I haven't had a drink in almost five years. I know to some people that seems crazy and incomprehensible, and those were the same thoughts that ran through my head as I sat staring at the floor in an outpatient rehab session.
I felt my chest tighten and my pulse race as I thought about how I was going to be a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding in one month and there was no way that people go to weddings and don't drink. Hell, someday I would get married, and how would I be able to enjoy the happiest day of my life without feeling the warm embrace of the finest whiskey to commemorate this wonderful day? Forget about down the road, how would I get through tomorrow?
I thought about every possible scenario in which it would be impossible for me to cope without alcohol. At that time, alcohol was my closest friend. We did everything together, and I violently rebelled at the the thought of our separation. I had already been charged with a DWI and I wasn't even in rehab this time for drinking. I was there for my addiction to heroin.
I understood that I needed to get that addiction under control. Heroin was illegal and I was already facing the legal ramifications of virtually emptying my place of employment of prescription narcotics. But alcohol? That was too much.
My story shows that the first illegal drug I did was marijuana, but alcohol has always been my gateway drug. Being drunk allowed me to shut off the logical part of my brain that told me "maybe you shouldn't drive home" and replaced it with "whatever you've got, I'm trying." It gave me confidence. It assuaged my fears. It made me feel pretty. Alcohol understood me.
Then it turned on me. The confidence it gave me turned into violent arrogance. The calming of my fears turned into reckless abandonment of my responsibilities, my safety, and the safety of everyone around me as I drove home with one eye closed to try and get the four yellow lines to turn back into two. I wasn't pretty for long as I found myself vomiting (hopefully into a toilet) or slamming my head into the shower wall when I couldn't find my balance anymore.
It always started as one. "I'll only have one." Then the justifications and rationalizations for another popped up and I couldn't turn them off. It was such an incredible desire and compulsion to continue past oblivion that there was no way to will myself to stop. Concerned friends, family, or even court appointed rehab following a DWI couldn't stop me. I had to hit my bottom and make the decision for myself. For me, that meant I had to lose my career, my education, and my freedom to actually make a change.
I don't drink because when I do I can't stop.
I don't drink because I sacrifice my values and my self-respect when I do.
I don't drink because I end up in handcuffs.
I don't drink because I let myself be used and degraded.
I don't drink because it takes me to some of the darkest places I have ever been.
I don't drink because after awhile drinking isn't enough anymore and I pick up the needle.
I don't drink because today I choose to go through the feelings.
Alcohol is a drug. It is written plainly in the literature of my recovery, but it took me time to accept. It changes the way I think and feel, and I have put myself and others in more danger with alcohol than with any other drug I have done. In getting clean and accepting that I would have to do whatever was necessary to stay that way, I had to say goodbye to my friend. And you know what?
I survived my friend's wedding. I survived my wedding. And even though I only have today, I'm pretty sure I will survive tomorrow too.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.