Friday, September 5, 2014

THROUGH THE DARKNESS, THERE IS LIGHT; A BEAUTIFUL, WHOLESOME, PROMISING LIGHT


My name is Tara, and I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober since September 16th of 2013.

Apart from alcoholism being one of the many wonderful qualities that makes up who I am—and I mean that—I also happen to be twenty-two years old. I got sober at the age of twenty-one after an eight year battle with this disease.

I had no idea that by experimenting with wine coolers at thirteen, I would completely alter the course of my life. By the blossoming age of twenty-one, I was barely alive from years of use and abuse. I was nothing more than the beer I clung on to. I was a ghost--a lifeless, careless being--who wanted nothing more than cigarettes, cases of Dos Equis, and to be left alone in the void I created with my daily blackouts. After years of dealing with circumstantial traumas such as eating disorders, death, abuse, cancer, prison, and using my body to get what I want, I was ready to give up. I didn't want to live another minute being as devastatingly depressed and lost as I was. Drinking was the only escape from my tormented reality. I spent about three years experimenting, and a solid five years in one seemingly long raging blackout. Once the alcohol stopped working like it used to, I spiraled down into a suicidal state of being. After my last week long blackout, I nearly took my own life.

I wasn’t supposed to be this girl. Like all of you, I didn’t grow up wanting to be the alcoholic train-wreck I was by the end of my drinking. I wasn’t supposed to be the addict of the family, the black sheep of my class. I grew up white, middle class, semi-privileged, and decently popular. I wasn’t supposed to be the one to go through this. I was supposed to go to college, find a husband, and make little babies who would follow in my middle class footsteps. I wasn’t supposed to shack up with the high school drop-out-bad-boy. I wasn’t supposed to end my academic career to begin my drinking career. I wasn’t supposed to be drunk for five years straight. Or, at least, I didn’t think I was supposed to be that girl. Now, after eleven months of sobriety, I’ve come to learn that I’m exactly where I was supposed to end up.

When I first got sober, I was pissed. I cursed God for not allowing me to drink like a normal twenty-one year old. I was angry that instead of going to college classes, I was going to intensive out-patient rehabilitation. At family get-togethers, I had to drink water while everyone else enjoyed their festive holiday drinks. Why couldn’t I just be my age? Why couldn’t I just go out to bars and play beer pong without having to worry about certain death like every other kid my age? I have my entire life to live without alcohol. How the hell am I supposed to do that? Who quits drinking at twenty-one?

Crazy, insane, mentally broken alcoholics—that’s who. I don’t know why I wasn’t able to last years and years past my coming-of-age birthday. My alcoholism only needed eight years to blossom and completely take over. Sometimes I catch myself wishing that I had been able to last longer. “At least until I was out of college,” I thought to myself. It’s funny, the logic of an alcoholic. I’d take a few more years worth of beatings just so I could stay with my drink. But then, once I was out of college, I’d need to drink for a few more years. I’d need to attend fancy cocktail hour with my new young co-worker friends. And what if I met a man who would was interested in dating me? How was I supposed to tell him that I was sober? Would he think I was boring? Lame? Goody-two-shoes? Someone who didn’t know how to cut loose and have a good time? What about going to Vegas? I never even got the chance to run around Las Vegas participating in unadulterated revelry. Who quits drinking before they get to experience drinking at its ‘finest’? Who in their right mind would go to a concert sober?

There’s a million and one scenarios like these, and inevitably, each would be a path to ruin my life—again. I fight with these thoughts constantly. Every day, I wake up and I’m reminded that I’m of the age of partying. The media, Pandora commercials, billboards, today’s music . . . the list is endless. Every day, I have to wake up and walk into a world where I’m expected to drink. I’m not alone in this. Each day, every one of us is forced to walk into a world where we’re expected to drink. If you’re a fun, outgoing woman, you’ll take shots of tequila with your friends on girl’s nights out. If you’re a savvy-business woman, you’ll have a dry martini during a business dinner. If you’re a down-to-earth girl, you’ll have a craft beer with your boyfriend while you watch the Sunday game. If you’re a sophisticated woman, you’ll have a glass of ’93 Cabernet with your steak and lobster dinner.

