Have you ever noticed how some people just seem to stand out?
Like the centre of a fairground roundabout… unnervingly still, whilst everything around it spins wildly?
That’s what I thought when I first read Blythe’s words on her blog Follow the Bread Crumbs. That this was a place of sense and serenity. A deep sense of hopeful calm contrasting the testimony of many years lost to alcohol and opioid addiction.
One piece in particular struck a chord, “What kind of person will I be if I get sober?” is a question we have all asked ourselves, yet few of us have the words to answer this so honestly and with such power.
So, meet Blythe, everyone. I’m honoured to publish her work here on R3C0VRY.WRX, alongside her open, revealing and honest interview.
Blythe – thanks for being so open, honest and giving. It’s been a real pleasure!
Blythe, hi… let’s start with finding out a little bit about you…
I’m 34 years old and got sober not long before my 27th birthday. I’m an animal lover, writer, and someone who’s always trying to find a way to make a difference. My husband and I enjoy a quiet life in a small town with our two miniature dachshunds.
So what brought you here? I mean, you must have some kind of “drinking/ drugging/ addiction story”… care to elaborate?
My story is like many others in recovery, I would imagine. Growing up, I sort of always felt out of place. I always felt different and more emotional than others around me. I took things to heart easier. It was like everyone around me was laughing at a joke that I didn’t get or had that final piece to the jigsaw puzzle but wouldn’t share it with me. I just always felt like something was missing.
I took my first drink at the age of 13 and, from the moment that the liquor kicked in, it was like something finally clicked with me. I no longer cared what people thought about me. I didn’t replay what I was going to say to someone 100 times in my head before I actually said it. I felt free. I chased that feeling of “freedom” for another 14 years, and I began to chase it with many other substances.
While I enjoyed using a variety of mood-altering substances, I think we all find that one choice chemical that seems to do everything it is that we need it to do. For me, that was opioids. Opioids provided a chemical solution for me that made me forget how miserable I actually was in the world. But like all addicts, all of that catches up with you eventually. Then it’s just the substances making you miserable, but you can’t stop.
What was your drinking/ using/ addiction like at the point you decided to quit?
It was bad.
It had gotten to the point that I couldn’t even get out of bed without having something in my system first. If I didn’t have some sort of opioid (hydrocodone, OxyContin, etc.), I was really sick and couldn’t function. I often tell people that, physically, opioid withdrawals are like the worst flu you’ve ever had in your life combined with the worst panic attack. It’s just awful. I was at the point of complete desperation where, mentally and morally, I was sort of just gone.
Once the drugs take over you, you’re not making rational decisions anymore. You’re only making decisions that are based on supporting your addiction. Usually, we end up hurting others somehow along the way.
…and the final straw, for you, was what, exactly?
You know, in recovery, we sort of refer to that “final straw” as hitting bottom, and I’m really careful when I talk about it because I don’t want others considering sobriety to think that hitting bottom has anything to do with consequences or external factors. Sure, those things can get us there, but they’re not the bottom. Not really.
Why is it, for example, that one person might continue to drink after they’ve had countless DUI’s, blackouts, etc. but another person might decide to sober up before any of those things happen?
Personally, I believe that it’s because everyone’s bottom is actually the same. It’s an internal bottom. A point where, on the inside, we are spiritually and emotionally bankrupt.
That’s where I was at the end. I just didn’t have it in me to fight this thing anymore. However, the only thing scarier to me than dying from this disease, was to continue living a life where I was miserable. So, on the day I got sober, I made a deal with the God of my understanding. I told God that I was going to give sobriety one year and that I would do everything that the people in recovery told me to do. If at the end of that year, however, I was still miserable, I was going back to drinking/using again. And I knew I would do it this time until I died. All I can tell you is that it was long before that first year that I began to feel myself change. I haven’t taken a drink or drug since that night that I made that deal.
Do you see yourself as being in recovery… If so, how? What do these words mean to you? If not… how so?
I do see myself as being in recovery. For me, recovery is about so much more than just abstaining from drugs and alcohol. It’s more of a way of life for me where I try to focus on what I can change within myself, rather than what I can change in others. Today, my recovery is about growing spiritually and helping others. It’s about me always striving to be the best version of myself and accepting my shortcomings along the way. I really love being in recovery.
