[read time: 8 minutes]
[trigger warning: drug & alcohol abuse]
I was honest with myself. I had already hit my rock bottom, I felt, and still continued to drink. I was deep in the throes of addiction and I KNEW it, but I could not admit it. Still. Even after ten years of living this shit, I could not face myself in the mirror and honestly tell myself I had a problem. I also, after ten years of living this shit, still could not simply stop. As much as I wanted to, as much as I begged myself to. I couldn’t stop.
I took my honest answers from my honest questions and formulated a plan. In late 2015, I began to dream, over and over, that I was back at university. I mean literal night dreams; not daydreams.
I could not get those dreams out of my head. They began to permeate my consciousness. I thought to myself: wouldn’t it be neat if you actually went back to school to finish what you started?
I told my mom. She loved the idea. My parents have always supported me from day one. I decided to go back to university – at age 30, nine years after I had dropped out.
When I found out I actually got in to university – again – I dropped to my knees in gratitude and wonder. I did it, I said to myself. I did it.
I was slated to begin September 2016.
So, going into 2016, still drinking, knowing that 30 loomed over the horizon, AND that in September I would begin university again, I had to quit. I knew I would not be successful in my studies if I still drank and carried on the way I was.
Then, I made a fateful decision that would forever change my life and my view of drinking: I went to an AA meeting.
I cried and cried throughout the whole meeting. (Indeed, that meeting’s host told me later on that he couldn’t even look at me.) I had no idea I was an alcoholic until that moment – despite being told so by numerous people leading up to that point.
I discovered, for the first time, that to truly be a successful human and overcome my addiction, I had to become sober. It was true: alcohol had a hold over me. There was nothing I could do about it but completely stop.
I worked with a sponsor. I worked some of the program. (I will make a post about the problems with AA later. All you need to know now is that it helped me become sober.) I went to meetings. I met new people. I worked the Big Book.
My first meeting was late January 2016. I made it one week before messing up and drinking again. I went back. I relapsed. I went back. I relapsed again. I went back again, and relapsed again during Easter weekend 2016. On March 25, 2016, I drank all night. Despite being completely wasted on two bottles of wine, I drove to the liquor store to get more. I had my drug dealer come drop off coke at 2am. I partied by myself all night, culminating in me taking selfies of myself at 4 in the morning, alone in my condo with headphones on, covered in oil paint from some project I was attempting to do, to make sure I had a record of all the FUN I was having and thus a reason why I did not have to quit drinking and drugs.
When I finally woke up some time on the 26th, I felt wretched. I was so disappointed in myself – why couldn’t I stop? I cried in my bed all afternoon and crawled out to the kitchen for food some time in the evening. When I saw my art supplies strewn all over the kitchen counters, I remembered about the selfies.
The face that looked back at me from my phone was horrifying. My lips were stained a clotted red from wine. Black eye makeup smeared my cheeks. My hair was a mess; my face was oily.
But the thing that haunted me the most was my eyes – they were unfocused, looking at something beyond my phone. Half-closed, it was as if my pupils had wandered in different directions.
I had no idea I looked like this. I quickly deleted all said selfies and promptly felt like shit for the rest of the night. But – that was it. I went back to AA, admitted my mistake once again. Once again, I was in recovery mode.
Then something happened. My days being sober began to add up. I went two weeks sober instead of just one. I soon collected my one month chip, then, before I knew it, I was six months sober and beginning university again.
To this day, I have not drank since. I celebrate six years of sobriety today, on 26 March, 2022.
I felt good enough to go back to my job in May 2016. The very first day I was back, a guy on my team who spread rumours around the office that I got into a car accident because I was drunk (untrue) called in sick because he was hungover.
I’m just going to let that sink in.
A few days into my attempted foray back into work, I was miserable. I was on a set schedule and only worked 7-11am. I consistently, for the first time ever, showed up to work, primarily because I was not hungover.
I thought to myself: I only have to be here until September, and then I can quit, because I’m going back to school.
Then something amazing happened.
Within a week of returning, the company offered buy-outs to anyone who wanted to apply. A “buy-out” is when a company canvases employees to take a financial package and leave. This is usually done to weed out undesirables who want to leave but don’t want to quit; it may also be done to save the company some money.
I applied. Unsurprisingly, my offer was accepted.
(If I had not applied for the buy-out, I would have likely been fired, as mass firings of managers were also occurring at that time, including an old friend of mine who was fired after being off for maternity leave for a year. Yep, that’s legal.)
The day I left that company, I drove home singing and happy. It was a beautiful day; the sun shone; I was still sober.
I began university that September 2016, sober.
The same year that I quit drinking and cocaine was the same year that fentanyl overdoses began to be noticed in the media. Indeed, it is the first year that statistics were seriously looked at. It was the first year that deaths skyrocketed because of illicit drug use.
A mere 16 days before I got sober for good, a friend died from a fentanyl overdose in the very same city I escaped.
I did not attend his funeral.
My story could also have ended here.
But, life continued on. I gave birth to my healthy and happy daughter in February 2018.
In April of 2019, I finally graduated from university, after initially beginning over 15 years earlier, in 2004. I graduated with a BA in English (Lit) and a minor in Creative Writing. Not too far off from my initial university dream. (Due to life circumstances, I was unable to return to my dream school as it was too far away. Also, I still cannot visit the city that caused me so much pain.)
Today, I write for a living. I am doing what I initially set out to do over 15 years ago, at the young age of 18, when I was innocent as to what would come next.
If there is any solace in this story, at least to myself, it is this: I am finally living my dream, my truth. I had to go through ten years of absolute shit, addiction, sickness and pain, to be able to get where I am today.
On reflection, would I have rather skipped the years of drinking and drug abuse in favour for not learning things the hard way? I don’t know. I don’t know what would have happened instead of ten years of battling a disease. Maybe things would have been better. Maybe they would have been worse.
But whatever way the years may have went, I will never know. I mean, if I didn’t go through what I did, I’d have nothing to write about now – right?