I was the girl who grew up hiding. I hid my feelings, my depression, my double life, my music, my drinking… you name it, I hid it. In doing this, I was hiding the real me from the world, but most importantly from myself. Drinking turned me into a placatory shell of a human. I constantly changed myself to my surroundings. I said and did what I thought others wanted because I was constantly in fear of being disliked, being rejected and most of all any sort of confrontation or conflict. Doing this only perpetuated my self-loathing. The more I drank, the further away from my true self I became. My guilt ran deep, but my shame ran deeper. Doug Bixby puts it best when he says in his book The Honest to God Church: A Pathway to God's Grace: “Shame can so take over our lives that we lose perspective on who we are… Deep levels of shame can be isolating, alienating and even debilitating. It is one thing to have a sense that there is something wrong with you; it is something else altogether to have the sense that there is something more wrong with you than everyone else around you. Yet this is how our shame often makes us feel.” I was stuck in my self-made shame bubble, and it only got worse as time went on.
When I first started seeing a therapist about 6 years ago, I remember telling her I drank away my twenties. At the time, I thought that sounded quite normal. I constantly compared my life to those around me. Looking around at all my friends at the time, I wasn’t worse off than any of them. We were all out at the bars together and still making it to work (albeit hungover or even still drunk) and we were still holding our lives together by the thin threads we could grasp onto. My finances were in the drain. My relationships were toxic. Anything that was wrong, I sure found someone or something to blame it on. But I had my buddies at the bars to vent to about it. I was 33 years old and I still couldn’t look in the mirror, physically or metaphorically. Not once did it ever occur to me that I could be my own problem. I started seeing a therapist not because of my drinking though. I started seeing her because of my toxic relationships. I had just broken up with someone who declared he was codependent, and ended up shortly thereafter with a sociopathic addict. Needless to say, I felt at my wits end. “Why is all of this happening to me? I’m a good person,” I would say. "Why can’t I just find someone who can love me and treat me right?” Funny thing is, if you’re not honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with your therapist. So it took me one more addict, a horrible breakup and a mental-breakdown where I almost hospitalized myself before I FINALLY started thinking, maybe I have a problem. But at this point, that problem still wasn’t alcohol.
As I mentioned earlier, I hid my depression from the world. I knew that I had unresolved issues that needed serious attention and healing. Aside from Clinical Depression, I was also diagnosed with CPTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. One of the first things that helped me start feeling better about this heavy weight of mental illness was sharing about it with other people. I decided to start a Facebook page where I posted daily motivational and inspirational thoughts and reminded other people they are not alone by telling my story as it happened. I’ve lost too many people to depression and I know others who continue to suffer. Reaching out and being there for others was truly the first step to finding myself again. I started getting messages from people telling me they loved the positive change in me and they looked forward to my posts every day. I was getting recognition and being complimented for being real…despite all my flaws and misgivings. The more honest I got, the more I felt healing inside.
It was somewhere between the breakup of second addict and the mental breakdown I had, that a friend of mine invited me to attend the church she goes to. I hemmed and hawed and thanked her for the invitation, but didn’t take her up on the offer right away. Growing up in a cult left a bad taste for religion in my soul. But she kept dropping not-so-subtle hints in a non-pushy way, so eventually I caved. And then I kept going back. Every time I went, the sermon spoke to me in a very personal way. I felt very safe there. I was welcomed. I wasn’t being judged. It was a complete shift from what I knew about God. Growing up it wasn't about being yourself and allowing God to love you as you are. It was about trying to fit into this impossible mold of perfection in order to gain God’s love. But this amazing thing happened to me called grace. Someone told me that God had loved me this whole time I’d been “away” from him. And that was when I knew real changes needed to happen.
April 24, 2015 was the last day I drank. At first it was a, “Well, let me see how this goes.” But I soon realized that there was no way I was going to be able to moderate my drinking. I needed to be done with it… for good. I look back now at all the signs, all the terrible choices, all the times I could’ve died, and I just thank God I am here to share my story. There are so many days where I still feel so sad or angry or shameful for my past misgivings. But when I feel any of these negative feelings, I try and remember what the beautiful Judy Peterson said to me. She said: “Don’t wish yourself away.” Because there is a reason for everything. Just as it felt good for me to share my story about mental illness, I now stand here today to tell you my story of my recovery from alcohol. I went through what I did so that I can help others know they are not alone. I am here to give people hope that it’s ok to feel that pain inside, and no, you don’t have to cover it up with booze or pills. I am here to tell you that faith is greater than fear, and that God is there for you, just as he was waiting for me to come back to Him.
I am here to tell you that I am not anonymous.