“I just wanted to leave. Wherever I was, I constantly wanted to leave.”
My name is Suzanne. I am an alcoholic and my sobriety date is May 23rd 2014. My first drug of choice was your approval. I needed everybody around me to tell me how pretty I was, how awesome I was. If I didn’t hear that, I would think I was just a horrible person. That’s from growing up to even later on. I remember my dad taught me little things like, “Pretty girls don’t bite their fingernails,” and I’ve bitten my fingernails my whole life.
Constantly getting that approval from him and from other people. Now looking back I can see just how those alcoholic characteristics started to show out at a very early age. I didn’t drink for the first time until I was sixteen. My best friend at the time and I basically challenged that we could drink more than her mother, and I don’t know why because I’ve never drunk before, but that happened. We ended up, both of us, just getting drunk out of our mind. I didn’t drink again for probably I think a year or two.
I was sick, I was throwing up everywhere that night. It didn’t do anything for me at that time. Later on, a couple of years after that, I had joined the Navy. At seventeen, I signed up for the Navy, and then thirty days after high school I went and left for boot camp. Boot camp was horrifying for me, not physically but emotionally and mentally, because I am a mama’s girl and so being away from her was horrifying. It was just the worst experience ever. That whole experience completely changed me.
I got out of boot camp, went to my first duty station, and there were nothing but at least six-foot gorgeous men everywhere at my first command. This was bad for me. This was really, really bad for me, because that approval was still there, that approval that I needed from everybody. At this point, I had just recently lost my virginity, [and] that just opened the door for me. I took off with that. Basically, any guy that would spare me some time and make me feel like I wanted to feel, I would give that chance to. That happened I don’t know how many, six or seven times, within probably the first six months of being stationed at my first duty station.
Then I met a young man who I got serious with and I started to party with him, drinking. At this point I couldn’t hold my liquor and alcohol really hadn’t gotten a hold of me yet. I say that because the boyfriend had a hold of me. That addiction itself got a hold of me at that point. I ended up cheating on this boyfriend of mine during a trip I took to New York with a few friends, guy friends. Immediately, that guilt I felt at that time for doing what I did was just overwhelming. I didn’t really know how to react to it except to tell my boyfriend.
Later on in life, I learned that I like to dump my guilt on other people. That was kind of part of it at the time. We stayed together for maybe six more months. I was miserable for these six months. I had moved to his stations and then we broke up. It was just horrible, god it was miserable. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I was still on active duty in the Navy. I proceeded to do what I did when I got to my first duty station. The same thing, reaching out to any guy that would pay attention to me and starting to mix alcohol with it.
I was probably I would say twenty at this point. I started working in the Navy at my next duty station and picked up smoking cigarettes, too, as well. It became at that point a party, and my excuses at that time were, “This is what twenty-year-olds are supposed to do.” Still sleeping around, I mean just whatever attention I could get I would just reach for it and take it and causing all kinds of harm not only to myself but to others as well.
Two years later, I’m still drinking. I go to my next duty station, which is in Tennessee. I guess I need to explain too, I never really picked up drugs. There was a time where I was smoking marijuana, but being in the military I’ve had that pressure on me that I could lose a lot of things being in the military and getting caught doing drugs. I will tell you that anytime I’ve had surgery in the past, anytime I’ve had surgery and they’ve given me any kind of medication, I’ve definitely abused the medication.
Going forward, now I’m in Tennessee and I’m starting to notice my drinking affecting my work. I had a hard time in the previous duty station waking up on time and getting to work, but I kind of just figured that that was because I was twenty-one and young and that’s what young people do, go late to work and whatnot. Now, I’m at my new duty station and still having the same problems. This continued and I also, I guess I need to share this too. I’m a big fan of geographical cures and the military enabled me to do that, which was nice actually for those periods of times.
