To Recovery and Beyond!
First of all – Hi! My name is Ashley and I am a Certified Peer Specialist. I’m glad you’re here!
Alright. Now, go back and read the title in your best Buzz Lightyear voice for me.
… Did you do it? Awesome.
You know, when I heard there was an area available for blogging on Peerstar’s website, I was THRILLED. Blogging is something that I never did before, or even thought of doing, before recovery. Actually, I hated writing in every possible way growing up. But, as you’ll read about here in a bit, it has saved my life on several different occasions. Yes, something that I used to dread, I now enjoy and is crucial to my recovery. How ‘bout that?
Everyone has their own demons, but my big one was my relationship with booze. Mixed with untreated depression, I was a mess to say the least. I knew that alcohol was the major reason behind a lot of my mental health problems, but I just couldn’t seem to keep myself focused enough to give it up, and the people closest to me who knew about my out-of-control habit, didn’t seem to know what to do to help me either. So, I kept it all a secret. For over 10 years.
When life started to really spiral, I tried your standards – therapy and meetings. But, AA just didn’t cut it for me – it felt too negative. Sitting around in a circle with folks a generation or two older than me sharing war stories wasn’t my thing. I found it extremely difficult to relate to them. Regurgitating all of it to a therapist wasn’t doing it either. After my 6th relapse, I shut down…entering into the worst depressive episode of my lifetime.
Spending two weeks in bed, not eating or even bathing myself, on the verge of losing my daughter and reaching a point where another suicide attempt seemed to be the only option, something told me to get up and get it all out. To this day, I don’t really know what it was – call it hope, the Big Man, whatever you want to - I don’t really care. I’m just glad it did. But, I knew it was my last attempt at getting better, and for that reason meant giving it my all.
On February 12, 2020, I created a blog - GHOST IN MY BEDROOM - writing a breakup letter to alcohol and shared it to my personal Facebook page for all of my friends and family to read, admitting that I was struggling with far more than I let anyone see. I also made a vow to myself on that day to blog through anything that happened, in the event that if there was anyone else that could relate, they wouldn’t have to feel alone.
I’m sure you are sitting there thinking… oh man, that’s crazy! And yes, it was. Talk about anxiety. I’m pretty sure I sat here for about an hour before hitting ‘post.’ I was absolutely terrified. But, in my mind I had to do it. It was the only way.
My worst fear didn’t happen – I wasn’t shunned or criticized. Very much the opposite. I was filled with so much love and support! Tons of messages started to pour in thanking me for sharing, telling me how awesome it was that I chose to be brave and disclose my battles. Even some sharing that they were questioning some of the same thoughts and behaviors themselves - they were just too scared to admit it.
So much love. So much encouragement. So much hope. Not just for me, but for those who were still facing that feeling of being ashamed.
This is where the Toy Story theme comes into play. Remember when Buzz was all amped to fly and he took off only to slowly drift down to the ground and crash? This was similar to my recovery in the beginning. Sobriety was really great at first – I was motivated and pumped to make the change. Especially with my world behind me. Insert global pandemic here. This SUCKED for me, because it forced me to stay at home – quarantined to the very place that I had spent countless nights drowning myself in booze. Constantly reminded of the dark days I wanted so desperately to get away from. In flooded the anxiety. And in the desire to drink more than ever.
After celebrating 2 months of sobriety, even with all the happy vibes from people following my story, I caved and drank.
I was ashamed. I felt guilty. I hated myself. I had become a face of recovery to so many, all to end up failing…again. I wanted to quit.
Remembering that vow I had made to myself in the beginning, I mustered the courage and went back to the blog. I thought… screw it. This is what I signed up for – to show the real side of recovery.
I blogged that I relapsed with all the details, ready to be met with criticism and judgment. But to my surprise, it didn’t happen. Again, I was filled with love and support. Even more than the first time. The next day, I picked myself up and started back at day 1.
I relate this to Buzz and his flying experience, because if you can remember at the end, he feels like he convinces himself he can’t fly – and shouldn’t even try again after his crash and burn – but with the help of his friends and their encouragement, he gives it another shot.
Guys, I am here to tell you that all of that happens in real life. Read my story above again – it’s not just in the movies. You can crash, you can do it over and over again. You’re not a failure. You’re anything but, because you are making the choice to try. And that’s what matters. And there are people there who will help you find your strength to keep pushing forward.
Recovery is messy, but by choosing to share my thoughts and feelings – although it may seem like airing my dirty laundry to some – helps me release in a way that I never had before. It keeps me sober and keeps me accountable. It was exactly what I needed and looked for. It STILL is to this day.
Today, I proudly celebrate 190 days of sobriety, and I attribute a lot of that strength behind my daily choice, to those who choose to read my words and continue to support me. Who validate me. Who help me see it’s worth it. I share everything, and I do it without shame.
I now see that I don’t have to do anything alone, just as Buzz didn’t have to in Toy Story, that I have an immense support system at my fingertips, simply by choosing to push through a little fear. My courage and my ability to remain vulnerable despite everything that I have been through and am still up against, is my superpower. I have finally found it, along with my voice, and boy… does it feel good! By discovering mine though, I now only want that for others – making it my mission to prove that we are much more than a diagnosis, an addiction, our emotions, and our past. They don’t define us. WE define us and how we choose to live tomorrow. As a peer specialist, I get to do it for a living… which is even cooler.
I encourage you to fight through the fear, fight through what’s holding you back from being anything but your beautiful authentic self. Find that inspiration and hold onto it. Your freedom depends on it.
Together, we can do this. Together, anything is possible. So, take the leap. We’re here for you. Let’s fly!
To recovery… AND BEYOND!
Written by: Ashley Kesner
Certified Peer Specialist, Peerstar LLC.