Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom, part 5

HEEELLLOOOO!!!!

 

My last blog post was about 2 weeks ago, and since then, I’ve made it through 2 relatively big milestones (in my eyes) completely sober:

  1. Trade show in Orlando
  2. The flu

More than anything, I think what I despise the most in sobriety is sickness. I’ve had strep throat and the flu within the last 6 months, and being sick absolutely forces me to revert to some old habits: laying in bed all day, calling into work, not going to meetings/group/therapy, boredom… Like, when I’m sick, I feel like I get REALLY friggin sick, not just an annoying sniffle or cough, but like throwing up, snot coming out of my nose like water, deep, heaving cough, can’t see straight, deathly sick. More on that later… I’m ready to finish this Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom mini-series.


 

It’s around New Year’s Eve, 2015, about to be a new 2016.

On New Year’s Eve of 2015, me and a boyfriend I had at the time went to one of those paint and wine bars. It was actually SUPER fun, we had a great time. The only problem was, the wine was SO expensive, and we only split ONE bottle between the two of us, for the whole 5 or so hours we were there. The whole time my mind was preoccupied with drinking and getting drunk.

This boyfriend I had at the time, Ben… interesting story. Ben and I met at band camp when we were in 7th or 8th grade. I played the flute, he played the french horn. This was a pre cellphone, pre Facebook time in age. So, we only talked a few times a year in between band camp on the landline (LOL). Every year at band camp, we would show up, along with all of our band camp friends from years past, and everyone just knew we were the band camp couple. All bets were off for the week of band camp — if I had a boyfriend at the time, well I didn’t have one during that week (Sorry Drew…). Years later, we ended up going to the same college. Neither of us knew we would be going to the same college, so when we figured it out, it was like a ‘sign’ we were supposed to be together. We dated for a couple months freshmen year of college, and then Ben had a mental breakdown. A no-joke, hallucinating, ending up naked in the middle of random places, amnesia kind of mental break. It was terrifying. He went home and stayed in a few different psychiatric hospitals before getting put on the right medication and going back to school somewhere closer to home.

Then, after I graduated college and moved to Milwaukee, we somehow reconnected. I think he might’ve found me on LinkedIn, and saw I was in Milwaukee, which was close to where he was living (with his parents), and his brother lived in Milwaukee, so we were close again. He came to visit me for a weekend and we hit it off, just like old times. Like no time had passed at all. We had so much fun, we laughed until we cried eating gyros. He came to visit me a few more times in the fall of 2015, and we decided to date. I was comfortable dating him while I was going through the trial-and-error with different anti-depressants, because he knew what having a mental illness is like. Also, because he could only come visit for one night a weekend, I had plenty of time to drink all alone.

I could not/would not drive to visit him for a couple reasons. One, I had gotten the first DUI, and so I had an occupational license where I could only drive to and from work or the grocery store, and only during certain times. Driving anywhere else, like a volleyball game or to visit my boyfriend, could’ve landed me in jail. Of all the rules I’ve broken, I really did stick to the rules of the occupational license. Two, he still lived at home, and I had my own apartment, sooo why would I go stay at his parents, when he could come to my apartment and we’d be by ourselves? He could only come for one night a weekend because he worked (for his Dad) early Saturday morning, and so he could only come Saturday nights.

……

Anywho, so New Year’s Eve of 2015, we were at the painting bar, and all I could think about was getting drunk and more, more, more wine. The obsession with alcohol was in full-fledged at this point. I remember resigning to the thoughts of being an alcoholic… like ‘oh well, I’m just an alcoholic anyway, so I’ll keep drinking more!’ and ‘I’m just another lousy alcoholic, so what’s the big deal with having a drink at 6 AM? Who cares anyway?! I don’t!’. The justification for my increasingly destructive habits was that I was an alcoholic, so what did anything matter anyway. It was like a diabetic saying, well I’m a diabetic so I’m just gonna drink all this Mountain Dew, oh well! I’m just a lousy diabetic! My attitude was FUCK IT. I gotta work? It’s a weeknight? FUCK IT. I gotta pay my bills? FUCK IT. I’m borderline overweight? FUCK IT. I still have wine left in this bottle, but I’m puking my guts out and sweating through my clothes AND it’s only 5:30 AM?! FUCK IT!!!!!!!!! 

New Year’s Eve came and went and 2016 started off with a lackluster bang.


 

The thing that sticks out in my mind about the very early days of 2016 was my first trip to detox.

I had gone to the hospital for the 2nd time in 24 hours sometime around Jan 2 or 3, 2016. I was absolutely miserable. I was cold, lonely, depressed, and withdrawing from alcohol while alcohol was still in my system. I was hungry, dehydrated, unshowered, unkempt for days. Part of the reason I think I would go to the hospital so frequently was to have the feeling of someone caring for me. Someone to bring me blankets and worry about my well-being. Another reason was for the magic medications.

Unfortunately, the ‘magic’ of the medications for alcohol withdrawal were starting to lose their appeal. I needed more, but they had given me max doses already. I was still shaking and throwing up, whereas just a few weeks previous, the minimal dose fixed me right up.

My mental state at this time was avoid and/or justify, deny, deny, deny, run away, just don’t deal. I couldn’t reasonably think my way through what I was doing to myself. I just saw it as another thing that was happening to me, not really understanding why. I remember laying in the hospital bed, thinking like, ‘how did it come to this? A year ago I was moving to Milwaukee. Now I’m in a hospital bed for the dozenth time because I almost killed myself drinking too much booze… What’s wrong with me?! Am I an alcoholic? Maybe I am, SO WHAT! Do I need to go to one of those psychiatric hospitals like Ben did?! Why am I doing this to myself?!’ It was a back-and-forth CONSTANT battle in my mind, like the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, and my head kept turning back and forth until it was spinning.

I would wake up to cops pounding at my door, asking if I was ok. ‘Yeah…. ummm, I’m fine… why?’ ‘Well your landlord called in for us to do a wellness check because there were complaints of loud crashes and crying and screaming up here, possibly from this apartment’… A grizzly flashback of me crying in the corner, screaming at the top of my lungs “WHY MEEEEE?!?! WHHHHYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!” would come back to the front of my memory… ‘Oh, well, no officer, everything is fine now. Thank you.’

Or I would have another freaky flashback, of me holding a knife to my wrist, crying and screaming and telling myself ‘JUST FUCKING DO IT,’ while I’m also telling myself ‘STOP! THIS IS INSANITY’.

Or, I would have a fuzzy memory of me spilling wine everywhere, attempting to lick it off the floor, or falling over furniture, spilling over and ruining my clothes, blankets, coats, etc.

Or, another disturbing image of me, running out into the oncoming traffic in the middle of the street, hoping to get injured enough by a car to be in a coma, if even just for a while.

Fuzzy, upsetting images of myself pleading with someone, anyone, to bring my drugs and alcohol, in exchange for literally whatever they wanted.

The disturbing thoughts, images, and flashbacks I have, of me, absolutely inebriated, thinking of ways to at least disable myself enough to be in a coma for a while, if not totally do myself in, are extremely troubling, but I have begun to deal with them in my weekly therapy sessions.

I say ‘alone,’ but that was an illusion. My family cared so much about me. I had a boyfriend (although he wouldn’t be around for much longer). I had a job (though that wasn’t going to last either). I was on a volleyball team, I was reffing volleyball matches all over Milwaukee. I was not alone! But that was the mentality, the perception I had at the time. I was so lost in my own self-pity, I couldn’t consider that maybe another person cared about me.

Anyway, so I’m sitting in the hospital bed, still very, very sick from withdrawal, and the nurse says ‘Judith, we’ve given you all the meds we can give you here in the ER, and we’re worried your withdrawal is going to turn into delerium tremens. Have you ever thought about going to detox for a few days?’

Well, no, I had never thought of going to detox for a few days. At this point in my life, I didn’t even know there was such a thing, where alcoholics and addicts go to stay in a locked psychiatric ward for 72ish hours to dry out and stabilize. Detox… hmm..?? Maybe I should give it a try? They promised I would feel a lot better in a couple days, and said it might even be a good time to get some rest and start hydrating, eating, and bathing again. It sounded SO good to have a break from the madness that I was causing myself on the regular.

So I gave it a try. I committed myself to a 3-day inpatient psychiatric ward/detox.

