Editor’s note: The author of this item wishes to remain anonymous. It is not the normal policy of WCN&V to publish anonymous submissions. This one is an exception. It is the tradition of the recovery fellowship — in which the author found belonging and recovery — to not use names in publications. The author is known to me – actually, she is a friend. I was deeply moved by her story, and I believe you will be as well. Perhaps it will be an encouragement to someone who is struggling with substance abuse.
March 8, 1982 — The day I made a decision to stop drinking.
Bad things had happened to me as a result of my drinking, and I had hurt people. Somehow though, wrecking my vehicle by hitting a parked car, getting arrested for DUI, and spending a night in the local jail finally got my attention.
I did not like the person I was and felt shame constantly. I was so tired of expending the effort to look okay on the outside while being miserable on the inside. I had stopped drinking and using any other substance before, to prove to myself that I could. But I always drank again.
When I got home from jail that morning, I began looking for a meeting of that elusive fellowship, so anonymous at that time it was hard to find. I called a phone number I located in the phone book and received a return call. I was offered a ride, which I needed because my car was totaled. I went to a meeting that night. I was 23 years old, the youngest person in the group and the only female.
I kept going to those meetings, found one in the small town where I lived. I did the things that were suggested to me. Please note that I say “suggested,” because everyone acquainted with folks like me knows you cannot “tell” an alcoholic/addict what to do. Every morning I made a decision to not drink that day, or hour, or whatever it took. It was not an easy road. My boyfriend of nearly three years did not like me sober. I needed to move from the small town where I remained after attending college there, and I needed to find a new job.
I had always felt different and like an outsider. But I felt a sense of acceptance and belonging in those rooms. I found meetings in a larger city where there were more females and more young people. There was so much stigma then, especially for women. I dreaded the question on the job applications, “have you ever been arrested?” When I explained that I was a recovering alcoholic, to be honest about the arrest, I heard things like, “Oh, honey, whatever gave you that idea” or “you don’t look like one.”
Life went on with ups and downs common to us all. I finally got into therapy to address the mental health issues that became clearer in sobriety. I experienced job changes, bad romances, and moves. I looked like an adult on the outside, but I lacked emotional maturity. Gaining that has been a long process. I married another recovering person, and we had a child. He eventually relapsed. He could not get clean and sober again, and we divorced after eighteen years. He later died. Despite the times of pain, I am so grateful for that relationship and the now-adult child that came from it. I am grateful for a beautiful grandchild.
After moving to Winchester, it took some time to find my “tribe,” but I finally did. I have not felt different from others for a very long time, nor do I feel like an outsider anymore. I have wonderful caring friends, people whom I love, and people who love me. I am content and experience times of great peace.
My life is better than I could have imagined. It has not always been an easy path, but I like the person I am now. And it started 40 years ago today.