I didn’t begin abusing alcohol until I was around 40 years old, but my story begins in 1991.
The man I married was a controlling narcissist and a sexual abuser. I knew that before we married, but I thought I could change him. I was wrong. To cope, I learned how to mentally escape while he abused me. When I confided in my best friend, she convinced me the abuse was extremely abnormal and unhealthy. I knew she was right, but I was afraid to leave. One day, when I knew that he was going to abuse me, I downed a few shots of vodka. Alcohol made me oblivious to what was going on, but it also made everything seem more manageable.
In 2008, I went to work intoxicated and was fired. At the insistence of family and friends I entered rehab, planning my relapse during the first week. I repeated this scenario three more times. I felt that there was no reason for me to be sober since I was returning to an abusive relationship.
After a bout of drinking, I woke up in the psych ward of a hospital and was served a PFA from my husband. My alcohol abuse continued, and I was charged with my first DUI on May 1, 2009. For the next 11 months I drank heavily, moving constantly due to numerous evictions. After my 2nd DUI, my parents asked me to leave. Having nowhere to go, I randomly picked a substance abuse hotline from the phone book – Michael’s House in Palm Springs.
I had a wonderful psychiatrist at Michael’s House who worked tirelessly to pull me out of my deep depression with medication. I also gave DBT a try. I still practice DBT today, and credit it for making my life less stressful. I was reluctant to share the details of the sexual abuse with my therapist because I was so ashamed. Though I eventually shared some details of the torture, I was unable to discuss the worst of my husband’s cruelty.
My stay was 93 days. On July 27th I left Palm Springs, heading home to Pennsylvania. I wasn’t sure I would stay sober. I had the knowledge, tools and medications, but I didn’t know what path I would take.
My parents and two youngest children, Alyssa and Luke, met me at the airport, escorting me to a hot room on the third floor of a women’s sober living house instead of their home. I was furious at my family and therapist for arranging this without my permission. As I sat on my bed crying, my son Luke sat beside me, put his arm around me and said, “Mommy, this third floor isn’t too bad, we’re going to Wal-Mart to get you a fan.” At that moment, I realized I wanted to stay sober for my children’s sake. I believe that was the moment my surrender occurred – and acceptance followed shortly thereafter. The next day I began attending AA meetings, looked for a sponsor and home group, eventually progressing into service for AA.
My sober journey has been amazing! I began volunteering and participating in my home group and AA. I repaired family relationships and broken friendships. I recently bought a home, was granted shared custody of my children and got a job. In June, my divorce was granted.
I credit my sobriety to my faith in God, my family, my best friend and to the staff of Michael’s House, especially my therapist. DBT taught me how to experience and embrace life using all my senses. I remember riding in the car with a friend one afternoon, watching sunlight stream through the window. I felt it on my skin as I had a thousand times before. But this time was different. I was fully present in the moment. I felt a new kind of sunlight radiate through me, warming my heart.
I still have some obstacles to overcome. My life is not perfect and will never be, and that’s okay because I am happier than I have ever been.