Waking up to the constant pound, pound, pound of my heart working overtime just to keep me alive, my body is screaming for alcohol. Rolling over, I’m blinded by the brightness of the clock. It is only 4 a.m. and my body needs vodka. On my nightstand is a glass of “water” – a glass I filled with vodka before I went to bed, prepared for this moment.

Today I celebrate 5 years in Recovery. I can’t help but to reminisce about my past and to be grateful for all that I have accomplished since I have been sober. In the 5 years I have worked hard to grow and have challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone in many areas of my life.

The Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR, www.ccar.com) offered an opportunity to enter a contest, asking participants to write about their personal journey in recovery. The winner was to receive $1,000. I chose to enter.

I didn’t win, but I am grateful that I took the step. Writing is not something that comes easy for me, but I believe it’s so important to tell our story, so that others can see that recovery does happen and that we can live a full and joyful life, sober. Following is my entry:

Waking up to the constant pound, pound, pound of my heart working overtime just to keep me alive, my body is screaming for alcohol. Rolling over, I’m blinded by the brightness of the clock. It is only 4 a.m. and my body needs vodka. On my nightstand is a glass of “water” – a glass I filled with vodka before I went to bed, prepared for this moment. When I absorb alcohol my heartbeat slows down and my trembling body stops shaking. Tonight is a repeat of most nights for the last three years of my drinking life.

The What of my life was not important. The How was leading me down the road to death. I chose to medicate and numb my thoughts and feelings so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the fact that my life needed to change. The Whats in my life were accelerating down a deep hole, because I didn’t know how to turn myself around and climb back up. I did the only thing I knew how to do and that was taking me down a cold deep dark hole to possibly six feet under.

I was concerned about all the signs my body was urging me to pay attention to; things like my heart pounding out of my chest, uncontrollable shaking, daily nosebleeds, throwing up every morning and using my morning “orange juice” (vodka and a splash of OJ) to settle my stomach. I’d regurgitate, drink more, regurgitate again, until my body could finally handle a piece of toast. I felt nauseated daily. Add enough alcohol and abracadabra, I would feel better. I knew that this was unhealthy. I knew I was sick. But I was scared to death to change; scared to death to stop the only thing that gave me comfort and courage to deal with the Whats in my life. Death was knocking at my door and that’s what was scaring me the most. I did not want my life to be over. I just wanted it to be better.

My heart knew that I was sick. My body was shouting to me, but my head found ways to excuse or permit my addiction to continue. My life was centered around alcohol. I could not fathom any other way to live. I thought my life would be over when I stopped drinking. Little did I know that would be the day my life would begin.

When I found the courage to ask for help, I went into a 12-step rehabilitation center. After seven days I returned home. I didn’t change a thing. I didn’t go to 12-step meetings. I didn’t stop going to bars — I just went miserably sober. This lasted for a whole 21 days before I took my first drink. By the end of the month I was back to feeling miserable and drinking way too much. My body quickly remembered and reminded me that it needed alcohol to survive. It was an easy fall off the wagon to become a drunk again.

During my few sober days, I read a book about a center claiming that you can get cured from alcoholism; a place where I could learn to live my life without being labeled as an alcoholic and would not have to go to 12-step meetings all my life. That was a huge selling point and I like to say that this $12.95 book cost me $30,000!

At this center I began my journey into true recovery. I don’t believe that I will ever be cured from alcoholism, but I do believe that if I work on the Whys I drank and focus on my underlying issues, my cravings for alcohol will cease. I left that center with an understanding that to live a life of recovery I had to work every day on the Hows so my Whats would prosper and grow.

I learned that I had to have a continual aftercare program; that I had to make my sobriety the top priority in my life. I was introduced to meditation with music and began practicing the art of centering and controlling my thoughts. I learned the value of massage therapy for my body. Reluctantly I attended AA meetings. I knew it was essential for me to be in a group of like-minded individuals who in sharing their experiences showed me that I’m not the only one with this craziness in my head. I also chose to go to a therapist to explore and identify my Whys. Why did I believe I had to have alcohol to live the good life? I needed to learn how to navigate this foreign territory of being sober and how to make good choices.

I had to learn how to bring God into my life. It didn’t come easily for me because I blamed Him for allowing me to become a drunk and then felt abandoned by Him in my drunkenness. I had to learn how to ask for help and to learn how to listen. I wanted a big sign that said “I am here. . .” or “Do this. . .” But it was a lot of little signs that spoke to me. I read daily meditations. I prayed. I searched for ways to strengthen my relationship with God. I know now that it was always up to me to work on my spirituality. It was up to me to learn how to use His love for me in my life.

In the passing of the days I was living a sober life, but I was not living a life filled with excitement and joy. I knew how to be miserable. I did not know how to be joyful.

Joy started to explode in my life when I found my passion — horses! Not only horses, but recovery with the healing power of horses. I volunteered and aided children and adults with disabilities at a therapeutic riding stable. I saw first hand how people with bodies that were out of human control could be controlled by the horse’s energy, allowing people the chance to feel “normal” while being on the back of a horse. This sparked my interest in the concept of horses and their power to heal. I googled horses and therapy and found a program where coaches partner with horses to help clients find their own awarenesses for self help and healing.

I signed up to become certified as an Equine Gestalt Coach® through the Touched by a Horse® coaching method. We learned how to develop our own business, choosing the niche of our choice. It was a no-brainer — I chose recovery. During the two years that I was in the program, I worked on manifesting my joy, my spirituality and acceptance of my disease. Through this program I was able to let go of so many things that were blocking my way to my awesome discovery journey into recovery.

I learned how to create a vision for myself that excited my soul and made my palms sweat. My vision included starting my own business, partnering with horses, to guide those in recovery. To offer a safe haven for people to find their own new and exciting discovery journey. Horses give me so much comfort and support. They show me what’s true in my heart and I am grateful that my horses and I can offer others a place to come and find their heart’s desire.

Figuring out my passion in recovery helps me stay sober. Helping others is a dream of mine that is coming true. I am a recovery coach through the CCAR program. I’ve also taken the CPR (Crisis Prevention Response) course. Adding my certification from the Touched by a Horse program in April 2016, I am now an Equine Gestalt Recovery Coach, owning my own business, One Neigh at a Time, LLC.

Recovery has taken me off the couch and down the road to many new adventures. My Whats continue to get better now that my Hows are manifesting. And all because I found the courage to ask for help. I am so grateful that I reached out and took the hand of recovery. Having a horse’s hoofprints alongside my own footprints is an added blessing and privilege. I hope to show others that recovery does happen, but it doesn’t “just” happen. It’s hard work. It takes dedication, commitment and perseverance, but is so worth it.

My alarm clock today is our Bernese Mountain Dog’s cold nose, asking me to let him outside. My mornings begin with daily readings and meditations, a great cup of java and a prayer to God for another day of recovery. I head out to the barn, hearing the nickers and neighs of our herd of horses. My life is full, exciting and beautiful. My recovery date is February 11, 2012. Today I am grateful to live another joyful day in recovery.