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Sober Angels Over Me
The first time I drank I was around 13 or 14. My childhood best friend and I got into my Dad’s liquor, kept on the top shelf of the pantry. We drank what was available, which if I remember correctly, was a lot of Schnapps. I woke the next morning absolutely sick. My friend was fine. I remember thinking “never again.”
So set in motion many, many “never agains.”
But let me back up. When I look back on my childhood, I would describe it as having been idyllic. We lived in rural settings, and I loved my parents and little brothers. But behind the scenes, and despite my parents’ over-protectiveness, I endured some trauma.
The first time I was sexually molested I was around 4 or 5 years old. The predator lived across the street from my Grandparent’s house. He molested me right there on his front porch. At some point a parent, my stepmom I believe, noticed that something didn’t quite seem right as she watched me visiting with the neighbor on his front porch. I was later questioned about it, and not quite knowing why it was wrong, but knowing that what happening was wrong - and sensing I would be in trouble, I lied and said the predator was only tickling me. I was told to never go back to the neighbors and that was then end of it.
Middle school was brutal. I desperately wanted friends but had trouble making them, and I spent my fair share of time being bullied. I also remember becoming hyper-aware of the opposite sex during this time, and craved the attention of boys. When I wasn’t hoping to catch the attention of a boy, I had my nose in a book. Anytime I could escape into a fictionalized world, I did.
It was also during these years that I was again sexually molested by a relative while visiting his home. At the time that it happened, I told no one.
High school wouldn’t prove to be any better. Freshman year brought with it my parents’ divorce, which devastated me. It was a shock and the axis of my world was shattered but we eventually settled into a new normal, which included my mom’s new marriage.
During this time I did decide to tell my parents about the prior sexual molestations, and between that and the divorce, my parents agreed to put me in counseling. I will always be grateful for that.
While I didn’t date around much in high school, and preferred to maintain steady relationships, that didn’t prevent me from enduring abuse. One boyfriend became obsessive and verbally and emotionally abusive, others simply used me for what I could provide – I had a car, a job and was good at confusing sex for love. Once they were done with me, they moved on. Or, sometimes they moved on before they had decided they were done with me.
I also moved parental households during my junior year of high school, and went from an over-protective environment to one where I was given more freedom. This wasn’t necessarily bad as it made me feel as if I could be trusted. But unfortunately I couldn’t be. I was very naive, and my decision-making skills weren’t great. I floundered. I also began to drink more. Looking younger than I was, I never tried to buy alcohol myself, but I always seemed to have a ‘friend of a friend’ who was of age and could get it.
I wasn’t a partier. I didn’t have many friends. Most of my nights drinking were spent at a friend’s house, just the two of us. Sometimes I would even drink at school – vodka in a water bottle was never questioned.
About a week after I graduated high school, I was once again sexually assaulted by a different family member. And this one hurt me more than the others because this was someone I trusted and looked up to. This was someone I never thought would be capable of hurting me. After it happened, he called to apologize. I’d rather he had not. It was at this time that I came to believe that I was marked, and that all the predators out there could detect my scent, and that I might as well accept that this would be the my life’s narrative.
At 19, I met a man that I would spend the next 12 years with. It was an abusive, toxic hell for much of it. I tried many times to leave, but would never stay away for long. He is a textbook narcissist who is a master gaslighter. And he brought out the worst in me. He would be the type to criticize my drinking, but then insist that I have another glass of wine. He made me believe that I was trash, that no one else would want me, and that his cheating on me was my fault. At any given time, he would have 2-3 other women he was also maintaining relationships with. He went through the motions of planning a wedding with me only to later find out that he had never reserved our venue or sent the deposit to the photographer. But still I stayed. I take ownership of this – I stayed and took it and stayed and took it. All the while drinking to cope. I wish I could better explain where my mind was at during these years. I wish I could explain all the ways in which this relationship was dangerous. I don’t have the words, still to this day, I don’t have the words to be able to adequately describe what that hell was. I would find my strength and walk away, but he would come at me with crocodile tears and apologies and gifts. Somehow he was able to convince me that no one would ever care about me in the way that he did.
During this time I caught a DUI, and found myself spending the night in jail. While this was thankfully my only DUI, it was not my last time seeing the inside of a jail cell, nor was it the last time I drove drunk. After yet another argument with this man, and after having spent the last few hours drinking hard liquor, I decided that I had to return all of his belongings, and do it immediately. I packed my car and headed out. After leaving my apartment complex’s parking lot, I immediately knew I shouldn’t be driving and tried to turn around to return home. Instead, I ended up in a ditch after hitting a light pole. I called my ex in tears, even though I knew he was angry with me, and asked him to help me get a tow with his auto plan. Instead, he met me at the scene, told me a tow was on the way, but instead he had called the police come, knowing they would arrest me and impound my car.
