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The Ugliness of Addiction

June 22nd, 2021
sunset on a beach

In this episode, Air Force wife and sober mom Danielle Gregorich joins Zach for a conversation about survival. After multiple unsuccessful suicide attempts, Danielle later faced kidney cancer and had a stroke that left her unable to speak, read or write. Sharing her story of hope with those in recovery, Danielle also talks about her new book, “Stroke of Sobriety: The essential daily guide to embracing the suck of sobriety.”


Welcome to Recovery Radio by Landmark Recovery with your host, Zach Crouch. In this program, we will discuss the root causes and treatments of alcohol and substance addiction, speak with experts in related fields and help navigate the road to recovery. Now, here’s the host of Recovery Radio, Zach Crouch.

Zach: Buddy, welcome back to the show. This is Zach Crouch with Landmark Recovery Radio. Your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. As always, you can find us online wherever you get your podcast. And of course, we love having new people come on to the show, guests, but also people who listen to it. If you don’t mind hitting that subscribe button that always helps us out, we greatly appreciate it. Guys, we have a guest, Danielle Gregory, joining us on the show today.

Danielle is an Arizona native. She’s also an Air Force wife and a silver mom of two children. She is a survivor of multiple suicide attempts. Four months into her sobriety, she survived a stroke that took away her ability to write, speak, and read. Her therapist recommended that she begin to write so that it can stimulate her brain function, leading her to write struggles about her own life in recovery.

Danielle wrote “Stroke of Sobriety”, the essential daily guide to embracing the suck of sobriety. I love that. In this book, she hopes to inspire others to not give up before their miracle which is you’ve been in a 12 step meeting. You guys probably already know the phrase, “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.” Danielle is going to speak a lot about that. Stay on the show. Danielle, with that being said, I am grateful to have you on and speak with us today.

Danielle: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a true pleasure and an honor.

Zach: Thank you. I’m curious about this book. When did you decide to take your therapist’s recommended writing and turn it into an actual book?

Danielle: To be honest, I had no intention of writing a book. That was not in my plan. That wasn’t even what I thought. I took that suggestion and I started writing because I was desperate. I wanted to get my speech back and I just started with a morning routine. Woke up and did my quiet time and just wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and I would share what I wrote on social media to various sobriety groups and stuff.

So, in October of 2020, I was in the shower. I don’t know why all good ideas come to shower but it dawned on me. I should put all of the writings that I had done for the past two and a half years and compile them into a book. It’s because I saw so many people struggling in 2020.

People who were kind of in that grave, area of drinking, found themselves isolated. They didn’t think they had a problem until 2020 hit. It was kind of a perfect storm. You are isolated. You’re not communicating. You don’t get to go out. You don’t get to do anything. As somebody was already an alcoholic, the kind of has teetered the line, it threw people straight into that addiction. When you cross that threshold, there’s no coming back.

When you cross the line to become an alcoholic, you cannot reverse that. So, I felt so compelled that there were going to be men and women in 2021 who were going to need this. There was nothing out there that talked about how hard sobriety is in the beginning. It was so difficult. That’s the only reason I did. It’s just to hopefully help somebody. How to have that happy, joyous, and free bullshit? It was miserable. That’s the main reason I did it because I figured somebody is going to need it.

Zach: I’m curious. Now that you bring that up because you’re right. From my own experience, I’d gotten to this point. Having gone to enough meetings in the beginning that the Pink Cloud, you often hear about in Recovery that this, I think legit. Most people who have been down the road of treachery, addiction, alcoholism, trauma, whatever it is, and then you come into this place where nobody expects too much from you. It’s good if you show up sober to the next meeting because that’s kind of the gig, right?

So, people are excited to see you. You get numbers. You start going out for coffee or whatever it is but that stuff ends after probably three, maybe six months into it. It’s like, “Okay, I’m here. I made this commitment. My life is starting to change but I’m not getting that sort of that I got in the beginning.” When you talk about how hard it was in the beginning for you, what in particular comes to mind?

Danielle: So, I did not have the Pink Cloud. To be honest, I’m grateful for that. For me, if it would have been easy in the beginning, I don’t think I would have treasured and honored how much of a gift it is. When I see people who are on that Pink Cloud and they don’t know that they’re on the Pink. They don’t know.

