Voice of Recovery: Ashley

Ashley and I will be doing a Facebook Live on the Quit Wining Facebook page on Sunday, September 17th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. Hope to see you there!

Name: Ashley Longmire
Age: 31
Location: Mississippi, USA
Recovery Date: May 6, 2015
Recovering From: Alcohol
About Ashley: I’m a 30-something sober woman, wife, mom, and stepmom. Outside of doing the mom thing, I’m also a website developer/consultant. Writing, traveling in my camper, and building websites are some of my passions.
Website: Bloomin’ Ash
Instagram: Bloomin’ Ash
Facebook: Bloomin’ Ash

Q. Before you entered recovery, what did you think the “thing” you were addicted to gave you, did for you, etc.?

A. It made me feel like a normal person. That’s what I used to always say after my first drink of the night: “This must be what normal people feel like.” I couldn’t relax and quiet my racing thoughts without it. I self-medicated my anxiety and depression with alcohol. It gave me a temporary sense of everything being ok in the world. Very, very temporary.

Q. Now that you are in recovery, what have you learned about that “thing?”

A. I learned that I was creating more anxiety with the alcohol than I was helping. Since I quit drinking, I still deal with anxiety, but I don’t create new problems to deal with anymore. I can calm down faster, and it takes more to wind me up than it used to. I’ve learned that nobody is actually normal, and it’s ok to be passionate about things. I don’t have to run from powerful emotions.

Q. How are you recovering (e.g., 12-step program, rehab, counseling, on your own, etc.)?

A. 12 step program, primarily. I found the online recovery community after a while, and that has been a wonderful addition to my recovery program. The principles of AA and the community found there is my foundation.

Q. In recovery, how do you give yourself what you thought that “thing” provided?

A. On a daily basis, I ask God to help me remember what I can and can’t control, and what He actually handles (not me). When I can accept that, really accept that, my entire world slows down in the best ways. This means daily prayer and reading for me. Part of recognizing what I can control is also taking care of my body, my emotional health, and paying attention to my boundaries.

Q. What was your “rock bottom” or “breaking point” when you realized you needed to change?

A. I had a lot of “rock bottoms”, but in a weird way, I realized that I needed to change when the circumstances in my life were better, but I still kept drinking. I didn’t really want to drink anymore, but I still drank. That scared me. By the time I quit drinking, I had switched to cider and wine, but I still drank too much when I didn’t even want to, and I’d kept trying to slow down. It was less than my heaviest drinking periods, but still too much. When I drank, I was off to the races, and my boyfriend (now husband) was getting tired of “drunk Ashley”. I picked a fight with him on a Tuesday night after drinking until 3am, and then stormed out of his house and drove to my apartment in a blackout. When I woke up the next day with no memory of the night before, and my front tire up on the sidewalk in front of my apartment, I knew that I was going to continue spiraling if I didn’t do something different. I’d already lost custody, my business, and basically my entire livelihood, but I was trying to rebuild and I kept self-sabotaging. I didn’t quit right then, but about two weeks later after another heavy drinking episode on a weekday, I started googling “how to stop drinking so much” and similar phrases. It brought me stories from women who actually didn’t drink at ALL. It blew my mind, and changed my life, to put it mildly.

Q. What has been the hardest part of recovery so far?

A. Anxiety. Ohhh, anxiety. I write a lot about it, because it is one of the biggest things that drove me to drink. Social anxiety, general anxiety, post-traumatic anxiety, you name it, I deal with it. Learning to surrender on a daily basis takes a lot of mental work, and a total rewiring of my brain. It feels like a physical effort some days. Learning to sit with my emotions, surrender my anxieties, and let the feelings just pass by without reacting has been the hardest part of recovery. But as these things often go, it’s also probably the most rewarding lesson I’ve learned so far.

Q. What about recovery has been easier than you had anticipated?

A. Socializing. I dreaded socializing without alcohol, but I started doing it pretty quickly. It surprised me how easy it was, once I got over the initial habit triggers. I still enjoyed the company, and in fact, I had more fun socializing sober than I ever really did while drinking. I think that’s a testament to the great people I have in my life, also. Somehow, I didn’t have a lot of binge-drinking friends. I was the binge drinker, but when I quit, I was able to enjoy their company for real. That applies in situations where alcohol has been present, and where it hasn’t been present.

Q. What has helped you the most in recovery?

A. AA is my lifeline. The online sober community is fantastic also, but something about sitting in a room full of other people that “get it” just changed my life. I didn’t go to an AA meeting or know much about AA until I was two weeks sober, but working the steps with a great sponsor was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made in my life.

Q. Who has helped you the most in recovery?

A. My husband has been my rock through all of this. He can drink 1 or 2 and be done somehow, and he still drinks from time to time, but he supports me 100%. It’s hard to say who has helped me the “most”, but I’m very affected by people close to me, and he’s definitely the closest. When I first quit drinking, although he struggled with understanding it, he cleared all the alcohol out of his house (I didn’t ask him to, or even think about it, he just did it), so that I would feel comfortable being there. We weren’t even living together yet. That meant so much to me. That’s just one example out of many. He doesn’t change his entire life for me, and I’m not on a pedestal or being “watched”, but he has made sobriety a much more positive thing than I ever expected.

Q. What has been the biggest surprise about recovery?

A. I think I was surprised that the world didn’t stop and “let” me recover in peace. Stuff still fell apart – in fact, sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. I still make mistakes, and I can still throw one hell of a tantrum when I don’t get my way. The world kept turning, in other words. It wasn’t some peaceful oasis where nothing bad happened now that I was sober. Not at all. I was able to deal with life better than I had before, but still.

Q. What role has family played in your recovery?

A. I already talked about my husband, bless him. My mom has also been a constant cheerleader. I put her through hell, I know. She worried so much about me. My family hasn’t made a big thing about it, it’s just a known thing that I don’t drink anymore and we talk about it when it comes up. It’s a positive situation, though. They all live their lives, they love me, and we’re good. I’m thankful for that.

Q. Knowing what you do now, what would you tell your pre-recovery self about recovery?

A. EVERY day is the perfect day to get sober. Don’t wait. That alcohol is not worth it. Life will happen, and you’re missing valuable growth time. Don’t wait until after summer, after Halloween, after Thanksgiving, after the move, after the wedding, after [insert event or life situation]. Just do it. Knowing what I know now, I wish I’d quit drinking and gotten into the rooms of AA as soon as I recognized it as a “sort-of problem” 5+ years ago.

Q. What would you say to someone who is thinking about recovery?

A. Pretty much the same thing I said above. I would also add the phrase that kept me sober many, many times – take it one day at a time. Don’t overthink it, or worry about forever. When I quit drinking, I said that I didn’t know if I would ever drink again. All I knew is that right then, I wasn’t going to drink that day, and I wasn’t anticipating or planning any future drinks. When I struggled, I focused on getting to bed sober (with the help of reminders from my sponsor, who I talked to just about every day). Every morning, I woke up grateful that I’d made it another day.

If there is anything else you want to add, please do …

Just that I am always an email away if you need to talk to somebody. I get messages on Instagram, Facebook, even texts now after giving my number out plenty of times, and I’m always so grateful that I’m sober and able to be there for somebody in some way. It helps me stay sober to be there for you, so please save my email and don’t hesitate to drop a line any time. Even if it’s just to vent. No judgment, ever.

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