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      Sober Nation

      Putting Recovery On The Map

      Name: Coleen Young

      Age: 61

      Sober Since: 09 / 05 / 2015

      Sober For: 7 Years & 157 Days

      What it was like?

      Here I go again, trying to remember so I can let it all go. But where do I begin? Do I start from the now, or the past? A wise person once told me the only way we will heal, we first need to let it go. Write it down or better yet talk it out and the Lord knows I have never been one short for words. But are the words that come out of my mouth spoken from MY head, heart, and soul? Or are they the words I think you and others want to hear? As I sit here, like I have so many other times in the past, trying to write it all down; I can’t help but hope, through all this fog and confusion that there will be some small bursts of clarity. So why can’t I remember? Or what is it, that I have tried so hard my entire life to forget, or that I shrug it all off as a simple lasp of memory? Wow! Did I say simple? I guess this is as good as any other place to begin. There has never been any thing, even remotely close; resembling the notion “simple” in the 60 years I have been in existence. So, let me apologize now, before go any farther, for any confusion, stress or discomfort my ramblings may cause you to experience in any way. The skeptic or cynisist might very well be shaking their head at this very monument. However, I am not writing these words for approval, praises, or sympathy, or for any one person other than myself. I am searching for self-preservation. However, I do pray that if in this search, my experiences could bring some small revelation or comfort to someone else. It is this possibility that gives me the strength and courage not only to write it all down but also to share it with the you today. Am I scared? Hell yes I’m scared! I am terrified! No one willingly wants to feel pain and sadness, but this pain is a necessity in my ability to find some sanity to my future existence. First let me say that not all our memories are OUR memories. Some of them are the memories of others told to us in stories handed down. Then there are those memories that were created by photographs in hopes of narrating that event. But all memories are opinions and perceptions, variations of the truth. The truth will never truly be known and always float somewhere in the middle, at times haunting, taunting and even tormenting us. Unless of course we put our logic to it and let it go. Truth is a hard one to come by for the addict. We lie, plain and simple. We lie to survive. We lie to protect our families and our jobs. We lie to everyone around us about every aspect of our lives. But ost of all we lie to ourselves. If it were not for these lies we would have had to face that monster, we call “addiction”. So, we lie. We lie to live or we fear we die. Let me try and find some truth in this madness I call memories, my life. From the very start of my life I was different and difficult. I couldn’t wait to get to the hospital, so I was born in the backseat of a 1953 Chevy Bel Air. My birth certificate states, as place of birth: Moanalua Rd. NEAR Tripler Intersection, Pole #179, Farrington Hwy. Nanakuli, on the Island of Oahu, Honolulu Hawaii. My Father was a Navy Seaman, a baker on the hospital ship U.S.S Repose. I was the first and only girl, I had three older brothers. My eldest brother Alvie tried to run away when he found out I was in fact a girl. He was 7 then. My mom had been married two times before my dad. Something very unheard of in the ’50,s. She had my two eldest brothers Alvie, and Greg who was 5 years older than me, by her two former husbands. Both those men were physically abusive to her. Due to this abuse Greg was born with Cerebral Palsy, a neurological impairment that damaged his hips and legs. He was in a wheelchair the first 9 years of his life and always in a lot of pain, but never ever showed it or complained. He always smiled big and bright. My third brother Charlie is two years older than me and my full brother. I Don’t remember Hawaii. We moved when I was very young. My first memories are from Midway City, California when I was 5. We were an upper middle-class family, dad worked long hours, mom stayed at home with us kids. They both drank, very heavy. But it seemed everyone in our lives did, our neighbors, all our friends, even my Grandparents. Life was always full of grownups with drinks, playing cards, BBQ’s, bon fires, pizza parties and hangouts. So, in my eyes this was normal. Except when the party was over and the arguing and fighting began. My mom was only 5’6” about 120 lbs., not very big, but she got very mean to my dad when she was drunk and man she could hit! She also liked to throw things as well. Lamps, end tables, chairs, ash trays anything that her angry hands could reach. My dad, was about 6’8” 220 lbs. He never hit her, but fought her off, usually by shoving or bear hugs. All of which caused both of them to have cuts, bruises, and broken bones. I hid under my bed, praying it would all go away. Police were called many times, they talked to them both and sometimes made my dad leave for the night, but never any arrests. Dad worked two jobs all my life, he seemed far too busy for me. I never understood that he was addicted to work as well as alcohol. I saw him as my hero. Ten feet tall and bullet proof. I loved getting my hand lost in his, while walking down the street. Watching him carry his beer in one hand and another can in his back pocket, all the while trying to stay up with his giant size footsteps. I remember very few heart to heart talks with him. One that sticks to me was when he in a drunken stupor, rolled his car on his way to his second job. He walked away unharmed and took a taxi home to get one of our other cars, only to roll it in the same spot as the first. This lucky man walked away from that as well took another taxi home to get a third car, one of my brothers. Still drinking, only to wreck, roll and total it as well, a mile down the road from the very first. Arrested that time and taken away by ambulance. He prayed with me that night but continued to drink himself stupid. As I was growing up my mom may have been home during the day, but she was never really