“Experiencing alcoholism first hand was not my first touch with addiction.”

alcohol_shotsWhen my counsellor requested a few of us to write our story, the first thought that popped into my head was EXHAUSTION! My story consists of ups and downs, twists and turns and tons of rewrites. Throughout my 24 years of my life I’ve had the amazing chance to rewrite my endings. Currently my story is open ended, which makes it even more exciting.

Experiencing alcoholism first hand was not my first touch with addiction. I had grown up in an alcoholic home with an alcoholic father. The fears and constant anxiety in a child of an alcoholic is a story by its self. My story is full of many experiences that led me from one chapter to the next. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to become an alcoholic. There were tons of signs and crumby experiences along the way. I didn’t witness the best coping strategies as a child. My father drank through any pain or emotion. And he took that strategy to the grave with him when he died of cancer when I was 16. His death left me with many resentments. The worse poison I ever ingested.

My first drink was like a warm sip of confidence. At that time I was suffering with severe anorexia, insecurity, depression, anxiety and the soon death of my father. As the warm orange liquor reached my empty stomach I felt on top of the world. I felt sexy, confident, lovable, funny etc… I was dating a popular, rich boy with lots of friends and money. When I drank I fit right into the ivy-league life his parents had created for him. My life on the other hand was simple and boring compared to the lavish lifestyle he lived. When I drank the negative voice in my head constantly telling me how fat I was or not to eat, shut up. When I drank I could eat whatever I wanted without guilt. I knew after the first drink, I had a problem. I became obsessed with the idea of getting drunk. Becoming invincible and confident with a simple drink was awesome and easy, so it seemed.

The more alcohol I consumed, the more it consumed me. It took me down quicker than anyone could expect. I went from being the rugby captain’s girlfriend with goals and aspirations, to a lonely, scared girl whom spent her days searching for a way to get her next fix. By 18 I had been arrested, to rehab twice, hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and suicidal thoughts multiple times and homeless. Ironically I spent my 19th birthday in a homeless shelter in Toronto going through withdrawals, not at a club with all my friends like most girls did. Finding a couch to sleep on and $25 for a bottle of vodka became my daily goal. Once I had a bottle in hand nothing else mattered in my mind. Who I was hurting, where I was sleeping and what I was eating became secondary to my daily needs. This life continued for at least 4 more years. A lot of the time I’d find myself in a drug house in who knows where with no way home. Home… A word that had lost its meaning a long time ago. Home now meant to me another drink and place to rest my head. I was constantly surrounded by dangerous men who wanted only one thing from me, the sad part is I didn’t care. I lost myself completely in this lifestyle. I lost any self- respect or confidence I had. I was beaten, raped, robbed and repeatedly taken advantage of on a regular basis. But that was okay, as long I had a 26 oz of vodka and maybe some cocaine if that day was a good day. I forgot what it was like to smile, or laugh genuinely.

I tried numerous times to get sober. 5 unsuccessful rehabs, 2 completed rehabs, 3 probation orders, lots of counsellors. Eventually I’d slip back into my old ways. I’d go through the terrible withdrawals, seizures and all, get to an AA meeting, perhaps talk to my counsellor… but usually within 72 hours I had a bottle back in my hand.

By 23 I was physically at my end. I had difficulty reaching that drunk that I craved. Sometimes I couldn’t even keep down a sip of beer without puking. Couch surfing was becoming difficult. I had lost my loyal friends a long time ago, but even the negative friends were sick of my mooching. In October 2014 I met someone. He had his own struggles and demons, but I was instantly drawn to him. He was quiet and reserved, quite opposite from me. I was searching for comfort and someone to love me. I had pretty much cut out my family. Though my mum and I remained in contact, she had to keep her distance. He fell in love with me instantly. I still wonder how and why when I was such a sick person. He saw past my sickness. He allowed me to be myself, the person I had buried for so long. He made me feel safe. That still wasn’t enough for me to stop drinking. I continued for 4 more months. I dragged him down with me. His own demons came to surface and I didn’t care about his well-being as long as I could get my next drink. By January 2015, I was tired. My boyfriend, the only person I loved, was ready to leave me. Once again I was left with a bottle in hand, a broken heart, and a soul close to empty. It seemed like life had taken everything from me. And now him. The one thing I loved almost as much as alcohol. On my boyfriend’s birthday in January 2015, I decided that was going to be my last drink. I was going to give it my all this time. Early January was full of pain, heart ache and loss. I couldn’t take anymore. Though I loved him very much, I had to do this for me and me only.

