Progress Not Perfection … 5 Years Sober

I read a blog post not too long ago about not believing in a God or a higher power. It made me smirk a little, the audacity of that; not believing in anything at all – just going through life thinking that we are all here and there are no miracles or any power out there that doesn’t have a hand in this beauty and madness that we call life. It made me sad.

My grandmother used to tell me, “Try and find me an atheist on a plane that’s crashing down to Earth. Then talk to me about not believing in something.”

I remember I used to have a friend growing up and she would always say, “Who are you to say there is a GOD?”

Well, based upon the miracles in my own life, I’d have to fire back and say, “Who are you to say there isn’t?”

Progress Not Perfection … 5 Years Sober

Tomorrow marks 5 years since I’ve taken a drink. I am Kelly and I am a recovering alcoholic. I bet you’d think, 5 years into a life free from alcohol, I’m just in the best possible place. I’d like to say I’m happy, joyous, and free.

I’m free. I’m free from the insanity of taking that first drink thinking THIS time it will be different. God removed the compulsion to drink for me early on which I’m extremely grateful for today.

The obsession? …..well, that’s a different story. Sometimes I drive downtown and I see a new flavored vodka on a billboard that I have never tried and I immediately start thinking of mixers and how much ice I would add to the glass or would I just shoot it straight to feel the warmth of the first shot, or …..well, you get my drift.

I still have this alcoholic brain. I still want to isolate a lot. I’m a mother of 2 and sometimes I still want to take the long way home. It’s not because I don’t love my kids. I love them very much. It’s because still, after all this time in recovery, I hate facing responsibility.

I love my kids so much, it haunts me. It scares me. I think I drank so heavily after I had Jackson because I was so afraid of doing something wrong that would harm him. The insanity of that, huh? There I was drinking myself into another blackout because I didn’t want to “harm” him.

Sometimes I still feel like a kid raising kids if that makes any sense. I’m 37 years old and I still need help making decisions. I still apologize weekly to my kids if I lose my temper or get frustrated or lose patience.

The ego in me would love to say I stayed sober on my own. When people tell me “congrats” and “you’re so strong”…. I thank them, but deep down I know that I am one of the lucky ones and the credit goes to God and the people in recovery who have guided me along the way.

A couple months ago, the city was enraged because a man driving drunk struck a crowd of people at a parade.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten behind the wheel of a car and driven drunk. And I’m sure a lot of people reading this might flinch in horror over that, but deep down, if you’re honest with yourself, I’m sure you may have, at one time, done that too. If you haven’t, more power to you, especially in this city.

The only difference between that kid that rammed into the Neutral Ground at Endymion and me is that kid got caught. No, I never hit another person with my car, but I could have. I could have killed myself or someone else. God had different plans for me.

I remember hearing about that, and whispering to myself, by the grace of God, go I.

So why am I lucky? And where does God come into all of this?

Well, like I said, I believe HE had other plans for me. He wanted me to feel the gift of desperation. He wanted me to feel the sheer pain and anguish and incomprehensible demoralization I endured in the last few days of my drinking 5 years ago.

I felt it to the core and then some. It was a soul sickness. I was disconnected from life. Sure I looked like the life of the party, but deep down, I was alone and felt alone. It’s amazing what Facebook and Instagram project to the public. If you looked at my Facebook wall 5 years ago, I looked like I had it all.

I did not for I was in the throes of complete alcoholism and no one knew it except the people living in my home and those extremely close to me; even some of my blood relatives were completely in denial about my disease.

This disease is cunning, baffling, powerful … and patient. 5 years later and I wish I could say all is well and my life is a bed of roses. Yes, I’m sober. Yes, I’m grateful. And yes, this disease is alive and well. I’m always free if I stay sober and work my program, but happy and joyous, well those are harder to come by…

I have no defense against that first drink. The only defense I have is a reliance on a power greater than me to keep me from picking up. I grew up Catholic with the “fire and brim stone” God.

I hated that God. The harshness right? Using hate and God in the same sentence. These were the things that used to riddle me with fear. I was going straight to hell for writing that or even thinking that and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do about it.

He was punishing. He was judgmental. I literally thought I had no chance of ever getting to Heaven so why rely on something that fearful?

A woman told me in a meeting once that you can’t be angry or hate something you don’t believe to some degree.

When I got sober, they told me that I could choose a God or a higher power of my own understanding. They told me to write a line down the page of a notebook. On the left side, I was to write all the things I thought about my old God or the one I grew up with. Then, on the right, I was to write down all of the positive qualities that I wanted my God to have if I chose to believe in one.

After I did that, I was told to tear it down the middle and throw away the old childhood God and put the new God on my fridge and on my bathroom mirror so I could start relying on HIM to help me stay clean.

It has worked. On my darkest days it has worked.

I have lost friends to this disease. I have lost myself to this disease. The important thing to note here is I can be sober and still LOSE myself to this disease; that’s how powerful it is.

Vigilance is the watchword for me. I have to be willing to stay sober and vigilant, staying aware of how I relate to people and treat them. I battle with shame, guilt, and fear daily. It’s so funny to me because you would look at my Facebook page and be like, that girl? YES, this girl. I’m a mess, but I’m a sober mess 😉

I have to walk through these emotions and feel them and move through them. I still will pull up Facebook and compare myself to this girl or that girl. I have to remember that I am blessed beyond words, for I’ve come to the realization that drinking was only a symptom of my disease.

My disease stemmed from me and how I related to the world and the people in it.

What do you call a drunken horse thief who gets sober? A horse thief.

What I mean by that is once the alcohol was removed, I had to start looking at how I dealt with life on life’s terms and it was ugly. It still is. I’m still a work in progress. Thankfully, this program of recovery is about progress not perfection.

I may not be doing this perfectly but I’m doing it sober and that, my friends is the true miracle of my life. An even bigger miracle in my life is that I’m helping other women who suffered and suffer like I do. I sponsor them and I work with them by visiting Grace House (A Woman’s Recovery Center here in NOLA) every month and chairing meetings there, carrying the message.

Something else I was taught by other women who had sobered up and came before me was that shame can’t survive empathy.

I need that tattooed on my forehead some days. What this means is that when I’m connecting with another woman about decisions I’ve made when I was out there using OR even decisions I’ve made while sober (because let’s face it, I still make mistakes), something sacred takes place.

The shame of those decisions dissipates when I hear the words “me too” or “yeah, I did that, that happened to me and this is how I dealt with it without picking up”, I don’t feel so alone. Shame shared is shame had.

Shame can’t survive empathy.

My life’s purpose is to help the next suffering alcoholic who reaches out their hand for a way out.

I had to hit bottom to really have a willingness to work these steps. I mean seriously (and as the literature states…

Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant?

Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done?

Who cares anything for a higher power, let alone meditation and prayer?

Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry the message to the next sufferer?

No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect – unless he has to do these things to stay alive himself.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a prayer that I say to myself when each year passes in sobriety for me.

Dear God,

Thank you for not allowing me to become who I would’ve been if it was left up to me.



  1. Thank you so much for sharing. This is such an important message. I appreciate your courage and know that you are impacting lives by sharing your story.


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