What if you’re sober? What kind of woman does that make you? It’s taken me eleven months of pondering to come up with an explanation for the kind of woman I am post-drink.

 If you’re sober, you’re not boring. You’re not lame. You’re not unsophisticated. You’re not a goody-two-shoes. You’re not someone who doesn’t know how to have a good time. (If only people could understand how good of a time us alcoholics have when drinking. People don’t know the definition of having a ‘good time’ unless they’ve been an alcoholic on the loose.)

Us women—us alcoholic women—are beautiful. We are broken, and as such, we are beautiful. We are imperfect in so many ways, yet we’re perfectly positioned to live a life of true blessings. Sobriety is beautiful. It’s honest and it’s intimate; it’s everything drinking used to take away. It’s every ounce of strength we have, out on display, for the entire world to see. It’s the deepest, most raw part of ourselves, being pushed out into the open.

Now, tell me—how many people do you know walk about in their daily lives with their biggest flaw riding on their sleeve? How many people do you know have the courage, the strength, and the patience to give up their sacred confidant, their most reliable friend, and their most trusted lover, and in turn, create a life without their other half? How many people do you know willingly cut off their right arm—their tool for survival—and within a short time, rebuild a life that should be impossible to lead with little to no help from the outside, un-addicted, unaware world?

Alcoholic women. Alcoholic women are the most beautiful, courageous beings on the earth. We go from crap to captivating. We go from assholes to alluring. In every step we take, we must put forth more effort than most. In every word we speak, we must think more cautiously. We’re fighting with ourselves constantly over something that threatens to take away life as we know it. No matter what we do, we’re one move away from utter chaos. We’re one dial spin from ending up right back on the chute, where we’re taken back to square one. In some cases, there will be no ladder to save us.

But, the fact that we’re able to maneuver through life with this deadly blade over our heads speaks to our ability. We’re able to be these broken, damaged, out of control beings. We have the ability to hurt and destroy. On the other hand, we have the ability to rise from the broken glass of drinks and parties past to start anew. We’re able to heal. We’re able to make amends. We’re able to look our shameful and terrible past in the face and not flinch because we’ve learned. We’ve learned to love. We’ve learned to live. We’ve learned what true compassion means. What true sympathy means. What true forgiveness means. And in the end, we learn what true intimacy means. Through the darkness, there is light; a beautiful, wholesome, promising light.

Without our former selves, we’re not able to be the women we are today. And that, in my eyes, was worth my eight years of drinking. I’m thrilled to be sober at twenty-two. I have my entire life to live, to give love, and to make the most of what I’m given. I wouldn’t trade my vantage point for even five seconds on the Vegas strip, slipping and slurring as I enter into meaningless conversations and hopeless hook-ups. God has given me my disease for a reason, and I’m going to use it to my advantage.

Of course, there are bad days. There are days that I want to rip my hair out and drive to the nearest liquor store, drink away my pain, and drown the progress I have made. Sometimes, I still get pissed that I can’t drink like everyone else. I don’t know how long this will occur, but it’s on days like this that I have to breathe. I know that one Dos Equis won’t stay just one Dos Equis. With that first sip, I’ll be gone, mentally and physically. No one will see or hear from me for months, when I finally break down and come crawling out of whatever gutter I was living in—that is, if I’m alive enough to move.

I have to keep breathing. I have to keep on living. I’ve lost my best friend. I’ve lost the only thing that’s been there with me, no matter what blacked out, insane rage I engaged in the night before. For months, I’ve mourned her absence. I miss my best friend. Now, I have to pick up what we’ve ruined together. I thank God for giving me something to pick up, because he so easily could have taken that from me.

