Throughout my childhood, I never really had big dreams. I knew I wanted to be an athlete in high school, go to a good college, get married and eventually have kids. I was always organized and had a plan, but there were never any details involved. I figured if I could just hit these big milestones then I would be happy and successful. I can guarantee you that the words alcoholism and recovery were not part of any life plan. I would never have expected my life to take the twists and turns that it did but I could not be more grateful for the way it all worked out.
For awhile, living life according to my plan was going smoothly. I had a successful high school and AAU basketball career. Check. I graduated from college and got my master’s degree in counseling. Check. I got married. Check. Now time for kids and my life would be complete. That didn’t quite work out so well since three of my four pregnancies ended in miscarriage. But, I am completely blessed with a healthy and adorable son who is my world. So, check.
On paper my life was perfect. I had accomplished everything on my list and should have just lived happily ever after. Yet something was keeping me from being happy. I wasn’t even close to being happy. I was miserable and defeated and felt completely alone. Seven years prior, I had quit drinking cold turkey after my family and I agreed that my drinking was getting problematic. Blacking out regularly and trying recreate the night before was routine each weekend. During those seven years, I wasn’t in recovery as I didn’t do anything to better myself other than not drink. But now, I decided that drinking again sounded like a good idea. It shouldn’t be a problem. I just needed something to distract me from the unhappiness that I was trying to pretend wasn’t consuming my life. I would drink socially I told myself. I would drink in moderation. Everything would be fine.
No one told me that the disease of addiction is progressive. No one told me that once I started again it would be impossible for me to stop. No one told me that I would completely lose myself to alcohol and almost throw away everything that I worked so hard to achieve. But also, no one knew that my drinking was out of control and that I was secretly drinking. No one knew that I would go into complete withdrawal every time I tried to get sober on my own. No one knew that my entire life was based around my next drink. I was the classic alcoholic who functioned and had it all together…..until I didn’t and it was too late.
When I was finally forced to see my drinking for what it was, addictive and alcoholic drinking, I was so completely dependent that I didn’t know how to live without drinking. Having someone tell me to stop breathing and continue living seemed like an easier feat. My brain was obsessed with the next drink and my body craved it so badly that I literally felt compelled to continue drinking. As much as I realized that I needed to stop, I felt helpless and hopeless as I took another swig from the bottle. Rehab (3 times in 12 months) sure wasn’t part of my life plan, but it was what I needed. Working with professionals and being surrounded by other struggling alcoholics and addicts gave me the foundation I needed for a new life. I learned about the disease and its progression, identified my core beliefs that my unhappiness was rooted in and started working on creating a life that was meant for me. I created a new support system and allowed people to help me. I no longer had to pretend like everything was okay. I accepted my life for what it had become and started fighting for a life without alcohol.
Now being a year and a half sober I can say that I am grateful to be in recovery. My life is imperfectly perfect. I am no longer trying to check things off a life to do list. I am living in the moment and appreciating the little things. I go to work, I spend time with my family and friends and I help the next struggling alcoholic. Life is much simpler when there is no internal struggle to be happy. I am happy just being me. It took me almost 37 years to figure out who that person is and I am still a work in progress. But at the end of the day, I am proud to raise my hand and say, I am Amy and I am an alcoholic. That one word doesn’t define me but it has paved the way for an amazing life that I could never have planned. And for that, I am forever grateful.