2023 – Welcome Back

It doesn’t hurt me
Do you wanna feel how it feels?
Do you wanna know, know that it doesn’t hurt me?
Do you wanna hear about the deal that I’m making?

Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush

Normally I pick lyrics that directly relate to the post I’m writing. But, really I picked Running Up That Hill solely because Kate Bush is a badass, the song is kick ass, and I like the energetic of how it makes me feel. I know I didn’t necissarily need to explain that, but there you go.

It’s been at least 2 years since I’ve written for my blog. I didn’t renew the domain name, and I kind of just let it fall by the wayside. But I came across this note that I wrote for the blog when I celebrated 3 and 1/2 years, that I never published. I’m going to share it below and then write some more, so bare with me as this is going to be a fairly long post.

Today, I hit 3 years and 6 months sober. It's both an exceptional milestone and an exceptionally ordinary day. I don't mean to say I'm not proud of myself. I don't mean to make it sound as though I feel any less about my sobriety. But, something has changed within the past year - it has become a fully integrated piece into my life. It is a part of my identity and yet it doesn't define me. In the past, I would have said getting too comfortable is a red flag. The beginning of slipping into a relapse mindset. But, over the past year, I've realized, it doesn't have to be that way. 

My sobriety feels like my favorite movie that I know every line of, that I could watch 100 times in a row, and that I know so well, I constantly have it playing in the background while I go on about my day and do other things. I'm aware it's on, I pause to tune into my favorite scene. But I don't have to sit down and actively watch it and I don't have to prove to myself or anyone else it's my favorite movie because I know it in my heart. That's how I feel about my sobriety and how it has evolved. Do I still think about drinking? Occasionally, yes. Do I still struggle in certain situations? Definitely. Do I have fleeting thoughts of wanting just one drink? Yes. But the feeling my sobriety gives me is so strong I feel as if it's embedded into my DNA. My sobriety is no longer like a car with its high beams on blaring at me where I am unable to see anything but it.

The weight my sobriety holds is now equal to all of the other important aspects of my life that make me who I am and allow me to follow the path I am on and it's a beautiful thing. I graduated from my acupuncture program and am currently a practicing acupuncturist in my state, finishing up my doctorate and herbal medicine degree, and building up my practice. I've realized a specialty that I am passionate about in addition to working with those struggling with substance use disorders is working with patients going through cancer diagnosis and treatments. I hope that soon, I can focus more on both specialties future. We adopted an almost 2-year-old Catahoula leopard/black lab dog mix (our beloved cat passed away at 17 years old Oct 2021), and my relationship with Josh is stronger than ever (7 years this June πŸ’•). I attribute all of this to my decision to become sober on Oct 1, 2018, the continued motivation from creating this blog, and the amazing support network I have around me. 

Everything has stemmed from that decision, including my ability to be a true advocate for my health. I've been experiencing health issues over the past year and due to a phenomenal and extremely thorough hematologist, several types of cancers and malignancies were ruled out, ways to manage my lifelong blood disorder were brought to light, something that not one doctor since my pediatrician spoke to me about (one of which is to not drink alcohol - so thankful that I stopped when I did), and answers were finally uncovered regarding symptoms that no one could identify. I'm working to shift my diet to majority plant-based due to this new diagnosis and bettering my overall health, I'm taking steps to better manage my blood disorder, and I've started working with a personal trainer and even starting to job/run (thanks to Brittany Runs A Marathon to get me inspired). 

Because of my sobriety, I care more about my health. I care about the impact I make in the world. I care about my family, my friends, my career, my patients, my sense of self, and my life. 

I share that because I’m smirking about what I wrote. Who knew that a few months later, I’d feel like relapsing. Who knew that the summer of 2022 would be one of the roughest rough patches I’d go through with my sobriety. But let’s get some context first. I took a break after my 2 year post because everything went to shit (more shit) at the end of 2020. Josh’s parents both passed away from covid within a week of each other which is one of the most horrific and difficult things to go through. As a baby. I lost my dad to an accident of combining prescription antidepressants (the dose he was prescribed) and alcohol. I have no relationship with my mother because she’s, well, my narcissistic, pathological lying, borderline psychopathic mother, I’ve lost more important people in my life than I care to count, and yet what Josh went through was one of the most devastating things anyone could go through. I didn’t know exactly how to handle trying to be there for him and cope with the loss as well. It brought up a lot of feelings about my dad, my uncle, other important “father and mother” figures that I’ve lost. It brought up a lot of feelings of uncertainty in how we would move forward. And if we even could move forward. It’s ironic that I don’t like to necessarily be sad or cry in front of others since when I was drinking the majority of what I did was be sad and cry in front of others. At the same time I’m very vulnerable and open about my feelings. But during that time, all I wanted to do was drink. I lost a dear friend at the end of 2019, my uncle at the beginning of 2020, and another close family friend the next month, who a year or so before lost her father who was one of the most important people in my life/another father figure and who told me she would be there for me in the same way he was. And now Josh’s parents. Fuck 2020, it’s a was a horrible year. The only good thing that came out of it was that Josh quit drinking February of that year and hasn’t had a drink since. He never had a problem, he just stopped drinking during covid.

