This is a post I wrote and shared in a live-streaming event sponsored by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and Listen to Your Mother in an effort to end Teen Medicine Abuse. You can watch my reading here (Part 2) of the show, and the other readers (who were amazing) here (Part 1) and here (Part 3, Ms. Rosas). If you prefer to read the posts, here are links to the other writers:
Brandi Jeter – http://mamaknowsitall.com
Sherri Kuhn – http://oldtweener.com
Heather King – http://www.extraordinary-ordinary.net
Lyz Lenz – http://www.lyzlenz.com/
Judy Miller – http://judymmiller.com
Lisa Page Rosenberg – http://www.smacksy.com
Alexandra Rosas – http://www.gooddayregularpeople.com
Ellie Schoenberger – http://www.onecraftymother.com
Zakary Watson – http://www.raisingcolorado.com
Melisa Wells – http://suburbanscrawl.com
I am honored to have been a part of this event. Telling my story somehow, trying to help even one other person, makes the damage I caused myself and my family worth something. It gives those years meaning.
I hope you share the work of these amazing women with your teenagers.
I could tell you that I started just like you, like every other partying kid in high school, with marijuana and Peppermint Schnapps and good times.
I could tell you how I was a smart, capable “high-potential” kid but a daily drinker by age 18 and how I went to a good university anyway and was in honors programs and studied abroad in Spain.
I could tell you how I had a husband and kid by the time I was 22 and no idea how I got there, because I was drunk, pretty much all the time. It was the only time I felt alive. It was the only time I felt okay.
I could tell you how I tried to control my drinking and discovered I could not, and how I spent years trying to decipher what exactly was wrong with me, why I drank every night even though every morning I swore to myself I would not, and I could tell you how sometimes when I would drink I would buy cocaine and then I would get hooked on cocaine.
And cocaine takes you down fast.
I could tell you how I went to psychiatrists and psychologists to get better, to quit drinking, to clean up my act, to be the wife and mother and woman I wanted to be, but could not. I could tell you how I had a second child to try to clean up, but could not. And I could tell you how my mom came one Saturday morning and said she was taking my kids to the park, and how I knew she was lying because it was February and 7am and raining. And I could tell you how I let them go because I wanted to go back to bed.
I could tell you that they were 16 months and 5 years old, and I lost them and my job and my husband, and how I spent the next two years in and out of rehabs trying desperately to get sober, and how one day I woke up alone in the ER on a respirator with a bracelet on my wrist that said “Jane Doe, female, age unknown” and I thought to myself “But I have two babies, a husband, and parents.”
I had been erased.
I could tell you how the doctor thought I was attempting suicide because there were so many substances in my body and how I looked him in the eyes and explained quite honestly “Oh no, doctor, I’m not trying to die. I do this every day.”
I could tell you how I was sure that experience would fix me, how I went to rehab for 30 days, again, got out, went home and was drunk 7 days later, again.
I could tell you I was that woman, that mother, the one who missed kindergarten graduation – the dirtbag drug-addicted trash whose daughter kept a wooden box by her bed with pictures and notes and cards from the very woman who abandoned her. I could tell you my daughter still has that box, and in it still sit the letters I wrote her from wherever I was, asking how she was doing, drawing her pictures of flowers and houses and the beautiful things I wanted for her but could not provide.
I could tell you I never meant to be that woman, how I was more than that – I was always going to be more than that, but by the time I realized I couldn’t stop I had a brain as obsessed and addicted as my body and I could no longer tell the true from the false. My life seemed the only option, and it was only in the dark gray haze of those mornings, when I would lie shaking and sweating coming off whatever binge I had been on, as my mind cleared for the first time in days and the truth of my existence crept in like a cold evening fog…I was a drunk. A failure. I would have given anything in those moments to change my life, to be free, to stand with my children as a real mother and among the people like a real human – to be a daughter and a friend and an employee, just a person capable of living a real life on this earth.
But I always seemed to drink again.
I always seemed to drink again.
Until one day, out of ideas and people to blame (they were all gone), I saw the truth of myself: I am the problem. I am an alcoholic. I will die a useless drunk and I’m powerless to change it.
The bottle killed me that morning – not my body, but my self, everything I was or ever imagined myself to be. It ate me away and left me for dead. From that space of utter desperation other alcoholics were able to teach me what alcoholism is, and I finally understood that I have a different mind and body, and can never consume alcohol safely in any form.
I could tell you I am a terrible example of alcoholism, because most of us end up in jails or institutions or dead, but by some miracle I’m sitting here talking to you, and I sit at tee-ball games and back-to-school night like any old mom that ever existed.
I could tell you all this, my friend, I could tell you every gory detail and I could tell you how my past sits like a seething wound in the middle of my gut and how I have memories so dark that when they come I shake my head like a crazy person to make them go. I could tell you all this but you won’t see. You won’t see because you’re young and you think you’re like everybody else and you’re partying and having fun and better and smarter, but nobody knows they’ve got this disease until it’s too late.
I could tell you, but you won’t understand, unless you’re lucky enough to survive and come out on the other side, and look back and try to tell young people not to do what you did, to make a choice while they still have one, to live a little more life, a little more freely.
I could tell you all this, and I have, and you probably won’t see, but my God I must try, because something’s gotta make those years worth living.