“So you don’t drink? Like ever?”
It’s been a while since my last drink. And a little bit longer than that still since the moment I first realized that breaking up with booze for good was something that I needed to do. But it’s only been recently that I’ve been comfortable telling people outside my most immediate circle that I’m sober. (Which is to say, I’m in recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder.)
And to be very clear: “recently” means as recent as my time at Write Doe Bay. (So, basically it’s been a month that I’ve claimed “sober” in a public way just as I do “trailing spouse” or “daughter” or any of the other titles that fit me.)
Up until that point, I had all sorts of reasons to not share my recovery status out loud.
At the very beginning it was because I was way, way too ashamed. Me? Admitting I have a drinking problem? What will people think???!!
And then, when the truth became a bit more palatable, I didn’t say anything because I wanted to make sure that I could make it stick. It works for many, but it didn’t feel like it would work for me, to excitedly share my fledgling sobriety with the world. I was too worried I’d disappoint myself and others if I fell back on what I had said I was setting out to do.
Even after I had grown immensely grateful for all of the gifts that recovery had given me, I was worried about the consequences of disclosing my status. At first it was my own career that I wanted to protect, but the stakes felt even higher after I married Joe. He’s “other agency” so the rules and mores don’t always apply to our particular situation, but the concept of “corridor reputation” seemed to be one that I should pay attention to. And I worried, probably even more than he did, about what people might think about a diplomat’s sober wife and how identifying myself as such might impact his career.
I treaded lightly when I first got to post, declining a glass of wine or smiling but not saying anything when somebody mentioned that Belgian beer was one of the biggest perks of living in Brussels. Up until two weeks ago, I could count on one hand the number of people in the embassy community here that I had felt safe enough to tell the whole truth to — that it wasn’t just that I didn’t drink, but that alcohol had once been a big problem in my life and I had had to find the courage and the help to say “enough.”
This past week, I had the chance to share my story — of what it was like before and what it’s like now — as well as talk about the intersection of my recovery and my creative practice on The Unruffled Podcast. For a little over a year, I’ve been following along with hosts Tammi Salas and Sondra Primeaux as they’ve interviewed women (and a few men) who have found ways not just to exist but to thrive in recovery. When they asked me to be a guest on the show, I was thrilled and incredibly honored to be considered one of those people.
I spent some time thinking (and worrying) about whether I was ready to be so bold in sharing my truth in a very public way. I came to the conclusion that not being wholly honest about where I’d been and where I am now had me feeling like I wasn’t fully living the life I wanted to be. So I talked with Joe and a couple of the people closest to me about wanting to say “yes” to being interviewed. And then, with their blessings and encouragement, I did.
I’m honored and grateful to have been given the space to share my story more fully than I’ve ever been able to do before.