My name is Deanna. And I’m an alcoholic.
A year and half ago, these are words you would NEVER hear coming out of my mouth. Maybe “My name is Deanna. And I love to party!” or “My name is Deanna, I’m kind of a lush!” or, if I was feeling REALLY honest, maybe “My name is Deanna. I think maybe I drink too much”. But admitting that I was an alcoholic never even crossed my mind – I mean, come on! I was only 25 years old! I was just experimenting. Maybe having a quarter life crisis or something. Sure, I blacked out on a daily basis. And ok, I couldn’t hold a job because of my drinking. And, oh yeah, everyone I cared about couldn’t stand to be around me because I was always drunk. But me? An alcoholic? Definitely not.
I felt as if the word “alcoholic”, if uttered from my lips, would permanently be branded across my forehead. The Scarlet “A”, if you will. And while I had been called many things in my lifetime, one thing I did NOT want to be known as was an alcoholic. I thought it was a dirty word. I associated “alcoholic” with homeless people sitting on the side of the road, drinking vodka out of brown paper bags, begging for change. That wasn’t me. Things weren’t THAT bad.
But was I really so different? I wasn’t homeless, but I did live in what I generously described as a studio (but could be more accurately described as a large closet). It was filthy, with dirty clothes and empty wine bottles strewn all over the floor. In all honesty, the side of the road was probably preferable to my place. And while I wasn’t slugging hard alcohol out of paper bags, I was constantly drinking shooters that I had hidden in my purse. And maybe I wasn’t begging strangers for money, but I sure as hell was begging my parents.
No, I wasn’t that different. In fact, I was just the same – the only thing keeping me from the streets was a few extra dollars and a family that held on to the belief that I was “just going through a phase”. But that phase had lasted a miserable 6 years. 6 years, most of which I don’t even remember due to black outs. In that 6 years, I dealt with all sorts of troubles – troubles with the law, troubles with my finances, troubles with school, troubles with employers, troubles with friends, troubles with family. I was in a constant state of mild panic. I felt sick. I LOOKED sick. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why everything had gone so horribly wrong.
But, deep down, I knew. Even though I couldn’t admit it to myself (let alone anyone else), I knew that most, if not all, of my problems were related to my drinking. On numerous occasions, I had even tried to cut back and drink less. But once I had a drink to my lips, I couldn’t stop. In the end, I was drinking because I couldn’t deal with how awful my life had become. But every time I drank, my life got a little worse. It was a vicious cycle, and it was one that I honestly never thought I would pull myself out of.
But then, something happened. There was no drastic event that precluded my bottom. I had a moment of clarity in which I was able to step outside of myself and see myself for what I had become: a miserable, lonely, pathetic drunk. I did and said things when I was drunk that I was ashamed of. I had no real friends, and my family was about ready to give up on me. I was killing myself, but instead of getting it over with, I was dragging it out, dying a little more every day. And there was a big part of me that was ok with that. But there was a bigger part that was not. So I went to my family and told them I needed help. That I wanted to stop drinking, but I didn’t know how. And that if I didn’t stop I was fairly sure I was going to die.
I came to treatment in December of 2009. To say that I was terrified would be an understatement. My drinking had become so engrained in my being that I likened quitting drinking to chopping my arm off – that’s how much it was a part of me. But, despite the fear, I threw myself into treatment. I threw myself into it with, as we say in AA, “all the fervor with which the drowning seize life preservers”. Because it WAS my life preserver – I was drowning in a sea of booze, and I knew this was my only way out.
Treatment was by no means easy. I had to face my demons head on and work through a lot of issues that contributed to my alcoholism. I had to learn how to take care of myself – I had relied on alcohol for so long that even the most menial daily tasks, like making my bed or doing laundry, seemed overwhelming to me. I also had to relearn how to talk to and connect to people, without booze acting as a social lubricant. I had to find a job and figure out a way to support myself. I had to change my whole life.
But, as hard as it was, treatment was the best thing I have ever done. I worked through a number of issues I had been holding on to for years, made friends that have become like family, and, most importantly, began attending Alcoholics Anonymous. And today, my life is amazing. I have over 15 months sober. I attend multiple AA meetings every week and have an amazing network of sober friends that I can depend on. I have a sponsor taking me through the steps who I would trust with my life. I have a job that I love working at a treatment center with addicts in early recovery. I have more fun sober than I ever had drinking. And, perhaps the greatest gift of sobriety, I can honestly say I am happy with who I am. I don’t hate what I see in the mirror anymore. After a lifetime of feeling “less than” and “not a part of”, I am finally comfortable in my own skin.