Meet Recovery Rockstar, Rachel

My name is Rachel and I am most definitely an alcoholic. 

I grew up in a home with two loving parents and three older sisters; I was the baby. My mom and dad had us in "sets"; the two older sisters being 11 &13 years old when I was born, so by the time I was old enough to really remember anything, it really felt like I only grew up with my one sister who was only four years older than me. My dad, who grew up with an alcoholic father, but was not an alcoholic himself, was not overly involved with us girls. He worked and provided for our family financially, but there wasn't really any real emotional connection with any of his daughters. I never held that against him, and now as an adult, I realize that he was just doing what he knew best. He did the best that he knew how.

My mother did most of the raising of us daughters. She raised us in the church. To teach us about spirituality and give us a firm moral compass. As a result, I was baptized in the church at the age of seven. I tried to follow God's will for my life the best I could at a young age, but my mother, being on a budget, had inadvertently taught me that anything is permissible as long as you don't get caught. She didn't mean to teach me this, but she'd do things like stuff my six year old winter coat with snacks for the movies so she didn't have to buy them at the theater. Or she'dyell, "Hit the deck" while driving a carload of un-seatbelted kids in our family's station wagon to the beach or the pool past a police car. Like I said, she didn't mean to teach me that anything is permissible as long as you don't get caught, but in my little alcoholic brain, it showed me that rules could be bent, and even broken. I took this "lesson" to the extreme.

In Junior High School, I remember when the "D.A.R.E. dare to keep kids off drugs" campaign came into every classroom. The officer would show us samples ofalcohol and every drug imaginable in the mid-90's and explain situations where people had gotten into serious trouble with these things and then have all the students sign a pledge that they would never touch them. I signed the pledge to go along with everyone else, but his stories of what people did on these drugs were intriguing to me. I wanted to know WHY they were really "bad" and what it felt like to do them "just once". I remember confessing that thought to my best friend and I thought it was weird that she heeded the warnings. She had no curiosity about any of it. In retrospect, I realize now why I thought so differently. I am an addict, an alcoholic, but I didn't touch a drink or drug until high school. 

In high school, I tried my hardest to live up to the expectations I had of myself to be a good, Christian girl. I really did. But I was torn between who I knew I should be and what I wanted to do or try "just once". It wasn't until I had my first drink,  two shots of straight 151, that my morals and values went out the window. I remember taking those shots at 16 and not remembering anything else other than the grass against my face. That was it for me. I had "arrived" as they say. No longer was I insecure. That alcohol, I thought, gave me all the confidence and "life of the party" attitude I needed. None of my authority figures were any the wiser. I lived a double life. Singing on the church's youth group worship team and then hanging out with my partying friends after. That double life nearly did me in and depression set in.

I began to loathe who I was and became a cutter. The idea to cut just popped into my head and I gave in. I cut before it was "cool". Cutting was a release for me. Released all the anxiety as I watched the blood flow. However, cutting, along with smoking pot and drinking, soon became a mental obsession. Some days I'd cut for no reason at all. It was an addiction. An addiction that is until I found cocaine. My boyfriend at the time had introduced me to cocaine at 17 years old. I began stealing from my job at the local grocery store and from my parents to support my new found love of this high. I took $180 a day from my mom's cash stash for a good three months before she started to notice that anything was missing. I remember the day they confronted me. I denied everything. They went through my purse piece by piece. She overlooked my breathmint tin which had all my coke, razorblade, and straw in it and flushed my pot and broke my pipe. She almost gave up looking. When she picked up my breathmint tin again, I sprang from my chair and my dad pushed me back and held me down. I started punching his ribcage over and over. It was over. They found it. They flushed it. I was devastated. Who was this girl? Who was this monster? They grounded me for months, took my cell phone and my car. My car they kept as their own to pay for what I stole from them. I detoxed in my bedroom. It was awful.

Once sober, I vowed to myself and to God to never touch cocaine ever again. Once sober for a couple of months, my parents started to trust me a little bit and I was able to hang out with my friends again, only they had to pick me up because I no longer had a vehicle to get around. I started to drink and smoke pot again thinking that this is just what normal high school kids did; even though I was the only one ever out of all my friends that asked to pull over to puke or had to be peeled off the ground because the driver's curfew was fast approaching. To this day, I have no idea why my friends kept wanting to hang out with me! Some days, I'd be so ashamed of what I did the night before, or I wouldn't want people to know that I was drinking screwdrivers on a Tuesday night, so I'd drink alone in my bathroom. As if THAT's normal behavior for an almost high school graduate. All the while, I'm keeping up my double life. My boss never suspected anything of me, I was never in any legal trouble, and my parents thought I was doing well at this point because I was still attending my youth group regularly, spoke of spiritual things around the right adults, and was even going on missions trips with the church. I had been to Bolivia, Kenya & Mexico all with the church. Still dying inside from the internal war of knowing who I should be, but not living up to the expectations I had of myself.  

