I had myself convinced for most of my life that I would never become an alcoholic like my dad, his dad, my brothers, my aunts and my uncles, but the truth is that I was first blackout drunk at 12. Throughout my 20s, I had myself convinced becoming blackout drunk was just a once in awhile thing. It happened to everyone, right? It never dawned on me that most people don’t have the experience of not remembering what they did the night before. I thought it happened to everyone. I knew the signs of addiction were there, and at that time in my life, I probably could have stopped drinking, but I liked the effects of alcohol if not the aftereffects and consequences.
At that time I had a family to care for and children to raise, and I kept alcoholism somewhat at bay. At some point in my early 30s, something shifted. It was like a switch was thrown on. I was miserable for many reasons. I started drinking more frequently, and I began doing things that were completely out of character for me. I would not have done them if not for my drinking and being in my “alcoholic fog.” I won’t go into detail, as that’s between me, my higher power and my sponsor, but the result was a move halfway across the country to try to start a new life. However I didn’t stop drinking so it continued to get worse. I no longer wanted to drink. I had to if for no other reason than to get over the hangover from the previous day. I was still a “functioning” alcoholic.
I began going to meetings in my early 40s, but I did not get the program. I believed I should fear God. I grew up in a church where I was told I was going to go to hell because I did things that were against their beliefs. I didn’t understand that there was a difference between religion and spirituality and that I could make a connection with a loving God of my own understanding. That stopped me from getting sober for many years. There was no way I could believe that “a power greater than myself would restore me to sanity,” and there was no way I was going to turn my will and life over to a god that I feared.
I still went to meetings to keep peace at home. I was still married at that time, and my youngest son was in middle school. During the next 10 years, I found myself in 4 different rehabs and lost at least that many jobs. One of my employers actually took me to meetings after I got drunk at work one day. I had my family paralyzed by my alcoholism. My son would stand in front of my car so that I wouldn’t drive to the store for more booze, and that image is still burned into my memory.
By my mid 40s, I thought I had lost everything: my home and my 23-year marriage, many good jobs and most of my family. My brother, who was 30 years sober then, told me after I finally got sober that they all believed I would be the one sibling that alcohol took down as it did my dad. Despite these consequences I continued to drink. I had to. I was still in and out of the program with one foot in, one foot out.
By the time I was 50, I had been to rehab at least 3 more times and had been hospitalized at least 3 times for detox, but I could not stop drinking daily. I drank to stop the shakes, to block out pain and to stop the loneliness that I felt. I just didn’t want to feel anymore. I would only wake up to feed my cat, drink some more and go back to sleep. This went on for months at a time. I just didn’t care about anyone or anything anymore. I didn’t work because I couldn’t. I had lost yet another job, and I was on the verge of being homeless because I had no money to pay my bills. I somehow had money for booze though even if I had to “borrow.” I would only leave the house at night to go buy more booze. It was like living in a black hole. It was progressive just like they said it would be, and towards the end I could not stop. I tried!
I had one good friend left: my neighbor. I called her one afternoon, and I told her that I just wanted to die. I prayed to God to either help me stop this madness or take me right then and there. I was on my knees for the first time since I was a child. I hadn’t been to a 12-step meeting in over a year, but we found an old phone listing from the group that I had gone to, and we made a phone call. The call that saved my life. I thought I was calling someone I had known when I went to the meetings there, someone who would go easy on me and be sympathetic, but I dialed a wrong number with the same first name and last initial. The person that answered the phone was a woman I had never met before. She, not knowing who I was or anything about me, came to my door and took me to a meeting. She and her husband stayed with me that whole evening even though it was his birthday. She explained to me that she had been sober since she was 19, since before she was legally able to drink. Alcohol almost killed her at a very young age. She is my age. She was able to explain the 12 steps in a way that I could understand. After hitting bottom after bottom after bottom, I finally got it. We started going to regular meetings together, spending time together and working the steps together. She is my sponsor to this day, and tomorrow she will have 31 years sober.
For the first time in my life, someone was able to get through to me. I don’t know if it happened because I was finally able to surrender or if this was God (as I understand him today) doing as I prayed that day to either help me or take me. Sitting here just thinking about this, I cry.
I’m not sure what prompted me to write this today. I read another post this morning, and I have been doing some serious soul searching lately. I have an anniversary coming up soon too, and I get reflective before a sobriety birthday. I can only tell you that since that day, I have not had a drop of anything with alcohol, and life has become incredible. I am not saying that every day is that way. This is life after all, but I have never, ever had such peace in my heart as I do today.
This 12-step fellowship has saved my life. This program works, and I am forever grateful to it and to the wonderful people and friends that are in it. If I can do this, anyone can, one day at a time.