Living with an Alcoholic
1 – Powerlessness, when I realized I was powerless over alcohol, my life changed.
As we arrived at the airport, the kids broke into hysterics. I had never left them for more than a few days, either when they went to Grandma and Grandpa's house, or once after my Dad suffered a stroke, I went to California.
Sitting outside the Seatac Airport, chain smoking, wondering how many more drinks I could get down before my flight left for Florida. I was a hot mess. I went straight for the bar after I managed to get through security without them detecting the drunken state I was already in. I swallowed three glasses of wine and boarded the plane. I am not sure how many drinks I had on the plane.
I was sitting with my sponsor, a young lady who agreed to look over me for the 30 days while I was in Florida, trying to get my head straight. She asked me about my powerlessness and honestly, it had never occurred to me before how truly powerless I was when it came to alcohol. Sure, there were days where I swore I would never touch another drop of booze, and then did so promptly at 3 pm when my kids got home from school. Powerless was never a word I would have used to describe the many scenarios where I was unable to refrain from the overconsumption of wine. But, there in Florida, under the blazing hot sun, surrounded by Palm trees and cigarette butts, it smacked me in the face just like the densest humid hand. I was indeed powerless, and alcohol was my biggest vice.
2 – I found a power greater than myself.
Florida was hot and humid, like walking into a brick wall. I was given enough medication to sleep away the first two days. Detox was a foggy maze of hallways and individual sleeping rooms, with a patio big enough for 10 addicts to sit and smoke their days away. The patients argued for what seemed like hours while waiting in the med line, everyone smoked like it was their last, and shared stories of just how fucked up they were. My blood alcohol level was .27 when they checked me in, and everyone laughed at me. Vince said “You look pretty damn good for being so fucked up!” Drunk me thought he must have a crush on me.
At my first AA meeting that was brought into Detox, I heard a speaker say that we needed to find a power greater than ourselves. I was thinking, who the fuck is this piece of shit, and why should I take his advice? I slept on it, and the next morning, while smoking one of many cigarettes, which had become my closest confident, I stared at the trees and thought “OK, well, I am not powerful enough to make those trees, or get the sun to stop shining, or to get the ocean to dry up.” Right there, I found my power greater than myself, and said my first prayer to those trees. I still remember then one tree that looked like a pine tree, stood taller than all the Palm trees, and definitely didnt fit in. Kind of like myself. That tree, was the power on which I would rely while stuck in the this hell hole. Was it going to restore me to sanity? I didnt care, I knew it was one step at a time. And I was proud that I had made it this far.
3 – God took the reigns.
By the second week in Rehab, I was on a high. Some might call it the Pink Cloud, I didnt give a shit. I just knew I felt great and I was going to run with it. Literally. I signed up for every class, every gym session, yoga session and counseling opportunity that presented itself. I immersed myself in self care. Parliaments were definitely part of my self care routine. I knew I couldnt show up in Washington after having left my family for 30 days, being the same person. I knew that something had to change. I had no idea just how much could change in such a short period of time.
Water felt so good to drink, like I had just found a well of fresh water after traveling camelback through the desert for years. Sleep came so easily, with all the pharmaceuticals I was given. Morning laps in the pool with my girl friend, were liberating.
This was it, it was the hard stuff I had heard needed to be done to get sober. I was done. I was going home and didnt need to do anything else. Walking in the door of the rental unit and seeing my husband was another smack in the face, I knew I had so much more work to do. This was just the beginning. So, began my daily prayers to GOD, who had morphed from a tree to a spiritual being. I wasnt sure I deserved to be heard, but I was doing as I was told.
When I got on my knees, in that small RV, and prayed through tears, that God take the reigns, it was only a few hours before I heard him answer my prayer. It was so beautiful to witness an answered prayer.