I graduated high school, not with any honors, but not by the skin of my teeth either. I did just enough to get by. Shortly after graduating in June of 2004, I met a man who is now (still, by the grace of God) my husband. Two months after we met, we got pregnant with our first son. I was four months pregnant on our wedding day. I thought to myself, "ok, NOW is the time to grow up" and I was sober throughout my pregnancy. My husband and I started attending church together and we were going to raise our son in a spiritual home. I'd see these families in the church. These mothers who seemed to have it all together, with all their ducks in a row. The "cookie cutter Christians" as I called them. I couldn't relate; that simply was not me. I was sober for the first year, mostly because I was breastfeeding, but once the boy was off the boob, I was off and running again. Drinking only on the weekends, but smoking pot every day. However, when I drank, it was never "just one". It was the whole bottle and then I'd walk up to the corner store to get more. But I thought I deserved it for being such a great stay at home mom and wife. I was even homeschooling our son for kindergarten and first grade.

Five years later, we got pregnant with our second son. That pregnancy was rough on me. My water started leaking at 29 weeks and I was put on bed rest for five weeks in a hospital 40 minutes away from our home. I had to be away from my husband and little boy. I played the victim card hard. I had already decided that because I had to deal with this hardship that I was entitled to drink the second we got out of that place. I kept that promise to myself. Still, all the while, living that double life. Stealing, lying, and hiding how much and how often I drank. That fact is mostly why I smoked pot. I didn't want to be drunk all day, every day, or people might think there's something wrong with me. I felt that I could hide being high off weed better than I could hide drunkenness. We started to struggle financially. I needed my quarter of pot every other day and my large bottle of cheap, diluted vodka every single day. Kamchatka or Orloff to be exact. I think I bought that specific kind of alcohol because no one else would take me up on it when I offered them some. It was all for me. It was around this time that I decided that I could not homeschool our oldest. He attended his first public school class in the second grade. It was also around this time that I had given up on any relationship with God. It was easier for me to deny that there even was a God to look at myself and my actions in comparison to his holiness & grace.

I remember one instance when I sent our oldest son off to the bus at 9am and I had set up my toddler with breakfast in front of the television, just as I did every day, and I laid down on the couch to recover from the night before. My husband would come home from work for lunch everyday at 11:30am. This particular morning, I had passed out, as per usual, and I awoke to my husband frantically asking, "Where's Micah?!" I had no idea. I was horrified. My husband found our son wailing, pinned upside down in between his dresser and the wall right next to a second story window. Anything could have happened. I had no idea how long our baby had been there. Was it two hours? Or ten minutes? I had allowed alcohol and drugs to take my "good mother" title from me. My self worth plummeted. My downward spiral had really taken hold.

Every evening, I'd line up four shots for myself to get the night going. I remember staring at them, on more than one occasion, and think "is THIS really all there is?" I quickly drowned that thought with more alcohol. My husband began to dump my alcohol down the drain and I would pout or make empty promises to have him agree that I could buy more even though I knew we were unable to make rent and were facing eviction. I would hide water bottles full of my vodka under the sink lest he decide I was not to have it anymore. A friendly neighbor would offer me his top shelf liquor and in turn, I became unfaithful to my husband. I had allowed alcohol to take my "good wife" title from me. I numbed the sting of self-loathing with more alcohol. When the truth of this came into light, my husband chose to forgive me, but I couldn't forgive myself. I thought I didn't deserve any forgiveness or grace whatsoever. I couldn't be a mother, I sucked at being a wife, and we were losing our home. I became suicidal. I thought about killing myself every day. I knew how I'd do it and where. I told my husband and my mother of these thoughts and they both suggested counseling. I started seeing a counselor on a weekly basis. I wanted to get better. I needed to get better. I just didn't know how.

We got evicted from our apartment and if not for my husband's family, we, my husband, our two sons, and myself, would have been completely homeless. They had a tiny house in a valley and only had one tiny spare bedroom that our boys would stay in. My husband and I stayed in the attached, but unheated, one-car garage with all of our belongings that we could fit in there with us. The rest of our furniture was scattered amongst friends and family members to store for us until we got "back on our feet". I hated that garage. The pity-party I held for myself every day raged. I started drinking in the afternoons.

The only glimmer of hope I had in my sad life was the fact that my sister, the one I grew up with, was having a baby. She was to have this baby with a midwife, in water, in her living room. She had asked me (me?!) to be the only family member at the birth, other than her husband and her eldest daughter. I was to be the photographer of the event. I looked forward to this more than anything. The time came when my sister went into labor. I went over to her house and we waited and waited. The midwife declared that the baby was probably not coming until morning and told everyone to get as much rest as they could. So, I went home and started my usual routine. I got wasted. When I woke the next morning at 10am, my husband told me that he had tried to wake me. He shook me repeatedly in the early morning to no avail. The baby was born at 4:30 that morning. I missed it. I was beside myself. I got up, got dressed and went over to meet my new baby nephew. I apologized to my sister from the bottom of my heart and she forgave me. She forgave me, but her face said it all. This kind of behavior had become expected of me. I had become expected to be unreliable, even for something as important as this.

