"At age 12 or 13, I snuck my first beer with a couple of daring friends."
I was a smart kid and a good kid, but I always felt like a fish out of water. Discomfort in my own skin was my normal, and by the time I hit puberty, it became social anxiety. We didn’t know it was called that at the time, so I just thought I was weird.
At age 12 or 13, I snuck my first beer with a couple of daring friends. They nearly puked as we tried to guzzle the warm tall boy before our parents found us, but I only wanted more. Beer tasted gross and gave me indigestion, but I loved the feeling that alcohol gave me—no more social anxiety! So me and alcohol trudged merrily along throughout my teen years and college. I never felt like I had a problem with alcohol because everyone I knew binge drank. Except for my future husband, but he was different, he didn’t ever drink until he was out of control. The rest of us were out of control, but functioning.
Most of us grew out of our binge drinking college days and settled down. I had a few friends sadly fall victim to cocaine addiction (it was the 1980s). But I really had never come in contact with “alcoholics” or alcoholism (that I knew of). It wasn’t until after the birth of my second child that I thought I might have a problem. I used to drink a few glasses of wine after we put the kids to bed, and that would help me go to sleep. But as life moved on and we entered our 30s, my social anxiety problem had gone untreated and I was self-treating with alcohol and later, prescription antianxiety medication. The anxiety and insomnia was grueling, especially with two young children. Then I lost 3 of my 4 grandparents in 11 months, and all of a sudden being a grownup was just too hard.
I collapsed in a pile on my bed, my children safely being taken care of by my friend while I drowned in my own inability to cope and insecurities. I kept taking Xanax to try to get some rest, and nearly killed myself in the process. We called our family physician and she put me in a hospital for substance abuse treatment. It was a life line. Finally I understood what was “wrong” with me. It took many more years of therapy and group support, but eventually I (and my family) gained the tools to handle mental illness and addiction. But the main problem was untreated mental illness, in the form of anxiety, which I had self-treated for years.
Once I got an understanding of how I’d become an addict, I was able to unravel the years of chemical and emotional dependence that I’d been tangled up in. AA and the people I’ve met in recovery have absolutely kept me accountable and centered, along with excellent therapists, counselors and friends. Education and redirection were the keys to my recovery, and God has blessed me and my family with now over 22 years of sobriety and wellness. My hope is that anyone who reads this will learn that recovery is possible.