It was all so foreign. Here I am with people who are smearing their poop on the walls, people who have actually seriously tried to end their lives because they are so miserable. I’m with people who’s skin and eyes have gone yellow from jaundice. I’m with people who can barely talk, for reasons that range from severe alcohol abuse to fear of using their own voice. I’m with people who’ve been beaten, by someone else or even themselves. They have track marks, noose scars, missing hands or feet from gangrene. They are moaning and screaming in their rooms, begging to be let out, yet the nurses and patients just keep walking by like they aren’t even there. And here I was, the little 24 year old young woman who drinks too much because she’s lonely and depressed… GET OVER YOURSELF, I thought.

It was a big reality check. Meaning, ‘I’m not like these people!!!!’ I thought, I might drink a little too much, and I might be a little lonely and depressed, but for fuck’s sake, I’m not THAT bad.

So, after my 3-day little hiatus, I went right back to where I came from and started the whole thing over again. I had just seen the worst of the worst, and was nowhere near that bad, or so I thought.

Drinking, drinking, drinking, crying, crying, crying, loathing, loathing, loathing. Unshowered, unkempt, dirty, stinky, clothes, glass everywhere, broken lightbulbs, dirty dishes, moldy food, sticky floors, cat litter and poop and hairballs all over my apartment, strange texts and phone calls, mysterious shoes and shirts and hoodies ending up by my front door, lost phones, lost wallets, broken furniture, ripped shower curtain… the list goes on…

The cycle continued and got worse. Drink, drunk, black out, hospital, detox, home, over and over and over again. I literally lost count how many times I went to the hospital and/or detox. If I had to count, it would be in the 20s or 30s at that point. I spent more time in hospitals and detoxes than out of them.

Somehow I managed to hold on to my job for another couple of months. I was officially let go from the Fortune 500 company on St. Patrick’s day of 2016.

I hit a breaking point. It was either keep drinking myself to death, which I had been legitimately trying to do for several months, or shape up and get another job.

I tried IOP (Intensive Outpatient). Hated it.

I tried meetings. Hated them.

I tried PHP (Partial Hospitalization). Nope!

I tried one-on-one therapy. No one understands me!

I tried yoga. Yoga hurt like a bitch.

I tried rearranging furniture. Yeah, right.

I tried eating healthy, exercise, journaling… nothing took my mind off the obsession for alcohol. Not. Even. Close.

After 12-13 days sober (I could never hit 2 weeks), I would relapse. And every time I relapsed, it got worse. The withdrawal was worse, the physical damage to my apartment and my body was worse, the damage to my family relationships was worse, and my mental stability was going down, down, down. It was spiraling out of control, so far out of control, I was finding that I couldn’t reign it back in.

I was getting overwhelmed just thinking about trying to repair some of the damage I had done. Which made me drink more.

I was so unhappy, hated myself SO much, I could NOT STAND to be in my own skin for more than a second without alcohol to make it easier.

I was jobless, single, losing my family, about to lose my apartment, I had nowhere to go, and nowhere to hide.

So, I had one last hurrah and drank as much as I possibly could for several days until I actually and legitimately thought I was dying from cardiac arrest, and went to detox again.

This time, I threw my hands up and said ‘I want to be done.’ I thought, this is it. I’m so over this disgusting, horrendous, messy, insane life, and I want to get better.

I stayed at that detox until they found me a residential treatment facility to go to. I ended up going to Gateway Foundation in Lake Villa, IL.

My family was overjoyed that I accepted the help. They volunteered to move all my belongings out of my apartment, store everything, and take care of my cat until I was ready to get back out on my own.

I went to Gateway around Memorial Day of 2016 and stayed for 2.5 weeks. I felt on top of the world when I left. I hadn’t drank in 30 days by the time I left treatment, with the detox and inpatient stay combined to have almost a month of sobriety. I had energy and life back! I had life by the balls again! Time to go out and get moving again!


 

It seemed so simple at the time. Go to rehab and BAM! You’re FIXED! Everything is FIXED!!!!!

Oh my GOD is that SO WRONG. Rehab does not fix anything. Inpatient rehab/treatment is the easy part of giving up and trying to turn life around. But I, nor my family, knew this at the time. So we thought after treatment I would be all set, all fixed, all good to go and back to the Judith everyone knew.

So anyway, I went to the treatment facility, surrendered to alcohol and moved to a halfway house. I stayed sober for almost 5 months. The only thing that changed was the fact that alcohol was removed from my life. I was still depressed, lonely, and obsessing over alcohol. I was trying to fix, manage, and control everything. I wanted everything to go back to the way it was, and I wanted that to happen like, yesterday. I was very impatient and unhappy and nothing was satisfying to me like alcohol used to be.


 

Anyway, I think that’s where my Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom series will end.

I get the title “Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom” from one of my favorite sober ‘bibles’ (as I call them), called Unwasted, by Sacha Z. Scoblic (hopefully that link works). Unwasted has been one of my absolute FAVORITE books about the transformation from an old life to a new life. In fact, on the same page as saying “I mistook my free fall for freedom,” Scoblic talks about the ‘fuck it’ mentality. I’m not going to go into too much detail here.. for one, this blog post is long enough, and for two, I’d like to dedicate a whole lot of time and posts to my sober bibles. But, that’s where I got the quote from, and that’s exactly what I was doing. Mistaking my perceived, new-found adult freedom for drinking whenever and however I wanted in unlimited quantities that ultimately led to my demise where I was unrecognizable in person and spirit.

 

Thanks for reading!!

Sincerely,

Judith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom, part 4

Hello!

First, I want to say THANK YOU for reading! This stuff isn’t easy to write about, but it’s a helluva lot easier than keeping it all in my head.

Second, I want to say that on Monday I will have 8 months of continuous sobriety! I can’t believe it. A year ago I couldn’t go 8 minutes without drinking or drugging. A year ago, I didn’t think I would be alive for another year. I was so broken, bankrupt, and hopeless. I couldn’t stay out of hospitals and detoxes for a mere 48 hours. I was losing everything, most of all my sense of self. Yet, today, I am excited for my new life. Life has gotten bigger and better than I ever imagined it could. It’s a miracle.

Tonight I’m going to a comedy show in one of my favorite parts of Chicago with a roommate that I’ve come to know as one of my best friends. It’s a BYOB show, so I’m planning on bringing myself a special treat of Rockstar or Red Bull. I won’t have to drink beforehand or during in order to laugh. I might be surrounded by drunk people, but that’s OK. I won’t feel like shit in the morning, I’ll remember the show in the morning, and I won’t have to wake up wondering how I got home or who’s room I’m in. That’s a fucking step in the right direction!

 

Continuing on the story of my free-fall into loneliness, depression, anxiety, mental instability and suicidal thoughts, ruining relationships and putting my family through the wringer… read on…


 

So the time is around Thanksgiving, 2015.

The 2-3 days before Thanksgiving, I was supposed to be in the office, working. I decided fuck that, and I worked from home on the Friday, Monday, and Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

My boss instant messaged me, and said ‘Judith, I’ve been having some people tell me that you’re not showing up to the office, and that you haven’t been in since last Thursday. What’s going on?’

‘OH SHIT!’ I thought. He knows. He knows everything. He knows I’m just sitting at home, drinking myself to near death. He knows I’ve been coming in late, taking long lunches, and leaving early the last month or so, he knows I’m skating by on the bare minimum to get my job done. I feel my cheeks get hot and my ears start to ring. I’m embarrassed and ashamed, I’m guilty as charged. I’m in deep, deep denial, all I want to do is sit around drinking, maybe eating but probably not, and watch TV (specifically Intervention and Dr. Phil because it made me feel better about myself, thinking ‘Oh I’m not THAT bad, until I get that bad I’ll keep right on drinkin’). I jump to the conclusion that I don’t care if I have my job anymore, because it sounds more fun to just sit around in my apartment drinking, alone, anyway. I’m thinking, ‘go ahead, fire me. Just do it. Get it over with. I DARE you.’

Well, he was genuinely concerned about my attendance. At this point, it was seen as out of character for me to be absent. Just a few months previous, I won a couple recognition awards for my hard work and innovative ways to do the job, and had a meeting with some pretty high-up people that legitimately wanted to know how I was doing my job so well so they could replicate that with other buyers. He wanted me to succeed, because it would look good for him, and the company wanted me to succeed, because it’s so expensive for a company to interview, hire, and train new employees, especially when the company engages in things like personality tests and things like that to make sure you’re the right candidate for the job.

I replied back, ‘yeah, I’ve been struggling with some things in my personal life and it’s been difficult getting into the office like normal the last week or so,’. He asked if he could give me a call. I thought to myself, shit, I might sound drunk, though. So, I quick splashed some water on my face and drank some Gatorade, as if that would help, and waited for his phone call.

