“CPS is here. They’re going to take the kids!” These are the words I slurred into the phone to my ex-husband as Child Protective Services stood on my front porch, making preparations to take my children into protective custody.
My ex-husband showed up about twenty minutes after I hung up the phone. His commute to work normally took half an hour on a good day and much longer with traffic. He must have been racing. After much cooperation, he was able to convince CPS to let him take our children away for a few hours while the lawyers we hired during our divorce and custody battle dealt with the legal issues. CPS eventually relented and my husband gained full custody of our children. I admitted myself into a detox program and got clean.
That lasted five months.
Relapse Upon Relapse
I knew what it took to get sober. I had done it once before and I could do it again. But I couldn’t make it stick. The first time I got sober, I only went through detox. “I don’t need residential treatment. I can do it on my own.” Or, at least, that’s what I told myself. My first relapse lasted a while. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t actually an alcoholic. I had just gone through a bad divorce and turned to alcohol to cope with my resentment and depression. My body had just grown a tolerance to alcohol and I needed a little help getting it all out of my system. But I could take it from there. I wasn’t an alcoholic. I was better than that.
The truth is, I wasn’t. Anything could set me off on a drinking binge, from rude customers at work to wondering if my ex would let me see my kids over the weekend. I started drinking before work so I could feel normal and seem peppy. I was constantly wondering if my managers could smell the Tequila on my breath. But, despite my wondering, I still did it. I guess I just didn’t care enough. My best friend was the one who got me to stop drinking this time. She could see me suffering. She told me that she would stop drinking too and we could hold each other accountable. And that’s exactly what we did. Soon, I didn’t even need her help. I felt happier. My body felt healthier. I liked being sober. I knew I wasn’t an alcoholic.
So, at my sister’s engagement party, I decided I could manage having one glass of champagne. It was a celebration, after all. But one glass turned into two, which turned into ten.
I Needed Help
After my sister’s engagement party, I continued to drink every day for two long years. I would wake up on my bathroom floor most nights, cold and confused. I went to dive bars that I used to hate, but that crowd never failed to buy me drinks. On the days that I didn’t go out, I would hardly ever leave the bed. My ex-husband had my kids, I lost my job, and my sister and parents wouldn’t talk to me. This time I felt utterly stuck. I was on this dark and dangerous road and I couldn’t get off. Hearing the tears in my five-year-old’s voice as I said goodnight over the phone (something my ex would occasionally let me do) was the turning point for me this time. He knew. My poor, innocent baby knew something was wrong and cried because I couldn’t come see him.
I entered a residential program after detox this time. It took a lot out of me, but I knew that cutting out alcohol on my own wasn’t enough anymore. So I stayed for the whole 30-day treatment. I wrote in my recovery journal every day. I participated in group therapy. And I actually enjoyed talking to my case manager. I left treatment feeling hopeful and determined.
But I had only been out of treatment for a week when my positivity died. What do I do now? How can I go back to my “friends?” When will having a vodka-tonic on a Friday night stop sounding good? I felt inadequate, boring, and, worst of all, alone. That slow creep of loneliness almost sent me back down the rabbit hole.
AA Saved My Life
I honestly can’t tell you what made me decide to go to an AA meeting. My residential treatment incorporated the 12-Steps into their program but they didn’t force it on us. I never really saw the point of the 12-Steps. I could admit my powerlessness over alcohol but I struggled with the idea of surrendering to God. But for some reason, I decided to search the Alcoholics Anonymous website for a meeting near me, my loneliness and desperation motivating my fingers to type my zip code into the search bar.
AA Opened My Eyes
I went to the meeting and listened to people’s stories. The realization quickly came to me that labeling myself as an alcoholic wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be (as long as I kept the “recovered” distinguisher attached to it). I also learned that I didn’t need to surrender to God, specifically. I was much more comfortable accepting the presence of a higher power of my choosing. That’s something that I didn’t realize was okay before walking through those doors.
AA Gave Me Fellowship
The people who manned the chairs at these AA meetings weren’t bad people. These people didn’t come from the streets or vehemently protest liquor stores. They held jobs, had kids, loved hard, enjoyed reading, saved for vacations, cried at sad movies, and watched reality trash TV. They were like me. I finally found people that could empathize with me. And I actually enjoy being around them. I love feeling like we are helping each other, even just by listening to each other share. I even found a sponsor that I feel comfortable crying through my fourth step with as well as calling up for a simple coffee girl-date.
AA Made Me Stronger
My treatment programs gave me tools for coping with the hard parts of life. But AA helps me to maintain those skills. The 12-Steps and support I received from AA made it possible to face my ex-husband, healthy, sober, and strong. I was able to accept my faults as a mother and make amends. Now I have joint custody of my kids and am working to gain back my family’s trust.
I feel confident when I tell people I’m sober now. I’m finally living again.