“‘It’s all right, it’s OK, I’ll get away from him someday. It’s all right, it’s OK, I’ll get away from here someday.’ When I was in middle school I started writing a book. It was about a little boy with an abusive, alcoholic dad. This chant is what he would say when he would have to lock himself in the bathroom during one of his dad’s drunken outbursts. This story was not a reflection of my childhood. I have two amazing parents, both teachers, and my dad is a basketball coach and well-respected in the community. My parents did divorce when I was in 6th grade, but I didn’t have any trauma growing up, and I didn’t ever have to wonder where my next meal was coming from.
I often wonder why I wrote about this alcoholic father at such a young age. I think I knew very early my brain thought differently, and maybe I craved the ability to check out like the little boy in my story. Whether it was true or made up in my head, I never quite felt like I belonged in any particular group or friend circle. I recognize now it was probably more my mental health making me feel like I didn’t belong, rather than the people around me; nonetheless, I struggled feeling like I was not enough or too much for the world. I had my first drink in middle school. I was at a friend’s house and we sneaked vodka and put it in our soda. We probably only had a small amount, but enough to feel it. I remember my arms feeling lighter. I remember us peeing in a cup in the closet because we didn’t want her parents to be suspicious for repeated bathroom trips. I remember laughing uncontrollably and my brain being silenced, not realizing the noise I had been living with. We just laughed, peed, called boys, and had a great ol’ time.
I didn’t hit the ground running and turn into an out-of-control drunk at age thirteen. I was a fairly good kid, a typical hormonal teen who sometimes got caught lying, but a fairly good kid. I played three sports and was a good athlete. I was an A/B student and was in ASB all throughout high school. I learned in high school, though, all I had to do was do all the right things when people were watching. If you do what you are supposed to and look how you are supposed to look, then you can and ‘deserve’ to have the fun of drinking, smoking, and vandalizing sh*t when people aren’t looking. I got comfortable drinking occasionally on the weekends in high school, but had enough responsibilities to keep me grounded. When I graduated from high school, though, this was all gone. My home town was like ‘Cheers,’ everyone knows your name.
My freshman year of college I was out on my own, no mandatory sports practices I had to show up for, no ASB I had to keep a good reputation for, no parents telling me I had to be home or to go to class. I was free and unseen and so, so lost and lonely. In my first fall quarter of college, I tried cocaine for the first time. The first high was like no other. It sobered me up, but I wasn’t paranoid or jittery like pretty much every other time I got high. I was floating, and I remember it helping me think clearly and not feeling much emotion, just clarity. A few days after this first experience with cocaine, I found myself in the hospital with alcohol poisoning, on a Monday night, even. I hadn’t slept much and had hardly eaten, and when I found myself tired Monday from the weekend, instead of listening to my body and going to bed, I decided energy pills and vodka was the way to go.
I don’t remember what happened, but was told I passed out in the girl’s bathroom of the dorm; I was wearing some other dude’s pants, and when the medics came they asked me how old I was. I responded in my typical comedic fashion, ‘Not old enough to drink!’ This experience was embarrassing, to say the least, and I felt ashamed of myself. I did what I did best and made my rounds apologizing. I wrote letters to the dorm supervisors and wholeheartedly wanted to do better and be better. This is what is so crazy about addiction—it’s like when people were telling me the stories of my drunkenness, I felt like I was watching it unfold from above and like the person down there wasn’t ‘me.’ It wasn’t who I was, what I believed in, or who I wanted to be. I’d laugh along to hide and shrug it off like it was no big deal, while battling with myself why I couldn’t just be normal, just drink normally. I saw a quote by Robin Williams that said, ‘As an alcoholic, you will violate your standards quicker than you can lower them.’ I could not relate and understand this more.
The next two years of college, I continued to get decent grades to keep my parents from worrying too much, but continued to try and figure out how to be a piece of sh*t and a good person at the same time. I found myself in the middle of drug deals. I found myself befriending dealers, hoping they would just share with the young, cute, charming, funny girl, which they did. At the end of those two years, I started to feel out of control. It was like this switch from having the party to the party having me. I was making an *ss of myself and hurting people I loved. I did what made the most sense, I ran, but not before attending my first AA meeting at nineteen after blacking out and ending up half naked at a random guy’s house. I was hoping a fresh start would help me put this all behind me. I decided to try the city life, and figured moving to Seattle to be closer to my older brother and sister would be an extra layer of protection. The thing about alcoholics and addicts is they tend to find other alcoholics and addicts.
Even in my recovery, we like each other, we need each other, and we attract each other because we ‘get’ each other. You won’t believe it, but starting somewhere fresh without doing any work on myself or even believing I could truly be happy sober resulted in my attracting a new crowd of active alcoholics and addicts. During this time, though, I did also find myself a sober boyfriend (kind of), which was my way of acting like I was trying to get sober, because deep, deep down, I really did want to. There were several drunken nights during this next year, but one that stands out for being the most inconsiderate was when I had gone to a Mariners game with a friend. At some point during the game, I got up to get another beer or go to the bathroom or I don’t know what, but the next thing I remember is being in a cab on my way home. My home was about 40 minutes from the stadium, so you can image it was not a cheap taxi ride.
Here is the worst part: my friend who I went to the game with was terrified. I went in and passed out, so I wasn’t answering my phone, and when the game was over I was nowhere to be found. He walked to the car hoping I was there, drove around downtown for awhile before heading to my house to look for me, where he found me passed out. Once a few more scary moments started to rack up, I decided it was time to get serious about cutting back. I worked nights, so that was helpful because bars weren’t really an option once I got off work. I would sleep in, then go work out. I had to be at work by five. If I was busy with things I HAD to do, I was fine. I remember one night, though, my work called and said they didn’t need me to come in. I knew I had 30 minutes still, if I wanted to go to the liquor store. I sat there and debated back and forth if I should go for what felt like an hour, but was probably only a minute. I remember jumping up and sprinting to my car.
