Written by a Staff Member at CASA-Trinity.
In keeping with the 12th tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, no names have been mentioned.
I have had many loves in my life. A few people, and a few animals, but the deepest love has always been related to anything that will take me out of myself and the world…even for just a moment.
I’m the “black sheep” of the family and never felt like I fit in anywhere, except for the soccer pitch. The pitch always felt more like home than anything, and that’s because I knew I was valued and had worth; because I was successful. Most things I’ve always been good at, but soccer I was great at. Until I got to college, where I was on par with all the other athletes, and this is where life starts to go downhill.
College = partying.
Outside of soccer season, there was nothing else to do, so partying is all we did (and, schoolwork, I guess). We’ll fast forward through the rest of college – lots of heavy drinking (and true alcohol dependence with a three-week study abroad trip to Ireland, evidenced by the withdrawal I experienced when I quit drinking to prepare for summer training for the upcoming soccer season), made a couple of great friends, worked part-time, and did schoolwork.
All through college, I’m trying to find myself. I have no idea who I am, what I want to do with my life. I have no real morals or values to stand for and I still don’t belong. So, I begin to hate everything. Nothing matters.
Taking the first job I’m offered out of college, and I didn’t really want this job but, a job is a job and I needed money. I learned to really enjoy this job over time, but still, nothing is right. A colleague of mine was applying to grad school, and I thought maybe that would fix me – continuing my education. I mean, all I was doing was working and drinking, so why not?
I applied to a university within the top five of all social work problems in the U.S.; to my surprise, I got in. So full of insecurity and self-loathing that I couldn’t even show up to my online classes sober. Grad school is also where my prescription addiction came into play. Take a couple pills for concentration to do schoolwork, all while drinking, but this also lets me drink more.
My consequences were internal and life not mattering got even worse, if there is such a thing. I feel like I can’t talk to people without a substance in my body, and I start to obsess about alcohol when I’m not drinking. I don’t want to be alive in this crappy body and this crappy world, and I also don’t want to die.
But let’s go back to the job for a moment.
For grad school, I was permitted to do an internship with the agency I worked for, provided it was at a different site and wasn’t what I was already doing for work. My colleague had talked about the new executive – an LCSW at the agency that could supervise an internship, so I kept that under my hat as an option.
Each year, this organization paid for about 15 employees to attend a large, several days conference, and that year I was on person chosen to attend. The CEO of the organization held a “cocktail hour” in his fancy suite, having purchased the alcohol himself. Of course, I can’t talk to people socially, so I pre-gamed before cocktail hour and then, of course, I won’t say no to free alcohol.
I end up meeting the LCSW, for the first time, who has no drink in hand, or maybe she had a water bottle, I can’t be sure. I don’t remember the conversation, except for I know I was asking her about doing an internship with the agency with her as my supervisor.
She later told me that she could sense I had something going on with alcohol, and she would have been right. Who meets a high-level executive shit-faced at a company event? Anyway, we met later about the internship, and she suggested I intern at the halfway house. Absolutely not. Unconsciously, I think I knew that it would be awfully hypocritical of me to do my internship there, but I did it anyway.
I had no insight or awareness about my addiction.
Oh, I definitely knew I had a problem but, addiction? Not me. “Alcoholics” lost everything and slummed it on the streets. Me? I had a job, I was in grad school, I had a car…I didn’t lose anything. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my internship supervisor…I looked awful, and I felt awful, and she asked me “how are you coping?”.
For whatever reason, I was honest (although tried to laugh it off) and told her I drink to cope with everything. She told me to go to therapy. So, I did.
“Therapy was fine…”
I had “tried” therapy before, but I can’t say I ever liked any therapist I saw. Until this one.
I can’t say much except she validated my feelings and talked to me like a real human being. But she couldn’t keep me sober for more than a couple of weeks. I tried, as suggested, to not drink…but that didn’t work.
I had mentioned this to my internship supervisor, the LCSW executive, and she first told me to go to an AA meeting. When I said I didn’t think I wanted to do that, she said she’d take me to an AA meeting (little did I know, she had been a friend of Bill’s for many years). To this day, that woman still has to be the one to initiate support – I’m still not great at asking for help. She probably saved my life. I did everything she suggested.
Not too long after I attended my first AA meeting, I got a sponsor. He changed my life and taught me more about love and acceptance than my parents. Taught me how to have spirituality without necessarily believing in the God of the Bible. He taught me how to behave at meetings, what to look for in a good meeting, and how to speak at a meeting. That I could recover from my addiction. He took me through the entire Big Book and the 12 Steps (I still have my Big Book; you should see all of the scribbles and lines from the assignments he gave me).
I don’t have contact with him anymore, but I’m so grateful to have had him in my life at the time I needed him.
AA was my foundation. I no longer had an obsession or craving. I felt, dare I say, happy, for the first time I could remember. But at some point, a couple of years later, I started to feel stagnant. So, I decided to change things up. I started reading books about recovery pathways outside of AA – Refuge Recovery, Eight Step Recovery, Recovery Dharma, Recovery 2.0…But, I needed something more than just AA. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge I had, the more content I felt in my recovery.
There is more to life than just putting down a drink or a drug.
In some ways, life has gotten more difficult simply because now I can’t put a Band-Aid on my emotions, I actually have to figure out to deal with them. I have no real thoughts or cravings to drink or use drugs and haven’t in quite a few years. I do, however, continue to struggle with emotions. You know, when you’re never taught emotions besides anger, you don’t really know what to do with any other emotion except be angry or shut it all down.
That’s why I’ve appreciated alternative pathways or treatment modalities; they’ve allowed a different level of introspection and work than what I accomplished with AA. I’ve even started acupuncture!
My experiences and thirst for knowledge have allowed me to be of service to others – clients, and colleagues alike. There is no greater feeling than giving back to others in whatever way makes the most sense. It’s important to me that I’ve positively impacted the world around me.
Now, certainly, I am still a human being and that means I won’t always have that positive impact, but that’s my intention. I can be extremely negative and pessimistic under certain circumstances, but I try to view things from multiple perspectives outside of the one I see directly in front of me.
The world is full of pain and suffering, as I’ve experienced a bit of that, so if I can bring light and hope into someone else’s life, my mission has been accomplished.
I’ve had to deal with exceptional losses in the past few years, losses that I’m not sure I would have been able to get through without the work I’ve put into myself. I still struggle with shame and insecurity, though, that is significantly less than what it used to be. And, yes, I still struggle with emotions, and I still struggle with communication. But I think I get better as time passes, because I can’t break patterns in a day after they’ve been built over many years of life.
I believe the universe sets me down a path for a reason. Maybe it’s because I need a certain person or thing in my life. Or, maybe it’s because a certain person needs me. All I know is I’m grateful for the pain because I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without it, and I’m grateful for the people that reached out to help me, because that path was probably easier than a couple of DUIs. I’m not always open-minded, but I try to figure out how to get there.