We Are All Okay

Hi all, my name is izz, and I’m an alcoholic.

I grew up in Los Angeles County with my mom and older sister. My mom is a recovered addict – meth was her drug of choice – with 16 years of sobriety at this point, but when I was growing up she was very much active in her addiction.

Life was hard, at times. We were always poor, but that wasn’t the worst part. The hard part was the instability and the threat of violence.

I can remember moving from the place at a moment’s notice, living in foster care, other people’s garages, with family, and sometimes in the car. We never knew when our lives were going to be turned upside down. Drug paraphernalia on the coffee table, strange men, lurking around, cops banging on the door looking for dealers. our normal was insane.

As a little kid in this environment, my way of coping was to act out. I was running the streets with the neighborhood kids, skateboarding, trespassing, and shoplifting all by the age of around 12. I had no real adult supervision at home, and I pushed limits to alter how I felt.

And then I found alcohol. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grade. I was 12.

One drink and I was hooked. All my anxiety melted away, and I felt ok for the first time in years. It became my medicine.

There’s a lot more to that story, but that’s where it started for me. From there it was 25 years of self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs.

By early 2014, I was a garden variety “functioning alcoholic.” I knew I had a problem, but I still thought I could learn to manage it. I had been playing the denial game for a couple of years. I had some friends who were in AA, so occasionally I’d have an honest moment and go to a meeting, but it never went beyond that.

Then early morning Feb 5, while still drunk from the night before, I had a seizure while walking across the street, and was hit by a pickup truck.

I woke up in the hospital with a broken collarbone, some broken ribs, and a back so messed up I could hardly walk.

I was off work for two months, and for most of that, I was housebound. Nobody would bring me liquor, and the doctors were stingy with the pain meds.

I went crazy. One day blurred into another. I fell into absolute madness. Started self-harming – something I hadn’t done in years. I had a roommate, thank God, or I would’ve been entirely alone.

As soon as I could drink again, I did. And no more trying to moderate. I went as hard as I could.

The next few months were a blur of working part-time, self-harm, and being blackout drunk.

I don’t remember my last drunk, because I blacked out. I only remember coming to the next day, and my arm had a series of cuts. There was blood on my sheets, and on the bathroom counter. I could hear my roommate crying in the living room. I didn’t care. I got up and drank the rest of the vodka, and then went back to bed.

A few days later was July 4th, and we had gone somewhere. We were still in her car when she confronted me about my drinking.

I don’t remember what she said. I only remember admitting that I’m an alcoholic, and the relief I felt by saying that.

It took a couple of days before the withdrawals started. Shaking, sweating, crawling in my skin, incapable of focusing. I was afraid to drink, and I was scared not to.

I went to an AA meeting. The only part I remember is that the last woman who spoke up had two weeks sober. She said she had been reading the Big Book (AA text). She said she had learned that alcoholism is a disease. That she’s not a wrong person, just a sick person.

That gave me what I needed that day. I went to another meeting the next day, and the day after, etc.

I did what they told me to do. Even the dumb things. Even the things that I was afraid to do. I was more scared than I’d ever been – I didn’t trust them at all – but I didn’t know what else to do, so I just leaned on them until I could stand on my own feet.

I got better, slowly.  It did not come quickly. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I recovered. I no longer am plagued by an obsession to get loaded.

I’ve been told I can get that obsession back if I quit doing what I’m doing. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m not trying to find out the hard way, so I still do all of the things I was taught, albeit not with the same level of desperation.

I still have other problems. Some of them have been helped through therapy. Some are still on the to-do list.  To this day I don’t have a legal driver’s license.  I still have old debts that need to be paid off. And, of course, new problems crop up. Life didn’t become perfect just because I got into recovery.

But today, I am okay.  I don’t need a substance to enhance my mood or escape from the reality of my life.  I face life as it comes, with the help of the tools of my recovery.

2017 started with a close friend of mine committing suicide. I thought it would break me. It’s been over a year, and I still can’t even type that without the tears coming. But I don’t need to drink it. I can feel it and know that I’m okay, even when I don’t feel like I am. I’ve never been able to do that before. Every uncomfortable emotion required either a substance or behavior to make it stop.  I think I was convinced if I ever really let myself feel, that I would lose my mind and never get it back. And maybe I would have, back then.  The freedom to just live life on life’s terms is something I can’t even put into words. Gratitude is not a big enough word, but it’ll have to do.

What I try to do now, as much as I can, is help others who are still going through it. Addiction is hell, and nobody gets that more than those of us who have been there.  I do it because strangers helped me when I was so broken, and I want others to have this, if they want it, and are willing to work for it. If anyone is still struggling and wants to talk, please don’t hesitate to message me. Thanks for reading this.

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