I could tell you my story

by Janelle Hanchett

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 So happy to be here, in more ways than one.

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.

With love,




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.


This post is sponsored by The Partnership at Drugfree.org as part of a blog tour with listentoyourmothershow.com in an effort to #EndMedicineAbuse.

29 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | September 12, 2013
  • J o s e y

    Wow, this is a truly powerful post Janelle. Beautiful.

  • Jennifer Hamman

    Janelle, this is so inspiring. As the daughter of an alcolholic mother and a totally fucking clueless and guilt-ridden mom myself, this brought tears to my eyes. I only wish my mom was able to be as open and honest and raw as you are about her own past. I just love all your posts–the funny ones as well as the serious ones. Thank you for sharing. I know this must have been difficult for you.

  • Stephanie

    Thanks for posting this. I missed the whole thing the other night. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. Always. Agh. I will watch it tonight.

  • Mina

    I am happy for you that you got back from that hell. But I am so much happier for your children. Children should have their parents around, not in that hell, from where so few get back. They need you now and will always need you, so it is nice that you got the chance to actually be there for them. Where you should. Your daily effort and courage to stand up to the addiction is rewarded by making bright memories with your children. Congratulations. Both for beating it, and for speaking about it.

  • Kateri Von Steal


    I’m crying, so I got nothing to say… but thank you.

  • bernie

    i am humbled by your truths…thank you sor sharing…

  • SL

    Nothing I could possibly say would sound appropriate, but here it goes – I admire your strength! It takes more then guts – being the bad example…

  • Cath

    Thank you for your honesty.

  • Sara

    “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 can relate to that… Even though I didn’t experience what you experienced, that sentence really speaks to me, because that’s what I’m trying to do: to tell my story so that it helps someone else…

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • Pam

    Holy shit that was amazing.

  • Maia

    Thank you

  • Louise Allan

    One of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read. It sounds trite, but I’m so glad you made it out the other side — the world needs you to write. Not just young people, but all of us.

  • cindylu

    As the daughter of a recovering alcoholic (20+ years sober), I can’t tell you how much it means to have your parent back. We celebrate my dad’s anniversary of sobriety with more effort than his birthday.

  • Shan

    Just a lot of love for you and your babies and your husband and your mom.

  • Jodi

    I’ve read it 3 times now, and I still come away with just one word. Powerful. Really, really powerful. There is no substance abuse in our immediate family, but I see how easily it can happen. I’m tucking this one away for 10 years or so, my daughter is only 3 right now, but even in 10 years reading this will still be effective.
    OK, now I’m going to go back and read it one more time and check out the other links too!

  • Heather


  • Bad Parenting Moments

    Incredibly powerful. You have a sea inside of you.

  • Robyn

    Very gutsy piece. Thank you for writing it, and surviving it. Just discovered your blog and what a treat it is. Thank you, thank you x

  • mid life mama

    Wow. I am so, so glad you came back – to life, to your family. Ive seen this up flee, so I know the truth of your words.

  • mid life mama

    Up close ***

  • Ash

    This hit so close to home that it has me in tears. Here I am, sober only because I’m pregnant with my second, thinking this time around it will fix me, make me well, turn me around so that I’ll be the kind of person who can survive to watch my kids grow up. I need to bookmark this and read it again and again.

  • Kendra

    thank you for this. i totally cried. i’ve always thought: there, but for fortune…
    all of our paths are so mysterious…
    i just feel so happy your whole family is together. just getting a glimpse of you through this blog, it’s clear you all bring more joy & light into the world…
    rock on, mama!

    • Sam

      I admire your voice, it takes a strong human being to put it all out there.

  • Hillary


    This post left me breathless and sad and proud and hopeful all at once. You are SO smart, SO well written and SO funny. I love your blog. Your posts resonate. And what a gift this post was because I am an ER doc and I take care every day of people suffering from addiction. It is hard to see sometimes the “person in there” during these visits-the overdose times, the withdrawal periods etc. I SEE YOU AND THEM BETTER because of this. Thank you.