So, you stopped & changed your lifestyle (congratulations!)… how did you do that? How did you manage after you stopped? What did you do to motivate and maintain your abstinence? Any hints or tips, sources of inspiration for people seeking to do the same?
For me, it was Twelve Step programmes that really saved my life. I needed to be with people like me that could not only make me understand that I wasn’t alone but help to show me how they had been able to stay sober. During my first year of sobriety, I did a lot of service work. If someone asked me to chair a meeting, I said yes. If I was asked to go tell my story at a treatment centre somewhere, I said yes. I participated in a lot of sober functions and met a lot of sober people.
It was one of the first times that I really felt a part of, instead of apart from.
Obviously, I’m a huge supporter of Twelve Step programmes, but I think the best advice I can give anyone is to get a sober support group of any kind. I can’t put into words the growth I obtained from watching others get sober and stay sober around me. It was like, “Hey, if that person can do this, I can do this too!”
Not drinking alcohol (for example) can be a very stigmatising thing… were you prepared for that? How did you deal with it? How did others around you deal with it?
You know it’s funny, because while everyone was beyond ecstatic that I had gotten off the drugs, I still had friends and family that didn’t understand why I could no longer drink. After all, I could “just have one,” right?
I really had to get myself into this mindset that alcohol is basically poison to me – because it is. If I was allergic to shellfish, for example, and every time I ate it I had this horrible anaphylactic reaction, I would have no problems with telling someone that I simply will not and cannot ingest it. I wouldn’t tell someone that I could eat scallops, but not shrimp. Shellfish is shellfish! I treat alcohol and drugs the same way. I find it imperative to my recovery that I stay away from all mood-altering substances.
If I am in a business or social setting where casual drinking is going on, I’ve found that simply telling people that I don’t drink is answer enough. I always thought that people would make a big deal about it, but the response has always simply been “okay.”
Were you successful from day one? Any relapses (etc.)? How did you cope, emotionally with all this?
So, I first attempted sobriety in September of 2008 and ended up relapsing a few months later. While I have not consumed any alcohol since 2008, I count my sobriety date as December of 2010 because of the other substances I continued to use.
For me, my sobriety has to involve entire abstinence. After my first relapse, I should have gone straight to my sober group and talked about it. Instead, I continued to hold on to all that pride and shame and walked back into my addiction for almost another two years.
You’ve been sober/ clean for almost 8 years. Are there any manifest benefits in your life that not drinking/ using has afforded? What are they? Any advice for people reading this… heh, can we learn from any of your mistakes?
Honestly? Sobriety has afforded me everything and more. That doesn’t mean that I always get what I want, but I have a life worth living today. That’s just such a gift. As much as I hate to be sad or angry, I love that I can actually feel and walk through those emotions now without numbing the pain. I love that I can call myself responsible and dependable. I love that I can be honest, open-minded, and willing. That would probably be my biggest piece of advice to those in early sobriety. Keep an open-mind, be willing to do some things that you may not want to do and be honest; both with others and yourself.
So… (drum roll) your blog “Follow the Bread Crumbs”- what’s THAT all about?
Follow the Bread Crumbs was initially started as a way for me to write and reflect on the pain my husband and I were going through with infertility. It was one of the hardest times I have ever had in sobriety, and writing was the best way to dump out all of those emotions.
For me, to “follow the bread crumbs” was about me letting go of the idea that I had control over anything but myself. I stopped trying to figure things out and just imagined that God was dropping crumbs on a trail and that I was following them, not sure where they would lead me, but just following.
Here and there, I would mention that I was in recovery, or throw a short story in about my past with addiction. It was those blog entries that seemed to get the most response. People started commenting or emailing me and saying things like, “hey, I struggled with that too” or “I’m still struggling. Can you offer advice?”
I paid attention to that and started to write more about it. It sort of just took off from there, and it’s been amazing to interact with so many different people in recovery all of the world!
“What Kind of Person Will I Be if I Get Sober?” is a very personal reflection/ collection of thoughts – could you tell us how/ why you wrote this?
There’s a moment that I discuss in that piece about breaking down and crying.