He called me and, like I said, was genuinely concerned. I tried to be vague, but at the same time, say enough to get him off my back. So I told him that I was feeling very depressed (true), I was seeing a doctor for it (also true), and the meds I was trying were having some adverse side effects (true, but probably because I was drinking very heavily while taking new anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs). He said that I should go back to the doctor and get a note if I needed some time off, and that he’d hoped Thanksgiving would be a good respite for me. I achieved the goal of being vague but got him off my back for the time being, and continued to stay home and drink.

I don’t remember all the details, but I did go back to the doctor, and he wrote me a note to excuse me from working in the office for a week and work from home instead. Also in the note, he said that my cube should be moved closer to a natural source of light.

One of the only good things I can say about the company I worked for at this time, was that they took health concerns and the doctor’s note very seriously. During the week that I worked from home, they moved my cube by the windows, and knocked down the cube wall to allow the sunlight directly into my cube. They also setup a couple meetings with HR and I to check in with how work was going. They adjusted my hours so I only had to work 9-4.

But, of course, the majority of my problems were caused by daily black-out drinking. I was self-medicating my depression and anxiety with so much alcohol, I could barely function without it. So the relocation of my cube, week of work from home, and periodic HR meetings didn’t do anything to really help me.

Shortly after this time, I went to the hospital for my first time from withdrawal. Mixing my anti-depressant with copious amounts of alcohol, totaling 3-4 bottles a day, was not working out well, at all. I had been violently getting sick and literally could NOT stop throwing up after a night of moderate drinking for 13 or so hours. I was drinking water and Gatorade just to have something to throw up. My ears were starting to hurt from the violent, steady upchuck. My eyes felt like they were bulging out of my head. I couldn’t stand up without holding on to something, so I resorted to crawling around my apartment. After several hours of violently getting sick in the toilet, I moved myself to the couch with a trashcan in attempt to be more comfortable. My neck was hurting, my back was hurting, my throat burned, and my clothes were soaking wet. My own stench made me sick, in addition to feeling like I was walking on unsteady ground and feeling like everything I was reaching for was moving away from me. I swore the walls kept moving back and forth and I fell several times trying to stand.

My mom encouraged me to go to immediate care; she said they had a pill that worked like magic for nausea. I couldn’t wrap my mind around this… how was I going to swallow a pill and keep it down to help me from throwing up everything I have in my stomach? It didn’t make any sense. But, after realizing my heart rate hadn’t been below 120 bpm in 10+ hours, I decided I at least needed to try this magic pill she spoke of.

I drove myself to the MinuteClinic. I could barely get my foot to work to press the gas and the break, my car kept lurching forward and when I tried to stop, my wheels would screech, because I was trembling and lost control of my muscles.

I walked into the MinuteClinic, armed with a gallon of water so I would have something to throw up. I had to run to the bathroom before checking in to get sick, again. Once I got into the room with the nurse, I continuously got sick. She was asking me all these questions and I couldn’t catch my breath enough to answer her because I was throwing up that bad.

She checked my heart rate and oxygen level, and told me I needed to get to a hospital immediately. She said I couldn’t drive myself, and unless I could find someone to drive me in the next 5-10 minutes, she would need to call an ambulance for my safety.

I called Beth, the girl from work who I met on my first day. I told her I needed a ride to the hospital because I was so sick. Thankfully she agreed to come pick me up and take me to the hospital.

I really should’ve just let an ambulance come and left her out of this.

She took me to the hospital, and they immediately put me in a wheel chair because I was so shaky on my own two feet, they were worried about my falling and cracking my head. Within several minutes, I was in an ER room and hooked up to fluids, and several doses of Ativan, Zofran, and heartburn medication.

It was like a GOD DAMN miracle how fast the drugs worked to make me feel better.

Within 20 minutes, I stopped throwing up, my heart rate dropped to 70-80, and my shakiness was manageable. Within an hour, I actually had to pee for the first time in literally days. It fixed me right up like drinking USED to.

That was the day I learned that going to the hospital in withdrawal was the answer to all my problems.


 

Shortly after my first visit to the hospital, I was in the ER at least once a week, and there were times I was there twice within 24 hours. I would change up hospitals, just like I changed up liquor stores, as to not frequent one location too many times to make them think I had a problem… Ending up in the hospital in the first place is a FUCKING PROBLEM, but I was in such denial, I couldn’t see it that way.

I realized the hospital was a nice place to be. They would hydrate me, make sure I had adequate doses of anti-anxiety meds, give me the magic Zofran as many times as I needed to stop throwing up, and feed me. They would send me off with some prescriptions for nausea, upset stomach, and anxiety. I can’t say it enough… it was like some crazy witchcraft how well this would work! I wouldn’t be sick, shaky, or nauseated anymore. I could walk on my own two feet, and eat, and then guess what! I could get drunk all over again!


 

Christmas Eve of 2015… I had been on a bender for a couple days or a week before this. I somehow managed to make it into the office, but I was definitely drinking before, during, and after work. I would wake up and my apartment would be a disaster… lamps would be knocked down, glass would be all over the place, there would be sticky spots on the floor, my cat’s litter was stinky and tracked all around my apartment, her water bowl would be empty and upside down, food would be everywhere.. I mean it looked like I had a frat party every night. In reality, all this mess was from drunk me, and only me, because I preferred drinking alone.

There was a time sometime around December or January of 2016 when I was awoken by the police on a sidewalk outside of my apartment. I came-to, seeing boots, cement, and snow sideways, realizing I was freezing cold, face-down on a sidewalk. The officers asked me if I was OK and if I knew where I was. I quick popped up and said ‘yes! I live right in that apartment building’ and without a word more, ran away into the safety of my apartment. I still can’t remember what I was doing that night to end up passed out on the sidewalk on a cold winter night, but I do know that didn’t stop me or even slow me down. Looking back, it’s terrifying that I woke up on a sidewalk like that, in the middle of Milwaukee, nonetheless. Anything could’ve happened to me… I could’ve been raped or kidnapped, kicked and beaten, but I walked away without a scratch and so I kept on going.

Anyway, so Christmas of that year… I had gone to the hospital on Christmas Eve morning before I went home for the holidays. I was in terrible withdrawal, and this visit to the hospital didn’t fix me up quite like I had hoped. I was still extremely nauseous and puking up bile when my cousin met me in Milwaukee to drive home for Christmas. I tried to shower and get ready to hide the physical and emotional damage so my family wouldn’t wonder what was going on.

Christmas came and went that year, I don’t remember too many standout details. I’d have to ask my mom and dad if they remember anything out of the ordinary.

BUT, that year on my birthday, is when my drinking habits were exposed in all rawness for everyone to see.


 

My birthday is December 30, right smack-dab in the middle of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. I have a resentment that my birthday is the night before New Year’s Eve. But whatever, nothing I can do about it!

So that year, I was at home for Christmas and we decided to also do my birthday while I was home, since I was going to be ‘having fun’ in Milwaukee for my actual birthday.

I remember waking up the day after Christmas, craving Sierra Mist and vodka. I didn’t want water, I didn’t want coffee, I didn’t want any eggs or toast, I wanted alcohol.

I went to my parents basement, which is finished as a nice place to gather with family and friends and hang out to watch sports or movies. I had gotten a Bluetooth speaker for Christmas that year, and a couple of those neat adult coloring books.

I inconspicuously poured myself a drink of Sierra Mist and vodka, turned on my music, and started in on coloring.

As I kept drinking that morning, my music kept getting louder. Maybe an hour after I had gone downstairs, my mom yells down and asks me to turn down the music. I remember I had my Bluetooth speaker as loud as that thing could go. When I turn it up today, it’s frickin loud! I can’t believe I had that thing on max volume, by myself, at 11 AM in the morning… drinking and coloring like the sad, lonely, depressed adult I was.

I somehow managed to stay awake all day, and when my dad came home from work, he was FURIOUS at me. He could tell I was absolutely wasted and incoherent. He and my mom got in an argument (as far as my memory at this time — it was pretty spotty — so I don’t actually KNOW for certain if they got in an argument or not, but I seem to remember that detail…).

The next thing I remember is waking up in the early hours of the next day, hungover and sick as fuck. I was a wine drinker, and so the hard liquor hit my like a ton of bricks. My mom and dad had to go back to work, and I was so sick, I had to stay home that day. I moved to my parents room after they got out of bed because they have a TV in their room, and then I could lay in bed and watch TV while I nursed myself back to some semblance of health.