My counselor that I was seeing suggested going to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was like, "uhhhhh, no.... alcohol is not my problem". Total denial. So he suggested that I simply try to not drink any alcohol at all in between our sessions. I figured that this was an acceptable challenge to prove to him and to myself that I didn't have a drinking problem, so I gave it a go. The first night without alcohol, I was in physical pain. I could not sleep for the life of me, every joint and bone and muscle in my body physically hurt, and I was having cold sweats. I gave in and drank again after two nights of this pain, but now realized that this had become more of a problem than I had been willing to admit.

I went to my first AA meeting ever in June of 2013. I picked a local one at random from online sites. It just so happened to be what seemed as the biggest meeting ever with over 200 people in one room. The people were friendly enough and the ladies I sat with in the front were welcoming and they even gave me a big blue book. The story I heard peaked my interest and the people seemed nice and happy, but I still wasn't sure that this was what I wanted or even if it was for real. A week later, I attended my second meeting ever and it was a discussion meeting and is still my home group today. I remember seeing a younger crowd. They seemed happy and if they were truly sober and THAT happy with themselves and with life in general, then I want what they have. I saw this girl from across the room who had the biggest smile on her face and a boisterous, infectious laugh. She was confident. I wanted that. I asked her to be my sponsor that day. And even though I'd only call her after I made terrible decisions at first, she still answered the phone. She still took me to meetings even though I was high off marijuana for the first five months. She was my first real example of what it means to be a recovering alcoholic working a program. 

On December 2, 2013, I finally surrendered. That was my first, full sober day since I had been pregnant with my second son. That was the day my sponsor and I cracked open that big book that I had used as a coaster for my alcohol for five months. That was the day I started working the twelve steps. That was the day I finally accepted grace and my relationship with my God became really, truly real. My sponsor took me through the entire Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and all of the twelve steps within my first year, but my outlook on life, my attitude, and my actions had changed drastically within the first few months. My life was changing with the twelve steps and I ran with it. My confidence and self worth improved. I had found "it". I had found hope. I had found purpose. My life had meaning again. The program had made me a spiritual being, a good wife, and a good mother. I was making real friends and learning how to be a real friend in return. The love I get to give in this program is nothing compared to the love I get. I owe this program my life. Today, I understand that being spiritual does not mean perfection, it means progress. As long as I keep moving forward and try to do better than I did the day before, I'll be ok.

In sobriety, I've made lifelong friends that I have genuine love for and who would, at the drop of a hat, do anything to help without expecting anything in return. 

In sobriety, I've had hellafun going on roadtrips, going to amusement parks, taking family vacations (because, now, there's money to do those things! Who'daThunk?!) and having wholehearted belly laughs.

In sobriety, I've gotten to sponsor other women myself and watch the miracle of them "getting it" and feeling serenity for the first time in years.

In sobriety, my sister that I grew up with got pregnant again and had another home birth with a midwife that I was able to be present for and be the photographer, and today, I am the nanny to both my niece (18 months old) and my nephew (3 years old).

In sobriety, I've experienced all of the promises that they talk about. They really do come true.

And actually, just about a month ago, my husband and I purchased our very first house after living in the apartment we had for almost three years. (we lived in the garage for nearly seven months total before getting an apartment)

 One of my sponsees said to me, "Rachel, you don't have to LIVE in a garage anymore.... you HAVE a garage!"

I am absolutely blown away by how far my life has come in less than three years. Just by trying to do the next right thing. By staying loving to all, being honest, unselfish, with pure motive, and making amends when necessary (because I'm still human! I'm not perfect!)

This program has given me a life worth living and I'm gonna run with it. God is so good! 

I would encourage anyone that thinks they may have a drug or alcohol problem to just attend a meeting, be it AA or NA, just go to a meeting. Watch the people there. We really are not a glum lot. We love life and have a lot of love to give if you simply open up. You may think that no one could relate to "your situation", but let me tell you, you are not unique. Every single one of us in those rooms has done shitty things, but we don't have to regret the past or wish to shut the door on it. Our mistakes were simply the broken foundation on which we build a new one. 

Try a meeting. Get some phone numbers and use them. And give the 12 steps a shot. There's thousands upon thousands of people who would back me up when I say, it's not the meetings that changed my life, it's those twelve steps and a belief in a higher power that did the changing. The meetings are where we gather to spread the message and to get support for current problems. It's worth it just to try. There IS a better way of life. 

Thank you for letting me share my story.

Much love,

Rachel