How I Stay Accountable: Dana
While we all have different journeys in recovery, most will agree that accountability is a crucial component when it comes to staying clean and sober. Once we admit we want to rebuild our lives—whether it’s to a close friend, a family member or all our followers on Instagram—it becomes a lot harder to just pick up a drink or pop a pill. After all, who wants to risk having to come clean and admit we lost focus for a sec—or, er, three years? Accountability is how we stay on track and we all have people, places and things that have helped us reach our recovery goals. This is how accountability has worked for Dana.
What does accountability mean to you?
Before I got sober, I lived a life of degrees. I was always “kind of” honest, when it suited me. I was a pro at stretching the truth or altering it, or taking out bits, etc. I could finesse my information like a chef, a dash of this, a sprinkle of that—it was all very creative and self-serving and exhausting. I was very good at all of this, but my drinking was slowly chipping away at this veneer. In response, I just upped the drinking due to my stress.
Now? Sober? I have learned to be honest about all my affairs. All. Of. Them. This, initially, was terrifying to me. How would I live my life without smushing it about to make it work for me? But, accountability, I was learning, was no longer really all that much about me. It was about serving others by being honest. Accountability to me now means a wonderful freedom.
Does the fact that people know about your recovery play into you staying sober? How?
YES. I actually “came out” about my alcoholism on my blog. I let the big fat alcoholic cat out of the bag on a blog, and it was a good thing. I was terrified about the decision, but it simply seemed impossible not to. Sobriety was my life and I blogged about my life, so I simply had to. It didn’t seem genuine otherwise. I speak and write about recovery now all the time. And yes, it has crossed my mind more than once that if I broke my sobriety, not only would it destroy my family and myself, but what about my readers? What about those who had said I was a “sober warrior”? What then?
I did relapse in my third year of recovery for a short period—I think it was about five days. I have written about this as well. It is a necessary part of it all; if I don’t keep myself honest I will wither inside.
Who or what are you accountable to in your recovery?
I do have a sponsor and a meeting, and obviously my husband and children are all a part of this—I am accountable to all of them. But the main thing that I have learned is that I will know. What if I relapse, and NO ONE knows? I will. And I know I won’t be able to live with it. I think this is a shift that happens after some time in sobriety, it starts to shift from the outer accountabilities to your own soul. I can remember once, in an airport (quite ironically, on the way to a speaking gig about recovery) when I had that oh-so-familiar itching at the back of my brain: “You could drink and no one would know.” As I continued walking down the concourse, past all the pretty wine bars and fake Irish pubs with people sitting and drinking martinis at 9 am, the answer was loud: “You will know, Dana, and you are worth it. Your voice in all of this is worth something.” And so I kept walking.
How important is having a community to your staying sober? Why?
Very. When I first got sober, my husband cleared the house of alcohol. He made sure to be available to be home early if I needed to go to a meeting. Additionally, I found myself feeling as thought I was holding my breath until my meeting on Wednesday night. It is my home group, and they are my family. They lift me up during the tough times; they make me laugh. They understand. I am forever grateful. When I have tough days, they are there within seconds with a text. We hold each other up and walk with each other, one day at a time.
Have you ever relapsed? Is there anything you could have done that might have prevented that?
Yes, my relapse was a short one and I learned a great deal from it. The main thing that caused the relapse, I think, was isolation. I hadn’t been attending meetings. I was swept up in the business of the season of Christmas and with all the stress and endless to-do lists I had forgotten to allow time for them. I asked my husband about the relapse later, if he had noticed any sort of changes about me or “red flags” and he answered, “Well… I remember you being really into making Christmas perfect. Like, it had to be super wonderful, you know?”
Oh, I know. Drinking again seemed like the only way to make my expectations fit with the frenetic pace, the stress and my perfectionism. Why did I forget all the steps, sober advice and wisdom that I had learned those three years prior? I forgot because I allowed myself to. And as I buried myself in business and bullshit, I continued on my way. Sobriety is not a “my way” thing; it has to be with others. At least I think so. It cannot be deeply personal. It must be shared or we drown under the weight of it.
What advice do you give someone who wants to get or stay sober?
When I first actually allowed myself to think, “I really do have a problem,” my very next thought was “I can’t go to meetings. I just can’t.” I was terrified of the thought of talking to others and being amongst others that were alcoholics. It was a feeling of despair, like it would really become real if I walked into a room with other mess-ups like me.
My very first meeting was terrifying, until the people started to speak. Then I felt a great sigh release, like I could finally relax. I was home, and I was going to be okay. So my advice would be that this will be scary, yes. But if you reach out and find others—get yourself into some group therapy or a 12-step group—you will be okay. Not only will you be okay, you will feel at home. Maybe for the first time in years.
How important do you think transparency is in your recovery?
It is impossible for recovery to occur without total transparency.
How does it feel to earn people’s trust back now that you’re sober?
Recently, my children and I were participating in a “TV free” week. We found it pretty tough to try and pry ourselves away from screens. My son approached me, one long afternoon, and said, “Will you play cards with me?” And we spent the rest of the afternoon playing UNO and such. I realized, as I watched them laugh and deal the cards (badly), they would rather spend time with me than any Wii game or TV show. I have earned that. I am very blessed.