I’m 32 year’s old, yet I feel like I’ve only really lived for 3 years.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all my problems were solved the moment I quit drinking. What a LIE that would be!! My noes would grow a mile long just for that one! If anything, things got a whole lot more complicated, real fast! In a way that the only thing I could do was give in and pray.
I had my first drink of alcohol as a toddler. (WHAT!!) Yeah, you read right, a TODDLER!
Obviously I don’t remember it. I honestly didn’t even know this until I was 30 years old. Sitting in one of my first support group meetings in my home town! I started with “Hi, My name is Tracy, I think I’m an alcoholic; I had my first drink at 9.” Only to be cut off by someone I didn’t know, but was there that night and witnessed my first drink. Telling me that I was wrong about the age I took my first drink! At this time in my life nothing, not even this, really surprised me.
I don’t know if it was just that my mom kept it secret from me on purpose or if it just really wasn’t that big enough of an event for her to even consider. I tell ya, though; a lot of things made sense after learning that. I don’t really know what better way to explain it other than; as a child the “normal” things just didn’t do it for me.. I was always missing something, a “feeling” that I just couldn’t put my finger on.
I had my first drink to get drunk when I was roughly 9 years old, maybe even younger. Needless to say I wasn’t very well supervised as a kid. There were so many things going on in life. The emotional, physical and sexual abuse I had endured by this time had taken a toll on my soul. I didn’t know that this wasn’t what other kids went through. I thought it was normal. It didn’t dawn on me till after my first trip to foster care that the “Brady Bunch” type of family really did exist. Although I did continue to question it all the way up till just a couple years ago. We won’t go into much more detail about my childhood, as I don’t like to dwell on the past but, I think you get the picture.
Fast-forward to my pre-adult years… When I thought I was an adult but just wasn’t there yet. Thankfully my sister was persistent that I go to college so, off I went. All the years I dreamt of having that “control” over my life and it was finally here! Just one problem. I was never taught how to be an adult or what to do with that “control” over my life once it was handed down to me. So to make a long story short, college was one long party.
I managed to graduate with a 3.23 GPA. I credit this to the fact that school was my escape as a child and I learned quickly how to switch gears the second I walked through those doors. Combined with the fact that once I started drinking I didn’t stop and I could never wait for the party to start to have my first drink either… thus I usually ended up passed out in the back seat of my roommates car, sometimes before the actual party even started… So I almost always had at least 10 hours to “sleep it off.”
During these years I continuously put myself in situations, places and events that I would feel a growing shame for that would build up for years. Let’s just be real here, during these years, alcohol wasn’t my only defense mechanism. By the end of it all I would have a degree I didn’t know what to do with, a baby to support (as the result of a failed relationship that in my young mind was going to last forever). All the hopes and dreams were gone. I’m just surviving now. Living in a crummy apartment that I can’t afford rent on since I messed around, being irresponsible, and landed myself a $500/month car payment. No car. No Job. No Home.. So at that time ditching the car (which is what I should have done) wasn’t even considered. Not to mention all the money that was spent on alcohol… this still didn’t come across as a problem to me… after all this is what my “normal” was. My mom was half in the bag on a regular basis before we even got on the bus in the morning as a kid. So the fact that I at waited till after work was at least an improvement.. right?
Thinking back on, it is absolutely mind blowing to me! Over the years the drinking would continue and progress. From the time that I was 9 years old till roughly four months before I turned thirty, I can count on one hand, the amount of times I stayed sober for more than 30 days in a row. More than half of those times occurred before I turned sixteen when I was in juvenile detention for running away from home.
It still didn’t occur to me as a problem. Until my boyfriend of 9 year was done and I had been forced to reflect on my actions. He was the only thing keeping the house a home. The only real love I had ever known. The only one keeping me alive, while I was running through life like a drunken tornado leaving nothing but a trail of tears and vodka bottles behind. If he left, I was vulnerable. The house was his. The car was in his name. The kids turned to him. No house, No car – I’d lose my job (that I only had because his mother insisted they hire me) – I was unstable – I could have lost my kids!
My sister – the one who had insisted I go to college – She had her own struggles with alcohol as well. We all did/do. By this time though, she had been sober and actively working on her sobriety for a couple years. Once again, she helped me find my way through the right door in life.
There were many times in my life that I said those infamous words. “I’m never drinking again” – but this time I meant it. I was exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally. I was broken (I thought). I felt dead inside and I was everything I didn’t want to be. I looked in the mirror and I saw my mother! My kids were sad and confused and it was entirely my fault! Enough was enough!
I went to my first meeting a couple days before Thanksgiving. It was the day after a night of drunken arguing with my boyfriend and I was finally ready to be done. I had gone many times before but never actually made it past the parking lot. While I had all the want in the world I didn’t have the courage. After the reality check of the possibility of him actually leaving and my whole world crashing down the fear of losing my family overcame the fear of what was on the other side of those doors.
After the first group meeting I felt so confident. I had this! I was NEVER going to drink again! – Fast forward to Thanksgiving.. I was so hung-over and ashamed! I failed! Not only did I fail, we fought. All night and now we were putting up a front for the family on Thanksgiving and my heart and head ached! My kids slept through it but they could tell. I felt like a sorry, worthless, disgusting excuse for a human being.
There is something absolutely amazing about the community of those in recovery. Against my better judgment I had given my phone number to an older gentleman at the group meeting I had attended. Not something I would typically do, or recommend. But something about him said “grandpa”, so when he asked for my number so he could check on me, I gave it to him. And he called.
