The last time I consumed alcohol was on May 4, 2015. That means that this May 5th (yes, Cinco de Mayo) I am celebrating 2 years sober! This has not been an easy journey, but it has been a worthwhile one. I do not often go to AA meetings because I found that going too often actually increased my cravings (more on that here). There is a tradition in AA though, that I feel is important to maintaining sobriety; this tradition is telling one’s story on their anniversary.
I was a late bloomer when it came to drinking. Always the rule follower, I waited until I was 21 before I first started to really drink. I started slow. I have always hated vomit, and starting in High School identified as emetophobic (phobia of vomit). This phobia kept me from drinking too much at first, since I did not know what my tolerance level would be. Turns out I never got sick from drinking, ever, no matter how much I drank.
It wasn’t until the age of 24 that I really started to drink heavily. I had a very stressful job at the time and I had several co-workers who talked about their favorite drinks. I made it a point to try each of them. At this point I would come home from work and drink a rum and diet coke, or two, or three…
On days I didn’t work I would buy bottles of wine. My husband was a paralegal student at the time, so many evenings I would be home with just my cat as company and I would drink a bottle of wine by myself. I was not yet a true problem drinker, that didn’t come until the following year.
I left my stressful job for an office job in an institute of higher learning (read: unethical for-profit college). It didn’t take long for me to realize that our students were getting a bum deal, which I felt poorly about (pun slightly intended).
It was at this point that I started to drink in earnest. Mixing alcohol with my mood disorder brought some really awful nights. The first time I had, as my husband calls them, an “episode”, was the night before my first quarter start at my new job. The quarter start meant all hands on deck. I don’t know if I was nervous about this, or if it was just a coincidence, but I drank a lot that night. I remember this night in spurts, but the parts I do remember involve me trying to beat up our roommate, screaming for help because I wanted to die and my husband wouldn’t let me, thinking my husband was gone and that the man standing in front of me was an alien that looked like him, and banging my head repeatedly on the floor until my husband broke through our bedroom door to stop me. I missed work the next day, saying that I fell down the stairs and hit my head.
I wish I could say that this was the only time something like this happened. I wish I could say that this was traumatizing enough to make me stop drinking…but it wasn’t.
There were too many instances in which I had similar nights for me to talk about them all, but here are a few that stand out:
- My husband and friend having to take me to the ER because I was drunk and suicidal. All the way there I tried to open the car door, but my husband stopped me while my friend drove us.
- Getting kicked out of a bar after threatening to smash my glass over someone’s head who kept bothering me. After getting kicked out, I wandered away and joined a random group of people. The college student who was the DD in that group took my phone to call my husband to tell him where to find me. (I was extremely lucky to have found kind people instead of people who took advantage of my drunken state).
- Accidentally falling into and breaking a window in the house we were renting, and then gathering some of the broken glass to cut myself because I felt so badly that I broke the window.
- Finishing two bottles of wine, taking them to the dumpster so my husband wouldn’t see them, and then going to the store to buy three more bottles (two to replace the two I drank, and one additional to drink…I ended up finishing them all that night).
There are more awful nights. There are also some that seem tame compared to what I wrote above, but would have been more than enough to keep a non-alcoholic from ever drinking again.
I realized that if I didn’t at least pretend to try and get sober, my husband would have no choice but to leave me, so I went to an intensive outpatient program (IOP). I left that program two weeks before completing it. I started to drink again, and then went to a different IOP. One day I skipped going to that group and went to a bar instead. At this point I was taking Naltrexone daily and therefore did not get anything out of drinking.
I panicked, thinking if I couldn’t even enjoy drinking, then what was the point in living? I thought about jumping off the top of the parking garage where I was, but decided if I was going to die, I was going to do it at home. I drove home and stayed as far from my husband as I could, thinking if he didn’t smell me he wouldn’t know I had been drinking. I grabbed a bottle of my meds, and took a handful of them.
Not long after taking the meds, I realized that I had just set it up so that if I did die, my husband would be the one to find me, and I couldn’t put that trauma on him. So, I walked over to him and said, “It’s time to go to the doctor.” He was obviously confused until I told him what I had done. He called poison control, and drove me to the ER. That night I was forced to drink charcoal (ick) but was not certified, and was therefore allowed to go home.
The next day I started looking for an inpatient rehab. By the end of the week, I was a patient at a small rehab about 45 minutes from where we lived. Since leaving rehab, I have not had anything to drink. I have come close in my head, but never physically close to ordering a drink. My years as an active alcoholic were chaotic and terrifying. It was also painful. It felt like sandpaper in my skin when I didn’t have a drink in hand. The worst part though, was waking up every morning not knowing exactly what I had done the previous night, and not knowing if I had pushed my husband away for good.
Being sober has helped my marriage, my work life, and increased my safety. I also can now enjoy myself when I go out to eat or to a show. Before, I would spend my entire outing on a quest to drink, now I can be in the moment and enjoy the experience.
If you or someone you love has a substance abuse problem, there is help out there. There are the obvious choices, such as AA and NA, as well as alternative if those don’t do it for you. You can read about the alternative here.