I have spent the past few days retracing the steps that led to making March 23, 2015 the day I stepped out of addiction and into recovery. There had been plenty of mornings prior, filled with regret, swearing, “I’ll never drink again.” But, those momentary secret declarations preceded predictable backsliding, where I’d find myself stashing yet another bottle in my closet.  Why was this time different?

As of March 23, 2015, I had been in therapy for six weeks.  The appointments were on Tuesday mornings.  In those six weeks, my therapist helped me discover that I had an atrophied parasympathetic nervous system (aka: zero ability to be at rest/peace) and that I lacked an ability to say, ‘no’, for fear of disappointing people.  That meant I was manic and a serial people-pleaser.  In God’s abundant mercy, both issues came crashing to a screeching halt on March 12, 2015 when I had a mild, exhausted break-down in Pinetop, Arizona and drove four hours straight to my Dad’s office to let him know I was quitting the family business.  In case you missed that story, I told it back in November:

That was the first step in redefining who I had known myself to be.  The girl who always did what was expected of her and always had a plan, suddenly, recklessly, chose to quit.  No plan and no guarantees, except for freedom, and God’s voice of reassurance from that drive on the Mogollon Rim.

I also was building up that jacked-up parasympathetic nervous system with meditation exercises, which I still use today.  When I feel anxiety welling up, I mentally put myself back onto the therapist’s couch, take deep breaths and physically unclench my core muscles.  I force my physical body to relax, and in turn, my mind.

The week after that drive to Pinetop was a process of re-entry, suddenly having to acquaint myself to a new normal, trying to piece together who I was and what made me happy.  I do vividly remember telling my therapist about quitting my job.  She responded with an emphatic, “THAT. IS. AWESOME,” as if to say, “YES!, You’re finally getting it!”

Step 1 – Get thyself to therapy (with a good therapist)

Step 2 – Discover the underlying reasons for drinking

Step 3 – Have a blubbering breakdown in the woods and make a radical decision

Step 4 – Rebuild, redefine

March 22nd, 2015 I poured myself a glass of Mumm Napa Rose (I was a classy alcoholic), resolving that this was my last taste for the redefined journey ahead.  I had the glass, poured out the rest of the bottle and woke up the next morning stepping out of shame into joy.  It wasn’t about will-power or resolve.  It was a change deep inside my soul, my foundation.

That was the difference that day, and that’s what has made a difference for the past 365 days.  I let go of who I thought I was.  I let go of the guilt and shame that kept me in a cycle of addiction.  I acknowledged my flaws, accepted forgiveness and saw myself as a person of inherent worth and value.  It’s the message of the Gospel, and I count it a supreme honor to get to celebrate this 1 year sober-versary during Holy Week.  Jesus loves me, and that’s truly all that matters.

Thank you times one-million to  everyone who reads this blog.  Whether you were there when I came clean with my story on July 4th, or you’re just jumping into the conversation now, thank you for being a big component of my accountability.  Thank you, too, to those of you who have shared your own stories with me.  It takes courage to share hard things.  I am continually blown away by how many people out there struggle with addiction or are impacted by someone close to them with an addiction.  I hope you know you’re not alone and if you have any questions or need information on resources, I am 1001% happy to point you in a helpful direction.

Finally, thank you to my Mom and Dad and Ryan.  You three are my heroes and the nearest and dearest to my heart.  Happy 1 year to us all!

And with that, where’s the cake?  I’m starving!

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  • First of all, congrats! A year is a tremendous accomplishment. As someone who is wrestling with my own alcohol addiction I’ve looked at you for inspiration. I’ve worked in the restaurant biz as a sommelier (of all things!) for 15 years and after losing my job due to my drinking I’m faced with reinventing myself too. Not an easy thing to face at 40! But the fact that you were able to do it gives me some hope. Thank you for that.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story, Nathan! My heart is with you and this tough time you’re in. Like I’ve said, if I can do it, others can, too! Let me know if you need any contacts or resources. The one thing I do know is that it’s easier if you don’t go it alone. Love and all my best to you in re-writing your own story!

  • Love your story and love you! Thank you for letting us see how amazing Jesus is through your suffering.

    Your favorite cousin (haha)


  • I celebrate with you, Joanie! I love how God can restore our brokenness and even turn it into something beautiful by using it to help others. “The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.” Proverbs 11:25 Thanks for being who you are. You are deeply loved – by Jesus, me and so many others! <3

  • Congratulations!!!!! What a special celebration this week. Absolutely lovely to read your blog and watch your story! 🙂

Hi! I’m Joanie.

I'm a pro food photographer living in Phoenix, AZ with my hubby and two little dudes. Join me on YouTube for photography and cooking tutorials.