“I was making lunches for school at seven in the morning. I had to go in the laundry room and drink beer because I had the shakes so bad. I was thirty-nine years old and I could not start my day without a drink.”
I‘m Amy. I’m a person in long-term recovery. My story isn’t very dramatic. I’ve never had a speeding ticket. I’ve never been to jail. I’ve never been hospitalized. I’m not sure how any of those things came to be. I’m not sure how, I guess I just got very lucky.
I had a very good upbringing. I come from a middle class family. My parents didn’t abuse me. I had a good education. I always felt different than other people. That sounds dramatic, but I always just felt off. I never understood why. I didn’t drink in high school and was pretty sheltered and really naive. When I did go off to college, it was kind of a free for all. That is when the wheels started to come off. Even then, I drank differently than other people. When I did drink, I felt a part of, and I fit in, and I was accepted in ways that I wasn’t up until that point. When I did drink, people did like me. When I drank, boys did talk to me. When I drank, I could talk to boys. I never had consequences necessarily, but I knew that my drinking was heavier than was normal.
“I didn’t drink in high school and was pretty sheltered and really naive. When I did go off to college, it was kind of a free for all. That is when the wheels started to come off.”
I graduated from college and got a job in publishing, in advertising where it was really common to drink. We drank at work sometimes and drank after work. I was in my twenties and that was just the expected behavior. I knew, even back then, I knew that I was different from other people. I knew inside that I had a problem with alcohol.
I was in a thrift store one afternoon and I found a twelve-step book and I picked that book up. I was twenty-five years old and I picked that book up for fifty cents and I said in my head, “I’m going to need this one day.” I kept that book. Through several moves, I never got rid of that book because I knew, always in my head, “I’m going to need that book one day.” When I was in my mid twenties I started drinking by myself. I lived alone and I would drink by myself at night. I started having blackouts and I told no one. I told no one what I was doing. I told doctors that I did not drink, I drank socially. I told doctors I would have one to two drinks a week and none of that was true. Any opportunity to drink, I took advantage of. Again, I was in my twenties. It was okay, it was acceptable. Maybe not the part where I was at home by myself drinking, but I never lost jobs, I never had consequences at work.
When I was thirty-two, I had my first child and I had a really hard time after she was born just because I had postpartum difficulties. That was when I started drinking to self medicate. I think that’s when the flip switched from drinking for sport to drinking out of necessity. I had a really stressful job at that time. My career at that time was I was teaching. I would have to drink at night just to numb how much stress I thought I was under, and also with the anxiety of just motherhood. I saw psychiatrists and psychologists, but nothing worked because in hindsight I see that I wasn’t honest about my drinking. I was never honest about my drinking. I carried on. No one knew that I was drinking as much as I was.
“Everyone was drinking, so in my head I thought, ‘I’m doing what everyone else is doing. Haven’t lost a job, haven’t hurt anyone. This is just what mommies do.'”
Thought it was normal, because the mommies get together and drink wine. Everyone was drinking, so in my head I thought, “I’m doing what everyone else is doing. Haven’t lost a job, haven’t hurt anyone. This is just what mommies do.” Had a second child [and] it was much easier the second time around. I was a stay-at-home mom. I quit working, got rid of the job, and in my head I thought, “Well, things are going to be easier now and I won’t have to drink because I don’t have this horrible job anymore.”
I never slowed down. When I first reached out to get help, I was in this kitchen and I was making lunches for school at seven in the morning. I had to go in the laundry room and drink beer because I had the shakes so bad. I was thirty-nine years old and I could not start my day without a drink. I knew that was something bad was going to happen to me. Something bad was going to happen to this family if I didn’t get it under control.
I somehow wound up in a twelve-step meeting and I was dutiful. I went to my meetings and I quit drinking for ninety days. To me, that shows me and everyone I’m not an alcoholic because I haven’t had a drink for ninety days. I quit going, because obviously I have a handle on this. I tried to control my drinking. I would have two glasses of wine a night and that worked great for a couple of months.
Before I knew it I was back to drinking all the time. People are still surprised when I talk to them about it now, because there weren’t really outward signs. I didn’t fall down in public, I didn’t slur, but I drank all day every day. I could not get along with anyone in my life. I was angry, I was miserable, I was just a disaster. I hated every second of every day. I used to just pray that I could just be a different person. I just wanted to be someone else.
“People are still surprised when I talk to them about it now, because there weren’t really outward signs. I didn’t fall down in public, I didn’t slur, but I drank all day every day.”
Towards the end, I guess that would have been about by the fall of 2014, I was at rock bottom. I was blacking out every night. Everything was just a disaster. Everything in my life. My marriage was a wreck, I wasn’t a good parent, I wasn’t a good friend, I wasn’t a good daughter. I was so desperate I went back to the twelve-step program that I thought had graduated from a couple years before. I was just desperate and willing that time, because I did not know how to quit drinking, could not stop drinking on my own. It was the only solution that I knew of.
I went to the meetings and I just, looking back now, I know I just humbled myself because I was beaten, because I did not know what else to do. I just went to these meetings and I did what these people told me to do. I was around people that were happy and I wanted what they had.
I have been in that program for two years now. I work with a sponsor. I have service positions in that program, and my life is so entirely different than what it was two years ago. I don’t feel like the same person and it’s hard to talk about, because I was always trying to fill something, fill a hole with alcohol or whatever. What I’ve learned in sobriety is that the answers to what I was looking for were inside me that whole time. That person that I wanted to be was there.
Today, I’m happy and I’m grateful. It sounds strange, but I’m really almost proud to identify as an alcoholic just because I kind of feel like I can do anything. I’ve never felt that way about myself, and today I’m happy and I’m optimistic and I just feel like there are no limits to what I can accomplish.
Photographs taken at Amy’s home in Jacksonville, Florida.