When An Addict Says “No More”

Read full post at allisonmarieconway.substack.com

Some of us had to crawl on our hands and knees for years just to say those blessed words out loud. You arrive at them carried mysteriously by a heart that won’t give up, though it’s been strangled by fear and slashed again and again by sheer exhaustion. Or at least, that was me. I almost couldn’t believe I was finally saying “enough is enough.” And meaning it.

Continue reading / listening to this post at allisonmarieconway.substack.com

Moving On and So It Goes (audio 72 / day 286)

Moving on is a very weird thing. Even if you have longed for it in one way or another for what feels like an eternity, when the time comes and you are really sure you are sure – there’s something in you that’s still not totally sure. It’s like 100% is just maybe not a real thing in any decision or situation in a human life. There’s always a teeny bit of your inner workings – your heart, your mind, your nervous system – that’s afraid, or hesitant, or resistant, or holding on tooth and nail in some kind of desperate last ditch effort to keep you from heading on out the door. Even if that is exactly what it’s time to do. And not look back.

It so happens I find myself in such a place right now as I make plans for the next phase of my life. My writing life. My work life. My sober life. My life life where all of the things that once felt so disjointed are finally starting to come together under the same umbrella that is me. The biggest driving force behind my sobriety has ultimately been my deep desire for integration of myself. Alignment of my values on the inside – my intentions, beliefs, world views – with my actions on the outside.

But just as there is no such thing as duality, there is no such thing as being in the new life and out of the old life with just the snap of a finger, or a change of address, as it were. Transitions take time. There is liminal space between what is dead and gone, and what is coming soon. I am in liminal space now, in every conceivable sense of that idea. A very big season of my life is over, never to return. Hiding inside of an alcohol addiction is a long and painful chapter which has mercifully come to a close. Hallelujah and praise fucking be.

To stop abusing of myself (it isn’t substance abuse, do you see what I mean there? you can’t hurt the wine, the wine hurts you) means not only to stop drinking but also to stop hiding who I am at my center, at my core, as it becomes clearer and clearer to me. And while removing the wine from my home was one thing, a tangible visible thing, what I am left with now to manage are the murkier realities, traumas, and disordered thoughts, which are all but invisible to the outside world. People can see that I am sipping Pellegrino now instead of (… god fuck, even to write these words causes a sick taste to slick the back of my throat) Sauvignon Blanc, but what they cannot see is what’s going on inside my mind as I take in my surroundings at a party or concert or picnic. While I’m thrilled to bits to enter holiday season entirely hangover free, I’m also so nervous my heart is right now racing in my chest.

Liminal space. The storm is over but the river is still swollen, still muddy, still turbulent. It will be some time for all to settle into its new way of flow. We must first die fully and completely. No going from summer right to spring. First autumn. Then winter. Winter, winter, winter.

As I type this, a heavy rain begins to fall outside my writing room window. I am reminded of how many times my writing has evolved with me over the years. How many absolutely beautiful, kindred souls have stuck with me through all the changes. I’m so damn grateful. Let’s keep going. I’ll still be writing. It’ll be new and new, right now, for me, is a very very good thing.

You can follow my new writings on my new substack account at allisonmarieconway.substack.com

I’ll see you there. I’ll see you so soon.

How I Knew I Was An Alcoholic (audio 69 / day 277)

For the record, even as I tell this story – my own story – I still can’t hardly believe it. This is the bizarre nature of addiction, of alcoholism. It was described to me as ‘having a disease that tells you you don’t have a disease.’ Which sounds insane to me. But when I tell my story it proves true. Which makes it quite challenging to live with because your head tells you one thing but your actions display another. And you only get one mind and one body to make sense of each other. I know that sounds confusing. Confounding, even. Welcome to my life. My name is Allison and I have no problem saying I am an alcoholic. For me, after 20+ years of wrestling with this monster inside me, it feels like a relief to name it. It helps me sort of contain it, study it. Over the past 9 months of my sobriety, I have been trying to put the pieces of my past together by looking at what has happened to me through a new lens. The lens of: I have an addiction and this is how I know, this is what addiction looks like.

