Most people rarely even get to glimpse the positive, powerful side of alcohol addiction recovery, as they go about their normal lives. Alcoholism is something that happens to somebody else, anyway. Isn’t it?
Certainly, mainstream media headlines would never speak of the college student who mysteriously left the campus for 3 months and came back a very different young man, or the middle-aged, stay-at-home Mom who, with the help of her family doctor and a nearby AA meeting, found sobriety and now works part-time down at the local food bank.
Unless, of course, the young man was the President’s son, and the stay-at-home Mom was the First Lady, perhaps…
Real, Long-term, Sustainable Recoveries
All too often when we actually get to catch the 6 o’clock news bulletin after work, or simply get 5 minutes out of a busy day to grab a coffee and read the newspaper, we are left only to ponder the endless daily diet of doom and despair – no mention of lives changed for the better, only for the worse, and certainly no mention of a real, long-term and sustainable recovery (unless the recovery in question belongs to the national economy and all those small, green pieces of paper our lives are dictated by).
Time to redress the balance, don’t you think? Well, at least point things in a far more positive direction, if only for a little while.
Yes, the facts speak for themselves. 95,000 lives end prematurely every year because of alcohol. Alcohol-related causes are officially the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., only surpassed by tobacco, and the combination of poor diet and physical inactivity.
However, for every piece of bad news surrounding the chronic disease of alcohol addiction, there is a piece of good news. For every negative headline you may read about substance abuse and addiction, there’s a positive one, happening right now – a headline as yet unwritten. Maybe, one’s happening right now in your town. Maybe even in the street where you live.
Maybe, the headline is about to be written…
The following successful stories of alcohol addiction recovery (truly remarkable in themselves alone, as any recovery story is) not only speak of the once-addicted person – they also speak of that person’s strong desire to give back in some way to the recovery community that helped them to find abstinence from alcohol, and to maintain their sobriety.
In addition, these stories originally surfaced from brand new blogs, begun as a way for these women to document and address their own addiction recovery, and to help those who become readers by sharing thoughts, tips, ideas, and so on. You are definitely encouraged to read their blogs (but please finish this article first…).
IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.facebook.com/theonlyoneintheroom/photos/137292987663626
1. Laura Cathcart Robbins: The Only One in the Room
If you are looking for a little recovery motivation yourself, you could do a lot worse than spend a quiet, contemplative half an hour or so with the inspiring words of Laura Cathcart Robbins.
Laura is a successful and award-winning freelance writer, with acclaimed articles in the Huffington Post, and the host of popular podcast “The Only One In The Room.” She lives (aptly enough) in Studio City, California, with son, Justin, and boyfriend and producer, Scott Slaughter. Furthermore, Laura is also a recovering alcoholic – a “recovery thriver and striver,” as she describes.
Alcohol addiction came late to Laura, compared with most, although it had claimed the lives of many in her family. It was only after the birth of her son, unfortunately accompanied by the complex mental disorder postpartum depression, that Laura’s drinking, previously just a weekend social indulgence, spiralled dangerously out of control, further worsened by her additional use of pills.
Her alcoholic descent was one she has likened to a phrase used by a Hemingway character in “The Sun Also Rises.” The character in question is asked how he went bankrupt – “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” For anyone who has experienced a descent in alcoholism, that’s a pretty apt description of how it goes – gradually, then suddenly.
Laura went into rehab on July 14, 2008, but not with the aim of recovery, as she would readily admit. Because her alcoholism and pill-popping was now so out of control, her tolerance level had become exceptionally high, meaning the quantity needed just to cope with her daily withdrawal symptoms was placing her in severe danger.
At that point in her life, now going through a divorce and away from her kids, rehab meant a painful detox, but they’d medicate her. She’d survive, she could get a break, and hopefully, she would then be able to reach the previous toxic effects of her earlier alcohol use once again.
“I Do Not Belong Here”
Fortunately, fate intervened. Here’s how Laura recently described her introduction to rehab life back in July, 2008:
“The hour that I checked in, I was ushered into this orientation, and I heard people introducing themselves. I’m like, “Oh, this is a huge mistake. These people are hardcore, like heroin addicts, and I do not belong here. I’m a mom with a pill problem.”
And I bolted and ran for the office to check out. And this guy followed me out of there, out of the orientation. I thought he worked there. He started telling me about his daughters and explaining like, “If you have kids, you should stay.” And he was really annoying. He was slowing me down.