I would get bored at where I was, which was in Tennessee right now, and I volunteered to deploy to Africa. I left for Africa and went through a period of training. Then once we actually physically got to Africa, I learned that there was a really nice bar in Africa on base. There was two of them and I could actually work at these bars, which was even better. I drank a lot, a large amount in these six months that I was in Africa. I ended up meeting a man who drank just like I did and really didn’t judge me for the way I drank. I could get just plastered out of my mind and they’d be like, “Oh god, go get her,” and he’s like, “Yeah, I need to go get her. She’s messed up again.”
I used to tell him when I would get really bad to sober me up, and that meant for him to sleep with me. I remember like one specific incidence of us together and then I would have to go puke and then I would come back, and then we would continue, and then I would have to go puke again, and come back. It was just like that vicious… it was disgusting. That continued for basically the whole deployment. I got back in May of 2008 and I got engaged to that same man, I think it was August, maybe October in that same year. Maybe it was next year; 2009 was when we got engaged.
Then in 2010, we got married. You can imagine, I mean marrying someone who drinks just like you do, how the marriage was. I mean we had sex maybe ten times sober the entire two years, three years we were together. He left for deployment at one point. There were a lot of trust issues that we had. I didn’t trust him at all and I started reaching to other men. That’s what I do; that’s my pattern. He left for deployment, so while he was gone on deployment, I really realized that I did not want to be with this man anymore. That blame, everything was his fault to me at that time, came in. I did what I wanted to do, I spent all his money. I spent it on drinking, I spent it on doing a fitness competition at one point.
That whole year is just crazy for me. It was probably when I drank at my worst. This is when I started smoking marijuana. This fitness competition began I think in June of 2011. I trained for it for five months, so I actually didn’t drink for five months. I remember still, even though I was in the best shape of my life, sexy as hell, like I felt so good about myself, physically, mentally, and emotionally I was still drunk. When that competition was over, in fact the night of, I went out and had one drink. Then it was on the rest of the time, from probably November of 2011 to January of 2012. I literally don’t remember those months.
My husband was in Afghanistan. I was sleeping around. I had probably two or three boyfriends at the time. It was just crazy, and I’m so selfish, and just self-centered, and only cared about getting what I thought I needed, which was attention or drinking. I remember I used to plan around drinking and plan around going out. I would get so excited to go out on a Friday night on Tuesday before that Friday. I would be planning what I was wearing, I was doing my make-up, I was doing my hair, what time I needed to go get beer, how many packs of cigarettes I needed for that night.
That Friday would come and I’d have a twelve-pack before I would go out. Couldn’t barely do my eyeliner before actually getting some place. That was what I was like for about three months. I just don’t remember a whole lot. What I do remember was that obsession and planning my life around that. In the military, there’s certain forms that you have to fill out about your physical fitness or physical assessment. One of the forms asked if you drink and at this point I knew there was a problem, I definitely knew there was a problem. I told on there “Yes,” and I told them how many, and how often, and I was on Prozac at this point as well, as I was drinking on Prozac.
I knew you could die from doing that and I was okay with that at that point. I did this physical assessment, [and] it put me on medical hold. I basically couldn’t work and I was in the reserves at this point. That was like the worst thing that could happen at the time, or maybe it could have been the best thing, I don’t know. I couldn’t work and so my husband came back from Afghanistan. I wanted a divorce but I had no money. I had to basically get a letter from my doctor saying that I had stopped taking Prozac and I wasn’t drinking on Prozac anymore. Because, Prozac at the time was the problem, it wasn’t my drinking. I wasn’t willing to give up the drinking yet.
I got a letter and I stopped taking Prozac for a while. We were divorced by March of 2012. April of that same year, one month later, I actually met my second husband. Our relationship started off just as sick as the first one. He liked to party like me, he liked to go out, but then something changed. Something changed because he wanted to fix me. He knew I had a problem. He had known about everything that had happened with the previous husband and I sure as heck thought that this one would fix me for sure too. He tried to fix me and he stopped drinking. He said I needed to stop drinking. He wanted to quit smoking cigarettes. He said, “I need to stop smoking cigarettes.”
