technicolor life.

by now you may have done the math and figured out that summer of 2004-november of 2006 does not amount to a very long drinking career. and you would be right. except for the part that alcoholism is a progressive disease and, while there were long breaks in between college and my drinking days later, it only got worse. never better. i knew at the time that if i didn’t get sober then that i would end up in rehab in 25 years at best. with all due respect to my dad, and for as much as i love and miss him, i did not want to end up like him. it breaks my heart to say that his disease consumed his life. i would be lying to you if i did not tell you that there have been days when i wonder if i came in too early, especially in the beginning. as in, ‘surely i could go a few more years…?’ but it would just be too risky. while i had my wits about me, i knew i was given the opportunity to make that decision. i was one of the lucky ones.

that said, like every other alcoholic in your life, whether they have two years or 25, we all only have today by the grace of god. i know that i have to be vigilant about my sobriety, that if i do not stay on top of my spiritual life then i run the risk of becoming too confident that i am somehow capable of staying sober by my own efforts. i am not so naive to think that, on any given day, i could very easily end up back ‘out there’ like so many other friends i have seen come in and out of the program.

{it didn’t take me long to realize that my drinking was only a symptom of my greater issues. i dare say drinking wasn’t actually my problem. anger was. bitterness and resentment and depression were. i used alcohol -and anything else in the moment that felt good (ie, spending money, sex with strangers, etc.)- to escape my life.}

about 17 days or so after i got sober, my sweet friend matt came to visit from florida. we made these plans before i got sober and, lord bless him, i was a crazy person when he came to visit. he was here for a week and eventually we were hardly speaking to each other. but we had planned on going on a hiking trip before he left and on that hike, the world seemed like it was in technicolor. like i was suddenly seeing color for the first time. it was beautiful.

i remember my first cry as a sober person. i sat alone in my car in my driveway and wasn’t sure if i was going to make it. but i remember that cry feeling SO good and being SO cleansing.

i made a lot of mistakes as a newly sober person. like many of us, i thought i was the exception to the suggestion that we should wait a year to date someone and found love after 60 days. he was a former crackhead who had additionally spent over half of his life in and out of aa. my parents were so proud.

i had a wonderful sponsor when i first got sober, and then a wonderful second sponsor when my first one moved. both had incredible programs (which is aa-speak for ‘i admired their sobriety’). i learned so much from them. neither judged me or was bossy; they simply helped me navigate life as a sober person and made suggestions as i went along.

i did my fourth and fifth steps when i was six months sober. on the fourth step, you ‘make a searching and fearless moral inventory’ of one’s self. one suggested way of doing this is to make a list of our sexual history, resentments and then what my part was in every case. the fifth step is when you tell god and someone else everything on those lists. uh…yeh. i decided to do my fifth step with karen because she knew everything else about me, including when i was leaving out the details that would be found on those lists. she would never say this -well, perhaps she would- but in a way i kind of felt like i owed it to her out of respect for our relationship and in order for us to move forward in a completely honest setting. i was told that i would likely be bitchy while i was making that list, that it would take some time to make it, and that i would know when i was finished. i was, it did and i did.

after three weeks of working on my list, i took it to karen on a saturday morning and i spent 3 1/2 hours telling her everything that was on it. i knew she wouldn’t judge me but you might understand that my legs were like jello as i walked up the steps to her office. see, all of these things…i knew that if only god ever knew them, that if i could keep everything secret, then i could pretend like they never really happened. i was once told that my feeling like i was in trouble all the time was a result of carrying around all my secrets.

she just listened to every detail and asked questions if anything needed clarity but was mostly silent. and when i was finished, we prayed and thanked god for shining his light on those dark places. and when i opened my eyes, the light in the room had shifted and i felt a breeze on my back. i knew immediately it was because i was no longer shouldering the weight of the world. and in that moment, i knew i was free. i’m sure i could remember some of the things on those lists if i tried but, for the most part, that list is not even a memory. because that’s how it is with god. and i will tell you this: i never -not once- ever confessed anything as a christian to another christian in church.

{my friend brennan manning says that church should look more like an aa meeting, which i tend to agree. just broken people who know they need god.}

my first year of sobriety, my church was our clubhouse. my congregation, the 7 am group. in aa, everyone has their own higher power. but jesus, after bringing me there, stayed with me there. and that’s where he showed me himself, in the faces of the broken and down-and-outers where there few masks and there was support and encouragement available to whomever needed it. (and we all needed it.) jesus looks different to me through my experience of aa than who i learned him to be in conventional church. he is nicer and kinder and stronger and more forgiving than i understood him to be. and he loves. oh, how he loves.

there are times when once-in-a-while i recognize myself as a ‘dry drunk’. as in, i may not be drinking but i may as well be because i blame and point fingers and feel sorry for myself. (and, by the way, this is neither a pretty or a good thing.) so i do whatever is necessary to take care of myself. i call a friend or go to a meeting or i help someone else. i usually drive if i anticipate the potential need to remove myself from an uncomfortable or toxic situation. i don’t hang out in bars anymore because, really, what would be the point? i can do it, i have done it. but i get bored easily, which is a dangerous place for a sober person to be, especially in a bar. i know my tools and resources that empower and help me. but those tools don’t do me any good sitting on a shelf. i have to be pro-active.

that’s probably one of the biggest gifts sobriety has given me: the desire to be an active participant in my life instead of a spectator watching life happen around me. i no longer feel sorry myself and recognize that i have good, better and best choices that may or may not make a difference in my life or anyone else’s – the point is: they are my choices to make.