Zach: Until they’re on the Pink Cloud.

Danielle: Exactly. They’re hit with that wall and they don’t know what to do. I feel like not having a Pink Cloud is a really big gift, but you have to have some sort of balance to navigate those emotions when that Pink Cloud drops because they will. I don’t give a shit. What anybody says, “It will drop eventually. You cannot live that way. Everything’s great. Everything is perfect. It’s rainbows and unicorns.” No, you’re going to get hit with life.

Zach: Yeah. I think that brings up a great point because when people enter into this process that needs to be part of the conversation whether it’s with a therapist, someone who’s been in the program a long time, a sponsor, you can’t be sort of Pollyanna about this. I mean, you’ve made some choices throughout your life that resulted in the circumstances that you’re walking into this with. Those of the things that take weeks, months, years, or longer to work through sometimes. So, hence the word recover, you’re recovering, from my perspective, a lot of those pieces that were lost along the way somewhere, somehow, right?

Danielle: Absolutely.

Zach: I think that’s where the work is, right?

Danielle: You’re 100% correct. I started drinking when I was in seventh grade. I was 12 years old and I drank alcoholically until I was 34. I had no idea how to do life sober. I didn’t even know how to cook sober. I didn’t know how to have sex sober. I knew nothing. And so, here I am in this like wife and this mother of two but a 12-year-old, rebellious, little apple. I’m making my kids looking up to me and I need to ask another adult. My son is 12. He’s in seventh grade and I’m like, “I’m on the same page as you, dude. I don’t know anything.”

Zach: Absolutely. I hope that people who are listening to this show if you’re in your own recovery process, you find someone, it could be a sponsor, somebody that you’re able to get that raw and real with, right? And that you feel welcome to do that because if you don’t, then you’re going to be doing the same stuff that you’ve been doing for the rest of your life whether that’s pleasing people, or whether that’s like being rebellious and just saying, “Afterworld, you can’t help me out, dude.” So, I might as well just go back.

Danielle: For sure. I think it’s really important. The fact that I hear especially a lot in the rooms, only speak about the solution, only speak about the solution. You know what? That’s bullshit for me. I cannot sit in a room and listen to people say how amazing their life is. I will feel so left out. I will feel alone in my struggles. I tell it raw. I cried for probably the first year and a half, almost every single day of my sobriety because I wanted to crawl out of my skin. But I don’t know how to explain it. I have no idea.

I need people to say those things, “I understand that you hate this shit and it’s great that you hate it because the more that you hate it when you get to the other side, you are going to enjoy it so much more. You will.” You don’t have to be happy, joyous, and damn free. You don’t, in the beginning. It might take you five years to get to that point. But just now it will come. Just keep doing what you’re doing no matter what. You don’t have to be in the solution all damn day. That’s not reality, man.

Zach: I want to ask something. You have a lot going on. You’re a mom, you’re a wife, and you’re in both recovery from addiction, but also physical recovery. I’d love to hear your experience on how you are able or what you’ve done to sort of balance that out in your life.

Danielle: The first year and a half, there wasn’t a whole lot of balancing going on. Since I suffered the stroke, I have been to a doctor’s appointment three to five times a week. I had to see an oncologist, a nephrologist, a neurologist, and end up like there were any specialists. It was so exhausting. So, I’m not only trying to get sober but I have to go to the doctor’s office, and doctor’s office, and the doctor’s office. And then I have to go to meetings. I have to go to meetings. I have to go to meetings. I was drowning just before counting.

My kids, nothing in their life has changed. Just because I decided to get sober, they’re still needing me as their mom. They still need to be fed. They still need their clothes washed. So, they ate a shit ton of fast food and made a shit ton of frozen meals because I didn’t know how to do life. I had no idea. I just knew that this was going to be momentary. I don’t have to pretend that I have my life together just because I’m sober. To be honest, my life felt like it was falling apart more as soon as I got sober. I had these feelings and I hadn’t experienced true feelings. I knew anger. I knew rage. That was it. But sadness, I didn’t know.

So, it’s taken a long, long time. The beautiful gift is I was able to show my kids that no matter what, I have to do this and I’m going to suit up and show up no matter how difficult and how much I hate it. And so, anytime they’re going through something, my son, he’s like, “Mom, I just looked back and the things that you did and I know that you wanted to give up and you just continued on and now look over you at.” That’s just so beautiful because I couldn’t teach him that. I just showed him.

