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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

Freedom From Addiction

I loved alcohol. I mean, I LOVED it! I loved everything about it. I loved how it gave me confidence; that it made me feel pretty. I loved the apathy that accompanied it. I loved that I was skinnier because I was never hungry. I loved that it was accessible, acceptable even! I loved that it relieved me of any and all insecurities and fears I held onto in my life. It took all of those things away, and eventually it took away a lot more than that too.

It’s funny to think about now; all of the things I loved about alcohol, are all of the things I despise about it today. In the end, I hated the person I became when I drank. I HATED her. I hated her apathy. I hated how disconnected she became. I hated how disheveled her appearance had become. I hated how embarrassed she felt in the mornings after she pieced together the previous night. I hated how she then went straight for the bottle to relieve herself of that embarrassment too. I hated how easily accessible it was to her! I hated who she had become as a mother, wife, daughter, sibling and friend.

When people ask me what my drug of choice was, I tell them the truth. Vodka! No hesitation. And yes, alcohol is a drug! It may be legal, but so are cigarettes. Both are powerful drugs with the ability to destroy human beings both physically and mentally.

There is not a day that goes by where alcohol is not advertised to me. Whether it’s on billboards, television or the radio, someone’s clothing, the gas station, grocery store, or the menus when out to eat. Magazines, the internet and the neon liquor signs that blink in bar windows as I drive home from work at night. It’s brought up in casual conversations and I am offered wine at Italian restaurants. And don’t even get me started on the amount of “hilarious” alcohol memes I see while scrolling through my social media sites throughout the day!

Most people don’t recognize all of these things, but an alcoholic does. As an alcoholic, I find it fascinating when a normal drinker doesn’t finish their drink; when they just leave it on the table to be dumped down the drain. I don’t understand how they can just leave it there! Or when a “normal” drinker has a glass of wine with dinner and then follows it with a water or coffee. What? They don’t want another one?!? It just doesn’t make sense to me, because that was not my experience with alcohol.

What you don’t see on the side of a liquor bottle is a legitimate warning. The one that reads: “Warning! Alcohol is an addictive substance. Excessive consumption of this beverage may cause irreparable harm to your reputation, the destruction of your marriage and family and the slow and painful deterioration of your health. It may cause you to lose your job and home, and suffer financial ruin. You may become a danger to yourself and others. Excessive consumption may also cause health issues related to: Liver, kidney and heart disease, throat cancer, depression, anxiety, neurological damage, memory loss and quite possibly death.”

And guess what? Even if that warning label were on the side of that vodka bottle, I wouldn’t have read it anyway. Because those things were NEVER going to happen to me. I would never choose alcohol over my daughter, or husband or my own health for that matter. I was too smart to let alcohol impact my job or my finances. And I certainly would never allow myself to become addicted! I mean, come on! That’s just crazy talk!

But then I did. I did those things! I did every single thing I swore I was never going to do…and then I did more…

It’s like taking a Tylenol without reading the warning label. I have a headache, I take the Tylenol and it cures what ails me. Alcohol cured what ailed me too, until it didn’t anymore…and at that point it was too late because I was already physically dependent on liquor, because addiction is a stealthy bastard that creeps right in without the individual even realizing it. Addiction is the inconsiderate guest who refuses to leave.

Alcohol was the hardest break up I have ever experienced in life. My world shattered at my feet the day I realized I had to let it go in order to live. I mourned the loss of alcohol, just as I had mourned the loss of my family and my job, and eventually the lives of some my friends who hadn’t quite gotten recovery before it was too late.

I still mourn the loss of those friends lives, but I can honestly tell you I no longer mourn the loss of alcohol.

And I don’t say these things to scare anyone or try to convince a “normal” drinker that they should quit. If you are able to drink alcohol like a responsible adult, more power to you! Have your nightcap, or wine with dinner! It does not bother me and I would never pass judgement. Lord knows I tried to drink like you! I tried so hard, I almost died. I am speaking solely to the ones who cannot stop once they start. The ones who may not even realize they are addicted just yet. Those who are just like me.

When I first came into recovery, I was literally convinced that I would never have fun again. I thought I had a lifetime of socially awkward situations ahead of me. I wasn’t sure I would laugh again or feel confident again. I thought I would be miserable. Interestingly enough, this is usually one of the first things I hear from someone who is new to recovery: “But everybody drinks! I’m going to feel left out! I will be no fun!”

Wrong! It’s just all wrong..

Look, I’m going to give it to you straight right now. If you are at a point in your life where alcohol has lead to so many negative consequences that you are now seeking recovery, I think it’s safe to say alcohol has already sucked most of the fun out of your life at this point anyway. I can speak from experience and admit that I was NOT a fun person to be around at the end of my active addiction. Most people in my life avoided me at all costs, and rightfully so! I was mean, and sloppy and belligerent. I couldn’t drive anywhere anymore because I was always under the influence. I was up to my eyeballs in legal consequences and financially ruined. I slept a lot and ate very little. I was a shell of a human being…hollow and alone.

Alcohol promised to fill a void and it came up short on that promise. I didn’t realize that, until I let it go.

To anyone who says they can’t have fun without alcohol, I say “ppsshhhh! I have more fun now than I ever did while drinking.” In the 3 years I have been sober, I have NEVER woken up in the morning and been like, “Man…I really wish I would have drank last night!”

Not once!

But there were a hell of a lot of times I drank in the past where I woke up thinking, “Man…I am so stupid. I wish I never drank last night.”

Freedom…recovery has given me freedom. Freedom of choice, freedom from fear and freedom from self-sabatoging behavior.

It’s given me the freedom to love myself again, set goals and has restored my sense of wonder. Recovery has taught me how to forgive myself and how to forgive others. I have learned to trust again. And not only to trust those around me, but myself too!

I recently had the most amazing weekend in Northern Wisconsin with other recovering friends. We were surrounded by nature. Every morning, I woke up early and had my coffee on the patio overlooking the water. I saw eagles flying above me. Eagles! I would never have appreciated the beauty of this experience had I still been in active addiction. Honestly, I never would have even gone. I probably would have said that I would be there, but I never would have shown up. And I never felt alone, not for a single moment, because I was surrounded by the people who have helped to guide me through this journey. We laughed and cried and laughed some more. We went kayaking, and on pontoon boats, and out to dinner and rode motorcycles. We danced, and sat around a bonfire, and went fishing. We did all of these things without the use of drugs or alcohol! And it was FUN!!!

Since finding recovery, I’ve gone to more concerts than I can count. I’ve taken my daughter to Disney World, water parks and festivals. We’ve gone to see Broadway plays and we’ve gone on road trips. I’ve been promoted at work, and coached my daughters soccer team and chaperoned field trips. And it’s been FUN!!!

I have also experienced hardship and loss in recovery. Heartbreak and despair. I still suffer from depression and anxiety. But there has been a fundamental change in my thinking today. Today I know that no matter what I am struggling with, there is only one guaranteed way that I could make any situation worse; picking up that first drink. I am not willing to take that chance today and I pray that I never do.

Now, because of my recovery, I get to go home, every night, to the family I almost lost a few years ago. I get to hug my daughter and kiss my husband and go to sleep in my own bed in the home that we bought together as a family. It’s the life I have always dreamed of. There is not a single beverage that could ever fill me with the amount of love and hope I have found in recovery.

Freedom…and I am grateful.

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