Alcohol has been intertwined in my life as far back as I can remember. My first memory is of me cowering behind the dining room table while my dad was beating my mom in a drunken rage. I then applied bandages to her cuts caused by broken beer bottles. I was 3 years old. Shortly after, my mom left my dad and I did not see him for several years as he was not allowed to see my brother and I until he got sober. Throughout this time, I struggled with the conviction that I was not good enough for him to choose to put the bottle down. During this time he was also arrested multiple times for DUIs and other alcohol related offenses.
When I was six years old my mom remarried to an alcoholic of a different variety. He was the fun type who threw parties often and I spent many nights doing homework at the local bar. At 7 years old, after a day partying he accidentally fell backwards onto my leg, breaking my fibula bone. He told me to “suck it up” and I was forced to hop around on what he was convinced was a sprained ankle for several weeks. Within a couple of years they divorced because he wanted children of his own and my mom could not give him that.
This again left me feeling inadequate. This time we moved in with my grandparents who had lived down the street. A few years later my mom remarried, to a man she met through church. He introduced her to cocaine and was also unfaithful so that marriage did not last. During this time I discovered that cutting myself was a great release, it made me feel in control of my pain, and I continued cutting until I discovered alcohol.
My first drink was on my fourteenth birthday, my best friend’s step father promised to provide wine coolers if I celebrated at their house. I remember thinking “finally, I will get to see what alcohol is all about, and maybe understand why my father chose it over us.” I remember chugging the wine coolers as fast as I could, but I don’t remember feeling any effect, as I was molested by my friend’s stepfather that night, I just remember feeling frozen. That was my first sexual experience, and the day after I remember concluding that this is what all men must be like, that sex is all they care about and I just learned it a little earlier than most. The five boyfriends who quickly dumped me because I “wasn’t ready” confirmed this conclusion. Around this time I discovered I had easy access to alcohol, my mom would rather me drink at home than elsewhere and a friend of mine down the street had an abundance of alcohol whose mother never noticed when it went missing. I fell in love with alcohol, it calmed my nerves, it was as if I could finally be comfortable in my own skin, I could breathe. Marijuana soon became part of the norm as well, anything to help me escape.
When I was 16 I met my first love, he was four years older than me and his drug habits were far more advanced as well. At 17 I was smoking meth almost every weekend, but I was still on path to graduate so I convinced myself it was okay. This relationship was extremely unhealthy and volatile, and at 19 I left him and was able to leave the meth behind too. Upon moving in with my first roommate and landing a job in the kitchen at a local steakhouse, my drinking ramped up exponentially. My father lived in the same complex as us and one night he asked if we wanted to play liquor pong. My heart sank, I thought he’d been sober for several years, but of course I said yes. This is where my relationship with my father finally began. We drank and smoked pot together almost every night, to the point of blacking out.
He’d cry and apologize for my childhood, I’d cry and say I forgave him.
Around this time I met my soon-to-be husband, a chef at the restaurant I worked in. My drinking was under control during this time except for when I’d hang out with friends or my dad. When I got married I was the happiest I’d ever been. I had someone who chose me and committed to loving me forever. I switched careers to the finance industry for the benefits and pay so that starting a family was a feasible goal for us. After 2 years of marriage, I realized I didn’t truly know my husband, I was no longer happy and he was unwilling to work on our relationship.
Once again I felt abandoned and my self-worth disappeared. I moved out on my own and found many neighbors to drink with, I was drinking almost every night until I passed out. Before I ever drank, I was told as a pre-teen that I could be an alcoholic like my father and his father and so on. But I had a good job and drinking never got in the way of my responsibilities, so I convinced myself that I wasn’t like them. Then I met my first boyfriend after my marriage. We moved in together fairly quickly, my drinking became less frequent but our drug use made up for that. Our love was fiery but so were our fights. I recall him driving home because I was too drunk to drive, screaming at the top of his lungs that I was just like my father. We broke up after a year and again I was on my own.
Shortly after, I had a one-night stand with someone I met at a bar, we were at his place and I suddenly sobered up, told him to get off of me, and called a friend to come to pick me up. I remember crying uncontrollably that I did not know what had become of my life. One week later I got a DUI. I had a blood-alcohol level over twice the legal limit, I remember sitting in jail crying, wondering how I got there as the last thing I remembered was having a friend following me home to ensure I got there safe. It turns out my friend had called me and begged me to pull over several times but I didn’t listen. I was so ashamed of myself, but deep down, I knew it was a long time coming. I called my dad the next day who walked me through what I needed to do and advised that I find some pills to get me through the period of time that I would be drug tested. I then called a family friend with a doctorate in law studies, she told me “I’ve been wanting to tell you this but I knew you weren’t ready to hear it. I’ve seen you drink with your father, you are your father’s daughter, I think you need to go to AA.” This coupled with the DUI changed my perspective on my drinking habits and made me realize I was on the same path as my father.
So I joined AA, I was welcomed with open arms, they didn’t want anything from me except for me to stay sober, they just wanted to help. I was surprised to relate to so many of the people sharing, not just with their drinking habits but with their shares about anxiety, isolation, and depression. I felt hopeful when I heard that through this program you could find “peace between your ears,” something I’d never experienced. At my second meeting, I met my sponsor, she and I clicked instantly and she invited me to her place when we learned we lived in the same complex. I picked her brain about everything AA and she patiently answered each question and introduced me to the book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I was relieved to learn that AA was not affiliated with any religion, that I only needed to have a higher power of my own understanding. This was something I already had but was unaware so many others did too. What I hadn’t yet realized was that belief in this higher power wasn’t enough, that I needed to have a relationship with this higher power as well. Slowly but surely my relationship with my higher power was molded, first by saying the third step prayer every morning, then by praying on my knees every night. This I did reluctantly, I thought it was just something oldtimers said, but with my attention span I couldn’t just lay in bed and pray or within 10 seconds I’m thinking of something else and completely forget I’m praying. I did everything my sponsor told me to do, I got a home group, a service commitment, I call her and other women in the program every single day. It got easier to stay sober over time. And it didn’t happen right away, but through daily prayer, letting things go to God, and staying sober, I did find that peace of mind. Fleeting moments turned into days which turned into weeks.
At almost a year sober I was invited to a YPAA event (Young People of Alcoholics Anonymous) and I had a blast. I ended up joining the bid to have our state YPAA conference in our city. The other bid members and I grew close between our meetings, traveling to other events and hosting events of our own. I was having so much fun and staying busy, I didn’t see any of the warning signs that depression was lurking around the corner and when it hit, it hit hard. I attempted suicide several times and ended up in treatment for depression where I was diagnosed with severe depression, generalized anxiety, and bipolar. All of these things I’d masked with alcohol for years and had no idea I needed medication. AA is not a cure-all, and I needed outside help. Once medicated, life was beautiful again and I looked at my mental illness as another subject that I could help others with who may be suffering. I began dating someone on my bid and finally was in a healthy relationship. We now have our own home, a beautiful baby boy, and a life I almost missed out on. Sobriety has given me so many gifts that I could never repay, but I try my best by helping others and being a great parent to my son.