I've often referred to my relationship with alcohol like a boyfriend. It was the makings of a real Lifetime movie. And, I don't know if you watch much Lifetime, but you never want your life to start looking like one of their movies.
A couple years ago, I left my partner-in-crime... my confidant... my companion... my friend--alcohol. We broke up, but no one saw it coming... or at least I didn't. We did everything together. There was no goodbye... no last kiss kind of thing. Nothing. I just woke up one morning and decided I was done and I left. Well, that's it in a nutshell. We had just been together the night before. We went to bed together as we always did. I thought everything was fine. I thought I would wake up and start the day all over with my love right there with me.
But, for some reason, I woke up and I was done. I had to be. To this day, I can't tell you why June 11, 2012 was different. It was a feeling I can't explain, but I hated myself more than I ever had before. I like to think it was one of those life-changing moments where God heard my tears as prayers and did for me what I couldn't do for myself and that was to leave my relationship with alcohol and finally admit to my parents that I needed help.
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back. I wanted to take it back like the hundreds of time I had "quit" alcohol before, but this time it wasn't just in my head. Those words came out and I finally said them to people who were going to hold me accountable to them.
Well, I got to rehab. It was in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, aka Mayberry. No, I'm not kidding. Mayberry, people. I was in rehab in Mayberry...a s in Andy Griffith. We drove up in my mom's Escalade as if I was 8 and my mom and dad were dropping me off at summer camp. But I wasn't 8 and it wasn't camp. I was 32 and it was rehab. This is where I got my second dose of humility. My first was standing over their bed at 6 a.m. ugly-crying uncontrollably and asking for help and admitting I was an alcoholic. So, there I sat in the backseat like a child waving my imaginary symbolic white flag out the window all the way to Pilot Mountain.
I had never been more scared in my entire life. No, not because I was going to rehab, but because I had left the love of my life behind. How would I ever be able to live without him... I mean, it.
I was fearful of everything. I was anxious. I was depressed. I was lonely. I was scared. I was angry. I was resentful. I was discontent. There was no peace in my life. And there was definitely no joy. There was fear -- there was a lot of fear. And my one true love had always taken that fear away from me -- well, not really, but so I thought at the time. Alcohol took all those feelings away. It made me forget my fears and my worries and my loneliness. Feelings? What feelings. I hated to feel, so I didn't. I drank until I didn't have to feel anything.
So, you can imagine how I felt when the one thing that I had used for years to comfort me was no longer there. I felt like I was crawling out of my own skin. I couldn't stand to be alone because that meant being with my thoughts and that was dangerous, uncharted territory.
In rehab, I would sit in the shower every night and cry until the water went cold. It was there that I started to actually grieve my brother's death. It was also there that I started talking to God -- someone I claimed to hate and had turned my back on for years.
My heart hurt so badly for so many things and sorting all that out was intense. I started to realize that my heart was in so much pain because I had hurt so many people I cared about in my life. I had become someone I hated and I so desperately didn't want to be that person anymore. I didn't hurt for what I had done to myself... I didn't care about myself, but what I had done to my family and people that I loved.
I was selfish and self-centered. I tried to control everything. I was a classic case of self-will run riot. I never practiced gratitude. I was what you might call an ungrateful bitch. I always wanted more of everything. Nothing was ever good enough. And the person I was on the inside didn't match the person I portrayed to be on the outside... down to the Manolos on my feet and Louis Vuitton bag on my shoulder. There was certainly nothing that rich on the inside of me.
I had no clue of who the hell I was sans alcohol. Alcohol had been a part of everything in my life for years... the good, the bad, the ups, the downs, and the Tuesdays in between. Strip away the designer labels and the alcohol and I was just a lonely, angry, lost 30-something girl sitting naked on the shower floor crying out for something to change on the inside. I had no access to temporary fixes to ease or escape the pain. I couldn't self medicate with booze, boys or handbags. What I realized on that shower floor was the only thing that remained in my control were my thoughts, so I started with those.
I knew my problem was an inside job because I had tried changing just about every person, place or thing in my life to find happiness. I moved from my hometown to Charleston to Boston back to Charleston back to Boston to San Francisco and back to my hometown, either running away from problems or in search of something to make me fill whole. I switched jobs. I switched boyfriends. I switched friends. I switched hairstyles. I switched bars. Hell, I even switched up drinks. And still... nothing made me happy. Sure, I had moments, but there was always this cloud of impending doom that lingered over because I knew it was fleeting.
So now I am 29 months sober. I know, right? That seemed impossible 883 days ago, but I must say, life is so unbelievably good today. So, what does life look like for me 29 months sans booze? Well...
I love the person I am becoming. It's a process and I am far from perfect. I make mistakes but today, they are my mistakes, not alcohol's. And since alcohol is no longer my solution, I know how to deal with my mistakes and make them right. I had to get right with God, with myself and with others. I don't like making amends so I try and live a life where I don't need to. I know that being of service to others is where I find my purpose. I am comfortable in my own skin. I can talk to anyone about anything and not break out into a mad sweat. Well, unless I think you're hot and then that is a solid and unfortunate possibility! I respect myself. I recognize my flaws and I accept and embrace them. I pray. I pray a lot. I have replaced fear with faith. I experience feelings in all their sadness and in all their glory. I am content and I have peace. I live simply. I surround myself with positive people who actually love me for me, flaws and all.
You will usually find me in jeans, a plain T-shirt and Toms. I don't have to try and dress up on the outside to cover up what's on the inside. Sure, it's nice to get fancy every now and then, but putting on heels is rare for me these days.
I live a modest life in a modest city with a modest closet and a modest paycheck, and I am the happiest and most content I have ever been because I can sit comfortably with who I am.
I don't know how many times I've heard people say, "people never change." Well, I say that's crap. People do change. I see people around me changing every day. Pain has a way of doing that. I finally reached a point where the pain of staying the same was greater than the fear of changing, and that's where my journey of recovery began. I didn't have to move cities, get a new boyfriend, quit my job, or buy a new car. I simply had to start with me, my thoughts and my attitudes.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.