12 Step Planet - Emily
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Growing up is Hard to DoI remember when it started. I was always that kid. That perfect kid. You know, the one who got great grades, did all the extra credit, was always the designated driver in high school, had an essay published in a national publication at 16, and got into my dream college, New York University. My younger sister was always the "rebel" and I prided myself on being the "hero," making my parents proud with every step along the way. There was one small issue despite all the accolades, something was missing. It was tough for me to make friends. I had huge anxiety issues and sometimes it was tough for me to get up in the morning. I had no remedy for these issues before I went to college, so I spent much of my time isolating. That was my self medication at that point. When I came out of my room it always meant stumbling upon my two alcoholic parents. I swore never to drink. I never wanted to be like the mother who would stumble upon my slumber parties to "talk" aka "slur" about boys which I tried to laugh off with my friends as it broke me inside, or the dad who passed out every night on the couch constantly breaking his tumbler full of gin and tonic. My job was to clean up the mess and put him to bed. That was never going to be me. An alcoholic? How disgusting. Then, I went to New York City.   New York City did nothing for my anxiety, and after attending a sheltered all-girls boarding school for four years, boys were another added on stressor I had to deal with. With crowds at every turn and my first boyfriend entering my life my anxiety was at an all-time high. I lasted until the end of my freshman year without taking that drink until that one day I will always remember. My roommate had a bottle of vodka in our room and for some reason it looked good. I remembered the beginning of the nights when my parents came home from work and began to drink and loosened up. I chose to forget the ugliness that came with their later evening passing out. I took a sip. I felt on top of the world. I took another. I felt like I could do anything. Talk to strangers in class. Be more fun around my new boyfriend. Go out dancing. Write like Hemmingway. I found my solution.   That summer, the summer of 2005, I began to drink at night, only when I knew my boyfriend was getting off work in New York while I spent the summer at home in Washington, DC. I knew exactly how much to drink to be witty and interesting without slurring and sounding idiotic. It quickly snowballed. Maybe my high school friends would think I was the "fun one" finally if I had a drink before seeing them. I'd drink on the train to New York City when visiting my boyfriend. I'd drink when he came to visit me. From that first day in the dorms I drank every single day. My starting time went from 10PM to 7PM to 2PM to whenever I knew I would encounter a social situation. By the time sophomore year began, my alcoholic brain told me to drink before move in at 10AM. I drank before my 8AM class in order to make friends. I found a way my entire sophomore year to stay just drunk enough to function and hide my problem from my boyfriend and roommates, and I thought I had it figured out.   No, I did not. By the time sophomore year ended my boyfriend broke up with me because I became too emotional and he had no idea why. It turned out by the end of the day I was almost in a blackout. This was a daily issue at this point. The breakup made things worse. I moved into an apartment alone which, lucky for me, had a liquor store in the building. I began drinking so much over the anxiety and depression of being alone I never got out of bed for class junior year. I dropped out of school on medical leave, telling my parents and advisor I had mono. I spent time going back and forth between my apartment in New York and my house in Maryland. I was drinking so much I feared stealing liquor from my parents would become obvious. And, still attempting to hide the problem, would go to New York, a city where purchasing liquor underage is outrageously simple, especially when the liquor store is in your building. By November of 2006, I cracked and told my mother about what was going on with me after I began to vomit blood. I was sent to a few anxiety doctors, as she and I thought those issues were the root of the problem, but being told I could not drink on the medication I was prescribed, I quickly stopped going. I went to New York City to stay. I barely made it home for Christmas, and I attempted to attend the second semester of my junior year. I didn't make it to one class. I was sick every morning. I played that ugly game of drink, hit the toilet, drink, hit the toilet, until enough was in my system to stop the vomiting. When I came to one day, in my own vomit, excrement, holding a bottle and looking at the clock which read 6:00 not knowing if it was AM or PM as it was winter in New York, I asked for help.   