Learn From Your Mistakes

Quotes and phrases are something I return to often for reassurance and comfort in my recovery. It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but towards the top of my list is Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:

“The definition of insanity is, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

This quote really resonates with me because I spent far too many years doing just what Einstein warns against. In fact, just about every day of my addiction, I:

  • promised myself that I would quit the next day. (“I” could stop any time that I chose.)
  • told myself that a drink would not replace eating a healthy meal.
  • rationalized my abuse of opiates by reminding myself that they were prescribed by a doctor.
  • felt that I had the right to indulge, because
    • of my stress and anxiety level
    • all my friends were partiers
    • my childhood was difficult
    • alcohol is legal
    • I can control my intake
    • It’s MY life!
  • convinced myself that my family didn’t know that I was high.
  • hid my bottles of alcohol and pills.
  • told my young son that I was “fine.”

Now, when I read this list, I recognize the insanity.

One story epitomizes just how ill I was. While visiting my doctor for an ear infection check-up, I stumbled into the exam room. Reeking of alcohol and cigarettes, I slurred my words while explaining my ear pain. “Katie, you’re drunk,” the doctor stated. “I’m going to call your husband to come and pick you up.”

“No,” I said. “It’s this ear infection. It’s making me dizzy and out of sorts.” I truly believed that I could convince him otherwise, I continued. “My equilibrium is compromised, you see.” Of course, my brain thought that I was speaking clearly and that I was more clever than he. Most likely, those words were garbled incoherently.

Long story short, I passed out on the exam table and awoke in our hospital emergency room.  Alcohol Poisoning was the diagnosis.

Leaving the hospital the following day, I went straight to my stash. After all, I decided that was a stressful 24 hours and one drink wouldn’t kill me. Perhaps a pill or three were in order…

I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry as I write these words. Could I truly have been in such denial? Could I actually believe that I didn’t have a problem? Apparently the answers were both, yes.

Eventually, I became “sick and tired of being sick and tired” (an AA quote) and Sobriety did come my way a year or so after that doctor visit.

And whenever I start feeling like I have it all put together in my sobriety, I lean on this quote by Peter Laurence:

“A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know.”

I hope my mistakes can and successes can show you some things you now know you didn’t know.

Author: Katie H. is a writer, recovering addict, and mother based in Connecticut.