Affliction of Addiction

Recently, a few people I follow on Twitter have been hugely courageous in coming out with their own struggles and I feel its time to make mine public, too.  This is my story.

I am a recovering alcoholic.

I don't come from an alcoholic family.  I didn't have a horrible childhood.  But I did always feel separate.  Not good enough.  Growing up I felt like all the other kids were clued-in to a secret (of life) that I, somehow, missed out on.  So when I started experimenting with drinking, around 15 1/2, and it filled up that 'hole in the soul', I loved it.  I felt like I finally belonged.

Once I went to University I really began to party and I justified it by continuing to do well in school.  I got good grades and was never in any trouble.  But the hangovers were getting worse and making me really anxious.  I started to protect my drinking by not drinking with the same people so nobody would know how much I was really drinking.  I tried to manage it by only drinking on the weekends (fail), only having a couple drinks during the week (fail) or having totally sober weekends (huge fail).  I didn't really want to live without it and convinced myself that as long as it wasn't negatively affecting my life, I didn't have a problem, right?

After University I started working professionally and kept on drinking.  I set the bar low, for jobs that would only require I work 9-5 (even though I was able for something much more demanding) so I could devote a certain part of my life to the pub.  I missed days at work because of hangovers but managed to keep my bosses happy and never drank while at work.  All I did was work and drink.  I called it 'socialising' but really it was just drinking.  In my late 20s I stopped wanting to be around other people and started to drink alone.  I knew things were getting worse but I didn't know what to do about it and really didn't want to lose my best friend (alcohol).

By the time I was 30, things were pretty bad.  Mentally, I felt like I was carrying around a huge monster inside me that if anyone could see they would hate me for it.  I wasn't interested in anything.  I didn't enjoy being around other people. I just wanted to hide.  Hide my devotion to drinking and hide myself.  I was (miraculously) doing well at work but in the summer of 2003, when I was 31 I hit a bottom.  I was so ill from drink that I called into work sick (for a week).  During that week, I just drank around the clock and wasn't really eating.  I felt horrible and couldn't take it anymore.  I knew something had to give.  I was working in Seattle at the time and luckily quite close to my parents.  I'll never forget the Thursday morning I rang my mom telling her I thought I had a problem and needed help.  She jumped right in the car, drove to my apartment, collected me and brought me home.

I decided I wanted to go into rehab because I didn't know how to stop drinking on my own and with my parents help, scheduled an interview with a rehab facility outside of Seattle.  The day before my interview, I had a grand-mal seizure caused by acute alcoholism.  I did not know that alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to detox off of.  And before all the cocaine and heroin addicts have a go at me - I'm not saying its the most uncomfortable or painful to detox off of but clinically one of the most dangerous to your health.  You see, if you are dependent on alcohol, really dependent (like I was) stopping cold turkey can cause you to have a seizure, stroke or heart attack.  Having proven myself as a proper alco, the treatment centre waived my interview and I went straight in.

I was scared.  I didn't know how I was going to survive without alcohol in my life and really, I just wanted them to 'fix' me so I could be on my merry way.  I had no idea what 'recovery' actually meant.  I was not impressed that I had to attend daily AA meetings in my residential 28-day treatment facility.  But I loved the people.  Everyone who worked at and ran the treatment centre was a recovering alcoholic and/or addict.  Every single one.  But they were happy.  And functional.  For the first time in many years I felt like I wasn't alone.  For the first time I felt like there was hope.  I was surrounded by people who knew exactly how I felt and although we were there for serious reasons, the craic was great.  I mean, you put 90 people together who are all detoxing off their beloved drinks/drugs of choice and two things will happen: 1) a lot of smoking 2) a very dark but very necessary sense of humour.  When my 28 days were up I didn't want to leave.  My counsellor had to push me out the door.  And I even found out that I liked going to AA meetings.

I'm not going to lie, early sobriety is tough.  But its like the whole world opens up in front of you, too.  After spending all my time getting drunk, being drunk or being hungover, I could not believe how many hours were actually in the day.  For the first time in years I was actually doing all the things I had been talking about on the bar stool.  I also paid off all my credit card debt very quickly.  Its amazing how much money you save when you're not drinking all the time/getting take-away.