there. She would drink her beer and do her laundry while watching TV. When she got tipsy she would turn the radio on and dance around the house drinking vodka and Fresca. She worked hard around the house keeping things clean and mended. Her drinking never seemed wrong. I needed my mom to talk to but never really could, so I would lie and say I needed to use the restroom just to sit on the toilet while she was in the bath to spend time with her. Never really talking about things. I knew nothing about life. When I was 8 my brother Alvie at 15 started sneaking into my room at night and “attempted” to molest me. I say “attempted” because he never penetrated me, he only explored. I pretended to be asleep. I was terrified, I was ashamed, but yet at the same time, excited and happy. So many conflicting emotions. This same boy that I loved and looked up to, the one that I thought hated me all my life was finally showing me what I thought was love and attention. Even now as write this I try to sugar coat it with words of “attempt” and “only”. See how we lie to ourselves. After a while, my body started changing. I gained weight. So, I thought what any 8-year-old girl with no understanding of life would think. I must be pregnant. Terrified and alone with no one to talk to. Until finally one night I broke down. My mom was drunk and I came to her in hysterics telling her everything. I don’t remember much of what went on after that. I only knew my mom and dad were very mad, with a lot of screaming. Alvie, never talked to me after that. And it was of course all my fault. The next 5 years was filled with my parent’s arguing and drinking. Me and my brother Charlie were dragged into the bars by my dad to pull my mom out. Me riding in the car late at night with my drunk mom looking for my dad in neighborhoods where she thought he was having an affair. One of those late-night rides, my brother Greg’s friend asked to ride along. Again, I found myself being molested, right under my mom’s nose in the backseat. I was too frightened to say anything, but at the first stop of the car I begged to ride up front. Never saying why but showing my first real signs of preservation. My brother Alvie joined the Army and was ship off to Viet Nam. He did two tours with three Purple Hearts. All of which were from bombs so close it left him with brain hemorrhages, bleeding from his ears and nose and a very different man. He reenlisted and married a girl he only knew from letters written during his tour. They were stationed in Germany. When I was 13 I found out that Alvie was arrested and accused of rape and murder. She was only 13. He stabbed her 13 times. I felt it should have been me. It was me he hated not her. It was that day I started drinking. I drank for comfort. They held him in a prison hospital for over a year awaiting trial. Until one day three army officers came to our door. My mom seemed to know something was wrong. She refused to answer the door. She told me to tell them to go away, that she was in the bath. They said it was important they would wait and sat down in the living room. They proceeded to tell my mom that my brother Alvie was dead. He took his own life by an over dose of Darvon. I watched as my mom collapsed on the floor screaming that these men were liars. Days later when his body was brought back to the states we were told that the autopsy showed that over 100 pills were in his system. Darvon was my mom’s drug of choice, used along with her vodka. She continued to use them both. I never had many friends so I put all my trust and time in animals and art, I loved to create. I was blessed to have horses, a few head of cattle, pigs, a ram and chickens I raised these for FFA and 4H and my family’s freezer. I showed my horse. We broke many speed records in barrel racing and took many ribbons and trophies. The only shows my parent attended were the ones they had to because they trailered me there. I rode my horse from sun up to sun down. She was my sanity. Riding as far as I could in the hills making it home before dark. On the hot days, I rode to the reservoir to swim. One day as I was swimming a man came up to me, he seemed nice, he began to swim too. He grabbed me and told me if I screamed he would drown me. I then saw three other men on the side of the bank his friends laughing. He whispered to me as he proceeded to rape me “you can let me, or they all will”. All I could do was cry. When he finished they all left laughing. In shock, I rode home and said nothing. What could I have said. I was still just 13, scared, sickened, and creeped out in my own skin. Now, the one escape I had from life, riding my horse, was no longer an option. Too frightened leave my yard, so, I drank more and started smoking pot and continued to draw. Art, pot and alcohol now was my only escape. It was around this time of my life that I found out my Father, in a drunken stupor, slept with my mom’s mother, who was also a drunk. This totally creeped me out. So many emotions for a 14-year-old to have. It made me sick inside. So much hate, mistrust, sadness, love, and anger. I didn’t know who or what to do or blame. To this day, I still can’t wrap my head around this one. My bothers troubles, and death seemed to have left my parents with nothing but anger, deception, alcohol and prescription drugs. My family as it was, continued to dissolve. I was confused lost and horrified. Drinking more, ditching school and sneaking out of my window seemed my only escape. At 15 I got pregnant by a neighbor boy I was sneaking out to see. He was 17. Being 15 and pregnant in the 70s, didn’t go over well. I had to drop out of school to be. My mother took me to Tijuana, Mexico where at 15 it was legal to get married. My parents divorced. I stayed married two years. He did some horrible things to me in the disguise of love, and I was too young to understand or know what to do, with no escape. I started using other drugs to mask this shame; acid, Mescaline, and speed, but never anything horrible and hard like Heroin, like all my friends did. Ha I was better than that. It was all good. I could handle it. My husband was arrested for burglary. While he was in jail he gave a relative of his permission to stay at our apartment for a night. Being the submissive wife, I couldn’t say no. This man