RECOVERY STORY OF THE MONTH!
Sobriety Date: February 3, 2016
My name is Emily and I am most definitely an alcoholic. My sobriety date is February 3, 2016. I have a sponsor who has a sponsor and so on, I have a working knowledge of the 12 steps which I do my best to apply to daily living, and MOST importantly I have a higher power of my understanding today.
Alcohol has always been in my life as far back as any memory I have. My parents both qualify for this program, and they divorced over my dad’s alcoholism. I was taught from an early age that this was an illness and that dad was sick. The divorce was devastating to me at a young age and I felt abandoned. My mom remarried years later and life went on without dad. I was always quiet and reserved, trying to fit in somewhere.
The summer before 9th grade (my start of high school) my mom and step dad went out of town for the night and I decided to throw a little party. This was the first time I introduced alcohol to my body. I still remember how it felt: freeing! I could laugh easier, dance, I felt as if I was the life of the party, all insecurities melted away. Those feelings quickly left, when all the “class” a 9th grader can muster, I puked virtually in front of everyone. In humiliation I went upstairs crying and said “I don’t want to turn out like dad.” And I swore off drinking…for the moment. Since I am a quick forgetter that obviously did not last long.
I still remember how it felt: freeing! I could laugh easier, dance, I felt as if I was the life of the party, all insecurities melted away.
By the middle of freshman year, I was regularly hanging out with my “new friends” from the party and with a little practice I became a dignified drinker. I didn’t puke and I kept my grades up to Honor Role level throughout 10th grade. I had this. Eleventh grade came however and a shift took place in both my drinking and my academic success. They were inversely proportional—as I got better at drinking, my grades and attendance grew worse. By my senior year I barely made graduation, but I had demonstrated distinct mastery of alcoholism (only I didn’t know it yet).
I tried a year of college, but that quickly was a repeat of senior year and I simply quit showing up for class. By now I was 19 and that opened up an opportunity to get a bartending job. I was suspecting at that time that my drinking was different from many of my friends. I remember thinking “bartending is probably a bad idea.” But I quickly shoved that thought away and started by first bartending gig. In the bar surrounding, there were many people that drank more than I did, and that thinking allowed me to tell myself, I really wasn’t THAT bad. Being a good bartender meant you had to be friendly and laugh with people, alcohol helped me do my job well in addition to giving me unlimited access to my drug of choice on a daily basis. My daily routine rapidly became drink, sleep, drink, sleep, (occasionally eat) day after day. This groundhog’s-day approach to my life, is virtually reflective of my twenties.
Then, a shift in my body occurred. I woke up one morning and couldn’t find any alcohol to ward off the now daily morning shakes, and I had my first of many seizures. The logical response should have been to quit drinking, but my every energy became focused on what was the right amount to drink. If I drank too little, I had a seizure, but if I had too much alcohol, I had a seizure. Countless admissions to the ICU with near death experiences, doctors and nurses pleading with me trying to interject some sanity into this insane brain I was managing.
If I drank too little, I had a seizure, but if I had too much alcohol, I had a seizure.
The chaos and the wreckage of my life continued. I lost my apartment, lost my job, closed my bank account because I had no income, literally not a dollar to my name. I was carrying my clothes in a bag from couch to couch and burning every bridge I had ever built in my life. February 2, 1016, ironically Groundhog Day, in my same fashion, I drank the day into the night. On that night however, while drinking I came across a meditation book my mother had given me, and I remember the phrase “the groundhog broke ground to find new sanctuary.” I remember thinking, that’s me, my life is groundhog’s day. The next morning, I was violently ill. With no alcohol to drink, I again began seizing, but this time I begged to go to the hospital, not just for the seizure but for help. Help with a disease I could not control. Help for relief from a disease that was killing me.
For whatever reason on this day, THIS was my moment of clarity. This was my moment, the moment known in the rooms as “the bottom”. After yet another stay in ICU being treated for seizures and withdrawal, I was discharged but not home, to a place called the Jean Marie House. Broken, homeless, hopeless, and terrified, I showed up carrying every earthly belonging I owned packed in a suitcase and all my emotional baggage in my brain. Exactly, where was I? I had never gone to treatment before. Arrival at JMH was a step into a different world than I had ever known. I was greeted by smiling women who had come to help me with my belongings and assist me in getting my room. I remember thinking, how are they all so happy and smiling? This is rehab, one step above jail or one step below, depending on your view.
The first couple of weeks were a blur. Paper work, take a shower, process your clothes, here is your schedule, get your chores assigned. My head was both foggy and spinning. Oh yes, and learning the rules, because there were plenty of them to go around. Looking back, I see the purpose in every bit of this. Left to my own thinking, I had made a certain mess of my life. Right now I needed someone to take over my decision making until I could learn better, safer decision-making skills. During the time at JMH we are required to get a sponsor and begin working the steps. AA and its program are introduced from day one and continued growth in the program is an essential component of this thing called recovery.
This was the first thing I had followed through with in my entire life.
After nine months you are given a certificate of completion. These are all framed and placed on the wall in the group room. These stand as a reminder of those who have gone before you. This was the first thing I had followed through with in my entire life. Seeing the frames on the wall reminded me that there is hope. The program has been around long enough that there are hundreds of certificates that embody strength, tenacity and the commitment of the recovery addict to love, encourage, and endure even when some fail. No, you do not have to go through a recovery house in order to get or stay sober, but for me it is exactly what I needed. I needed to go somewhere and learn how to be a responsible adult, with structure. I needed to be taught how to live again. There is an eternal gratitude I have for JMH, but mostly to my higher power and the AA program He allowed me to find.
Just because I got sober does not mean that life is perfect, life on life’s terms. But today I have a choice; choice over how I will act, and react to trials and tribulations. I have gone through tremendous loss and heartache in sobriety. A little over a year into sobriety I lost my grandfather, in December of 2018 I lost the most important woman in my life…my mom. As I mentioned my mother was also one of us and unfortunately did not seek help before it was too late. When mom was dying, instead of being angry with God, I found my relationship growing stronger and asking questions like “what can I be learning from this.” It was an absolute blessing that she got to see me sober before she left this earth, and an even bigger blessing that I was sober and present and got to spend her final months with her. That would not have been possible without recovery. My dad who also qualifies, got sober at the age of 64 shortly after mom passed…what a miracle. I was able to orchestrate an “intervention” where my sponsor was present along with his loved ones. (No, he does not mind me mentioning this.)
Today I have the opportunity to turn “barstool dreams” into reality — I am in school for nursing, and my next clinical rotation is at the hospital I used to frequent for alcohol withdrawal. Blessing. Today I have a choice and I will choose sobriety over and over forever and always. This program and working the steps has allowed me to look at life differently, to love, not to take things for granted, to be grateful every day. If you are new or struggling, please reach out, talk about what is going on. Follow directions, this is a simple program for complicated people.