This summer will mark the 10th anniversary of my coming into recovery.  But my path hasn't been a straight one.  When the GOP was reelected in 2004 I totally lost the plot and drank two bottles of wine, drowning my misery. The next day I got right back up on the horse.  In 2009 I found myself in a not great place - I was putting way too much pressure on myself and not taking any time for me, much less my recovery.  So when I received some bad health news on my birthday...a switch went off in my head and I just wanted to escape.  Between 2009 - 2011 I had a series of short but significant relapses that I was only able to put behind me by going for one-on-one therapy with a great counsellor.  One of the things I learned in rehab, and that really resonates with me, is that if you have trauma in your life that is unresolved, your potential to pick up your drink/drug of choice remains high.  I don't want to drink again so I'm willing to do whatever it takes.

And you know what? I'm happier now than I have ever been.  The last time I remember being this  content with life (and carefree!) was when I was little.  I love being sober.  I'm really grateful that I came into recovery before I started a family.  My entire pregnancy as well as the period of time before and after was 100% alcohol free.  My daughter knows mommy doesn't drink wine (because it makes me sick) in the same way grandma doesn't drink milk (because it makes her sick, [lactose intolerant]).  I had a lot of shame when I was drinking and I don't have that shame now.  When I got out of rehab in 2003 and went back to work, on my first day back in the office I looked all of my coworkers in the eye and told them I had been in rehab for alcohol addiction.  I couldn't believe how supportive they were.  I'll never forget it.  And while its not for all, being 'out' as an alcoholic is really important to me.  Last year when I was offered a job on condition of a medical evaluation (this seems to be commonplace now, especially and even with American firms based in Dublin) I was totally honest about being a recovering alco.  I got the job.

I'm so grateful for everything in my life right now that I'd just want to thank everyone who's gone before me in addiction and who's been willing to share their experiences with me.  And to my family and friends who've shown me nothing but support and love. There is a brilliant light at the end of the tunnel.

If you would like to contact me with questions et cetera, please feel free to do so via my Twitter account, @KathOMeara.

St. John of God's (Stillorgan, Co Dublin) can help with detox and has a residential treatment programme.

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centre offers recovery services in the Seattle area.

There are a variety of sober support groups in Ireland, from Alcoholics Anonymous to LifeRing.  Even MeetUp in Dublin has a sober group (not recovery related as far as I know) called Sober Slice.  There's loads to do sober.  And loads of humour, like the brilliant Mark Lundholm who I'm very grateful to have seen live.  Oh yeah, and traveling sober? Its so awesome when you get to visit great places and remember you were there.

Paris, 2012.


Comments

  1. There must have been something in the water, summer of '03. That's when I had my rock bottom too :D Good blog, well written. Congrats on nearly 10 years :)

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  2. Agh, thanks Robbie. Yes, summer '03 woo! I wouldn't change anything now. Very happy, very sober. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment and sorry to take so long getting back to you. I've had out of town visitors and just now catching up on all my social media, etc. take care,

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  3. Amazing post. You should be so proud of your sobriety. As a child of an alcoholic who was killed by the disease, I understand what a wicked beast it is. Hugs to you & your sweet girl.

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  4. Thanks so much, Julie. I really appreciate your kind words and am so sorry to hear of your loss. It really is a wicked beast. It doesn't make sense, and it takes so much away from so many people. Big hugs to you. x

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  5. You are inspiring and thank you for sharing your story with such honesty. I had a relationship which eventually broke down because my partner was an alcoholic, but try as I might I couldn't help her. As you say, it has to be your own decision. Take good care of yourself, always be gentle with yourself and I wish you all the best with your future and hope that the struggle will diminish over time until sobriety becomes much, much easier.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, thank you very much for the kind words. I'm sorry to hear of your previous experience - addiction is the curse that keeps on taking.

      I can honestly say that every year sober just gets better. In many ways. I am very grateful. Xx

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