My dad, with tears in his eyes, came into the room. He asked me if I needed to go to the hospital again. I said no, I’d be OK. I didn’t know if I was going to be OK or not but I wasn’t going to let them know how easy it was for me to go to the hospital after drinking to get fixed up. He said something like, ‘Judith, you’re going to end up like one of those sad people living on the street, begging for money, just to buy more alcohol if you keep going the way you are. It breaks my heart. You are so smart, you have 2 college degrees, you have a job at a Fortune 500 company, and you’re going to lose it all if you keep doing this to yourself. You’re going to lose your job, lose your car, end up in jail, or worse. You’re GOING to, mark my words. You’ve already gotten a DUI, what else can happen to make you open your eyes to the damage you’re doing?!’

His little monologue made me feel SO bad, so sorry for what I’ve been doing. So sorry for all the times I ended up a drunken mess during our family get-togethers, so sorry for drinking all their vodka and getting completely wasted the day before, so sorry for betraying their trust and calling them to save my drunk ass from ending up in jail, so sorry for EVERYTHING. God, I was just SO SORRY.

Little did I know, that his words couldn’t be more true. I did end up losing my job, I did end up losing my car, I did end up in jail, and I did end up homeless. I didn’t end up begging for money, but I was damn close, too close for comfort. But so much more had to happen for me to reach my bottom before I would surrender and stop.

But at this point, my family was starting to see my deterioration before I faced the reality of my own demise. They were starting to see me self-destruct and implode. They were starting to see the effects of debilitating depression and anxiety, and the self-medication I was engaging in. They saw it before I did, especially my dad.

I recently learned just a few weeks ago that my dad predicted I would go to jail long before anyone else… he something along these lines to my mom: ‘I see Judith losing everything and going to jail before this stops. And sadly, I don’t know if she’s going to make it out alive before she realizes what she’s doing to herself.’

It breaks my heart that I broke their hearts. I’m an only child, I’m the only shot my parents have at parenting. I feel a responsibility for that — I feel like I need to be the rebellious AND successful one. I need to live the life they taught me to live, which was NOT self-destruction by alcohol, but rather working hard getting what you wanted in life because you worked your ASS of for it. I wasn’t doing that, though.. I was miserably failing at anything resembling a decent human being and it was only gonna get worse before it got better.


 

Next time I’ll pick up on my first trip to detox and everything that came along with that.

 

Thanks for reading and please reach out if you wanna chat!

 

Sincerely,

Judith

Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom, part 3.5

Hey everyone. So I need to elaborate a bit more on the fall of 2015, aka my free-fall into what would later become a beast of addiction. At the time, no one, not even myself, knew what was to come.


I said in Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom, part 3 that as the days were getting longer and warmer, my life was getting smaller. But I don’t think I did a great job of really putting you, the reader, in my shoes.

What I mean by saying that my life was getting smaller, is that I was talking to less people, and sharing what I was thinking and feeling with even fewer people. Sure, I had talked to my parents about the struggle I was dealing with at work (ie. having to be the person that threatened small businesses with big business goals), but I was beginning to talk less and less about what I was actually feeling emotionally.

I began to isolate, spending entire weekends, from Friday night at 5 PM when I got off work to Monday morning at 8 AM when I had to go back in, alone, drunk, in my apartment. I wasn’t even trying to go out and make friends anymore. Once I started doing that, it took enormous effort to be social on the weekends. So the isolation and loneliness perpetuated itself.

I thought when I moved to Milwaukee how fun it would be to go home to my parents house for an afternoon or for a football game, since I lived so much closer than when I was in college. My mom and dad would invite me home for a Packer game or a Sunday afternoon to hang out on their deck and talk life. I never once actually made it. I would start drinking too early or have plans to start drinking and then I would just stay home. It was a strange feeling, because on the one hand, I wanted to go home and spend time with family and pets. But on the other hand, I wanted to be alone in isolation so I could drink without anyone judging me or telling me that I should slow down. I would think to myself ‘I spend ALL day at work, talking to so many people, having to put on my happy face, and I just don’t want to!’ Meaning, I didn’t want to do anything but lie around in my pajamas with a glass of wine in my hand and my cat on my lap.

If that meant blowing off my parents for a weekend visit, then that’s what I did. If it meant I didn’t make any plans on the weekends to go to farmers markets, go for a bike ride, play volleyball, then that’s what I did. I can’t quite explain how once I started staying in all weekend, how much I craved just being alone and drunk.

All my worries and fear and self-defeating thoughts would go away when I drank. I didn’t have to think about how I was gaining weight, I didn’t have to think about shutting down a family businesses doors, I didn’t have to worry about what people thought of me, because I would be alone. All the pressure of living the ‘script,’ and I was bending over backwards trying to check the next box on the list of meeting someone and being ‘successful’, completely floated away like a fuzz in the air when I drank. I could still see the fuzz, but I didn’t have to do anything about it, I could just watch it float away. It was like a huge sigh of relief when I came home to a clean, sparkling wine glass and uncork a fresh bottle and pour the swirl of red oblivion into the glass. It smelled so sweet and bitter, it tasted so wonderful, it gave me instant gratification. I felt like I had earned every drop of it, too. And that made it taste even better.

I also didn’t have to worry about letting anyone down when I was alone. The only person I had to worry about was me, and well, as long as I had my bottle of wine, I didn’t even have to worry about me. I could get out of my mind and into sweet oblivion. I could forget about being good enough for everyone and everything and just, be. Just sit. Just relax without a care in the world.

As I realized how blissful drinking in isolation was, I continued to do it, and as I continued to do it, the void inside of me was becoming needy. It needed me to be alone so I could feed it, it needed me to drink bottles and bottles of wine on a nightly basis to forget about the bottles and bottles I drank yesterday and the day before. It needed me to succumb to the desperation for more alcohol and isolation. It was getting so, so needy, hanging on my back like a monkey I just couldn’t shake off.

In September of 2015 I went to the company’s Supplier Conference in Lake Geneva, WI. It was a conference of all of our biggest suppliers and industry leading professionals. As a buyer for the company, all the suppliers wanted my attention to hear about this new technology they had to make the parts cheaper, or about a new material they had to make the parts better. At the supplier conference, the bar was like the fountain of youth. As soon as one supplier brought me glass of wine, I had another waiting for me from a different supplier. Booze, booze, and more booze was the name of the game. The drunker I got, the more I wanted, and there was plenty to be had. Especially since I was one of few young, attractive women at this conference. I plenty of people bringing plenty of drinks to me, I was like Edward Scissorhands with glasses of wine. It set off a binge for me.

That night, I don’t know how I got back to my hotel room. I woke up face-down, on my hotel bed, make up smeared all over the crisp white hotel linens, shoes and pantyhose still on the next day. I woke up to my boss calling me… he was like ‘Judith, are you alright? You didn’t seem like you were in good shape last night. I had to get you back to your room.’ Knowing what I was like when I got that drunk, I probably told him I loved him or something equally mortifying. I probably had lipstick smeared across my face and mascara down my cheeks. I was so embarrassed at what could have and probably did happen. It was terrifying not knowing what happened the night before, when I was at a business event, with all the executives and my boss and my coworkers. I felt like the curtains went down on the show, and while everyone else saw the ending, I just woke up the next morning, a hot mess. The only way I knew how to deal with that feeling was to not deal with it at all and get drunk instead.

The day after that night of schmoozing, was a golf outing. I was to work the vodka tent. I woke up still drunk, went to have a few mimosas with some coworkers, and was well on my way to sloppy by the time I got to the tent. All the executives were coming around, so drunk they couldn’t see straight and crashing their golf carts into trees or even me, and buying rounds and rounds of drinks. It was hotter than hell that day, and I didn’t drink any water. The only liquid in my system was alcohol. By the time the golf day was half over, I could barely stand. But, the night was just beginning, because the open bar was about to open for business.

It was one of those drunks where your body is drunk but your mind is still pretty with it. I couldn’t quite get my feet to walk in a straight line or my mouth to form a cohesive sentence, but my mind was still there, and I remember thinking ‘I sound SO STUPID’.

As dinner was served, another buyer and I were grabbing two drinks each, saying that we were bringing them back to each other but really bringing both beverages back for ourselves. By the time I got my dinner plate, I wasn’t hungry and I just wanted to get back to my hotel room to drink alone and isolate.

