Disclaimer: This story contains details of drinking, sexual assault, and suicidal thoughts that may be triggering to some.
“About a year and a half ago I was sitting in a bathtub on my third bottle of wine deliberating if I should kill myself. I knew the drinking wasn’t helping with my depression, but I couldn’t fathom going on without booze. A life without alcohol was no life at all. But neither was the life I was living. I physically and emotionally needed it to get me through my day. I’d wake up on Monday mornings shaking, feeble and nauseous, promising myself it would be the last time I’d feel that way. I was done for good. Only to find myself walking to the liquor store after work for a couple more wine bottles. I could. Not. Stop.
People have a stereotype for what an alcoholic looks like. I was young, outgoing, had a car, a stable job, and a long-term boyfriend. So, I couldn’t be an alcoholic, right? The truth is, I was barely holding on. On the brink of losing it all. I woke up every morning and prayed something would kill me. Anything to stop the madness. Each day, I would walk to the bathroom to brush my teeth and start sobbing because I hated myself so deeply. Despised every inch. The only thing which calmed my nerves was more booze. The first sip and then into oblivion, where I didn’t hate myself, I just felt nothing. I wish I could say I stopped drinking after my suicidal ideation in the bathtub, but I continued. To infinitum.
I started drinking heavily at 14. At first, it made me feel cool. All too soon after, I realized I could use alcohol as an escape and it let me breathe for once. Then, it became a necessity. But who cared if I was still attending gymnastics and getting good grades? Everything was ‘fine.’ No one knew my secret, at least not yet. At this point, I knew my drinking was an issue, I just had no desire to change anything. It was working. I felt good. To this day, I’m not sure how I managed to survive. Good things don’t come to teenagers who black out multiple times a week. I managed to graduate high school with good grades and went on to attend a well-known college. Slowly, my drinking became a daily habit. It became a part of me. Meeting friends at the beach? Well, to be social, fun and for people to like me I should probably drink beforehand. Stressed about my midterm the next morning? Best to drink so I can fall asleep. Seeing family at holiday events? Can’t get through the discomfort without a few shots. I had to drink when I was happy and I had to drink when I was sad, when things were good and when things were bad. I was drinking in secret all the time.
The repercussions of my drinking came pouring in during my college days, but nothing heavy enough to get me to stop. Then again, even being suicidal wasn’t enough to stop my drinking habits. At first I noticed things, like my side cramping up after a long night of drinking. Random bruises showing up all over my body, with no recollection of how they got there. Waking up in the homes of people I didn’t know. Being too hungover to make it to my class. And then, to cure the hangover, drinking again until I was too drunk to go to class for the rest of the day (sorry dad, thanks for the education!). But I was young, care-free, and I had the world at my fingertips! I had friends! Who partied, too! I couldn’t be an alcoholic, right? Then came the broken foot from skateboarding drunk barefoot. But I chalked this up to being a funny story I could tell my grand kids someday. Next came the failed college course, but everyone fails at least once, right? Then came the pneumonia lapses. Soon after, I lost all my friends due to the actions of my drinking. Then, I got a ride home drunk from an Uber driver at 3 a.m. and was assaulted. Next, I blacked out at my college graduation party among my whole family. Then, I showed up at urgent care for the 20th time since the beginning of college with a broken finger (I put it in a cotton candy machine thinking it would work the same as a spool). This continued. Infinitum.
I thought the obvious problem was my college town. Not my drinking. I decided to move to Thailand to teach English. I drank less but continued to loathe myself, felt empty, alone, hopeless. All signs of untreated alcoholism. I couldn’t figure out why I hated my life so much. I was 22 and traveling in Thailand, why was I so depressed?
