My name is Jamie and I’m an alcoholic. I claim to be an alcoholic because I attend AA but I am also a drug addict. I was born and raised in Southern California. My Father is an alcoholic/addict. My mother struggles with codependency. My family life was very chaotic, my parents fought often. I was ignored, isolated, scared of everything and very emotional . I remember having panic attacks as a child. I do think that someone who baby-sat me when I was very little was physically abusive to me. I was molested at age 4 and made to live next door to him for 14 years. There was no way to prosecute him in court due to other cases which had been thrown out in that span of time. That time block of abuse cases were thrown out as the lawyers were found to have baited their witnesses. I was raised in a very strict church but never really connected to their God. I always felt separate, alone and different from everybody else. As an empath I knew what others were feeling and sometimes what they were thinking which contributed to my trust issues and fears. I often felt less than and second class. My father was emotionally and physically abusive and my mother was often out of touch.
So, all that right there was enough to complicate my mind. I know now that this picture of who I was emotionally as a child is proof that I was an alcoholic long before I ever drank.
How long were you addicted & what? How did it change your life?
I was in active addiction consistently for 16 years from the age of 19-35.
Marijuana was the first thing I’d ever tried. It became my favorite drug because I could use it and somehow function. I used that consistently more than anything else throughout my active addiction. It caused me to be so deluded that I thought that my life was fine. There were times that I knew that my life was a mess but I had no way to fix it. Going around so damped down can really mess up your perception of life. I thought that no one else around me could see that I was such a mess. But then again, I hated when people found out. So, I’d just use and drink more to cover up the truth.
Alcohol was a problem early on. I did not have that instant feeling of relief that I’ve head other alcoholics mention. But with the marijuana I did. I drank alcoholically within the first few months of drinking. I’d become angry wanting to scream and fight. I was a binge drinker though. Quite often I could not control how much I drank. I had to try to control my drinking so that I didn’t spin out. Other times I just didn’t care what happened. I would then black out and drink way more than I intended, becoming violently sick and a complete jerk. I identify myself as an alcoholic but it was not my first desire. I hated being sick from it. I couldn’t handle drinking every day. Near the end of my drinking career, I’d stopped drinking hard liquor. I would just drink beer and wine. I knew that when I drank hard liquor I would get out of control a lot faster. I learned later that I was an alcoholic due to the way that my body and mind responded to the alcohol. It made no difference how much or how often I drank. I had thought that alcoholics drank every day, all day.
I had tried Meth and am forever grateful that I did not like it. Cocaine, that was a different story all together. That drug will probably never stop calling my name. My addictive brain will always remember how much it loved that drug. But what it does not remember is all the pain and shame it caused.
I lost so many friends and respect for myself. I knew that people wouldn’t like the real me if I gave them a chance to discover. I then never had any healthy relationships and has no qualms about sleeping with whomever was around.
I had a baby with another alcoholic and began to raise my daughter. I was a horrible mother. I am now trying to repair the pain I’d caused. She was 10 years old when I finally got sober. I can still see the effects of my chaos manifesting in her life. I’m glad though that she knows what active addiction looks like. Hopefully she will not become like me.
I was always the at-risk worker that who was fired many times. I was in the Psych ward twice for self-harm and an overdose (intentional). I still had no idea that I was the problem. I had conned doctors to give me high doses of benzos. I would black-out on these too. I thought I needed these to sleep. I wanted to just be knocked out. (Which is why I couldn’t stand Meth)
By the end of the 16 years I was spiritually bankrupt and hated myself. I was full of shame and guilt. I thought the world was out to get me. My family was ready to disown me. I had nothing left to give.
Because of my addiction, I lost out on so many years that I could have spent growing up and bettering myself. I am now trying to learn how to grow up in my 40’s.
What was the breaking point for you to get clean?
On a vacation, my mom took the opportunity to make me painfully aware that I had drank an entire bottle of rum in a black-out. I am sure that had happened before but I had not noticed. She helped me see what I had become. That was the last time I got drunk. That was September of 2012. Little did I know that stopping drinking and drugging would be no easy feat.
I had stopped all alcohol and illegal drugs. I had not known that I needed to give up the Benzos to be sober. I’m sure I had minimal withdrawals and symptoms because I was on Benzos. I continued this way for 3 weeks and my mind went crazy on me. I ran to AA. I didn’t know where else to go. I knew that I was a drug addict but at that time I did not understand that I was an alcoholic.
I went along to meetings and calling my sponsor for 77 days. I had in that time, become very restless, irritable and discontent. On the 77th day I found myself in bed with the right ear bleeding. I’d come to somehow with a concussion after making a lame attempt to hang myself downstairs in the garage. Now, at this time I was only on benzos but I was not taking care of myself or my sobriety. I had gone so far into my addictive mind that I was faced with no alternative other than to self-harm.
I ended up in the Psych ward for the 3rd time. I was coming down off the opiates they’d given me for the pain I’d caused myself. Somehow in the midst of all that chaos I heard my Higher Power’s voice, whom let me know that she had always been there with me and never left. I remember lying in that hard bed surrendering to my Higher Power (whom I like to call Goddess). I told her that I would do whatever it took to stay sober. I laid down my efforts to try to run the show. That next day I woke up with a new resolve and being completely free from any substance, I changed my sobriety date. I remember my Mom bringing me my Big Book and I swear the angels sang. I knew that I had found my way out.
How did you get clean and how long have you been sober?