That call changed my life forever. I can honestly say I have not swallowed one drop of alcohol since that call. How he knew I had drank the night before I’ll never know, but he did. I received his call as we were walking in the door after dinner. I took it outside. Jumping to the opportunity to get away from everyone, I couldn’t stand the look of disappointment on their faces. He was calling to let me know that I had somewhere I needed to be in a half hour. I didn’t even remember committing to a Thanksgiving gratitude service. I went. Not because I wanted to go, but because it was an excuse to get away from the disappointment I had created. Can you believe that I actually stopped at the liquor store on my way there! It was a holiday so they were closed, but that’s not the point… I still tried, even though I didn’t want to drink, I still stopped!… I later learned why I was doing these things but at this point I was so confused.
When I pulled in the parking lot where the gratitude service was being held I, again, considered just parking and sitting.
I was so self-centered that I was going to let the fear of being judge and having my ego hurt, yet again, get in the way of everything. But before I could finish my though I was greeted by a knock on the window and an “I’m glad you could make it!” And so I was escorted in to the room where my sobriety was born. I was directed to a meeting that would change my life forever, by someone I didn’t even know. Someone who wanted to help me despite of the train wreck I had become. This all seemed so unreal to me. These people were all so very different. Yet they all had one very similar goal, to be free from their addiction, to be happy and content with life, to forgive themselves and rebuild their lives. Some were new like me and some obviously weren’t. But they all were all just very grateful to be alive no matter how bad some of their situations seemed. They were there to not only get help but to give it as well.
As I left the building I had this sense of “I can do this” again. But on the drive home I started thinking of my recent failure and my family and how they had lost their faith in me. It was late the kids were sleeping when I got home and my boyfriend wasn’t talking to me. I took a shower to wash the alcohol off from the night before. When I grabbed for a towel everything stopped. There was the bottle from last night. I grabbed it and stared to take a swig as I turned and saw myself in the mirror. It was almost as if it were in slow motion. The moment I saw my reflection it was all over. Here I was doing exactly what I said I was not going to do. Why? It didn’t make sense. It was pure insanity!
It wasn’t me looking back at me. That defiantly was the reflection of my mother in the mirror. If I turned out like my mother, then my kids they must be just as miserable as I was. That was it. I spit that swig out and instantly went through the house with a garbage bag throwing away every form of alcohol I found. Right down to the cough syrup and mouth wash.
It all took time. Lots and lots of time, meetings, conversations, self-refection and making amends. I couldn’t even speak to my own mother for well over a year. We would later rebuild somewhat of a relationship only for it to crumble again. As of now I have no intentions of ever interacting with that woman again. Every time I did I wanted to drink now it’s just too hard to watch her slowly kill herself. I avoided alcohol at all costs for a very long time. I went to support group meetings multiple times a week for well over a year and still do from time to time. I learned real quick that, for me, alcohol wasn’t necessarily the problem. It was merely a symptom of the problem that was left untreated for far too long and because of that I will never be able to safely drink alcohol again.
I have been sober for 3 years this November. I began this journey so unstable I could have been considered a danger to myself and possibly others. In the beginning I was facing potentially reaching the end of a decade long relationship, and having my life crash down around me as a result. I was so close to losing my job that 6 months into my sobriety my boss pulled me aside to tell me this change I made literally saved my job. I was soulless, tired, selfish, morally bankrupt and almost financially too! Over time I slowly regained respect, trust and faith not only from others but from myself too! I have grown in my career so much that I actually out grew the position I was in when I started all this and the position after that one. My boyfriend that was absolutely DONE with all the havoc. Bless his heart for helping me through this journey. He is now my Husband and we may bicker sometimes but the house is peaceful, the kids are happy, the fridge is full, our love is strong and we continue to strive for progress in life as a family together. Sometimes when I think about it I tear up when I get to fact that my daughter will never remember seeing me drink!
So, why exactly did I just post this blog? Let me tell you it wasn’t exactly an easy decision to make, sharing all of this with all of you. I have an opportunity here to move forward with my life and anyone I meet in the future would never know all of this about me. Unless, I or a loved one shared it. The dark cloud of memories that used to hover over me every day. No one needs to know it was there, I could be free from the whole idea that it was even ever there and just move forward. A lot of people do! But, not me.
I feel compelled to share my story. Because the only one that was able to help me was someone who went through it themselves. In my book of morals, it is now my responsibility to help others like I was helped. Even if it means I have to crawl back into that hole I escaped from it is my Charge from a higher power (whom I choose to call God) and I intend to take it on full force.
When I started this blog I hesitated to take this route with it. “What would people think of me, knowing my past” “Could I lose friends over this? Family? Job?” “Maybe I could help people and just leave that part out” My heart is racing just thinking about all of the thoughts that raced through my head. But when it all comes right down to it, if I don’t do this I will be going against what I feel in my heart I was put on this earth to do and in turn I would feel incomplete.
Addiction is Addiction.. My drug of choice was alcohol.. I was able to let go of the others but for some reason not that one.
In my journey to sobriety I’ve met so many new friends from all different walks of life all with one very similar goal. I’ve lost more friends than I could count with both hands too. My first hard lesson in sobriety was to get used to people dying because a lot of us don’t make it to the room in time. This is something that I think about every day and want so badly to change.
If you are out there in active addiction please know that there is help. And IT IS POSSIBLE! Stay strong and ask for help.
Keep Striving For Progress