I don’t drink. I don’t smoke pot. I don’t buy vanilla extract. I don’t eat anything “beer battered” or with a “white-wine sauce” (or any wine sauce). I had to tell my dentist he can’t prescribe me any narcotic painkillers after I get my wisdom teeth removed (ibuprofen works just as well).
I’m a student, I am 23 and I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic and addict.
Just over a month after my 22nd birthday, I had my last drink. My life was in shambles and I was completely exhausted. I was tired of avoiding my family and phone calls and worried texts. I was tired of avoiding the responsibilities of being a student and friend. I was tired of waking up and trying to piece the night before back together. I was tired of poisoning myself every single day. I was over living paycheck-to-paycheck. I was over spending what little money I had on booze. I was tired of looking like an addict, acting like an addict, and being an addict.
Let me take a step back to the beginning. I come from a wonderful family and I had a fantasy childhood. I had horses growing up and played outside and lived in a house in the middle of the woods, ten minutes from the beach. I was born an addict. It is in my genes. My father is one, my brother is one, my grandfather was one, etc.
I was 16 and a junior in high school. My best friend at the time had a prescription for ADD medication and had lost a bunch of weight. She looked fantastic! I decided I could use a magical pill that made your grades go up and your waistline go down. So I Googled the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder and got a pretty good understanding of it. Then, I convinced my mom I needed to see a learning behaviorist. My poor mom. This was the first of too many lies. Long story short, I lied my way into a prescription for 60 milligrams of Adderall.
Right off the bat, I was addicted. Throughout high school, I took my Adderall pretty much as prescribed. I started losing weight (I was a little plump before, but not too overweight) and people would tell me how good I looked! It reinforced my love of this drug. By freshman year of college, I started to ramp it up. I would take twice the recommended dosage, I would snort them. I would smoke at least a pack of cigarettes a day because I was just constantly “buzzing” and feigning. I couldn’t get out of my dorm room bed without them. I started to look bad. My face was covered in scabs because I would constantly pick at it. I was thin and pale and completely unhealthy. I was a textbook speed freak.
I moved off-campus sophomore year with my three best friends. My ability to function got worse as my addiction grew. I started to drink more regularly and smoke pot all day. I took a leave of absence from school to concentrate full time on getting messed up. Thoughts like, “maybe I might possibly have a little bit of a problem,” crossed my mind. I tried going to a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but the problem was, I wasn’t ready to quit yet. I had severe depression that I was self-medicating with booze, pot, and Adderall.
I started a new job at an extremely popular restaurant and started making a ton of money, which was great because my habit was getting expensive. What’s more, my coworkers loved to party! I was only 20 at this point but all the “industry” workers knew each other in tiny Rhode Island, so getting served was not a problem. Everywhere we went, the bartender was one of our friends. We would work a twelve-hour shift, leave the restaurant with $500 dollars in tips and go to another bar to spend it on drinks (and drugs). It was a blast! I felt like a local celebrity.
The difference about me was I could not just go for ONE drink. I would say “Oh yeah, tonight I’m just going to have one because I have to work early in the morning.” But soon, I would be six Jameson and gingers in, and blacked out by the end of the night. Luckily for me, I lived a 5-minute walk from our favorite bar, in a house with 13 of my partying coworkers. The next day, I would get up for work, take an Adderall and repeat.
All my friends partied and drank. We were young. It’s what you do, right? It was great until suddenly, I wasn’t having fun anymore. One sip of booze lights a fire in my mind. I could not stop at one. I would smoke pot all day and not get high. I couldn’t feel it at all. I would get anxious, but never high.
When you constantly black out night after night, you end up in bad situations, from hook ups, to fights, to hangovers you thought could kill you…
My life was “Same Mistakes” by The Echo Friendly.
One morning, after a particularly bad night, I decided enough was enough. It was my first real attempt at getting sober. I was back in school at this time, after being in and out several times, and I decided to go see a substance abuse councilor named Abigail*. I cried for our first five sessions. I cried constantly. I was so upset with where my life was. I decided, against Abigail’s advice, to take another leave of absence from school, this time to get my life straight. I also had a big tax return so I decided to quit my job and take a break from all the people I had been partying with for so long.
I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. Every single day. A lot of times, I was the youngest person in the rooms, but to be completely honest, it didn’t matter. Listening to these people tell their stories was like listening to my own story. Most of these people were happy and I wanted what they had! Even when I sat alone in a meeting and didn’t talk to anyone, I felt less lonely than I had in three years of being a party girl. Everyone was welcoming and helpful and supportive. The longer I stayed, the more young people I met. Then I discovered meetings specifically for young people! There, I was not even close to being the youngest person in the room. Some of these people had been sober for years, and they all seemed happy.
It was like I had found my tribe. I was completely comfortable being myself around the other recovering alcoholics. It was an amazing feeling.
Getting sober is HARD. Taking away my security blanket of alcohol and drugs exposed me to raw emotion, what my life had become, and all the things I had messed up. It was a constant struggle. I would get 29 days of sobriety under my belt and then relapse. This happened multiple times. I think I was too afraid to hit the month mark because that was committing. That was really saying, “I will never be able to drink again.” I will never drink at my wedding, or on New Year’s. But guess what? I did it. I committed to recovery. I got my month chip. Then a three-month chip. And a nine-month chip. And today I have been sober for a year and five months.
I worked a 12-step program that, in short, helped me fix my entire life. I faced every single thing I had been avoiding for the past three years. I asked for forgiveness and, just as importantly, I forgave. It was not easy but I did it. I found a higher power (which just means something greater than yourself). Mine was the ocean. I do, after all, live in the Ocean State and I will forever been in awe at the ocean. For me, G.O.D stands for Great Out Doors. Mother Earth. Every morning, I would wake up early and run in the woods or on the beach. Exercise is so important in early recovery because all the chemicals in your brain are completely out of whack and exercise helps produce some good ones. I no longer waste time and money on moments of my life I will never get back. I don’t sit on the couch watching Netflix all day feeling sorry for myself.
I am SO happy to be an addict.
That may not be something you hear every day, but think about it: I have this chance to get to know myself on such a core level. If I say I am going to do something, I will do it. I am in college again, studying Health Promotion and I get good grades! I can answer the phone without having to think of a lie about where I am first. I have true friends that don’t just hang out with me because I’m at the bar. I read books and do homework and teach my dog tricks. I go to bed early and I get a good night sleep and I am NEVER EVER hungover. I laugh and I smile and I feel all the feelings. I make mistakes and then I fix them. I face my fears. I have done something at twenty-two years old that some people never get to do.
(Image via Ryo Iwai.)