Three years ago, after my first treatment session at La Paloma, my therapist gave me this affirmation: “I am a worthwhile child of God.” At the time, I thought I was of absolutely no value to anyone, especially God. Today, I know that affirmation is true, but it’s a long way from where I began.
My drinking and drugging started very young, accelerated by childhood sexual abuse. Once the abuse ceased I felt very strange inside, and I wanted to soothe that.
As a child, the one thing that soothed me was drinking scotch mixed with sugar to “cure” my coughs. I began stealing alcohol from my parents, and it wasn’t too long before I began experimenting with other drugs. Despite drinking and getting high most nights of the week in high school, I still got good grades, was a star athlete and avoided trouble.
In college I drank constantly. At the end of my senior year I sought help for an eating disorder. The psychologist was the first person to ever confront me about drinking, and encouraged me to enter treatment. A year and a half later I called him for help. I stayed in treatment 30 days, came home, and picked up right where I left off. When I could no longer reach utopia through alcohol or drugs, I began self-mutilating.
During this time, I did, however, manage to marry my soulmate, who loved me unconditionally through it all.
When my father passed away I carried guilt for not being with him when he died. I thought I was powerful enough to have saved him. After a couple years of remorse I knew I had to get sober. Over the next seven years I would gain time in sobriety, then something would trigger emotions from the childhood abuse. I put down the bottle in 2001, turning to benzodiazepines and opiates, but could never get high enough. Everything led back to the childhood trauma— and I was willing to work on anything but that.
A year before I entered La Paloma, my mother passed away in my arms. More painful feelings emerged, and I ran back to the pills. During my final binge there was so much physical and mental destruction. My husband began planning my funeral and preparing himself for a life without his wife. During my EMDR session at La Paloma I realized if I wanted to live – and live sober – I had to deal with the trauma I was avoiding. I was finally able to resolve a lifelong demon that dictated everything about me. Now, when the thoughts return, I don’t go there, because I have a choice to live in the present. The anxiety that sat in the pit of my stomach since childhood has now been put to rest. I know I’m not damaged goods as I had always believed.
In the three years since I left La Paloma, I obtained my MBA. I proudly serve on the board of a nonprofit that advocates for and provides services to those seeking recovery. I’ve begun my own project that will soon provide treatment services to those in my community. AA is also a daily part of my life, as are the friendships and support of the 12-Step community.
On the flight home from treatment I wrote in my journal: “I feel true serenity and peace which I’ve never experienced in my previous moments of sobriety. It’s scary because I don’t know what to do with it yet.” Today I embrace it, protect it, and thank God every day. I’m grateful to be alive. I never would have survived without the love of my husband and the EMDR experiences that lead to self-discovery. I was forever changed. They say, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart was healed in Memphis, and a part of me will always call it home.