Two weeks into my sobriety I started a day treatment in ADAPT for concurrent disorders. Though I had heard the messages numerous times, I was finally ready to really listen. I attended every class for two weeks. After day treatment I knew I needed to implement structure into my days immediately. Things at home were tense. My boyfriend and I had to deal with some unresolved issues from mine and his drinking days. He was happy and proud of me for being sober, and so was I, but I was extremely insecure in this newly sober self. At 7 weeks sober I received incredible news. I found out my boyfriend and I were 5 weeks pregnant. He was over the moon. Me, on the other hand was scared and shocked. I was scared I’d pass on my alcoholism to this child, along with my mental health issues. I worked through that anxiety and fear. I realized that I had the chance to teach our child healthy coping strategies, and about love and resiliency. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Not drinking became easier. The thought of becoming a mum became exciting. I found a job at a small pet store at a perfect time. My manager was supportive and the team I worked with were encouraging and understanding. It was the first time in a long time I felt like I was more than alcoholic or a mental disease. I felt confident as I worked. I was good at my job, and I loved it. Things were not always easy during early sobriety. My boyfriend and I had to work on a lot of boundaries. I was constantly dealing with fears and flashbacks of past trauma from my active addiction. Being pregnant on top of everything else made things even more difficult. The fears of not being a competent mother effected my anxiety. The fear of having the people I love abandon me consumed my daily thoughts. I put down the bottle but the fear of not being good enough stayed with me. Who knew that getting sober meant that stopping of the drinking wasn’t the hardest part? Dealing with the core issues and beliefs was even harder. Talking about my issues with appropriate helpers helped my demons become weaker. As time went on those negative voices in my head became quieter and quieter.

I mustn’t ever forget the support of my family. The relationship with my family was mended. I am best friends with my mother and sisters. They see and treat me as an equal now. They come to me for advice and support. They respect me and I respect them. Mending family relationships after active addiction is hard. Tons of trust issues and resentments. It’s hard for a family to recover when the addict isn’t in recovery. Now that I’m 100% all in to recovery, so is my family. They have grown and let go of demons and resentments. As a family we’ve grown immensely.  I am forever grateful for my amazing family.

Today I’m 24 years old, and I just gave birth to this miracle, a beautiful, healthy baby boy. I just celebrated 1 year sober. I’m happy and healthy. My boyfriend is now my fiancé. We have worked through our anger and resentments from our drinking days. We share a clean, peaceful apartment together, with food in the fridge and a car in the driveway. My mum is my best friend. Quality verses quantity. The quality in our friendship is more than anything I could ever ask for. I never thought I’d have the relationships that I have today. I have trustworthy, loving and dependable friends. Most of them in recovery. I no longer allow negative people into my life. I will not subject myself to evil. Last but definitely not least; I’m involved and committed with my youth group R4R. Without R4R, I believe I wouldn’t be sober today. It is safe place to go every Wednesday for a couple hours. For 3 years I went in and out of treatment. When my ego and pride had been hurt, I was always made to feel welcome. The friends I have found through R4R are like no relationships I could’ve imagined. My councillor at ADAPT saved my life. She had faith in me when I had nothing. She saw something in me I didn’t, the will to keep fighting. I learned how to get back up even after being pushed down into the deepest, darkest holes.  I am forever grateful for her and for R4R.

So that’s my story. A summary at least. It’s nowhere near finished. I no longer fear the unknown, I now find it exciting. Today I can fully love and be loved in return. And best of all today I have my freedom.