First Meetings

When I first got into AA I cried, and cried… and cried. With my black eye and streaming tears… I just sat, and listened to every word.

I had surrendered. Given up the fight. There was no where else to go. I felt it with every fibre of my being. I didn’t have anything else in me, I had lost the battle I’d been having with alcohol for so many years.

An elder at one of my first meetings spoke for a while about his life and he concluded with one bit of advice that I’ve always felt was directed right at me, “You have to believe you can’t drink, not even one.”

I tell people about this man’s words often, because they are SO SIMPLE and yet so hard to accept! As soon as I heard that sentence, it was as though cobwebs were swept from my brain. This was what I’d needed to hear, I had spent my entire adult life believing I could drinkTrying to prove it again and again, just a couple. I had had it all wrong all along! Imagine that?

I needed to BELIEVE I could not drink. I had found the solution to my problem.

I’ve even referenced this advice in my “About” section because it’s so so powerful to me. When we believe we can’t drink, we won’t.

When someone is deathly allergic to peanuts or shellfish, they don’t keep trying to eat peanuts and shellfish! They know they can’t, and that their lives depend on it, and so they don’t. That’s what addicts need to acknowledge. We cannot dabble, even a little bit. Our addicted minds will play every trick on us to try to convince us that we can, but we need to be smarter and make the right decisions that will better our lives.

I remember at times I’d know I shouldn’t start drinking, so I’d do a shot quickly before really letting myself mull over the decision. ‘Too late now,”  I’d think to myself. I would just suffer the consequences later – it was worth it right?

The answer is a big fat no.

After my first meeting, as I was trying to slip out the door unnoticed, a woman called me back and asked me if I had any phone numbers? I didn’t really know what she meant, but told her that I didn’t. She called another girl over, Nicole, and asked her to write her number down for me. We all started chatting and I told them what I had just been through, sobbing. They didn’t even flinch, they looked at me with love and understanding, hugged me and started telling me their stories… eerily similar stories! We were all the same! Nicole offered to pick me up and bring me to my next meeting. We spent a lot of time talking and telling stories, even laughing. She could tell my story for me, I was not unique in my suffering. I was not unique in my addiction. I finally GOT IT. I really was an alcoholic, and so were all of these people in the rooms. We could learn from each other’s progress, and so I did.

 

I Wasn’t Better Drunk

I used to think life without alcohol would be impossible. Isn’t is crazy that I thought it would be too hard to live life without putting massive amounts of pure poison into my body? I never thought of it in those terms of course, it was more of an internal dialogue that went something like this: “I’ll never have fun again if I can’t drink! Waaaaah!”

I remember throughout my drinking days, when I’d come across a person out at a bar or at a party who wasn’t drinking, it was as though I’d met an alien. I couldn’t, but wanted to understand them. I would fire my list of questions at these rare breeds…Where did they come from? How and when did they make the decision not to drink? Did they have a problem? What did they do in their spare time? Did their parents drink growing up? Why were they so afraid of losing control? What did they have to hide?

I’d ask question after question, alway so curious about how that life was lived… but ultimately never truly believing anybody when they told me, “I don’t need alcohol to have fun.”

I called bullshit. Didn’t we all need it? I certainly  saw no other way… What was wrong with them? Because clearly, nothing was wrong with me.

I didn’t feel vulnerable when I drank. I didn’t feel afraid. Though unaware that as I dulled those emotions, I also dulled my joy and happiness. I didn’t realize that when I drank, my smile and my strength were artificial. They felt so real to me, alcohol made me ME, the ME I thought I wanted to be. Little did I know, I wasn’t better drunk.

I thought alcohol was the answer, and I couldn’t imagine life without. The more I had it, the more I needed it to survive everything. I couldn’t meet new people sober. I couldn’t make friends, I couldn’t date… After so many years, getting wasted was my identity, my passion and my reputation.

When friends, family, or boyfriends expressed concern, I answered with what I felt was the truth: “I’m young, I’ll grow out of it!” “No, I won’t be drunk all the time when I’m a mother!” Or my favourite, “I’m just having fun, what’s the big deal?” – Sadly, getting drunk was my only way to have fun.

I moved away from places when I was too ashamed of my behaviour. I spun stories to others and to myself so that I seemed spontaneous and adventurous – really though, I was just running from this ME I thought I wanted to be. As the saying goes, Wherever you go, there you are.

I couldn’t escape myself no matter how hard I tried.

After I got pregnant with my first daughter, I watched people around me drink and thought, “I’m done with that life. Look at how those drunk people are behaving.”

I felt embarrassed that I had ever even acted like those people.

I refocused my attention, just as I’d thought I would. I suddenly felt like I had a purpose. I was growing a little girl inside of me and I was going to give her the world. I was so excited to be a mom! Who was she? I couldn’t wait to meet her!

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I couldn’t think of anything else my entire pregnancy. I woke up on August 22nd to a phone call from my little sister telling me our mother had died… I went into labour a few hours after that and my daughter was born at 1:27am the next morning, which made it my 31st birthday. So I woke up that morning without a mom, and went to sleep that night as a mom.

I had never had two feelings like that inside me at the same time. It was like a hollow bliss. I didn’t know how to breathe, but I had just created breath. I didn’t know how to feel happy and yet I was smiling at this beautiful baby girl that had just come through ME. The real me.

