by Bryndee Pepper Conwell

My name is Bryndee Pepper Conwell and I am a grateful alcoholic.

I remember coming into AA and hearing someone identify as a “grateful alcoholic” and thinking, Why would you be grateful to be an alcoholic? I’m sure I rolled my eyes, pulled my hoodie back over my head and went back to ignoring the meeting. I would have been playing on my phone, but they take those away from you in rehab.

I was 34 years old when I went to rehab, and at that time, I knew nothing about AA or recovery. I knew I didn’t want to be there, and I didn’t think I had a problem. I just wanted to show everyone I was fine and to get my kids back.

I had lost custody of my two beautiful boys and was only allowed to see them with supervision. Before then, I had never been away from my kids for more than one night, and I thought I was killing it at the mom thing. I wasn’t. I was a terrible mom. I was full of resentments and blamed everyone else for my problems.

So how did I become a grateful alcoholic? 

I spent 22 years of my life using drugs and alcohol to make me feel normal, and yet, I still never felt comfortable in my own skin. I did all the things I thought I was supposed to do to be “normal”: got a good job, got married, had kids, went to college. Everything looked good from the outside, but on the inside, I was a mess.

I held it all together for as long as I could, but after my second son was born, my addiction was sent into warp speed and opiates took over my life. After destroying my life beyond repair – or so I thought – I agreed to go to rehab.

Rehab was taboo in my family, and I was told I would be an embarrassment if anyone found out. But I went anyway. Unfortunately, I did not stay sober after leaving rehab.

Rehab didn’t keep me sober, but it did ruin my enjoyment of drugs and alcohol. They say you can’t have “a head full of AA and a belly full of beer.” Once I knew that there was another way of life and I saw people really enjoying sobriety, I decided maybe I should give it an honest try.

I hated going to meetings and I didn’t see the point. But in my desperation and complete defeat, I had nowhere else to go. So I crawled into a meeting. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who wanted to talk to me and get my number and hug me. I wondered what these people wanted from me. It turns out they really just wanted to help. They saw I was suffering, and they understood what I was going through.

I found several women in this meeting that had everything I wanted. I learned that when I raised my hand and shared what I was going through, I felt better. It was amazing to me how powerful this was. I found a sponsor and I learned to take direction. I did – and still do – everything she tells me to do, even if I don’t like it.

On pages 83-84 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous are “The Promises.” This is a list of 12 ways your life will improve if you rigorously work the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had about one year sober when I realized that AA had given me every one of the promises and a life beyond my wildest dreams.

By getting outside myself and helping others, I have been given amazing opportunities. I started volunteering to sell merchandise for my husband’s band, and while at a show, I crossed paths with Jim and Kellie Nowell. I was eager to know about Bradley’s House and what I could do to help. (Not only am I in recovery but Sublime is one of my all-time favorite bands.) I loved the idea of a treatment center specifically for those in the music industry struggling with opioid addiction. And what a beautiful way to honor Bradley Nowell.

I volunteered to sell merch and help spread the word about Bradley’s House. After about a year, I was asked to join the board of directors for the Nowell Family Foundation. In a short period of time, my life went from pathetic to surreal.

While in my addiction, I would ask God nightly to take my life while I slept, and I was always angry when I would wake up the next morning. I had come to terms with the fact that I was hopeless, and I didn’t want to live anymore. I would kiss my kids goodbye instead of goodnight.

I now thank God every night in my prayers for my life, even on days that aren’t that great. I am grateful for the amazing relationships I have in my life, especially with my husband and my boys. I am grateful that I get to be useful to others and that people can depend on me. I am grateful that I get to enjoy an incredible life of sobriety.

I am a grateful alcoholic.

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