“I was in the top 1 percent of my high school graduating class. I received several awards, had an A-plus average, and my father (police officer) and my mother (nurse) were both very proud of me. I had never smoked a cigarette. I had never even remotely thought about drinking a beer. I had never even had a real boyfriend. I was a virgin in every sense of the word. Freshman year of college changed that.
The first time I drank, I drank grain alcohol punch out of a red solo cup. The Swamp was known for their awesome Thursday night parties, and their flyers were posted in every bathroom on every floor of the dorm I lived in. I was 17 years old, naive, and ready to find out what all the fuss was about. I went to the party with two or three of my friends. I paid the guy at the door five dollars. He gave me a red solo cup and said, ‘The punch is in the kitchen, don’t lose your cup.’
For the record, grain alcohol reaches 95 percent alcohol content, which is 190 proof. It is one of the purest and most potent alcoholic beverages available. The very first time I ever drank, I drank 190 proof grain alcohol out of a red solo cup. I drank until I blacked out, and apparently, I drank way after I blacked out, judging from the stories I heard for weeks after the party. I was found on the front steps of the dorm, with a great big ‘punch smile’ stain on my face, lying in a pool of vomit.
Alcohol was my greatest pleasure throughout my entire college career, until the night that I was introduced to cocaine. It was love at first sight! I fell off the Dean’s List rather quickly after that night, and eventually, I quit college. I got into a very dysfunctional and physically abusive relationship that ended after a miscarriage left me hemorrhaging and almost dead in some emergency room. My boyfriend was a raging alcoholic. His family was very wealthy and when I woke up the next day in a hospital bed, there was a one hundred dollar bill on the bedside table with a note that said, ‘GO HOME.’
I met the man I would eventually marry around the same time I was going through the whole dysfunctional relationship drama. For us, ‘GO HOME’ was an invitation to celebrate. We were a good team. We fell in love, we partied hard, we fought, we made up, we f*cked, we drank, we fought, we made up, we f*cked… We loved each other, though, and honestly, it was a love I will never, ever forget. It was a pure, unadulterated, passionate love that took us to the most intense highs and brought us to the worst lows imaginable. Our wedding was beautifully romantic and our honeymoon was hot, steamy, and sexy. I honestly believed in my heart we would grow old together.
Alcohol and drugs killed my marriage. Alcohol and drugs took my husband away from me. Alcohol and drugs left me penniless, homeless, trickin’ on Main South for a 40 piece. Alcohol and drugs took away my capacity to be a mother. My children were taken from me, several times, by DCF. Alcohol and drugs gave me a front-row seat to the most terrifying horror show imaginable. But alcohol and drugs were faithful companions. Alcohol and drugs were there when I was gang-raped, beaten, and left for dead in an alley. Alcohol and drugs were there when I was dragged down the street by someone who had grabbed my arm as I was standing next to the car, put the gas pedal to the floor, and hit 75 miles per hour within seconds. Alcohol and drugs were there when I was pistol-whipped during a drug dealer home invasion that left me unconscious, lying in a pool of blood. Alcohol and drugs put me in jail. Alcohol and drugs put me in danger. Alcohol and drugs put me in hell.
But I loved alcohol and drugs. And I did anything and everything I could do for alcohol and drugs. Until one day I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I have two children. Their names are Kyle and Samantha, and they are beautiful. I love Kyle and Samantha more than life itself. And I absolutely loved their dad, my husband, Mark. He was and still is the only man I will ever truly love. I followed him down the rabbit hole, chasing crack cocaine because I didn’t want to lose him. It was exciting and intriguing. It felt good and the sex was amazing. It was just supposed to be for fun. I didn’t mean to become addicted, but I did.
My husband never tried to get clean. He didn’t want to. I don’t really know why. I, however, never truly surrendered to that once an addict, always an addict affirmation. Throughout the many years of my active addiction, I bounced in and out of detoxes, rehabs, psych wards, and programs, desperately trying to get back to my children.
In 2008, I was trying to plan a birthday party for my daughter when my husband, who had been MIA for over a year, called me and said that he was sick and had to have surgery. Not knowing the details, I kind of shrugged it off as, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ and didn’t think too much of it. I was angry at him for so many things and didn’t have the capacity to care about his sickness. I did, however, love him. He was my husband, so I did what any crack-addicted wife would do. I went to the hospital to be by his side and support him. My husband was diagnosed with cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes. He had been sick for a long time, but because he was drinking and drugging 24/7, he never went to see a doctor. By the time he did, it was too late. In April of 2008, a few days before Mark turned 41, we sat in the office of his oncologist and listened to the doctor as he told us that there was nothing else that could be done. Mark was going to die.
I got really f*cked up that night. I got really f*cked up every night for weeks. And then, when I was about to lose my children again, I stopped getting f*cked up. I went to the nursing home my husband had been placed in to die, and I brought him home so I could take care of him. See, the part that everyone always gets confused about is the fact that no matter how horrible things were, no matter how bad Mark got when he was drinking and no matter how long my binges lasted, we never ever stopped loving each other. When we got married, I can remember the two of us holding hands and together lighting the Candle of Eternity. The flame almost went out, and if you watch the video, there is this look on my face of pure fear, like, ‘Oh no, please don’t go out,’ and then suddenly the flame just got real tall and bright and Mark looked at me and smiled. Right then and there, I knew I would love him until the day I died.
Mark died on November 7th, 2008, at 1:15 in the morning. I was lying on his bed with him, holding his hand, and ‘Love Actually’ was in the DVD player. He hadn’t been conscious for days, but on the last day he was awake, he kissed me and asked me to please stop getting high because our kids needed a parent, and he wasn’t up for the job. I watched as he inhaled one last time. I felt his breath as he exhaled and I watched him die. I have not had a drink or drug since.
I am 53 years old and I have been in recovery since the day my husband died. It has been the hardest 12 years of my life because I have had to experience every bump, every pothole, every wound, and every feeling 100 percent head-on without the help of my best friends: vodka and crack. Even harder, though, was when, in 2014, I decided it was time to stop taking the 16 prescribed medications I had been using and abusing for so many years. I quit cold turkey. I was taking two benzos, gabapentin, Lyrica, and a whole slew of other medications– all given to me legally with a prescription by a doctor who didn’t give a damn about me. I locked myself in my bedroom and for three months, suffered from withdrawal that felt like death. And when the withdrawal began to subside, I picked up the pieces of my broken heart, my f*cked up brain, and the wreckage of my damaged family and I moved on.
Today, I am raising three of my daughter’s children. In the midst of my addiction, my children got pretty damaged. My daughter quit high school, ended up pregnant at 17, and bounced from boy to boy. When her middle son was diagnosed with autism, she had not been given the tools to be a mother, let alone a ‘special needs’ parent and was unable to care for her children. I am one semester away from being a certified Phlebotomist and EKG Technician. I am three semesters away from my RN/Associate’s, and I am close to my Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology and my Master’s in Nonprofit Project Management. I am a Recovery Coach, certified through CCAR, and last year, I helped implement and open a Peer Recovery Walk-in Center in my community. I have established a Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support group in my area, stood on the National Mall in 2015 along with 25,000 other recovering addicts, and participated in Unite To Face Addiction.
So many people ask me, ‘How did you do it? How did you get clean?’ and I can’t really answer that. I can tell you, though, that right around the time that my husband was dying, I was in the kitchen cleaning up and Hoobastank’s song ‘The Reason’ came on the radio, and as I stood there crying, listening to the words, I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, my children would never ever know how much I loved them.
The day I found recovery is the day I showed my children just exactly how much I love them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kim Rockwood from Webster, MA. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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