I stayed with my mom for my first 30 days. She was living in San Jose, CA. I hit AA meetings and gatherings regularly and started working with a Sponsor. I established this routine early on. I’d only ever just went to meetings before, I didn’t really try. I remember standing at a podium on Christmas day when I had 17 days of complete sobriety, shouting to the meeting that if they didn’t want to find God, then there was the door. I know that’s extreme but I knew that I had no other choice but to follow the AA way of life.
I have since followed their design for living and have worked the 12 steps. I am now very grateful to have been sober for over 4 years. By God’s grace my sobriety date is 12/8/12. I have an incredible sponsor whom I love dearly.
What was the hardest part for you about recovery and how did you overcome it?
The shame, guilt, fear, anger and codependency were the hardest things to face and overcome. These were my coping tools. I knew they did not serve me any longer but that was all I had. I’ve worked the 12 steps in Codependency this year. I have really found some serenity after working through those. I finally came to terms with the fact that I did have depression. I am now taking medication for that depression and have found another level of serenity. Taking care of myself was hard to learn. I did not take good care of myself for all those years in addiction. Today I try to eat right, exercise and give myself time to rest. Mostly though, I just needed to get my Ego out of the way and let God run the show. That leaves me to play the roles I am assigned in this life, not be rude to others and take good care of me. That’s what long-term sobriety requires.
Addiction halts your ability to grow up and improve. So, at 35 years old I basically had the emotionally maturity of a 19-year-old. Growing up in public is not easy. I must keep trying to improve myself. Old habits and behaviors die hard. It’s hard when I am faced with a new challenge when my Ego thinks I’m doing fine. But, humility and acceptance can bring me through anything. Having an attitude of gratitude helps too! A grateful alcoholic won’t drink.
What is your motivation to stay clean?
Remembering that hollow, aching scream in my soul. I wish to never know that misery and pain again in my life. I know that a relapse for me is the beginning of allowing my Ego to take center stage and pushing God out. I know that being in active addiction again will quickly lead to that misery.
I have my two beautiful Daughters to look after, I owe it to them to stay sober. They do not deserve to be abused and neglected. They deserve a happy, healthy mommy.
My family has taken me back in good standing. They have come to rely on me. I was able to be there when my mother had surgery in June of 2017. I was able to be there for my Aunt and my family while she was dying. She passed on April 5th 2017. If I was in my addiction, I would not have been counted on and trusted.
At this time in my life, relapse is not an option. If, God forbid I were to relapse, I would run right back to the rooms and start over. I hope to God I never see that day. I take care of myself and my sobriety so that I do not have to even come close to a relapse. I have no desire to throw away the life I’ve built now. I would rather die than live in active addiction again. There is no turning back for me. I hope and pray for continued sobriety for the rest of my natural life.
And how did you do it?
When I came back to Tennessee, I lived in a half-way house for 4 months. During that time, I developed a fondness for women’s meetings. The intimacy and connection I’ve gained there have truly enhanced my sobriety.
I kept going to meetings, kept getting another sponsor when the one I had was no longer serving me. I never gave up, I never stopped trying. I made friends, I went to retreats, new meetings and yearly gatherings. I’ve shared my story at least 15 times in meetings in and around Nashville. I was even able to speak in San Jose when I had two years. The very best experience so far was going to international AA conference in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015. I was amazed to hold hands with over 50,000 people in Falcon’s stadium saying the Lord’s and serenity prayer.
I’ve started a women’s Big Book study in my neighborhood. I’ve kept it running for 18+months even when nobody shows up. It’s my service commitment. It makes me so happy when women show up and find relief from that meeting. Helping women in sobriety gives me some of the purest joy I’ve ever known. When I can see light come back to their eyes, knowing that their life can change.
In AA we are meant to help others get sober. We must continue the legacy.
For someone in the same situation as you who wants to get clean, what would you want to tell them?
When you have alcohol or drugs in your system you’ve lost control. I’m sure that you know this, but who is in control? Your ego and addiction are running the show. They do not want what’s best for you. They only seek to be selfish and hurt everyone and everything around them.
You know how you think the whole world is against you? I used to feel that way too. What if the world is slated against you because you are only seeking to serve yourself? The universe is trying to help you understand that this life you have chosen to continue is unmanageable. When I came back to Tennessee, all I had was my car and my state license. My life was unmanageable. Today I am a counted member of society and contribute to the greater good. I am no longer the victim, I am a winner, a survivor.
I challenge you to use that never-ending desire to get drunk or high in a different way. That fierce determination to get things right, to push on forward, to get what you need. What if you turn that energy into getting sober? What if you took that determination to say to your addiction, “It’s my turn now!” What if you used that fight in you to show the world that you can change your life?
If you work half has hard as you did to stay drunk, high or distracted from reality; you can stay sober. It’s a lifestyle change that takes time and effort. You are not going to feel normalized for quite some time but you will notice that life’s blessing will begin to happen early on.
Remember that you cannot do this alone. You may succeed in staying sober but you will still be miserable. You must hang out with fellow sobers. You have to ditch the druggie/drunk people. We will help you succeed like those who came before us.
I can absolutely promise you that sobriety is 100% better than the life you are living now. There are multiple types of 12 step programs that are there to help. I really think that joining one of those is best, even if you go to church. The 12 steps are what help you to find who you really are.
Long term sobriety is the goal. If you keep relapsing, you are not growing. But no matter how many times you relapse, please keep coming back. We will always love you and accept you.
What is your life’s motto?
Never ever give up! #cantstopwontstop
Jamie M. is a vegan, feminist, mother who works in the medical field in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an empathic spiritualist pagan. You can follow her on Instagram @sober_pagans
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