Pills, Alcohol Addiction, and Bipolar Disorder
I had always considered myself a high-functioning alcoholic; at least that was the excuse I gave myself. To be truthful, I was dishonest with myself. I claimed within that I was a highly capable person with a small problem with alcohol and drugs. But I didn’t need to stop because I had is under my complete control. Therefore, I did not suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. At least, that was what I had thought. Until my overdose.
Alcohol Addiction: I Took My First Drink at Age 12
I took my first drink of alcohol by the young age of 12. Because my mom and dad drank socially on a regular basis, alcohol was always available in my home. I would invite over my friends, and we’d steal liquor from my parents or stand outside liquor stores and convince an adult to make a purchase for us.
We then would go hang out in a park or visit someone’s house whose parents weren’t at home. Around this same time period, I also began to smoke and became sexually active. Every time I drank, it was excessive. I enjoyed getting very drunk.
Looking back, I am thankful that I never had anything horrible happen to me. I could have been victimized, but I wasn’t.
By the age of 16, I started to experience crushing panic attacks during my hangovers.
The Trap of Social Drinking
During high school and college, I maintained high grades. I was looked at as a smart student. My family encouraged me to continue to pursue my academics and constantly praised for my good grades. I enrolled in college, left my parents’ home, and went off to college like other high school graduates.
Ensnared in the trap of social drinking, I still continued to get drunk to excess while at college. But I was drinking with my friends. So many of them drank as well that it didn’t send up any red flags. I convinced myself that all college kids drink and continued to tell myself that I was not an alcoholic.
Anxiety Disorder and Bouts of Panic
When I was twenty, my doctor diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and recurrent panic attacks. My brain wouldn’t click “off,” and I worried constantly. I literally worried every second of every waking hour. At night, the worry stampeded like a herd of elephants into my dreams.
I had fears over what others thought about me, even total strangers. I was obsessed with perfection. I strove to be good at everything I did and to impress every person I met. I longed for everyone to like me and to be pleasant and happy at all times.
I lacked the coping skills to manage bad moods, emotions, sadness, guilt, shame, or stress. In the past, I had coped by drinking alcohol. So, I continue to drink to numb the anxiety and panic in my brain. I began drinking every day.
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A Functioning Alcoholic
I held some great jobs but continued drinking. My alcohol addition didn’t slow me down even a bit. I traveled around the world but kept drinking. I dated a wonderful man, fell in love with him, and got married but continued drinking.
At the age of thirty, the doctor diagnosed me with severe depression. My depression caused feelings of exhaustion, overwhelm, and anxiety every waking minute. I was unable to leave my bed, shower, get dressed, or even continue to hold a job. The panic, overwhelming fear, and extreme fear of the world outside of my bed took over my life.
I continued drinking, and wine was my primary drink of choice. I’d drink until I had drunk all the alcohol in the house. Then, I’d walk to the store for more. On many occasions, I drove to get more while I was drunk. I was blessed by pure luck as I was never arrested for DUI and never hurt myself or anyone else during these drunken drives to get more wine.
My doctor prescribed antidepressants, and I started seeing a therapist to deal with my anxiety. I was well again and returned to the working world.
My Kids, My Business, My Bipolar Disorder
I gave birth to three precious babies. Surprisingly, I managed to remain free of alcohol while I was pregnant and breastfeeding. After each delivery, however, I suffered a tailspin of post-partum depression that triggered my anxiety. I felt the pressure to become a perfect mom to my kids. As soon as I’d finished breastfeeding each baby, I turned back to alcohol.
At age forty, the doctor diagnosed me with bipolar disorder II. On one manic high, I purchased a business. I thought that I could become a super successful mompreneur like the ones I had read about on the internet. I was already a full-time mother, but I thought I could handle adding in the management of a successful and enviable business.
My anxiety level now could only be described as over the top. Primarily, I worried about the success of my business. I also worried about how people around me perceived me as a mother and a businesswoman.
This anxiety caused an incredible bout of depression again. However, I pushed myself without asking for help. I told myself it was for my kids. When support was offered, I refused it.
I continued to lie to myself. I swore I didn’t have an addiction. I loathed myself.
Sinking into a Hole of Debt, Anxiety, and Xanax
I still considered myself a social drinker and told myself it was socially acceptable. You know all those “moms drinking wine” memes on social media? I identified with those and told myself that I was just fine.
I just didn’t think of myself as an alcoholic. The problem was, I drank one or two bottles of wine every day, by myself, at home.
My business was a failure because I had become so obsessed with it succeeding that I had hidden from dealing with it. I had spent and lost many precious dollars on the business.
Through my own actions, I had put my family into enormous debt. It wasn’t just alcohol addiction, it was everything that came with it.
My depression and anxiety so overwhelmed me that I blurred the lines between right and wrong to try to feel better. I purchase Xanax online, illegally. I pushed my baby around in her stroller while drinking. Whether in the stores shopping for groceries or in the carpool lane picking up the older children from school, I sipped wine in a travel mug.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t drink away my sadness, self-hatred, or pain. I still had not developed any coping skills. I felt negative emotions at all times and had ceased daily functions.
A Period of Overdosing
I now regularly self-medicated with drugs. In two months, I overdosed two times; the first time was on Lithium and the second time on Xanax. My intention was never self-harm. I intended to stop my pain. I continued to lie to myself, and I had bought into the notion that the drugs would help me return to functioning well.
My second overdose was life-changing. I had spent time the prior week completely zone out while going about my daily life. I had continued driving and taking care of my kids. I didn’t remember the entire week. I had placed my children in enormous danger because they were basically looking after themselves. My eldest, at that time, was only seven.
My husband drove me to the ER and explained that I’d overdosed on Xanax. I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. My husband refused to visit or to bring the children for a visit.
You hear about “rock bottom.” But, until you hit it yourself, you can’t fathom what it’s like. In that hospital, I hit rock bottom.
I quickly realized that I was at risk of losing everything and everyone I loved to my drug and alcohol addiction. I faced the truth that it was not normal to cope by numbing my emotions. Most of all, I realized that while I loved my husband, children, and life very much, I needed to get better for myself and not for them.
The Steps to Sobriety
I now admit to myself that I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic. Never again can I abuse drugs or alchohol. Just one sip would be one sip too many.
My mental illness prescriptions are closely monitored, and I am held accountable for them. Instead of coping by drinking, I reward myself for meeting challenges by taking a walk, enjoying a leisurely shower, or sipping a cup of tea with a friend. I meditate daily. I attend both individual and group therapy once a week. I am learning to cope with negative emotions rather than avoiding them. I’ve learned to embrace feelings such as anxiety or sadness.
I’m learning to give less weight to what others think about me, to give them “zero fuck,” about their opinions. I’ve accepted that the concern over what others thought about me was me projecting my own feelings of self-hatred all along. I don’t need to be that perfect person, to be successful, or to gain adoration from everyone I meet. I’m starting to hate myself less each day.
Dumb Luck and Family Acceptance
Today, I’m here only through dumb luck. I carry the incredible love and strength of those dearest to me: my husband, parents, and sister. They have helped me take every step along the way. They understood that I couldn’t just leave the hospital, come home and move on. My family has given me the time that I need. They realized that recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is the same as recovering from any other illness: it takes help, time, rehabilitation and a commitment to caring for myself.
Now, I’ve accepted myself despite my flaws and forgiven myself. I am free of alcohol and drugs. I feel now like I am a worthy individual.