One gorgeous afternoon I packed up my three young daughters and rode out to a new beach. I love exploring new places especially when I’m feeling a sort of way. Exploring helps me to focus on the freshness of the different surroundings, atmosphere, and people there rather than stewing in my own clusterfuck of emotions. Living a life of recovery, I am constantly finding new ways to deal with heavy emotions so that I can cope in a healthier way. This particular afternoon I released all expectations of what I thought this day would look like and headed out with nothing in mind but release and relaxation.
After the hour drive we all had to use the restroom. We quickly found it and beelined it to the back so that we could fit comfortably in the larger stall. Even though I was rushing, all time stood still as I passed the 2nd to last bathroom and saw a tiny nip of vodka just peeking out from under the stall. As we continued to pass, I peered into it and there strewed across the floor laid eight empty nips of vodka. My mood shifted in that instant. I was brought back to the loneliness and shame of when I crossed that line of hiding my alcohol problem. The one that says “I would never (insert any drinking rules here)” to “Well now I did and it wasn’t so bad (insert justification here).
I blurred the lines more and more as my drinking progressed. I found it easier to hide how much I was consuming. Quick vodka swigs here and there, hard pregaming before any one arrived at the party, filling my tumbler to the brim with more liquor than mixer…the list goes on and on. When the beast of addiction unleashes its true power there’s almost nothing you won’t rationalize to tame it. I never thought I would hide my alcohol use, until I did. It’s when I started to notice that I needed more and more in order to feel that “buzzed” feeling I was trying to achieve. Sometimes I would drink so much I would feel sober, giving me the total opposite effect. It made no sense and was very confusing. Had I really built that great of a tolerance? And why did I feel the need to hide my drinking? Everyone around me was drinking as much or maybe even more than me, or were they? I was always so caught up in my own bullshit disaster that I never really noticed. The only people I ever noticed were the ones not drinking. What was wrong with them? I never questioned what was wrong with me even though intuitively something was trying to tell me to stop, slow down, something is wrong here.
I also remember how I tried to let family know that my drinking may be problematic without directly saying I have a problem. I couldn’t admit I have a drinking problem because if I did that would have made that feeling deep down in the pit of my soul real. I would have long talks, with those that would listen, on how depressed I was but still blaming the world around me.
I made a comment to my husband that God was trying to tell me to quit. One time I went to get vodka from the pantry closet to have my last sips before bedtime and ensure I could pass out, but it was stuck to the shelf bottom from sneaky, sticky drips. Since I was so determined to pull it out I used all my strength and when it came loose it slipped and fell right on my forehead leaving a tiny bump the next morning. It was small but significant enough to mock me each time I looked in the mirror but not enough to get me to stop.
Then there was the time I was trying to moderate. The cat was out of the bag at this point, my mom knew I wanted to quit so when my wine glass dove off my bathroom counter top like it was trying to qualify for the diving metal of the Olympics and I didn’t touch it, I immediately text her and told her God was absolutely trying to get my attention.
As my girls were using the restroom I stared at those nips of alcohol scattered there like they were pieces of my lost soul from not so long ago. Today I am ok, I am sober and 15 days shy of 900 days, but there was a time that I was not. I remember the loneliness, fear, and shame that consumed me, as I lived on that not so "merry-go-round" of life, endlessly spinning without direction or hope.
I didn't know back then that I could break free from the entrapment of addiction. I existed in a state of isolation and desperation, where feeding my addiction was the only thing I knew how to do. I could not only imagine but also feel the woman in the stalls helplessness and defeat. The heaviness of her problems encompassing any hope and joy she may be clinging to as she gulped each 1.7oz of toxic liquid.
I wish I could tell her there is a way, it doesn’t have to be like this forever. Addiction doesn’t have to be a death sentence, it can open the door to new life when confronted. "You have to name it to tame it," is a quote I heard frequently in meetings, and it couldn't be truer. Once you stop hiding, once you see addiction for what it is and call it out by name, then you can begin to reclaim your life.
To anyone out there struggling, know that you are not alone. There is hope, there is a path to healing, and there are people who care and want to support you. It's never too late to start your journey towards recovery and rediscover the beauty of life without the shackles of addiction. You are worth it, and you deserve a chance to break free and embrace the happiness and fulfillment that await you.