I must preface my story by saying that my ego wants to write something profound. I want to say something that will give hope to someone that might be feeling desperate, but I know that all I have to say is the truth, no embellishments required. I am not worried, but like admitting I am nervous before speaking publicly seems to diffuse that anxious energy, I am confessing my shortcomings that sometimes still get the best of my good intentions.
I am an addict and all that implies. I want more of anything outside of myself (people, drugs, gambling, sex, food) that causes me to feel good, larger than life, prettier, slimmer, more important or better than. I am the daughter of an alcoholic and the mother of an addict. I have both seen and been party to creating the destruction that lies in the wake of an active addict’s life.
For as far back as I can remember, I felt different. I have come to learn that many people like me have described feeling this as a kid. Now I know that I am different, and I know why. I grew up in rural Connecticut in a middle-class family with a lot of trauma. I was dealt a crappy hand, and I learned to cope the only way I could: I learned how to deny. I denied the feelings I had, the circumstances that caused me so much shame and myself the right to express myself. It was not safe for me to do so. I learned that lesson very early.
I knew I didn’t drink like other kids very early in my career. Growing up in the 80s meant there was an abundance of people to share all-nighters with, and I found narcotics to be the perfect companion to my love for the fast party life. I danced and had fun, lots of it, until it was no longer fun and became a “have to” in my daily life. By the time I was of legal age to drink, I was tired. At 22 years old, 2 ½ years after my mother got sober, I made my first go at a sober life of my own.
I thought I had escaped and spared my future children from experiencing what I suffered as a child. I was fully committed to a changed life. I changed jobs, friends and where I spent my free time. I followed the suggestions of others I met and started to learn a new way of life and a design for living that worked. Over the years, I got a great job and met the man that would become my husband, and we created a wonderful life for our blended family of five children.
Around 12 years later, I was far removed from my supports and my spiritual life. I forgot what gratitude was, and I relapsed. Someone suggested we get high, and it just sounded like a good idea. Just like that, everything I thought I knew went out the window. I was staring back into the eyes of a monster. That monster was me.
I had young children, and I was taking them down with me. I lied to myself and justified my behavior until that day when I was blessed with a moment of clarity. I was given the gift of desperation. I crawled home with the most horrible feeling of dread that I have ever known. It didn’t matter that I “knew” all about a sober life. I was powerless to stop on my own. I knew I was killing myself, and I didn’t care. I did care about my mother and my children, so I gave sobriety another chance. I started to do the same things that had worked all those years before. I came back even more willing than I had been at 22 years old. I would do anything that was suggested to me by my sober supports. It was the last hope for me. That was 31 months ago.
I am a different woman than the one I was that day I did the unthinkable to feed my addictions. I had been gambling destructively so I had exhausted my life savings, and I was spiritually bankrupt. I have found a way of life that is simple but truly happy. I am still working to right the wrongs, and I welcome opportunities to make amends to those I have harmed. The most crucial thing that is different for me now is that I understand my priorities. My relationship with my higher power is always the most important thing in my day. Whenever life starts to feel “hard,” I know that I am being Lisa-reliant. I remember that my record for living through hard times is 100%, and I choose to do something else or help someone else. I walk with the absolute peace that comes with trusting this divine power to show me the next step. I really am happy and usefully whole. Because I understand myself, I can understand others and practice tolerance and forgiveness. Instead of getting resentful or shaming myself, I recognize who I am and decide who I want to be every single day. I must remain vigilant. Most importantly I must help others. These are not just nice ideas for me. They are essential for me to stay alive and happy. The outline is a simple one: remain grateful, ask for clear thinking, listen for the answers, take actions consistent with what I hear and, above all, know that my purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics/addicts to achieve sobriety. Everything else seems to work out if I do this. I will never be able to express the gratitude I have for this chance to be truly alive and sober.