I thought, “Man, he’s worth it. He’s worth doing this stuff for.” I slowed down a lot but I moved… I know I’m like kind of jumping around, but I moved, I was in Hawaii. I lived in Hawaii for three years with the first husband. Met the second husband in Hawaii and then I moved back to Kentucky because the second husband thought it was a good idea. I come back to Kentucky and I get a job at a bar, which isn’t the smartest thing to do for an alcoholic. It kind of started the cycle over again. Now, the only difference between this marriage and any other boyfriend was that our relationship was unfortunately based on being faithful. That’s all I thought about was being faithful and not even talking to people the wrong way.
I feel guilty for doing this to him and that’s just another whole obsession and unhealthy obsession. I started working at this bar and sometimes I would drink during work, sometimes I wouldn’t, and one time I was drunk at work and I got called out and I was respectful. I kind of stopped doing that. I didn’t want to lose my job. I didn’t want to lose my husband that I put on this super high pedestal, and I was going to stay in Kentuck. He decided, “Why don’t you come back out to Hawaii?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s where I want to be at. That’s what I love. I want to be with you.” I flew back out to Hawaii and I flew back out for maybe a month and a half.
He was in Marine Corps and I was in the Reserves. We didn’t have a lot combined and he didn’t think it was a good idea for me to stay out there. We got married while I was out there. The wedding was awesome. We were on the beach, it was beautiful, but after the wedding we split a twenty-four-pack of Corona. It was just comfortable and I can remember going to the gym with him one night and there was a guy in there that I had went on a date with. My husband at this point, he’s a little racist. The guy that I had one on the date with, I never did anything with this guy except for going on a date. He was black.
I never should have said anything now that I think about it. At the time, I was like, “I went on a date with that guy one time. It’s so weird.” He was like, “Who?” I show him and he’s like, “You’re disgusting.” Gosh man, at that point like that was just not what I needed to hear. I had no concept of self-worth and I had no concept of self-respect or any of that. Like what I thought when he would talk was correct. I thought he was right. I used that as an excuse to get drunk and I got drunk for probably a whole day. That terrified him and so I guess he used the financials as an excuse for me to move back to Kentucky.
I did. I came back to Kentucky. We were going to have to wait about eight months. This was still 2012, [and] he would come back in April of 2013. We decided I was down for whatever; I just wanted to leave. Wherever I was, I constantly wanted to leave. He was like, “Let’s move to Upstate New York.” That’s where he’s from. I’m like, “Awesome. Let’s do it. You can go to school. Let’s do it, man.” We did and we lived in the middle of nowhere on a farm and I hadn’t had a drink in probably about forty-five days, so I need to step back a little bit.
Right before he came back around Christmas time, or maybe it was in January of 2013, I had gotten drunk and called him and he didn’t like that. This probably happened a couple of times before he finally just got really upset about it. We had some exchanging of words that weren’t very nice, and so he had mentioned divorce. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I think I have to do something.” This is the first time I think I truly realized like the effects of my alcoholism because I remember that I had an assignment due. I was like, “I’m going to have a glass of wine just to kind of chill me out while I’m doing some homework.” Then the next thing you know, I mean four hours later I’m at the bar I work at on their WiFi trying to submit my half-written paper just hammered. How you go from that to that is so just crazy. When my husband mentioned divorce, I thought, “Man, I got to do something.”
I went to my first meeting and I was sobbing. I was a mess. I just wanted somebody to help. I didn’t at this point want somebody to help necessarily with me. I wanted somebody to help me to get my husband back on track. I completely went in with the wrong motivation and forty-five days later, I think it was like forty-five days [because] I know I got my thirty-day chip. Stayed sober for a little bit, then when we moved to Upstate New York I think I went into one meeting and it was like me and four are very old men. I’m like, “This isn’t going to help me at all.”
I let my husband also convince me that I was doing this for attention now, and so I stopped going. I thought I could do it by myself. Three or four months go by, so I guess my first period of sobriety/dry was four or five months. One of his fellow… members was celebrating something and he really wanted to have a drink with me and he said that. We did, and I was like, “Okay, this is cool.” Again, it opened the door for me again. It would happen every few months at this point. I wasn’t in any meetings. I wasn’t in any program. There were times when I would drive my little car down to the corn field and just like drink. I couldn’t stay sober and I had this amazing husband who I have put up so high that I couldn’t quit for, so it just continued for another probably a year.
