That’s what it came down to. I think that’s what it comes down to for almost every alcoholic and addict. Held up in my bedroom with bottles hidden everywhere. Almost like an animal or someone possessed, I would become this other person when I was in the middle of a full blown binge. I’d lay in my bed for days on end, waking up just long enough to find a hidden resource and quickly drink enough to slip away from reality once again. Hours would turn into days as this sick cycle repeated itself again and again.
I wouldn’t shower or change my clothes…and I distinctly remember the sense of relief I would experience when I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the reassurance that I still had alcohol left. I liked the night. The darkness. I realize now it’s because I didn’t have to deal with shame if it was night. Everyone would be asleep. I wouldn’t have to face people or conversations. I wouldn’t have to confront the disappointment in my children’s faces. I could just take another drink and slip away. Most of the time I’d keep myself company with Netflix movies that I wouldn’t watch to the end. I think I’ve seen the first twenty minutes of 500 Days of Summer over fifty times and still don’t have any idea what it’s about.
My life had become unmanageable.
It’s like another world when you’re living in active addiction. Every time you come to some sort of consciousness where you can actually think, you make a choice. Depending on the circumstances, like whether or not you have alcohol readily available, you’ll either freak out and decide you need to get clean (not likely), you’ll find the hidden stash and put off sobriety until the bottle is empty (very likely), or you’ll realize there isn’t any alcohol to be found and you’re determined to get some.
This was always the part that got me in trouble.
Liquor store runs I don’t remember. Sometimes I’d get a ride. As pathetic as I must have looked I always managed to get someone to take me to the store. Nothing matters during a real alcoholic binge. In the last stages of addiction, you are simply a slave. Your mind is not your own. You are obsessed with the thought of the continuing cycle, —afraid to end it and afraid it won’t. I ended up in jail on more than one occasion. What had my life become?
How the Alcoholic Binge Begins
At first I would tell myself I just wanted one drink. I just wanted my mind to stop racing. I needed to feel some sort of peace. It’s as if I would come to the end of myself, that ‘last straw’ feeling, and I would say, “Okay, just something to take the edge off. I’ll just have one drink.” Why do we lie to ourselves like this? Why was I even so anxious in the first place?
Six months ago I would have answered this question by saying,
I cannot tell you.
I do not know.
I have three amazing children, a beautiful home, a phenomenal career and I’m a believer in Christ. From the outside looking in, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my life and no reason at all to be a slave to alcohol.
I’m single, but I’m not lonely. I’m healthy. I have hobbies. I have passions. I’m great at what I do for a living. I have wonderful people in my life, a good church, friends.
So, what the hell was wrong with me? Why would I go for weeks at a time and then build up to a binge? It had happened exactly the same way for an entire decade and I could not figure it out.
What I Know About Alcoholism Today
If I told you my road to recovery wasn’t twisted and confusing, I’d be lying. After my second DUI I remained clean and sober for a year and a half. I started attending Cape Christian, a wonderful church in my area. I made friends. I even started leading a single women’s Bible study that was thriving and alive. My family was happy. I was facing all my court dates, paying my fines…I even got my sentence dropped from 6 months in jail down to 10 days. My business was flourishing. I even dated here and there.
Everything was perfect.
Cunning and baffling…These are the words the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous uses to describe this demon. It also says alcoholism is a spiritual malady. But I didn’t have that, right? How could I? I was going to church. I was talking to God. I even remember pleading with Him. I should have been safe. I should have been protected.
Except one thing.
I was hiding.
I was living clean and sober, but I was doing it in silence. I was never being real and honest with others about my struggles. The only side of me I would ever show was my success. The prosperous, confident single mom. I’ve got this… I’m doing well. I was terrified that people would find my mug shots. I lived in fear of anyone knowing the real me. When I had to spend 8 days in jail, I told everyone I was going on vacation. The whole time I feared my clients would find out and reject me. Fear…fear…fear.
Fear kept me isolated in my own mind. I was a prisoner even though I was walking around looking as if I were free.
