Addiction is a strong demon! I know this one well. It devoured my life for many years, 15 to be exact. The battle of drugs and alcohol were fierce, and it started so young. I was in 8th grade, 13 years old.
They took over my life. I could not stop. My life was falling apart, so in order to cover up what was happening or what I was feeling, I numbed myself for years with the drugs and alcohol. I could not recognize I had a problem. I hid it well from my family for years.
I was a blackout drunk from age 14 on. I became a frequent user of various illegal drugs. I went through the money in my savings account, the inheritance my grandfather had left me for college, by my junior year in high school. That is how out of control I was, but I was so great at hiding it from my family. What I refer to as “the mask”; I could put it on and off as often as I needed to.
I grew up in a great home. I was raised in an upper middle-class family. I had two loving parents who were married 47 years, 1 older brother, 1 grandmother who lived here, the other lived in Austin. We traveled often, had a lake-house, members of the Country Club, and the list goes on. Hence, my home-life was as most would say happy and normal.
I chose to live the way I wanted to; I was a leader, very outgoing, but always daring. I pushed the bar in everything I did and always challenged the authority figure, just to see if I could “win”. I chose the wrong boyfriends, one of whom was extremely abusive. Obvious signs of something not “right”… but once again I hid it.
I spent some time (a week or so each year) for 3 of my 4 years of High School at the alternative campus because I got in trouble for one thing or another, I “accidentally” overdosed on Valium and spent 4 days in the hospital in a blackout, I was kicked off of the drill team for drinking, and the list goes on. That was High School.
I broke my neck at the age of 23 by diving into a swimming pool, under the influence of course, but didn’t go to the hospital for 2 days. I broke my neck at C-5 and C-6, but fortunately, did not sever the cord. But that did not stop me. It only added to my addiction. Now I could add Vicodin and Soma to the list of “legal necessities.” Another 5 years of those meds, plus a few more, and the alcohol to intensify the feeling only made me a complete nightmare!!!
It was the stress, it was the suffering, it was the unhappy marriage, the temptations, the suicidal thoughts, the stealing, the lying, the resentment, the drinking, the drugs, the disappointments, the mistakes, the depression, the conscience of my past catching up with me, it was the abuse from a previous relationship, it was the pain, it was everything.
I was 28 before I hit rock bottom. I just could not do it another day. I had to stop. I had witnessed the death of 3 close friends, all of whom committed suicide within a year. But the second affected me the worst. He had grown up next door and was like a brother to me. He ended his life the Saturday of our 10 year High School Reunion in August 1996. Many of the family were in town that weekend. I was at the house within 30 minutes of it happening. He had planned it so well. It was awful! It changed me forever. It affected me deeply, something I did not even recognize for another month or so after his death. I knew if I did not get help I would die too. And I could not do that - I had a daughter to raise! She was 2 ½ at the time. She needed me. She did not need this wreck I had become, nor did she need to grow up in a life of such chaos.
I was a daughter and a sister. I was a wife and a mom. I had so many friends and so well liked in the community. But, the addictions destroyed many of those relationships. The temptations were stronger than I wanted to admit.
Not only did I battle drugs and alcohol, but dual diagnosis; the addition of mental illness, now being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder; yet another label. Another “thing” I was going to have to fight. But I was determined to prevail; not only for me, but for my daughter. I was going to overcome this.
I went to my first AA meeting on October 9th, 1996. That became my first step and a pathway for my saving grace. I had to do it one day at a time; one or two meetings a day; working the steps and by praying to God constantly. The serenity prayer became part of me, instilled and ingrained to keep me going.
Almost 17 years later, I am well today. I am living a life of inner peace, serenity, and happiness; living each day loving myself, finding hope, constantly healing, and always finding a way to pay it forward.
I think God wants to use me to help others where they believe they are weak; to show them their strengths, whether it be a business issue or in their personal lives. So many times I just sit and talk with others, help them weigh the odds, look at the strengths and weaknesses, and look at it from an optimistic view. People see my strengths and many times I do not even see that. I just view it as a conversation with a friend. Then several months or a year go by and I will run into them or get a phone call and they explain to me how the conversation we had changed them, how it made a difference in a circumstance they were dealing with or helped them in some other way. I think it all goes back to my recovery and how I was always determined to prevail and succeed when many thought I would fail.
What a great life sobriety and getting well has awarded me. My daughter was two when I went into rehab. Wow, the journey I have taken to get to where I am today. What a great life I have been blessed with – an amazing daughter, a loving family and the most cherished of friends. All this would not be possible without surrendering those short 15 and one half years ago. At the same time, overcoming the stigma of living with mental illness (a dual-diagnosis), an even greater challenge. But I DID IT! I survived – not only recovery, but life. A loved clean and sober and with mental illness, “well”, through a divorce, a few more deaths of family members (my brother, grandmother and then my dad), raising a child in a single parent home, balancing home-life with a career and staying strong; setting boundaries. Through all of that, I was able to accomplish a great number of things, such as being a fabulous mother, obtaining my degree; Bachelors in Business Administration, becoming successful in the business world with a great career, reestablishing my relationships with my family and friends, and the list goes on and on. Most of all, raising the most incredible daughter in the world!
I wrote this last October on my 15th AA birthday;
Recovery - it is not a place. It is a destination to be reached. It is a journey - a journey of hope, of healing and of peace. If I can share one thing with someone; it is to find that destination, even if it takes a lifetime. Find your inner peace. Learn to be happy - to love yourself again, to live again, one day at a time … so you too can pay it forward - making another’s life a little more worthwhile.