I managed to get back to my hotel room, and to my disappointment, the bar in the hotel was closed, so I couldn’t buy any glasses of wine or even bottles to smuggle back into my room so I could drink by myself. I drank some water and suited up to drive to the nearest grocery store or gas station to buy some alcohol to treat myself to a night of being alone after a full 2 days of feeling like I was entertaining my suppliers.

I made it to Wal-Mart, bought 2 bottles of cheap wine, and was on my way back to the hotel. I wasn’t familiar with the area so I was using my phone’s GPS to navigate me back to the hotel. I was driving with one eye open.

I realized I missed a turn and took a LEGAL U-turn, but there was a cop with his lights off at the intersection. I swerved and crossed the yellow line, noticing the cop, but it was too late, the damage had been done.

I pulled off into a neighborhood, trying to see if the cop would follow me. He did, of course he did, and I came to a stop at a stop sign, waiting for my GPS while it pondered the dreaded “rerouting”.

Shortly thereafter, the cop flipped his lights and I was pulled over. I was pretty blasted, but I didn’t blow or take any tests to reveal how drunk I was. Little did I know that would double all the consequences I would face later.

The cop told me that I had to call someone to take me back to the hotel or go to jail for the night. I couldn’t go to jail for the night! My boss could come knocking at my hotel room door in the morning, and I wouldn’t be there to answer it! I had to figure out a way to get both me and my car back to the hotel without anyone knowing what just happened. I was embarrassed, ashamed, but most of all annoyed with this stupid officer and his stupid lights and everything was just so stupid.

I did something I’m not proud of, but I couldn’t think of anything else. I called my parents to come pick me up and take me back to the hotel. Which, of course, entailed me telling them what happened. I chose the option my parents knowing what happened yet getting back to the hotel over my coworkers and managers finding out what happened because I ended up in jail.

Let me say this was not the first supplier conference at this company where someone was arrested. That goes to show the drinking and party culture this company has, which is appalling to me now.

My parents, disgusted with me, yet the good people that they are, drove 45 minutes at 9 PM on a weekday night to come pick my drunk ass up and drive me and my car back to the hotel.

The worst part of all this, I got up the next morning and drank while I was driving back to Milwaukee. That is so hard to admit, I’ve never admitted it before, but I did it. My mind was so hijacked from 3 days of solid heavy drinking I didn’t have the common sense to say ‘wait, maybe this isn’t such a good idea’.

So that’s the story of my first DUI.


 

Upon returning to work after the supplier conference, I felt like everyone knew what happened. I could see it in their eyes when they looked at me. In reality, no one ever found out about the DUI, but they did find out what a messy and belligerent drunk I was. Whatever happened that night that my boss had to carry me back to my hotel room haunted me. I noticed people keeping a safe distance from me. People who used to drop by my cube to say hi now just walked right on by. I was for sure, definitely not, invited to any work gatherings after that.

So now I’m at a point where I’ve got legal consequences to deal with because of my drinking and social consequences of no one talking to me or looking me in the eye. I was starting to feel really unwelcome, very out of place, like no one understood me, and it added to the increasing isolation.

At this point, I would go to work, stop on my way home to buy wine, come home, and before taking my jacket off, pour a glass of wine. I was starting to drink to stave off trembling and nausea. I was definitely drinking because of anxiety, stress, and restlessness. I couldn’t sleep unless I had alcohol, and even then, I would wake up at 3 in the morning bombarded with thoughts of ‘why do I keep doing this to myself? What’s wrong with me?!’ Then I would get up around 5, have a couple of drinks before heading out to work to do it all over again.

The physical dependency was starting to show it’s ugly head. I started having difficulty with swallowing and climbing stairs and holding on to things. I couldn’t wait to get home to start drinking so I wouldn’t be sick, so I started going home on my lunch break to indulge some more. Sometimes one would turn into four and I couldn’t drive back to the office. Sometimes the morning drink would turn into passing out again and never making it to the office at all. This is when I began ‘working from home’ more than once a week, which added to the isolation.

I went from kicking ass at work and making myself go out of my comfort zone to meet new people and get involved in the Milwaukee social scene to physically needing a drink to stand upright in about 10 months.

My mental state was unstable. I wasn’t suicidal, yet, but I was close. I wasn’t going to detoxes and hospitals, yet, but that was to come in another short month or two. I hadn’t lost my job and health insurance, yet, but that was lurking around the corner.

I drank to deal with myself. I saw myself going from full-of-potential, ambitious, and motivated to change the world to lazy and submissive to this liquid substance that was starting to take away everything from me and dominate my life. It was taking away my self-esteem, my values, family relationships, ability to care and replacing it with thoughts about ending my life and isolation and depression. It was all-powering and swallowing me whole. But it was so insidiously stealing things away from me that I didn’t notice how far I was sinking. It was so sneakily robbing me of my personality, that I slowly lost track of who I was in the midst of all of it.

My life and my mindset was getting so small.. the only thing on my mind was alcohol, obsessive thoughts about alcohol. How to get it, how to not run out, and how to keep drinking it when I was obliterated. I didn’t have room for anything else in my life or in my mind, least of all self-care. My hygiene, nutrition, overall cleanliness was disappearing. But again, it was happening so insidiously I didn’t notice that I wasn’t showering or eating like a normal person. I didn’t notice that I stopped talking to friends and family, because I was occupied, all the time, with alcohol and self-loathing. It was like I woke up from a coma one day to find my life in ruins, shambles, and couldn’t figure out how it happened. But, that was yet to happen. I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself.


 

I’ll pick up next time with December of 2015 and how the revolving door of hospital, detox, treatment, relapse, hospital, detox, treatment, relapse started.

The end of Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom series will be when I went to my first inpatient rehab. Then I think I’ll take a break from writing about the past for a short while, before delving back into the next chapter of my life.

Thanks so much for reading and shout out to the reader(s) from New Zealand and the UK today!

Sincerely,

Judith

Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom, part 3

Hey guys!!! Happy New Year!

My ‘Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom’ series is going to be more like 4, 5, or maybe even 6 parts. There’s so much more to the story that I can’t sit and write it in just 3 parts. Here’s part 3…


 

Sometime around early summer of 2015, life was closing in on me.

My job was going alright, on the one hand I was kicking ass and taking names. I won several recognition awards and was receiving emails from upper-level management congratulating me for the awards and recognizing my hard work. I was chosen to attend the Automation Fair in Chicago, and I was the only buyer to be able to go on the trip. It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of that.

On the other hand, the job was stressful because some of the things I had to do in the position were against my personal beliefs and totally not aligned with my personality. I mentioned in a previous post that I had to pressure our Mom & Pop shop suppliers to get on board with the new way my company wanted to purchase products, which was electronic ordering. Many of these Mom & Pop shops didn’t even have email addresses, I had to fax them their POs. The company I worked for had been around for over 100 years, and lots of the smaller suppliers had been supplying parts to the company for almost as many years. So when I told them about the changes, and the fact that they would lose business if they didn’t get on board, they were confused and scared of losing business, possibly ALL of their business, if we were their biggest customer.

I am a firm believer and supporter of small, locally owned businesses. I grew up watching my Dad start and grow his own woodworking business, and so small, family-owned businesses were and are something I always hold near and dear. My Dad put his blood, sweat, and tears into that business, and when the economy crashed into 2008, I watched his livelihood, our family livelihood, diminish to next to nothing. I really did NOT want to be the person that closed a family business’s doors because of some new goal that my company was pushing towards.

I’m also not the type of person to step on other people’s toes to get what I want in my career. I saw many people get promoted on the hard work of others, and I didn’t want to be like that. I saw many people put on a different mask at work than what they were like outside of those cubicles, and I also didn’t want to be like that. I just wanted to be me, and I thought that was good enough to get somewhere in my career at that company.

So, the job was not really aligned with what I believed in and my personality. Yes, I was a ‘go-getter’ but that didn’t mean I wanted to bend over backwards to make the next big thing happen. I didn’t want to put someone else down to get what I wanted. I was finding it hard to go to work every day and carry out the businesses goals when I didn’t believe in them myself.

I started talking to my parents about the struggle I was having at work. They kept telling me that I just needed to stick it out for a year, make it look good on my resume, get some experience, and then I could move on to whatever else I wanted to do. The good thing — I was talking about the things that were bothering me. The bad thing — I had to wait it out, and I am the world’s most impatient person, so to wait something out like that was slowly killing me.