I Am Not Anonymous
We write quite a bit on this website about refusing to be anonymous. The struggle to come out of darkness is real. For me, it became a matter of life and death. I relapsed into a full blown binge after a year and a half clean and I ended up sleeping with a loaded gun under my pillow. Robin Williams had recently committed suicide and somehow as I thought about it in my fuzzy state, it seemed like a good idea. I remember believing that everything was just too hard, too painful, and I was much too far gone. I had lost all hope.
And then something happened.
Somewhere in my stupor I texted a friend. Her name is Rhonda. She saved my life that day. She dropped everything, came over and put me in the shower. She saw the real me. She saw the damaged me. She saw the worst of the worst. I was lying on the couch with dried vomit stuck to my face and all she wanted to do was love me. I don’t remember much of what followed, except that my sister showed up shortly after that, and then my pastor.
These people cared about me. What a revelation.
Before I really had any mental clarity, they had a plan. They wanted me to go to rehab. I looked around and there was my family sitting on the couch…and my pastor, and my sister, and Rhonda.
So this is what intervention feels like.
Knowing I had nothing left except to crawl back in my bed and go back to the hell I had just lived in for the past seven days, I said yes. I would go to rehab. I was terrified. This is what my life had come to. There was no other way out that I could see.
Standing in My Own Truth
The last person I called before leaving for treatment was Keith, my 23 year old son. I was afraid to call him. I had always been the rock of our family and this whole relapse was a huge failure in my eyes. The words he said to me on the phone that day have remained as a foundation of my recovery. Here they are:
“Mommy, I’m proud of you. If this is what you have to do, then do it. But I want to tell you something. You’re never going to stay clean and sober. You’re never going to beat this, unless you’re willing to stand in your own truth. You have to stop hiding.”
And then, on the fly, he made up a wonderful story:
“If I only had three fingers on my hand, you know what? I wouldn’t be ashamed. I wouldn’t hide my hand in my pocket when I talked to people. I wouldn’t worry about what they thought. I’d say to myself, this is my hand, these are my three fingers and I love them. If you choose to reject me because you think I’m weird or different than you, that’s your business, but as for me, this is who I am. I have three fingers and I’m okay with me.”
From that moment everything changed. I could see clearly the fact that I was hiding. I had been ashamed of my struggles and my story. I had been living a lie.
That day I wrote a letter to all my clients, letting them know I was checking into rehab for alcohol addiction. On my drive to treatment I wrote a Facebook post and told the world. I figured, if I’m going to do this…if I’m going to go to rehab, I’m not going to be ashamed. There are probably thousands of people who will read my Facebook and maybe in the middle of my mess I can reach out and help someone else whose dying just like me.
And you know what? That’s exactly what happened. That first Facebook post received hundreds of comments and I suddenly had an instant support system. As I began chronicling my days in treatment on Facebook, alcoholics, heroin addicts and people with relatives deep in addiction started talking to me, encouraging me, cheering me on. Instead of rejection I received love and support. Sure, there were a few people who unfriended me and one random stranger who advised me to stop sharing my story, but I could not. For the first time in my entire life I felt completely free! I realized that this demon of addiction could not survive if I was willing to humble myself, seek help, and bring this darkness out into the light.
The enemy wants to kill us. It’s a divide and conquer strategy. If we remain isolated and alone, we’re an easy target. Together we are strong. That was the beginning of my road to recovery. From isolation to full disclosure in a matter of one decision and one encouraging word from my son.
I am eternally grateful for all the people who are part of my story. There are so many.
Since my time in treatment I’ve experienced a true spiritual awakening. I surrender my life to my Creator on a daily basis. On the days that I forget to do this, I know it. I feel it…I walk in self awareness and I believe I have become a new creation.
And to think, this is only the beginning.
Editorial note: If someone you love is deep in addiction, the best thing you can do is pray for them and be there when they finally reach out. It wasn’t until I had come to the end of myself that I was willing to receive help…in whatever form it came.
If you need help now, call: 239-440-6856