I’m supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be broken. I’m supposed to start over. I’m still learning that I’m supposed to be happy. But one day at a time, I’m growing into the woman I am supposed to be. One day at a time, I’m healing. One day at a time, I feel the power of sobriety grow within me.

I can’t imagine anything better.

32 comments:

  1. Wow. That's a testimony. And some kick-ass prose. You write well. Are you in a program with a support network? Do you have a sponsor? I'm' the mother of an addict around your age.

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    1. Hi Ellen,
      Thank you! It really came from the heart. To be perfectly honest with you, I have recently moved, and have yet to find a home group for myself. I was in a program back in my old city that I loved very much. In my new city, I have yet to find a meeting/people I truly connect with, so it's been a little difficult, but I'm adjusting. I currently do not have a sponsor, being as my old one is now four hours away. I'm currently on the lookout for a new one. And I am sorry to hear about your child. It's rough at any age, but at this age, it's so taboo that it's nearly impossible to approach, or at least that's how I feel. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help, and I'll be praying for you.
      Tara

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  2. I am dumb founded by the way you look at your sobriety. I am only 95 days clean,i as a human drug and alcohol trash can,my drug of choise ''more''. I am struggling right now with,why sobriety. But honestly,the way you painted that picture of a new journey gave me hope and the reasons ive been looking for. Thank you and God bless you with your new life.

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    1. 95 days, huh? That's huge! Congratulations!
      And I am so happy to have helped on your journey. There's nothing more valuable to me than the success of my fellow woman. God bless.
      Tara

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  3. Beautiful writing.

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  4. Dear Tara. You have a wonderful gift of writing and expressing life in the raw. It is heartbreaking that your youthful teen years are now lost, but I believe you have gain a future of embracing life that you might not have otherwise. I know many sober people who just move through life with little enthusiasm. Having experience near death events, you are much wiser for that journey.
    I only wish for the moment that you aren't mourning the lost of a best friend, but the death of evil beast who's only purpose was to drag you through the pits until dead. Not a friend at all.
    You have all the possibilities of being a solid inspiration to women struggling and perhaps you'll find your calling there.
    Hope you stick around and continue to shine your light for us.
    ~..~ vlm

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  5. Tara,

    This is certainly the most amazing thing I have read regarding alcoholism in quite a long while. I am impressed by your wisdom at such a young age, but I know it was hard won. You are a light to those who are still struggling to come to where you are now. Stay strong and keep writing. It is a true gift that you can share with others.

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  6. Profoundly impacted by your story. Keep sharing.

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  7. Girlfriend you are wise beyond your years.

    I can totally relates to the unending blackouts. I had them for 20 + years.

    Stay the course, it keeps getting better. Alcholism is a progressive disease. Once we stop it doesn't lie dormant, if we were to pick up again we start where we left off! No thanks for me. Keep spreading your message :)

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  8. It has been really lovely to read your words tonight - they've given me a lot of strength and courage at a difficult time. I think you articulate so well that dilemma : knowing the incredible gifts, but also feeling the lure of the stupid.. I think your story is inspiring. And it's true - we who get addicted, just can't drink, smoke, etc. 'like other people'.

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  9. You are awesome! Thank you for sharing this!!

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  10. Needed to hear that. Thanks.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this! you should know you are blessed to not have to go through your 20s with that "best" friend. Sometimes I imagine how my life would be if I only realized this earlier, but everyone has their time. I had my drinking years in the 20s and now at 33 I'm ready to say good by to my first love and find new love.

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  12. You are a shining light! Keep writing!

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  13. "I wasn’t supposed to be this girl." Oh, yes. Oh, my, yes. I wasn't either. None of us were. But we are.

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  14. I think a lot of us go through a period of mourning over how unfair it is that we can no longer drink. We need to remind ourselves that we only know how to drink alcoholically. When we come to terms with it then we can live up to our higher calling as sober people. It is tough being thankful for all the bad things that led up to our becoming sober, but like you I wouldn't trade it for the world now. You have a gift, please keep sharing it.