4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself – It was terrifying to think that I would have to sit down and make a list of all the people that had hurt me in one way or another. The list was incredibly long. I started in my childhood and thought about all the negative feelings I was still harboring towards family members, friends, teachers and boyfriends. It became even more difficult to assess how I might have hurt those same people to cause them to do what they did to me. To see my part in the situation. It was extremely humbling to be so brutally honest with myself. I had never thought once before in my life about what I might have done to the people I still held grudges against.
5 – I had a serious come to Jesus moment – After admitting to my list of resentments to myself, I had to admit them to God. Then I had to share those same resentments with my sponsor. It was humiliating. She spaired me some pain when she could see that it was tormenting me to even speak of the unspeakable. It took us several hours, a box of tissues and a few cups of coffee to go over it all.
When I left I felt lighter. I felt like I had finally let something go. But, for the following few weeks, all of those things I did to hurt other people haunted me. I was supposed to wait to start making my ammends, but I just couldnt. I got started in the parking lot right away.
6 – Willingness to move forward is what made the difference between staying stuck and staying sober. I was at about 6 months sober by this point, but it was taking a serious effort daily to maintain that sobriety. Not because I wanted to pick up a drink, but because facing the ugly truth of what I had created was so intense, and heartbreaking. I had to ask God for help, help with removing the ugliest of defects that I possesed.
7 – When I gathered some humility, and asked God for help, I got it. The relief was almost instantaneous. It was time to also recognize all of my strengths. I wasnt just an alcoholic, I was a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a teacher, a student and a homemaker. I had a lot to offer the world when I could finally see myself for what I was a intelligent, talented, committed, unafraid woman who was also an alcoholic.
8 – It was time to make my amends. I being the perfectionist that I am, started on this step before I was directed to by my sponsor. The first person I called in the parking lot of Metropolitan Market was my mother. It was virtually painless. My mother has humility, and also took responsibility for her part. I love my mother so much. She gave me so many gifts in this life, including the gift of sobriety. The next amends wasnt so easy. It came during an argument with my husband. It was an awful way to say sorry to someone for all the pain you caused them. But, there I was balling my eyes out, unable to speak, apologizing for what a mess I had made out of our marriage. He heard me. He always does. Its what I have always loved about him. When I speak, he listens to me, unless I am drunk. The next few amends were pretty forgettable. It didnt amount to much other than getting some shit off my chest, and being able to breath a little deeper at bed time.
9 – I continued with my amends. Everyone accepted my apologies, but no one offered theirs in return. This was more humbling experiences for me. Not everyone is capable of doing what I did. Apologizing is hard as fuck. It stung. But, I couldnt get stuck there. I had to keep moving. Next came my dad, my son, my girlfriend, my friends. With each amends, I became a little lighter.
10- Everyday became a working amends activity. I had to apologize when I messed up. That wasnt as easy as it may seem after having to apologize to such a long list of people that I harmed, at times, years prior. Admitting my failures in the moment, was challenging. It didnt come right away. Many times it would take days for me to realize where I messed up. But, I did it to the best of my ability. And that is all the program requires.
11 – By this point, my conscious contact with God was pretty regular. I was praying daily, meditating as often as possible, and asking for his will to be made known to me. I felt a presence with me that I had never felt before. Looking back at high school, when I had the moment of hearing my mother yell for me from outside and inside my boyfriends' grandma's house. Then found out days later that at that same moment my mother was running for her life, and was thinking of me. Wishing that she had been a better mother. Only to wake up on the side of a road to an ambulance ready to take her to the hospital from a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. God had always been with me, and with her. I had a connection to the spiritual realm of the world, but I had always felt abandoned. I learned at a young age that I was the only person who was going to look out for me.
12- Spreading the message of sobriety, the gift of the program and my new found spiritual awakening was not hard to do. I was floating. In recovery rooms, its not uncommon to hear other alcoholics talk about the pink cloud. It suppposedly lasts a few weeks, early in your sobriety. The high of not being high. My pink cloud lasted the first year. I was on such a roller coaster of emotions. But, nothing compared to what my roller coaster ride of drinking was, that everything felt high for the first year.