on January 9th, 2019 7:09 pm

    You bet your sweet ass you’re a warrior. In your corner cheering, always.

  28. Heather on January 10th, 2019 1:44 pm

    Beautiful. No other words.

  29. Amanda on January 10th, 2019 10:21 pm

    You are so gifted at writing, and capturing the human journey to share with us.

  30. Lynn on January 11th, 2019 6:35 am

    For what it’s worth, coming from a longtime reader you’ve never met or spoken to… I’m proud of you.

  31. Dawn on January 11th, 2019 12:01 pm

    I, along with many others, would be in line if you ever do write any kind of book.

  32. Jamesdoobe on January 14th, 2019 7:44 am

    Hi Good news ! an amazingoffers
    Are you in?

  33. Zb on January 14th, 2019 5:06 pm

    “I do feel here. I feel alive, I feel present, I feel human.”
    I’m going to save that one. I’ve been reading you for a long time, back when we heard your mommy blogging and I knew nothing of the addictions. Addictions aren’t any part of my life and my knowledge is mostly from celebrity stories of overdoses and other horrors. You humanized the the issue for me. You are enough.

  34. Dawn on January 25th, 2019 5:12 pm

    You have helped me more than you know with your honesty. I have struggled for 15 years with sobriety. We live similar lives and I always appreciate your honesty. Makes me feel less alone.

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