I am someone who cannot have a lick of booze for the rest of my life. I know that much. For some people, that sounds scary to say or admit. For me just a year ago it was terrifying for me to even think about, hence why I didn’t get sober for over two decades. I started drinking at age 21 and immediately it was the thing I wanted more of as often as I could have it. And pretty much right away, I started having situations. Going home with strange men, having no judgment or discernment whatsoever. Blackouts where I would get kicked out of bars for passing out or I would pass out at dinner tables in restaurants, having no clue how to pace myself or moderate. Later on I’d start fights with my husband on vacations where I just drank as much as I felt like and didn’t stop. It was really very very bad and very very scary and stupid and sick.

But I would just try to ‘cut back next time.’ In hindsight that is plain insanity. I was never going to cut back. I was never going to be able to. Alcoholism was having a field day with me and I couldn’t even see it.

Ultimately, two things happened that led to my getting sober on January 1, 2022. The first breaks my heart to pieces and I will only tell it briefly because while the story involves me it involves me only as a sidebar character in someone else’s story. I don’t have any right to tell. In April of 2021, my uncle died from multiple complications, one of them was alcoholism. He was a beautiful, complicated, loving soul. He was only 59. He left behind my dear aunt and three beautiful amazing cousins. There is way more to the story, as there always is when telling the story of how your life intertwines in intimate and unique ways with ones you love so very much. Please do not think I tell this story to make my precious uncle and family seem like a one-dimensional plot point in the story of my life living with addiction and going through recovery. I have kept my uncle’s funeral prayer card with me in my journal since he passed. Something in me believes he’s looking out for me, even now. He knows what addiction is. And I bet he knew, too, how terrifying the thought of ever quitting was.

Every story of addiction and every story of every person’s life is for them to tell. I only share this story about my uncle because it was so deeply, deeply jarring to me to lose him that fast. Once it was revealed that he was gravely ill it was only about two months or so until he passed away. I guess in my mind, in my whole body, it was a flashing red light. Warning: you do not get infinite tries to get better. The thing that is secretly hurting you can absolutely silently kill you, too.

Whether or not you say it to yourself, admit it to yourself, whether or not you want to look at your darkness – your darkness is there.

So that was the first thing, in April of 2021, that truly shook me to my core, in a way I had never been shaken awake before. Suddenly my denial of my own disease was not so easy to deny anymore. I saw the pain, I felt the deep pain and sadness of what alcoholism does to its victim and to his whole family. It is not fair. But it is very, very real.

The second thing that happened was that I was on an overnight vacation get-away with my husband during which I proceeded to get very drunk on gin and tonics before, during, and after dinner. Somehow I annoyed him so much that he left me alone in the hotel room. Just walked out. I guess once it dawned on me he had left me, I ran after him out of the hotel and down a very dark deserted street. I ran so fast, fueled by so much alcohol and fury, that I tripped and fell and busted up my knee. I do not remember how I got myself back to the hotel room. I know I did it alone. The next morning I woke up hungover and livid, my knee throbbing for reasons not apparent to my foggy brain yet. I remember saying to him something like, ‘You cannot get me all liquored up and then just abandon me. It’s not fair. It’s not okay.’ and he apologized. How pathetic a display from both of us. So sick. That was August. 2021.

That incident scared me in a new way. I am still doing this shit. The sheer magnitude of of the weight of spending my whole adult life fucking around with booze until I was completely out of control. And telling myself that ‘next time will be different.’ Next time? What on earth? Why in the fucking fuck would should I ever get a next time? And why on earth would it ever be different after 20 years of the same nonsense?

Addiction is deadly. It may take decades or it might take a few years or months, but alcoholism is a disease that aims to kill. That is 100% the only goal. A thousand drinks is never enough, will never be enough. It’s the nature of the beast. It will kill its host. It will kill anyone around who gets in the way. It does not care. It will never go away.