It was such a defining moment in my sobriety, because I think it was me realising that I was actually going to do this. That I was actually going to do everything to stay sober. For me, this meant a whole lot of change was coming, because most of my world before (including significant others) had involved drinking/drug use. Same with friends. While I knew that there was going to be beauty on the other side of it, I knew that my life would never be the same. That scared the crap out of me. Even the chaos in our lives can become comfortable. That’s where I had been for so long. I wanted to share that moment with others who may also feel it to let them know that it’s a normal part of the process, and that it’s okay to feel like you’ve been broken down to be rebuilt – because you have. It’s hard, but it’s necessary and SO worth it!
More broadly, what does writing a blog mean to you as part of your recovery and/ or more widely in terms of the subjects you tackle?
I didn’t really start doing a lot with my writing until I was around six years sober. It’s definitely something that has had a positive impact on my recovery. In some ways, the feedback I get has changed some of my old ideas on things. In other words, sometimes even when I think I’m being open minded, I’m not. I received a lot of great feedback from my readers. They help me just as much (if not more) as I help them.
If any of our readers are thinking about writing/ starting a blog – what advice would you give them (hints/ tips/ rationale etc.)?
Speak your truth and understand that no matter what you write, there will be critics.
Not everyone is going to agree with you. It’s important to keep an open mind.
And FINALLY… that’s the main questions done, but… what’s next for Blythe??
That’s sort of the beauty of my recovery today. I have no idea!
I just take things as they come or follow the bread crumbs. I definitely plan to keep writing and have pondered the idea of writing a book. I am also a singer/songwriter and have started to pick some of that back up again.
For now, my plan is to simply enjoy life with my husband and our two dachshunds. More will be revealed from there!
What Kind of Person Will I Be if I Get Sober?
Originally published June 27, 2018
“I feel like I’ve lost my best friend,” I said to my counsellor after being in a treatment centre for a couple of days.
“Well, in a weird and somewhat unhealthy way, you have,” she said.
I wasn’t talking about a person. I was talking about the OxyContin. I was talking about my Captain Morgan. And while alcohol and opioids were my drugs of choice, I was really mourning the loss of any chemicals that I had used in my past to smother, deflect, and well – survive.
In 2010, when I finally made the decision to try this whole recovery thing, it wasn’t until I was about three months sober that I started to become confused about who I was. I was in this weird place where I felt like I had one foot in the doorway of who I used to be and the other into a place that I wanted to be. It was very emotional and, at moments, very confusing.
One night, out of nowhere, I simply began to cry.
At a little past 90 days sober, I felt like a vase that had been dropped and shattered into a hundred different pieces. How would I look once I was completely put back together? It might sound dramatic, but for the first year of my sobriety, EVERYTHING was changing. My marriage was changing, my career was changing, and I was changing. It felt so overwhelming, but it was so necessary.
I think for those first few months I was so in tune with simply placing one foot in front of the other, that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel everything that had gone along with that. I wasn’t the same person anymore, but who was I? What kind of person was I going to be in sobriety?
At over seven years later, here is who I am.
I am someone who still loves to dance and listen to music without a buzz or a drink in my hand. (I still look drunk when I dance, but progress not perfection, right? Ha!)
I am someone who knows how to be a friend to someone without expecting something in return. I can contribute to a friendship today, rather than constantly taking.
I am someone who values myself when it comes to relationships with men. I finally married someone who cherishes and values me in the same way that I do them.
I am someone who can be trusted with important tasks, financial obligations, and commitments. If I say I am going to do something, chances are, I will.
I am someone who genuinely enjoys helping others. And not because I am hoping to get anything out of it, except for maybe knowing I have made a difference.
I am someone who has a relationship with a really big God! One that I wasn’t even sure really existed when I first got sober. I have seen Him perform miracles within me and within countless others.
I am someone who can go to sleep with contentment and wake up with peace. I no longer dread the days or live in a constant state of anxiety.
I am someone who tells the truth and tries to live the truth, instead of living and telling lies.
My sobriety continues to grow every single day. No year has been the same, and I suspect it will stay that way.
Change is inevitable, and growth is optional. I am grateful that I stuck out the growing pains, and I hope that if you’re struggling in the same place that I was, you’ll stick it out too.
All it takes is some honesty, willingness, and open-mindedness.
About our author, Blythe.
Blythe is a writer and blogger from Tennessee, USA and has enjoyed the gifts of sobriety since 12/7/2010. She writes to bring hope to those still suffering from the disease of addiction and hopes to use her voice to break the stigma attached to it.