The high started in this moment of knowing I was on my way to the liquor store. I got there just in time to get a bottle of blueberry vodka and tequila. I left the liquor store and headed to the store to get snacks and mixers. I was shaky, but not with the alcoholic shakes, just with adrenaline and excitement to silence my brain. I ended up dumping some vodka in travel cup and taking a big swig before entering the store to calm my nerves. This is where the sober boyfriend came in handy. He didn’t know about all my drinking, but being sober, as us sober people know now, he saw my drinking and didn’t laugh like the other active drunks did around me. He confirmed what I knew—I had a problem. I decided to put myself in rehab six months after my 21st birthday. I knew I was smart and capable of doing great things, but also knew I would never have the guts to truly pursue my dreams if I was always afraid of the Gentry who would show up once alcohol was involved.
I came out of rehab confident. I was eager for a fresh start and felt like my three-week hiatus fixed the problem. When I came home, though, I was so sad and lonely and irritable—I snapped at people for the dumbest things. I wish I knew then this was normal, and it takes a lot longer than three weeks to change and undo all that was done. At the time I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not a drunk, but the real me is just a miserable, b*tchy person, and how is this any better?’ I still found myself unhappy with accepting myself and desperate to feel loved and accepted. So, what do you do when you want to feel unconditional love? You have a baby, of course. (Insert palm-to-the-forehead emoji.) I found out I was pregnant with my first son a few months before my 22nd birthday. The relationship with his dad was hardly a relationship, and anything but stable up to this point, but we decided we were going to be a happy little family.
This led to me feeling trapped, which led to anxiety attacks, which led to therapy, which led to me sneaking out in the middle of the night at about six months pregnant and moving back to my home town. This also led to one of the greatest blessings of my life, my first-born son. Yes! At last, a permanent, additional human being to rely on me to be a good human; surely I will be able to keep my sh*t together now. Being a mom absolutely helped straighten me up. I didn’t drink as much and could go longer periods without drinking, but still ran into the problem I was basically a Pringles can, once you pop you just can’t stop. I battled this with the usual distractions. I reunited with my high school sweetheart, got back in school, got an internship, got married, had another son, and kept myself busy. I had drunken nights, but was checking all the boxes elsewhere, so with lots of management and planning and obsessing and controlling, I was able to live both lives. Sounds rewarding, right?
This worked until I got a DUI after I stopped breastfeeding my second son. I am a penny-pinching accountant, so a DUI was the most gut-wrenching experience, knowing how much money I would be wasting the next few years. I also saw this as a huge wake up call and opportunity to get sober for good. I jumped through all the hoops and did what I did best after embarrassing drunken moments. I made my rounds apologizing to all the right people, and again wholeheartedly meant it. I was sober for five months after the DUI, when I decided at a family reunion I would be OK to drink again. I think it is important to point out this reoccurring ‘I’m OK to drink again.’ We will never, ever get sober or free with the thought process that one day we will be able to drink again. I so desperately wanted to figure out how to drink. I was mad I couldn’t outsmart it, so I made rules, I made agreements, I made justifications, but it wasn’t until I made peace with the fact I will never be able to drink again or like other people I truly was able to start getting better.
I started settle in the pity I was trapped and was never going to get sober, and my depression and anxiety started to take over. This was when I was blessed by the pregnancy fairy once again. I found out I was pregnant, and though I was freaking out because it wasn’t planned, I was excited to get another jump start and chance at sobriety. Then we found out it was twins, and I was even more determined to stay alcohol free. I wish I could say the twins were so stressful or I was so overwhelmed I had to drink, but there wasn’t any sort of mental breakdown, it was just as soon they weren’t in my body and I had freedom to poison myself again. They were out and I was free to get trapped. I do think I was suffering from some postpartum because I remember not feeling connected to them. I don’t know if it was just because there were two and they were number three and four, but I didn’t have much time to connect to them the way I wanted. They were just babies I kept alive.
Thankfully, these babies will never have to remember a drunk mom. I got sober a week after their first birthday. The few months leading up to their birthday, I had been working really hard to stay sober. I would go a few weeks then slip, then a few more and slip. I remember being so proud of myself for staying sober for their first birthday party. A few days later, though, I, only a few weeks sober, attempted to hang out like a cool sober girl with the husband and neighbors while they drank. It was only a matter of time before I was dumping out my O’Doul’s and filling them with real beer to carry over there. This Saturday night turned into a three-day bender, and resulted in me having a breakdown at work and just leaving without telling anyone. I remember driving into the garage that day and feeling completely hopeless. I thought I was never going to be able to get sober, and I was going to ruin my kids by having to witness this train wreck their whole life.
I thought I couldn’t handle the pain of having to watch them watch the train wreck, and not being able to do anything to stop it. For a split second that day, I thought closing the garage with the car running would result in less pain for all. I don’t remember how I got there; I just know the next thing I remember is waking up in my bed. This day wasn’t my worst day drinking, it was just the day I finally gave up fighting it. Today, I have over 2.5 years in sobriety. I have had some ups and downs on my journey and have made mistakes. At the end of the day, though, I am incredibly thankful for my addiction, because I get an extra opportunity to learn about myself, my brain, and my emotional intelligence, because self-awareness is so imperative to recovery. My obstacles have given me opportunities people who haven’t struggled don’t necessarily get. If you are reading this and you are still struggling, please know you are not alone. Your feelings are real, but the words you are telling yourself are not true. There is help. There are resources. Please ask for help. You are worth it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gentry Jones from Central Washington. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and here, and her website. 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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