raped me. He left the next day. Out of fear I said nothing. Again, what could I say, to whom? Who would actually listen? Because he was my husband, his charges were being addressed my way. I was 16 and alone with a 6-month-old baby. The deputy made many stops and home visits insisting he was looking out for my best interest. Until one day he made advances towards me cupping my breast and telling me if I cooperate he could make my husband’s charges go away. I am thankful the front door was open to my apartment and a neighbor that was walking by looked in. I was able to push him off and ask him to leave. I was terrified. I was raised to respect and rely on the police, they were here to help and protect me. Not anymore. Now I was afraid I would be accused of the things my husband had been doing, arrested, and lose my daughter. So, I went to legal aid and started my divorce. Three months later I found out I was pregnant. Not knowing or caring if was my abusive husband’s child or the distant relative that raped me. I only knew I wanted it gone. I was told I was too far along for the simple abortion. (ha simple) I was so scared, I actually felt evil, so much anger. I tried to stab myself in the belly with a knife. I was so lost, alone, and terrified. I was unable to go through with this, but made it to the hospital. There they gave me a third trimester abortion. How horrible! It was a boy. I could never express the shame, sadness and hopelessness I felt. I moved to Kansas when I was 18. I fell in love with nature, hunting, fishing, and hard work. I was an auto mechanic and did house demolition, even electrical repair for a seismograph crew. No more drugs but I continued to drink. I married again at 20. I had my second daughter at 21. My 2nd husband was arrested and jailed, for burglary and I divorced him after two years for the same reason as my first, out of fear of losing my kids. He was a good man, just not very bright and had a bad temper. At 22 I owned my own bar. This was a wild time of late nights, drinking and drugs. However, it took me away from my daughters. It took me two years to see this and I decided to go back to school. I took my GED and started on an Associates’ Degree in Business/Art. Life was good and I fell in love again, this time I was afraid to marry so we decided to live together, with plans to marry when I was through with college. Three wonderful years later, Louie woke up, kissed me good bye, and left for work. A few hours later I received a knock at the door. A sheriff came to tell me Louie was killed in a horrible work-related accident. Pictures of my mom crumbling with the news of Alvie’s death flooded my head as I crashed to the floor screaming and sobbing in the same denial. It’s all lies. Life is nothing but a lie. At 25 I was now a widow. I lost my best friend. Not knowing how to grieve, I couldn’t help my daughters to grieve. They lost who they thought of as daddy. I became lost in a fog, lost in my mind, heart, and soul. The next year was a blur drinking heavily. One night leaving a bar I was attached at knife point. He cut off my clothes and held the knife at my throat. In self-preservation, I reached for the knife pulling the blade away from my throat and cut my thumb almost completely off. In shock, I drove myself home, cleaned up, changed my clothes and called a friend. She drove me to the hospital. I was told I would lose my right thumb. That dark tunnel of shock I’ve known all to well in my life sucked me in again. I woke up two days later in the hospital. My hand would be okay but only after years of rehabilitation. The man was arrested only later released after 30 days. For years, I walked around shell shocked, seeing him in my mind around every corner. I finished my college degrees with a teaching certificate in Art. But struggled for two years to find a teaching job. In those two years, I worked as a union laborer building bridges and working in a nuclear power plant making $19.75 an hour. In the ‘80’s when minimum wage was $3.15 I was doing great. Until Cocaine entered my life. This was where I found out my youngest daughter at 5 years old was molested by the 15-year-old son of the man I was dating. This hit me hard, it was right under my very nose, just like my own experience. I understood why she couldn’t tell me, more than she would even understand. It was my eldest daughter that told me. Shocked not knowing what to do I told the man to get counseling for his son or I would call the police and made sure the boy was never around us again. My eldest daughter at 13 was also having her own problems. Wanting my attention, she started sneaking out of the house. I was my mom all over again. When I was home, I was home but not really there. She ran away for the first time. When we did talk, it was in anger and turmoil. Finally telling me some of her hell, being raped while other boys watched, thinking she may be pregnant. Does any of this sound familiar? I didn’t know how to deal with any of this. So, I did the only thing I knew how to do, I drank more and continued to use Cocaine. After sleepless nights and going to work stoned, I know God intervened. He found me an art teaching job, 400 miles away in St. Louis. All “I” had to do was pass an interview with no education experience. He saw to this as well. My mother continued to drink. She showed up at my door from California in Kansas in handcuffs with the sheriff. She stayed with me for four days. I thought I had no alcohol in the house yet she stayed drunk and awake the entire time arguing, ranting, and raving how I was a horrible mother and person. I had to have my own mother committed to dry out. This was one of the hardest things I could ever do. Later I found empty bottles stock pilled in boxes behind the trash. Bottles of vanilla, mouth wash, cooking sherry, 10-year-old decorative bottle of wine I got at a yard sale, bottles of triple sect I had left from when I owned the bar, all of which I never thought for a minute anyone would actually drink. She moved back to California and after she had 7 DWIs and even served time in jail, something women didn’t do back then, especially upper middle-class women in their 50’s. She continued to drink her way into the hospital, where she died of siroccos. The last time I saw my mom was during a