I’ve had a wild streak my entire life, but I managed to paint a picture of having it all together. Husband, kid, fenced in yard. Roast in the oven every Sunday, bagged lunches for Eric every night, sandwich cut in two. All along, a beast lay dormant inside of me. He was waiting for me for years, and he picked my most vulnerable moment to surface himself. He turned me. He saw me at the edge, and when I trusted him enough to reach out my hand to him, he pushed me.
I hear the phrase “I beat my addiction” and I want to laugh. You never “beat” an addiction.
Addiction isn’t a game you can win, it’s not a phase you go through and look back on one day and think what a dumb ass you were. Addiction is always there, the linebacker two steps behind you waiting to tackle you to the ground. Sobriety is a gift on borrowed time, it’s not a trophy. It’s an emptiness that only the mourning feel. The friend or lover who’s always been there and suddenly vanishes. He’s the ex-boyfriend who calls you when you’re at your loneliest moment, yet won’t surface in your times of need. He’s a coward, and you can’t get enough. He’s the abusive husband you make up excuses for. Addiction is a selfless, loveless, unfair prick, and you can never beat him.
You can step quietly around him and hope today won’t be the day he decides to lash out at you, but you never, truly beat him.
I don’t remember my first drink. I do, however, remember my last. It was Bud Light Platinum.
December 31st 2013. I drank a lot more than that that night, but that was the last sip of alcohol I had. I wish it had been something more exotic. A beautiful gin martini, a sunset margarita, something fancy in a coconut. Have you ever sat on a beach in Waikiki and sipped a tequila sunrise? Let me tell you, I have, and if you ever quit drinking, that should be your last drink.
Addiction is a habit. It’s repetitive. Wine was my evening date. We would meet shortly after I was done working. We’d cook dinner together, we’d laugh at the latest celebrity news playing on the TV as we cleaned the kitchen, and we’d play with Shane and show Eric affection. Sometimes my date would stay late into the evening. We’d sit on the couch long after Eric was asleep and troll the internet or cry together at old home videos. Do I miss my date now? Every waking moment.
My day consists of getting though the waking hours. I literally live till the next minute. Then breathe. Then be calm. Be collective. Be.
Natural happiness doesn’t come easily to addicts. The warmth I felt with opiates was my happiness. They turned me into a better boss, a better mother, a better wife. I won’t lie, when I wasn’t drunk, I was probably high. And to say I saw nothing wrong with this is an understatement. To me, it was a way of life. And if I didn’t have anything to get high with, it became a second job to find something.
Pride is not something addicts embrace. Mind racing, keys in hand, where do I need to go? But it wasn’t always so readily available and those were the dark days.
One evening during a fit of withdrawal, I found a short and delusional sleep, one that’s brought a cold nightmare of my plans to end my pain.
Shane, now 27, is in a black tuxedo with a yellow rose pinned to his lapel. Eric enters the room and sizes up his grown son, pride swelling in his chest. “Your mom would have been so proud of you on your big day.” Shane’s eyes glassy and the beautiful blue I fell in love with the moment he was placed on my chest. “Yeah…I’m sure she would have”.
I don’t have the luxury of suicide. Because I will dance with my son at his wedding.
Going to rehab was the best experience of my life. At first I walked in, my head high, I don’t belong with these people. And there were all kinds. People from the streets, girls who had whored themselves out, men who were there because jail was not an option, criminals, and housewives. I learned quickly how faceless addiction is. We all had the beast inside of us, and He had driven us to the edge of needing help.
I sat in a room with 25 strangers, night by sober night, listening, learning, and wanting to live again.
The people I lived with in those three weeks became my lifeline. We all had a different story, some people had been through rehab before and knew the game. Some wanted to get sober, others not so much. It was the college dorm for misfits, and some of us were lucky enough to graduate coming out knowing something.
I’m not going to say the past year hasn’t had bumps in the road. I’m not going to say this is easy or even that it gets easier. But I wake up, and I live another sober day. I try to find a natural high in things. The trick to sobriety is to never abstain from the highs you can get without drugs or alcohol.
Kids seem to be the happiest people in the world, and that’s only because everything is new and beautiful. They aren’t damaged or cynical. Every day I try to bring out 9 year old Erin, who wanted to be a writer when she grew up, whose favorite drink was chocolate milk, and “high” was where she wanted to be pushed on the swings. I go back to the start. I live another day, and then I wake up again.
The Beast is no longer a match for me. My shield is Love and my sword is Hope. And even if I trip during the final battle, I will come out swinging.
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