 

Sometime in the summer months of 2015, I crossed the line of heavy drinker to alcoholic. It is a line that once crossed, you almost never can go back. I’m sure there are some people out there who crossed the line and were able to reign it back it, but not me.

The void inside me was always thirsty for more, more, more. It was never satisfied, not with food, sleep, or sex. Not with outings with friends, spending money on clothes and decorations for my apartment, or family. It was only slightly tickled with satisfaction when I was black-out, belligerently wasted. And when I woke up the next morning, the void was bigger, hungrier, stronger than before. And so, the only way I knew how to make myself feel better, was to keep drinking.

As the weather was getting nicer and the days were getting longer, my life was getting smaller. I stopped reaching out to groups and people on Meetup, and started isolating. At the time, it felt like it was the ‘right’ thing to do. I had talked with a few other people/coworkers at various networking events, and we would joke about work and then going home, throwing something to eat together, and waking up the next morning to the smattering of dishes like ‘what the hell did I make last night? Why is there a pot full of mysterious, congealed liquid in the living room?’ and ‘why is there a meatball on the floor?’ It was all in good fun and we connected over our collective attempts at ‘adulting’ but not really getting anywhere. Because other people were like ‘yeah I usually don’t remember what I ate for dinner last night either,’ I was like well I must be fine then, this is what everyone is doing.

Gradually, over the course of the summer, I stopped going on little day trips to the lakefront, giving myself tours of the historic Milwaukee neighborhoods, exploring new farmers markets, etc.

I had joined Match.com and was pretty active on Tinder, and let me tell you, Match is only an expensive, glorified Tinder. I met with countless guys, all who were like me: making good money, trying to figure out how to be a responsible adult and failing, but trying to find someone who could help mend it all together and maybe turn into successful adults together. At the time I was telling myself, ‘if I could just meet the right guy who has his shit kinda together, I would be much better off and we could get our shit together, together’. I thought the answer to my problems was meeting the right person. I thought that would literally fix everything — the void I was feeling inside, the boredom and isolation, the drinking, the feelings of failure. It was the solution to my problems!

Almost every guy I met up with from these apps fit into one of the following categories:

  • Feeling the same way as I was — lonely and bored with life, that if we could just meet the right person, all our problems would magically be solved,
  • Genuinely looking for a life partner — already had their shit together and looking for someone who also had their shit together so they could have their shits together together,
  • Not really sure what they wanted, but wasn’t being successful at meeting nice, hearty people in the ‘organic’ way like at a basketball game or in the elevator, and wanted somebody to be their person.

Guys in the 2nd and 3rd categories would go on a first date with me, maybe even a second date, but would completely stop talking to me after they realized how fucked up I was.

Guys in the first category would get fucked up with me and stick around for a while, so they didn’t have to feel so bad about getting fucked up alone.

For example, I met this one guy, Joe. Joe was some sort of computer programmer/developer and was making more money than what he knew what to do with. He had a really nice condo on the river, a really nice, expensive car, but was borderline losing it. We went out on some nice dates before we started hanging out at either his condo or my apartment. We would drink and watch movies together, drink and cook together, drink and do whatever together. But always drank together, I don’t remember if there was a time I hung out with him when we weren’t drinking. Did we see a problem with that? I don’t think it even crossed either of our minds. We were young, pretty well-off, and living in the city of Milwaukee, where drinking is so normal, that if you don’t drink, people are like ‘what’s WRONG with you?!’

After several dates, we got on the subject of illegal drugs. He said he really liked meth, and would be willing to do it again if we could find some. I said I was down for cocaine if we could find some of that. We never found anything except Adderall, and shortly after that, we became drinking and drugging buddies. We had no respect for each other like a couple should, we only wanted to drink and drug together. He saw me as a fun drunk girl, I saw him as a wallet with a face.

We didn’t talk for longer than a few months, and then we only would be each other’s booty call. It was really sad. And it did nothing to fill the void I was feeling other than mask it for a short period of time, put a ‘band aid’ on it, so to speak.

There were lots of other band aids for the void; working excessively, shopping, spending money on things like professional sports games, concerts, bringing friends into Milwaukee, meeting guys on Tinder who only had one thing on their minds, and getting completely out of my mind with drugs and alcohol.

I spent a lot of money to get people to hang out with me. ‘Oh you like the Blackhawks?! I do too! I just bought tickets, let’s go to a game!’ or ‘oh you don’t have enough money to drive to Milwaukee and go to this concert with me? No worries, I already bought the tickets and I’ll give you $100 for gas when you get here!’ or ‘you wanna go on this pub crawl with me? Yeah, don’t worry about the tickets, just come with me’. I bought tickets, drugs, alcohol, taxis, food… you name it, I bought it. All in the name of having someone to go with me to whatever it was that I wanted to do.

As summer crossed into fall, I was on the fast-track to ruining my life. I started to ‘work from home’ multiple days a week, skipping meals, showers, and letting weeks and weeks of laundry pile up, neglected cleaning my apartment, and started switching up liquor stores so that the guy at the corner store didn’t think I was an ‘alcoholic’, god-forbid. I was losing track of hours, days, weekends; I was starting to be unable to keep up with the demands of work and bills. My mail was piling up for days and weeks, and when I opened it I started seeing ‘LAST NOTICE’, ‘LATE’, and “REPLY IMMEDIATELY’. It went from a dull rain to a thunderstorm to a tornado that lasted for the next several years of my life.

You know, I say this all happened gradually and slowly, but in reality, I went downhill, fast. I went from heavy college drinker to alcoholic in about a year. And it took me another year to clean that mess up, and I’m still cleaning up the mess from relapsing.


 

Around October of 2015 was when I started being able to put a name on the void: depression. I went from having 1000 things to do and be a part of in high school and college to having 1 or 2 things on my plate as a working adult — work, bills, and drinking. When life slowed down after college, I started noticing how unsatisfied and unfulfilled I was. I drank excessively to cover this up, because I didn’t have the slightest clue how else to deal with it. I was disappointed in what life after college was bringing — no real friends, no boyfriends, no sports, nothing but work and paying bills and drinking. I wasn’t feeling successful, and I definitely wasn’t filling any of the roles I thought I would on the drive to Milwaukee in January when I was moving. I felt doomed… like ‘is this what life is about?!’, and I really hadn’t dealt with failure, like ever, in my life, until this point. Therefore, I had no coping skills to deal with the feelings of failure, loneliness, depression, and just, nothingness. I felt discouraged, disappointed, unhappy.

All the while, though, I was putting on a happy face. My boss called me one day and said something like ‘Gosh Judith I just love calling you because you’re always so bubbly!’. I felt anything but bubbly. But at least I sounded like it.

So when I brought up the feelings of depression to my mom, she encouraged me to go to a doctor, and maybe get put on some medication. But no one, including myself, knew how bad things would get before I saw a way out. So after the medication didn’t work and the doctor recommended I see a psychiatrist, my mom and I were both like ‘nah, I don’t need that, I’m just going through the blues right now. I bet things will get better in a couple weeks, I just gotta hang in there.’


 

Around Thanksgiving of that year (2015) was when my parents started expressing some concerns about my drinking. They would call me on the phone and when I’d answer, they would be like ‘oh wow you’re okay!,’ and I’d be like ‘yeah, I’m at work, why?’ and they would say ‘well we couldn’t exactly understand what you were saying on the phone last night, you were really drunk.’ This conversation evolved from the expression of concern to fear and worry, like ‘Judith, are you sure you’re ok? Last night you weren’t making any sense and then you just hung up’ and ‘I talked to you last night and the night before and the night before that and all 3 nights I could barely understand anything you were saying’.

I thought to myself, who are you to be concerned about MY drinking?! You drink too! I pay my bills! I go to work! I take care of myself!

Ha!!! I was not paying my bills or going to work or taking care of myself at that time. But my delusional, alcohol-soaked brain was so hijacked that I really convinced myself that things were fine.

So, within a year, I had gone from fresh, excited, ‘world by the balls’ college grad, to isolated, lonely, depressed young adult. I had gone from gym rat to couch potato. Social butterfly to hermit. Credit score of excellent to fair. Heavy drinker to alcoholic. Fun to be around to someone to take care of. Busybody to lazy. Slim and trim to fat and bloated. The list goes on.


 

I’m gonna have to pick up next time with December of that 2015. That’s enough for tonight!

 

 

Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom, part 2

The date is Monday, January 5, 2015.

It’s my first day of work at my big girl job. I was a buyer for a big Fortune 500 company, headquartered in Milwaukee. The company had over 22k employees worldwide, and I was located in the global headquarters.

