My First Step to Freedom

By Shannon Haddaway

I quit drinking 7 ½ years ago.  It was the bravest and best thing I’ve ever done.

Part of the immobilizing fear of giving up booze was living without something that had kept me numb to uncomfortable feelings most of my life.  

In the weeks leading up to my sobriety, I remember making lists:  of friends that I knew wouldn’t want to be friends with me anymore, potential new friends, the ways in which my life would change for the better (although I could never have known the depth of this change), potential catastrophes that would occur if I continued along the path of self- destruction.  I even made a list of things to do for fun that didn’t involve alcohol.  I was so terrified of living without something that had become my go-to coping mechanism that I could not imagine my life without it.  It was a part of my identity, of the person I used to be as well as the person I had become.  Who would I be without it?

I tried everything to control my drinking; only drinking on weekends, limiting the number of drinks I could have, limiting the type of alcohol I consumed, not drinking alone or before a certain time of day.  I realized no matter what I did to control it, it won every time.  It wasn’t a problem for me to not drink every day, however, once I took that first sip, it was like trying to stop a train wreck.  Wheels off.  No stopping.  No going back.  No matter the consequences.  After 18 years of living in alcohol induced hell, I had had enough.  I was tired. I was empty.  I was anxious and depressed.  I was done waking up every morning with guilt, shame and remorse.  I remember looking around at my house, husband, children and friends and thinking, “why am I not happy? Why am I utterly miserable?”. I had every reason in the world to be joyous and grateful, yet alcohol had taken away my ability to feel anything but pain.

Those first few months were terrifying.  It felt as though I were walking around with no outer layer…like my nerves were on the outside of my skin.  I woke up every morning feeling as though I had lost something, as though a part of me was missing.  Finally, after weeks of waking up confused and scared, I realized the missing piece was alcohol.  

I was on a hike in the mountains when I noticed the richness and depth of the colors of the trees and flowers and sky for the first time. I felt the sunlight and breeze on my skin, and I was stunned by the beauty all around me.  I stopped, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and dropped to my knees. I realized in that moment that I could feel joy for the first time in decades.  I felt the presence then, of something far greater than myself and I knew, this is what it’s like to feel alive.  I made a vow then, a vow to do whatever I needed to do to show up fully for this one shot at life.

People ask me how I do it, and the honest answer is, one day at a time.  For me, I must attend 12-Step meetings, have sober friends, and stay connected to my Higher Power through prayer and meditation.  Yoga has been a tremendous part of my recovery, as it is a beautiful union of mind, body and spirit.  The poses combined with breath keep me grounded, and are the foundation for me to live in the moment, which is a key to recovery.   I am fortunate to co-own SoulSpace Yoga Community, and the talented Amber Shumake leads a free class every Sunday night called “Yoga for Recovery”.  This class is truly an amazing gift to those of us who share this path.  I find it imperative to make my recovery number one, because without it, my whole world crumbles.

Getting sober was my first step on the journey to freedom; the journey of whole-hearted and awakened living.  It was one of the most painful experiences of my life, yet one I wouldn’t trade.  In fact, I am grateful for the pain and suffering because I now know, it was this step that allowed me to peel back all the layers of self- discovery to uncover my purpose for being:  to serve my fellow human beings and to do whatever I can to make our world a better place. 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from addiction, remember this, you are not alone.  There are people here who know exactly what you are going through and we can help you.  I promise, there is a way out and living sober is possible!  You can fall in love with life again.