Four Years of Sobriety

Well, it’s official.  I’ve been sober for four years.  Something I never thought possible four years ago when I was at the lowest point of my life in a psych ward in Florida.  Looking back I can’t even believe that was me, and I’m so happy to say that I’m no longer that same addicted, crazy person.

Although the past four years have been challenging and scary, I honestly can’t believe how much better my life is, and how much more comfortable and confident I am as a person.  I still struggle with my sobriety at times, but it is nothing like it was during my first year of sobriety.  When things are good, I’m thankful for every moment I have in my new found freedom called sobriety, but I also don’t take it for granted.  I know at any point something can arise that may challenge my sobriety.  This is just the reality of living with addiction.

That was probably the hardest thing for me to come to terms with over the past four years.  Although I’m doing well now, my struggle to stay sober will never stop.  My addiction is part of me, and it will always be lurking in the background, waiting to strike when I least expect it.  I will continue to have to be true to myself no matter what, and maintain my sobriety through a recovery community and a healthy lifestyle.  Today this is second nature, but I’ve worked very hard to get here.

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Drunk & Bloated

As I mentioned in my last post, I was at bachelorette party last weekend, and my good friend Katie brought photo albums from college.  Although they were very entertaining, they were also a shocking reminder of how bloated I was during my Drunk Lisa days.

I am tall and slim, and although my wait has fluctuated by a few pounds here and there, I’ve always looked pretty much the same-or so I thought.  The thing that was most noticeable in the pictures from college was how bloated my face was from drinking.  I always thought I looked pretty damn good in college, and never had a problem meeting guys, but looking back it was shocking.

In almost all of the pictures, my Drunk Lisa eyes were in full effect.  Drunk Lisa eyes were one of the first signs of my inebriation.  Basically my eyes would become glassy, and wonder.  Next was usually the slurring of words, which I always tried to impossibly control.  And then, there were be the growing of my extremities.  I’m tall – about 5’9″ and my friends used to always say that once I was drunk my arms and legs would grow even longer and I would flail them around.  This made it extremely hard for people to help me walk as I never could do so on my own once I was drunk.  My ex-boyfriend actually compared me to one of the inflatable air dancers you see outside of car dealerships.  Although this did annoy me, he was spot on.

It was fun reminiscing and looking through the photos last weekend, but it was also a great reminder of what an ass I made of myself in college, and how much better I not only look,  but also feel being sober.

 

Rock Bottom

If you’re new to sobriety or thinking about becoming sober, you’ll often hear people talk about their rock bottom.  This is usually the turning point in an individual’s life when he or she realizes that they can no longer continue to drink the way they have been.  For some people it may not take much for them to realize that they need to stop drinking, for others it can take something major like an arrest, hospitalization, injury, or even a near death experience, before the person realizes that there are only two choices-stop drinking or die.

Oh how I wish my rock bottom was as simple as an injury.  I had been falling and hurting myself for years.  I had staples put in my head twice, and was hospitalized on many other occasions where I have no recollection of how I ended up in the hospital.  Although embarrassing, I still couldn’t stop drinking.

Like many alcoholics, my rock bottom was as extreme as my drinking.  There were many times over the years where I tried controlling my drinking which always failed.  I knew it was a problem, so I would often hide my drinking from others, and drink before I went to social events.  I know now that it was due to anxiety, but at the time I just thought it was my way of loosening up before parties.  I would also try to control my drinking in front of people, but then go home and binge.  It truly was a case of once I had one drink in my system, I couldn’t stop drinking until I passed out. On some mornings I would wake up hung over and start drinking again.  I was so ashamed and embarrassed, it was truly a horrible time in my life that I’m glad is over.

I finally admitted that I was an alcoholic after a boyfriend, who had friends in recovery, made me realize it.  I was not happy about this, because although I admitted it, I was not ready to accept it.  I felt pressure not to let him and my family down, so after detoxing in a hospital, I had my first go at sobriety.  This lasted for three months.

I attended AA meetings, and saw a therapist, but I still couldn’t relate to other alcoholics.  I thought I had nothing in common with them, and didn’t actually listen to their stories.  Looking back now, I know that I wasn’t ready to accept all of my issues and really work on myself.  I was trying to remain sober for everyone else, which ultimately led to a relapse that lasted for seven long months.

I was in a very bad place during those seven months.  My boyfriend and I broke up, I was still grieving over the death of my father, I was unemployed, and I had to move back in with my Mom.  I would go weeks without drinking, and then break down and go on a binge that would last days.  This cycle continued, and I continued to hurt my family and friends.

What I initially thought was my rock bottom took place in April of 2013.  My friends and I were hosting a wine tasting for a charity we had started, and I still wanted to be involved.  My friends even said, they were fine with me drinking at the event as long as I didn’t go overboard.  Being in the throws of my addiction,  I actually thought I could handle this, but of course I was wrong.

I took the bus down on a Friday night and drank vodka during the four hour trip.  I arrived at Port Authority happy as a clam, and decided to quickly stop at a bar for another drink before heading to my sisters.  This is literally the last thing I fully remember.

I vaguely remember being told not to attend the event on Saturday.  On Sunday when I was supposed to leave, I checked into a hotel and decided that was it-I was done with life and going to kill myself.

