In the past, I was always more concerned with what things seemed like on the outside. I had a glamorous job, an affluent boyfriend, a great body, the newest designer handbag, friends, status, education, health, family, opportunity, and potential. Success was my fuel, and it gave me a false bravado that everything was perfect. I always kept up with the Jones', so it was hard to compare “normal” drinking to problematic. I was a snob about addiction and always compared myself to others. In reality, I was scared of everything. I felt insecure about being abandoned and alone. I was self-righteous and had no faith in anything, not even myself. At the time, I didn't understand any of these feelings. I was scared to talk about it and appear weak. Weakness meant failure, and I was way too stubborn to fail at anything.
I should have seen it coming. I had the addictive personality and struggled with anxiety. Once my life was not going as planned, I didn't know what to do. I was a perfect storm for alcoholism. I inevitably broke down and dove into rebellion. I acted like it was my choice and I had complete control. It was easy, living on the other side of the country from friends and family, to hide my problems for awhile. Anyone who expressed concern was (to me), jealous, uptight, nosy, everything but rightfully concerned. I started to make excuses for all the problems my drinking was causing. The world was just out to get me and everything bad just “happened” to poor me. My denial was horrible, and I actually believed everything I was saying.
My life was reckless, I was selfish and had no accountability for my behavior. I thought everyone was just judging me, but that was just in my head, because in reality, I had a secret to hide. I was a mess, and it was no secret. Jails, hospitals, accidents, estranged family and friends, evictions, repossessions, unemployment were all part of my life, but none of it was enough for me. The sad, sympathetic looks I saw from my loved ones were interpreted as pretension and judgment. It would be a long time before I figured out that they were never judging me. They never thought they were better than me, secretly, I thought they were better than me.
I hated myself, and I wanted to die. I wasn't living a life; I was merely existing. I had become obsessed with alcohol, it was the only thing I believed in, had faith in. Alcohol was my best friend, the only thing I trusted. I didn't even realize it at the time. I didn't understand what was wrong with me. I wasn't a bad person, I wasn't stupid, why was this all happening to me? I was terrified to find out the answer to that question. Maybe I was crazy, a criminal, a liar, a thief. I felt what I thought everybody else saw when they looked at me! I never imagined that I was a sick person. I never knew there was a treatment. I never thought it was a disease that could one day be in remission. I knew I didn't want that life anymore, but I didn't know that another one was possible. I assumed I had missed my chances and ruined everything in my life. It was too late, so why bother struggling? I never wanted to live without alcohol, to be one of “those sober people” I thought they were in some lame, pretentious cult. Ultimately, deep down, I knew I wanted to live, and sobriety had to be better than death.
Reluctantly, I entered a rehab center at the suggestion of my probation officer. I was terrified, but at the same time strangely relieved. My first few days there, I remember doing normal things. It felt amazing to wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast, (things I had previously neglected). It was so refreshing. It dawned on me how pathetic my life had been in comparison. It was like a bell went off and suddenly I wanted so desperately to live a “normal” life. Through rehab and counseling, I started to learn about myself. I started writing, talking and feeling. I found out that maybe I was good enough, maybe it's not all about me, and maybe everything would be okay. If I could go back in time, I probably wouldn't change anything. There was nothing that could have helped me stop until I was ready. It was the journey I needed to take.
At thirty years old, I picked up right back where I stopped growing up at 16. Four years later, I'm still learning to be a decent human being. The best thing I have gained in recovery is trust in myself to be fearless. Confidence in the universe to balance out my life. The trust of my family and friends. Today I am a reliable, accountable adult, and my loved ones can sleep at night. I pay bills, drive a car and even attend college again. Five years ago I was told I wasn't welcome in my niece and nephews lives because it wasn't fair to them to watch me slowly kill myself.
Contrastingly, today, I am asked to babysit! Today I face my problems and take a personal inventory of my behavior and attitudes. Today, my values are the same things I was afraid of when I was drinking: trust, faith, relationships, and feelings. I communicate and allow myself to have those feelings on a daily basis. I have to, for it's vital to my recovery. Not just for my recovery from addiction, but for my development into a functioning member of society.
I used the stigma associated with addiction as an excuse for never asking for help or even admitting I had a problem. Today, I face a different kind of stigma. Most people think I'm boring and sheltered. I often hear “We didn't believe you wanted to go-- because there will be alcohol.” The truth is, I can do literally anything in this world without picking up a drink. Today I can honestly say that I am living a life that is beyond the wildest dreams I used to have about what a happy life could be.
What I thought would be a restriction, has given me freedom. Sobriety has given me life. An amazing, fun life. I travel, I go to concerts, sporting events, and this year I even learned how to surf! I have been crossing things off my bucket list every few weeks. The same girl who used to find it impossible to sit still and be in her skin; who drank just to stop the racing thoughts, is now capable of being present in the moment. I never imagined the possibility of having peace, faith, and serenity.
Today I love myself and try to show others that they can too. Addiction can happen to anyone, and no one is immune. The good news is that recovery can also happen to anyone who wants it. One thing I am eternally grateful for is a thing that most people don't even know exists. I want to spread the word and show people that, not only is recovery possible but that there is nothing at all to be scared of.