teacher convention in Arizona. She had someone drive her there to stay with me a few nights. She was drunk and stayed drunk the entire time. We argued. She lost all he bodily functions, shitting the bed and the bathroom floor, there was blood too. I should have been worried for her health but I was ashamed. Thinking she was weak and brought this on herself. I was only worrying that the hotel would think it was from me. I never once thought she was sick or dying. I thought she did this to herself, drinking. When she got home she called me and we talked. She was still drunk, but it was a good conversation with “I love you’s” and “I’m sorry’s”. She continued to drink for another week and ended up in the hospital, bleeding from every orifice of her body. She went into a comma for two weeks on life support. I was afraid to go to her, to see her like that. I lied to myself that I couldn’t afford to leave work. My brothers and I, over a conference call, made the decision to pull the plug. I flew home for the funeral. I hated myself, I was ashamed of her. I had no knowledge of this disease. To me she just seemed weak and unwilling to quit. Alcohol was nothing. Why didn’t she just stop? I was 10 feet tall and bullet proof. Look what I have gone through to get to where I was. I’m not like her. I can handle my drinking. Blah Blah Blah… Lies all lies. A few years later my brother Greg also died of the same disease. They both drank themselves to death. But not me. I’m strong. I can handle it. I continued to drink. I told myself everything I ever accomplished was for my daughters. I’ve always work two and even three jobs to make ends meet. I worked hard on bettering our lives getting two Masters degrees and being a respectable teacher. Not seeing how this was another addiction, workaholic limy father. With God’s Grace I did it alone. I raised two beautiful daughters for 15 years. However, I depended on my eldest daughter way too much to help, fill in with home responsibilities. I forced her to grow up too fast. Our relationship was destroyed. We tried counseling but it seemed to put a wedge deeper between us. She moved out to live at the counseling center and ended up living a very hard life on streets from friend to friend on her own at 17. I failed her as I did my mother. The last night I saw my mom in Arizona I met another man that promised me the moon. He moved back St. Louis to be with me. My youngest had just tuned 13 at the time and rebelled over this relationship. She snuck around and became pregnant. Not knowing how to deal with this, the boys’ parents and I decided to have it aborted. My daughter was far too young in her body and her mind to go through with having this baby. I drove her to Illinois where it was legal. After it was through as I drove my baby home she was vomiting and sick the entire ride. I felt horrible, helpless, and sad and very ashamed of what I had put her through. We never talked about it much. We just swept it away with all the rest of our hurts and scares. After 13 years of physical abuse and drunken brawls, with this man I got my first DWI. We divorced, I lost my house, my mind, and my internal strength. I even began to hyperventilate, not able to breath. What the hell! I am an extremely strong woman. All I had to do was breath! I drank away the sorrow. But I still said I had no problem. It was only alcohol. I could handle it. I always made it to work. Always paid my bills. Never had any blackouts or hangovers afterwards just the occasional flu… In the midst of all this turmoil I met yet another man, Jeff. This one was different. He was energy, exciting, and most of all fun. I became alive again. Even though I still felt life was way out of control, it was an exciting ride. We drank. That’s what we did we drank and we had fun. Then the fun and drinking turned into fights arguments and another DWI. But yet, I still didn’t have a problem. I was still going to work, paying my bills and I was healthy. I was so healthy I donated a kidney. Alcoholics can’t do that… Samantha was one of my ex-students dying of a rear blood disease Cystinosis. Cystinosis is a rear genetic disease that causes cystine crystals to accumulate in all the organs and white blood cells. Usually attaching the kidneys first, as it did with her. Sam had her first kidney transplant at age two. I had known her all her life. I taught Sam and her older brother in my art classes. I absolutely adored her and her entire family. At 14 years of age her kidney was failing again. After years of dialysis, in a heartfelt conversation with her mom, she told me Sam was dying. I couldn’t accept this. I offered her my kidney. Therese cupped my hand and with a beautiful smile and tears in her eyes she said “It’s just not that simple. There are so many tests with so many things that need to be match up.” I said I was doing it. If it is Gods will and meant to be, it will be. Because of her disease, she was not allowed on the donors list. There were five doctors on the specialist panel that had to approve first. Months went by and the test results were in. I was not only a match, my kidneys were bionic, they functioned at 120%! Four of the five doctors approved and with such great test results they over-road the one that didn’t. The surgery was to happen on Sam’s 21st birthday August 2nd. . The operation took 5 hours for me and 7 for Sam. We stayed in the hospital in rooms that were next to each other. They let me stay until they were sure she would be okay. It was amazing. She was off most of her stabilizing meds within months. She was able to actually be a young woman and live a normal life, not tied to a machine, getting out of the house to date, shop, movies, lunches, and even kiss a boy, things we tend to take for granted. 7 years later the disease finally took over the rest of her body. On her last days she told her mother, “Mom you know the only things about me that are not sick and still working is my brain and my kidney. Do you think Coleen wants her kidney back?” She was dying and yet still wanted to make us laugh. This operation gave her 7 years more to experience life. It took two months for me to heal from the operation. And yes, I continued to drink. Drinking turned the volume down to the voices in my head. But now it seems the volume is broken.

