“My attorney looked at me and told me I was looking at prison time. There was nothing more I could do.
So, how did this middle class, church going, straight As and Bs, lead in musicals, drill teaming, student council member end up looking at prison time at 34 years old? I didn’t have a rocky childhood and I wasn’t around drugs and alcohol as a kid. I did have a situation happen at 13 years old that led to a lot of bullying and rumors being spread and this is where my story begins.
I didn’t know how to talk about what was going on and I let a lot simmer inside. I became a chameleon who had to present herself as perfect all the time. If you wanted me to be a certain way, I’d be that person for you. Anything so you would like me. On the outside I was ‘perfectly’ pretty, but inside I was dying. Of course, now, I look back on pictures and can see the hollow, emptiness in my eyes.
From my teen years and in to my 30s, I struggled with depression and anxiety. I was given medication for it, but I would also self-medicate, so it didn’t really do any good. And I’d lie to my therapists, so that didn’t do any good. During my teen years, my inner alcoholic told me sneaking some of my parent’s wine, beer, or liquor, would help my feelings and insecurities to go away. And they did help, most of the time. When they didn’t help or weren’t available, I would cut my skin to make the physical pain take away from the internal pain.
Then the parties began. I could party on the weekends and do fantastic in school all week. This was great. Until it wasn’t. Once I was in college, I began to try all sorts of drugs. My favorite mix being pills and alcohol. But I’d pretty much try what you had. Anything to make me not feel and be more sociable.
At this time, people around me started to notice I had a problem, but I wouldn’t listen. I got my first DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) at 25 and my second at 27. But I still didn’t think I had a problem. I lost countless jobs, boyfriends, and friends. I would move from place to place, because I thought geographically changing my situation would help. But it didn’t.
Then my husband and I started dating. He and I had known each other since we were 13 and so there was no disguising who I was to him. I could drink and he still loved me, although he didn’t like it at all. At one point though, I didn’t love myself at all. There were voices telling me I could never stay sober and life would never get better, so I should just end it. And I tried. I knew how to load a shotgun, but on that day, my fingers wouldn’t do it. I sat there and cried with a shotgun in my hand, not able to commit suicide. I tried to get sober and for the most part I could, but only for a few days at a time.
Then he proposed and I thought marriage would be the end of all my problems. But I couldn’t stay sober. 3 weeks before we were to get married in front of 200 people, I got fired from my job, wrecked my car, and burned my foot to the 3rd degree (all within 3 days of each other). That’s when he told me he couldn’t marry me this way and he cancelled the wedding. On our wedding day, I was in an inpatient rehab instead. It took me relapsing twice after getting out and two different sober homes, to actually stay sober for a little time.
6 months into my sobriety, we found out we were having a baby and we got married. January 2012, our first son was born. But I quickly got addicted to my painkillers after the baby was born and when I stopped breastfeeding 4 weeks in, I was back to drinking. Fast forward 11 months, and I was struggling. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stay sober even a day. My entire family feared for my health and for my son. They even told my husband they would support him and my son if he left me.
Then those voices started again. This time, I would really do it. My husband and son would be way better off without me in their lives. No more torturing them. No more torturing myself. I couldn’t live this way anymore and I couldn’t continue to do this to the people around me. So, I wrote a note after my son went to sleep and I took a bunch of pills and laid on the couch. My husband found me and I was taken away in an ambulance while the police checked on my son sleeping in his room. After one night in the mental ward of the hospital, I was released. They concluded that I wasn’t a threat to myself or anyone around me. I guess I was still good at putting on a front to strangers. But this wasn’t even my bottom. That came almost a year later exactly, on November 12, 2013.
A Fed-Ex driver called in a drunk driver on the highway and the police started to pursue me. By the time the multiple police cars pulled me over, I couldn’t even stand. They took me to the hospital to have my blood drawn and the nurse told them if I left, I would die. My blood alcohol level was so high, most people don’t live. I owe my life to that nurse and the Fed-Ex driver!
And to this day, I don’t remember any of this. I was in a blackout. I woke up the next morning to an empty hospital room. I was alone and lonely. No family wanted to be with me anymore. They were done. I stayed for two days and was released home. The following night, the police came and arrested me at 1 a.m. in the morning at my house in our little suburban neighborhood. This time, the arrest sank in. I was sober for it and facing my 3rd DWI at 33 years old.
