RE 315: Change and Compassion
– I can’t even imagine picking up a drink to solve something anymore. It doesn’t even cross my mind.
Kate took her last drink on August 11, 2018. She is 42 and lives in New Jersey. This is her story of living alcohol-free (AF).
Today’s sponsor is Better Help.
Visit betterhelp.com/ELEVATOR and join the over 500,000 people talking charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional. Recovery Elevator listeners get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/ELEVATOR.
Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message
Odette has been thinking about the process of change. When she is having a down day, she wonders, am I doing recovery right? Am I making progress? Is the work worth it? It’s muddy and contradictory, particularly with our labeling minds.
We think bad days mean we are doing something wrong, and negative emotions are guides in the wrong direction. On hard days, Odette uses more tools, which probably means she is making more progress.
Holly Whittaker posted on her Instagram page a sketch that highlights the Hourglass of Change. It shows there is a range of emotions from start to goal. Odette thinks we need to learn to appreciate the hourglass of change, label-less, and accept more. Negative emotions have a place in our chapter of change. When Odette looks for peace instead of euphoria and moves gently with her feelings, she remembers compassion is critical. We need to have compassion for ourselves and others.
Let us remember that we are all on the same path, wanting to connect with others and feel like we belong. If sobriety is kicking you in the butt right now, don’t be so hard on yourself. Take it as a sign of progress. You are on the right track. You are right where you are supposed to be.
[7:30] Odette introduces Kate
Kate took her last drink on August 11, 2018. She is 42, lives in New Jersey, and works for Recovery Elevator.
Kate said she was born and raised in New Jersey. She, her husband Jay, and their cats keep life interesting. Kate works in the art world. She is crafty and knits, sews, and cross stitches. She loves to exercise and get outside.
[8:54] Give listeners some background on your history with drinking
Kate said she took her first drink at 14. She was severely inebriated and blacked out. The only other time she drank in high school, she blacked out. Kate went to college in Pennsylvania, and drinking was part of the culture. She was in a sorority, and everyone drank on the weekends. Her drinking seemed normal and what everyone was doing.
After college, she started to notice some demons.
Kate recalled in early childhood being asked to sit on the choir director’s lap at church and kiss him. She was taught to respect her elders. Looking back, she realizes her life then took an awkward turn. She developed an eating disorder. When she started drinking, the eating disorder went away. In college, she became the ultimate party girl. She worked in galleries and auction houses, and drinking was encouraged.
She moved to the UK in 2007 and was there for four years. She contrasted the drinking culture in the UK versus New York. Kate knew she had found her people. Her drinking ramped up. After her divorce, she would drink to obliteration with vodka. She learned geographic changes don’t work.
[12:51] Odette asked what was going on in her brain about her drinking.
Kate said she knew from her first drink that she shouldn’t drink. Alcoholism runs in her family. Her father has five years of sobriety. Every day was a struggle to continue keeping up appearances and be a high-functioning professional while drinking copious amounts of alcohol at night.
14:10 Did you talk to anyone about your eating disorder, drinking, or what happened during your childhood?
Kate said she was raised in a family where appearance meant everything. It went to the extreme that she and her siblings were wearing matching outfits for every holiday. Kate believes the 3 of them were struggling with who they are.
Kate told her mother about the choir director, and she didn’t believe her. Her friend’s mother found out about what was happening and sat down with Kate and talked it through. The kissing stopped, but she had to stay in the choir and see him weekly. At 14, the choir director turned it back on her in front of the entire chorus. She was embarrassed as a teenager. As an adult, she is mortified that it was allowed to happen.
[16:37] Tell me more about what happened when you were in the UK?
Kate said she moved back to the US because she was engaged to another man. When she lived in the UK, she was sexually assaulted by someone she was dating. This became a turning point. Within six months, she fled back to New York and got a job at a gallery. She then met another man who was a master manipulator, and they would drink a lot together. During Hurricane Sandy, they were stuck together. She tried to break up with him, and he would manipulate his way back. Kate’s drinking escalated due to the confusion associated with the manipulation.
[18:21] Did you notice you were drinking more? Was your tolerance increasing?
Kate said yes. A bottle of wine an evening was a standard routine. After a friend’s 40th birthday, she was so drunk it required two people to get her into her home. At 5 AM the next morning, she was passed out on the floor of her apartment, fully clothed, and she had urinated on herself. That was her first attempt to quit drinking, and it lasted about 90 days. When she went back to drinking, it progressed to 2-3 handles of vodka a week. She was working remotely most of the time, which masked much of her drinking. Her company is versed in recovery, and they encourage recovery.
[20:29] Did your drinking effect your relationship? How did that change when you quit drinking?
Kate said her husband is a heavy drinker as well, and they fueled each other as drinking partners. As her recovery has evolved, it has put some strain on her marriage. Kate and Jay didn’t discuss their drinking because they both had a problem. They are trying to rediscover who they are as a couple and learn to communicate. Kate said her husband is a rough and tumble guy who has lived a hard life, which puts him in a gender norm that he doesn’t talk about his feelings. Now that she is sober, Kate talks about all of her feelings. She has sought out other friends to express her feelings, and she wishes she and her husband could speak more openly. They have never talked about why she stopped drinking. Jay hasn’t seen all of the new dimensions of Kate that have evolved due to her sobriety.
[24:37] Tell me a little bit more about what happened after those 90 days?
Kate said start, restart, try again. She never moderated. It was black and white; there was no in-between. She walked into her first AA meeting at 24 years old but didn’t want to admit she had a drinking problem. From 2017 to 2018, Kate knew if she had continued drinking, it would kill her. She had many day one’s – she couldn’t put together stretches of time.
[26:40] What happened in August?
Kate said in July of 2018, she was sick and tired of being sick and tired. After forty “day one’s,” she put her wine down before her friend’s baby shower and said, we’re done. She googled recovery podcasts and found Recovery Elevator episode 2. She clicked play and connected with Paul’s sober date. It was the first time she heard similarities about how she drank and how other people spoke about their drinking. In August 2018, she signed up for Café RE. She discovered a community that was pursuing the same goal. The encouragement from like-minded people made a difference.
Kate did an Instagram live with Heather of Ditch the Drink, and it was so beautiful for Kate to see her recovery friends and her “regular” friends together.
[32:01] Do you still get cravings?
Kate said she does not get cravings. She likes inclusion to have an AF drink in her hand b…