- Friends & Family
I’m Tarra and I’m an alcoholic. I am proof that genetics is powerful. Alcoholism and addiction run deep in my family. Throughout my life, I have stood back and judged the alcohol use of family members. I have participated in interventions, even while I drank to get through them. No, I literally had a beer in hand while explaining to a family member that they were making poor decisions and abusing substances. Pretty ridiculous now that I am able to look back with a clear mind. I have family members who are still drinking and using, but by the grace of God, I have been sober for five years.
My alcohol use started in high school with little experiments. College was a hot mess. Lots of vomiting, beer bongs, keg stands, shots… but I somehow managed a normal life. I was able to only party on weekends and during my junior year of college I got engaged. I slowed my drinking and managed a 4.0 GPA the last four semesters of my college career.
In 1995, I married the father of my children. I had my first child in 1998 and my second in 2000. By 2003, the marriage was at its breaking point. There were hurt feelings, trust issues and two people who loved each other but were no longer in love. My husband and I separated (but did not legally divorce).
Our relationship was quite impressive. We were friends again. We worked well, sharing custody of the children. We started dating other people. We had partners that both of us approved to be in the presence of our children. Side note… my drinking during this time was casual, weekends or special occasions. I was employed full time, owned my home as a single parent, and was able to be a mom who was mentally present.
In early 2004, the man I was dating moved into my home. A month later, the mother of his child was hit by a vehicle and severely injured. We suddenly had custody of a three-year-old.
A few short months later in August, my partner and I took the kids on vacation to the mountains. The plan was for my kids’ father and his girlfriend to meet us in the mountains and enjoy some time with the kids. A few days prior to arrival, the kids’ dad called and expressed that he was sick and didn’t know if he could make it in time. This phone call was followed by several phone calls over the next few days with reports of pneumonia, several trips to the local ER and lots of unanswered questions.
We returned from vacation and when we arrived at home, the father of my children came over to our home and give what would be the last hug and kiss to his children. He was admitted to the hospital later that evening, he remained in the ICU for 18 days in a medically induced coma on a ventilator. At some point he was extubated, he went into respiratory distress and cardiac arrest and would be declared brain dead. In the end, the machines were turned off and he passed away. This time would haunt me, fill me with regret and fuel my drinking.
During his period of hospitalization, I did what I thought was respectful. Even though we were still legally married, I kept my distance. For the record, I never thought he was going to die. He was a healthy 38-year-old man! No healthy 38-year-old dies from pneumonia!
Somewhere around day six, I could not take it anymore. I coordinated a visit. The first thing his sister said was, “he had been asking for you.” My thoughts… “I wanted to come; why didn’t anyone call me; damn it, I was trying to be respectful and that was obviously the wrong thing; he thinks that I don’t care.” I would never see him awake…. He was sedated and the next time I saw him was when the machines were turned off and I waited to watch his lifeless body take its last breath.
The man I was dating asked to marry me and my children shortly after. He wanted to step in and be a father to these two children. For that next year, I didn’t cry or mourn. I had two children who lost their father. They needed for me to be amazing! I did my best to stay strong.
That year my son got pneumonia. He was only seven. That was the beginning of my downward spiral. I became obsessed with health. I walked around with a thermometer. I was always worried when the kids were not in my presence. I made myself physically ill by worrying. I would not let the kids play outside.
Drinking made me feel a little better. It took away my stress. It numbed the sting of regret. The regret of not going to the hospital with my first husband. If I would have gone, I felt that I could have changed the outcome. I would have been a better advocate. He would have known that I loved him. He would have known that I would always honor his memory with his kids…These things were filling my body with pain. Pain that I did not want to feel.
A year or two later, I got sick. In the process of a running test, it was discovered that I had an unusually low white blood count. The nurse who initially told me this suggested to me that I might have HIV. I was terrified! It would take a week of testing and drinking to find that I was HIV negative.
If it wasn’t HIV, it must be leukemia. This was definitely when I started drinking daily. I started at five in the evening and stayed on the back porch drinking until I could not speak clearly. After a year of testing and consults with hematologist and rheumatologist, the consensus was that I was normal, but the damage was done.
My drinking was progressing to earlier in the day. I was hiding drinks. I would drink and then pretend that I was stressed and having my first beer when my husband got home from work. My kids became a burden. Homework was interfering with my drinking time. I no longer worked full-time which allowed for lots of drinking time. I became a hermit. I never wanted to leave my house. I wanted to drink and smoke cigarettes all day in private and by myself. I did have two friends who would join me on the weekends but other than that, I was a loner. Drinking to take away my fear of death. I could tell many drinking stories of shame and embarrassment but the most important part of the story is that which follows…
Praise God, a few days later my husband would say during the heat of an argument what would forever change my life, “you are an alcoholic just like your…….” ( I will leave the name blank as this is my story and I do not want to break anyone else’s anonymity). I was furious and relieved! I knew deep down that I had a problem. I had been trying self-test to see if I could not drink and could no longer make it a day. I prayed to not drink in the morning but forgot about God and my prayers as the afternoon approached. The next day we went to therapy.
Upon the therapist’s suggestion, I went to a twelve step meeting that evening. That was July 18, 2011, my sobriety date. I went to at least one meeting a day for the next two years, but more importantly I embraced my relationship with God. I submitted to God and he took my pain, fear, anxiety and regret.
I have since gone back to school and I am an RN. I am a mother to three amazing children and a wife to a man who rescued this family. I love sobriety. You could have never convinced me that this would be the case while I was drinking. My life has never been better and it keeps getting better. I can feel pain, anger, hurt and fear without drinking. Life is meant to be experienced and I have been blessed to be an alcoholic! My experience has given me the opportunity to see how short life can be, how much it is to be valued and that it is important to be present for every moment!