Hi, I’m Heather, a recovering alcoholic and a mom to 3 beautiful boys. This is my story of experience, strength, and hope for other suffering alcoholics and addicts…
Life growing up was truly blessed, full of love with family and all of the material comforts one could imagine. My father and mother worked very hard to provide us a wonderful life. However, for some reason, the love for myself was always lacking and fear of people seemed paramount. As a kid, I felt worried and afraid of relationships with people and fitting in, often full of anxiety and bouts of sadness… despite all the blessings God had granted me with family and friends. I just seemed to lack a glass half full perspective and appeared to suffer from depression and anxiety from an early age. Over time, I finally realized the solution to my feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, sadness, and fear. It was disguised in a bottle. My first experience with drinking was experimentation in my teens and it provided me the liquid courage that I’d been craving for so long and a new found confidence.
College and for the better part of my 20’s were consumed with partying and consuming large quantities of alcohol. I surrounded myself with people who socialized like I did and was well-liked and fun.. at least it appeared to me I was hilarious with my drunk charisma and energetic demeanor. However, despite alcohol either adding an extra kick in my step or quelling anxiety and depression, I developed an awareness of times becoming argumentative, a lack of impulse control, and an overall sense of being out of control. After a bender, the following day, fear overwhelmed me with a suffocating sense of sadness and anxiety.
With a husband and 3 kids in my 30’s, life was blessed with the beautiful family that I always dreamed of, but was busy and chaotic. It seemed to me the only way to cope with the stressors of being a mom and living up to the high standards I set for myself with motherhood … and all the noise and neediness of 3 boys, was to relax with a drink and my love of wine.
I started being that “fun” mom, drinking at play dates with other moms. Alcohol began rearing its presence in daytime activities versus being just my nightly ritual. It appeared to me that I was more patient with my boys as well as more productive in general. It created a temporary facade of happiness while it surged through my body and it certainly was the realized cure for a hangover. I was oblivious to the fact that alcohol is actually a depressant, but also a dopamine “happy chemical” enhancer with the first couple of drinks. I had never taken any anti-depressants or anxiety medication. Its effects became erratic and confusing with a constant array of happy, sad, and angry emotions spinning in my mind.
As time progressed, I was unaware that my body was developing a chemical dependency and an eventual brain disease called “alcoholism”. So life went on in my 30’s and wreckage in my life crept in….. A DUI after a girls night out, marital problems, insecurity, anxiety, depression and sleep issues. I needed something to sleep to cope with this anxiety that wreaked havoc. A doctor prescribed me benzodiazepines (klonopin and Ativan), which I learned later was alcohol disguised in a pill form.
I found passions in working out, tennis, knitting, crafts with my kids and especially entertaining guests at our house. On weekends, my husband and I frequently had friends and family over and I loved to cook any Ina Garten recipe accompanied with wine galore and martinis in fun glasses. Eventually, it became a sloppy mess of drinking ….. An example of this was a time I just cracked the egg with the entire shell by accident into a cake, blended it up and served it to guests with a crunchy surprise! My tennis game suffered as I started having panic attacks during matches on the tennis court while riddled with dehydration and a consequent frantic hospital visit, thinking I was going to suffocate to death. Panic attacks started overtaking my life and the only way to cope was to self-medicate with alcohol and anxiety medication (the very chemicals that were the etiology of my panic I later learned).
I had the anxiety meds (Klonopin) in my tennis bag just in case the wave of panic crept in and soon it became a vodka bottle in there too. I started pouring vodka into my morning coffee just to get relief from the anxiety, shakes, and nausea that was paralyzing me. An overwhelming fear and sadness were my daily emotions unless I quelled it with alcohol or pills. I started drinking the dusty bottle of alcohol in the back of our liquor cabinet that no one cared to drink – straight. It was all about the effect and to feel better.
One of my most terrifying memories was watching my now ex-husband cart all the alcohol out of the house in a big box and then take my anxiety pills to dispense to me as needed. He had reached his own breaking point watching me disappear before his eyes and into a hazy fog of reality. He had put me in hospitals for panic attacks and saw me withdrawing from the world.
That’s when the desperation kicked in…. I started sneaking and hiding bottles for mere survival at that point. I had a mental obsession and total physical dependency on alcohol and anxiety medication to relieve this panic and anxiety. I became severely depressed and the only way to find a smile with my kids and life, in general, was to ingest some alcohol. My walls were closing in and it felt like I was truly drowning or suffocating without it.
The insanity of what this cycle of hell does to a person is truly madness to the core. I started hiding bottles behind trees on my rural street, just to get a random swig of comfort when I could drive past it – which I often couldn’t find because I would forget which tree. I stole my children’s tooth fairy money for cash so that my ex-husband wouldn’t see any evidence on the debit card. Gradually, I could no longer do anything I used to love to do – no more tennis, entertaining, or even being able to enjoy my 3 beautiful boys. I was isolated physically and mentally living absolutely terrified of myself and of other people. My addiction and how I was going to feel better became my first love and number one priority.
With a family intervention in my late 30’s, I was sent to treatment in Florida for 30 days. In my mind, I just needed a break and reset button to be able to drink like a “normal” person, which I was honestly never able to do from the start.
And that was the beginning of a long road of learning the hard way that I could never drink safely again. A couple more substance abuse rehabs, divorce, DUIs, broken relationships, and a lot more pain and heartache along the way, I finally had to surrender to the fact that I’m truly powerless over alcohol or any mind-altering substance.. and my life is 100 percent unmanageable after the first drink. The first drink is never enough and leads to an increasingly progressive fatal disease if left to my own devices with alcohol as an option. It creates a fear, anxiety, and sadness that can definitely rob me of all hope and it has happened in my past to the point that I felt like life wasn’t worth living.
Today, at 43 yrs old, I have learned that anything that I put in front of my sobriety is lost and that lesson has been proven true countless times for me. An example is when I stopped going to AA meetings and put my children and career first, and eventually lost everything important to me again. Luckily, I have gained it all back through the rewards of sobriety. Alcoholism is a brain disease – a physical allergy of the mind and body once its poison is inside the body for an alcoholic. As a depressant, it also creates a soul sickness of unbelievable sadness and loss of hope, which takes lives over and over in our society. It is progressive over time, and they say once a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber. It waits in the darkness all dressed up and disguised in a pretty bottle with its temptations and convictions that this time will be different. But I’m thankful that I don’t believe its lie today that is hidden inside the bottom of a bottle. It’s the only disease that tells you that you don’t have a disease.
Today I work the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program of recovery and have a wonderful sponsor. I go to AA meetings daily and try to live a spiritual life working the 12 steps while turning my fears into faith, with God in my life. Therefore, I’m never alone because isolation is the alcoholic’s demise. Blessings to me are that I have gained true inner confidence, self-respect, have my children in my life with my full presence and healthy relationships with those that I love deeply. My family has endured much heartache and worry over the years, but never gave up on loving me through it with their support.
The key to lasting sobriety is also living in gratitude and helping others, which is why I feel so fortunate to share my story of experience, strength, and hope. This is the FitLife that I’ve always dreamed of for myself and my children. I hope to continue to find my fit in exercise and healthy living, with sobriety at the forefront. It is truly an honor to share my recovery journey of success with you. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to possibly help the next sufferer find the hope and willingness for a better life as I did by finally getting off the elevator of self-destruction. It is truly a wonderful and happy life today in sobriety. Thank you for reading and God Bless.
A charity that is important to me for the addiction recovery cause is Shatterproof.org. It is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation that addiction causes families. Please visit the website to learn more about how to donate to their cause if interested.