Zach: Before the show, we were kind of hitting on some themes at least in my mind of things like hope, grace, redemption. Those kinds of things that the title of your book suggests. I’m curious about this term that you brought up. It’s the “suck of sobriety”, right? When it sucks so goddamn bad, what do you do to see through that there is hope, redemption, and grace on the other side of this?

Danielle: So, “embrace the suck” is a military term. My husband, that’s the phrase that he lives by whenever he’s deployed. He just wants to get out of that country or whatever. And he’s like, “I just have to embrace the suck.” I had to use that as my kind of motto. To be honest, when we embrace those sucky parts of sobriety or just life in general, rather than fight them, that’s when the magic happens. It is because if we’re fighting against something that’s trying to teach us something, we’re going to miss it. We will miss the miracle and the lesson.

A lot of us, alcoholics, we’re going to fight against anything good for us because our patterns in life are just self-destructed. When I know that something is really good or it’s bringing me joy, to be honest, I don’t enjoy that feeling because it scares the shit out of me. I don’t feel deserving. I don’t feel worthy. I had to read and learn everything. When those good moments come, I enjoy the hell of them. When such moments come, I enjoy them as well because I know I will get through them. And when I do, I can use that to help somebody else. That makes sense.

Zach: Absolutely. It makes a lot of sense. I was told early on that and this is one of those phrases that take it for what it is. There’s a difference between suffering and also living through a painful time. I’m wondering how that hits you, that particular phrase, suffering versus pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice, right? What does that mean to you?

Danielle: That’s a difficult one because it has been a process. I’m one of those people whose initial reaction is to go straight to the suffering. Straight to it. It doesn’t matter if I can’t find a matching pair of socks. It’s a crisis. It’s just so ridiculous but I think it’s important that we don’t dismiss the suffering, or we don’t disregard our feelings. What’s a crisis to me, might not be a crisis to another. I hate the phrase, “There are people that have it worse”. That’s bullshit. Do not compare your sufferings because that will bring you down a rabbit hole that you will not get out of. I can tell you that from 22 years of experience.

Zach: There’s so much shame in that.

Danielle: That was a big thing that kept me from walking into the rooms or kept me from asking for help because I had the house, the cars, a golf cart, a horse, a husband, the kids. I didn’t feel that I was entitled to hate the way that I felt because there were so many people who would trade places and a heartbeat. I didn’t feel like I could say anything because I didn’t have anything to complain about. But the bottom line is I hated who I was. It didn’t matter what I had, or what I didn’t have. I was miserable, just miserable.

Zach: One of the things that are part of the reason I brought that question up to you is that it’s been challenging to say the least this past year with the inability to see people, right? I think that is such a big part of recovery. I’m wondering if you picked up any if you care to share any sort of practical tips that have worked with people that you’ve met with or yourself or even that have kept you out maybe from going down that rabbit hole of suffering, guilt, shame in times where it would be easy to.

Danielle: What works for me, I’m transparent on social media about my struggles, like I will tell it all. The reason I do it is that first of all, I need to get it out. There is some sort of power and putting your words out there and just not holding them inside. When I hate my life, I can’t do this, I can’t do this motherhood, I can’t do this again, it helps me not feel alone because I hear from other women that I’m the same place but I didn’t have the courage to say it.

So, it gives me some sort of purpose that keeps me out of going down that dark hole. It’s something that I can’t properly explain but I just have to have a purpose and know that I am here to help somebody else. All of this suffering and all this shit that I’m going through isn’t about me. It isn’t and never has been. It’s about going through it and walking through it so that I can help somebody else.

Zach: That hits on it well. You bring up the point for me that addiction, alcoholism, whatever it’s, it’s totally about a lack of connection with other people, especially myself, and the inability to make those connections. Maybe I picked that up somewhere. I probably did it somewhere and didn’t learn how to do that. But I think that is part of the recovery process. It’s that I learn, you learn, we learn how to do this thing together where there is no damn expert on this.

We all make mistakes. We all come home and say things to our loved ones that we probably rather not. Especially now where you just like, “God, I did it again, man.” In recovery, the other piece of that is important, we learn to forgive ourselves a lot quicker. That’s the piece. That’s the hit. I was never willing to know how to forgive myself and forgive other people. That was just the facts.

