My father-in-law’s new wife gifted me with this life truth a few months after she married into our family. I had just honestly and gently shared with her that my husband, her new son-in-law, and his brothers were feeling abandoned by their father since his marriage. This was a conversation I had thought quite a bit about before initiating and one that I hoped would bring about a so-far-unseen interest on her part to engage with us.
I have been thinking about this conversation quite a bit lately. With a few years of perspective, I can see now that I did not want to acknowledge that my father-in-law had outgrown his previous role in our lives. And that – right or wrong – his new wife was not open to taking on a greater role in the lives of others.
Both of us were insisting that nothing would change in our lives. And so we found ourselves staring at each other in awkward silence, nobody moving, growing or accommodating.
It is 100 days today. This stretch of sobriety, This Time, is different than Last Time.
Last time I told no one. I hid my sobriety like I had hidden my drinking. I was ashamed of it. Sobriety made me feel different and weak and changed. And I did not want to be changed. I wanted everything (but my drinking) to stay the same – especially my relationships. Not one of my friends or family really knew why I had quit. Not one. Last time I was proud of that – proud at how good I was at hiding things.
For 18 months I said to my family and to my friends: “No worries! There’s nothing to see here! Just making a teeny tiny adjustment that will not – in anyway – affect our relationships.”
I told myself I did not want to burden them. But really I was terrified that I might have to. It will not surprise you to learn that one day, for no particular reason, last time ended. And I was exactly the same, again.
This time I have to do things differently. I simply do not have it in me anymore to hide my struggle, my strength or my voice.
As I let myself change, I am seeing amazing new women come into my life. But I am also seeing long-time friendships shift. These are not drinking buddies. They are wickedly funny, smart women, and we have spent much of the past 15 years supporting and loving each other through babies, postpartum depression, marriage crises, parental illnesses and the everyday minutia that make up our lives.
I am trying not to panic. I know that my friends – my people – are also seeing their own relationships shift. The babies are driving away to school. Marriages and parents are better or gone. The everyday minutia of our lives does not overlap as easily as it once did. I know this intellectually, but I am hurt and feel alone and somedays wonder if I had just stayed the same, maybe I could have kept us all together.
The new wife told me it would be this way. She showed me what happens when we insist on nothing changing. She showed me that when we bring “honesty” as weaponized expectations into our relationships we set ourselves up for a life of disappointment. And she showed me that when we choose not to allow ourselves or others to grow into new roles, we ensure our lives are very small and limited.
Living in these extremes wreaks havoc on my heart and drives my need to disengage, numb and check out. The space between these extremes is where I can allow for – and even encourage – the legitimate needs and beautiful quirks of others. This space is hard to find and even harder to stay in. Despite this difficulty and despite the losses, I do not want to go back into what once felt like safer ground.
So I find myself tiptoeing through a new landscape, sharing my truth, controlling my breath, and learning to accept what happens next.
Erin W. is the managing editor and primary contributor for the She Recovers blog. She lives in Virginia where she has been working on and blogging about recovery since 2013. After years of trying to do recovery alone, she discovered the beauty of connection and friendship through She Recovers in 2017.
So insightful & well written ! I aspire to this. 🙂
Yes – aspiration is key, because change is hard and scary!
Erin- a close friend of mine is your doppelgänger! I’d love to send you a photo 🙂
No way! You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to see!
All I can say is I love you!
Beautiful words of encouragement for those of us in early recovery. One day at a time. Thank you Erin.
I can totally relate to wanting relationships to stay the same! I’m in recovery for co-dependency and in the early days I wanted nothing to change, just to be able to manage all the other changes that were going on in my life. But then I realized, that my friends were contributing to part of the problem (admittedly not all of them), and that in order for me to fully embrace recovery, I HAD to change my relationships, otherwise I’d never learn new ways of being in the world. Thanks for this blog post, it makes me feel not so alone 🙂
Candice – love this. Early days are the scariest. It’s hard to trust the process when it’s in the infancy stage. It’s a trust fall, for sure. Thanks for sharing.
First of all, congratulations to you on 100 days. And to it feeling different this time. Everything you write resonates so deeply with me, but this post in particular really touched a nerve. Relationships have changed in ways I did not at all anticipate, and it has been unsettling. I thought being sober could only make all relationships better, but it’s not that simple. I have lost some connections, that’s for sure. And it’s been hard. My feelings have been hurt, I have felt left out and lonely. Panic is a good word. Making myself realize that friends’ lives change and shift too – it’s not necessarily a rejection of me. It’s still hard though. I know for certain that I don’t want to go back, though. And if things stayed the same, they would have changed anyway. I’d rather be rejected because I’m sober than because I’m an embarrassing, belligerent drunk! I have me back, and I can count on me. I’ll get through this. Blogs like yours sure do help! Thank you for sharing your gift of writing – you truly have a gift.
