I grew up in a beautiful town about an hour north of San Francisco (also known as wine country). I moved here when I was six years old after one of my parents’ first of many separations. I grew up in a home referred to as the ‘castle.’ That castle would become a part of the façade of my life. I was the rich and spoiled kid who had ‘everything.’ At least that’s how it looked from the outside. Inside that house was a mom with a serious drinking problem and a dad who was a heavy drinker. When 5’ o clock came, it started with a few greyhounds, maybe a screwdriver, then wine, and before bed a nightcap. Depending on my mom’s mood, I knew where the night was going to end. My mom controlled our home with her drinking. The fighting between my parents began when I was in 4th grade. They would fight all night; my mom would throw things and charge at my dad.
As an only child, I would try to stand between my parents trying to make them stop, often begging and crying. Holidays were either amazing or terrorizing. I would be walking on eggshells wondering every holiday how this one was going to turn out. One Thanksgiving my mom, who was inebriated once again, would not stop berating my dad. As we sat at our Norman Rockwell picturesque dining table, my dad had enough and picked up the pumpkin pie and smashed it in her face. All hell broke loose as she ran out the front door and started screaming in the streets. The fights would always end and the silence would begin or the moving out. My mom would not talk to my dad, they would be in the same house and not talk for weeks, sometimes months. Then came the separations. My parents separated eight times growing up.
During these separations, I would become the center of their attention and I would also become their mediator. Each time they reunited and were madly in love again. Everything in their world was good again, except I wasn’t. I was confused and lonely. This cycle went on until I was 25 years old. I told myself I would never end up like my mom; I would not be a drunk. There were many beautiful memories, there are thousands in fact. I loved my parents; they were actually my best friends. We took long trips to Mexico, fun camping trips in our RV, family dinners every night, and had lots of laughter. My mom spent every moment with me. She was the field trip mom, the gymnastics mom, the mom who made dinner every night, and the one who taught me to swim and to dream. My dad taught me to work hard, have my own opinions, laugh and be playful, and keep getting back up.
High School Years
In high school, my parents were continuing to fight all the time and only a select few really knew what was going on behind closed doors, including my boyfriend. Todd was my first love and seemed to give me some stability from the chaos. I was a great student and had a close group of friends, but I was lonely. I wanted my family to be like my friends’ families. ‘Normal.’ I started skipping school at the end of my junior year from the stress and instability, and then I dropped out. I started drinking socially, nothing more. My boyfriend and I then broke up as he began falling into addiction. Shortly after our breakup, I get the call: my 19-year-old boyfriend died from a heart attack and a drug overdose. I was 18, my world was shattered, and I entered into a world full of anxiety and panic attacks.
From here on out, anxiety and panic attacks begin to consume my life. I think I am going to die. I go to the emergency room three times telling them I believe I am having a heart attack, only for them to run all the tests and tell me it’s all in my mind and that I am healthy and young. They give me a Xanax and I am sent home. I am back living with my parents, and they just keep telling me to pull it together and that I am being dramatic. I continue to drive myself to the emergency room alone but instead of going in, I sit in my car with a blanket and pillow parked in the lot so I would be in the right place to save my life. I eventually go to counseling and begin to get the tools and help I needed to deal with anxiety and panic, but they would ebb and flow throughout my life.
College And Beyond
The next phase of my life puts me back on track. I worked full-time, got my GED, went to college, and received a Bachelor of Science with Honors. I really feel like I was redeeming myself. I was also the first person in my family to graduate from college. I was doing all the right things. I started my legal career and specialized in intellectual property.
I met my first husband and the father of my children in college. He was stable, different, and seemed to have no chaos or drama. I drank in college, but no different than a normal college student. I had a solid group of girlfriends from high school and friends in college. In 2002, I became pregnant with my first daughter and shortly thereafter my dad died unexpectedly. I was at a loss and my heart was broken. It seemed like I could never just be in the moment. Trauma was following me and I had to ask again, why me?
I had my beautiful baby girl Isabella Grace in 2003. She was beautiful and lovely and everything I had hoped for and more. I would take all the amazing parts of my mom and take away all the ugly parts and be the most amazing mother. My daughter would not know the ugliness that I did growing up. My life was stable and my mom was present every day helping with my daughter. I had warned my mom not to get drunk around my girls or she wouldn’t see them and she abided by my request. She also was the best Nana a girl could ask for. My second daughter Sophia Adela arrived in 2006. Another bright light in my life. But after she was born, my marriage slowly began to fall apart.
My Breaking Point
My divorce was finalized as I turned 39. I would sit up at night after my girls went to bed and scroll Facebook out of boredom and for entertainment. I’d compare my life to my peers and think about how my life was not turning out the way I thought it should for someone who was going to be 40. Why does everyone else seem to have a perfect life but me? And then the drinking began.
I had a large friend group; I met these women and their families when my older daughter started kindergarten. Our kids were all the same age and we spent endless weekends together. There were weekends at the pool, birthday parties for adults and children, the river, and the lake; but then we just had the circuit. We all began rotating houses on almost a daily basis. As our kids were playing, we were drinking. There would be empty wine bottles spread across the kitchen counter by 7:00 p.m. almost every night of the week. It never stopped; the party just kept going. I wasn’t keeping up like the rest, I was falling apart. There were many life-altering traumas occurring across our group and as we took on one another’s pain, alcohol seemed to be the common pain reducer.
