It’s no secret I’m pretty vocal about my sobriety. Because of this, I have had many people reach out to me about themselves, their spouse or sibling and how alcohol, drugs, and other issues have affected or is affecting their lives. So the other day God spoke to me and said you need to tell your story from every angle. So that’s what I’m doing. My family and I share because we want to spread some hope and light on what is still considered to be a taboo or misunderstood topic. In addition, we hope that we can help just one person or one family not go through what we have been through or bring comfort to those who have.
For the next few weeks, I will be telling some of my story (in very short Q&A form) and also allowing my parents, my husband, and my brother to tell theirs. I have given each of them questions to answer honestly about how it was, how it is now, and how they were affected/are affected and what light they might have to shed for others going through it. These may be more lengthy and less humorous than some of the other things I write, but obviously it’s something that is near and dear to my heart. I promise the funny ones will be back. So here’s a little about me and my journey.
- What were you like growing up? I was a super chatty, happy child. My parents divorced when I was 5. However, I am one of the truly blessed ones whose parents always lived close to one another and each of them married very supportive, kind people to whom they are still married today. In high school I made A’s and B’s and was in the National Honor Society, lead in high school musicals, sang in the show choir, and was on drill team. I was a leader in the group at our school for Students Taking Action Not Drugs (junior year). I never skipped school (minus that 1 time for 3 hours) and never got in trouble. I tried to be friends with everyone and from the outside I lived a pretty squeaky clean life.
- When did you first try alcohol or drugs? I was 13 when I first tasted alcohol. I had an experience happen to me that I wanted to forget. I guess somewhere not so deep inside, the inner alcoholic told me that drinking would help me to forget it. So, I’d sneak wine or beer from my parent’s fridge. I was 15 was when I started drinking with friends, smoking cigarettes, and trying marijuana.
- What are some things you believe contributed to your drinking? The first contribution was my experience at 13 that I wanted to forget. Another was that I didn’t trust people. I had a group of girls betray my trust in 8th grade and from that point on, I didn’t know who I could trust, so I hid my feelings and felt more social when I was drinking. I also felt like I had to be “perfect”, yet I didn’t really know how to do that. I didn’t really know who I was, so if I drank or took a pill, I instantly felt like I turned in to whoever you wanted me to be and all was well. I was a definite social chameleon. Of course, I surrounded myself with others that enjoyed drinking or trying drugs and so to us, it was normal. Until it wasn’t…and the day came when I couldn’t even feel “normal” without drinking or taking pills. I would get physically sick and mentally crave, until I had to have something in my body to make the voices and sickness go away.
- How did abusing drugs/alcohol affect your family and the rest of your life? No one wanted to be around me. My parents didn’t trust me and never knew what I was going to be like. I was completely Jekyll and Hyde when I was drinking. I lost jobs and friends. I tried moving around to escape what was in my head, but that didn’t help. I got in trouble with the law and I have been in/out of inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, counseling, AA, and homes for women in recovery.
- When did you realize you had a problem? It was first brought to my attention when I was 20 and my parents held an intervention. Multiple times in my 20’s and early 30’s, my family, friends, and boyfriends tried to help me, but I really just felt like it was normal to party at that age. Even when my husband broke off our engagement, I lost a really good job, 3rd degree burned my foot and ended up in a 30 day rehab, I couldn’t stay sober. I knew I had a problem, but I couldn’t stay stopped. I would wake up every morning and swear to myself I wasn’t going to drink that day and then I would.
- What was your rock bottom? I am very lucky that on the night of November 12, 2013, the police intervened in my life. I know, that sounds weird, but I truly believe that had I made it home that night, I would have died. The police took me to the hospital and my blood alcohol level was so high that most people die. And of course, I know God was watching, because in that drunk driving blackout, I didn’t hurt anyone else. The next day, I woke up in the hospital with no one there…no husband, no parents, no one…they were finally done with my bull shit. I knew I could either take my own life to end this cycle or change my life. I felt in my soul that this was the final chance God was giving me to live the life he wanted me to live (he’d been gracious too many times before.) With an almost 2 year old little boy at home, most would think that would be an easy decision to make and at this point it was. Unfortunately, prior to that, my disease kept me so sick mentally and physically that even with my son, loving parents, and loving husband, I couldn’t stop. I never set out to hurt any of them, but I was so sick. But this time…I said enough is enough!!
- What was your first year of sobriety like? IT WAS HARD! I was in a lot of counseling, a lot of AA, and a lot of shit in my family. See, just because I decided to get sober, didn’t mean it was all peaches and cream around home. Plus, I had told my family many times before that I was going to quit and I just couldn’t. The first year was a lot of looking super deep inside to figure out why I kept turning to alcohol and pills and find new ways to cope with life. I also had to figure out a way to stop the shame/use cycle. It’s all I knew. I also had to come to understand that no one trusted me and that this would take time. I felt like since I knew this time was different and I was really trying to change, why couldn’t they see this right away? But each day got better and a little easier.
- Do you go to Alcoholics Anonymous? Yes, I do. I used to go at least 3 times a week in my first year of sobriety. AA looks different to everyone, but for me now, it looks like going once every 2-3 weeks. I have 2 specific meetings I like going to on the weekends and in those early morning meetings, I have a second family. I have people there who love me unconditionally, can relate to where I’ve been, can share their stories and give me hope that I can make it through anything sober. These are the people who are on my speed dial and I can reach out to them any time and they will be there. I also sponsor and mentor others who are new in their sobriety.
- What is your life like now? BLESSED beyond measure!!!! I often say that if I had written down early in my sobriety what I wanted my life to look like at 3.5 years sober, I would have severely short changed myself. I am truly happy almost 100% of each day and if I’m having a bad day, well…that’s OK too. I LOVE MYSELF and I know who I am today!!! Imperfections and all. That was never the case before. I like who I am when I look in the mirror with clear eyes! And bonus…I’m not physically sick every day! My family trusts me!!!!! Remember how I didn’t trust people (especially women) before? Well, I now have at least 15 women I can call upon at any moment and who would drop everything to be by my side as I would to theirs and I trust each of them with minor and major details of my life. I have a successful bakery and people rely on me to make their desserts for the special moments in their lives. My sons have a mother who is an active participant in their lives and they know that I am there for them. LIFE IS GREAT!!!!
- What would you say to someone who is active in their addiction right now? ASK FOR HELP! To those on the outside, that sounds so easy, BUT it is THE HARDEST thing to do when you are active in your disease. Don’t let the YETS happen. Maybe you haven’t gotten arrested, maybe your spouse is still supportive, maybe your kids are OK, maybe you still have your job…you haven’t lost these things…YET! Understand that what is happening to you is a disease. You are NOT a bad person, you just need to get clean and get help. HAVE HOPE! It can and does get better!!!
Thank you for taking time to read a little bit about where I was and where I’m at now. Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who might need it and the next couple of blogs that my family has been so gracious to write. I continue to keep all who might be going through this themselves or with their family or friends in my prayers and please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
**If you or someone you know needs help,
here are a few resources and my email addresses.
*Alcoholics Anonymous: http://anonpress.org/phone/
*Life Management Resources (Outpatient): http://lifemanagementresources.com/
*My email: Jenn.Browning1@gmail.com