So by the time the December holidays rolled around, the husband and I were set to go away for yet another few overnights. And as I was packing my suitcase, it downed on my that I could not be 100% sure that I would not pull some alcohol-infused stunt as I had in the past. That I could not promise I would not get drunk and do something stupid, dangerous, or destructive. And yet here we were going right back at it. Denial, denial, denial. But this time, I knew I was denying. And something in me was calling bullshit.

We did go away. I did drink. But I sipped slow, cut to water every other drink, calculated and and managed every drop. It was annoying and exhausting to think that hard through each drink. We had a fight anyway but ‘made up’ over shots of whiskey.

New Years Ever was set to be a boozefest, too, and it was. Many Manhattans, much wine and much champagne. It was a hectic night for other reasons which included a Covid scare and last minute cancellation, yadda ya. but we still managed to slug down much of the liquor intended for more than just the few of us who remained. The next morning’s hangover was brutal. I felt like death. We all laughed it off. I never drank again.

For a month or two, sobriety was very cringey. But I slid in with the Dry January crowd at first and the pink cloud of euphoria was very real, which helped me keep my momentum going. Waking up each day without a hangover felt like I could fly or do anything. Like I had my whole life back, all of me returned to myself. And I was more glorious a being to inhabit than I ever realized. I was amazed. Grateful. Stronger than I ever realized I was all along.

I think there were 2 major drivers for me to stay sober. Number one was myself, my health – my mental, physical, spiritual, and relationship health. Number two was that I felt (and still very much feel) deeply compelled to break the silent cycle of addiction. Because I really do want to do right by myself, my family, and the audience I have gathered to me through my writing over the past many years. I just want to finally be clean and come clean. Say, Look, here is what I have been up against. It’s been monstrous and I have been trying to hide it and hide from it. It’s been hell even though I ‘held it together’ all this time.

What gives me the courage to come forward? Self respect. And I know alcoholism isn’t my fault. I did not ask for this. I never wanted this. I did not even understand this. But it happened. As Laura McKowen, author of We Are the Luckiest, would say: This is my thing. Drinking. Drinking was my thing and alcoholism always will be. So. I do not drink anymore.

I do not fuck with alcohol. That is how this has to go. There is no more questioning the truth. It is real. It is honest. It’s just brutally, brutally honest. And the weird thing is, I now realize, you can be brutally honest about your addiction and still not hardly believe it. Not hardly believe you have it, not hardly believe how crippling your active struggle with it was, not hardly believe you actually carried yourself to safety. But maybe that is where my disbelief meets my new found faith. Faith that there is something inside that wants me well. And even though that thing was only a whisper, it was loud enough to deafen my silent killer. I have faith in that small knowing voice. And I do believe if I stay sober and stay close, it will guide me from here to much brighter, more spectacular times to come.


*All of my Sobriety Audios are collected for you here (or go to the top of this page and click “Sobriety Audios (Free Downloads).” You can listen as often as you want, anywhere, anytime, for free, forever.

Not Like Everybody Else (audio 67 / day 269)

Today is the very first day of building a very new life for myself. Well, I guess technically the “first” day would have been the day I got sober on January 1, 2022. But up until now I haven’t asked anyone to make any special accommodations for me in order to help me truly recover. I stopped drinking but I still hurt (I’m still messed up) in ways that need much deeper attention and care. So in that regard, today marks the first day I have to file actual paperwork in order to officially and very outwardly disrupt the pattern of my rather destructive old life in order to establish the foundations of a new one centered around sobriety. One where integrity comes first and only. Which sounds very lofty and lovely in my head but is rather disconcerting and a bit scary to execute in actual real life.

Today I will take a leave of absence from my day job. While I am surrounded by good people there, while it is a good company to work for and I have been there literally my entire adult working life (21 years), while I have it privileged and blessed and lucky and better than most by far, none of that being true can negate the fact that staying in that position, in that environment, in that way of life that requires me to pretend to be someone I am not, has been making me sick for almost a decade.

It’s sad in the sense that it’s so cliche. You get some money and proximity to power and even though you say it’s crushing your soul to give up your whole day (week/life) in service of an industry that means absolutely nothing to you, you keep doing it because you like that people like you for having money and prestige and security and fancy shit. It’s so stupid and yet it’s the foundation of just about everybody else’s life, too, which makes it all appear normal which makes it even worse. Collective delusion is still delusional.

