Like many addicts, I hit bottom after bottom, completely baffled why and how my life had come to such a place. Drinking and using had always been a fun escape and at no point, even after hitting various bottoms (losing relationships, careers, finances, DUIs/arrests) did I think that alcohol was part of the problem. I was raised with the idea that alcohol was a rite of passage. It was something that you just did after a good day or a bad day. But one day, it became a problem.
My Closest Friend and Lover
Alcohol became my closest friend and lover when I could no longer cope with the world that was falling down around me. I ended up in treatment the first time in March of 2017 in Arizona with so many questions. For the first time in my life I was forced to look at my alcoholism as well as the underlying issues that were keeping me sick.
I was diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. However, was that my alcoholism? What came first? The chicken or the egg?
My therapist told me that doesn’t matter anymore, we now have to deal with the chicken and the egg, but I would be unable to deal with any of this if I couldn’t stay sober. Of course, I was “captain recovery” while in treatment. I was all about it and I was certain that I would never take a drink or drug again. But 60 days after treatment, I found myself back to that same place of needing that escape.
I Felt Alone
My depression had come back worse than ever. I felt alone. I drank until I ended up in treatment again. There were many issues, including mishandling of my medications, which played a part, but I was finally ready to look at some very ugly and glaring issues that kept me sick. I was raised in a cult that called themselves Christian. The culture was based on using shame as way to control people’s behaviors and “keep them in line” with the will of God. It was years and years of psychological and spiritual abuse and the belief that God was ready to walk away from me if I messed up enough. Being honest about any struggles in my life was seen as a failure and almost always lead to public shaming and humiliation. I learned very quickly to hide and not be honest. But the biggest lie that I was told was that life was intended to be blessed all the time, that if I was in God’s will, pain and suffering wouldn’t really be a factor and that I would always be safe. So when I ended up facing this idea that I was an addict and an alcoholic, surely the God of my understanding was sick of me and done with me. I was, of course, “born into sin” and was far from perfect. It was as if the person and being that I needed more than ever felt farther away than ever. I felt I was worthless, cast aside by friends, lovers, family, and now God.
How could I go on? However, I remembered something from treatment that hit me like a ton of bricks. One therapist asked me a question that baffled me. He asked me if I believed that I matter and if I believed that there was something wrong with me. I honestly didn’t know anymore. He told me words I had never heard from another person before. It changed my life when I finally believed it:
“You matter and there is nothing wrong with you.”
Even after my relapses I kept trying to go back to that place. When I finally accepted it, I got and stayed sober. I matter. I always mattered. No matter what happened in my life, no matter what or who I had lost, what I had done or even what I would do, I mattered! It was one of the most powerful and life changing moments I had ever had in my entire life and it completely undermined the idea that I was born into sin and shame. Constantly trying to earn other people’s love (and God’s love, for that matter) was keeping me stuck in this cycle of shame. After a second stay in a rehab in Tucson, I really tried to make this idea that I mattered an anchor for my life and how I would view myself and love myself. But what I realized is that every time I relapsed, I was constantly telling myself that I was worthless, that no one needed me and their lives would be better off without me. What a lie that kept me sick. Who can stay sober if they believe that their life isn’t worth anything? I know I couldn’t. When I looked at my actions when my addiction was in full affect, it was crystal clear that I was living my life from a place of not being worth anything and that my life didn’t matter. Since leaving treatment the second time, I have had to work hard at rebuilding my life and clearing the wreckage that my addiction left. I started a recovery home with other people and continue to help others. I have seen almost everyone of my friends relapse and struggle and the message that I try so hard to convey to them is the message that saved my life: you matter.
I Mattered Now and I Matter Then
I have been sober over a year now and while my journey is just getting started, I am so thankful for the blessing that sobriety and recovery has given me. I’m far from perfect. I have made mistakes and bad decisions but I haven’t needed to go back to that way of life that lead to devastating shame and fear and sadness. As I still work on repairing my past I can do it from a place that I matter now and that I mattered then.
Finally understanding and believing that my life matters is one of the greatest gifts that recovery has given me and I am so thankful for the opportunity to help others find this gift. The bottom line for me is that when I live my life from a place of mattering, then taking a drink or using a drug is the last thing that I would ever do to myself. So for anyone struggling with why to get sober or how to get through a relapse, I would tell them what that man told me:
You matter so much and there is nothing wrong with you. What a powerful place from where to start and live a life in active recovery!