      What happened?

      I’ve lived it. I’ve denied it. But now after three DWIs all of which I made excuses for, I can truly say I’m through. I know I’m an alcoholic. I do not blame anyone for any of my mistakes or problems. I can’t drink. If I do I will die.

      What it is like now?

      .My story does not end here. It’s just beginning. I married again. Yea, I know number 4 sounds bad. However; Jeff is a good loving man with a kind heart and Godly spirit. In the past 12 years, we had some rough drunken times among them almost being killed in two car crashes and the horrible disappearance of his niece. We both are sober now. I waited to marry sober. This month marks my 22nd month of sobriety. I have a lot to be thankful for. It seems addicts’ life stories are all about horrible bad things. I have had some amazingly great things happen in my life, miracles every one. My faith in God, great health, wonderful talents, amazing friends, loving husband, two beautiful daughters that have blessed me with four wonderful grandbabies, who also has blessed me with two amazing GREAT-Grandbabies! And I am sure there will be many more miracles just over the horizon. We all have a story. We are, who we are, not in spite of, but because of how our story reads. I am sure your story is not much different from mine. It may be harsher, but hopefully I is a kinder one. It isn’t our story that matters much in the scheme things. It is what we do with it that matters. I choose to share it, with hopes of helping others in their struggle, as well as helping me to grow in mine. I will continue to work on this story. Of course, it is my LIFE story and I am by the Grace of God still very much alive. I know there are still some things buried deep in this fog that wraps my mind keeping me sane. I’ve questioned God many times in my life. But this I know for sure, He has never left my side. By the Grace of God I am still here and by His Grace and His Grace alone I WILL make it. Let the healing begin. One Day at a Time.

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