What is Your Genius?

by Amy on November 3, 2017

Wednesday was my four year sober anniversary. I was never a stereotypical “drunk.” But I loved to fill my free time with activities centered around drinking. Having wine at the end of the day, going to Happy Hour, Getting drinks with friends. I used to think I needed it to have a good time.Giving up alcohol was the best thing I have ever done. I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do… No body around me thought I had a problem. But inside I knew.

What I didn’t anticipate was that when I stopped drinking, all this space opened up. All of a sudden I didn’t have booze to cover up my feelings and give me something to do. The consequence? I had to feel my feelings and figure out why I was having them and then find a way to take care of myself so the feelings I had were better. I had to find things to do with my newfound free time.

The result? I found my genius. I watched the same thing happen to my mom who got sober when I was a child. In honor of her genius, I’d like to share some things I’m working on in my book:

Alcohol swallows up personality. Even those who consider themselves “normal” drinkers choose to drink at the expense of what the true self would rather do, the thing that, likely they haven’t even discovered yet because all their free time is given away to the lazier choice that seems harmless enough on the surface — wine tasting, getting drinks with friends, going “out.”  When that option is gone, a personality is born.

My uncle told me he never knew his own mother until she stopped drinking seven years before she died. That’s when he learned of her love for the outdoors. She’d travel to Canada with her husband where they’d stay on an isolated island with no indoor plumbing. There, they would fish off the front lawn and feed the entrails to Bald Eagles. The deer would come to the front door. Now that is a life.

There was a historian, an interior designer, a genealogist and a seamstress lying dormant inside my mother. The surfacing of her true self started soon after the drinking stopped when she began to fill the 1970s ranch on York Street with antiques — I remember many of them. Her first was an icebox. They used to keep food cold by storing blocks of ice in there, she’d tell me as she opened the wooden door revealing metal-lined compartments.

Slowly, she began to replace the trendy things of the day with things that had a story. My mother, the woman who used to lie inebriated on the couch warning me not to eat green lifesavers, became obsessed with genealogy. A key topic of conversation between the two of us — or anyone who would listen — was her latest discovery of a long-lost family member or her frustration over not being able to find said long lost family member. I would try to act interested.

And then she began participating in Civil War Reinactments, sewing all her own clothes. She was the “doll maker” at camp (because everyone needs a doll maker in times of strife).

Yes, my mother always had a project, staying joyfully engaged in something. On any given day it might have been a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle, her rose garden, a new civil war dress, an important genealogy discovery or a new spot of the house to wallpaper.

Genius. It’s defined as “a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.” It’s funny how we save this word for “certain people” as if it could never apply to us. This is the great lie of our time. We all carry within us “exceptional intelligence and creativity.” Most of us have a genius that doesn’t get to see the light of day. One, because we don’t acknowledge it’s there and two because we don’t give our genius permission to be.

Genius is inside all of us, desperate to be unleashed. It came with us as part of the package the day we were born. But little by little we succumbed. We listened to the others — the little boy who informed us that we are ugly, or the third grade teacher who told us we weren’t that special, or the college councilor who told us we could never get into that school, or the parent who told us college was for meeting a nice man and getting married.

We learned from the earliest age that it’s “normal” to drown the self in bottles of whiskey.

Don’t listen to them. You don’t need the wine or whatever it is you use to fill up the precious space in your life. Just listen. Feel your feelings. You will find yourself. You will find your genius.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara November 3, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Bravo! This post was genius. It really spoke to my heart.


Susan Wagner November 3, 2017 at 2:44 pm

I too have taken to subtracting alcohol from my life and felt something deep down isn’t right with my relationship with drinking. It’s been 1 month and I am already looking for other things to fill my time. Great story about your Mother.


Colleen November 3, 2017 at 2:48 pm

BRAVA, Amy! Both of my parents were functioning alcoholics- they functioned well in their careers and the rest of their lives were a mess. You are giving such a precious gift to your children- The True Authentic Amy!
Cordially, Colleen


Charlotte November 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Thank you. Your post IS genius. I am a high functioning abuser of alcohol. I’d like to say it ain’t so but wouldn’t be honest if I did. During the intervals when I stop drinking, time is scary. There’s so much of it! At 70 years, I am very active. Always have several projects going and love to be moving. Still own my own consulting business (though have cut back to 4 client hours per day). Nevertheless, I continually think, “What will I do if I don’t drink?” “What will I do to quell the restlessness and and the anxieties of life?” Anyway, your article was excellent food for thought. I especially like the concept of being my genuine self without the cover-up of alcohol. I’m not sure where to get the courage to do that.


Barb November 3, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Thank you, Amy.


Ginger November 3, 2017 at 6:01 pm

Hey, Amy, Thank you for sharing this important, deeply-felt, and very well-expressed idea. I’ve been sober and in recovery for 22 years now. Not every day is brilliant, But every day is mine. I love the story of your mother and the teeming talent that was inside her–not devoted to banning green lifesavers but to passionately living her own life, and giving you a chance to see what that looks like, so you could pick up the baton and go further.


Frances-Agape November 4, 2017 at 12:31 am

WooHoo !
Congrats on your 4 years of REALLY LIVING
Truly inspiring


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