Recovering out loud publically is better than any drunken high
This morning I spoke at a recovery center on the south shore in Cohasset. I was asked to visit with a group of people that are in an outpatient program 120 days. I wasn't sure what to expect exactly, but I didn't hesitate when asked to attend. I was excited about the idea of being able to connect with these strangers and share my story. I always look forward to talking with people in recovery because I never get nervous sharing about my sobriety.
But when I pulled up to the center at 10AM, I was surprised when my hands began to sweat a little. I prepared a couple of talking points, but for the most part, I figured I would wing it. I just assumed I would assess the room and feel out the crowd once I arrived. I didn't overthink it, and on the drive down I listened to music and didn't stress out. I never practiced or rehearsed my speech. I barely wrote down any notes at home. Evan asked me to practice on him in the morning, but I refused. So when I arrived at the center and felt the butterflies, I was caught off guard.
I guess it shouldn't be a huge surprise though, considering my past. If you know me at all, I am someone who absolutely hated public speaking for pretty much the duration of my life. Before I stopped drinking, I had always been an extremely anxious person when it came to being surrounded by strangers and communicating with them in any fashion, let alone speaking to them out loud by myself. Just walking into a room full of people used to make me uncomfortable, as I felt I was always being judged. I was never comfortable in my own skin, hence the need to always have a drink in hand.
Two and half years ago, the idea of getting up in front of 20 people would have been my biggest nightmare. I probably would have brought a water bottle full of vodka with me and snuck a few sips in my car before walking into the center.
Once I arrived, I began to question if I was worthy of the task. I doubted myself for the briefest moment, as many of these people were straight out of rehab and detox, some of them heroine and cocaine addicts. I wondered what I had in common with some of these people, feeling judgmental of them for a moment. I questioned if this group would accept me or even want me there. I worried they were not going to want to listen to my story - a silly housewife - how do my tiny alcohol problems compare to their bigger drug issues?!
I texted Evan my feelings of doubt, and he immediately reminded me that we all have one thing in common. We all struggle with addiction.
So I quieted the voice of doubt in my mind. I took a deep breath, and I began to talk honestly and openly. I just did what I know how to do. I showed my vulnerability.
And I settled right in with confidence and ease. The first thing I told the room was that this was my first time speaking in such a manner, because I had never done group therapy before. So this was truly my first in person meeting, and I was especially appreciative of them for allowing me to share.
This was obviously not the first time that I let my guard down and felt this type of vulnerability - as I have been on many podcasts and even on TV! But it was the first time sharing my story in a group setting, talking by myself without any prompts, with zero interruption, for close to 30 minutes. After I was done, I wasn't sure how it was going to be received, and one or two people had even nodded off. But everyone clapped! And several hands shot up with words of encouragement and questions. And everyone seemed so thrilled for me. It was an incredible feeling to know how many individuals I had connected with in the room in such a short amount of time.
One man who kept asking me questions told me that he really appreciated me sharing and visiting. He also mentioned that he feels sharing our stories and connecting with one another is similar to the buzz that we all searched so hard for during our addictions, and I could not agree with him more. I left the center feeling so elated. It's incredible how such acts of courage, authenticity and altruism can make one feel truly grateful and filled with joy.
I am proud of myself. I am proud of the people in this center. And I can't wait to go back and do it again.
It's ironic to think that I relied on alcohol to help me survive a situation like that one in the past. It's unfortunate that I used to need to drink in order to feel a sense of comfort and happiness for so long. Today, authentic connections with people in recovery make me feel a greater sense of joy than alcohol could have ever provided. I feel empowered, strong and motivated to keep moving forward in this sober life, and for that I am truly grateful.