While discussing my addiction with a new therapist I was asked, “Have you ever experienced any trauma?”
What a loaded question that is! I mean, define trauma.. Haven’t we all??
On the day I was born, my biological father left my mom in the hospital. I didn’t begin to build a relationship with him until I was around eight years old and then he tragically died. The first man that I ever called “Dada”, cheated on my mom and left us both. (Daddy issues, anyone?) For years I remained in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. I’ve been raped. I’ve been taken places and have had things done to me while blacked out. (PSA; if she can’t form a sentence, she can’t concede, and that’s rape.) My best friend, my soul mate, my everything.. Passed away unexpectedly.
All of those things pushed me into oblivion, I used all of those things as wonderful excuses to pick up. Yes, I’ve experienced ‘trauma’, but do those traumatic experiences explain my addiction? No, of course not. So, when did my addiction start? What brought it on and kept it going?? After years of drinking and a few years of sobriety, I’ve realized that it does not matter why I drank; it only matters that I did and that I somehow stopped.
I’m a terrible drunk, I’m a miserable drunk. I fight, I break stuff, I cry, I cut, I cheat, I wreck everything in my path. I turn into this black hole of chaos. And once I start, I cannot stop. I do not stop until the alcohol is gone, I have been kicked out or I pass out. From the very first time I drank at 15 years old, I began to tell myself, “Next time it will be different”. This time I will have fun.. This time I won’t be hateful! I won’t cheat! I won’t embarrass myself! This time, I can handle it. By the time I was 22 I decided I would stop trying to change, that it never would be any different for me. I gave into the blackouts, I conceded to the fucked-up parts of me and the chaos that I’d keep causing.
At the height of my addiction, somewhere near the end, I was physically addicted in a way I hope to never forget. I hope to never forget the cold sweats, never forget the way my heart felt like it would burst out of my chest with every beat. I’d wake up feeling like the whole world was crushing my soul, and in hindsight it really was. I had DTs with bizarre hallucinations and I shook in such an extreme way. I woke up every morning in my own piss, barely able to walk, self-inflicted cuts, my apartment was torn apart and no memory of what really happened.. My first question was never, what happened, it was always, how can I get more whiskey?
Beyond the physical addiction, I never want to forget the sick, worthless girl that alcohol eventually transformed me into. I was vile, I was lonely and isolated. I was constantly filled with intense fear. I was a liar and a cheat. I was unable to keep a job, I had wrecked my car, lost my license. I had zero potential.. And worst of all, I didn’t care about any of that.
I don’t remember much from my last drunk, I know that I had hit a point in my life where I was no longer living. I was literally drinking and waiting to die… I didn’t know how I’d die, but I knew it was coming. I know I woke up that morning, still drunk from the night before, I know I continued to drink heavily from the moment I came to. I don’t know how I ended up back at home and I don’t remember my mom finding me. I vaguely recall my mom’s attempts to get me to detox, and I can’t remember the intake process. It wasn’t my first time and I assumed it wouldn’t be my last. I didn’t intend to get sober, but lucky for me the universe had other plans.
A few days after being in detox; after my shakes had subsided, after my mind seemed a bit less foggy, I was visited by a doctor who changed my life. He asserted something blunt, honest and spot on, “Melissa, I’ve never seen anyone as young as you drink the way that you do. You’re trying to kill yourself, I don’t know why, but you are. And if you don’t stop you are going to succeed.” Why the truth affected me the way it did, I’m not sure. Surely he hadn’t told me anything I wasn’t already aware of. But for whatever reason, it was his words that made me at least want to attempt sobriety again.
I knew if I had any chance of staying sober I’d have to change everything about my life. The pathetic state of my life was only accelerating my self-hate, and self-hate fueled all of my self-destruction. If I remained where I was, I’d certainly pick up again. So little by little I started to change. I ended my long-term relationship with my alcoholic fiance. I went back to meetings, I decided to live with my parents indefinitely, I got a job, I started school, I completed treatment and then completed IOP. I needed the accountability; it was hard, I didn’t have a car and I took the bus everywhere. Yet, little by little I started to change. Day by day I stayed sober and I began to believe, maybe I can do this after-all.
When I think back to the girl I was in active addiction, it’s like watching someone else’s life. I mourn for her; she was so broken, so angry, so lost and I had given up on her. Today I am not that girl, and I almost don’t recognize her. I’m happy, I’m kind, I’m responsible, and those things scare the shit out of me too.. But it’s a different sort of fear.
I didn’t plan to have kids (but of course they’re my world), and I cannot explain how much I love my husband. But, wife and mommy don’t define the sober me. What defines me today is; student, daughter, sister, cousin, niece… Strength, love, gratitude, hope, fighter, believer.. Miracle.
And I am not alone. There are millions of us recovering from all sorts of addictions who have found recovery in all sorts of ways. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, sobriety does not discriminate. Chase your solution, be kind, believe in anything bigger than yourself. Live in your truth..And your life will change.
Thanks for letting me share.