I began my career in addiction at the age of eleven, desperate to fit in, to fill the hole I always felt. I started with smoking cigarettes, progressing to alcohol, pot, acid, pills of any kind, and THC through my teens. I was pregnant at sixteen, married at seventeen, divorced by eighteen. Though my teens and twenties I drank alcoholically, though not daily. Once I began drinking, I could not stop. I knew almost from the beginning that I did not drink like other people. I could not stop once started, never wanted the night or day to end once I started, and would feel anxious that I was going to run out once I started.
I sought the ease of the effects of alcohol, or I chased the escape it gave me. Everything was funnier, I was more comfortable in my skin, could talk to anyone without fear of judgement. I drove drunk, with my child in the car, frequently. I took advantage of people, asking almost anyone to babysit so I could go out and get high. I lied to and manipulated people. I made promises I did not keep. I was never on time, and resented it if someone made a comment about it. I screamed at my daughter with little provocation, and I treated her like she was a burden.
I made many bad decisions based on my feelings of emptiness that affected my daughter and myself, and frequently put me in a position to be hurt. I remarried, divorced, moved my child around a lot, finally moving 700 miles from home for a better life, more affordable. By now, I was 31, had a steady job and was beginning to feel like I had arrived. I met and married a non-drinking man, and spent the next 5-6 years the way I thought a normal family lives.
When that marriage failed in 2001. I began drinking again which progressed to daily drinking. My daughter passed away in 2003 from asthma, and that was a springboard for my drinking. It was another 3 years and 4 months before I made the best decision of my life, to come into recovery.
I spent so much time telling myself I would not drink again, I would be a better mother, a better worker, and I thought I was trying to do all those things. But now, in recovery, I began looking back on my life with a clearer mind, I could see where I had not thought of my family first, where I had frequently sought solace via alcohol, and it was an obsession I could not dispel. I was terrified that I would not be able to stop and if I did stop, that I wouldn’t know how to live.
In recovery I found a community of people who, like me, sought first to stop their pain, then sought a better way of life, then sought to improve themselves as human beings by helping others. Sometimes these three journeys were intertwined.
I genuinely sought to help others with no thought of gain for the first time in my life. I was able to be present for my family, friends, strangers, anyone who needed help.
After two years of sobriety, my mother became terminally ill. I temporarily moved into the condo beside hers so that I could help my sisters as we took care of her. After five months, she had moved back to my house with me, and she passed away. I was present, honored to be so, humbled by her trust in me to care for her.
Several years later, I took care of my then-boyfriend, who had terminal cancer. Again, I was able and dedicated to being as fully present as I could be, through his illness, his death, and the many months since when his family needed support and encouragement.
I have suffered through deep bouts of depression, without alcohol or drugs. I have learned to refrain from acting on negative feelings, to wait, to pray, to discuss them with others. I have learned to be deeply grateful even while in those states.
There are so many misconceptions about people in recovery. I can recall judging people in recovery with pity. Now, I realize it is a cause for celebration. I thought recovery meant never having fun again (waking up in your own vomit-covered hair is certainly less than fun). I had no idea how you can possibly love without those crutches, particularly in times of sorrow or fear. But I can, and I have. I feel like people in recovery are somewhat enlightened to a greater degree than many who never seek self-improvement.
I recall viewing people who were addicted to substances or behaviors with disdain “why don't they just stop?” Now I know it's more than that, much more. It's a sickness that requires patience and kindness and understanding from others.
I saw the first glimmers of hope in recovery. Having been through much darkness in recovery, I can say that I have survived much adversity, sober, and present. Being present is the most valuable aspect of sobriety in my life.