With the geographical change we were Upstate New York, but I kept switching jobs. I thought that was going to help as well and that never did. We even got a dog, that didn’t help either. We would make plans and that would never help. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is no matter what happened I still felt miserable inside, completely miserable. I didn’t felt good about myself, I didn’t feel good about how I looked, I didn’t feel good about how I felt, how I was living, where I was living. I thought that I deserved… I wouldn’t say I deserved more. I thought that there were supposed to be more for me, and I thought that was supposed to be given to me.
I desperately wanted to leave. In March of 2014, I started looking for military jobs. I’m still in the reserves at this point and I’m starting to look for military jobs where I can just go. Me and my husband are talking about, he’s telling me that if I pay my debt off that we can start having kids. I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s awesome.” That’s what I wanted right? That’s what I thought I wanted because I thought that that would fix me too. I’m so glad and grateful today that didn’t happen. I started looking for jobs and I got picked up to go to the Middle East and it was in Bahrain, which is a small island outside the Saudi Arabia.
We were both happy about it. At this point, I didn’t have a fear of going. I was sober, dry. I was dry and still without a program or meeting and it had been probably another four or five months. The night before I left, my husband is like, “Let’s go out to dinner.” I’m like, “Awesome. Let’s go out to dinner. We go to the casino.” He’s like, “Let’s have a drink.” I’m like, “Perfect, let’s have a drink.” Yes, this is what I needed. We have a drink and meanwhile, he’s good. He’s playing cards and stuff but the mental obsession just immediately creeps back in and I want more. I want more than the wine and the beer that I’ve had, but I know that I cannot act out in front of him.
I left the next day and that two drinks that I had the night before opened up, just continued until my end. I went to Bahrain. About three weeks into it, my husband had told me that he never really wanted children and he used that as an excuse for me to pay my debt off. He used the child thing for me to go and pay my debt off or whatnot. My drinking at this point has picked up and it’s kind of nice because I don’t have to tell him about it. He didn’t need to know how much I’ve had. We kind of stop communicating a little bit, and I do what I normally do. I reached out to other men. I kissed three other guys and that guilt immediately crept back up again, and I told my husband on May 23rd, 2014, which is my sobriety day.
My story, because I didn’t want to give those guys that I had kissed, I didn’t want to give their identity away. That really isn’t any of the husband’s business, but my story did keep changing and I kept finding myself having to lie, and lie, and lie about what had happened and how it happened. He finally just said, “To hell with it. It was done.” Like he was done and it was done. I remember after I told him, the day of when I told him, I called my mom and she asked me, “Are you done with this? Is this your final screw up?” I said, “Yeah.”
It has been now for a year. It will be a year and three months the 23rd of August. This past year, that was it. I didn’t have a man I could replace with booze or vice versa. Now, I got sober while I was in the Middle East, and there was one meeting a week. Thank God I found a woman there who had twelve years; her husband had ten. From the day I told him, until I think September, I was in the Middle East with maybe one meeting a week and just contact with her.
I got to leave in September. I left early because they did an evaluation and decided that I needed outpatient rehab. I got to go to outpatient rehab in Maryland in the DC area. This is where I really started feeling okay and being able to find out more about me. This is where I got a sponsor. I started going to a lot of meetings.
This past year has still been crazy. The reason it’s been crazy is because the first three and a half months of my sobriety I was in Bahrain. The next three months I was in Maryland, so I’m still geographically changing my whereabouts and so that’s why it’s not working like I wanted to.
When I got my sponsor, she was telling me things that I needed to do and making suggestions. One of the suggestions was that I grow roots. I’ve always had this really strong, just hate, for Kentucky, and I think it’s because I had this assumption that if you stay in Kentucky, you were miserable and I’m happy, and you didn’t do anything with your life. Come to find out now that there’s people that are extremely happy here, who have a lot more happiness than I did or do and they’ve been here all their lives. I know that now growing roots, and staying here, and being where I need to be and growing a fellowship that I want to be around is so much more important than constantly moving.