As the drinking increased, so did my depression and anxiety. I met Mike, my now husband, in July of 2014 and he has stood by my side on my entire recovery journey. I still was feeling lonely even when I was surrounded by all my friends, my girls, and Mike. I had everything I wanted and I was still miserable. It was confusing at times as I could drink ‘normally’ or not drink at all and then the binge would come again. I tried to stop drinking on my own. I would tell myself I wouldn’t drink, but I would find myself right back at the store buying wine. It was almost like an out-of-body experience; I would get to the store and think what am I doing here, and then my next thought would be, ‘Oh well maybe tomorrow.’
I would try to only have two glasses and then it quickly led to two bottles. Then it got worse and I started drinking wine in the morning to control the uncontrollable anxiety. I called into work sick over and over. I refused to get out of bed for days. I began missing events for my girls. I would wake up to find my mom sleeping on my couch because I had passed out and my older daughter would call her to spend the night. Mike and my girls begged me to stop. It was just progressively getting worse and worse. I couldn’t keep my word to myself, my kids, or to Mike.
I was sitting on the side of my house drinking a bottle of wine or more every night. I had a beautiful backyard, but I chose to sit between my garbage cans and drink wine, sometimes right out of the bottle while I smoked cigarettes. I felt like trash, so the space seemed appropriate. My life was coming together again and then falling apart again. My whole world would come crashing down again. Soon, my mom died from a massive stroke. How was I going to make it in life without my mom? I was shocked and devastated; it was brutal and my life was chaotic once again.
On January 13, 2017, I checked into rehab. I knew I was an alcoholic. But why me? I was a good person; I had done all the right things. I had suffered enough to last a lifetime. If I had overcome every challenge in my life, why couldn’t I overcome my drinking? I was resentful at the Universe. A speaker came to the rehab and I asked him, ‘I just want to know why me?’ His answer was simple, ‘Even if you had the answer, it wouldn’t change anything. Don’t spend your time looking for the answer, spend your time on the solution.’ That simple exchange changed my entire outlook and from that day forward I was only interested in getting well. I got a sponsor, went to meetings, and created simple daily practices in my life. Meditation, self-care, and mindful awareness.
I got into the middle of the program and worked the steps. Instead of doing it my way, I listened and watched those who had long-term sobriety. I thought I just had a drinking problem, but really, I had a thinking problem. My anxiety and trauma and the stories I had told myself to make myself feel better made my thinking delusional. I was defining who I was based on my past and unrealistic expectations.
It was lonely at first, but those that had come before me carried me until I could stand on my own. I had heard of these spiritual experiences during recovery and I couldn’t grasp what that meant. Nine months after I got sober, my home burned down in the Tubbs Fire and I lost everything I owned. Everything, except my spirit. My girls and I fled our home at 1:00 a,m. on October 8, 2017, in our pajamas. Again, here came the chaos that had become so familiar to me all my life, but instead all I could feel was a sense of serenity. I wasn’t asking, why me? And I wasn’t looking for a glass of wine to solve my problems. I was finally at peace.
When you are drinking, you are blocking yourself from the sunlight of the spirit. Light just can’t make its way into the darkness of your heart. My whole world was now shining light. Everything I saw looked brighter, every sunrise and sunset had meaning. I couldn’t wait to touch the ocean, feel the rain, and put my feet in the lake. There was joy all around me and I had missed it for so long. I am now a light to others; four of my girlfriends have since gotten sober with my help, and they knew where to come for direction. It’s amazing to see them change their lives. My niece got sober and came to me for help. There is nothing better than serving others. Now I get to help carry others until they can stand on their own.
I had guilt and regret over the wreckage my drinking caused those I loved. I also knew that if I hung onto these feelings, I would hinder my future. I had to have faith and forgiveness. There was no way to change the past, the façade was over. I had to treat myself and others with grace and transparency. I had to be honest. I only needed to do the next right thing. I asked Mike once why he stayed and he said, ‘Christine that was only a small part of who you were. I could always see you, I could see who you really were. A beautiful person and mother.’
My husband and I have been together for 8 years and have 4 wonderful children. My two girls and his two boys and we are one big blended beautiful family. Mike who does not consider himself an alcoholic, although alcoholism also runs in his family, got sober one month after me. He has always said, ‘Why would I choose to drink over having this wonderful life?’
Recovery has given me so many gifts and the greatest of those gifts is breaking the generational curse in my family. If that is my sole purpose in life, the only gift I leave behind, I am satisfied. Living a life absent of alcohol, chaos, and drama is a life filled with stability, serenity, and joy.
I want others to know they don’t have to suffer alone. There are so many of us on the road to recovery. I was the first person in my family and my friend group to get sober. I was scared and lonely; I shouldn’t have had to feel this way. We aren’t the drudges of society. We are just regular people with a disease. For a long time, I was reluctant to share my story, but I don’t need to be anonymous. I am an amazing mom, wife, and friend that also happens to be a recovering alcoholic. Many of my friends and family have now joined me on this road and what a beautiful road it is. There is no shame in recovery.
Today I am 1,992 days sober. On July 13th I will be sober 5.5 years.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christine DeBeni Ludeman from Windsor, California. You can follow her journey on Instagram and business Instagram. 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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