While reading about drinking and overcoming addiction, many authors talk about how when giving up one thing it can lead to giving up other addictions, or lead you to improving other areas in your life. Author Holly Whitaker quoted about her overcoming alcohol addiction: “Sobriety from alcohol led me to want more sobriety or rather, freedom led me to want more freedom”. This is so true for me in my journey, however, it was not giving up alcohol first that led me down my path.
I’ve shared before about losing my puppy, Sabot, at 2 years of age to a congenital heart condition. We lost him within 6 months of his diagnosis and I was angry and hurt beyond words. His condition likely caused from backyard breeding stole from him the ability to live a long and healthy life. At this time in my life, I had gained weight. I was eating unhealthily, not exercising, drinking too much. My back was killing me. Our finances were not great. I just felt and looked like total crap.
I remember the night that changed my life forever. March 2021 we were at a friend’s house for dinner. Another couple there had started keto and intermittent fasting and her and I sat next to each other during dinner and I inquired about her dieting. She and her husband had started it a few months prior and both looked amazing. I woke up the next morning and made the decision to try this diet. I remember crying, thinking about Sabot. How he was cheated out of living a full life. How, because of no fault of his own, was given a bad heart and succumbed to an untimely death. But I was fortunate. I had been born with a healthy heart. And despite my back issues, I was generally a very healthy person. But I was abusing my body and in honor of my precious boy, I decided to start making some serious changes in my life. I told my husband and the next day we went shopping to get groceries to get started.
About the same time, a patient of mine had talked to me about Dave Ramsey. He let me borrow his book Total Money Make Over. It took a bit of persuading and educating my husband about Ramsey’s tactics for becoming debt free, but we began paying off debt and within 6 months we were completely debt free except our mortgage (which we’re working on now).
In addition, I had finally started seeking help to address the issues with my back. I had dislocated my pinkie in November and was seeing an OT. When I went in one day for therapy, my OT asked me to rate my pain. My back was killing me that day and I said “well, my pinkie is about a 2, but my back is an 8!” As he started therapy on my hand, we got into discussing my back and he shared his wife was in a car accident and was seeing a massage therapist who specialized in myofascial release. He gave me her contact information and I made an appointment with her.
I want to add here that I stumbled on something interesting about my journey. All of my major life changes seem to occur in the springtime. I don’t choose that, it just seems to happen. I have always loved spring. As a child, I loved seeing the robins coming out because I knew that spring was here and soon it would be summer. This year I got a new tattoo of a robin (ironically in the springtime). This bird represents new beginnings, new projects and a sign of good things to come. A robin bird meaning is hope, renewal and rebirth. Little did I know that back in March of 2020 ALL of these symbols would start coming true for me.
I stumbled on the poem from Maya Angelou And Still I Rise during this time. It touched my soul and it inspired me to rewrite a smaller version about my journey. At the time, I was discovering how much my back pain over the past 40 years had tried to define me as a person. I, for the first time, began admitting to myself that I was a chronic pain sufferer. I HATE to admit that and still don’t want to use those words. But one thing I’ve learned is that my pain absolutely DOES NOT DEFINE ME AS A HUMAN BEING.
So, by December of 2020, I had lost 20 lbs. We had become completely debt free. I had been getting therapy for my back pain. Because I’d lost the weight, my pain had subsided substantially. The only thing I couldn’t get going, was a regular exercise routine. Like so many times in my past, I’d start a program, then quit. Something would happen, I’d get hurt, or get bored or just plain excuse myself out of doing exercises. It was beyond frustrating.
Fast forward to February of 2022, that fateful morning on the 3rd of February when I woke up that morning to take a 45 day alcohol break. Who knew what that break would lead to?
Becoming alcohol free was the last piece of the puzzle to make the lasting changes in my life. After being AF for a few months, I finally had the energy and motivation to start and STICK with an exercise program. I still have back pain, but it is so much more manageable now. My attitude around my chronic pain has changed. By not ingesting this toxin, I am much better equipped to handle things both physically and emotionally.
I had wanted to get a tattoo of my poem, Still I Rise. When I had written it I was working with my massage therapist and when I told her about the tattoo she suggested waiting because she felt I was still growing and learning and that the poem may evolve over time. I took her advice and decided to wait.
Along my journey of becoming alcohol free I initially thought my drinking began because of my back pain. And although I believe alcohol did help me deal with my physical pain, I now believe my drinking solidified after the tragedy of losing my brother Pat to suicide and subsequently, his two children. The poem I wrote, Still, I Rise, has now become so appropriate describing my journey. Not only dealing with my chronic pain, but now my life without alcohol.
Here is my version of Maya Angelou’s poem:
But still, like air,
Up from a past
That’s rooted in pain
Leaving behind the
Fear & doubt
Up through the clouds
Until there is
And Still I rise
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