I got back here in October. I started going to meetings here. In Maryland, I had a huge young persons fellowship. I got really spoiled by it, and so when I came here it was different. It was country and going to meetings that there’s a lot of older men, and there’s a lot of older women, and people who I thought I couldn’t relate to. At the same time, every time somebody shared their story or had something to say I could always relate to it. I got a home group and I ended up switching sponsors because I had changed locations. For two or three months when I was with my new sponsor, I was like, “Man, this is just not how I pictured my new sponsor being. I want her to be this way and I want her to be that way.”
The funny thing is, now I have to create what I want. If I want to talk to my sponsor everyday and if I want her to give me advice, then I have to ask for it. If I want her to give me suggestions, I have to ask and I have to tell her what’s going on. After learning that, I mean life has just really gotten a lot better. I would tell you even being sober, I’ve made tons of mistakes and like a recent one was with another man. I was going to get married to this guy.
What happened is I really thought it was a good idea, and that was the problem. I thought it was a good idea. I cannot make decisions for myself, and that has shown obviously throughout my years. I went to my sponsor with this. I was getting ready to move again, to uproot my life again for a dude. I had already taken some of my stuff down there. I finally talked to my sponsor because there’s red flags that I didn’t listen to before in both previous marriages. Now that I’m sober and I’m not Prozac, I’m not on anything, there’s feelings that I have not experienced yet. Being able to realize those feelings or look at those red flags.
These red flags kept coming up and I’m just like, “This is just not good. I don’t know what this is. It’s not good.” I talked to my sponsor and she’s like “This is your pattern. This is what you do. You uproot your life for a man. Until you stop that pattern, until you do something different, you are going to feel the same way.” Unfortunately, I did not move to St. Louis, that is where I was going to go. I say unfortunately because I didn’t want to make that decision, and I was going to have to hurt that person. I didn’t want to hurt that person, but it’s okay because I found out afterwards that he didn’t really get his way and so he walked away.
That’s fine, because I know what it would have been like if I had gone down there. My concept of my higher power now really helped me with this whole situation and knowing that I still don’t know my worth. I still settle, and that’s okay, because as long as I stay sober and as long as I work my program more shall be revealed. The day after I decided not to move, I got a call from my old boss who wanted to hire me on for double what I would have made in St. Louis. The next day I got accepted to the University of Kentucky, getting to go to school for something I wanted to do since I was little girl.
It’s so nice now that I get to choose between me and that other person, and I’m starting now to choose me. That is so cool and so freeing. I am single and I am not talking to anybody for the first time in my life since I was allowed to have a boyfriend, and that is so freeing. Now, I want to know more about myself, because it took me years to get this way. It’s going to take years to get out of it. I’m okay with being patient now and knowing that I’m not going to find out everything about myself right at this second. I’m okay with accepting myself right as I am at this second doing this.
It is a freedom that can’t be explained. It really is. Things are just calm for me now. I’m not on Prozac. I’m not on anything. I never thought that I could be without that. I never thought that I could just sit and think calmly without anything. It happens every single day. In the past few months, I’ve really just tried to get myself involved more, involved with young people. It’s really just working out for me. I’m a make-up artist now, that’s something else that I’ve wanted to do since I was little, and I get to do that now.
It’s just a real blessing really that I get to wake up everyday. Some days you wake up and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to wake up today. I just want to sleep.” Those days, it’s okay to have those days. Some days it’s okay just to be sober some days. Because other days are going to offset those and you’ll have great days, too. I’m excited for the rest of this journey. I’m excited that I get to do this journey with other people like me. I just feel really blessed.
If you’re new, I know that it’s so cliché sometimes when people say, “Keep coming back,” but it is so true. Understanding a higher power and being able to pray for the willingness to do anything will really help you out. I hope you keep coming back, and that’s all I got.
Photographs taken at Suzanne’s home in Louisville, Kentucky.