In any event, this has been one hell of a year, man. Jesus baby christ. And even though it feels jarring and strange to sit here on a Monday morning and not go into an office, it’s more than that. I’m not pretending I’m fine. I know I need to fix some things and everybody else knows now, too. Because I stopped. I stopped faking. I stopped my life from bleeding out all over a false narrative. I have a chance now to make it right according to my truth, my desire, my dreams. It’s so good I almost can’t believe it. Almost. But I do believe. Because now I know one thing better than ever before: if I don’t believe, no one else will either.


*All of my 60+ Sobriety Audios are collected for you here (or go to the top of this page and click “Sobriety Audios (Free Downloads).” You can listen as often as you want, anywhere, anytime, for free, forever.

A Regular Sober Evening (audio 66 / day 265)

It’s the softest, sweetest time of day. The early evening. Trees moving in the autumn wind. Me alone in my writing room, nestled in blankets and a hoodie. Cappuccino next to my keyboard. And actual silence. Mercifully, not a single neighbor is mowing or power tooling or screaming at their screaming kids. All I hear is the traffic sifting by off on the distant highway which glides along beneath the railroad tracks. The silence has a kind of spirit, a kind of breath, at this hour. I can unwind from my day before the husband gets home and we get all involved with the making of the dinner and trading stories about what happened at the office and talk about how it’s not even worth talking about.

I used to guzzle the wine when we hung out making dinner and talking. Christ. I can feel it in my mouth, the fucking cool glass on my lips. It’s insane to me now. To be able to sit here and “remember when” I would drink wine. It’s so absurd it is honestly hilarious. I mean, I was enslaved to wine. We danced that stupid dance every single goddamn night. I missed them all. I was half baked every single night. I don’t even know if that’s the correct term but it fits. And it’s all in the past now. How did I do that? One day, man. One day over and over and over. One day at a time until time passes more than you can believe.

One day, three days, then twelve, then 20, 30, 60…. 200… 265. That’s how many days between me and the booze. 265 unbelievably real days. And the thing is those days would have passed either way. Wasted or clean. Sick as death or clear as a beautiful bell. But I chose clarity over poverty that’s all. The richness of presence over the devastation of addiction.

I think that’s what people often get wrong about addicts.

They may think my alcoholism or addiction was about gluttony, imbibing too much of what I wanted, taking more than I deserve. Greed. But it’s the opposite. It was about punishing myself for wanting anything at all. It was my attempt to bludgeon any feelings inside of desires I didn’t believe I was worthy of having.

It’s so sad to me when I really think about it. Because my desires weren’t bad or filthy or greedy or wrong. I just wanted comfort, love, acceptance, non-judgement. Freedom from self-inflicted pain. When you put down the bottle you drop the knife you had been holding to your own throat. You stop chasing the cruelty with drinks. It’s a good life, this sober one. Who in the hell would have ever believed it. I can tell you this…. now, I do.


*All of my 60+ Sobriety Audios are collected for you here (or go to the top of this page and click “Sobriety Audios (Free Downloads).” You can listen as often as you want, anywhere, anytime, for free, forever.

How to Do the Next Right Thing (audio 65 / day 263)

I can’t handle anymore stress and in an astonishing turn of events, I actually tell my boss this. Well, not my boss-boss but his second in command, to whom I also report. I say it not very bravely or strong-ly or matter-of-factly but rather staccato through some very embarrassing, persistent, inconvenient tears. I have this recovery thing going on, I tell her. This is why it’s been really tough and a strange year for me. She is completely understanding and even brainstorms with me ways to better my situation. I am immensely grateful and also more than a little bit stunned.

When you get sober they tell you: Do the next right thing. This is a lovely idea but in actuality it stops me in my tracks. The next right thing? Who the hell am I to know what’s right? Or what comes next?

For me what it means really is: Tell the truth. Tell the big ones and the little ones, each time they come up. The truth always rises to the top and it is our job as sober people to let it come forward. We are the gatekeepers of the truth of ourselves. We have to let it come forward, let it lead. In this way, if you just tell the truth, the true thing will come out in front and you just follow it.