2021 turned out to be okay although kind of a blur, mixed with the bullshit of my herbal program that I just now finished due to bullshit circumstances. I finshed my acupuncture program and started my practice. I went on a couple of short getaways including going to the rock and roll hall of fame and got my dog. I also cut the tip of my finger off making tacos on Christmas Eve and then was in the hospital again on New Years because I unknowingly had Alphagal Syndrome (an allergy to beef, pork, and sometimes dairy, you acquire from a tick bite). So you know, take what you will from all of that.

In 2022, three major events that highlight that year include having major life changing surgery that improved my quality of life in a way I never imagined, getting a more specific diagnosis regarding my mental health, and getting to see Motley Crue, Joan Jett, Poison, and Def Leppard after waiting fucking forever. I cried on the way up to the concert because we were listening to Poison and Ride the Wind played and it made me think of my uncle. Actually, when we were at the concert, there was a storm that delayed it by a half hour and it was gloomy until Poison came out and started singing that song. The sun came out and everyone lost their shit. I teared up and then laughed at myself for fucking crying in the middle of a rock concert. There was a guy in front of us who it seemed every 10 minutes would turn around to us and say “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE” so he made things even more fun. But again, as much fun as it was, I was secretly struggling and by August I was as close to a relapse as I ever had been before.

I wanted to just say fuck it. I started working as a waitress again, something I swore I’d never do again, and it was not good for my sobriety to be thrown in the deep end like that. I’m close knit with everyone I work with because it’s a small restaurant with people I’ve known for years. I used to work there in 2016 until the whole JJ situation happened and I couldnt function. But, I decided I’d go back because I like everyone there, I’m close with them, and it was the best place I could think of to go back to waitressing. But, I was unprepared to acknowledge how difficult it would be.

It’s the beginning of summer when I started there, I ended up working 5 to 6 days a week when I originally wanted to only work 2 or 3. My coworkers like to drink and start doing so at 8pm every night (we close at 9), and the mentality of restaurant workers is unique. It’s something you can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it before. Over the summer, it became increasingly more difficult to deal with the environment as a sober person. I hated it to be honest. My mentality and actions started mirroring how I acted the summer of 2018. It was as if I was drinking without drinking. Being at the restaurant was it’s own little microcosm and the “real” world didn’t exist while I was there. It was as if I was two separate people. One who was on a journey of sobriety, finding ways to become a better version of myself, integrating the philosophies and mindsets of holistic healing, and doing all the things. Then another who didn’t give a shit, who started smoking again with a fuck it attitude, pulling away from those who care about me, feeling like all this holistic living and bettering myself was bullshit, feeling like who the fuck do I think I am fooling because it’s all a facade and who was ghost drinking (a term I’ve come up with that means I’m basically who I was when I was drinking without actually having the excuse of drinking). It got bad. I didn’t want to be sober anymore. My addict voice was saying “ok, this was nice and all but let’s get back to the “real you”, all this Holistic, sober, best self bs is crap and it’s time for it to be over”.

it was a struggle to make it to 4 years. Some of the things I wrote on my Instagram included “I celebrated 4 years sober on Oct 1st. I haven’t written in my blog in 2 years and I haven’t posted on Instagram in forever”……”the day of my 4 year mark, I didn’t feel like I deserved to celebrate. My boyfriend bought me beautiful flowers and said he was proud of me. My friends congratulated me. But the past few weeks all I’ve wanted to do was numb out and escape. I haven’t had that feeling in a very long time”……”the only thing keeping me from drinking was the fact that I didn’t want to have to reset my time to day 1.”

It sucked. In August, I told my boyfriend about a situation that happened after a shift at the restaurant that rocked us. I remember him saying “if it didn’t matter then why did you tell me” and my response was something along the lines of “because I’m going to relapse”. I needed to tell the truth because if I didn’t, I was going to relapse. Because that was the icing on the cake. The next step: relapse. Things got a bit better after the summer ended but it took a while for me to really feel better.

Towards the end of that year, we did some pretty cool things. Went to frightening for Halloween and saw Taylor Tomlinson in PA. We went to Chocolate World the next day, and by this time I started to feel better.