I knew at this point, I had to be done drinking and taking pills or I would die. And somewhere deep inside of me, I actually wanted to live for a change! God was giving me yet another chance at life and I didn’t know why. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Nothing changes, if nothing changes.’ I had to change. I started to attend AA meetings and work with a sponsor. I tried to begin repairing my relationships with my family. Then on April 4, 2014, I was given yet another chance.
I had just met with my attorney and he said he had done all he could, but I was looking at serving about 6-9 months in prison. With almost 5 months sober, my heart ached as I had my husband and my 2-year-old son at home. I didn’t want to leave them, but I knew that wasn’t my decision. On the car ride home, I cried as I looked out the window and prayed. I fully surrendered at that moment to whatever God’s plan was for me, even if that meant prison time. Genuinely surrendered.
Within 10 minutes of being back at home, my attorney called and said the DA had agreed to the Collin County Drug Court Program and lots of probation time, but no prison time! This was an intensive outpatient rehabilitation program they do not offer to many people. The only explanation I have for their sudden change of heart is divine intervention. And thus, began the major changes in my life. Through this program, I had to attend outpatient programs, AA, counseling, and much more. It made me look at myself. Really look at myself.
For once in my life, I got real. I got honest. Not only with others, but with myself. I dug deep. I did a lot of work on what I had hidden deep inside for so long. I finally faced all the demons I had tried to lock away for 20 years. I got uncomfortable. I asked for help (which is THE hardest thing to do). I had to do all of these things if I wanted my life to change. And it has in every way!
Since getting sober on November 14, 2014 (I don’t count the 2 days in the hospital), my life has improved beyond measure. But that first year of being sober was hard, not gonna lie. I lost some friendships, but in it I gained lots of new friends. I hadn’t liked or trusted females since I was bullied at 13. I got out of my comfort zone and joined a mom’s bible study group and met some lifelong friends. I began to trust females again. Time went on and I began to trust myself again. My family slowly began to trust me. That took a lot of time. For so long, I had said one thing, but did another. It took me proving through time and effort that this time would be different. That I was different. And I was. I even went to counseling before my second son was born in September 2015, so I would be prepared for any emotions that might come up with his birth. And I had him naturally, with no medication during or after. I was not going to risk any chance at a relapse with pain meds.
After a year or so in to my sobriety, I started telling people I was sober and didn’t drink. I started to share my journey. I wasn’t shameful about my past nor did I wish to change it anymore. I was proud of who I was becoming and finally understood that all I went through made me the person I am today. I started a hobby of baking which turned in to a full time, multi-award-winning bakery. I started singing with worship bands at church. I got to really be a mom and wife for the first time.
I continue to share my testimony through my personal page and my blog, Blessed Mess Mama. I want to be able to take away some of the stigma associated with being a mom in sobriety. I have also done a series on the alcoholic family and how everyone is affected by it. Almost all my family members participated in it. I have a large community of sober friends through social media. It’s a great avenue that is available now to those trying to get or stay sober. Lots of support and inspiration. I get asked to speak at AA meetings and schools and other platforms to share my experience, strength, and hope. I even wear shirts that get people asking about my recovery.
I love that I am alive to share what I’ve been through and where I’m at now. I’ll scream it from the mountaintops if it can help just one person. It’s why I believe God saved me so many times. To share that there is hope. That there is a possibility for change. That it can happen. I am a living miracle!!! For someone to go from the deepest places of addiction, cutting, suicide attempts, and despair to the highest place of peace, serenity, and joy, is truly a gift of grace from God.
Not every day is full of flowers and rainbows, but I know now that the darkest times don’t last. I can make it through them without changing or masking my feelings. Feelings are a good thing. It took me a long time to learn that. I talk about my feelings with others. I don’t hide them away anymore. It takes the power out of them. I take time for myself every day, even if it’s just a few minutes.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, addiction, or anything else you might feel like you’re alone in, you’re not. There are others who have gone through it. Take that hard, first step and ask for help. It will get better. And try to look for the good in each day. I start every day with a gratitude prayer and end it with a gratitude prayer. That is key for me. To live in gratitude. Because there is always, always, something to be grateful for!”
[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Browning of Athens, Texas. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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