I was drunk this whole time, and I should also note, that I had stopped taking my antidepressants about a month before because I didn’t think they were helping me.  As I’m sure you’re aware, drunk people do not make the best decisions. My plan was to take a whole bottle of Tylenol PM and hopefully die in my sleep.  Please, never, ever try this.  It made me horribly sick, and also led to me losing control of my extremities.  I remember lying on the bathroom floor, and trying to get back to the bed but I couldn’t actually move my legs properly.  When I was able to get up, my legs were like jello and would come out from under me.  It was truly scary.

While all this was going on, I didn’t arrive on my bus back and my my called my sisters searching for me.  My sister called me and finally figured out where I was-I kept telling her I was in different places, partly because I didn’t want her to find me like this, and partly because at one point I was so disoriented, I truly couldn’t remember. She showed up to the hotel, found a suicide note I wrote, and called an ambulance.  She told me later that she honestly thought I might have brain damage because of how out of it I was acting.

I was taken to the hospital and put in the psych ward.  At one point I thought there were bed bugs crawling on me, and insisted they let me leave.  I was eventually released without having to stay for 72 hours which is usually the protocol.

My whole family was very upset and my mom and aunt who picked me up and drove me home, made me agree to attend an outpatient program.  I agreed, but still was not in acceptance.

The weeks following that incident I attended the out patient group only once, and then lied and said I went another time but really drank instead.  On May 1, 2013, I woke up hung over from a night of drinking.  My mother was very upset with me, but I got ready for work (somehow I was able to land a decent job during this time) and ran out of the house.  I went to work, and decided I was done with life.  I bought a plane ticket to Fort Lauderdale, grabbed my things, and told my boss I had to take my dog to the vet.   I rushed out of the office, stopped at the liquor store, bought a bottle of vodka, and drove to the airport.  I chugged the vodka in the airport parking lot, and rushed to make the flight.  I ended up missing the flight to Fort Lauderdale,  and a kind woman who could see I was drunk, arranged for me to get on another flight to Jacksonville later that afternoon.  I really didn’t care where I was going just as long as I could leave.

I had time to kill before the flight so I went to the airport hotel, got a room, and took a nap.  Then I ordered a pizza (Drunk Lisa loved her pizza), and eventually went to the hotel bar and had a few drinks before heading back to the airport.  I boarded the flight, although I don’t remember it at all.

The next thing I remember is being in a cab and asking the driver to take me to a hotel by the beach.  He took me to a hotel and I continued my drinking.  The hotel didn’t have a bar, but they did have bottles of wine you could purchase so of course I did that.  I holed myself up in my room and continued to drink through May 2nd and 3rd.   My phone was ringing off the hook, but eventually it died.

Meanwhile, my family was doing everything they could to figure out where I had gone.  They called the police who weren’t much of a help, although they eventually did find my car at the airport.  My sister was able to get a hold of my credit card company to see the last place I used it, and that’s how they tracked me down at the hotel.

At this point, I was trying to get the courage to kill myself, but once again drunk people aren’t good at completing tasks, so this proved to be another failed attempt at taking my life.  I tried the plastic bag over the head trick, but I couldn’t do that.  I then broke a glass and tried to slit my wrists but the glass was too dull and didn’t do much.  The hotel phone was now ringing off the hook, and finally I answered it.  My brother was on the other end, and when I heard how upset he was, I knew the charade was over.  He said that he thought I was dead.  I was so ashamed for putting my family through everything that I had, and I knew I couldn’t end my life in this way.  He eventually called the cops, and I was escorted to the hospital.

Given all that had happened you think I would have been in a bad mood, but at the hospital I was hitting on a nurse and cracking jokes.  My brother in law who was in Florida for business, came to the hospital to meet me.  It was good to see someone I knew, and I really appreciated him coming to see me.  Apparently my blood alcohol content was around 0.3, which results in death for many people.  The doctor said he was shocked I was coherent and speaking.

I was once again placed in the psych ward, but this time they were holding me for 72 hours.  My mom and aunt flew down to the hospital, and seeing them was one of the worst days of my life.  My mother was so upset she probably should have been hospitalized herself.  My aunt is in recovery, so thankfully she understood the troubles of being an alcoholic, and was able to comfort my mom.

I met with a psychiatrist and explained that I had gone off my anti-depressants and was drunk when I wanted to take my own life.  He put me back on my medication, but also said that I clearly had an addiction and needed to seek treatment.  I was also visited by a social worker, Les, who was a savior for my mom.  He was able to help her cope with everything she’d just gone through, and said that as long as I sought treatment for my addiction, I would be very successful.  He also said that I was from a “superior gene pool” which we still laugh about today.

I had to agree to enter some sort of treatment program before the hospital would release me, which I did.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there, since the floor they were holding me on was filled with severely mentally ill people.  Although it was scary at the time, it made me realize how lucky I was to have a disease that could be treated by not drinking, and dealing with my issues.

I left the hospital and entered a rehab facility 10 days later.  There were no beds available until then, so this was a real test of my commitment to myself and my sobriety.  Because my bottom was so bad, I actually didn’t want to drink at all during those 10 days.  I didn’t want to go to rehab, but I knew I had to, so two days after my 31st birthday, I entered a rehab facility in Pennsylvania.

Oh what a long road I still had ahead of me….