We hold back our truth because we think it will hurt others or make them mad at us or whatever. But holding it in is a lie and lies destroy every hope we have of ever healing. It’s a trust thing. Do you trust the truth? What would happen if you did?

In active addiction mode, I spent so much time lying about being okay when I was not okay. But I did it because I felt trapped. I felt frozen in this place where I feared the consequences of truth telling so to try to spare myself the pain of holding the truth in, I told myself the truth was not real. That’s some fucking fucked up shit. That is some master level game playing. And ultimately it made everything worse because it severed my connection to myself.

You see – you are the truth. The reason you must tell it is because you are real. And every time you refuse to say what is true for you you create an unreal world where you do not actually exist. It’s like an attempt to live your life as a ghost. Something without weight or voice or substance. No wonder you can’t figure out where you fit, you haven’t spoken aloud your edges. You have to speak the truth which is that you have weight and take up space, which is that you have a voice that must be used, which is that you are made up of many, many deep complexities which all deserve to be explored.


*All of my 60+ Sobriety Audios are collected for you here (or go to the top of this page and click “Sobriety Audios (Free Downloads).” You can listen as often as you want, anywhere, anytime, for free, forever.

The Power In Walking Away (audio 64)

Sometimes there is power in walking away from a fight. We rarely hear about this, of course, in our battle obsessed culture. Because we are taught to be strong and by strong they mean: fight back, stand up for yourself. They mean: be stronger than the thing you are fighting with. We are taught never to back down. We believe that in order to be powerful we must fight to the death. If we admit defeat we must be cowards or losers or just not trying hard enough.

Each day for many days during many years, I would hope to have a chill drinking experience. I didn’t want to fight, I just wanted to mess around a little. You know like the kind of good go-around with the drinking they advertise to you with the glass of crisp white wine and the smiling, sexy, sophisticated lady and her lover sharing dessert in an outside garden or the laughter and cheer as she frolics about with her girlfriends as they live their best lives in some Tuscan vineyard and all that shit. What a great time wine always is! How relaxed and cool it makes us all. Except that wasn’t it. It was, in fact, the opposite of that. Because after the fifteen minute happiness, it became more dull than chill. And then after the first two or three glasses, an almost imperceptible agitation would slither in and as the wine kept flowing that subtle irritation just keep blooming and blooming larger and larger like the flower of a nuclear explosion.

I poured wine on my anger and anxiety like gasoline. On a good number of occasions, I was completely out of my mind by the time the bomb went off. Didn’t care. Didn’t even know. I had to come-to the day after and feel the pain of realizing some of the destruction caused. Assessing the scene. Piecing together fragments of what I could remember. How often it was a hell of a fight before I inevitably got knocked out. Wine glass left half full on the coffee table. Me, face down on a mattress and the wine quite literally still standing. As long as I could pry my eyes open and peel myself off the floor, the wine was ready to go another round.

The power in the face of that scenario is not obvious. Or should I say, what seems like the one with the obvious power is the wine. The alcohol, when I crawled into the ring with it, “won” so to speak. I get that now. It shreds my heart to pieces to think about, but I get it.

But to say I was powerless to alcohol, while true and while very necessary to admit, I agree, is not a full enough statement for me to leave at face value. Women are relentlessly reminded of their powerlessness in this society. This culture reminds us incessantly that we should stand down, watch our mouths, bite our tongues. Our human rights are under constant threat. It is exhausting, being bludgeoned over the head again and again with our “powerlessness.”

But in a much broader sense, there are many kinds of power. The power to destroy is alcohol’s kind of power and the only one it inherently possesses. But there is power in walking away from a battle you have no business engaging in. This is true if the opponent is far stronger than you, but it is also true if the opponent is beneath you. If the opponent doesn’t deserve to engage with you in the first place. In my case, the power exists in my ability to lay down the fight entirely. I do not fuck with alcohol. I do not answer its calls to get in the ring just one more time to see if I can finally get the upper hand.