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  15. This piece really touched me. I am that beautiful asshole, alcoholic woman that you write of. From drunk on a mountain top to drunk in a ditch, I'm two weeks sober today and searching for hope on the internet. Thank you, I found some here.

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    1. I noticed you just wrote this in Feb and no one has Replied yet so I will. Two weeks sober good for you. You said you're looking for hope on the Internet... I hope you have found some at home as well. The best advice I've ever recieved during early recovery was " no first drink or drug" it helped me to understand that it was that first one that trapped me right back into addiction. So hang in there and make sure you get the support you need.

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  16. WOW! Thank you, I am crying so much, I needed to read that.. I am 39 and 3 months sober after 20 years of chaos. Your words are beautiful and empowering. Go girl.. you rock! x Tammy x

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  17. Wow, that was beautiful. I cried lol.

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  18. Oh thank you for writing this. Youre story sure did strike a chord with me. I got off the sauce at age 22. I did okay at first but after the pink cloud evaporated i slowly started to use other drugs as a replacement. Pot and prescriptions pills made their way into my life and finally have taken over. I've had to realize and admit I'm not just an alcoholic (I fully admitted that 12 years ago) but I'm a drug addict. Now I'm 34 and only 12 days sober from everything for first time in my adult life. It's so hard but I'm so glad I found this post. Thank you a million times over for sharing your story. And thank you for shining your light so that struggling women can see a little better in the darkness.

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  19. Hi Tara,

    I can't begin to explain to you how much this post has changed my life. I also am an alcoholic and i am 20 years old and a girl! I was told when i was 18 that i had a drinking problem but as you do i also said 18 year olds cannot be alcoholics. All my friends are able to drink and come home when they feel a little bit too drunk. Whereas me I feel I always need to be completely hammered and have the feeling of guilt that eats at you the next day until you can then have your next drink, for the vicious cycle to start again.

    My problem was at first social drinking and being that girl thats a "state" to being a 20 year old in the afternoon sitting in a pub to then also going back in there evening. My excuse for drinking alone was "being locked out" to then pretending to do office work so I atleast look sophisticated, whilst gulping down a cider and black.7 pints later and i'm stumbling home causing chaos, arguing with my housemates once again and to then wake up the next morning having completely blacked out. My days, my hours and my time all are around when i can next have a drink. As soon as I have my first drink I feel like i am able to function properly on my studies and work life.

    Reading your post is inspiring and has also giving me hope to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Would you say after being sober does the cravings and the temptations go away? Are you able to sit in an environment smothered around drink and not be tempted to have at least one?

    I really wish the best for you with this story, It was life changing for me so thank you! x

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  20. Thank you Tara - your words and the feelings they evoke are so powerful. I re-posted it on my website / blog New Thought Sobriety and am honored to include it. Thanks for speaking some searing truth and sharing from the soul. I relate - at 5+ years sober, with decades of drinking behind me, I know you have already helped so many. Alcoholism is progressive - so is sobriety! Keep living it up.

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  21. Tara-I read you letter and it spoke of everything I have felt and dealt with. I pray that you stay strong so as not to become who I have become at 56 yrs old. I printed your letter and will be reading and re-reading it. I had made the decision 2 wks ago that it was time for me and I am checking into detox on October 30 (my Mothers birthday). Your letter will keep me inspired and I really am looking forward to this next chapter in my life. Stay Strong and may God watch over you <3

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  22. Beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes because so much of this resonated with me. Thank you for writing this piece.

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  23. I loved this--raw, uninhibited. Reveals the silent killer that plagues the homes you least expect it to. Here's a tale of addiction under similar circumstances: white, upper-middle class, never a traumatic event, never problems at home: http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-real/personal-essay-overcoming-addiction

    Sobriety at the age of 22 is something to be proud of--describing alcohol as your "best friend" really reminds me of the memoir "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp.

    Keep it up. You should be proud of your hard work.

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  24. I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it.
    resorts near delhi for weekend

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