I am always telling people, “I’m not perfect. I mess up all the time.” But, I always sense a bit of skepticism. A silent response that says, “But I see you on Facebook. Your kids are so cute, you’re happily married, you have great parents, you eat tons of fabulous food [insert your perception here]. All looks picture perfect to me.” Truth is, I’ve been keeping a secret, and it’s something I spent over a decade denying. So, here goes, the real truth.
My name is Joanie, and I’m an alcoholic.
Why on earth would I admit this seemingly terrible issue in my life? I share it because I’m tired of being false, keeping people at arm’s length, I don’t want to keep up the facade of perfection, and I want to give everyone license to know that it’s completely normal to be imperfect. In fact, it’s validation of our humanity.
I also want you to share in this celebration and my journey. I am sober since March 23, 2015 and for the first time in my life, really, truly experiencing things like joy, happiness, and most especially love.
I took my first steps on the road to recovery in December through professional counseling and was supported by several loving individuals who I included in my accountability. Of course, all of this was seamlessly knit together by Jesus Christ, who has taught me the true meaning of forgiveness, redemption, and unconditional, unwavering, relentless love.
“But Joanie, this sounds so easy.” No, no, don’t think for a second this has been easy, or that writing this is easy. For twelve years I have struggled with alcohol abuse. Since turning 21, when I first really started drinking, I built patterns of behavior to cope with my stress and anxiety that included binge drinking, most of which happened alone. Granted, I was still “functional” and actually achieved some awesome things including a bachelors degree, masters degree, lived and worked in New York City, got married, had two beautiful babies (two 9 months stints in sobriety) and started a business. But my life was, under the surface, completely dysfunctional. I was easily agitated, anxiety ridden, experiencing intense mood swings, and in a few dark moments, questioned if life was worth living. I have experienced real consequences from my drinking including a DUI, more hangovers that I can count, and too many blackouts. I’m not proud of these things, but I don’t want to let them have power in my life anymore. I have been secretive and ashamed by these things, and incredibly remorseful for the people who have been impacted. But, finally coming clean and being honest about my struggles allows me to move forward and leave the past where it belongs.
For those that know me, depending on the part of my life you’ve experienced, this may come as no surprise. For others, it might be completely shocking. If you knew me at ASU or Shippensburg, there’s a chance you’re not super surprised. I wasn’t as good at hiding my drinking then. However, some of it might have just been seen as a sheltered kid sowing her wild oats in college. But, the last few years, apparently I’ve been pretty good at hiding it (except for from Ryan, my dear, wonderful, bad-ass, incredibly loving, forgiving husband) because several of the in-person responses to this news have been shock and confusion. I’m sorry if this is hard to process, but hey, isn’t it great to know that I am actually not as with-it as I look?
After many hours of therapy, I can now name my particular flavor of dysfunction. The root issue being that I believed in my heart that I was only worthy of love if I worked for it. The basis of that belief is a long story, which I’ll save for another time and another blog post. But, thus was my mania of never-ending to-do lists, fueling my need for over-achievement. What did I do to escape? I drank, because you don’t have a to-do list when you’re hammered.
So, am I a ticking time bomb, just minutes away from falling off the wagon? Should you hide the booze when I visit your house? Should you stop inviting me to events where alcohol is served? Though I will always be in recovery, thankfully I am in a place now where I have created new patterns of behavior and have learned how to manage my emotions, not drown them. I can go to the grocery story by myself without buying a bottle of wine and stashing it in my closet at home. I can politely decline the cocktails at a restaurant media event. I can go to happy hour with the girls and enjoy an iced tea. It took a lot of work and prayer to get to this point, and every day is an exercise in self-discipline. So, is it hard? Yes. Should you worry? No. Would I appreciate your prayers and support? Absolutely.
I’m an alcoholic and always will be. But, what the start of this journey has taught me is that we all have crap in our lives. Sharing my story has inspired others to share their stories with me, and for that, I am so grateful. That’s a big part of why AA works; Knowing that we’re not alone in our struggles. There are things people do in secret that they hide, irrational things, worrying that, “If people really knew how terrible I am, they wouldn’t love me.” Addictions. They come in all shapes and sizes, some more visible than others. They’re bandaids for pain. Gambling, sex, shopping, sugar, people-pleasing, heroin. Definitely there are chemical components that play into the addictive nature of these things, but in my experience, the root of the problem goes far deeper, and the road to recovery starts with the heart.
So, back to why I’m sharing this and why it’s on this website. First of all, if this isn’t accountability, I don’t know what is. But I also want to share my journey as there will be good days and bad days, lots of lessons learned, and I want to document the progress. But, I also want to help others. Addiction is a major issue in our world. If you’re not struggling with it, chances are good you know someone who is. I will share stories here from my journey in weekly blog posts so that if you’re in recovery, perhaps you’ll be encouraged. If you’re in the midst of addiction, perhaps you’ll read something that triggers a decision for change. If you know someone who needs help or is in recovery, perhaps this will help you understand them better. If you’re none of the above, well, then you can just stick to the restaurants and recipes posts, because that’s also a part of this site. Food is a big part of my world. Making it, eating it, taking pictures of it (before I eat it), and spending time with other people who like food. In addition to writing about recovery, I’ll share restaurant features about the places where I’m dining (not just AZ…I’m hittin’ the road!) and recipes from my kitchen. Food is my therapy and the creative outlet that brings intense happiness to my daily life.
What’s with the chickens? You’ll have to read on HERE.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story and if any of this has resonated or you have questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below or send me an e-mail. I’m an open book now, so sky’s the limit.
P.S. You can stay up to date with my journey by getting on my e-mail list.