Alcoholism is a terrible disease. It has no interest in who you are. It does not care about how much money you have,
where you fit in society, or what you have accomplished in your life. It can take away everything you have, including your own sense of self-worth and self-esteem, and it has destroyed many lives and hurt many families. I know all of this because I am an alcoholic.
It could be said that my journey into the abyss was lying dormant in me for years as a number of my family members before me had succumbed to the devastation of alcoholism. Not only did it grab them by the throat, it killed some of them as well.
I was headed down that exact same road. Thankfully, I had the love of my two wonderful children who eventually were the ones that helped save me, and it was only then that I could begin the process of saving myself.
My story towards alcoholism began in 1990 when my mother passed away and shortly after that I separated from my husband of thirteen years. I was now without my own mom and was a single mother to Savannah and Steven who were ages nine and six. It was now up to me to help these innocent children survive the stigma of being from a broken family.
Each day I would force myself to face the hurt of losing my mom, as well as facing the shame of being a divorced woman and in trying to hold my head up as high as possible as I attempted to raise my children. On the outside, I was continuing to raise them with as much love and direction as I could give. On the inside, however, I felt nothing but hurt and a sense of failure as I struggled to make sense of my life as it existed at that time.
So I began the process of trying to unwind after each lonely day. A glass of wine at night would help to calm my senses and relax my mind so that I could sleep. But over time, the one innocent and harmless glass of wine became two glasses, then eventually a bottle each day, and maybe even two bottles per day. By the time this seven-year odyssey peaked in the spring of 1997, Savannah and Steve, now sixteen and thirteen, decided to inform my brothers, Will and Matt, that I needed help.
On April 23rd, a day and date that will always be a part of me, I was invited to what I thought was a family barbeque; it was just after my 43rd birthday. Instead, as I walked into my brother’s house to a deafening silence, the family room was filled with many people that truly cared about me. An Intervention had begun. My brothers were there, my dad was there, my pastor who was a recovering alcoholic was there, and of course Savannah and Steven were there, tears streaming down their faces as I entered the room. I will never forget the words of my children as they read a letter pleading me to get the help that I so desperately needed.
So just a few hours later there I was, walking through the front door at the Betty Ford Center, in fear of where this ultimate step would be taking me. I knew I would be there for the next thirty days, wondering where I would find the strength to rise from the rock-bottom place that I had put myself in. The one thing that I did know through all of the humiliation, embarrassment, and sense of failure that enveloped me was that I WANTED desperately to get better, and that I was going to make certain that April 23rd of 1997 was the last day I would ever have an alcoholic drink. Whatever adversity I was currently going through would eventually be replaced by happiness and hope and that I could and would have a positive future.
That was a promise I made to myself and now, almost twenty years later, I have kept that promise. I had my last drink before entering the Betty Ford Center and I remain sober today. It has not always been easy. It never is when you are an alcoholic. The well-known phrase “one day at a time” is the bible in which all of us who have suffered from this illness need to live by. I do not take my sobriety lightly. I will never take my sobriety lightly.
Each and every day I count the blessings that I was given and I have so much to be thankful for. I have been blessed to have Savannah and Steven as my children. The love and support that they showed me when I needed it most made it possible for me to survive when everything was at its bleakest. That love and support continues to this day, and now I have been blessed with three wonderful grandsons who bring me such joy and pleasure. I am so grateful to many other family members and friends who have been so kind. None of them were willing to give up on me even when there were times that I could have given up on myself.
When you have been in such a dark place as I have and have been given a second chance to experience such brightness, being able to share my journey with others who may be dealing with similar issues is a true gift and one that I am truly thankful to have.
For those of you who are suffering from addiction, you are not alone. So many people struggle with this every day and you need to know that people are there to help you. They want to help you. Just ask for it. What waits for you on the other end is sobriety. Please reach out and grab it. What a wonderful experience it is.
About the Author:
BA Austin is an independent art history lecturer with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Memphis. She completed in-depth studies in Italy on Florentine Renaissance art. Ms. Austin has worked in the museum and academic fields for thirty years. She lives in southern California near her son, daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons who are the joys of her life. For further information, please visit: www.baaustin.com.