He ended up being somebody that I struck up a friendship with there, and kept a friendship with afterward. Then we ended up dating later on. So he actually made rehab a bit bearable for me.”
Additionally, on leaving rehab, fate was to intervene once more.
Laura’s divorce attorney, wary that the substance use and rehab stay might cause a problem during proceedings later, insisted Laura underwent weekly drug testing and kept a record of all the meetings she attended. The drug testing lasted 6 months, and Laura remained sober throughout.
Describing her first year in recovery, Laura uses the analogy of a cat running across a busy street: “You ever seen a cat run across the street? They put their ears back, and they just go. I felt – that first year – I was like a cat, with my ears back, just going in there. There might have been bombs dropping on either side of me, I didn’t see anything. I was just like, “I’ve got to get across the street, I’ve got to get to 365 days.”
Once a life in recovery and a life of complete abstinence from alcohol became more normal for Laura, she began to excel in her chosen profession – writing. She won the 2018 LA Moth StorySlam, and was recently named the weekly US contributor for an Italian news magazine, “The Daily Worker.” Laura also sits on the advisory board for the San Diego Writer’s Festival and the Outliers HQ podcast Festival, and then there’s her hugely popular podcast “The Only One In The Room,” named after an experience at a writer’s retreat, and recounted in The Huffington Post.
IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.facebook.com/theonlyoneintheroom/photos/198684121524512
“Alone in a Room Full of People”
In fact, it was that very experience that has spurred much of Laura’s best work: “I found myself in an all too familiar position. In September, 2018, I was the only black woman in the room at Brave Magic, a famed writer’s retreat. After it was over, I wrote about my ‘only one’ experience in The Huffington Post, and comments started flooding into my DM from people from all races, ethnicities, creeds, and nationalities who had felt ‘othered’.”
In her podcasts, Laura interviews people about their own “only one” story in each episode – “raw, vulnerable, accounts from people who are like most of us,” as Laura describes, “We are eager to connect. This is a podcast for anyone who has ever felt alone in a room full of people – which is to say, this podcast is for everyone.”
To return to the concept of blog-writing as a way of giving back to the recovery community, Laura has this to say: “The most crucial call-to-action in recovery is our charge to pass our experience, strength, and hope along to anyone that wants (or wants to want it). People in recovery are great respecters of confidentiality (it is sacred to us, as well as essential for healing from this terrible disease). More than likely, any horrible, scary thing that you have to say will probably sound perfectly normal to me.”
You can follow Laura on her website: TheOnlyOnePod.com, or through her other social media channels (details of these can also be found on her website).
IMAGE SOURCE: https://sobersenorita.com/about
2. Kelly Fitzgerald Junco: The “Sober Señorita”
Putting pen to paper to describe your recovery from alcohol addiction is an incredibly personal thing to do, and most people going through the experience will perhaps keep a private journal, and no more. However, to actually publish your thoughts, feelings, and ups and downs online for the whole world to see – forever inscribed on the internet’s magical hard drive – well, that’s something else entirely.
It took Kelly Fitzgerald Junco 8 months of sobriety to begin her public journal – “The Adventures of the Sober Señorita,” and, on the occasion of her recovery anniversary, one full year to publish her first official blog post about her own sobriety. The article – “7 Things I Learned During my Year Without Alcohol” – quickly went viral, and was picked up (again) by those smart people at the Huffington Post. This initial stunning success persuaded Kelly to continue writing about the “regular girl and her sobriety.”
Kelly grew up in Royersford, Pennsylvania, a small town in Philadelphia’s suburbs – a self-proclaimed “party girl,” a “social butterfly” to others, and with, as the song says, a lust for life. Her young, care-free lifestyle did nothing to detract from her studies, however, during which she gained not one, but two Bachelor’s degrees (in Communications and Government & Political Affairs), and played 4 seasons of NCAA Div. II soccer. Sadly, a more than promising start was all it would be… unless she stopped drinking.
IMAGE SOURCE: https://sobersenorita.com/about
“Sick & Tired”
Binge drinking and blackouts became the norm, and Kelly lived in a permanent state of either denial or drunkenness. After graduation, she moved to Cancun, Mexico. It was there it finally, finally hit her. On May 6, 2013, Kelly took her last drink. As she says, “I finally had enough. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Kelly continues, “Every good thing I have in my life today is the result of my continued sobriety. Every day I wake up and choose recovery, and I want others to know that they can do the same. Sharing my story has not only changed my life, but it has impacted many others. My mission is to encourage everyone to live their truth, to break the stigma of addiction, to let others know help is available for substance use disorders, and that you do not have to suffer in silence. You are not alone.”
