“LIFE or DEATH. These are your only options, Jen”.
My mind was talking to me and negotiating with me in the end. I knew I had to choose one, or the other, and those choices were clearly limited. As I sat on the edge of my bed in the dark, drunk, looking for pills wanting to die, I cried out to God. I asked him to guide me and help me out of the darkness- I asked him to be my “compass.”
When I began my journey of recovery I had been using and abusing alcohol for 21 years. Like so many before me I had discovered booze at a young age. I thought it was exciting. I thought I’d fit in somehow with the “cool crowd” if I could show being drunk was something I could handle.
For me, at a very young age, I discovered that consciousness = pain. So I put myself in a prison where I would hide for decades. Thing is, I hated that prison. I honestly hated booze. I hated the taste of it and the after effects. But I did, however, like the blackout part. Because that meant I was oblivious to EVERYTHING. I was a chronic binge drinker. I was stubborn. I didn’t listen to anybody about anything…EVER. I believed I could find a path to recovery all on my own. I’d sit for hours getting drunk, pontificating with a shadow asking “what is MY purpose?” “Why am I here?” “Is there a God?” Little did I know this disease would be a pathway to my purpose. I just couldn’t see that at the time.
My attempts to get sober were met with the obvious questions, “Why can’t you just stop?” “Why are you self sabotaging?” “Why don’t you love me enough to quit?” “Why don’t you love yourself?” I was unsuccessful for 10 years as I chased sobriety. People judged me and put me down. People told me addiction is a “severe emotional sickness” which ultimately leads back to some type of personality disorder. People left me out of functions and events because I was “a severe alcoholic.” I was talked about, put down and made fun of. I work in political talk radio so anyone and everyone could take their shot with thousands of people listening at anytime. Everyone knew I was a drunk.
I grew frustrated because despite having a legit “disease” people did, in fact, think addiction was based solely around “choices.” I’d tell them it wasn’t that easy and was far more complicated than they could comprehend. I couldn’t make anyone understand, but I desperately wanted to. Hell, I didn’t even understand the complexities of the disease.
However, I was fortunate enough to fall in love with and live with a person in recovery who understood what I was going through. She understood the challenges I was facing because of the disease. When people say “addicts get addicts”- thats no lie. For the first time in my adult life I felt okay. I was safe with a woman I adored and she accepted me for who I was. She stayed with me for many years despite my inability to get and stay sober. She was my rock, someone I’ll always love and be grateful for. God sends us what we need, she was my light where the darkness resided. She helped me grow.
Not everyone who has blazed through my life feels this compassion and concern. MANY people have come and gone. Many people SAY they understand addiction until it “hits the fan” and then they’re out. It’s those people I hope to reach- It’s those people who create the stigma of addiction that we must change.
The little time I’ve had in recovery has been the best and worst of my life so far. When you are a drunk for 31 years, you have to learn how to feel again. You have to learn to live without the booze despite still carrying the disease. It’s a tricky thing to manage but it has been done and can be done in my life and yours. There are so many powerful examples of people in recovery.
I have learned, for sure, listening to others and asking for help are things that must be done in recovery. I cannot do this alone. Better still, I don’t have to. Many people (myself included) resist the simplicity of recovery. It really is as simple as “keeping it simple.”
Everyday in recovery I hope to touch someone’s life – with a smile, a kind gesture, or offering help to someone. The joy in my heart has come from God. My connection with him and the relationship we share is vital for me in recovery. Everyone has to find something that motivates them, guides them. I choose God as my guide. He is my compass and I trust him.
As a chronic relapser, I know it’s difficult for people to understand why I couldn’t stay sober. I also know the pain I’ve caused when active. However in recovery, I have found a peace, a zen place to reside where I am free. Free from all the chatter and strong enough to carry on a message of hope. I used to think this disease was a curse, but it’s actually a blessing. I get to work with God and he works through me to do his will. Whatever that is. Addiction is what you make of it, and I want to use this experience to shine a light on those who are still struggling. YOU CAN DO THIS.
You are powerful beyond measure, YOU can help change the world.
So get to it and remember, Im right beside you.