Two days before my 21st birthday I went to my first treatment center, Passages in Malibu, CA. Being against the 12 steps and based on metaphysics I honestly thought a 30 day "dry out" would allow me to go back to the glory days of when I could handle drinking, going to class, having a relationship, and being a functional member of society. Not learning about the disease aspect of alcoholism, when Passages recommended I not go back to New York and get an apartment in Los Angeles, I did just that. I relapsed 10 minutes after I left Passages. I was finally 21 and I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to buy alcohol legally. Within a month I was where I was in New York but worse. Alcohol poisoning at least weekly. No food in my apartment except vodka and water. I heard a knock at my door a month after I left treatment. It was my father. He had an inkling as to what was going on and I was shipped to a place called wonderland, where I went in and out for 6 months, brought alcohol into treatment, and spent way too much time with celebrities. When that treatment center was obviously not working I was shipped to Caron in Pennsylvania. I had 35 days sober going in and I had no idea why I still needed treatment. I fought and cried every single day. I learned nothing. I still had the hatred of the 12 steps instilled in me from my first treatment center. I could not wait for my 30 days to be up. When they were, I was forced into a halfway house near my home in Maryland.   Within 4 days I was bringing beer into the house. I was caught the third day into my relapse and was promptly kicked out. I returned home to find the liquor in my house locked up. My parents drank in front of me, but as the "worst" alcoholic, I wasn't given the "keys to the castle" aka the pool house where the booze was stored. Like a good alcoholic I found keys while my parents were at work, jimmied cabinet locks, and hid alcohol in the attic space behind my closet. About a week out of Caron I stumbled into my attic for a drink, attempting to stay on the beams. Unfortunately I put one foot through the dry wall and fell through. I broke my back in three places and shattered my pelvis. I spent a month and a half in the hospital learning how to walk again. The first thing my father said to me when he came to the hospital was "well, now you've hit rock bottom, literally." I hadn't. I figured I'd just get addicted to pain meeds so I wouldn't smell of alcohol. When I learned I was too lucid for my taste on opiates, I began to order cases of Listerine online to kill the pain and get the fix I craved. My parents locked up my license and passport, so the only alcohol available to me was the mouthwash and occasional sip of vanilla extract. After I healed I quickly ended up in rehab once again.   I met a boy in rehab this time. Worst idea in the world. I ended up marrying him, he relapsed and stomped in my wrist and left me on the floor for 12 hours, stole my car and was found with cocaine and three hookers, and is in jail for the next 3 and a half years. I was thrown through such a loop I just wasn't done. Despite going to AA meetings and finding a sponsor I drank at night, which quickly spiraled into my drinking all day every day patterns. After four trips to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, it was back to rehab, this time in Memphis. I was sent straight to the hospital due to the fact my stats were in the drain, a real taste of reality. After 45 days it was off to Atlanta for another halfway house. I ran away to a motel with a plan to drake myself to death when I was found and sent to yet another detox and an indigent rehab.   45 days later I was sent to Sober Living by the Sea for three months. I actively worked the steps and stayed sober for over a year. I met a man in the program and we moved to Colorado. I stopped going to meetings. My anxiety promptly came back and I began to crave. I lasted a week. I drank for four days and ended up in detox and another rehab based on the principles on passages. I still maintained my 12 step mentality and stayed sober.   Then I got sick. I contracted a one in a million disease called Lemmiers. My blood went septic and hit my liver first. I ended up in the hospital jaundiced, with hep A. If I ever drink again I will die within 15 minutes. I spent three weeks in the ICU and almost died twice. I had horrific hip surgery. It was a blessing to get out alive. My sponsor says it's my higher power doing for me what I couldn't, since getting over a life threatening illness is an easy excuse to drink. Though I would like it to be a choice, which I guess it still is, I am thankful for my 5 months of sobriety and my higher power doing for me what I cannot do for myself and the 12 steps and prayer to get me through learning how to walk again and my countless doctors appointments. Life in general is never easy, and I've learned that drinking over my problems don't only make them worse, it adds onto them. 9 rehabs and 22 detoxes later I can definitely vouch for that.   Working the steps, finding a higher power, and prayer have helped me through. Looking for something bigger than yourself and accepting life on life's terms are my best pieces of advice. Cherish every day, after battling this disease and another, you never know which will be your last.  

Emily