When my parents took me home from the hospital they forgot the instruction manual. Hence, growing up in a dysfunctional and alcoholic home taught me many things that has carried over into my adult life. Unfortunately, many of the things I learned have no use for me today. Yet these defense mechanisms remain a part of my being.
The problem most of us face today is that we have trouble un-learning these defense mechanisms that worked for us as children, but no longer work for us as adults. I know that I personally rely too heavily on behaviors that I learned as a child. I need to be able to recognize what I need TODAY to function as a healthy adult, and strive to take care of my basic needs. This means being somewhat selfish. I need to focus on myself and nurture and care for that individual as if it were the person I loved the most in the world. Because when my basic needs are not being met, I am no good to those around me, and I am unable to show love to others, if it is lacking for myself.
The program of recovery teaches me to take one-day-at-a-time. That is the only way I can stay focused on the here and now. I can’t change the things that happened to me yesterday, and tomorrow is still an unknown. All I have is today that I can actually do anything about.
Recovery is really about getting in touch with myself, which is difficult and sometimes painful. Because in the past I wasn’t used to paying attention to my inner self. I learned long ago how to easily bury those feelings. But I count as a person, and so do each and every one of us. We deserve to take good care of ourselves and learn how to feed and nourish that inner self. Taking care of ourselves is a matter of making sure our needs are met, especially emotionally. It’s a matter of showing respect to ourselves and letting us feel our feelings so that we can be who we are, instead of what we think other people want us to be.
For years I always worried about what other people thought, and I let those thoughts determine what I thought of myself. But even today I can still take something minor and indirect as an attack on my self-esteem. Maybe that’s because I often took the brunt of insults or angry remarks from my alcoholic father. If he had a bad day or got angry, I shouldn’t have assumed it had something to do with me. It may or may not have had anything to do with me. Usually things have far less to do with us than we think.
When other people treat us poorly, we shouldn’t always take it as reflections of our own self worth. As an adult, I am learning that I am the one who decides how I feel about myself. And the less I rely on others for it, the better I am able to discover who I really am.
What really is important is knowing that I am doing the best that I can to be the person God intended me to be. When I follow this path, I am at peace with my insides. When I am ok with my insides, I no longer have to worry about getting the approval from others in order for me to be ok with myself. After all, I don’t need everybody’s approval. We are all unique and there will always be those who differ from me. The key is to learn to love myself . . . to cut myself some slack for my shortcomings (we all have them), and to trust being the person that I am suppose to be.
The only instruction manual I need for living a rich life are the 12 Steps. If I live by these rules one day at a time, I will find peace and serenity within myself.
Tapestry Of Recovery
It’s wonderful when you think about the tapestry of recovery. It’s never a dull white sheet but rather wondrous shapes and colors, florals and swirls that are unique to each individual’s life. When all those patches are brought together they cover all of us with beauteous warmth that provides shelter and support to all of us as we share that quilt with each other. My journey into recovery is unique to me but by sharing that I add to the texture of our quilt.
I began using and abusing 30 years ago and soon it was out of control. In the beginning it was to achieve that wonderful high that I’d discovered when I was prescribed diet pills back in 1970. Now, for a lot of people who took them, diet pills didn’t take on a life of their own, but that wasn’t the case for me. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was an addict and the pills triggered that and began a 30-year odyssey that eventually descended into hell.
With the progression of time I was consuming more and more prescription drugs on a daily basis. I did take in my share of alcohol but it wasn’t an all-consuming drive, YET!
Over time I began manipulating doctors and pharmacies going from doctor to doctor, getting scripts for the pain meds I needed to maintain my habit. You see, as many of you can identify with, I no longer got the high but rather was on a break neck, out of control ride looking for it.
My drinking found it’s opportunity for complete control in 1992 when my last relationship ended. In the beginning it was a couple of drinks in the evening, after my mother died it began in earnest. Every night I’d drink to black out. Then I was drinking in the morning. I was desperately trying to escape the pain. Coupled with the drugs I was consuming I was hurtling towards my bottom.
In 1998 I found myself homeless and deeply ensconced in depression, which had plagued me all my adult life. I drank in secret, in my car, while I was living in the shelter and found doctors to give me the drugs I needed.
It was during that time that I started getting DWI’s. I lost my license and saw no way out of the situation I was in. That’s when suicide reared its ugly head – again. I ended up in a lock up mental facility.
After two homeless shelters and three separate stays in mental hospitals I found myself alone in a motel room, after being thrown out of the last shelter for drinking and not being there overnight because I’d woken up in a jail cell. In that motel room I drank around the clock for a week and a half falling further and further into despair and hopelessness. I’d stand by the side of the road waiting for a vehicle to come by fast enough so I could throw myself in front of it. I wanted to die not just be maimed.
I couldn’t take it anymore and called the mental health facility for help at four in the morning. I was totally hopeless and demoralized. It was at that time that I screamed out to God for help. I begged for His help admitting to Him that I couldn’t do it on my own. He heard me and I now know that He was always there just waiting for me to come to the realization that He would take care of me if I only asked.
God began to move for me immediately when I called the police for a ride to the hospital. They showed up about five-thirty a.m. One was hostile when he saw my thirty-rack case of beer on the floor next to the bed while the other was more compassionate.
I had to endure one last humiliating ramification of my disease when they handcuffed me for transporting and they made me enter the hospital emergency room in that state.
After many hours in the ER, with a compassionate doctor who learned that I was prone to alcohol seizures, I was admitted to the hospital. I spent four days being medically detoxed.
That was June 3, 1999, and I haven’t had the desire to return to that misery by picking up a drink or a drug!
