THE BLOG

Sobriety: My Joyful Second Act

05/09/2014 11:15 am ET | Updated Jul 09, 2014
John Manno via Getty Images

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A few years ago during my final descent into alcoholism, I thought it would be a great idea to try online dating. You know... maybe some poor unassuming guy could save me from my life of self-destruction. Maybe that's what I needed. Maybe that's what was missing from my life. Maybe if I had a boyfriend I wouldn't dive head first into a bottle of booze day after day.

Well, we all know that's ridiculous thinking. And honestly, what kind of decent guy would want to be with the train-wreck-of-a-mess I was? Exactly. There wasn't one. But no sir, that didn't stop me from trying.

Guy after guy would send me the initial five questions, and I would answer with the most perfect and eloquent responses. You know, depending on what I thought they wanted to hear. I could tell a lot from scanning over their individual profile of political and religious beliefs and life goals. If they were a devout Christian, I was a devout Christian. If they were spiritual but not religious, I was spiritual but not religious. If they wanted kids, I wanted kids. If they were undecided, I was undecided. I could be anything or anyone you wanted me to be.

My very first college professor told me that we could get anywhere in life by bluffing our way through it. And so that's what I did. I already had some experience, but I was really able to hone the craft during my college years and thereafter. I was good at talking my way into or out of pretty much anything I needed or wanted to. I had already talked my way into the College of Charleston after receiving a rejection letter in the mail. Still not sure how I did that, but I did. So, needless to say, I was good at making people think I was something that in fact I wasn't.

I could talk a big game. It was the follow through where I would most often fall short. I managed to "2.0 and Go" my way through college, but the more I drank, the harder it was to bluff my way through anything.

However, online dating was perfect for bluffing. I could pretend to be someone I wasn't and let the guy get to know me as the person I wanted to be... not the person that I actually was. I would bluff my way through the interview process of online dating and secure a date with a guy who thought he was getting a chance at love with what probably appeared to be his perfect match. But I wasn't. I wasn't a perfect match for anything other than rehab, and that didn't come until years later. These guys would soon figure that out. If not on the first date, then definitely by the second or third. Then, on to the next one.

Trying to be someone you're not is exhausting. But not even knowing who you are or what you stand for is tragic. It's possibly the loneliest feeling in the world. And no guy will ever be able to fill that void. I was searching for that one person that could change my life and make me happy. Little did I know... it wasn't a he... it was a she... and she was looking back at me in the mirror. Problem with that was I hated the person looking back at me.

If I would have just put "I like to drink... a lot," that would have been a pretty accurate representation of me and what I stood for and what I like to do. Nothing else really mattered. Instead, my profile was more a vision board of who I wanted to be. In fact, I created a vision board in rehab of what I wanted out of a life in sobriety. It was my eHarmony profile drawn out on a poster board through magazine clippings and inspirational quotes.

The other side of the vision board was my alcoholism side. The state of my current life when I walked into rehab -- an accurate representation of how life had been for me for several years at that point. Front and center was a tornado with the cut outs of words like lost, shameless, liar, worst nightmare, dark side, alone in the middle of chaos.

So, as you can see... being honest about who I was wasn't going attract many male suitors for me to date. So, I lied. I pretended to be someone that I desperately wanted to be.

It's been almost two years since I created my vision board in rehab and without even remembering a lot of what I had cut out and glued to the poster board... it has all come true today. Front and center is a peaceful sunset with cut outs of words like calm, comfortable, controlled, confidence, a joyful second act.

I keep my vision board in my home office and each time I look at it, I am reminded of the life I have because of my recovery. As long as I stay sober, anything is possible. The images and words I cut out and glued to the poster were all just hopes and dreams. Today, I am living out those hopes and dreams. But, I know how quickly my life can go back to the tornado side if I decide to pick up a drink. So, I keep it on my joyful second act side and flip it over from time to time as a good reminder of how out of control my life was not too long ago.

Looking over the board, I am shocked that I didn't include some tall, dark, handsome man as part of my vision, but I guess even as sick as I was I knew that no one was going to make me happy until I was happy with myself. Today, I am happy. I am content. And, I am confident. Finally, two years later with an inactive account, I am an accurate representation of my eHarmony profile.

I choose recovery each morning when I wake up and by doing so, it gives me a chance at my joyful second act instead of being the tornado that is lost and alone in the middle of the chaos.

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Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.