2023 rolls around and we had a great New Years until about 1am. My best friend came down and stayed with me and Josh for a few days. Josh and I talked about how this year we were going to focus on us. How I would finally be finished with school and we could enter into a different phase of our relationship. How we would get back to that “innocence” we felt before the world got fucked up with 2020 and the innocence we felt before Oct 11 of 2016. We literally had that conversation New Years Eve Day. Around midnight I posted a picture of me and Josh and me and my best friend. When I went to look on FB around 1am, a post of of JJs ex wife came up with a bunch of people and in the photo next to her was JJ. I freaked out. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, I started shaking, and I completely disassociated. I couldn’t move. I was crying and went to go to the bathroom and felt like I couldn’t move for what felt like forever. I heard Josh get up and come towards the door. He was worried I was hurting myself. But to be honest, I was so disassociated that I don’t think I could have if i wanted to. I opened the door and he gave me a hug and was holding me. He first said we don’t know the context of that picture and everything is going to be ok. And then he told me to look at him and said “you are amazing, you are smart and beautiful, you’re a doctor, you’ve accomplished so much and come so far. You have come so far from that and you have grown so much. Everything is going to be ok”. He wanted me to repeat some of what he said about myself but I couldn’t. It was like I was snatched completely out of my body. He gave me a kiss and had me lay down. I woke up around 530 gasping. I didn’t even know why. I pulled myself out of a dream that I immediately forgot. Josh grabbed my hand and kept saying you’re safe, you’re with me, [best friend’s name] is here, you’re at my house, you’re safe, it’s ok. I grabbed onto his hand and after a few minutes I calmed down. I couldn’t sleep so I went out into the living room and just kind of stared into nothing. I noticed the sun rise and I finally was able to fall back to sleep for a couple more hours. I think I probably got 5 hours in total. I was so upset that we literally just had this talk about going into the new year with a mindset of a clean slate. And this slapped me in the face on literal new years. I ended up messaging JJs ex wife and long story short she said that he is friends with her friends still. That he shows up from time to time and that they were hiding it at first from her. Trying to get them to hang out at different times and sneaking around behind her back. She said unless he does something to them, they just won’t understand. I wanted to say what kind of fucking friends are they but Im sure none of them actually know what happened. She ended up removing the post from her wall and telling me that she would “NEVER” be with him again. We had a quick convo about what happened and the aftermath for both of us because we never talked about it after I told her initially. I did feel better after I spoke with her. That she swore she wasn’t friends with him or with him and that she basically still thinks he’s disgusting. She said she wished he would of had some repercussions for what he did to me. That he just gets to live his life but that it shouldn’t stop us from living ours or controlling where we go. I know people think I should have gone to the police but I didn’t and it’s kind of pointless to think about that now. I cried most of the morning even after talking with her. I went into my best friend’s room crying and told her what happened. She hugged me and said she loved me and I did feel better but for the next few weeks, I felt pretty bad. I didn’t feel like drinking but I had the feeling of wanting to crawl out of my own skin again. Writing this story actually reminded me of the fact that in 2021 we were at a bar, celebrating a musician friend’s birthday and he was there. At first I freaked out, went outside and burst into tears. Josh seeing what happened, followed me outside, told me we would grab our jackets and leave. I told him no. I wasn’t going to let him do that to me. Instead, I walked back in and sat down in eyesight of him. He saw me and stared. I stared back. We maintained eye contact for what felt like several minutes before he turned away and wouldn’t look in my direction for the next half hour before he left. I felt good about that. I felt like I stood my ground. I felt power in that moment. So, to then be knocked off balance by a picture, threw me. It wasn’t until I talked with my therapist, that I realized when I saw that picture with his ex wife and him, my brain went to “total betrayal”. One of the worst things that could happen would be that the woman who divorced him because of what he did, would be back with him. It shocked me out of my body. It put me back into how I felt the night of Oct 11, 2016. My brain didn’t care about context. My brain went to pure survival mode. Proof that PTSD doesn’t ever actually go away.

Barring that situation, I got through it enough to be able to move on although theought January and even this month, I’ve had episodes of disassociation which are scary as shit. I actually had one coming back from vacation but at least I haven’t felt like drinking. Mentioning vacation , Josh and I finally got a vacation to St Pete Beach and Key West – we hadn’t been on one for 5 years because of my schooling – and it was amazing. We had a blast and I didn’t feel like drinking even once. We did so many activities, I think it’s the most we ever done in one small stretch of time. I read leisurely books and got a tan. I felt happier than I have felt in a long time. We got back a few days ago and it completely inspired me. The perfect near future in my head? I pass the national board exam for acupuncture, complete a few extra requirements, and get my license in Florida. Josh and I move to St Pete Beach for the majority of the year (I’d still have my practice here for when we come back in the summer during the ungodly hot months of FL). I open a practice with a friend of mine who is also planning to move there, and Josh plays a ton of gigs and is happy. Although, going to Key West would be better for Josh gig wise and possibly for acupuncture? I only notice one acupuncture practice there.

I am optomistic about this year and the future. I’m excited to see what happens next with my relationship with Josh and with my career. Our vacation is something we really needed and deserved.

If you made it all the way through this post, I’m in awe of you. As a reward you get 3 fun facts:

Fun Fact #1 – I was a guest on a sober podcast a friend of mine runs which was super cool. Click here to listen on Google Podcasts or search GetConnectAF (look at my sobriety podcasts and media tab for more info on GetConnectedAF) and look for Sunday Sober Share: Brooke on any podcast platform. One of my sobriety bucket list things.

Fun Fact #2 – this year, I’ll celebrate 5 years sober. That’s half the number of years I spent drinking. Crazy.

Fun Fact #3 – you’re at the end of this post and with that, I’ll leave you with this – you are stronger than you think you are.

til next time…

Click Podcast Episode to listen.

Click ConnectedAF to check out the amazing sober community for women founded by my friend, Lori.

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