THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "Margaret"
Originally posted on May 2000(The author retains all rights to this material)
RECOVERY IS A MIRACLE
Hello, my name is Margaret, and I am an addict. It took a long time for those words to flow smoothly from my lips. I knew for years that I was addicted to finding substances to alter my natural moods. I could say it silently to myself, but I could not say it out loud. I would go to the meetings and say the words, but I would be detached from the reality of the meaning.
Unfortunately, it is in my heritage. I come from a long line of Alcoholics on my maternal side. My Grandfather was a Moonshiner who had a Still in the mountains of western Pennsylvania during Prohibition. My mother told me that they spent many hours hiding from the Feds in her youth. After alcohol was legalized, my Dziadzia (Polish for Grandpa) opened a Bar. My mother never drank, but some of her brothers and sisters became alcoholics like their father. I inherited the addiction gene from that side of the family.
When I think back so many years to my youth, I find that caffeine is the very first substance I used to alter myself. I knew as a child that Pepsi Cola gave me a lift and I liked it. When I got into high school I was introduced to coffee. The caffeine was wonderful. I was at the pharmacy one day to buy Bayer Aspirin and saw Caffeine Pills "OH My My My", was I one happy camper. I took them constantly and gave them to all my friends. We buzzed through the last two years of High School. It blows my mind to think that something that sounds so natural as caffeine made such an impression on me and started me on my mind-altering life through adulthood. My addiction began growing its roots.
My first alcoholic consumption came when I was seventeen. Being a good teenage sister, I went to my brother's house to baby-sit on a Friday night. Since it was in another County, I stayed for the weekend. We were invited to his neighbors' "for a drink" on Saturday. I began my longtime, intimate relationship with the inside of the porcelain throne that night. I also learned that a room can spin while you lay on an unmoving bed - even with one foot on the floor. It is not a fond memory.
Shortly thereafter I began dating my first boyfriend who later became my husband. He LOVED his beer. I did not drink for quite a while after my first unpleasant introduction to rum and coke, and I did not understand how he could love something that tasted and smelled as dreadfully horrid as beer did. We got married after nine months of dating.
I am from the generation that was raised when parents still had family dinners on Sunday afternoons. Every Sunday we would go to his parents for dinner and his father would make whiskey sours. I always loved the taste of lemon, so sours were delicious to me. I was not overly thrilled about giving up every Sunday afternoon, so I relied on the whiskey sours to make me feel more comfortable with the situation. I soon bought my own whiskey and learned to make them at home.
After the birth of our second child, a friend of my husbands found a new, very young girlfriend who introduced us to Pot. We found that pot and wine were a nice combination. I never particularly liked wine, but once I was "lit" from the pot, the wine tasted good, and so did everything else edible! We managed to spend many years in "pot heaven" laughing and giggling and eating and partying. It seemed like everyone was getting high on something. Fortunately, and I really mean FORTUNATELY, I never got into any drugs "stronger" than pot. With my addictive genes, I know I would have gone straight down the path of destruction. It seems that everything we did and everyplace we went revolved around using pot. It's amazing how you can accumulate so many friends when drugs are involved. The getting and using and finding ways and means to get more ...
Somewhere along the line the pot use ceased and the alcohol consumption increased. Lack of money most likely had something to do with that. But, I found out that gin and tonic were flavorful and refreshing. My mother-in-law was a widow by this time and I would stop to visit her (at cocktail time, of course) and she introduced me to gin and tonic. It should not be normal to go visit your 75-year-old mother in law and come home smashed, but I did it all the time. She would only sip one, while I swilled down three in rapid succession.
When I got divorced, my alcohol consumption increased even more because I was alone a lot and my bottle was my constant companion. This was truly a case of "An addict alone is in bad company". When I went out, it was always centered around a bar setting and I was always amazed that people could go to a bar and sip one drink for a long period of time, or just drink ONE drink. I now know that it is because they are not alcoholics, and I am. I would order two drinks at a time because I would immediately bottoms-up the first one and have the second one to drink more slowly. I had a friend who lived around the corner and she would always drive, so I was able to drink and not worry about driving. I began having black outs.
Sometime during this period, I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting, most likely after a severe hangover. That was about fifteen years ago. And, as I have heard many addicts say, I did not feel that it was for me because I was "not one of those people". I did not lose my job or license or family or live in a cardboard box. Through the years, I would periodically go to AA meetings and stop drinking for short periods of time. I was not ready to surrender and always thought that I would be able to "control" my addiction. I knew I was addicted, but did not want to give up using.
I met a man who did not drink or drug. Not at all, NONE, NOTHING. He moved in with me and I did not drink for several months. Then, it slowly crept back into my lifestyle. Slowly, it began to consume me every night. I went for alcohol counseling. My counselor sent me to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting thinking he was sending me to Alcoholics Anonymous. I connected with NA very much. I felt more comfortable there than I did at AA. The message I heard in NA seemed to hit home very closely. I learned that alcohol is a drug and that I was caught in a continuing and progressive illness. I regularly went to NA meetings for a while until I got complacent and stopped. I relapsed. I hit my bottom when my dog died. My wonderful, delightful, perfect dog. I was so distraught that I could not stop crying for an entire week. I was hysterical and dove directly into the vodka bottle and pulled the cork in on top of me. I began to throw up constantly. When I started throwing up blood, I knew that I had reached the point that I would have to stop or there would be no return at all. I would die.
On a Friday night I gave up and swore that there would be no more. I had said that so many times before, and it would only last for a short period of time, but I knew now that I had to stop the insanity. The next morning I woke up feeling awful and lay in bed for the entire Saturday shaking and crying and vomiting. I could not even keep water in my stomach. I considered going to the hospital, but told myself that I had to lay there and be punished for the harm I had done to myself and then move forward. I had reached the point of surrender. I returned to the Narcotics Anonymous meetings and went to 132 meetings in 90 days. I went to an outpatient treatment program where the Counselor had never drank more than a toast at a wedding and had no clue what it is like to be an addict. He was completely out of his element. I get so much more from the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous than I did from that expensive treatment program. There is definitely a lot of truth that there is therapeutic value in one addict helping another. I have been clean now for eighteen months and feel great. I have three Narcotics Anonymous group commitments and I am considering taking another.
I go to three or four meetings regularly each week. I have met a lot of wonderful people through recovery. My sponsor is a delightful woman who has 16 years of clean time and she is a Counselor herself. I am so lucky to have her in my life. I have now gotten into a pattern of recovery that works well for me and the desire to use has been lifted. Recovery is a miracle. My name is Margaret. I am an addict.