Meet Recovery Rockstar, Gwen R

My name is Gwen and I am an alcoholic. My sobriety date is July 9, 1991.

I spent the first 14 years of my life in NJ near Trenton. In the summer my family would go to Long Beach Island where my parents had a home and we would stay there until school began again in the fall. I am the youngest of three and the only girl. Our life was good but my parents worked long days and we had a lot of freedom as kids. When I was 14 we moved to PA, not even an hour from where I grew up but the class of people was very different. We moved to an upscale artsy community with a tiny high school. I had sixty eight kids in my graduating class and many of them grew up together. This transition was the catalyst for my drinking.

The first time I used something to try to change how I felt, it was cigarettes. I had gotten a call from a friend that informed me that a mutual friend of ours had died of Reye’s syndrome. I was devastated and my first inclination was to grab my father's cigarettes and go into town and smoke. I sat on the towpath under a bridge smoking and crying.

My high school days were spent planning when and where we would all be partying next. I always drank in excess, if there was more to drink I continued to drink it. There was never enough. Blackouts began at the start of my drinking. I would here the crazy stories about the things I did the night before and laugh it off.

Summers at the beach were all about drinking. My oldest brother worked in a bar and we always had access to alcohol. Being a young girl in the summer there, I would never turn down any party. I always crashed with my friends. The blackouts continued and I laughed them off.

As I got older and obtained my driver's license things got much scarier. Once I picked up a drink all bets were off, even if I was driving. I never knew when I was going to blackout and I would become enraged if someone tried to take my keys from me. Driving in a blackout became a regular part of my drinking.

When many of my friends graduated college they started to settle down, get real jobs, and become more responsible. I could not do it. I HAD to drink everyday. My addiction was not only to alcohol, but to the chaos of the life of the drinker. Drama was a diversion from me. I began to see the difference in how I was living compared to my friends. I felt a mess. I felt alone. I felt misunderstood. I kept telling myself I was not going to drink and could never do it.

I became aware of twelve step programs from a friend who had starting attending meetings. He really changed and I admired that however I was unable to see the mess I was in relating to alcohol. I could not see how feeling alone and misunderstood was related to the drinking. In my eyes I thought the alcohol was allowing me to feel a part of and understood. Pure insanity.

My last drunk began July 8, 1991 sometime around 10AM. I had taken a train into Philadelphia thinking it was my first day of a new semester of school only to find out we didn’t start until the 9th. I had no idea what to do with myself without work or school so I hopped on the train and went to a friend's bar. He was setting up, not even open for business but told me to sit down and poured me a drink. An hour or so later people began to come in. I started drinking with a man who took the stool next to mine and we went on a spree. Up to his condo for cocktails, cocktails at the pool, to another bar for more drinks. For some reason on this day no matter how much I drank I was not reaching that oblivion blackout I was searching for.

My moment of clarity came at this tiny bar when I blurted out “Oh my God I am an alcoholic!” I had said these words in the past but never had they penetrated deeply into my soul. I had said the words before as if to say I have green eyes, I am tall, I am an alcoholic. Until that moment those words had no meaning. Of course the bartender and those I was drinking with all explained to me why I was not an alcoholic. I left, went home, and continued to drink but did not blackout. I finally called a woman I worked with and told her I needed help.

The next day my friend took me to my first meeting. She was not in recovery but just had watched me get sicker and sicker and knew I needed help. I was scared and started changing my mind the closer we got to the meeting. She said “you are not getting out of this car until you get to the meeting.” She walked me in and sat me down and said “I will wait for you in the car.” That was the beginning of the end. It was finally over. By the end of the meeting I had hope. That was all I needed.

I got my current sponsor when I was around eight months sober. She would come up to me after the meeting and suggest a page to read. I would go home and read what was suggested and be in awe of how she knew exactly where to direct me. I have been blessed to have her by my side all these years. She was there when I got married, had my son, through our family struggles, and the death of my father.

To stay sober I still go to meetings and work the steps in my life. I had to drop everything in my life and bring it back to basics many times over the years. I know for me that anything I put in front of my recovery I will lose and ultimately I will lose my recovery too.

I have surrounded myself with sober people. People who want recovery. People who are trying on a daily basis to live a clean and sober life.

In my tenth year of recovery I started to struggle with anxiety. Things got really bad before they got better. Because I had a strong foundation and was surrounded by people who knew how to help I was able to stay sober and learn a new set of skills to cope with the anxiety and all that comes with that. I dove deeper into the steps and added yoga into my life.

My yoga practice was simple and included a lot of meditation and mindful breathing. I began to practice at our local studio and when they announced they were doing a teacher training I jumped on it.

Today I bring yoga and the Twelve Steps of recovery together to help those in prison, in rehabs, and for all who are free and going to meetings. My purpose is to support anyone in an ongoing program of recovery. Any recovery, for we all need healing.

Never give up hope, always keep coming back. Let go of the ego and forever remain teachable.

Yours in love and service, 

Gwen R.