I often wonder what my life would have been like had I been able to cope with it using something other than a substance.
I should have somehow learned to handle life’s challenges, disappointments, hardships and daily ups and downs like everyone else (well, not really everyone else by far, but you know what I mean).
I have been using alcohol for the majority of my adult life as my cure-all for just about everything. It worked quite well for a long time. Until one day I took a little 20-question test on-line – “Are you an alcoholic?” I answered all but about 4 or 5 YES. I was shocked. Not shocked that I answered yes to most of the questions. Not shocked that I was a drinker. But shocked that at the bottom of the quiz it stated that if you answered yes to THREE or more questions, you were PROBABLY an alcoholic. I was an alcoholic. I kept that little secret to myself for many years. I am a pretty good secret-keeper.
It wasn’t always alcohol that I used for self-medication and comfort. Food was my first real substance abuse. First it was the lack of food, the control of food. Not eating was my way of controlling something. I had no control over what was going on with my parents, so I took control of my food. I didn’t know this was what I was doing at the time. It took me years to figure that one out. But once I learned to purge, things changed and I began binge eating, then throwing up so I wouldn’t get fat. This, we know now is anorexia/bulimia. When I found alcohol at the age of 17, the bulimia slowly faded from my life. Alcohol did what food did, but faster.
So alcohol has been a part of my life for 30 years. Until the last 7 years of my life, it didn’t really even look to me as if there was a problem. Things went pretty smoothly. Smoothly in that I mean I had no DUI’s, no jail time, no child services calls, etc. None of the typical “my life is a disaster” issues. Oh, there is that one time on my 18th birthday I got taken to jail for drunk in public, but that got wiped off my record so it doesn’t count. In fact, even in the last 7 years I still have had no DUI’s, jail time or child services calls. I have been gainfully employed, married, had children, divorced (wonder why?), and remarried all in the past 20 years without much incident. I am very good at showing the world – the neighbors, my employer, my doctor, even my own mother how normal I am. On the outside. But behind closed doors, things are not quite so normal with me. Only those that I have let in close, which are very few, have seen the real me, the total me. I have been able to keep up a pretty nice facade for a long time.
I have a mortgage, I have two wonderful teenage boys, one of which just went off to the Army to serve our country, I have a decent, well-paying job. I run with my dog just about every morning, hangover or no hangover. This feat has gotten more difficult as the years have passed, but I am the only one who knows that (Well my husband has some idea.) I even smoke when I drink (and when I don’t, sometimes), and I am pretty good at hiding that! So most everyone who sees me in my circle of life, really wouldn’t ever suspect I am alcoholic.
But I am an alcoholic, and I struggle with it every day. You see, even though I was lucky and didn’t kill someone or myself, or shatter my children’s lives by being so irresponsible that child services took them away, alcohol still caused a great deal of mental anguish and suffering. It still does.
During the past 7 years, I have been to many, many AA meetings and 3 outpatient treatment programs three separate times. I have had two different AA sponsors. I have had psychiatric evaluations, which divulged both depression and Bipolar disorder. I have been prescribed Paxil, Prozac, Depakote, Antabuse and Revia. (Mostly antidepressants, one is a craving med). I have had counseling weekly, and I have prayed, meditated and worked 4 of the 12 steps.
However, I have yet to maintain a steady stream of sobriety longer than 9 months. Now, 9 months is pretty good. Anything is pretty good, when you consider that the alternative could be disastrous. Since that 9 months I have been sober 30 days, then drank, then 60 days, then drank, then 5 days, then drank, and on and on. I do know what it is like to be sober. But I have not found the “serenity” that is promised in AA. I have not found a way to calm my screeching mind when it aches for a drink, or a pill, or something to calm it. All the hours spent in group therapy and AA meetings and talking to sponsors and other alcoholics has not given me a reprieve. I have not learned the lesson they are trying to teach me.
I am not happy drinking. I am not happy not drinking.
I have come to a cross-roads in my life where I have decided that I will stop trying to “recover” and start trying to understand me and the way I operate. Once I understand that, maybe “recovery” will be a reality.