You don’t have to be a lampshade-wearing drunk or fighting barroom drunk for drinking to be a potential problem. However, there was a time when I figured just backing off street drugs was the end of that forbidden road. I continued to drink alcohol—mainly a glass of champagne on birthdays or holidays.
Yes, well—abstaining from one drug and not another may work for some people, but I realized 27 years ago that it wouldn’t work for me. That’s when I decided I might as well stop drinking, too, and adhere to the twelve-step program.
It was only the beginning of my surrender.
In my first decade of sobriety, I didn’t fully understand why people said it’s “one day at a time” to infinity and beyond. If you’re not abusing alcohol or any other substance and haven’t even come close to relapsing in all these years, you’re good, right? You’ve got this. But that’s not how it works. Addiction, I learned, is a disease of the body, mind, and spirit, and emotional sobriety while abstaining is also ongoing one day at a time.
On the emotional end, it’s been referred to as the “disease of the attitudes.” Still, I have to say most of us who’ve resorted to substance abuse come into recovery with fleas from narcissistic abuse, usually from people who were also living the aftermath of narcissistic abuse. On top of all that, many of us are trauma survivors who’ve dealt with physical, emotional, or sexual abuse—quite often all of those things.
Under these circumstances, we’ve co-opted the shame-based coping and survival skills of our abusers. They are skills that have kept us alive and emotionally intact while also putting us at significant risk over and over again. So, we’ve been wandering around doing things we weren’t aware of to block out the pain or create a pacifying illusion of safety. On some level of our consciousness, our needs seemed urgent, making us unusually vulnerable. We craved attention, validation, and praise, and that was another drug, a temporary fix whenever someone complied. It doesn’t work for long because, as with any other drug, the euphoria fades, and you remember the pain and torture of what you genuinely fear—that you’re not special or that no one loves or cares about you. Hence, we crave one fix after another.
We convince ourselves that certain relationships are about selflessness and love when they are more often tainted by our dysfunction. We may love people the best way we can, but it’s only as genuine as we are.
Whatever the deal is, addiction is an obsession. In its active state, it impairs our judgment and clouds our perception. It robs us of clarity which only returns and continues to improve with consistent physical and emotional sobriety. Meanwhile, the pressing urges of codependency will consistently override any willingness to be authentic.
Addicts, for the most part, in our lifelong frenzy, attempting to survive the madness, may become con artists. Often, too, we lack empathy. We are self-obsessed and often unable to put ourselves in someone else’s place. We’ve lost the connection where we assimilate what others are experiencing.
Without realizing it, we may become bullies with an eye out for any perceived threat, frequently compelled to do damage control. We’re fiercely determined to preserve our delusions and denials and protect our “secrets.” We attempt to control everything, including how others perceive us. So, drama is very much a part of our lives—waiting for the other shoe to drop, dreading it when the phone rings, an automatic response of, what now? And we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we make excuses.
Despite having developed a shaky trust in others, we still trust the wrong people at times because those types are familiar to us. We form toxic relationships that can put us or keep us in dangerous situations with severe consequences. People inclined to use our fragility against us instinctively take advantage, and we will unintentionally draw them to us. Sometimes, they suffer from the same affliction, and their desperation is so great that they can’t discern beyond it. Neither can we.
The point is, we can abstain and still be a hot mess. When we come to our moment of surrender, we are broken and, yes, quite fragile in our vulnerability. Our self-esteem has been gutted. We feel unworthy of anything good. We lack the tools or coping skills for dealing with life on life’s terms. There continues to be unrelenting self-sabotage and self-loathing.
It’s a long road for us, and guilt continued to assuage me for many, many years. I cringed, embarrassed, remembering things I said or did, and it was hard for me to find any empathy for the person I was. My dearest friend, whom I’ve known for decades, reminded me not to be so hard on myself. “That girl was just trying to survive,” she said.
It’s hard to believe that merely trying to survive can be so catastrophic, but we’re not perfect. We struggle, and if we continue to put in the effort to become the best people we can be, we never stop getting better. The most important thing to me is continual recovery in every regard. As long as we’re still here, we have a chance to fight for our lives. I’ll never stop fighting, and I’m always grateful for another day to awaken and thrive.
This writing is an unedited excerpt from my new memoir, Grateful to Be Alive. For more details about the book, please read on.
Grateful to Be Alive
My Road to Recovery from Addiction
by D.K. Sanz
Do unsettling truths bring harsh judgment? They do, but the price of denial is steep.
D.K. Sanz’s story begins in the drug-infested New York City streets of Woodside, Queens, during the tumultuous HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 80s and 90s. It offers a glimpse into how a now often-overlooked pandemic impacted Sanz’s nuclear family.
From her earliest days, D.K. was the easily forgotten stranger, always a little out of sync with the rest of the world—a tough but naïve kid and aspiring writer. Her triumph over illness and addiction includes amusing anecdotes and nostalgic, heartwarming memories.
Grateful to be Alive delves deep into Sanz’s confessional self-sabotage, self-destruction, and the harrowing downward spiral she almost didn’t survive. Her never-before-told story ranges from recklessness and impudence to empathy, forgiveness, and love.
D.K. has since published several books, primarily poetry but also a novel, and she continues to work on sequels and an all-new fantasy series. You’ll find some of her poetry at the end of this book.
Whether struggling or not, you will find Grateful to Be Alive is a story of hope, defying insurmountable odds, finding joy, and a gradual transition toward authenticity and becoming the person D.K. always wanted to be.
For those unfamiliar, an ARC is an advanced reader copy provided before publication. Each recipient of an ARC intends to read and review the book. Reviews can be anywhere from one sentence to three or four paragraphs. Ideally, they should appear on Amazon and Goodreads the day the book comes out, likely in February. (I will notify you of the release date.) If it’s posted after that date, the sooner, the better, of course, but days or months later is still good. In other words, there is no rush.
Once given an ARC, you are under no obligation to read or review the book, but, at the same time, you wouldn’t want to request an ARC copy if that’s not your initial intention. In other words, if reading the book causes you to change your mind for any reason, there are no consequences, legal or otherwise.
ARCs are free. Currently, I have them available in Word or PDF formats. Eventually, they will be available on Kindle.
Reviews by ARC readers are posted on Amazon and, hopefully, Goodreads if the recipient has a Goodreads account.
ARC readers, unlike beta readers, are not expected to provide feedback to the author besides the public review, but feedback is certainly welcome.
To apply for an ARC, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and answer the following questions:
1) Are you familiar with the author’s work? (Just curious, it’s okay if you’re not.)
2) Have you ever reviewed a book by this author?
3) Please briefly explain why this particular book would interest you.
4) Have you reviewed books or products before this request?
5) Do you have an Amazon account?
6) Do you have a Goodreads account?
Unfortunately, I may not be able to accommodate every request, but I thank you in advance for your interest.