Updated: Oct 2
Live Free or Die was a bumper sticker I resonated with long ago. I wanted my own way in all matters, and I never liked authority or constrictive people or clothes. I do wish to write from the heart, of my experience, strength and hope.
Actually, in the middle of this first draft I rolled off my chair and did some stretches. I just searched/prayed deeply, for the words to give meaning to the significance of this topic. It has been and remains the most important and precious decision to live a life of sobriety, sanity and serenity for me…bar none and no matter what happens, good, bad or indifferent. “This too shall pass,” as is said in the rooms.
In the beginning, I was a bad girl even at age 2. I crawled to the top of the cupboards and found some diet pills that looked to me like candy! Soon I was off to the races, rocking back and forth on my rocking horse. This was a racing start of one of the beginnings of the head games and fantasies created for my pleasure and escapism. Later at times it would become a darker neighborhood.
It was bizarre because I had a wholesome childhood with church camps, girl scouts, parents that didn’t smoke drink or even swear. We were ‘Free’ Methodists. Whatever the reason or non-reason I earned my seat in the not-too-distant future.
At 15 or 16 I was nearly sent to a Bible Institute in the prairies of Canada when I first came stumbling home drunk. It was that damn little tricky hall table I knocked over that woke everyone up. We had the big family powwow that next morning, never to be forgotten. I nearly did get sent off to the cold and repressive P.B.I.
Now, Australia was the country I loved throughout my childhood, kangaroos over koalas and endless sun, beaches, desert, a treat from rainy grey days of Seattle. I always thought life was too short to be cold, wet and every shade of grey. Fortunately, my father was laid off in the late sixties from an aircraft company and we moved to Southern California when I was 12. He chose Santa Ana and bought a funky house in the ghetto fringe without consulting my mother.
The good news was I learned to make tortillas from a neighbour and learned more of authentic Mexican foods. I later put this to profitable good use and consulted to Mexican food companies, restaurant chains and even created a Mexican cookbook. Mexico and Margaritaville were places I travelled to often. So many recipes were Pollo Boracho or drunken chicken, soused shrimp, tequila lime marinades and Kahlua chocolate mousse.
One editor for my first cookbook mentioned, “There’s a lot of wine in these recipes!” Weekends were at the beach where I explored the caves at Corona Del Mar and body surfed the Wedge until I hit the shore break. The waves came in sets at Corona and soon I learned to time and take off perfectly on my boogie board or solo self. It became a family joke saying, “Just one more wave before we have to go, please?” It was a magic time and began my love of Nature.
And then the hallucinogenic came into favour. What was at first “fun” became a monster of addictions that held me in sway. I stumbled on through college, paying for all myself with three jobs, one scholarship and a full load of credits still maintaining a 3.85. Aren’t alcoholics tenacious?
I took off for my junior year abroad and studied at the Cordon Bleu where I made myself take a shine to wine little knowing I would later be overly fond of the Chardonnay cocaine diet. At the Cordon Bleu nearly everything we made had cream, cognac and butter in it so most of us gained at least 5 pounds or 2.5 kilos. But hey, we were now chefs Cordon Bleu!
On it went for the next 8 years; food and wine tastings, dating and drugging, job changes and amazing travels, a roller coaster ride ending in not one but two DUI’s. Drink Driving! I was scared, rebellious and still drinking sometimes. I was the classic egomaniac with an inferiority complex. My first sponsor, Amazing Grace came up to me one day and said, “This program works better if you quit drinking. It will only end in insanity or death if you keep doing what you’re doing, by the way.” Thirty-seven years later we are still in touch.
Those days in the early eighty’s in So Cal were such a wonderful place to get sober. Chuck C was still alive though in a wheelchair, Dr Paul spoke often in Laguna Niguel, the Pacific Group was as always, hard-core with strong positive principles. It was like a sober Disneyland.
My first commitment meeting was at 6am (shock and horror) an Attitude Adjustment theme that set the spot-on tone for every day. I did go to 90 meetings in 90 days, had a sponsor, began the steps, and read often from the Big Book. Outside beach meetings abounded, as did sober campouts, boat rides, river rafting adventures and baseball games.
One special meeting that helped me so much was a smaller cosy woman’s meeting in Laguna where I could really open up. The sharing of more confidential experiences and women’s issues was a place I could get comfortably candid with what exactly went down with all the adventures and misadventures. Those times set the foundation for the principles of AA, the unconditional love from others and the deeper understanding of the acronyms and homilies which abound. The HOW of it: Honest Open and Willing and HALT: not getting too hungry, angry, lonely or tired/thirsty were two of my fave’s along with all the true and funny forms of FEAR.
Wherever I moved in my career in sobriety; from California, Colorado, Washington State, North Carolina, Florida and Idaho I started a Women’s Promises group. I got sober to be happy, joyous and free! I wanted to live life healthfully with gratitude and start sharing and learning how the promises were worked and working in lives. Wherever I went, for however long, first thing I found were the meetings. After living in so many places it was enormously enriching having many different sponsors and a variety of meetings.
However, I would be slipshod if not sharing my one relapse. After my first year of sobriety, I saved enough money by not drinking, smoking, drugging to finally go to Australia. Did I mention once I stopped drinking, I quit smoking, tried to lose 10 pounds (5 kilos) and start my own business? With the help of my Higher Power most came to fruition.
So, my last drink was a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon after a terrible time at the dentist in self-pity and fear, October 11, 1983. And just like it’s always been said I then had the drink on top of the problem(S)!
A pastor and neighbour once said, “We are just meant to Love God, ourselves and others.” Another simple sounding phrase but not easy. I took it to heart though, similar to “We are all God’s children and let us love one another and rack up the fun points here on earth” …okay a little creative license.
This and doing the next right thing, living in the moment with balance and loving intention keeps it serene and straightforward for me. By getting into action and service with prayer for guidance woven in the day my present now is remarkably happy as a byproduct of right living. And this is what AA does for me – gives me the tools for living sober and spiritually. By the time I written, worked, worked out, went to a meeting, worked with others, the day is nearly done, and I’ve had a full free day from all addictions. And the program works for them all!
This is what I strove for so long ago: “Live free or Die” but even better live free (from all addictions) and with a new happiness. I found my tribe in Australia and my family of choice. I run with the winners and the positive people. Enthusiasm with an attitude of gratitude works for me and I do insist upon enjoying life. So, my cup doth runneth over—more than half filled!
These days I try and share the sober healthy way by sponsoring, saying yes to any service requests possible, teaching and writing about wellness, cooking, well-being and even Recovery with Hope.
Setting better boundaries, thinking things through and first and making better quality of choices are finally tools implemented. Recently I bought a property here in Woodanillng ~ my first orchard and corrals/ paddocks for horses. But first and foremost, I endeavour to do God’s will, grow in the light, live sober and serene and skate along the sunny side of the street.
So, if you are a newcomer, I invite you to join our journey and the journey to know yourself and come to realise the jewel you are, happy, joyous and free!
Secondly, if you want the full measure of Recovery with good mood power foods, 30 Minute Meals, protocols and exercise that’s fun, do peruse my new column covering the connection between sobriety and wellbeing. Most of my sharing will come from 30 Minutes to Health (on Amazon), my 18th cookbook requiring five years of research and about 35 years of recipe testing R&D!
Here’s a link to a video on my website from the chapter Overcoming Obesity.
Recipes will be included in future columns, but this first time do write in your email, questions, topics of interest and I’ll send you the menu and a gifting of one of my eBook cookbooks!
Cheers to Recovery Susanne Wilder