Yes, I am an alcoholic. And yes, I own a bar.
Some of my friends recently have asked how I manage, what it’s like, what it was like… So I thought I would write and address any lingering curiosities.
My husband graduated from the University of Florida from the School of Building and Construction. He built both commercial and residential homes until he came across a piece of property along the Jupiter inlet for purchase. He had plans to build another commercial or condo building, until the local fisherman continued to crack beers after a long day and hang out at the then “bait and tackle shop.” With absolutely no plans to ever be in the service industry yet somewhat aware of the opportunity at hand, my husband capitalized on what he believed would be a good investment and purchased a liquor license. Fast forward to now 14 years later and my husband, along with a team of incredible employees, have built that little bait shop into one of South Florida’s most popular hot spots, with a second location that we built and recently opened up the coast.
And then he married an alcoholic. Well, he didn’t know it at the time, and neither did I. We dated, partied, traveled and took nothing too seriously in the beginning. My drinking looked average at best, with an occasion drunken petty argument at worst, and therefore never really raised any concerning red flags.
Shortly after we married however, things quickly spiraled out of control. The realization that marriage didn’t make me “happy” nor “complete” me, mixed with my shame burdens and never ending insecurities surrounding the uncertainties of having no life direction, simply became too much to bear. My occasional drinking turned into daily drinking, turned into morning drinking, and well, you get the point. You can read more in depth details about my rock bottom here: https://www.mombojombo.org/new-page/
Navigating through sobriety is hard for anyone, but it definitely had it’s unique challenges as a “bar owner.” It took a while for me to attend events or functions we hosted, and even longer to share with anyone I had a problem with alcohol. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and worried my problem would cast a shadow on our business and family name in our small seaside town.
The beautiful thing (one of the MANY beautiful things) about recovery is that nothing happens overnight. As much as I wanted to be comfortable about my new found sobriety and announce it to the world, it didn’t come naturally to me. I leaned heavily on the “anonymity” of Alcoholics Anonymous, reminding friends who knew about my struggles to respectfully keep quiet. It wasn’t until years later that I found myself in a predicament.
I always knew I would end up in the business of serving others. I consistently had jobs in teaching of some sort, training children and teens in soccer for years, and later becoming certified to instruct spin and pilates classes. I even mentored and taught life skills courses at our church to teenage mothers. I find pleasure seeking out personal development and growth opportunities, and feel fulfilled helping others do the same. So when I decided to go back to school, I encountered a fork in the road.
As I embarked on completing a major in Psychology with plans to chase my doctorate, I began to uncover problem areas of my own, areas that had laid dormant. One being, the shame I carried for not only being an addict for so long, but what I now felt was a “hiding” of my life inside recovery. (*Please do not misunderstand, for some of my close sisters in sobriety, anonymity is where they are comfortable and plan to stay, which is a wonderful foundation and tradition found inside of AA that I respect and support. The difference however, is I began to feel an old pattern of hiding and shame arising inside of me, which I believe threatens my recovery and holds me back from pursuing my purpose*).
So with that came the nudge to share my story. A constant, persistent, gritty nudge that wouldn’t quiet down until I entertained the idea of opening up. And that’s what I finally did. While scary and intimidating and uncertain at first, I have never felt and lived more FREE. But with that freedom has understandably sparked some questions, hence the essay I am writing to you all today.
Early in recovery, I waded in the occasional guilty thought as to if I was somewhat responsible for potential alcoholics whom may or may not frequent our establishment. I was also conflicted with the notion that on one hand I lived and believed in sobriety, but on the other hand could potentially be not only enabling others unhealthy consumptions, but gaining profit and maintaining a livelihood off of their disease. Gratefully though and as the program would have it, those thoughts and feelings faded the more I learned in recovery. “I did not cause it, I cannot control it, and I cannot cure it” is one of the sayings we use in AA, and one that I frequently refer to when I battle the incessant old thoughts of codependency.
In the 1920’s we tried to control others drinking. “Progressives, industrialists, and conservatives all came together in one unusual coalition in an attempt to cure society’s ills by enforcing the Law of Prohibition. The most significant and lasting cultural impact this attempt had on America was organized crime. “- Ken Burns on his Prohibition Documentary
I only include that quote to make a point. Attempting to control others only leads us to more uncontrolled chaos. Are we to close down all drugstores because Pharmacists are filling prescriptions to potential addicts? Are we to shut down all supermarkets because grocers are selling food to potential Bulimic’s? Are we to board up all convenience stores because they sell Lotto tickets to a problem gambler? No. Of course not.
The judging of others is no longer in my wheelhouse, and I know not everyone suffers from the disease of alcoholism. I can and will continue to do my part in advocating for Mental Health awareness and share my experiences inside addiction. I will pursue my passion to serve others looking to silence their shame voice and bravely share their own story. And for now, will continue owning a bar — as an alcoholic.