another priceless gift i’ve been given is that i really feel my feelings now. on a normal level, i mean. i don’t run, escape or hide from my emotions. and they don’t look crazy, dramatic or extreme. for example, i really love crying. i mean, i don’t, actually (especially because i have such an ugly cry-face). but what i mean is, i love feeling my tears. i love feeling my feelings.

my relationships have also changed since getting sober, most notably with my family. i’m calmer and…well, nicer. my mom recently told me that she appreciates how i use the tools i’ve been given in aa and in counseling to approach life situations. in general, especially in the last year, i’ve just become less about myself. i mean, in my blog, i can really only talk about myself, you know? but i mean, in my day-to-day life, i have become less important. not unimportant, just less so. i am provided for, taken care of, clothed, fed and loved. god really does take care of me, i don’t have to worry with myself. i have learned that the quality of my life is measured in how i treat people and if i love them well.

there are few adages i’ve picked up in aa that i am aware of on a daily basis. one is ‘would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?’ i mean, really? is making my point really that important if it means you and i are going to end up fighting or i might hurt someone’s feelings? i’ve also learned that, just because i think it, doesn’t mean that you need to hear it or that you need to hear it from me. i heard a seasoned person say once, ‘there aren’t bumps in the road. this is the road.’ life happens. i also heard someone say, ‘i didn’t know what i didn’t know before i knew it’, which i’ve found only makes sense to someone whose been through something similar to getting sober.

another is, ‘it’s not my business what other people think of me.’ woh. grab hold of that one if you can. life-changing.

in most meetings, we will open and close with the lord’s prayer and/or 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.

{accepting things beyond my control, no matter how big or how small, has been huge for me. life is made easier when i go with the flow.}

about two years ago, when i was coming up on my second anniversary, i asked a woman who had been in the program for many years, ‘at what point do you stop waiting for the other shoe to drop?’ she said it was around the three-year mark. my dad died right before that time, which also had something to do with no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop, but i would say that has continued to be true in the last year even so. i’m no longer nervous or afraid of something bad happening (mostly because the worst thing i ever dreamed of happening did).

this is all just a part of my experience in living life as a sober person. it really is a daily process. do i still think about drinking? sometimes. do i walk into a party and immediately assess what everyone is drinking? yep. do i take an inventory of the alcohol in my mom or my sisters’ homes? definitely. but i will tell you that there is not. one. thing. i can think of that would be reason enough for me to ever start drinking again. i wake up every day thanking god that, with his help, i am happy, joyous and free just as the program promises i will be.



at a


31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sharon O
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 01:34:00

    wonderful. you are awesome.
    Good job. Keep sharing KEEP talking… others need your story.

  2. Heather "stottie" Johns
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 08:29:28

    Mary Kathryn – eloquent, brave, TRUE. You are doing God’s grace justice, dear. Keep working it! Love you.

  3. Steph
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 09:05:03

    Amen and amen. I read another friends blog post this morning and felt that Romans 8:36-39 and 1 John 5:4 applied to her expression of her journey. I think they apply here as well. Thank you for sharing your expression of faith.

  4. Amanda
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 10:11:34

    You are such a strong brave woman of God! Love you!

  5. shawna
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 11:18:29


  6. Douglas
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 14:28:03

    thank you for living one day at a time. it is a lesson we all have to learn, sooner or later, preferably sooner.

    i appreciate your frankness. keep at it, and may others be encouraged by your story.

  7. Sam
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 16:53:11

    you are awesome! your post although very different flows with a similar message of what I was hit with today… I am glad you got your message!

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Sep 15, 2010 @ 09:41:49

      it takes what it takes, doesn’t it? um, and, btw, karen and i have a joke about how i will always obey, if not immediately then eventually. give grace to yourself, sweet friend. not sure what you’re facing, but there’s glory in the grit. love you. xo

  8. Leigh
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 19:31:50

    All I can say is: yay! I’m so glad that you’ve embraced Christ’s freedom from alcohol. I pray that your story will reach others struggling with addiction and that it will give them hope.

  9. Caroline Kaspar
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 21:50:07

    You are AWESOME!!! Keep sharing, I still feel badly that you never stayed w/ me in CLT this summer & that it never worked out that week:( We will have to make up for it at Elmos.
    I love you MK!!!

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Sep 15, 2010 @ 09:43:31

      ELMO’S!? that is, like, a hundred months away! surely we can make something happen before our fourth annual elmo’s christmas brunch!? seriously, i miss you. and i love you. and i’m sorry it didn’t work out for me to stay with you in clt, either. :(

      love you soooo much, cc!


  10. Lynde Ross
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 15:00:46

    he is nicer and kinder and stronger and more forgiving than i understood him to be. and he loves. oh, how he loves.

    This is going in my favorite quotes column. My new fb status. My new belief system. Oh, sweet grace. You are a quite a picture of it. Love you.

  11. Courtney
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 21:59:21

    mary kathryn, i can’t stop reading your blog! thank you for sharing your story. It never ceases to amaze me how he uses the very raw material of our messed up lives to create something so beautiful and…lasting i guess. Your story and insights is a blessing to many!

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Oct 04, 2010 @ 22:25:34

      thank you so much, courtney!

      dear lord, i *hope* it’s both beautiful and lasting, else what’s it all for? i feel like we’re each responsible for our own story, you know? some express it through writing…others, through photography… ;)


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