  • kim hall

    This is a really beautiful post, Janelle. Thank you for it.


  • Susan

    As I sit here reading this on a Saturday morning, I cry. I cry because I see all the truth in your words, and how I wish I could express myself as well as you. At one point, I wrote, I wrote at that time were called ” essays”, now I see they are blogs! I wrote poetry, but only from my dark places. I sit here a 60 yr. old woman, feeling 30, but having lived a lifetime of addiction from all direction. My childhood was a happy one until the age of 12, my parents split up, my Mother so depressed sunk into alcoholism, but somehow always went to work, let us know how loved we were, raised us on $70 a week (3 teenagers, one in college). I went on to my own addictions, alcohol, cocaine, anything that came along. Then I got sick, really sick, 3 major surgery’s in a year, and a kidney removed sick. So along came my love of pain killers. Then married a wonderful, sweet soul of a man who was also ab alcoholic, with an alcoholic father and a younger brother who died of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver at 24 years old leaving behind twin girls, age 4. His whole family gone when we married. I only met his father once, he died of a heart attack 3 days later. His mother, breast cancer, the tear before his brother died. His whole family gone when he was 26! I was told I could never have children, which I always wanted so badly. Sunk deeper in alcoholism. But then I got the flu, I thought. In bed for a week, 2 negative pregnancy tests. But the rests were wrong, we had a beautiful, healthy baby girl! That was the happiest time in my life, being pregnant, giving birth, nursing her for two years. But as happy as I was, it was always in my head, in my whole body…I wanted an alternate state of being. I drank when I was nursing, terrible it know, took the pain killers from the dentist, or wherever. Then we had our second child, another beautiful, healthy red headed baby girl. Mary, or you could say, my Rocket! Trouble started with Mary when toddlers are supposed to start leaving their Mom’s little bits at a time, to explore their world, well she wanted nothing to do with that shit! It was Mamma all the time 24/7 and it never changed. Fast forward, my husband and I separated, so it was all on me until I made him start taking the kids every other weekend. I had stopped drinking by then, but still loved those pain killers! 2 car accidents in 2 years injured me so badly I was bedridden, until a Physical Rehab Hospital for 6 weeks got me back on my feet. That was 16 years ago, I still see a pain dr., chronic pain in my head back and neck. We were hit from behind by 3 cars at rush hour traffic. I sit here addicted to morpheme, oxys, prescribed to me for all these years. Since then my Mary died in a car accident a year after mine, her sister critically injured, but great now. My Mom a year later, she was 20 yrs. sober. My Dad, my Sister, 3 really good friends, and 1 1/2 years ago I found my husband dead on the kitchen floor. So, I sit alone, addicted to pain killers that no longer kill the pain. They don’t make any that strong! Therapy after therapy, and still, from the time I was 12 years old, I don’t know how to make my pain stop. Or how to handle it. My older daughter & I only have each other as our family and we can’t get along. Which is unbelievable to me, we were always so close. My sister is my best friend, and I love her so very much. But she has her own family, and problems! How can I keep burdening her with mine? I can’t. THE MEDS ARE SUPPOSED TO LAST ME A MONTH, THEY LAST 2 weeks, on a good month. The rest I have to buy either pills, or I prefer subutex, which is supposed to get you off the narcotics. That’s my world. This is my life at 60 yrs old. And I just wonder to myself, how did I get here? Why do some people seem to have such normalcy, whatever that is, and others nothing but pain? Is it nature, or nurture, a combination? How do you fix it? How do I fix me? And more importantly, do I even really give a shit enough to try, to put all that effort and work into it? I just don’t know anymore, and I don’t care. Just feel lost and broken, and to find your blog, of someone so much younger, but knows addiction’s grasp is amazing to me. Thank you. Thank you from my heart.

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