One year ago today, my life changed forever.
November 8, 2011 was my last drunk, and subsequently the last drink or drug I have taken, and have spent the past 365 days in my own skin.
I’m from a family of alcoholics, you know what they say about the apple and the tree…
I remember the smell of scotch and cigarettes on my mother’s breath every night as she tucked us in, slurry speech that annoyed me. I had never had a drink, so I didn’t understand. Some kids’ Mom’s had curly hair, some wore blue eyeshadow, mine always had a glass in her hand. I thought this was all normal, until I later developed another frame of reference. As a kid I would paint and draw to escape and quiet my own mind. It was the one thing that made me feel good, whole and calm (and still does.)
I didn’t yet understand that my circumstances were a result of my parents’ alcoholism, and my father’s virtual desertion. They divorced when I was 9, he married the woman he’d been having an affair with, and I saw him maybe twice a month. He favored his other two children, named Alcohol and Golf. My Mom drank it away, she worked her ass off to make ends meet, and poured herself a scotch on the rocks the minute she got home from work and continued until she went to bed/passed out. In our upper middle-class suburban neighborhood, we were most certainly the black sheep. Our house was a fucking disaster, and I lived and suffered under the umbrella of overwhelming disorder and chaos. Occasionally listened to, but never, ever heard.
Throughout the ages of nine to thirteen, I transformed from a self-conscious, sad and confused young girl who was often bullied and teased, into an adolescent filled with anger and pain who was outwardly tough and threatening, but was still the exact same little girl inside. The first night I drank and got high were on the same night, and I was twelve years old. I instantly loved it, it was magic. I loved the feeling, the numbness and escape into a great abyss as everything else slipped away. It was my magic cure. This gave me a sense of courage and strength, the anger was allowed out, nasty belligerent comments and accusations that had festered in silence for years, came exploding out in rage.
I found stronger drugs, LSD…a deeper escape. I got caught with drugs in my locker, ran away, assault and battery, vandalism…I was out of control and no one could control me. I was lost and alone and on a fast downward spiral. With the above-mentioned charges pressed against me, on my court date my parents had enough, and decided to take a “tough love” approach, at which point I was made a warden of the court and sentenced for a period of 2-6 months in the Montrose State Detention Center. I’ll never forget the judge saying, “Isn’t it a shame that no one loves this little girl enough to take her.” I was thirteen. No one ever considered for a second that anyone else might have played a part in this. They just continued on, in their hypocritical alcoholic lives, and I suffered in juvenile lockdown.
It was probably about 85% black in Montrose. As bad-ass as I had thought I was, I was nothing in here but a terrified skinny white girl. There were 14-year-old girls with gunshot and stab wounds and showed them off like badges of honor. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ll spare you the dozens of very real horror stories. I don’t really remember being released or leaving, but I left with a substantially larger chip on my shoulder, tougher, angrier and waaayyyyy more full of resentment. About a year after I left, Montrose was shut down by the state, due mostly to the large number of suicides and claims of sexual abuse. Hooray.
From there I was taken to the Good Sheppard Center for girls for a period of one year. It was another non-voluntary facility, no phone calls, they read all mail first, and outdoors consisted of a courtyard surrounded by 4 walls of our main building. This was a million times better than Montrose however. After that, I came home, entered 10th grade in an upper middle-class predominately white high school. Again, like a sore thumb.
Jesus, I’m on a fucking roll. OK, I’m not going to write 200,000 words, but I’ll tell you I was a highly functioning drug and alcohol user up until last year. I sold pounds of weed out of my apartment in high school (yes, I moved out and got my own apartment in 11th grade, paid for by those pounds of weed distributed out of my backpack,) followed the Grateful Dead around for a year dropping acid on a daily basis, went to Ringling College of Art & Design, made Dean’s list through college, studied abroad at The American University in London, bong hits, cocktails…graduated, worked, drank and drank. When I was 30, my Mom died of cancer at 56, drank more, started my own business, drank and drank, met my future husband, drank, got married, drank, lost my mother-in-law to cancer, drank more, had two kids, drank, stay at home mom, drank more, started popping Percocets and Vicoden, lost my best friend of twenty-three years to fucking cancer when she was only forty, off the deep-end, drank harder, Percocets and Vicoden, flipped my car on its side.
Blackouts were frequent if not regular, more drinks, more pills, paralyzing depression, emotionally shut off, therapy, ultimatum by my husband to quit drinking, AA, sobriety, husband moves out, separation, my dog dies, I stay sober, I go to meetings, I buy a house, move, upcoming divorce, and Voila! 1 year sober. Holy fuck.
And here I am. How’s that for a 25 year nutshell?
I’ve made more bad decisions than I can count or remember. I’ve done many things that I’m not proud of, and in some cases, completely and utterly ashamed of. One of the most difficult parts of the past year has been forgiving myself, and that is still a work in progress. I’ve been the quintessential definition of self-serving, self-absorbed and self-centered. I never considered what was left in my wake, it didn’t matter, as long as I was doing what I wanted to do and getting what I wanted. Period. Sure, I did nice things for people, but only because I thought I’d get a fucking parade for it. I was a really awesome person, let me tell you. Funny thing is, I really thought I was.
This is the first stretch of time, since the age of thirteen, that I have not used or drank anything in order to smooth out the hard edges, escape any undesirable feelings, manufacture highs, self-medicate, or just get as far away from myself as possible. It has been quite a journey, one that has been filled with self-realization, incredible loss and incredible gain, pain, joy, discovery, tears, struggle, laughter, letting go, growing up, acceptance, support, forgiveness, and cleaning up the wreckage of my past.
I totally thought sobriety meant giving up a life of fun for a life of boring and uneventful deprivation. The past year has proven that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Granted, there has been a lot of pain and suffering this year, my entire life exploded into a million pieces and bled all over the fucking place, but that needed to happen in order to rebuild a solid and healthy foundation, something that had never been in place. The thing is, I didn’t need to get high, and I didn’t need to take a drink. I walked through that pain and came out the other side. I dealt with situations like an adult instead of a child. The flip side of that is a peace and serenity that I have never known before. A quiet mind, a settled soul, gratitude, humility, and a contentedness that is worth more than any drink or drug I have ever had. And that is the God’s honest truth people. Fucking unbelievable.
With a whole lot of help from AA, some pretty amazing people, and my willingness and ability to dance a mean 12 step, I am finally someone who I am proud of. No longer am I filled with dread, restlessness, anxiety, panic, and crippling depression. I am present every day, I’m The Best Mommy In The Whole World (according to my mini-me’s.) I am learning how to handle my many emotions, and to be a better person. In essence, I am growing up. Now, here I stand, a 41-year-old woman, who finally knows what she’s worth.
Thanks for taking the time to read, and for your help, support and love along the way.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m all serioused out. Although I never get a certificate of completion in this course, I’ll be happy and grateful to celebrate these milestones along the way like a sober fucking rock star.
Trudging the road to happy destiny.
* If you are in need of help, please visit alcohol detox in Michigan.