We are done here. This ends here and now. No more fighting.

There is power in the peace of that. To lay down that fight is to stand in a kind of power that is entirely my own. No shame. No guilt. No fuckery. There are many kinds of power: the power to destroy and the power to rebuild, recreate, resurrect, reorganize, reevaluate, regenerate. Alcohol only has one. But I have them all.


*All of my 60+ Sobriety Audios are collected for you here (or go to the top of this page and click “Sobriety Audios (Free Downloads).” You can listen as often as you want, anywhere, anytime, for free, forever.

**I originally posted this article on June 11, 2022. I have re-release it today as an audio. I do think it is worth the reminder, even if only for myself.

Voice Command (day 251)

The tiny waitress walks by my table with a giant martini. That martini is sexy and beautiful. I think to myself. How could that have been me before? How can it NOT be me now? A mini tantrum fits and punches through my psyche.

I look away.

I turn my attention to my delicious food and my lovely husband and the conversation we are having with my brilliant son who is about to take a trip to San Diego for work. He loves the work he does and he is very much looking forward to seeing the west coast for the first time in his young life.

In under a minute, I have forgotten about the parading martini entirely.

At just over eight months sober, I’ve been having these random inner shit storms that basically sound like this: Well, this sober thing was a huge waste of time, wouldn’t you say, my dear? Guess this wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be – like, at all. Game over, yeah? We’ve lost the point of this little experiment, haven’t we? Why are we not joining in the drinking fun, again? Jesus mutherfucking CHRIST WOMAN can’t we just have one???????

And so forth.

The strange thing is, for many months there, I did not have this mental flip happening inside. I don’t think. I just know that now I am finding the ‘just drink one and drink it now come ON!’ voice is back and sounds just the way it did the first month of my sobriety in January. I am surprised by this – though, logically, I should not be. They say (They? Whoever They are) it’s one day at a time and that the voice never entirely dies off. He was quiet for a long time, though. And he’s quiet mostly now. But once in a while…

There’s no point in sharing this other than to record it for myself in real time. To remind myself that all I am doing to stay sober is working and is 100% necessary and it’s worthy work. And in case anyone else out there can relate.

Overall. I’m good. I’m solid in my sobriety. I know that the glasses of booze I can’t help but notice all around me are just a mirage. Illusions of euphoria, glittering and sweet, seducing me with fantasies of a kind of endless pleasure that doesn’t actually exist.

What Getting Sober Really Means (audio)

I think what getting sober is about is getting into alignment with your truest deepest self. And learning how to integrate all of yourself – mind, body, soul, spirit, environment, thoughts, beliefs, commitments, goals, dreams, creations, prayers, words, actions – so that as you move through your day, your night, any given moment, you feel an inner peace. That peace becomes your anchor. Your center. That peace keeps you true. True as in: faithful to yourself, your sobriety, and true as in: in perfect balance. Your steady state is one of humble confidence. Not competing with anyone. No conflict between what you say or do and what you believe. So it’s a bit heavy I guess you could say, because sobriety encompasses everything. But if you can let go of the weight of self-doubt and the burden of keeping the lies and hiding the truth in addiction – your existence, your joy, your experience of the ups and downs of this crazy life – becomes light. Or you can hold it all lightly. More gently. You remind yourself over and over every time you don’t pick up, every time you choose your truth over false outside beliefs: I can take care of myself. I’ve got me, I’m good. I’m okay. I’m safe. I can breathe and be in this moment and I do not have to rush it along. /

I’m Eight Months Sober Today (audio)

I’m eight months sober today. Not a whole hell of a lot to say just feeling very humbled and tremendously grateful. It’s been a wild eight months. So much is clear to me now. About myself. About the energy within me and around me. The sacredness of my existence and of the existence of all things. I don’t know – never have known, never may know – what to say about God or the Divine, but I can promise this. There is something out there. Something which moves powerfully and effortlessly through time and space, light and shadow. And it is grace and fulfillment. It never lies. It aches and it rescues. It whispers and destroys the things – all the merciless things – that have ever, ever hurt us.

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