Kelly, now happily married and living in Cape Coral, Florida (the lady certainly likes the beach life), is still blog-writing, now writing her memoir, too, and has qualified to become a Certified Life and Recovery Coach. You can contact Kelly through her website.
3. Jamie DeLoe: Finding & Practicing Grace in Recovery
Jamie DeLoe, who lives in Tucson, here in Arizona, would readily admit that she was once a prolific drinker, back during her long and lost days of alcohol addiction, as she struggled to control her constantly invasive and chronic symptoms of depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
These days, and certainly since June 2013 when she first found sobriety, Jamie is a prolific blogger. Her blog “Sober Grace” is a testament to her struggle in recovery while dealing with her dual diagnosis (also known as “co-occurring disorder” – the presence of a substance use disorder co-occurring with a diagnosed mental health disorder), and her unwavering faith in God, as she regularly, and frankly, reveals her own “thoughts, experiences and challenges in sobriety.”
“I Can’t Do It Alone”
Her writing is clear, honest, and direct: “Over the last couple of years, I have been to treatment for addiction twice, spent time in the psych ward, and suffered lots of negative consequences due to my drinking.”
She continues, “What I have learned is that recovery, for me, only works when I recognize and accept God’s grace. I know that I can’t do it alone, I tried that for many years unsuccessfully. But thankfully, with God’s help, I am able to clean up the wreckage of my past and live a new life. I hope that something I have written will make a difference… maybe bring a little bit of grace to your life.”
IMAGE SOURCE: https://jeanmccarthy.ca/
4. Jean McCarthy: Blogger, Podcaster, Poet & “UnPickled”
Jean McCarthy used to spend much of her life being “pickled,” defined by one dictionary as “to be in a confused state of being; not focussed; a frame of mind induced by excessive intoxication by drink or drugs.” Obviously, once Jean was able to overcome her drinking and she finally became sober, she became, by definition, “unpickled,” which was to become the title of her highly-acclaimed blog.
This was the first post to appear:
“MARCH 21, 2011
One Day Sober
I’ve been here before. One day sober.
I’ve even been two days sober, and once or twice in the past decade, three days sober.
I haven’t gone four days without a drink in over ten years.
Stay tuned. This should be interesting.”
“Help Make Me Accountable”
It’s an honest and refreshing style, and it has definitely caught the imagination of many readers since that first day. As Jean says on her website’s About page: “I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. I began writing this blog on my first day of sobriety. Gulp.I drank quietly in private, and have managed to quit just as privately. I didn’t stay quiet about it, though. My story is all here. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable and, as it turns out, to encourage others along the way.”
The “UnPickled” blog, with over 9,000 followers, has proven to be the first stepping stone in a successful writing journey. Since then, there has been “The Bubble Hour,” an online radio show devoted to “Real People. Real Stories. Real Hope. The “Bubble” is what we use to stay safe and happy in sobriety (especially early sobriety).”
In June 2020, her collection of poetry “The Ember Ever There: Poems on Change, Grief, Growth, Recovery, and Rediscovery“ was released, as well as the “UnPickled Holiday Survival Guide: Staying Alcohol-Free During the Festive Season,” a resource book for those in recovery and their families. If that wasn’t enough, and for Jean, it clearly wasn’t, she has also completed her first novel. Jean lives in Alberta, Canada, with her husband Ross and dog Scout.
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Alcohol Use and Your Health – Informational webpage
- Laura Cathcart Robbins: “The Only One in the Room: Podcast” https://theonlyonepod.com/
- Listen Notes: Get Your Sh*t Together: “Recovering Yourself & Redefining Motherhood with Laura Cathcart” – interview (December 2020)
- The Huffington Post: “I Was The Only Black Person At Elizabeth Gilbert And Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Brave Magic’ Retreat” article, by Laura Cathcart Robbins (October 2018)
- Sober Señorita – Recovery Blog, by Kelly Fitzgerald Junco
- Sober Grace – Recovery Blog, by Jami DeLoe
- UnPickled – Recovery Blog, by Jean McCarthy