‘I had no money to my name, I broke into my daughter’s piggy bank to buy a bottle of wine.’: Mom of 4 details alcoholism journey leading to recovery

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Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of suicide attempt which may be disturbing to some.

“Growing up, alcohol was such a scary thing to me. My dad was a severe alcoholic. Because of this, I suffered a lot of trauma in my childhood. I also knew I had a long line of alcoholics on both my mom’s and dad‘s sides of the family. I was raised in a religion that was strongly against the intake of any alcohol. As a child and young adult, if somebody would have told me not only would I consume alcohol one day, but I would also allow it to consume me, I would never have believed them.

little girl in front of a door
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

In my late 20s, I left the religion I was raised in. I felt this sense of freedom. I began testing the waters of alcohol. It was on rare occasions and always socially. I never drank alone. I enjoyed it. I was a fun drunk. Until I wasn’t. In my early 30s, having 4 young kids very close in age, life became more and more difficult. I began dealing with the trauma of losing my daddy in a coal mining accident when I was 9. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, being in denial of said disorder, and leaving it untreated. Then having my heart completely broken and getting divorced is when alcohol became my crutch.

I started to notice I was drinking a lot more often. Some people had expressed their concerns. I couldn’t admit it, though. Until one night when I was alone. All I could think about was getting alcohol. I had absolutely no money to my name, so I broke into my daughter’s piggy bank to round up enough money to go buy a bottle of wine. After the kids were in bed, I drank the whole bottle of wine by myself. I spilled the last glass on my white carpet and burst into hysterics. This was the moment I was able to say in my head that I was an alcoholic. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning.

Skip ahead 4 years, I was heavily drinking vodka every night and most days as well. One night I got so drunk and continued on a 3-day binge. Three days of no food, little water, and a whole lot of alcohol. I hit a rock bottom. (Or so I thought.) After running out of alcohol and beginning to SLIGHTLY sober up, the depression kicked in. The hopelessness. I was done. I didn’t want to live the life of being dependent on alcohol anymore. However, I had tried so many times to get sober and I knew it was something I didn’t want to face. The only way I could see myself making a change was to end my life.

woman taking selfie in car
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

I began sending texts to family and friends telling them goodbye and that I loved them. I told them I was going to end my life. The saddest part of this is I sent my own kids this text. I have been told so many details of how this night played out, but my own memory only recalls a few bits and pieces. My sister and my mom took me to the hospital that night. They say I tried to jump out of the car. This must be true because there is a very important part of this night that I hold in my heart.

woman with her family after recovery
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

As we were pulled over on the side of the road, a man came up to the car. He had a dog with him, a German Shepherd. I remember the man telling me he was a recovering addict and this dog had saved his life one night. I don’t doubt it. The connection, the love, and the compassion I felt from this sweet animal were nothing short of healing. It is no surprise to me that out of all the details and stories I have been told about this night, this dog and this man are what stand out in my mind.

I detoxed at the hospital and from there I began treatment at an outpatient rehab. At the time, I was in a relationship with a man who was also an alcoholic. He continued drinking and I remained sober. I made it 90 days. I got my 90-day sobriety chip and went home and celebrated. How did I celebrate, you ask? I got completely wasted, of course. Yep. Sadly, this happens often in recovery. Call it self-sabotage or maybe it is all just part of the illness. I remember telling myself I had made it this far, so clearly I am strong enough to drink and stop when I need to.

woman taking seflie on a hike
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

WRONG! This was the beginning of a new spiral into a deeper rock bottom. Things got worse and worse. I began getting violent during my binges. Cops got called, and because fighting was going on between my boyfriend and me in front of the children, I was charged with domestic violence charges, and Child Protective Services were involved. I didn’t fully lose my kids when CPS got involved because they were able to be with their dad. I am so sad to say this still didn’t stop me from drinking. I tried jumping through all the manipulative hoops, thinking I was fooling everyone.

children that had cps take them away
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

I was woken up one night by the police on the sidewalk of a busy street in downtown Ogden, UT. I’d been passed out drunk. They told me I could call someone to come get me or I was going to jail. There was nobody I was willing to call. I started getting angry with the cops and the next thing I knew I was in a jail cell. My mom and stepdad went to hell and back to come to bail me out the next morning. Guess what I did that night? You guessed it. I got drunk.

selfie with dad
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

I woke up the next morning to a call from my sister telling me I could move to Salt Lake and live with her rent-free to get back on my feet. She said the only stipulation was if I would agree to go to some sort of so-called training. I didn’t even ask questions about the training. At this point, this option was a no-brainer. I packed my few belongings and went to my sister’s house the next day. I committed to attending this training a few days later. The only thing I knew about it was it was not therapy, it was not rehab, and it was not anything specific for alcoholics or addicts. My sister told me it was a self-help, motivational training that changed her whole outlook on life. She was able to wholeheartedly promise me it would change my life.