Danielle: Yeah. Doing the fourth step, I didn’t have a whole lot of resentment, and still to this day, I don’t because I hated myself so much. All the resentments were towards me, all of them. Forgiving myself first and doing the inner child work and healing those deep-seated wounds, that had to happen before I could do anything else. I didn’t know how to love. I didn’t know how to express gratitude. I didn’t know how to express compassion. I knew nothing because I was so filled with shame, and hatred, and guilt. It just kept me stuck.

Zach: Yep. You’re not alone. I don’t mean to say that’s the fact. I mean, that is so common to hear. We’re starting to get close here. I wanted to spend a couple of minutes and talk about your second book coming up “Stroke of strength”. Tell us about that.

Danielle: I’m excited about this next one. The first one, “Stroke of Sobriety”, I rushed through it. I had to get it out because I knew people were going to need it. It ended up that people loved it, which is still weird to me. The “Stroke of Strength” will be another kind of daily reflection type book, but this one will be more about the solution. It won’t talk about how much I hate sobriety, how much I want to give up. That’s a lot of what the first book was because that’s exactly where I was like. I was there and I couldn’t sugarcoat it.

So, coming up on the three years, I’m such a different person from years one and two. This will be a lot of hope, not what it was like what happened. It’s about hope. I feel a lot of people need that now because I’m grateful that I wrote about how much I hated it. I wrote it honestly. I wrote it true. And the first one, I’m just so incredibly happy. The other thing we briefly talked about before we started this, I use the word of God and a lot of the first book because I don’t have any issue with it but I know that there’s a ton of people that have an issue with it. I’m trying to make it a little bit more inclusive.

I don’t care what anybody believes in. I just have to believe in something because all drowned. So, I use the word “God” because it’s just simple. This other one will have a little bit less of that because I want to touch somebody. I know that word, people won’t buy it. They won’t be able to read the hope that is actually in it because they’ll read the word and they’re like, “No, I’m not going to touch that shit.” So, I have to do it because I think it’s needed.

Zach: If you can share just with the audience, I can share too. In terms of your interactions with people, both in recovery and outside of recovery, what’s been your experience with people sort of disinterested in the word, “God”?

Danielle: My experience has been a lot of people who grew up with some sort of religious background, either they grew up going to church, or they were force-fed to do the Catholic thing or something. It’s something that they have a really bad taste in their mouth. It’s not even a bad taste in their mouth, it’s a lot of trauma. When they see that, it’s a trigger. It truly is. It will block them immediately. So, I’m cautious and I respect people. To be honest, I have a shit ton of compassion for people who have an issue with God’s word and they’re still willing to do the program despite their hatred for the word. For me, that’s some courageous shit because I don’t know if I would have had an issue with the word if I would have continued. To be honest, I don’t think I would. I don’t.

Zach: Even despite what people look at, the big book was the basic text, whatever it says that you get to essentially make up any sort of definition that you prefer for God but it is that word. It is that word that strikes people, each person very differently. Some people are just like, “Thank, God. I found the word “God” and something that I can recover from, recover with, recover alongside.” But for some people, that can be a huge barrier. So, I’m really happy to hear that in your book that is coming up.

Danielle: Thank you. I’m excited. I truly am.

Zach: Tell us where they can find the book, Danielle.

Danielle: So, you can find the book on Amazon if you just search stroke with sobriety, or you can go to strokeofsobriety.com, or you can go to oneandonlydg.com as well. You can purchase it there.

Zach: Awesome. Well, this has been good. I always appreciate guests coming on that. They are really like you who are just living it and doing the best that they can each day. So, I hope that the first book and the second book continue to help out people and inspire them.

Danielle: That’s the goal. That’s it.

Zach: Awesome. Danielle, I always end the show by also saying to, if you know someone who is struggling with an addiction and you’re searching for answers yourself, you can also visit us at Landmark Recovery. It’s landmarkrecovery.com. There you will learn more about both substance abuse programs that help people. Also, help the families too because I think the families are people that often get lost in the shuffle too and they don’t need to be. With that said, guys, until next week. I’m Zack Crouch with Landmark Recovery Radio, wishing you well. Thanks.

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