I've gone one year without a sip of A-hol, a puff of reef or a tablet of anything. I used to take whatever passed under my nose, but my main vice has always been alcohol. There is something about drinking that drives my chemicals wild. The term "lit" is one that I understand. One sip and I'm "lit up" like an amusement park. I don't get drowsy or tired, I perk right up, get mounds of energy and can go all night.
My story is like this.... I was actually born into a Mormon family where I didn't see a whole lot of booze or anything growing up. It just wasn't something I thought much about or had curiosity towards. What I did have though was spiritual, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse in my home. By the time I was a teenager I was planning suicide daily. I couldn't escape the feeling that I was not loved and my life was not valuable. I had developed an eating disorder to try and control what I could and believed if only I was skinny enough that people would come to love me. I was starving myself, taking laxatives, on the track team running five miles daily and in weight training classes. When I was about sixteen I started to break away from my family and the church. I had always acted out, but my acting out went to the extreme when I ran away from home, shaved my head and got several piercings. That made me feel a bit of relief. I started smoking pot when I was nineteen and had a perception shift. For the first time in my life I made friends that I deeply connected with and smoking weed helped open my eyes to other ways of perceiving things. Up until then I was dealing with what I now see as chronic depression, but THC gave me the chemical shift I needed to experience real joy and to see that it was actually possible to be happy. I became a daily smoker pretty instantaneously. A lot happened during this time. I got married to a man that I had a wonderful relationship with. We were both messed up in our own right and the relationship had some toxic elements, but at the human level we had true love for each other. He started to develop an allergy to weed which had become a big part of my life. Instead, he switched to alcohol which drove me crazy. There were times in the end I was finding him passed out on the lawn and such. I was also starting to put one foot out and eventually cheated on him. Our relationship was also haunted by the issues I carried with me from the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. I was paranoid, controlling, jealous, reactionary, etc. He was very kind to me and often enabled my tantrums and episodes. Anyway, when that relationship ended is when I moved in with a girlfriend and my drinking slowly started to spike.
This is kind of hard to write about. I still find that some things are triggering to me.
But then I remember how my sobriety ended last time. One drink and I felt like I was back to the "real me" and wondering why in the hell I'd ever gotten sober in the first place. Then another ten year drinking span... Trying to avoid that.
Anyway, I started drinking with a lot of people. There was always someone to party with any day of the week. I discovered day drinking and thought the guy that introduced me was a genius. I started taking cups to work. Soon I was the one introducing others to my favorite bar tenders and to deviant drinking. My drinking came first above all else. I realized that no one could hurt me and if they did I'd take a shot. I realized that if I was lonely I could walk into a bar. I also saw that I could hustle and get things by hanging out with drunk guys, which also meant I was having a lot of promiscuous sex. The sex was mostly good and times were roaring and I felt cool, well-liked and with rock solid self-esteem.
Problems followed of course. I got pregnant, had to take a paternity test because I wasn't sure whose he was. I didn't want a child, but my mom hated me out of having an abortion. I lost my license and car and walked my ass to doctor's appointments with the shame of passing by neighbors who knew me as the party girl and the pregnancy looked like a joke. My boyfriend left me when my son was a year old. I was already experiencing bad post-partum and my obsession for my bf left me in a dark place feeling like I couldn't go on. Now I had a child I didn't want. I moved places because I couldn't stand to see the things we shared together. Both my child and I had a seizure in the following two months...his from a high fever, mine from what I believed was a broken heart, but probably alcohol withdrawal as well. A counselor over prescribed Clonazapan so I started taking those regularly while drinking. This combo lead me to go crazy and check myself into rehab. In treatment I did everything they encouraged, got my license back, but secretly planned on drinking better when I got out. When treatment ended I moved into a sober living house. Within three days I was walking in the doors drunk and getting the boot. I moved in with a guy I met at AA and caused him to relapse. We went into a full drinking spree all this time while I had my son. He managed to keep his job even though we were throwing back caseloads of beer. All throughout this time I had come to love my son and was trying to keep him away from the craziness as much as possible, dropping him off at his grandma's, etc. Trying to do fun things with him and teach him. That change occurred in treatment.
That relationship didn't last long, within a half a year things went sour and he had me evicted. Without family to go with, we moved into a homeless shelter for a month. Instead of feeling pity and like I had hit rock bottom I decided to "make it fun" by sneaking drinks into the facility and my son's father joined us with his guitar.
For a long time this attitude of minimizing the bad and "making things fun" was my special way of making alcohol fit in my life. I really believed it was helping me even though when I look back none of this would have even happened had I not taken that first drink.
My life continued to spiral out f control. I moved to Cali with my kids dad, got pregnant again. This pregnancy I drank through as my relationship with the kids father deteriorated. We lived together than broke up, moved back in together than broke up. Eventually, I moved out for good, but I was pregnant again.
Honestly, my story is much longer than this...much more detailed. There were MANY, MANY instances of waking up in Motorcycle shops or on church front lawns. Instances where I didn't remember how I got home. Roommates angry because I'd depleted their alcohol and replaced it with water. There were more relationships, more men. STD's and testing. Thousands of black outs...and that is not an exaggeration. Through it all I learned to be alone and lean on a drink to carry me.
Flash forward to a year ago. February 26 I received a call from my mom in Utah saying that my brother-in-law did not return home from a trip where he flew my niece and nephew out to southern Arizona. He was supposed to have been home at ten o'clock and my pregnant sister woke up to silence. Teams were sent out to search for him. A nail biting two days went by where we hoped for the best, but secretly the worst was plaguing our subconscious minds. When they found the plane there were no survivors. My heart shattered and pain greater than labor filled my body.
