Sober Girl


At one of my first meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, a member declared,

“Today, I live a life beyond my wildest dreams!”

As I slumped in a hard-backed chair, duly humbled, clutching the cliché of a Styrofoam cup between my hands, I thought,

“Oh, goody! Now I’ll finally become a movie star!”

I had no idea there will never be a career big enough, a bank account large enough, or enough attention to satisfy my self-seeking, alcoholic soul. Never. Enough.

In 2011, I lived only to swallow pills. To pluck them from the bottom of their plastic home with greedy, agitated fingers. To lie, steal and punish those around me who could not fulfill my constant need for more. Henriette had disappeared. I was a drug-seeking animal, existing only to drink and use on the gift of a kidney from my husband.

“My name is Henriette, and I am a drug addict and an alcoholic.”

I have lost the power of choice to an allergy of the body and obsession of the mind. To a disease listed in the AMA, but outlined in Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual malady.
I no longer get to sip champagne after winning a writing award. I cannot take opiates for chronic pain. I must decline toasting my husband with a glass of Manischewitz.

But in exchange for this progressive and fatal disease, I get something better.

Today, a community of people has turned my world upside down: Alcoholics Anonymous. From my first meeting, they squatted inside my heart and refused to leave. The women and men of AA never judged me for drinking rubbing alcohol. Never shamed me for the 15 months I raised my hand as a Newcomer, post-rehab, unable to stop stealing pain medication. Or lying. Or hating everyone and everything, including them.

Thank you to my beautiful sponsor who takes my calls, smiles when I can’t, and reaches out her hand when I pull away. She reminds me of the ironic truth, that through chronic pain I have built a gorgeous relationship with my God. My homie. I love you, D.

Thank you to my beautiful sponsees who allow me into their lives and their innermost selves. It is a privilege. To sponsor has been my greatest joy. I love you all so much.

Thank you always to my in-laws and dearest friend, E, who paid for 60 days in rehab, which in turn, introduced me to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I would never have found AA on my own.

Today has less to do with me than anything I have ever “accomplished.” Every morning, my broken body and aching soul shows up with a tiny bit of willingness. That is all. AA and my God do the rest. I am granted a one-day reprieve, where my soul is set free.

When I look at my life on paper, it goes one of two ways:

Crazy, talk radio, all-Henriette-all-the-time mind focuses on this: My skin hurts! What if my kidney rejects? I haven’t landed an agent for The Book! I have no career! I only make $900 a month in disability! My hair won't grow! He didn’t like my post! She didn't like my post!

Never. Enough.

But when I invite God in, I no longer see me. I see We: Friends, family, community, and God. And Kevin. My Kevin. Forever.

Today, I don’t always like my life, but I want my life. No matter what.

Today, I am enough.

And that is my wildest dream come true.

This is beautiful! I am happy you found the help you needed. There are so many people that do not have a support group and will not get help. My husband, Jim, lost his sweet soul of a brother to alcoholism. I wish he had gotten help. We tried, he would not. So many people suffer with so many things, but are too embarrassed to seek help or a shoulder to cry on. Good for you for sharing such a personal battle! You are incredible, beautiful and extremely talented. —Kim Brewer Cusick.
You are one of my favorite wordsmiths!

— Lee Rose
Beautiful words as ever, Hen. I’m quite sure most people struggle to feel they are close to “enough.” The arduous journey you have been on to be so, I believe, is unfortunately more often than not an essential prerequisite to finding that out.

— Elle Chalfen

— Ann Lantello
Congratulations. Powerful journey. Stunning writing.

— Jean Badoud Riddell

— Heather Shoopman