Fourteen is a lucky number in our house. It is our family number. Fourteen is the number Jeff wore on his baseball jerseys, just as Ethan did. It’s the number Ollie wears on her softball jerseys as well. How old was I when I first met Jeff? You guessed it, fourteen. Today is fourteen for me.
Fourteen years ago November 7th was a Friday. It was colder than today, dark clouds filled the skies. I woke up with a pounding headache my brain dehydrated and veins pumping blood so loudly it felt like it was flowing directly through my ears. My lip was busted, split open and swollen. Deep vicious claw marks on my neck were caked with dried blood and starting to scab. My lower back in agony, I couldn’t stand up straight. My phone out of commission after its free dive into the toilet the night before. My life was a wreck and my body bore the physical evidence of it.
After years of abuse, a lifetime truly, I was finally finished. I had no more ideas, no more people to use, no more money, no more options. I had lost my job, lost my friends, lost my family, lost my son, lost me. I lost everything I had ever loved, ever hoped for, ever wanted. I hated myself. I hated who I had become. I hated that it was all my fault. I seethed with despair, rage, frustration, and self loathing.
Nothing would ever be the same.
My life would never be the same. My son would never be the same. My family, my friends, my world would never be the same. I was paralyzed by that thought; Nothing would ever be the same. If I had only known how right I was, if I had only known how wrong I was too. The life I had known was gone. Gone were the endless binges of excess. No more couch surfing, no more driving my dealer around for freebies. Cross country crime sprees? Done for. Yes, my life as an addict was over. What I traded that for was a terrifying unknown.
How could I know what the future held? I could barely focus on the moment. At that time, each moment held only pain and guilt. Every thought filled with remorse. Each day another endless slog through depression. Wishing eternally that somehow something would change. I had tried to stop drinking earlier that summer, some inkling in my heart that there is where my problems festered. I just didn’t know how to stop. How do you stop something that is integral to your personhood? I started drinking at 9 years old, nearly twice as many years later how could I just stop. Who would I be? Who would I become without that part of me? Me, the life of the party! The one up for anything! Fun and crazy party girl, yep that’s me! What would happen to her?
The more things change…
When I look back now, fourteen years later, I am in awe of what became of me. In those first few months of sobriety I went to jail, almost got my sister evicted (and she didn’t even live there!), my room-mate over dosed, my job required a 1.5 hour bus ride each way, I had no place to live, I had to do 100 hours of community service (ok maybe it just felt like 100 hours). If anyone had told me that all that shit would flow downstream onto me I would never have agreed. I would have run straight back to the bar or to my dealer and gotten good and toasted.
I am so glad I didn’t because what also happened was glorious. What also happened was I found out who I am, who I really am through meetings and 12 step work. I went back to my son, and he forgave me. My family and I reunited and I even got one of them to get sober with me! I rekindled a relationship with my ex where no one ever thought we would. I gave birth to a daughter who has never seen me drunk.
The more they stay the same, sort of.
Fourteen years have passed since I last drank alcohol or did cocaine. I am not perfect. My life is not perfect. My issues and the issues they caused did not just vanish. I still have to clean up my wreckage and make amends to those I scarred so deeply, I just get to sleep at night now. Today I get to look in my eyes in the mirror and not shy away. I can forgive myself. I get to live a life so far beyond my wildest dreams that I look back and think, silly girl what took you so long.
If you are struggling, feeling hopeless, questioning your life and life decisions – please know you are not alone. You are never alone. There are whole rooms full of people who will love you and teach you how to overcome. All it takes is a teensy bit of hope and a smidge of willingness to change your life. The rest takes care of itself in record time. No matter how tall your problems feel, we have been there. No matter how lost you are, we can help you find your way.
I thank God everyday for the miracles He has blessed me with. I didn’t deserve any of them. Now the only way for me to repay them is to offer my hand to those still suffering with the hope that they too will find their way. Each of us trudging our paths of happy destiny – and you know what, I am still the life of the party, still crazy and fun, still up for (almost) anything….only now I know we will all make it home safe.