Clean Date: November 11th, 2018
From: Southern California
Addiction was always in my family. My father was an alcoholic. He always behaved erratically, so I kind of always knew that it was a problem I could inherit. At first, I stayed away from drinking and smoking, but I was always curious. When I was 20 years old, I studied abroad in Italy, where I don't think there was a minimum drinking age. It was then that I first started drinking. We would walk to this place called the Bosom Pub every night, and when I got there, I was just off to the races. Being in active addiction was like falling down a rabbit hole. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It was fun at first, but then, of course, it stopped being fun. I developed this persona of being a party girl and I always wanted to drink. I always was the one who was like: “Let's get shots!”. I was always drinking tequila, with the lime, and the salt, and I just couldn't get enough.
Eventually I needed more alcohol and I had to drink every night. When I was drunk, I felt invincible; I felt pretty and desired, but then I started feeling lonely. Getting drunk wasn't fixing the problem--it wasn't fixing my loneliness. Before I started using, I didn't know how to connect with the opposite sex. I didn't know how to talk to guys. I always had a crush, but it was always unrequited. Even when I started drinking, I still didn't know how to talk to guys. Then, one day I figured it out. I would drink, go home with someone and then I'd be sad because the guy wouldn't call me the next day. I didn't realize that I was meeting people under the wrong circumstances. I was trying to use men and alcohol to fill this hole of loneliness, but it wouldn't go away.
At the same time, I started alienating people--one of my sisters won't even talk to anymore. When I first started using, I got alcohol poisoning at a party and she wouldn't speak to me for three days after that. I remember my mom and my whole family came up to shame me, or at least that’s what it felt like. They were actually just worried about me because I was going down this path and they didn't recognize me anymore. I was also losing a lot of weight; I think I was 89 pounds. That's what being in active addiction was like. I would feel invincible, but then I'd feel everything crashing down around me. I felt lonely. I felt worthless.
What brought me to recovery was a friend. Another part of my story is my mental illness. I knew there was something different with my wiring, the way my brain works. So, I was seeking therapy and I would go to individual therapy once a week and then I would go through group therapy called DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). That's where I met a very close friend that I have now. I met them through group therapy, and they introduced me to Narcotics Anonymous. Of course, I was skeptical when I went to my first meeting, but I raised my hand and I shared, and people were very receptive.
I hadn’t stopped drinking, though. So, I went through this cycle of abstaining for a couple months, then using again, ruining my life, abstaining again, and so on. For me, my rock-bottom was actually very quiet. Of course, I've had other bottoms where I would wake up in an ambulance or I'd end up in another part of town with no shoes and no phone, but this last rock bottom really resonated with me. I woke up in my husband's house, I was safe, nothing happened. He wasn't even mad at me, but emotionally and spiritually, I was completely destroyed. I felt like I wanted to die. For some reason, this was just something different. I felt so much shame and guilt and I think this was really what kind of cemented the end of my marriage. So, I just went to a meeting and I told them I was ready. After that, I actually took it seriously. I still wasn't really working the program, but I was able to abstain for a lot longer. I got a sponsor and I worked some steps. Then I got a different sponsor. I was able to work the program a lot better.
Recovery has definitely helped me. My family has seen a difference. Even one of my sisters stood up for me because my mom was telling me I was spending too much time at meetings and my sister went to her and said: "This is the only thing that's keeping her clean". Now that I'm clean, I'm not waking up sick in the morning. I'm not doing things that I don't remember. I'm not alienating people. I think that it's definitely changed my perspective. I'm able to foster relationships, set boundaries and stay away from toxic people. I have a lot more humility now that I'm in recovery.
I think it’s important to note that just because you're in recovery, it doesn't make life easier. I still go through my bad days. The saving grace is that it's not something I feel like I have to numb myself to. I'd rather be miserable than miserable and hungover. I would say to a struggling addict to keep coming back and don't beat yourself up. Go to a meeting, reach out to people. If you can't go to meetings, reach out to someone, anybody. Whether you're dealing with your mental health or with wanting to use or hurt yourself. Always talk to someone because that's what saved my life. I really believe that it's the interpersonal relationships that we build that save us.
In my recovery, I’ve learned to embrace my passions. I'm a bit of a seamstress. I like sewing a lot. I have an artistic background. I went to UCF in Orlando. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2012 and I have a lot of experience in the Marine industry as an administrative assistant.
It can be harder to love someone who's using than it is to be the one using. My advice to a family struggling with a loved one who is using is that you can never force someone to be clean. It's not your fault. Until they're ready, all you can do is be there for them within reason.
My biggest takeaway from recovery is that it's not a straight line. You'll take a couple steps forward, couple steps back, but you're never at the bottom. It's something that you just have to work at if you really want it. There's no end game, there's no happy ending, and then the credits roll. It's always going to be dynamic, but that's great. That's the good thing about it. You can always improve.