There is always that one moment that changes everything. Some call it a light bulb moment, some a moment of truth, or a moment of clarity. Whatever you want to call it, it is fierce and usually unexpected. It comes down to a realization about yourself, your choices, maybe even your future, and it is hard to deny and impossible to ignore.
I learned a frightening truth one day in an act of sheer desperation and fear. I was at work tending bar and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. My head was pounding and I was sweating like crazy. I drank all night and my hangover was a force to be reckoned with. I drank every day, so my ‘hangover’ was actually acute withdrawal after not having a drink for some hours and I felt like I wouldn’t survive another moment.
At the end of my bar was a huge cooler that kept the kegs cold and housed the liquors that were best consumed chilled. As I crept toward the door, I already felt guilty for what I had to do. As I opened the door I felt the cool air rush over me and it brought me a sense of safety, because I knew my suffering was about to end. I made sure the door closed tightly behind me so no one would see me, so no one would find out who I really was. There, I stood for a moment, contemplating the sadness in what I was doing.
My gaze wandered up and down the shelves of the cooler with a sense of hatred and craving. This simple liquid appeared so innocent and colorful, cheerful and safe. But for me, it was survival. It meant my head would stop hurting, my hands would stop shaking, and I would just feel normal again. I glared at those bottles wanting so badly for them to solve my problems, at the same time resenting them for controlling my life.
But I had no choice. I grabbed a bottle angrily and lifted it to my mouth. All I could hear in my head was what a failure I was and what a fraud I was to all the people that cared about me and believed in me. And when the rim of the bottle hit my lips I knew in an instant that solitude was coming. It was perfectly cold, and comforting. I felt the liquid go all the way down my throat, through my chest, and into my stomach and I felt as though my life had been saved. Alcohol was my savior and it instantly killed the pain, took away the tremors, and refreshed me like I was brand new again.
I reached up and put the bottle back on the shelf. As I began to remove my hand from its neck compulsion and fear swept over me and took away my choice. I grabbed it again, this time with more anger, and I gulped. Angry because I couldn’t get enough, angry because I hated it, and angry because I hated myself. And then, I gulped again. I knew in that moment, I am an alcoholic.
I would love to tell you that going to jail was enough to make me stop. Or trips to the emergency room, or the overwhelming sense of self-loathing and sadness that I lived with every day. But none of that made me stop. I didn’t care about hurting myself, or the people that loved me, and I longed for death every day just to make the suffering end.
What it took for me was a final moment of clarity that came in the form of tragedy. A moment where the pain was so great that it made me willing to change. In that moment, I realized that alcohol was not my savior or my solution or salvation. Alcohol was my problem.
I got sober when I was 33, and being an alcoholic was the best thing that ever happened to me. In my journey of recovery, I learned that I could be dedicated to something (other than drinking), and I learned that I was strong. I got to rebuild my life, go to college, and I got to reclaim my self-worth and confidence.
The truth is, this is what I was put on this earth for. To help others navigate this awful illness and help create a plan to nurture recovery through the long and winding road of addiction. Some people are uncomfortable to talk about addiction and some are embarrassed to be addicted. For me, through my addiction, I found my purpose. And I couldn’t be more grateful to say, “Hi everybody, I’m Angela. I’m an alcoholic”.
Sober date: 01/07/2006