Boy did it ever. I learned so much about myself and the masks I had been wearing my whole life. I learned the alcohol was nothing more than a band-aid for my deep traumas. I learned who I was. I learned to love myself again. A love for myself I hadn’t experienced since I was a young girl. The tools I learned from this training are what have gotten me through my sobriety journey. I had been to rehab, I had attended AA meetings, and I had tried getting sober on my own. After this training, I was able to get sober and move forward with doing the work and making changes in my life. I need to be clear that I am in no way implying AA, rehab, and other treatment programs don’t work.

selfie of women in front of bridge
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

It was sure as hell was not easy. Now I had to face all the people I had wronged and hurt. At this point, CPS was still involved and I was court-ordered to only see my kids once a week, supervised by someone other than family or friends, and only for one hour. This went on for a couple of months until I proved capable of staying sober and being able to take care of and provide for my children. My children are my life. I still struggle today if I allow myself to remember the trauma I caused them. It is also my biggest motivation for staying sober.

Each child suffered so differently from one another. My oldest pretty much had to be the mom of the house for so many years and because of this, she was robbed of so much of her childhood. I have a son who is autistic. He still struggles today with trust because of my choices. I have a son who just hid in the background the whole time. Over the years, he became so quiet, shut down, and unable to show much emotion. My youngest daughter suffers immensely from fear of abandonment to this day. We have come so far and continue daily to work through these traumas. I have a very close relationship with my kids. I like to say I am proudly breaking some trauma chains. I am so incredibly blessed to have the most forgiving human beings to walk the earth as my kids.

picture of mom with her daughter
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

I hurt so many people along the way during these years of drinking. The crazy thing is, you would think once you quit drinking and make amends with people, things just get better. This is so far from the truth. I am about 9 years into my sobriety and some bridges were burnt that can’t ever be repaired. Some behaviors from alcoholism still pop back up. A few relapses have happened in those 9 years. The most recent one was just over a year ago.

About 6 years ago, I met Natalie. A beautiful woman I now get to call my wife. When our relationship was new, we began traveling and going on vacations with some friends. These friends drink occasionally. My wife is not a drinker and at the time didn’t fully understand the depths of my alcoholism. Those manipulative tactics that an alcoholic has are always handy when we want to enlist others into our story. It was easy to convince her, them, and myself I was okay to drink while on vacation. What’s crazy is at the time I really was able to control it. Then I figured I would control it occasionally at home when the kids were at their dad’s house. In fact, I was so convinced I had it controlled I even got my kids on board with my story that I had it under control.

lgbtq wedding photo
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

Then it slowly and at the same time quickly changed. I caught myself falling into patterns of ‘Well, it’s a weekend’ or ‘I don’t work tomorrow’ or ‘It’s a holiday’ or ‘I’ve had a long day.’ Then I knew the line was crossed when I was sneaking upstairs away from the kids and Natalie to pour just a little more into my glass. After about a month of this going on, I woke up one morning and told Natalie all the alcohol needs to be dumped and I can’t drink anymore. I called my kids and told them I had crossed the line and I needed to be accountable.

At times I doubt myself in this decision. Part of me feels it is very selfish of me to put that on them again just to lift a little off my own shoulders. However, as I stated earlier, my kids are my biggest motivation. Throughout my entire sobriety journey, I never dared to say I would never drink again. I do believe in ‘one day at a time.’ However, it was at this point in my recovery that I could wholeheartedly say I will never again choose to consume alcohol.

I have been sober since October 17, 2020. I am living my best life. Between the two of us, my wife and I have 7 children and a beautiful grandson. They are the light of my life. I crave it when the adult kids come home to visit each week for dinner. A couple of years ago, Natalie and I started a home caregiving business that is thriving. One day we will have a couple of non-profit organizations for suicide awareness and for addiction and recovery. I long for there to be more support out there for these things. I am aware not everyone out there has a support system as I have had on my journey. I am eternally grateful for my support. To those struggling, or any of you who have loved ones struggling with addiction, #WeDoRecover is not just a hashtag. It is a real thing. Reach out. You are so loved and so deserving of living your best life!”

Blended family take photo together wearing various shades of blue and white
Courtesy of DeeDee Clough

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by DeeDee Clough. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more inspiring stories from sober warriors:

‘A guardian angel called 9-1-1 as I convulsed in a coffee shop parking lot. At 18, I’d lost 20 jobs and been arrested 14 times.’: Man 13-years sober after long battle with addiction, ‘We’re not meant to live in darkness’

‘You’re under arrest.’ My HUSBAND called the police on me. I woke up in the back of a cop car.’: Woman gets sober, delivers rainbow baby, ‘I can’t live my best life while drinking’

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