When I came into recovery, I was sure I was different. I thought that the only person I hurt was myself. No one told me I had a problem, no one seemed to notice that I was drinking too much. I came into the rooms because I was emotionally bankrupt, but I didn’t feel like I had lost anything tangible. I had my job, hell, I even bought a house. I didn’t lose my husband or my children like a lot of those people in those rooms. But, wait a minute, I didn’t have a husband or children to lose. For the last bit of my drinking, it was mostly just wine, in the comfort of my home, alone. Who was I hurting? Just myself, right?
When I began thinking about making amends, I thought that mostly I just hadn’t been present for people in my life. I really believed that the amends I’d have to make were living amends. I didn’t really hurt anyone, I just wasn’t around for my friends and family. Or, when I was around, I was hungover a lot of the time. It’s like I selectively forgot all of the stupid things I did when I was drinking.
Tonight, I put my amends list on paper. There were a lot of people on there that I hurt. There were things that I did. I have more than just a living amends to do. After everything was written on the page, I looked at it in disbelief. Like, why would any of these people still want to be in my life?
It hurts, I feel so low. I thought I was an okay person, just had a little drinking problem, stopped it before it got too far. I thought I just needed recovery lite, I guess I really need the hard stuff. I am not that different from any other alcoholic, I see that now. It’s humbling seeing all the shit I’ve done all listed on one piece of paper.
See that sunflower in the mid left that hasn’t quite bloomed? The one that’s surrounded by all the bright blooming sunflowers? Yup, that’s me. There’s nothing wrong with me, I just bloomed a little later than everyone around me.
My advice to every other late bloomer out there – don’t compare yourself to everyone else. You’ll get there in your own time. Just be you.
So, I’ll start from the beginning. The first drink I ever had, I did not get drunk. I was 13 years old and I just wanted to try anything to shake life up. Anything that was considered bad. I had trouble making friends back then. I was an extremely shy kid. I was fresh out of Catholic School, where I served a four year sentence. I didn’t get out for good behavior. I threw a tantrum every morning for those four years until my mother was sick enough of it to give me what I wanted – a public school education.
It was eighth grade, my first year back in public school since third grade. It was tough making friends, since everyone seemed to know each other dating back to preschool. But eventually I made a friend, we’ll call her A. She was so much cooler than I was that I wondered why she even wanted to hang out with me. I really wanted to try alcohol and weed. She had done both. Luckily for me, she did not have access to drugs. I still thought she was way too cool to be my friend. I was the kind of kid that would take a whole day to gather the courage to call a friend and ask her to hang out and then if she said no, I’d burst into tears as soon as I hung up the phone. Even if she just couldn’t hang out that day because of a prior engagement. It didn’t have to be personal, I’d still take it to heart.
Anyway, A. and I decided that we were going to skip the last couple of periods at school. I don’t even know why we bothered. Because of construction being done on the high school, we got out of class at noon every day anyway. But this day we decided we needed to leave after third period. Behind the school, there was a field and then a wooded area. We casually went out the back doors and then sprinted as fast as we could to the woods. We made it! I loved that adrenaline rush but I was also terrified. I was terrified while we walked the five miles along the main road to get to her dad’s place. Every car that drove by I thought was going to stop and take us back to school. But we made it. Her dad lived on a boat at a marina. She knew he wouldn’t be home. I don’t remember seeing anyone there that day. The marina had quite a few people living on boats and there was a community center with a community fridge filled with community beer. So, we each took a cold Miller Lite out to the dock. They were in glass bottles back then. A. had some cigarettes, so we sat on the dock with our feet dangling, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. The sun was shining. I don’t think I got a buzz that day from the alcohol, but I was drunk off of a feeling that I could just do anything. I could get away with skipping school and stealing beer. Nothing could touch us, it was just the perfect day.
We didn’t stay too long, I wanted to get back early enough so I would not get interrogated by my parents. A. swiped another beer for me to take home. I stashed it and a cigarette into my backpack. She walked with me about half the 4 or 5 miles it took to get home, then veered off to her mom’s apartment. When I got home, I went right to my room that I shared with two sisters. We had those ceiling tiles that you could lift up and slide over, so as soon as I had some privacy, I tucked my beer and cigarette into the ceiling. I loved knowing my contraband was up there and no one else knew. I loved having this secret life. Eventually when courage and opportunity came together, I took down the beer and drank it warm. It was disgusting, but I drank every drop, because to me at that moment in time, it tasted like freedom.
I am a sober thirty something woman and I want to share my story. I had spent twenty years hiding from my life at the bottom of a bottle until I decided enough was enough. I don’t have all the answers about staying sober, but if this blog helps someone else, it’s worth doing. Actually, even if I have no readers, it’s worth doing, because it’ll help me stay sober.
It’s hard to pin point when I started thinking about getting sober. I didn’t lose my job, I still had my friends and family. I had actually bought a house during my last year of drinking. But, something was missing. I have heard it described so many times in podcasts and twelve step meetings, that sometimes it seems to lose its meaning, but for me it rings true. I had a hole in my soul. I’ve been sober for almost eight months now and at times I still have that hole. Or, as I sometimes refer to it, my dark passenger. That’s my depression, my anxiety, my dark and twisty thoughts. But, it’s not there every day. And when I’m not drinking, I can climb my way out of the darkness.
This blog is going to be dark and honest and gutsy, but I hope there will be pockets of light throughout. Because this is a blog about life, warts and all, with some hope sprinkled in.