- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Submitted by: Nadine Herring
Let me introduce you to Laura S. Laura is an amazing woman who I met on Twitter about a year ago; she is funny, encouraging, supportive, and full of energy! Laura is the type of woman that makes you feel you’ve known her for many years, even though you’ve just met her and has a smile that can light up a room.
One of the things I admire most about Laura is her openness about her recovery. Her willingness to share the good and the bad in order to give a real account of recovery is inspiring to so many people. I am so proud to call her a friend and share her incredible story!
How long have you been on your recovery journey?
I may not have known what I was embarking on then, but I consider July 14, 2007 the start of it all.
What is the biggest positive change in your life since then?
The sheer fact that I can be me without drinking—and love who I am—would have astonished 24 year old me. Obviously putting down the physical and metaphorical bottle is a big step, but putting it down doesn’t get rid of your problems. It just allows you to be present and face life “on life’s terms,” as they might say in the rooms. Things will be good and bad; you’ll have ups and downs in recovery. It’s not all picture perfect but it’s real, and you can be a part of your own story. I carry many a valuable lesson from my time in AA with me today, and even though 12 step isn’t my go to anymore, it is still a truly phenomenal resource for those who want and need it to get/stay sober.
What led to your need for recovery (from substance abuse or some other issue)?
Not only was I a binge drinker, but I engaged in dangerous, risky, and irresponsible behaviors. Consequences started to rack up more and more. I had underlying mental health issues (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder with panic attacks—both of which were undiagnosed until I grabbed the reins of my own life and got help) and drinking helped quiet my mind. It was on such a subconscious level; it wasn’t like, OMIGOD! I’m gonna get totally wasted now because I have OCD and I can’t deal. It was more like when I drank I felt like the version of myself I wanted to be perceived as, because I had such crippling anxiety and bizarre obsessions and compulsions that surely if I was myself, no one would love me. And as I’ve said before (and AA says it in their Big Book): first it was fun, then fun with problems, then just problems.
What was the turning point for you?
On July 13, 2007 I reached a pinnacle (or rather, I crashed to the very rockiest of bottoms). I found myself in the muddy mire of the biggest, loudest, brashest, nastiest, mortifyingly terrifying and awful mother of all consequences from my drinking: coming to in a hospital bed in New York City after a full day/night of drinking, browning/blacking out, and god knows what else. I had been separated from the group I was with, my purse, my shoes, my sanity and dignity. Thankfully, the Madison Square Garden/New York City Police Department took pity on me and called an ambulance to get me to safety. And in a higher power/freaky coincidence moment, somehow my belongings weren’t stolen that night and were returned to me intact the following day. I took that as a sign and when offered a drink the next night, I said, and for the very first time, meant it, I never want to drink again. I called for help (the substance abuse and behavioral health services number on the back of my insurance card) the day I got back home to DC.
What is one important truth you’ve learned through the process?
I’m human and flawed and beautiful and perfect, just as I am. Of course, that took years of practice and self-acceptance/self-love is a daily thing for me. Self-care is not selfishness. That recovery in itself is a process. What works for someone else may not work for you, and what once worked for you may not work for you anymore. And that’s OK. Sobriety is about growth, about becoming the best version of you possible.
What are you most proud of about your life today?
The blog I created, notwithstanding, my biggest source of pride is that I have a wonderful relationship with my parents now. I wasn’t a deliberate liar back in my drinking days, but I found myself lying to cover up my actions and behaviors. I felt that I couldn’t be honest about my anxiety because I didn’t even know the full extent of it myself. There was so much I was hiding, and now they know who I am. And they’re proud of me. I stay sober for me, but their support allows me to flourish.
What is one of your biggest struggles in ongoing recovery? How do you overcome that?
This one is kind of a doozy because I’m still trying to figure out how to overcome it: my OCD. Nothing irks me more than when someone throws “OCD” around in conversation like it’s cute to have it (just this week, I’ve heard it twice by people who I’m sure mean no harm). When you have actual, real, diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you have bizarre obsessions (of the harm, sexual, contamination, etc. nature) and compulsions (checking, re-checking, silent [or audible] sentences or mantras, tics, etc.). And the thing about having OCD is that I’m aware that my obsessions and compulsions are irrational, yet for whatever reason, my brain has a chemical imbalance that causes it to feel locked in place. So while I know these thoughts and actions aren’t based in reality, I can’t stop. And that’s the biggest struggle for me today. Even though I have a wonderful therapist who helps me in so many invaluable ways, the OCD isn’t really moving forward for me. I’m going to see a specialist in the near future. I feel pride that I’m taking care of me, that my mental health is just as important as my physical health.
What part of your life do you find most satisfying since you have been in recovery?
I can be there for others now. I can be a part of something bigger than me that lifts others up; I can celebrate sobriety and recovery and don’t have to hide in the shadows. I can be a role model for anyone who sees that power and strength in me and wants to emulate what I’ve learned from those before me. I may be on the verge of turning 33 (5/18) but in so many ways, I feel like I’m turning 9 (7/14). Since getting sober, I’ve had a do-over. Life is pretty swell now, even with all the trappings of life (good/bad/ugly). I get to be here for it, and here for those who matter to me.
Is there a truth or piece of advice someone shared with you that has helped you on this road?
One day at a time will always be the most salient of sayings for me. I don’t decide to stay sober every day when I wake up; for me, it’s kind of an understood given. But regarding my mental health and overall recovery (aka being a human), I need to be present and stay in the moment. Taking things one day at a time doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the future or have memories of the past, but it means that catastrophizing into the future or desperately regretting the past will do you no favors.
What would you tell someone who is at the beginning of his/her recovery journey and is afraid he/she can’t do it?
There are many pathways to getting/staying sober. Find what works for you and run with it! Anything is possible, even if it doesn’t feel like it, especially if it doesn’t feel like it—because someone who thought the very same thing as you feel now, who was in your exact shoes, is on the other side of that fear now. I didn’t think socializing would be possible sober; I didn’t think I could ever have fun again. Yet I’ll tell you this: life is beyond my wildest dreams now. I wouldn’t trade my experience in for anything because it allowed an awakening of my soul to be the me I’m supposed to be. Life is better, sober.