I awake to loud knocking on my window and I roll it down. Officers are shining lights into my windshield.
My heart’s racing. Not again! I passed out in the drive-thru waiting for my food to be prepared. I wasn’t even 60 seconds away from my previous parking spot in front of my bar, and I’m going to jail. It was only a matter of time though.
I was no stranger to this. It was my second DUI in five years. I was facing a felony charge, two-year license suspension, and a few days of jail time. I’d lose my liquor license, which meant I’d eventually lose both of my jobs, and I was placed on an alcohol monitor that costed me about $300 a month before probation fees.
Everything scared me, but nothing scared me more than the notion that it wouldn’t stop me from drinking.
That’s alcoholism. I was doing my best to drown quietly beneath the chaos, but the evidence was pouring into every crevice of my life. I was sick, and I wasn’t getting well.
I’d pray leaving my house that I wouldn’t turn into the bar on my way home. I’d weep on my way home feeling my mind and body get weak as the bar approached. I’d turn in, immediately feeling guilty, and drank until I couldn’t feel anything. I hated who I’d become.
I wanted to be better! I started making Facebook Live videos to try to inspire others as I processed my growth. I began reading self-help books, and I’d journal to reflect. I made sober friends that I hid my addiction from, and through these collectively, I slowly began regaining some of my mental health.
Over a period of six months, my mental health and desire for sobriety grew stronger. I overheard a friend say they were having a dry month for their birthday. I joined the bandwagon without question. It was an empowering moment. I didn’t give alcohol a second thought; I knew this was the support and accountability I needed to get sober. My birthday was also in 5 days but staying sober was bigger than me now. I had a friend to count on and who was counting on me. I couldn’t let us down.
This is where the story gets beautiful. A month after I got sober, I was offered an opportunity to move away from my alluring regular bars. Though my rent doubled, I was able to quit my second job because I stopped drinking.
By the time I went to jail, I was six months sober. I showed the judge evidence of my growth and he gave me a misdemeanor up front. I lost my liquor license, making me ineligible to serve at my job. Because of my performance, however, my job created a better position for me that enabled me to practice my PR and marketing skills prior to graduation.
I share this, so other people feel understood, and so those confused can understand. Addiction has a variety of ages, faces, and beginnings. My addiction stemmed from alcohol abuse in my freshmen year of college. I was a smart and promising kid with a bright future, but I had a strong desire to belong and feel accepted. Somewhere in it all, I got lost and developed an addiction that spiraled out of control.
What’s widely misconstrued is that people decide to be addicts. In the height of my addiction, I wasn’t choosing. My body’s physical cravings, anxieties, and reactions were overriding my ability to make good decisions. I wasn’t mentally healthy enough to behave differently. I’ll be two years sober soon and I still wake up in a sweat, weeping because I drank in a dream. Mentally, I know it’s not what I want, but physically, my body obsesses in my sleep.
Addiction doesn’t go away, so it’s important to me that we talk about it. Party culture is prevalent in college, and it’s our responsibility to break down the stigma associated with addiction and engage in candid conversation. If you’re struggling, tell someone. If someone confides in you, listen without judgement. Making someone feel heard can remind them they matter.
Before my back was against the wall, I’d lost hope in myself. I’d given up thinking my life could get better. My judge told me I’d relapse. My alcohol classes asked me who my driver would be the next time I drank. And, so I urge everyone to breathe hope into our conversations, because I know first hand that people can change.
I am not fixed, but I’m finally un-broken, and on the mend. Healing happens! And if you’re an addict looking for someone to believe in you, you’ve got your first friend.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, you can get help by contacting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP.