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One year sober

News | August 22, 2019
Teri Voyna, right, with her wife, Kris, and son, Leo.

Teri Voyna recently celebrated one year sober. Her family and friends marked the occasion by attending a meeting where she received her one-year chip. She lives in Bettendorf with her wife, Kris, and son, Leo. This is from her blog, The Incredibly True Adventures of Me.

When did you start drinking?

I had my first conscious, meant to, drink when I was 11. I started binge drinking at 14. By the time I was 18 I was regularly blacking out. I went to rehab the first time at age 22. I have been in and out the rooms (the places where people involved in Alcoholics Anonymous meet) ever since. I never expected to live past age 25. I have no idea how to be 44. I expected my rock bottom would be Mötley Crüe-level drunkenness followed up with a line of coke, a bong hit, and a night (or several) in jail.

What happened instead?

Instead, I became a housewife and stay-at-home mama who occasionally drank more than I should and maybe when the doctor prescribed two pills, I took four (or six…let’s be honest).

When was your last drink?

I didn’t expect it to be my last drink when I had that last drink. I went to an event, drank half a beer and then told my friend Sarah I was tired of feeling like (insert swear word, because Teri swears a lot) and I quit. It was a few months later that I realized it might be more of a problem than I thought.

What did you do about that?

So, I went back in those rooms and listened to the stories from the old timers and tried to work the program the right way. I did all the things I thought were stupid when I was 22. I got a sponsor, I’m working that steps (slowly but surely), and I’m sober. Completely (swear word!) sober. I’m grateful today. I’m grateful for everyone that supported me and everyone who doesn’t quite understand but still supported me. I’m grateful for the life I get to live and experience.

Why did you decide to do this?

My mom died at age 54 from alcoholism. That’s ten years older than I am right now. I don’t want my son to wonder why I chose booze and drugs over him. I chose him. I chose me. I chose this life full of it’s really intense (swear word!) feelings – so many (swear word!) feelings! I’ve learned more about myself in the last year than I have in the last 44. Take that how you will, some of that (swear word!) I could have done without. Here I am. I am raw. I am scared. I am hopeful. I am thankful. I am loved. I am blessed.

Where’s God in this?

When I was first getting sober, my sponsor and sister said to me, “God either is or God isn’t. You need to decide that God is and Teri isn’t and get the hell out of your own way.” I’m a control freak. My anxiety tells me that if I can control everything and everyone then nothing bad will happen. Here’s the super secret: that’s all (swear word!). All of my life, I have been in my own way. I am my own worst enemy and I am the thing that causes me the most grief. I am a work in progress. So, imagine giving up alcohol and drugs which helped keep those feelings and anxiety down in my gut and then giving up control without drugs and alcohol to cushion the fall.

Do you pray?

I pray. I pray a lot. Prayer without action is just lip service so while I know that God is and Teri isn’t, Teri still has to go out and do the work. You want to lose weight…eat less and exercise more. You want to stop drinking…ask for help. You want the world to change….say your prayers and then go out and change it. The recent shootings have made me feel more out of control and when I feel out of control, I act like an (swear word!) and make stupid decisions. Not this time. I pray. I pray every single day for God to protect us all, to soften the hearts and open the minds of those who work in hate and thrive in chaos. I put my money and my time toward politicians who think and live like me. I teach my son about kindness and empathy. I try to react with kindness and empathy to everyone I come in contact with, even that stupid (swear word!) who doesn’t understand that green means go at the stoplight. And, at the end of the day, I pray again. Prayer without action is just (swear word!) lip service. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. We do that all on our own. So, for today, I got up and decided that God is and Teri isn’t and that’s what I’ll do today. Tomorrow, I hope I make the same decision and I hope you do too.

How are you healing?

As I celebrated a year of sobriety, I was surrounded by many of my beloveds and received calls, texts, flowers, gifts, and love from many others. My son spent the evening with a few our favorite people and was loved beyond belief. I didn’t grow up like this. This abundance of blessings and love is not something I am used to. I was the kid that other people’s mothers didn’t want them to play with. I was the bad influence. In my 40’s, I’ve become this other person and I don’t know how to play it. I read a meme the other day that said, “I’m afraid if I heal from my trauma, I won’t be funny anymore.” While it made me laugh, it also struck a cord. I have been this hot mess for years and I got pretty comfortable in the muck. Now, with a giant shove from my therapist, I am cleaning off the muck and finding this person underneath it. I’m glad you have all stuck around because I have some of the best friends and family in the world. Before I go to sleep at night, I count all my blessings and even on a (swear word!) day, I usually fall asleep before I get to the end of the list.

6 Comments on “One year sober”

  • Birgit Maass

    August 23, 2019 at 6:00 am

    You rock, keep on keepin on, one day at a time!

  • Anke Maass

    August 22, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Such a great story and inspiring to many that struggle. My dad made 44 yrs

  • Laura Kestner-Ricketts

    August 22, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Teri, congratulations on ALL of your accomplishments. Taking our own stuff is the bravest thing we can do. It is what changes the world, our world, our lives. Thank you for sharing your struggle and your path. You can’t go over it, you can’t go around it, you have to go THROUGH it. Continued prayers for you and your loving family.

  • Vicki Felger

    August 22, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    WOW…Teri, you have blessed us with your honest and true life story! I know you will be an inspiration to many who are fighting devils of their own!! Bless you!

  • Barb Hiesterman

    August 22, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate and feel your pain. I am so thankful and congratulate you on your sobriety, health and happiness! Keep up the good work, honey. Don and I are so thrilled to know you, Kris and Leo and to be able to say we are friends! May God continue to bless you as you continue to bless others.

  • John Heath

    August 22, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Teri….good job of being open and honest. Keep carrying the message. It will touch many.

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters[a] in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple 22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Return to Nazareth 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.