The Other Side of Broken
I knew I wasn't a normal drinker almost from the beginning. I had my first drink when I was thirteen or fourteen. My friend and I stole a beer from my father and snuck it up to my attic bedroom and shared it. I remember waiting for something to happen, to feel different, asking her "how do I know if I'm drunk?". Fast forward a couple of years and I had plenty of drunken nights under my belt. In the town I grew up in, it was just what you did. We'd drive from beach to beach drinking beers, wine coolers or whatever we could get our hands on and once the cops showed up, we'd move on to the next beach, parking lot, wherever. I drank differently from my friends, even back then. I always wanted more. There was a commercial that would come on tv back then, in the late eighties/early nineties, and I can still hear the woman's voice in my head, "if you think you may have a drinking problem, then you probably do". It scared me and I buried it deep. That was a long time ago. It would be over twenty years until I got sober.
My first blackout came when I was fifteen. I remember waking up in the morning wearing the same clothes that I wore out the night before, and I remember not remembering. In fact, the only thing that I do remember of that night is drinking Southern Comfort straight from the bottle. I continued onto college and the partying only intensified. But that was what you did in college, right? If there was a party, I was there. And so it went.
Flash forward twenty years, I'm married, with two incredible kids. Life was good except for the one thing that had been hanging over my head for decades. I had a drinking problem and I had become very good at playing the denial game. I mean, how could I give up alcohol? What would I have to look forward to? Wouldn't life be so boring? How would I relax and unwind after a long, monotonous day of being a stay at home mom? On those rare occasions when I went out to dinner with friends, was I expected to drink WATER?!?! Life without alcohol was something I didn't want to imagine and the thought of it was scary. Even scarier, though, was the reality that the amount of alcohol I was consuming was becoming dangerous and I was becoming sneaky. I was hiding it. And when you start drinking in secret, when you start hiding bottles of wine and vodka throughout your bedroom and bathroom, you realize that shit is getting real. And alcoholism is a progressive disease, it will slowly get worse over time and eventually it will kill you. That's the hard truth.
So, on June 8, 2014, I woke up to my last hangover. I told myself I was done, the jig was up. I had said this to myself literally hundreds of times over the years but this time was different. This time I knew. And this is what happens to us. We pick ourselves up after falling time and time again. We pick ourselves up and we fall and we pick ourselves up and we fall. And we keep doing this until eventually we pick ourselves up and we don't fall, we fly. We make it to the other side and you know what? It's pretty damn cool over here. What you don't know, and what nobody tells you, is that there is a whole other world out there on the other side of broken. The people you meet are so real, they have been beaten down so many times but they kept getting back up two, three, fifty, one hundred times and they own their shit. They are flawed, they have been defeated too many times to count. Life, for them, has been ugly at times, has been sad, has been dark. But without the darkness, you can't appreciate the light and life is really beautiful over here.
Something kind of magical happens to people in recovery over time. You develop a kind of spirituality that you didn't have before. You see the world through a different set of eyes. Almost like finally getting a pair of glasses after seeing blurry for years. In sobriety, you see things clearer, you kind of look at the world differently. You find gratitude. You have a sense of freedom that you never even knew existed. And, most surprising of all, to me, was the sense of relief I had. Relief in knowing that I never have to live that way again. I never again have to wake up at 3am, sick, sweaty, heart racing, full of shame and self hatred knowing that I did this to myself AGAIN. Relief in knowing that I am no longer a prisoner of alcohol. Because my mind was always so occupied by alcohol that I missed out on a whole lot. A special kind of freedom comes to you when you banish the obsession from your mind.
So, it's been almost two years since I had my last drink. It would be easy to keep my story to myself, protect myself from judgment. But I feel a kind of duty to share it. For those who are too afraid or are too ashamed to reach out for help because of the stigma that is attached to it. Alcohol is the only drug that you get judged for for quitting. They're worried what people will think of them, that they're a bad mother or father or that they will be seen as weak. But I've come to realize that people who are going to judge me for being honest and real and owning my story are people who aren't honest or real. Because we all have our demons, our addictions, our secrets and the easiest way to deflect the judgment from ourselves is to project it on to someone else. And I'm tired of that bullshit. I've been there, I've been that person and it is miserable and it is exhausting and life is too short. Life is too short to judge people and life is too short to worry about being judged. People who have a problem with alcohol or drugs or whatever need to feel like they can reach out for help and if sharing my story will help one person get the help they need then that's good enough for me. And we will welcome them with open arms.
Jennifer and I met in a sobriety support group on-line and our stories shared a lot of similarities. She's such a good writer and I'm so happy she shared this piece with us. I will echo what she states at the end and say, yes, we do welcome you. Please reach out here via the contact form or email me. I'll do my best to answer any questions you may have about sobriety or can point you in the direction of support. There is so much help out there, but you have to ask for it.