Letter to Myself at Two Years Sober

Two years ago today, I did not take a drink. That night before, I drank all the wine left in my house.

Today I begin to write the book I most needed to read today, two years ago, on day one of my abstinence from alcohol. I have found the first two years of recovery from addiction to alcohol so, so difficult.

I do not think these two years had to be that hard.

View from my office of the sun rising

View from my office of the sun rising on December 28, 2014

At about twenty months without a drink, I began to feel a bit of a turn for the better. In the past four months, I’ve gotten some of my mind back and have been able to remember and reflect upon the past two years. The observations, conclusions and insights I am having, I think, could have been so useful and valuable to me at the start.

In the preface to the book I would write:

If you are reading this, I’m hoping you are thinking about quitting, or early or newly in recovery from addiction to alcohol or other drugs, or perhaps even from a process – gambling, sex, shopping, eating, porn – whatever has been plaguing you. I’m hoping you might be a professional in the addictions treatment field looking to understand, again or for the first time, what the first two years can be like.

If you’re on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – Suboxone, methadone, naltrexone, something else – or practicing another form of harm reduction, say marijuana instead of meth, this book could be for you, too. Maintaining abstinence, using or doing less, doing a so-so substance, or just plain doing things that feel like less – it’s just plain hard.

While I offer this book to you, I am writing it addressed to me. I had trouble with first person – “I couldn’t stop drinking” – because I couldn’t find a structure to it. It just went on and on with trouble and hardship. I was drawn to second person, “you,” but I loathe unsolicited advice in the “you should” form. Somehow, I started writing a letter to myself:

Dear Anne,

Here is the book I would have given to you if I had met you on day one. Oh, the pain you were in! I’m so, so sorry. If I had only known! There’s no way to go back. But if I could have been there for you from day one, this is what I would have said.

And I started crying and knew I was expressing some kind of truth from deep within so that’s the form this book takes: a letter of understanding, compassion and kindness to myself. Because that’s what I needed from day one: very, very specific knowledge, insights, understanding, compassion and kindness.

Very few have the ability to be specific and knowledgeable about recovery from addiction on days one through 730, the first two years of abstinence or harm reduction. Reasons for that exist which I will explain in the book. Simply put, what I most needed wasn’t available. So I am writing it now. Two years too late, I am still finding it healing and redemptive and restorative to express it now. If one single person finds the comfort and solace I needed at the time I became abstinent, then two years of abstinence and this soul-probing writing would be worth it.

Because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

If I relapse while writing this, ah, well. I don’t know what it’s like to relapse yet, but the odds are so in favor that I will. (According to this source, I had an 80% chance of relapsing in year one, now have a 40% chance of relapsing, and have to keep up this intensity of effort at least through year five. Exhausting. Heart-breaking.) I’ll hope I haven’t irreparably harmed myself or others. I expect my time drinking – or using other substances (I hope not, but I have felt the pull) – will be short-lived and I’ll be back doing what I need to do to stay in recovery from addiction to alcohol.

I’m sticking to doing my very best to write only what I think would have helped me in the first two years. I don’t feel confident writing a recovery self-help book. I’m so new to this. I don’t know what works long-term. And the addictions treatment field doesn’t know either, which astounds, flabbergasts and enrages me.

Ah, Anne, it’s okay. Deep breath. You’re not wrong or bad to feel angry. It’s just not helping you at this time. Let’s let that go for now.

See how a kind, reassuring voice appears when I’m distressed? It’s a little weird. But I haven’t had a drink in two years and that’s the voice that “wants” to speak in the book so I’m going with it.

So the book is written in second person, to “you,” but please know that it’s not advisory or directive. It’s a letter to me. I’m thinking that you reading the letter to me as “you” might be of help to you. We shall see.

Here’s my plan for the book: Part 1 is the letter to me. Part 2 is my story, my first person narrative, with parts chosen that help explain the letter. Separating my thinking this way has helped me not go on and on with my story but to excerpt it.

Part 3 is my story as a case study. I’m a teacher and a counselor. I am trained to take a clinical, scientific, research-informed look at people. I do so with myself in Part 3 and offer a brief clinical case study with myself as the subject and myself as the clinician. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment are considered professionally unethical in the counseling field, but I make a case in my story why it was imperative for me to do so. Autodidactic addicts and addictions professionals may or may not buy my reasoning but I offer it in case it may be of value.

I also write this book for the people who love and loved me and were confounded by the development in me of an addiction to alcohol. Anguish is the only word I can use to describe the reason for, and the resultant, separation that occurred between us. This is my attempt at explanation and grief-stricken apology.

I have made a list of the things I would have told myself on day one and it’s currently 46 items (not 12). I’m going to cut myself off from adding to the list at the end of today, December 28, 2014, my two-year sobriety date, and let this book truly be about the first two years and no more. If I get a burning desire after that date, I’ll let it go or publish it on my blog, annegiles.com.

I need to hustle and write it now while I can still feel and think and remember what it was like. Because I am starting to feel better.

Anne Giles
December 28, 2014
Blacksburg, Virginia

Two Cats, Second Person
Why I Have a Coach

Comments

  1. Dear Anne,
    Wow. Many posts get missed due to timing. I am glad I didn’t miss yours. First I want to say….you are a very gifted writer. Keep going forward with your plans and never change them to please anyone else. Second, I am sorry you had to go through this experience and pain. I believe you are MEANT to write this exact book to help others, while helping yourself, heal. Third, I know you and I have never been close friends (haha especially after a certain bus ride home from a track meet with the rest of the details purposely omitted), however, I am finding myself hoping that I can, in any way, be a source of encouragement to you. “Just keep swimming” along this journey and stay as strong as you have been these past 720 days. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Lisa Garcia says:

    Good luck Anne. Because luck is part of it all, isn’t it? And, of course, we all know “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it” – Thomas Jefferson

    So, I wish for you luck and the tenacity and perseverance to continue the work. It’s a journey and yours is a lonely one on many days that friends can only stand on the sidelines and cheer, but never walk themselves.

    Your generosity in sharing your story is self-evident. I do hope you get to hear from people who find it inspiring and helpful.

  3. Maggie Penix says:

    Dear Birthday Soul Sister,

    I can say that, simple because in less than 2 days, we will be a year older. The number 56 pales in comparison to 730 in sooooo many ways! Kudos to you and I know, in the near future, we will once again meet for tea and you will be regaling me with YOUR Italian adventures!! You have to look back in order to write what is necessary, but always ALWAYS remember, that is NOT the direction your life is heading!!!
    xoxo, maggie

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