My drinking took a hard turn when I came back to California and lived a life of normalcy in San Francisco. I got a 9-5. Paid rent on time. Had a loving partner. Things were looking up. But you can’t run away from your disease. No matter where you travel in the world, you still take yourself and your disease with you. So, for the next two years, I woke up each day filled with regret and remorse. Barely got through my work day. Went to the liquor store, bought the wine I swore I wouldn’t purchase and drank until I passed out. And this continued. Until the day in the bathtub. When I knew I couldn’t keep going on the way I was going. So, I called my mom—who has 15 years of sobriety—and told her I didn’t feel ‘quite right.’ The next day I was off to the hospital because the voices in my ear kept saying to just end it. I don’t remember what my BAC was at the hospital but it was enough to keep me there till mid-afternoon the next day. I came back from the hospital and drank as soon as I could. Tomorrow I would go to AA. So I did. For the first month I drank while attending meetings, lying to everyone. Until one night, with my head in the toilet, I decided I was done. I decided to live instead of die. I wasn’t going to kill myself, which meant I had to stop drinking.
The next day, I went to rehab. Stayed for 30 days and have been sober since. Now, I have absolutely no desire to drink. But I have so much more now than just a desire to not drink. Not much has changed externally in the past year and 3 months, but a h*ll of a lot has changed internally. Not only do I live a life without drugs and alcohol, but I live a life filled with honesty, kindness, happiness, and integrity. I see the world in a completely different light. I’ve learned to love myself, when before I couldn’t stand to look at myself. I wake up each and every day excited to live my life, rain or shine. I have no reason to be excited, other than looking forward to living out another day. I am on a path to healing. I never thought I would be able to forgive myself for my past mistakes, but I am learning to. Even the really cringey mistakes, I tell myself, ‘It’s okay, Mel. You are human. That was you when you were in your addiction. You are not the same as you were in your addiction.’ I am human. Alcoholics are human. Addicts are human.
Honestly, all I’ve ever wanted in life was to be loved and accepted. I have it now. Mainly because I love and accept myself. I am not a bad person because of my disease. Being at the gates of death has given me a new appreciation for life. People used to tell me they were grateful alcoholics when I was newly sober and I rolled my eyes each time. Who would be grateful for this monstrous disease? Now, I too, am a grateful alcoholic. The program I use has given me tools to live a sober life worth actually living. I’ve learned to take accountability for my actions, show up, do my best, be honest, be impeccable with my word, treat others with kindness. Infinitum. I currently have a job I’m not only passionate about, but see as a lifelong career. I have a loving relationship with my partner, filled with honesty, kindness, and respect. I have so many authentic relationships with the people I’ve met in sobriety, I cannot possibly count how many people I love and who love me. I’ve mended my relationships with people I thought I would never talk to again. I get to show up as a sober daughter, who gives instead of takes.
Most importantly, I love myself. I don’t have to punish myself anymore. The things I used to hate the most, I’m learning to love. I’m the most awkward person I know! And it is absolutely wonderful. I word vomit. I’m clumsy. I’m Mel. I get to re-discover who Mel is. What does she like? What makes her tick? Has she always laughed so deeply? What are her passions? I drank between the ages of 13-25. I get to make up for lost time now. What a gift. I’m forever grateful for this second opportunity to stay on this earth. Nothing is worth dying over now. I wish I could hold that young suicidal woman in the bathtub, give her a big hug and promise her it’s going to be alright. Because it is. Everything is alright and it’s all because of sobriety.
If I had known there were other women out there struggling with the same issues, I think I would’ve gotten sober a lot sooner. I genuinely thought I was the only person who did horrendous things only when intoxicated, and because of this, I held on to more shame than I could fathom. Why couldn’t I just be normal when I drank? If you’re struggling with addiction, I want you to know you are so far from alone. I love you and I understand your pain. There is a way out, and it’s easier than you think. Not only do I not want to kill myself anymore, I am excited for my future. This is completely available to you. You are loved and worthy. You deserve all of the good things that come with sobriety. To infinitum.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mel of San Fransisco, California. You can follow her journey on Instagram and on her podcast. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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