Soon it is the fourth anniversary of my sobriety. It has been almost four years since I got into rehab and started my addiction recovery. I got sober on the 18th of November 2013. These anniversaries always cause me to think of the road I have come so far with my addiction and the recovery from it. This post is a story about how my addiction gradually got worse and how my family realized that I was an addict and took me to rehab. I felt that I want to share the story to help me process the past, relieve some pain and maybe to help other people dealing with similar stuff.
I think it started when I was a child. Feeling that there was this something that seemed to be missing in me, something that I desperately needed to feel whole. The empty feeling somewhere in my guts caused me to have this undefined pain. A pain I was desperately trying to escape. I was often afraid too as a kid. I feared I had done something wrong and because of me something bad was going to happen to my family. I did some secret rituals of mine to keep the bad things from happening. I was obsessed with the rituals and couldn’t stop even though the behavior was exhausting. I just felt I had to keep my family safe.
As a teenager I started drinking and alcohol made the undefined feeling of pain caused by that hole inside of me to stop for a short while I was drunk. Then it came back and hit me even harder than before. I didn’t quit drinking back then although drinking and then not wanting to drink ever again was a loop from hell. The loop lasted for years, I drank from when I was 14 years old till I was 25.
As a young adult I moved out of my parents’ house to go study at another city. I started to feel really bad back then. I was afraid of people, couldn’t go to the University sober. I had anxiety and I was depressed. I went to see the school therapist. I didn’t mention about the alcohol abuse to the therapist, but I told him I had social anxiety. The therapist told me that I should break up with my boyfriend and be on my own for a while to find myself and then he sent me to a group where students could learn some stress relief methods. The methods didn’t help me at all, other students at the group didn’t have the same kinds of problems as I did and I didn’t leave my boyfriend because I felt I could not survive without him. I felt that I wasn’t understood by the therapist. I started to feel that I don’t want to reach out for help anymore because nobody understood my struggles. There wasn’t any help available that would be suited for me, I was too different from anyone else. A weirdo. Maybe I was alone in the world with these kind of problems.
There was this one friend that welcomed me every time with my pain and filled up the emptiness, the drink. My drinking got more daily during the years I studied at the University. Everyone else at the campus stopped drinking after one night of partying, I didn’t. I continued drinking after parties alone at my apartment until the next party. For me there was no party anymore, it was only hell. I hid my drinking habit well and always acted like I was happy and had everything together. I don’t think that my friends had a clue what was really going on. Not even my boyfriend understood how bad the drinking had gotten. I had a lot of good excuses to explain everyone my drinking. There was always a good occasion I could celebrate with a drink or I needed just a couple at the end of a hard day or I was just so into kraft beer and a one I hadn’t tasted yet found its way to my local and there I was on my way to review it. Either way the hiding of my true condition was a lot of work and it drained my energy. I was exhausted mentally and physically, and it was about to show.
I started to lose my mind. I felt I was possessed by demons. That there was this evil inside of me taking charge. It wanted me to drink and to destroy myself. I had anxiety attacks, I was manic and depressed, and I had to be taken to the hospital several times. I couldn’t be alone, I was so afraid of myself. I depended on my boyfriends to keep me sane and control my drinking. I feared seeing people when sober, the school was awful and going out even grocery shopping was almost impossible. Something was always right behind my back trying to catch me. In my dreams I was always chased and running away from that something. I took a drink every time I had to get things done. And I got things done. I think because of how functional I seemed to be only a few people suspected anything. It was so shameful to be a young woman in her twenties who had everything given to her but she still couldn’t stay away from the drink. Because of that shame I tried so hard to keep it together and not to tell anybody.
The day that I couldn’t do it anymore was almost four years ago. I had been drinking and using straight on for a week or two at the city where I studied. Then I had to leave there and go stay at my parents house, so I could attend to my friend’s wedding. I drank at the train the whole way to the city where my parents lived. And when the train arrived there, I stopped to couple of bars on my way. I was a mess. My friend had to come find me and take me to my parents.
When we finally got to my parents’ house I remember the disappointment and fear on my mother’s face when I stumbled out of the car throwing up, falling and cramping. She was hysterical. She couldn’t believe the condition I was in. She told me I looked like someone coming from a crack house. I had been living few hundred kilometers away in a different city, so my family didn’t know the whole truth about my addiction and how bad my situation had gotten. I had only been reporting them about the good stuff, how good I did in school and at work.
I think that day was a real eye opener for my family. They saw what had become of their beautiful daughter. They feared what could happen to me if I continued to live my life like that. They made me go to rehab then and there. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t feel like anything could save me. I had given up. I was afraid of not drinking. But they were so angry with me that I didn’t have any other choice than to go visit a rehab clinic with my father. When we drove to the clinic, I was planning how not to start the rehab. How to explain my family that I got this, I’m getting sober on my own just fine, and they didn’t have to act so hysterically on this.
It was like a miracle what happened at the rehab clinic. When I sat there listening to a lecture about addiction, I suddenly understood that I was sick. Me getting sick had been inevitable. It was a moment of clarity. I had been sick since the day I drank my first drop of alcohol. It was in the way my nervous system was wired. We had this disease going on in our family and I got the perfect genes for developing an addiction too. And the awful anxiety I had been dealing alone my whole life hadn’t really helped me with this either. This wasn’t anybody’s fault and there was nothing to be ashamed of. Addiction, it was a sickness. And the only way to live healthy and happy was to get sober.
I had to stop taking everything making me sick, no alcohol, no pills or anything that I was “allergic” to. One day at a time with the support of my peers in recovery. After that, the first step I took at the clinic admitting that I was powerless over my addiction, I could slowly start to heal and find other ways to deal with me not feeling whole and the undefined pain I was feeling.
I’m still not sure what causes the emptiness or the pain that I have tried to numb for so many years. I still have it time to time. I’m just dealing with it differently now. I try my best to love it. To let it just be there and treat it with compassion. It isn’t always there but for example now, close to my anniversary, I can feel it. It made me write today. What do I do then, on days like this, when I feel the pain? I breath, I connect with other people and let them help me, I try to find joy in everyday things, I smile with no reason, meditate, dance, love, eat and sleep well, share stories like this and use the pain as a source of creativity. That’s how I nowadays live with this occasional weird feeling of a whole in my gut and the still sometimes reappearing anxiety. Luckily this too shall pass and in a blink of an eye its gone again.
Thank you for letting me share and thank you that I now have friends who know what I am talking about,
Your Sober Friend