Name: Jennifer James
Location: Austin, TX
Recovery Date: March 2, 2016
Recovering From: Alcohol
About Jenn: I’m an artist, mom, step-mom, common-law-wife, friend, daughter and a 20 year employee at Costco. That’s the simple answer. The true answer is I have no idea who the hell I am anymore! Each day brings a constant change of identity for me, which keeps everyone around me on their feet! Ha!
Q. Before you entered recovery, what did you think the “thing” you were addicted to gave you, did for you, etc.?
A. I thought alcohol provided me stress relief and excitement. I was convinced that I had to have alcohol with me to do anything in order to have fun. I also thought that it helped me sleep and relax. When I was overwhelmed, sad, happy, depressed, excited, tired, anxious or elated I knew that my wine was there to either alleviate my bad feelings or fortify my good ones.
Q. Now that you are in recovery, what have you learned about that “thing?”
A. That all of that was a damn lie. Everything that wine had promised me it had actually taken away from me. In reality, it was the reason for the depression, insomnia and anxiety. And it turns out that I CAN have fun being sober!
Q. How are you recovering (e.g., 12-step program, rehab, counseling, on your own, etc.)?
A. On my own with the absolute help from my IG tribe. I have made some of the most amazing friends through this online community of sober women. I read a lot of books, listen to podcasts, meditate and do yoga now. Making time for ME has been critical in my sobriety and honestly a very hard thing to do. I still have the old belief system ingrained in my stubborn brain that ME time is selfish, but I am working on this daily and am seeing huge changes!
Q. In recovery, how do you give yourself what you thought that “thing” provided?
A. Getting sober forces you to acknowledge your emotions, feelings and thoughts. I had numbed all of those for years. Working through these things daily through open communication with my husband and other sober sisters provides a ton of relief. Journaling, painting, yard work, yoga, reading and meditating help a lot. I focus on treating myself better now and live a much healthier life. Buying myself a fancy coffee or new book is such a treat now, and much cheaper than alcohol!
Q. What was your “rock bottom” or “breaking point” when you realized you needed to change?
A. I knew things were getting out of hand. I was literally either drunk or hungover everyday, there was no in between. As soon as my hangover was about to go away, I would be leaving work and go home and open another bottle. I was hiding the bottles of wine in the recycle bin from my husband and pretending to drink “normal” amounts in front of my family. My life was so gray, I had no color in my spirit anymore. I felt dead inside and had no purpose. I was still in denial because I hadn’t lost my job, gotten a DUI, lost any relationships or had anyone ever bring up my drinking as a problem. But I intrinsically knew something had to change. I had a problem. I needed to quit and I wanted it to be MY choice and not because I was given an ultimatum or was forced to due to my actions or consequences.
Q. What has been the hardest part of recovery so far?
A. The judgment. No one ever judged me when I was drinking at PTA meetings, openly drinking and driving with my kids, drinking everyday and hungover every morning. But they sure judge you quickly when you say you don’t drink. I feel some days like I’ve been black marked….I’m a middle-aged, sober mom who doesn’t eat meat or dairy. What a killjoy! Haha.
Q. What about recovery has been easier than you had anticipated?
A. The fact that I was able to do it on my own. My ex-husband was an alcoholic so I attended AA meetings with him and went to Alanon for myself. I had assumed that once I quit that the urge to drink would be so overwhelming that I would absolutely need to attend meetings or counseling. But I was happily surprised that I was strong enough to do this on my own.
Q. What has helped you the most in recovery?
A. The sober community on IG. The tribe of kick-ass, strong, brave women out there gave me hope. Hearing other people tell their courageous stories was so encouraging to me. Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen were crucial in the beginning. Their podcast HOME was a life saver to me. To hear other women who were just like me tell their stories and use language like me was amazing! I felt like I had come home, all puns intended! Also the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace was a miracle in my life. I can never unlearn what her book taught me about alcohol and I will absolutely never, EVER poison myself again.
Q. Who has helped you the most in recovery?
A. My husband Christian has been my biggest supporter, along with my parents. Unfortunately I have lost some close friends because of my sobriety, but I truly understand that it has nothing to do with me. I have, in return, made some of the most incredible friendships with other sober sisters who have become daily influences and inspirations to me. I guess the universe knew what she was doing when she allowed the old friendships to pass and opened the door to so many more beautiful people in my life.
Q. What has been the biggest surprise about recovery?
A. The changes to my looks! It was pretty immediate. I was hoping for clearer eyes, better skin and weight loss, but wasn’t expecting much because I had drank for almost 18 years. I figured the damage had been done. But when I look in the mirror I see me again, not a hollowed out stranger. Also, the amount of energy and the shit that I can get done in a day still blows my mind! I don’t know how I functioned for so long drinking and maintaining a “normal life.” My patience is also way better too. I was impatient and irritated constantly and would snap at my kids over little things. Don’t get me wrong, I still lose it some days but I am SO MUCH BETTER with my family and dealing with life in general.
Q. What role has family played in your recovery?
A. I am a mom and step-mom, so family is at the root of everything. My daughter is my world and I didn’t want her to watch me slowly kill myself anymore. I also wanted to set a good example of what a strong woman is who loves herself enough to change and take care of herself. I am very open about drinking with my little girl. She never saw the horrible times, for they were mostly internal. But I knew the older she got she would know exactly what was going on. I felt like I had hurt my family enough by just not being fully present with them. Now they get the best of me everyday.
Q. Knowing what you do now, what would you tell your pre-recovery self about recovery?
A. That it is by far the most amazing, rewarding and magical thing you could ever do. That even your most far-fetched hopes and wishes with sobriety will come true and all the fears of living a life without alcohol are just that, fears. Fears that never will never come true. That it is 100% absolutely worth it and even the worse days in sobriety beat ANY days drinking.
Q. What would you say to someone who is thinking about recovery?
A. Ask for help and believe that you can do this. As hopeless as it seems some days, it is absolutely possible. It’ll be the hardest thing you’ve ever done but the most rewarding thing as well. Accept support and don’t be afraid of what anyone else thinks. There are so many of us out there and we are here for you.
Q. If there is anything else you want to add, please do …
A. I am currently starting a new chapter in my life and am excited and nervous about it! I have always been an artist, I went to school for art (and didn’t finish, obviously!) and am finally ready to follow my heart. I recently just celebrated my 20 years at Costco and had a spiritual wake up call shortly after. I can’t keep doing the same thing for the rest of my life! My art stopped when I started drinking and the time has come to pick up the paint brush and make my dreams of becoming an artist a reality. Believing in myself and quieting my cruel inner critic have been quite challenging but I will not stop this time. I look forward to the future and I know without a doubt that this will happen because I finally woke up and put down the wine. xoxo