Who am I? I have heard the statement from those in recovery, “I want to be who I used to be!” I always want to ask, “What about you changed? If you were so special, why did you drink yourself away?” I was not always a drunk, but I did start drinking at age 15. I’m now in my 50s. . .so what age would I want to go back to and be “the girl I used to be?”

Even in my teen and high school years, alcohol was a huge part of my life. In my junior year, I was in a play, The Wizard of Oz. I was Glenna, the Good Witch of the North. We rehearsed in the evenings. I never drank before the practice, but I remember knowing that my friends were out drinking. And I couldn’t wait to join them and get a buzz on. The evening of the play, instead of being proud that I was in a play, I was bummed. My friends could drink before they came to watch me and I had to wait till the play was over. Alcohol was controlling me, even at age 16.

I remember another time during my senior year when I didn’t try out for cheerleading. One reason was I couldn’t do the splits. But the biggest reason was I had to ride home from games on the bus. I had to wait until I was back to the school to drink, while others in my friend group partied as soon as the game was over. I used the splits as an excuse, but the truth was I wanted the freedom to drink. Alcohol was in control of me then, too.

Does going back to who you used to be mean having a couple drinks with friends, and not wanting more? Or does it mean that you can go out to dinner on a date and have a great bottle of wine, and not want more? Go on vacation and drink in the sun, and not want to drink all day and night? I always wanted more. It was the center of everything I did. Now I know I was addicted even back then and I just got sicker with age.

If I was going to recover, going back to the life of a former self was not an option. My therapist assured me that I had the ability to create the women I wanted to be, sober. I could be the mother I respected. I could have a relationship with my own mother built on trust and respect. I could be in relationships that started with a solid foundation, because I was recreating me. As I grew stronger, a new spiritual, kind, honest, loving woman was developing. A woman I could be proud of. A woman I could grow to love. It didn’t happen overnight. I work hard every day to discover her. Old habits are hard to let go of, but I am learning something new each day.

If I was going to recover, going back to the life of a former self was not an option.

During a CORE training in the Touched by a Horse Program, I was coached by one of my peers in the Program. In the piece of work I said goodbye to alcohol. I talked about all the ways it didn’t serve me; I looked at the down side of drinking. I got mad at who I had allowed myself to become. I told Alcohol that I didn’t need it anymore; that I was stronger. That without it, I would be excited about life. That I would live life as myself, not as an alcohol-induced version of who I thought I had to be. I literally kicked a red solo cup across the arena declaring to Alcohol “I don’t need you anymore! Get out and leave me alone!” Then I went into the round pen, stood heart to heart with the horse, and pledged my new faith in myself. I prayed the serenity prayer: God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. A prayer that I was taught early on in my sobriety. I walked out of the round pen with more confidence and acceptance about my journey in recovery. I knew the importance of taking care of me one day at a time, and I set an intention not to allow alcohol to control my actions and thoughts anymore. I was now in control.

That was such a powerful session with the horse and one I will never forget. It gave me the drive to share with others in recovery the healing power of the horses as a way to find strength in healing oneself.