The night of my last drink, I come to in my empty house. I walk out in the living room, looking for my husband. He is not there. I run upstairs to the kids’ rooms. They are not there. I drop to my knees in my daughter’s room, not to pray, but to look for the vodka bottle that I had hidden in the closet earlier that day. Panic sets in. Not because I can’t find my husband or my children. I know they are ok. He would keep them safe. Safe away from me. Panic because I can’t find any alcohol. I don’t feel safe without some alcohol.
I begin looking frantically around the rest of the house. My husband has taken the car and the keys to the other car. He has taken my pocket book and the change jar. I feel desperate. I search some more for the vodka. I remember putting it in the closet but maybe I moved it since then. My heart is pounding. I need something to drink. I begin searching the house for money. I look in jacket pockets, old purses, dresser drawers. Relief! I find a crisp five dollar bill in the piggy bank Mallory was given when she was born. A silly pig wearing a frilly pink tutu. A gift from a family friend. The perfect gift for a perfect girl born into a seemingly perfect family. I push down the guilt and shame and run down the stairs and out the door.
I walk a mile and a half to the gas station. Through our perfect, family-friendly neighborhood. Down the main road. Quiet because it is 12:30 in the morning. Across the bridge. As I sober up, the irony is not lost on me that this is the proverbial bridge. The one I should be sleeping under because down deep I know that I am just a worthless drunk. I plod on. My destination and reward in mind. What can I get for five dollars? Maybe a six pack of tall boys. Maybe three 45 ounce bottles. Maybe a cheap bottle of wine. Which would have the most alcohol? My mind starts doing the math. I walk through the gas station door, determined to not be ashamed. Everyone stops in the gas station at night, I tell myself. That’s why they are open after all. I start looking over my choices in the cooler. The cashier tells me he can’t sell me alcohol. It’s too late. Panic. I think about arguing with him but decide against it. I can’t come up with any words. Instead, I select two travel size bottles of Listerine, the only alcohol I can buy. I pay for my purchases, pretending that’s what I stopped in there for all along. I walk out the door, open one bottle, and tip it back. Relief. I savor the burn as it goes down my throat to my stomach. I save the second one for home. I think, dear God, this has to be my bottom. Please help me!
I had promised my husband during the relapse before, two months earlier, that if I relapsed again, I would get help. So, I called him the next morning (they were at his aunt’s house), and I told him I was ready to check in somewhere. I told him I was done. I needed help. I wanted to die. Later that morning, he dropped me off at the curb of a detox facility. Alone.
While there, I slowly began to surrender. I told my husband and the doctors that I realized my own decisions were no longer working for me, and I would leave everything up to them. A family friend recommended a treatment program, and he contacted them. The day before I was to be discharged he told me he thought I needed a long term treatment program. I was crushed. Ninety days away from my children seemed unbearable. Away from home over Christmas? I was convinced he hated me three times as much as I thought he had because he wouldn’t just put me in a 28 day program. But I was defeated, and now I realize I was also a little willing. A small, feeble, quiet, desperate voice in my gut said, “Go, you need this.” An even smaller voice said, “You deserve this.” So I went.
Two years, four months, twenty days later
Today I am a sober woman. I am a mother and a wife. I am a teacher again.
I entered treatment convinced that I would stay for two weeks, get the three-ring binder full of activities to help me get sober, go home, throw all my “rehab clothes” away, and never take a drink again. I thought that fear, shame, and remorse would keep me sober.
Fortunately, I waited until the miracle happened. I lived with a 23 year old IV drug addict, a nurse who stole meds from the hospital, a girl who had served time in jail for a multitude of charges and, at one point, had a bail bondsman after her. Those women, who are all still sober, and countless others who walked in and out of the treatment program, some successfully, others not, were with me on my journey to sobriety. Through them and the brutally honest and loving counselors, I finally found the woman I was meant to be. Not just a mother, or a wife, or a pony-tailed, turtleneck wearing English teacher. Now I can sit on the floor and put a puzzle together with my children. What other people think is no longer any of my business. I can share my experience, strength and hope with a community of women and show them that life is better without alcohol. For today.
For more stories of women dealing with drinking visit Val, Ellie and Robin’s site Crying Out Now
And as always, you can come to the Booze Free Brigade for support from other women who have been there and are there.