The experience of labour and of giving birth was the most vulnerable state I had ever been in. This was one of the first times I ever really felt like my boyfriend, Russ, loved me – and I think I felt that way because it was the first thing I had done that I was truly proud of, probably in my whole life. I had been vulnerable and done something I was proud of – no wonder I felt loved, I may have even loved myself that day!

It didn’t take long before I got blackout drunk again. A couple of months after having my precious daughter, L, I was back at it. I felt bipolar to be honest. I loved my daughter and felt so happy to have her, but then I’d feel such tremendous guilt for even smiling in a world in which my mother no longer existed. I would cry daily, dripping tears onto my sleeping baby, not knowing how I was going to survive this. Then I’d think of all of the worse things other people have had to endure and try to render my problems insignificant.

I just wanted to call my mom and tell her that I had had my first child. I wanted to tell her I understood her love for me now. I wanted her to meet my daughter. She would’ve loved her granddaughter so much!

On Christmas Day, when L was 4 months old, I got extremely drunk in front of all my relatives and partner. It was our first Christmas without my Mom, so of course I had an excuse. When I woke up the next day, the shame was overwhelming… I didn’t want to be this kind of mother. I told my boyfriend that I was going to quit drinking again. It lasted almost 3 months that time. After each and every time I quit for a significant amount of time, I thought – well if I were an alcoholic I wouldn’t be able to stop for this long, so I must be fine… and then I’d try to drink again. This vicious cycle was killing me… and my relationship.

I had given birth to my daughter in a pool at home, I ate organic food, I used all natural products, I breastfed. By day, I was this super healthy mom and then every few nights, I was drunk and smoking cigarettes. I was a walking contradiction and I couldn’t justify one to the other. This was who I was and I didn’t know how to be just one of those entities.

I had begun drinking whenever Russ was out of town. He tried to be gone a lot as we were constantly arguing about my jealousy and my drinking. I’d stay up drinking wine, or vodka and talk on the phone to whoever would listen to me. L would always be with me, she was my sidekick. I took her with me everywhere and she was my bestfriend. I couldn’t wait to hear her talk – to hear her tell me she loved me! She was truly who kept me alive. I don’t think I would’ve survived losing my mother without the birth of my daughter. I remember on nights alone in our condo, after I’d drink too much I’d talk to L while she slept. I’d tell her how sorry I was and promise her that I would stop soon. I felt myself getting worse, but I didn’t acknowledge how bad. I rationalized my behaviour by blaming everyone else for not understanding what I was going through. For not understanding my pain.

I wanted out somehow but I thought it was my relationship that I wanted out of. I blamed my unhappiness on Russ. He didn’t love me, he didn’t know me, and he had his family. I was alone, provinces away from any family or friends. I felt sorry for myself, I was exploding with resentment, and all I could do was try to drown those feelings.

The very last time that I drank was about one week after my 33rd birthday (and L’s second birthday).

How it ended was with me driving into a ditch with my daughter in the car.

Almost three years later, I still can’t even type that without tearing up.

I have no recollection of the actual event. My boyfriend took her from the car and vanished. Friends came to help me get my car out of the ditch and brought me home. I was bleeding from my eyebrow. I didn’t understand why I had been the one driving if I was with him.

We had had a staff party, one of my favourite occasions to get hammered. I had pre-drank at home before attending, so that no one actually knew how much I would consume. I only have flashes of the dinner and of sneaking to the kitchen to top up my wine glass. The rest is a complete blackout.

I later found out that Russ and I had put our daughter in her car seat together, I got in the passenger seat and he was in the driver’s seat… He drove by one of the buildings at work and got out to turn the generator off. All of a sudden he saw my car take off, speeding down the logging road to the highway. He jumped into his truck and followed me about a half kilometre to where I was in the ditch. He said he dragged me out of the car, grabbed our daughter and left. He told friends to come and help me. All I remember is being told by my 18 year old stepdaughter that I had “really fucked up this time!” She told me what I had done… She told me L had been in the car when I crashed so I started running back to the ditch and she said, “No, no, Dad took her, they’re gone!” I’ll never forget those words.

Was this real life? Was this really happening? L was all that I had.

I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I had always trusted I wouldn’t do anything too fucked up while drinking. This was unfathomable. I was in disbelief, yelling at everyone, “Why would I be driving? Why would he have let me drive with L when he knew I was drinking?” I didn’t remember 10 minutes prior. All I knew was that I was bleeding from my face, my car was in a ditch, and my daughter was gone.

This is what they call ROCK BOTTOM.

I was about 2 hours away from the closest AA meeting, so I spent my first day of sobriety in bed, alone, crying, hungover, and trying to understand the severity of what I had done. I also had angry moments, since I didn’t remember what had happened, I thought maybe my boyfriend had set me up. I searched my mind, trying to find an excuse, trying to find a way out. But the only way out of this one was through.

When I texted a friend saying “I am never drinking again,” and her reply was, “I hope you mean that,” I knew that it was finally the end. I had always thought that all people (except my boyfriend) wanted me to drink because I was so much more fun, so much better to be around. But that was another one of my own delusions. No one had enjoyed being around me drunk for quite some time!

I went to an AA meeting the next day because I didn’t know what else to do to show Russ that I was serious. He had heard it all before. I had said it all before! I had promised him my sobriety more times than I could count, but I was determined to prove this was it… And thus began my journey through real life, as the unaltered ME.

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