That should have been a sign – a sign to get help for my drinking and a sign to leave the toxic relationship. Instead, I continued to drink, and continued to not only stay with this man for several more years but also agreed to move to Florida with him when his job transferred him. At that time I had slowly but surely been trying to improve myself. While I was still drinking heavily most weekends, I was also working full time and going to school full time, sleeping a few hours here and there whenever I was able. I was almost done with school when I decided to quit and move down to FL to start all over again. I gave away all my belongings that couldn’t fit in my car and headed down thinking that this was going to the fresh start we needed.
I should probably mention that I had drank heavily the night before, and was terribly hungover and full of anxiety the entire 12 hour drive down.
We moved in October. By that following May, I was again in jail, this time for physically assaulting him. I had found proof that he was still maintaining a relationship with another woman back in my hometown (this woman is now a close friend and has been instrumental in my healing). He wasn’t home at the time, and I began to drink whatever I could find that was in the apartment. By the time he came home, smelling like the local strip club (cigarette smoke and glitter body spray), I was drunk and ready for a confrontation. Pictures were thrown, glass broken, t-shirt ripped and few slaps were delivered. He called the cops. They told me to settle down and left. I didn’t settle down. He called the cops again and downtown I went.
You might think this was another perfect wake up call for me. It was not. Not only did I continue to drink, but I continued to stay in a relationship with this person. Even after we moved from our apartment – he into a new house he purchased without me, and me to a rented room, I still stayed with him.
I continued to live in the house where I rented the room for close to two years. Never being one to drink much during the week because I’ve never been able to power through a hangover, I made up for lost time on weekends, especially Friday nights. I would sit in my room, alone, and drink beer or wine while watching TV. I would often call home and talk with my stepmom, looking to find a connection with anyone that might be willing to give me comfort. My stepmom provided this, but l later was faced with the knowledge that these calls were very hard on her, reminding her of calls she received from her alcoholic father.
Many times I would often use my Friday night liquid courage to confront my ex on his lies. But a drunk never has a leg to stand on in any argument. My drinking would be used to dismiss valid point I had.
Eventually I did move on from this relationship, quickly, by moving into a new rented room. By the 3rd week I had drunkenly slept with my roommate. He was someone I had met prior and had gone on a few dates with but that I ultimately stop talking to. However, we eventually got married, I gained a sweet stepdaughter, and together we had a son. But other than my pregnancy, my drinking habits did not change. I still drank heavily every weekend. My husband would also confront me on my drinking, sometimes with the arguments becoming heated. But I never felt as if I owed it to him to question or change my drinking habits as he drinks heavily as well.
So this brings me to January 28, 2018. After yet another Saturday day-drinking binge, I woke to a very angry spouse who was ready with an arsenal of cutting words and insults. This argument was witnessed by our young son, and never have I felt more brokenhearted than I did that morning.
And when it was over, I decided that I was done. And I know that the recovery message is that you cannot get sober for someone else, you have to do it for yourself. But for me, my desire to quit drinking was absolutely for my son.
And I did foolishly believe that all the problems in my marriage would be solved once I stopped drinking. That has not been the case, but as this is not his story, but mine, I will keep the details light.
I have learned that I can no longer ignore my past traumas, and that by doing so I have only made myself sick. Physically and emotionally. And spending my life trying to numb myself to the constant dark dialog in my head only made the dialog louder. The drinking only made my anxiety worse, and my self-loathing a constant. I started to believe every bad thing that had ever been said to me about me. I started to believe I was worthless. I was trash. I was a bad mom, a bad wife and a bad daughter. Not even God could love me.
But it was God that got me here. It was God who answered my prayer when it changed from “please help me to not drink so much,” to “God, please help me to stop.” That was the prayer He had been waiting on. From that moment on, I have trusted Him to lead me where I need to go in order to find recovery. From AA to Hip Sobriety and The Fix, from books to therapy, God has been in control. And I have been in control. Alcohol no longer makes my decisions for me.
I’m still so very much a work in progress. I have so much to still learn and overcome. Sobriety is not the magical solution to my problems. This is requiring a lot of hard work. But it is worth it because I will come out of this healthier than ever. And I go to bed every single night, sober, knowing that no matter what tomorrow brings, I will be able to handle it with a clear head. I wake up without regret, without fear, without self-loathing. My life, my surroundings, even my marriage may not be at peace. But I am at peace. Never again will I allow alcohol to take away my power.
And lastly, the thing I wanted most out of sobriety has already happened. I’ve become a better parent – simply by being present. Crafts get done, instead of abandoned because I’m too drunk to focus. I don’t plan activities based around when I can start day-drinking. We’ve taken two trips to an amusement park this past year. We’ve visited family in Kentucky twice, and took trips to visit family in Sarasota twice. We constantly go to the movies and go on adventures. I remember every single moment that I get to spend with him and there is NOTHING more powerful for maintaining my sobriety than that.
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