Big Girl Pants

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In this article, Cathy Cooke, our very own Recovery Specialist here at The Ridge shares her first-year recovery story to inspire others who are just beginning their journey.

Sitting in an inpatient treatment facility for alcoholism in 2010, I was under the delusion my journey to recovery (and health and happiness) would be completed during the 60 days I was there.

What a shock when I walked in the door, upon returning home, as a single mom with an 11 and 14-year-old staring at me; they didn’t have the look on their faces I anticipated. I imagined us moving toward each other in slow motion, arms outreached, embracing each other in celebration of my heroic stint in rehab. Didn’t happen. Turns out they were not in tune with my recent spiritual awakening. Instead, they were confused, angry, and scared. My daughter cried and told me she wanted someone else to be her mom. My son was defiant. Telling them about my triumph repeatedly with the idea of them getting ‘on board’ wasn’t gaining traction. So, like any shaky alcoholic, within a few weeks home, I relapsed. Fortunately, I had been to a women’s AA meeting the previous night. I called one of the women and she came to my house (thank you, Brenda). I remember this part like it was yesterday…I said, ‘Brenda, what am I going to do?” She said, “Girrrrrrl, you’ve got to lean in and put your big girl pants on.”

What???!!! I had no idea what she was talking about. She seemed to imply I wasn’t mature? It was crushing to my incredibly vulnerable ego. I spent the next year of sobriety understanding what she meant.

True, growing up in an alcoholic home, I had to take on some adult behaviors as a child. I also started drinking when I was 14. Somehow, in the process of all of that, and the progressing disease of alcoholism, as a 50-year-old, I had to look at the fact my behaviors were often not adult-like. I blamed everyone else (my poor ex-husband) for my problems and expected other people (same poor ex-husband) to take care of me, including my kids. I made bad choices, like children do, not healthy adults. I took on the role of a victim.

With Brenda’s intervention, something shifted. From that point on, partly because I saw relapsing again as the ultimate in acting like a child, I didn’t drink. I reluctantly put the big girl pants on, stiff and ill-fitting as they were, and started pretending like I was an adult. Gawd, that was hard. Still is, some days.

My first year of recovery was rough. It is for most addicts who get sober. It was 500 times more difficult than what I thought it would be, and here is the incredibly hopeful part….it was 5000 times more rewarding than I ever imagined. There were so many more miracles, blessings, moments of joy and love than I anticipated. I learned not to love myself, YET, but I let the women in the program love me until I could find some self-love. I learned about things that made me happy –i.e. had no idea I liked to bake so much! Didn’t know what a thrill I would get from getting a call from one of my kids at midnight and picking them up without worrying about a flashing light in my rearview mirror. Didn’t know I could fall asleep without heavy sedation, have close friendships, feel love from my children, find a book so enjoyable, or laugh so much. One day, early in recovery, I saw a flock of birds flying in formation and teared up at the beauty of the birds working with each other to fly. Until this moment, thinking about that, it occurs to me that’s what we do in AA, NA, and Al-Anon. We still have to do the work, but there is someone right beside us, making it bearable and fun and exhilarating.