Thank YOU, Kelly. Loved how you put this: “And if things stayed the same, they would have changed anyway.” So true.
So lovely Erin to finally put a face to a blog 🙂 Delighted to meet you and congrats on 100 days!
Lucy! So grateful to you! I have loved your blog for years: https://ahangoverfreelife.com/. Always a source of inspiration and education! Thank you for sharing all your wonderfulness.
Awesome Erin! Congratulations on your sobriety. It’s great to meet you via your blog. I’ve been following the She Recovers movement as some good friends of mine partake. Happy to make your acquaintance as well.
What a poignant post. It actually has made me reflect on the goings on of my xmas day and the years prior leading to the ‘honest’ conversations I felt I had to have with my in law family this week. Xmas is a funny time – not because it magically changes the things we do or say, but because it brings together all the people all the strings of the bigger story together and it is the only opportunity to engage. For my part, I have married into a family and have 2 kids – the only two grandkids that the three brothers have had – not that that in itself matters in the family setting I’m not attempting to clam any grandiose in that but it is important in the sobriety setting for me. I have supported this family as a committed, loving, dedicated person and I love them all deeply. I have my own family a big family who love each other and care about each other too. This year as in many years before, I stayed with my inlaws so we could be together as Father in law has been very unwell for many years and we fear it may be his last Xmas. That said, in the years Ive lived here I lost my own father and began to drink a lot, the inlaws did so I just adopted a code of behaviour I guess. I have now come to a time where I don’t know myself, I’m not happy here and I have become impatient with the status quo. I could rant about the thousand things that happened over xmas, but I wont – Ill say this. I want to give up alcohol. I want to do this privately because each time Ive attempted to be open and honest I’m berated or shamed or other. Ive attempted to say this to friends – who of course these days are also only heavy drinkers like we are the fun people – except I’m not having fun. I’m scared to lose friends and relationships but I want to exit this crazy! The friends I spoke to advised that I don’t drink too much – not true. I realised that they will keep me in the routine if it makes them feel better. I don’t know who will be my friend when I’m not up for a ‘fun time’ but I’m ready for that. I spoke up at xmas this year. I read this post – AFTER I had spoken up, but that’s good because the point is I was simply unable to be quiet any more amongst the hypocrisy. I didn’t get drunk and get mouthy – I don’t do that. I simply said what I thought about a few things and again I was berated. I suggested that I wanted to hold to my values, that for years Id supported the family and in the meantime not one of them had changed, respected me, the kids, my work, my addition to the family and that this year was the last year Id be doing the repeat groundhog day as I intend to move on. They were horrified! Yay – I’m so glad they were. I was yelled at and told to stop talking and advised to ‘have another drink and calm down’ – wow!I hadn’t raised my voice, I hadnt had a drink, I simply said – you are all sitting here in my house, eating the food I bought and cooked, you are all letting each other off the hook for appalling behaviour, treating my children as interlopers on their xmas day in their home and I’m not putting up with it anymore. I am so proud of myself. I am ok if my relationships change – it may assist me in moving into the next – well overdue phase of my life. Merry xmas everyone! PS. When I was asked to stop talking – I said I WILL NOT. My voice matters and I will say what I want to say. I did. Felt great. xx
Brooke, thank you so much for your comment. Your honesty and your readiness for change is so awesome. Groundhog Day is over. Finding our voice, sharing that voice and loving that voice no matter what – that is how we reclaim joy.
You have a lot going on and I totally understand wanting to give up alcohol privately. As you have experienced already, even while doing this quietly, you may get pushback. I hope that you will find at least one person in whom you can confide. Share with that person (a friend, a therapist, an understanding family member) what you are doing and why you are doing it. Tell them that not drinking is now a non-negotiable in your life – and ask them to help you keep this promise to yourself. You may want to check out this website, http://www.livingsober.org.nz, which is run by a fantastic sober New Zealand blogger, Mrs. D.
As to “who will be your friend” I can tell you this: the friends I have found since I stopped drinking are wickedly funny and breathtakingly honest. They have widened my world and I am a better friend, mom, sister, daughter, etc. because they are in my life. It might take some time – but you will find new people and they will be worth the wait.
Groundhog Day no more. Good things await you.