I woke up, rolled over, with drool all over my face. I had gotten pretty sloppy the day before from just hanging out in my new apartment and figuring out where to put my lights and candles. SHIT! It’s Monday! It’s the first day of the rest of my life! I looked at the clock and it was 8 AM… I was supposed to be at work at 8!! Well, shit. I’ve already managed to screw this up big time. I grab my phone and send a quick email to my new boss ‘my alarm didn’t go off! I’ll be there as soon as I can!’. Wow, Judith, what a great way to start your new job. What a fucking disgrace.

My direct boss (Matt) was located at the company’s North American headquarters, in Ohio. So, in all honesty, I got off really friggin easy for being late my first day. Only half our buyer ‘team’ was actually located in Milwaukee, and only 1 or 2 people in the whole headquarters knew I was starting that day. My boss wasn’t the greatest at communication, so the girl (Beth) who was waiting for me on my first day didn’t know what time to expect me. So, walking in an hour late was brushed off as no big deal, and the girl said something like ‘I’m glad you were late so I could get caught up before you got here. Oh and don’t worry about what time you get here, Matt really doesn’t care about anything as long as he doesn’t have to get involved in the issues we deal with as buyers,’.

Perfect!! So, this is what I actually heard from what she told me: do what you want just take care of your shit so Matt doesn’t have to get off his managerial pedestal to help you figure it out. I can do that, no problem.

Beth told me a whole ton of stuff my first day. Beth told me ‘our job really isn’t that hard and everyone here likes to act like it’s the most stressful thing in the world, just go with it,’ and ‘Matt could give 2 shits about the time you’re here, sometimes I work from home and I don’t even tell him and he doesn’t know the difference anyway because he’s not here.’ She told me that the upper-level management could care less about us buyers, until something happened that reached their desks. She advised I do anything and everything in my power to keep a situation from escalating to upper management because then I would be under a microscope. Beth gave me the dirty deats on a lot of people we worked with — who would blab about anything you told them, and who could keep secrets. She told me about the guys to stay away from, and guys I could hang out with.  She filled me in on the office politics as to not make a fool of myself. Beth and I became friends and drinking buddies from the first day on.

Then, she sat my at my cube, and basically said, ‘have at it’. I had NO idea what the hell I was doing. I opened my laptop and started up my email, which had tons of emails that I was CC’d on but knew nothing about because it was my first day. I had to fill in my training schedule by asking other buyers if they would sit with me for a couple hours to teach me how to be a buyer; lots of them looked at me like I was crazy — like ‘you want me to take out 2 hours of my day to teach you how to create a purchase order?! Didn’t you just graduate college? Shouldn’t you know that!?’. I felt like a complete nuisance and like no one had the time of day to teach me how to do my job. I felt stupid. I felt like I wasn’t acting right, dressing right, or saying the right things.

Even my boss was totally absent. I didn’t have any of the tools I needed to start working. I didn’t have a keyboard or desk monitor and I didn’t have access to the systems I needed to do the job. I remember it wasn’t until the 3rd or 4th day of twiddling my thumbs that my boss called me and was like ‘SO, how’s the job going?!’ and I was like ‘Ummm…. I have no idea what I’m doing and I don’t even have a desk monitor….’ and he was like ‘oh yeah, I forgot you might need that.’

I felt totally out of place, forgotten about, and like the annoying little kid who needed attention. Several months down the road, when I saw our summer interns come in for their first days, I noticed their desks being setup beforehand with huge new monitors, keyboards, laptops, you name it. I looked back on my first day like ‘what! these interns are more important than me, a salaried, full-time employee?’ It was all a load of bull from the beginning.

So, everything was off to a bad start. Not only did I show up late for my first day of the rest of my life, but it felt like the company didn’t give 2 shits about me. Nothing was ready for me when I came in on my first day. No training schedule was provided. I was on my own, from day one.

Slowly, but surely, I started to learn how to do my job. My main priority was making sure our manufacturing plants had the parts they needed to keep the lines running to build multi-million dollar automation machines for companies like Proctor & Gamble, Kimberly Clark, Budweiser, Oscar Meyer, etc. Other priorities included: cost reduction, new product implementation, exiting problem suppliers, identifying suppliers who should get more parts and taking parts away from suppliers who had issues, creating reports that identified purchase order health, assisting engineering in the approval and production process of new parts, blah blah blah. I was responsible for 100+ suppliers, 7 manufacturing plants, and over $10 million a year in purchase orders.

I started to learn the corporate, dog-eat-dog culture. Everyone seemed to fend for themselves. People would step on other people to get to the top.

I had to take parts and business away from Mom & Pop shops because they couldn’t meet our Fortune 500 requirements of low pricing, lead times, and electronic ordering. I had to do this knowing I could be shutting down someone or an entire family’s livelihood.

I started to learn the more brash and masculine you behaved, the better, since that’s what got you noticed.

For the first 6 months I was a buyer, I kicked ass. I saved the company $5 million on a negotiation project with one of the company’s biggest suppliers. I had almost all my key suppliers on board for electronic ordering, reduced lead times, increased payment terms, etc. I was holding business review meetings, bringing in suppliers from all over the country to the global headquarters, and changing the way our companies worked together. I received multiple recognition awards for my hard work and was getting noticed from some pretty top-level people. I was on cross-functional teams, engaging in the seminars the company held about up and coming technology, working with quality and development engineers and pointing them in the direction of which supplier to use for their new ideas. I was literally doing what no other buyer had done before me, and I don’t just think that about myself, I was told that by my manager, my manager’s manager, and several other upper-level managers from different parts of the company. Work was life, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be when your fresh out of college and trying to establish a career?


 

The job was only one aspect of my ‘new’ life. Personally, after work, I was on a mission to be included in anything and everything. I joined the Meetup app, and joined several groups like “Wine Wednesday’s” and “Milwaukee’s Professional Single Club” and whatever else I could find that remotely sounded interesting. I sought out open gym volleyball, got a Gold’s Gym membership, and had the intentions of getting involved in whatever I could. I was determined to make friends and find a place to fit in.

For the first 4-5 months in Milwaukee, I did that. I got up in the morning to go to the gym, went to work, worked my ass off, came home, made dinner, poured myself a couple glasses of wine, and went to bed to get up and do it all over again the next day. I would go to open gym volleyball when I had the chance, and I went to several Meetup groups. I went out with Beth and her friends a couple times. I joined in on pub crawls and Bucks games, shows and other events. But, something was missing, something huge. I kept trying to fill the void, but it never, ever felt like there was even a drop in the bucket of the void I was feeling.

After a few months of trying and trying to fit in, I was starting to feel discouraged. I was starting to feel like I didn’t ‘fit in’. The Milwaukee crowd already had their places in social groups figured out, and there wasn’t a place open for Judith.

I was getting discouraged with meeting people, making plans, and then not really having fun doing the plans we made. I felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. And it was getting old, quick. The void was growing bigger, hungrier, and started to take on a mind of it’s own. Little did I know I was feeding that void with increasing amounts of alcohol, and soon it would no longer be a choice to drink but a matter of drinking to be a functional human being.


 

I don’t know if it’s an American thing or what, but we’re taught from a young age that we have a script to live by. Grow up, play sports, go to college, graduate, get a job, make lots of money, meet someone and make lots of money together, get married, buy a house, get pets, have kids, and save for retirement, almost in that order.

I was starting to feel the pressure of living the script. I had checked the boxes of graduating college and getting a job that paid decent money. I had a new car, my own apartment, and a good head on my shoulders. On the outside, it looked like I had it together. Two bachelor’s degrees and a job at a Fortune 500 company; I was paying my bills and maintaining a lifestyle that is usually associated with young people — young, wild, and free. I lived by the motto ‘work hard, play hard.’

Like I mentioned earlier, something was missing, though, and it wasn’t just something little, something huge was growing inside me. I was starting to increasingly isolate, adding to feelings of loneliness and depression. The more lonely and depressed I got, the less I wanted to do something about it. It was a revolving door, a dark hole that sucked me in and spit me out years later.


 

That’s about all I can write for tonight. This is a really difficult time of my life to write about because all the ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ kills me. I have to live with the regret of wasting a vital time to learn how to be a young adult and cope with adult life by drinking instead. I’m learning how to live with the regret, shame, and guilt, and turn it into something that drives me to be a better person in the future.

 

Thanks for reading and please reach out if you wanna chat!