I didn't drink that day. I cried and held my kids and shook in disbelief. Days went by where I wasn't thinking about drinking. I also thought a lot about my sister and the strength it was going to take her to go on and live her life. I went back to Utah, drove with my kids to go be with them. There were some slip ups, but I decided to pull from my sisters strength and see if I could go on without a drink. I knew it was negatively effecting my life I think at some deep level. I just said I would try. I hung out at a step house in the beginning almost full time. Did the meeting thing. Any time I wanted to have a drink I thought about my sister and her new baby and how she was living and dedicated to doing it with the worst possible withdrawal and craving one can experience, the need to hold your children. My children have become my everything. They were already important, but now they are the absolute reason. I can't erase my past and the mistakes I've made, which are magnanimous, I can only try and not be the person I was. I can try and be great which sometimes I get down on myself thinking there's too much damage.
It also helps that I met a sober friend and moved in with her. I knew I needed help being accountable. No one ever knows what exactly is going to help one addict or another. It seems to be a matter of timing and luck.
Thanks for reading my story, hopefully it will enlighten someone :)
Top Photo by Moss on Unsplash
Bottom Photo Me
Many people think of the true alcoholic as an isolationist, a person that has gotten so over-the-top that they must hide their consumption from the world. It may be true that eventually a great number of alcoholics will get to the point of drinking alone and in secret, but a multitude of times the isolationist started out as a party drinker. Also, just because you don't isolate does not mean you don't have a problem.
This is one aspect I struggled with. Although I drank alone without issue (cause I drank all of the time) I also did a fair amount of drinking around others and in a party atmosphere. I assumed that this was considered normal drinking in my twenties. Some people can over consume for a period and stop abruptly and some cannot. I've seen friends that I partied HARD with go on to get Ph.D's and live sober lives. I've also seen a number of my friends develop pancreatic problems, liver problems and be in the constant in-and-out rehab cycle. I guess looking back there were some indications if my friends were going to continue to abuse alcohol past a reasonable party period. A big indicator was blacking out. All of the people I know who used to black out from drinking went on to become full blown alcoholics. Also, the friends of mine that had a fascination and obsession with alcohol; ones that seemed defined by their partying and assumed it as a part of their identity. Another big one is the need to go out so that they could justify having another night of drinking.
There are labels that warn us that drinking can negatively effect us as women if we are pregnant, but what about warning someone that they may become an alcoholic? I didn't even consider that my fun drinking would lead to an inability to quit. I was not raised around alcohol and may have been a bit naive, but I've also talked to people who weren't as sheltered and still felt immune from the disease. I think it's important to know that if you are in a party period or thinking it's normal to drink to excess you may already be in the throws of an addiction.
These are especially helpful for newcomers.
1) The people are wearing white hats that look like the AA logo.
2) It's being held in a court room.
3) The first person who talks says "My story is like a lot of yours, I started shooting up at 7."
4) Your mom is there.
5) Halfway into someone's story, you realize the person they are referring to that slept with their husband is you. (Exit stage left)
6) There's no coffee.
7) A guy says to you, "Hey lady, wanna be my sponsor? I'm working on step 13 as we speak."
8) The meeting hall has a sign on the front that reads "Liquor Store". Dope, you did it again!
9) Everyone inside is older than Jack nuts and refers to themselves as "Old timers". Run!
10) There's alligators on tiny trampolines. Coordinated ones that can exist without food or water.
Awhile back I started reading a book called "Anatomy of Peace". My sister sent this book to me because it helped her and she was nice enough to want to pay it forward. The book is written by two Psychologist, one a Jew and the other Muslim, both from Israel. The book goes into some detail about their history and how each side had battled the other for the holy land and left the after taste of revenge. In one section it goes on to explain justification and that when we, ourselves, do something crooked or ethically off track we have to look out at the world as crooked to justify (or make straight) our intentions. I didn't agree with all of the theories this book presented, but this one in particular rang true with reality as I know it.
For instance when I was drinking and my sister sent me this book I cynically assumed it was some kind of hint. I was in such a selfish state of thinking that it was beside me to accept the fact that someone just wanted to do something kind. We often think of this kind of justification as projection. I like the word justification for the purpose of explaining why we, as alcoholics, must make the world crooked and distorted to ensure we are always right.
The analogy works because many times we were physically off kilter, I guess you could say as well. Trying to make a world straight when we couldn't even stand upright.
I must say I have some good qualities, but I'll tell you right now I am not the poster child for honesty. That is one thing I've discovered I can be honest about. At least until I'm willing to accept and examine myself in totality. Admitting we are alcoholics is the first lie we untangle in the process of getting sober. This reality can take people a lifetime to recognize. It is essentially saying that we should not EVER drink. We have to admit that if we do, it's a pretty insane and wrongful idea knowing what we know about our reaction to it.
Since I struggled to be honest with the discovery that I could not handle alcohol, instead of committing to not do it, I moved to a stage of telling myself that honesty is not that important. I then start justifying the world to match my distortion thinking such as "the next time I'm with a guy I don't want to know everything about him, I don't want to know if he's dishonest or does something to ruin the relationship." What does this say about me?
Don't answer that. I'd rather be right.
Hopefully, this inspires you to think about your crooked thinking that effects how you view the world. The benefit is that you can change how you view yourself and how the world responds to you simply by getting real, humanizing others, having love and formulating compassion. You can also learn what your main issues are and write them down. Practice having love for all of your flaws as well.
A writer living in Portland, OR looking to meet Chuck Palahniuk. Single mom to 2 boys, sales agent and lawyer-in-training.