That doesn’t mean that everything fell into place because I put down the drink. I didn’t have anything or anyplace to go but I could now work it out undulled by drink or drug.
Today I have a life that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. No, it’s not filled with material things but it’s filled with what I need to make me happy, ME! I’m slowly cleaning up the wreckage of my past and carving out a life. You see the one thing I’ve discovered in sobriety is that I’m the only one who CAN make it happen and everyday I ask God to continue watching over me and guiding me.
The first step feels impossible and painful to take but if we put one foot in front of the other, TAKING BABY STEPS, we find that soon we increase our stride. We begin to feel the pride in our success and achievements. We begin to unconsciously hold our heads high and the pain and confusion of the first baby step begins to fade in our memory. It just takes its place in our scrapbook of experiences.
The secret to sobriety is realizing that only you can make it happen and by DOING it you contribute your piece to the beautiful tapestry!
Born With the Disease of Alcoholism
I believe that I was born with the disease of alcoholism. My family consists of six children, myself being one of the middle children. Neither of my parents are alcoholics. However, my mother is the child of a very abusive and angry alcoholic father. My early childhood was, what appeared to be, the average childhood. I was always very quiet, self-conscious and very much a loner. At the age of approximately five years old, I remember quite clearly having people comment to my mother and to myself about what a “good little girl” I was. That was due to the fact that I was never in any trouble for anything. That was short lived however.
By the time I was ten years old I had started to feel very sad, lonely and unloved. I did not yet act out, but remember the feeling very well. When I reached 12 yrs. old I began acting out my sadness and anger. Running away from home several times got some attention from my parents but not the kind of attention I was after. I remember my first drink like it was yesterday. I was about 13 years old and hanging out with my older sister. She always hung out with the older kids and hated having me hang around because she knew I would rat on her for smoking and drinking. One of those days however, I was offered a beer. I took it, drank it and immediately felt so good that I just had to have another. Of course, I made a complete fool of myself, and my sister was very embarrassed. I began running with the crowd that was drinking, smoking pot and partying. My first blackout drunk occurred at a keg party that we had in a canyon near my home. I don’t remember much of the drunk except that I got sick all over the guy I was there with. The next thing I remember, I was laying on the front lawn of my home, with both parents looking down and obviously not happy. That was the real beginning of the progression of the disease. Of course at that point it was still what I thought was the solution to all of those sad and horribly lonely feelings and I added to the drinking some other chemicals to enhance the effect.
After Many Years of Abusing Alcohol
After many years of abusing alcohol and other drugs, it began to take a toll on me. I had a teen-age daughter and two failed marriages by the time things got unbearable. My daughter was an angry child, much like I was as a teen. She was very aware of what I was doing, and several times reported to the authorities and her school counselors. I decided that to get the heat off, I would check into a treatment center. It worked for me for about 60 days. I had gone in as a “cocaine addict”. I seriously did not believe that alcohol was a problem. That year, at the company Christmas party, I had a simple shot glass of Southern Comfort as a toast to the season with my boss. That was all it took. That drunk was a black out. I remember coming to with a very hurt daughter, angry husband, and with none of the money I had set aside for my daughters’ Christmas gifts. I now knew I had a problem with alcohol, and that if I drank it would set up the craving for the other stuff. I ended up continuing on the downward spiral of using for another year. At some point my employer (who I also considered a good using buddy) decided that I needed help. He had the people from another treatment center meet in his office and they gave me an ultimatum: Either go back into treatment or lose the job. At that point I had a very expensive habit and needed the money so I opted to go back to treatment. I went with a huge resentment toward this man. How could he possibly breathe that scotch across the desk and tell me I had the problem. Two weeks into that treatment my daughter and sister paid me a visit with some awful news. My friend and boss had died the night before of an alcohol related accident. I was devastated. It was that day that I really saw how deadly this disease is. I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to live or to die. My counselor said that sometimes others have to die so that we can live. I thought that was the sickest thing I had ever heard. Now I understand. If Danny had not died, I would have continued on the personal “death wish” mission I was on.
I have been clean and sober since that date which was November 25th 1991. The road has not always been an easy one. I had created a lot of wreckage, and had a lot of work to do to clean it up. I had lost the respect and trust of my daughter, husband, and family. I decided that I could not go home to my husband, who was also my best using partner, since I was sure to relapse with him continuing to use. When I told him of my plan to get an apartment and do my best to stay clean and sober, he chose to divorce me, rather than to get clean and sober himself. I have had to learn about forgiving, accepting responsibility for my own choices and consequences, and most importantly that there is a power much greater than myself just waiting for me to ask for help. Once I began asking for help, and receiving it, I understood that I would have to start using the things I had learned in treatment. I would have to get and stay active with Alcoholics Anonymous, and do my best to learn a spiritual way of life. Since I was sure that I was going to perish in hell, that one was hard for me. God must surely be mad at me for all of the hurt I had caused his children. I learned that I too am a child of his, and that all I ever need to do is ask and expect his help. There are still times in my life that I forget to ask. Actually, I had spent approximately 30 years learning to be independent, self-supporting, and to never need anyone for anything, it is still very difficult to ask for help.
I am getting better, and am making progress. I can truly say that prior to getting clean and sober I was simply existing, and waiting for the lucky day when God would allow me to die and get out of this “hell on earth”. There are now good times and what seem to be bad times. The big difference today is that I will never have to do any of it alone. I have the fellowship of others who have been to hell and back and are able to show me how they did it, and the love of my Higher Power. Thank you God for the chance to live a sober life and the chance to help others get that gift too.