Sincerely,

Judith

Mistaking Free-Fall for Freedom, part 1

I am going to write a 2-3 part ‘series’ on one of the biggest changes of my life — graduating from college, moving across the state, and starting my career. Along with that came depression, loneliness, isolation, self-hate, and alcoholism. This is part 1.


 

The date was January 2, 2015.

I woke up earlier than usual, feeling alright. Mostly because there was still alcohol in my system from the night before, the hangover hadn’t hit me yet. I had to get up a little earlier than normal because the moving company was on the way to pack up my apartment and move me 210 miles south-east, across the state of Wisconsin from a town on the Mississippi River to the biggest city in Wisconsin — Milwaukee — on Lake Michigan.

I had graduated college 2 weeks earlier, with 2 hard-earned bachelor’s degrees in hand. I was on top of the world — graduated with honors, new car, moving to a big city for my big girl job at the Fortune 500 company that I had been interning with during the last 8 months of my college career. I was young and felt like I had life by the balls. It was my time to shine!

A good friend of mine came over to say farewell, and she brought a thoughtful card and some coffees. We were standing in the middle of my apartment (quite literally, the middle — I lived in a legit loft and unless we wanted to be in the bathroom or my closet, we had to stand right in the middle), and the movers were packing all my belongings up around us. It was so cold, but the sky was the most crisp shade of blue; it was like a sign that the move was going to go smoothly and the sky would open up for me in Milwaukee.

The movers were done packing my apartment in pretty much no time at all, because, as I mentioned, I lived in a loft. As a fresh college grad, all I had was a futon, a bed, a TV, some pots and pans, and clothes. Once they had the last box in the truck, it was time to set off for the big city. And we’re off!

Errr.. wait… my car was in the alley with the hazards on while the movers were packing. It must’ve taken longer than I thought because when I tried to start my car it was dead. Ugh!! Luckily I had worked at a Jimmy John’s right around the corner and still knew several people who worked there, so one of my delivery driver buddies come and jump my car. Alright, now we’re off!

The drive to Milwaukee was so surreal. I was leaving behind the last 4.5 years of my life, where I came in as a bright-eyed, bushy tailed freshmen, and left as a young adult woman. I was thinking about everything I had just been through the last several years; studying abroad in Europe for 6 months and living with a host family, training for and finishing a marathon, working 2+ jobs and juggling 18 credits, becoming ‘most innovative intern’ for the company I was working for, buying my first new car, clubs, activities, sports, band… making friends, losing friends, going out without abandon, partying like there’s no tomorrow, wine Wednesday’s with my girlfriends, countless, nameless boys… the list goes on. I was also thinking about the next phase of my life… I could be whoever I wanted to be in Milwaukee. I knew exactly 1 person in Milwaukee, and he worked at the same company I was about to begin my career with. And he didn’t know hardly anything about me besides the fact that I was the type of girl who worked myself to the bone to prove myself. He didn’t know anything about my personal life. No one knew who I was where I was going, so I could be anyone I wanted to be.

I was thinking on the drive… maybe I’ll be that girl who never drinks. Ya know, the girl who’s always down to have a good time, makes everyone laugh, but somehow manages to do that without having alcohol? Maybe I’ll be the girl in high heels with painted red nails, completely put together and is admired for her tenacity and drive? Maybe I’ll be popular in the office, someone you go to when you just need a break from the daily grind of emails, conference calls, and power points? Again, I felt like I had the world by the balls, like I could do anything.

I had envisioned myself as madly successful, meeting someone, combining our successful lives into one and starting the next phase of my life.. happy, healthy, and well, successful, to say it again.

Of course, I gave myself no time at all to accomplish these things. I expected everything to happen TO me, and fast.


 

Upon arriving to Milwaukee sometime in the early afternoon, we started unpacking. My mom had taken the afternoon off to come and help me unpack and celebrate the beginning of a new, exciting phase of my life.

The apartment I chose in Milwaukee was beautiful. It was an old building, built around the early 1900s. The landlord said the building’s basement was used as a fallout shelter during some era in history. The building had a grand entry-way, with an arch above a path and gardens on both sides. There was another apartment building of exactly the same style on the other side of the path. The foyer of my building had stained glass ceilings and light fixtures, tiled floors, stucco walls, and wrought iron banisters. It felt warm and inviting.

I was on the third floor in the corner unit, so I had views of the street and the apartment building to the north. The apartment had the original woodwork — floors, crown and base moulding. It also had a faux fireplace with an ornate scroll-like design in the center of the mantel. The kitchen had just been remodeled and I was the first tenant to use the new appliances. It was a big, 1 bedroom apartment with separate dining and living rooms, and a welcoming entry-way.

On the drive to Milwaukee, I had started to feel really sick and hungover. Most of all, I was super nauseous and my head felt like it was splitting in two. I wanted to get to Milwaukee as fast as I could, before my mom was meeting me there, to try and get some alcohol down so I could be of use and help unpack. But, it didn’t work out that way and if I’m remembering correctly, my mom was already there when I arrived.

I don’t think I even had time to give my mom a proper hello and a hug before I had to sprint up to my new apartment and puke. I was feeling so sick; hungover-style sick but also full of anxiety about this new phase of my life. I didn’t realize I was doing this to myself at the time, but I was putting myself under tremendous pressure to be the ‘perfect’ young-adult, whatever that looks like. The whole car ride over to Milwaukee, I was thinking about who I wanted to be, what my life was going to look like, and how I was going to make that happen. I didn’t realize the amount of pressure that was putting on myself when those things inevitably went wrong and things didn’t go as planned, and I certainly was NOT thinking that any part of my new plan was going to go wrong. What could go wrong?!

I came back down to meet my mom by the moving truck. She was genuinely concerned, because at this time, neither I nor my family knew what was to come, which was ravaging alcoholism. She asked ‘are you sick? What’s wrong? Are you OK?’ Genuinely concerned for my well-being and thinking I had caught some sort of bug. I remember telling her I didn’t feel good because of all the anxiety the move was provoking, which was true, but not the whole truth.

The movers got all the boxes up to my apartment in less than 20 minutes and were back on the road. It was time for my mom and I to start unpacking and decorating my new home, making it mine. I tried to partake in the unpacking, but I was feeling so sick I had to lay down numerous times. I left my mom on her own to unpack my things.

We then headed up to a little restaurant less than a block up the street from my new apartment. We were both so excited to go there because we had stopped there when we first visited the apartment and signed the lease, and this time, we didn’t have to get back in the car to drive home, we just had to walk the couple steps back to my new place. I was trying to put on my happy face and tough it out, but I couldn’t. I left my mom at the restaurant, by herself, after about 20 mins because I had to go home to be sick.

Here is an instance that I have a hard time forgiving myself for. I have been able to forgive myself and move on from a lot of the stupid, wasteful things I’ve done, but I still struggle forgiving myself for being so hungover when I moved to Milwaukee. Yes, I wanted to celebrate my last night in my former town, but did I have to ‘celebrate’ so hard?! I was beginning a new chapter of my life! My mom wanted to take part in this new beginning! And I was useless… I couldn’t help unpack, I could barely stand on my own two feet when I got to Milwaukee, and I left her at a restaurant in a city that neither of us were familiar with. I had to lay down while my poor mom opened and unpacked boxes of my belongings. I still regret being unable to enjoy this time with her. I feel so bad for leaving her to do a lot of the footwork while I lay writhing in pain and guilt. I still regret beginning that new chapter of my life under the plague of alcohol. It set the tone for the rest of my stay in Milwaukee, for sure.

See, at this point, my drinking was chalked up to college partying. Sure, I had gotten out of hand, more times than I can count, but I was young and in college, so it was acceptable. The fact that I was successful academically, had several internships, worked multiple jobs, and participated in extra curriculars like band and running marathons all kind of allowed me to sweep my drinking under the rug. It was like, yeah I drink a lot, and I make a fool of myself most of the time, but I’m doing all this other stuff AND my grades are excellent, so what can anyone say about my drinking? Shit, I ran a marathon! What are you gonna say about my drinking now, huh? It wasn’t interrupting my life, on paper. It looked like I was doing very well. So what if I got out of control from time to time, wasn’t I allowed to, with the million other things I was juggling and juggling successfully? But that was about to change, because I no longer fit into the college demographic, but rather the working adult demographic.

Milwaukee was off to a rough start, but hopefully that would change with the first day at my new job/career on Monday….


 

Thanks for reading and part 2 is coming soon!

Sincerely,

Judith