Letter of “Apology”

I had to write a letter to the guy’s whose yard I drove through on the “dreadful day” of May 9, 2017.

I was in a blackout. I don’t remember anything. It was the day the cops found me passed out in the back seat of my car, with the engine still running. It was the day I wanted to end it all with drinking myself to death. It was the day I got my 2nd DUI, and ultimately, it was the beginning of my recovery.

I had to make it short and sweet, here’s what I wrote:


Dear Mr. H (named removed for anonymity),

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I hope you enjoyed the summer weather and are ready for the change of seasons.

As a condition of my probation, I am required to write an ‘apology’ letter to you. However, even though it is a condition of my probation, I am grateful I get the opportunity to write to you and show my remorse, and gratitude, for the course of events that happened on May 9, 2017 (of which I will refer to as ‘Dreadful Day’ for the rest of this letter).

Let me start by telling you a bit about myself, the events leading up to that Dreadful Day, and what has transpired since.

I am a 26-year old woman who now lives in Chicago. I graduated from college in 2014, and since then, I’ve held numerous positions in companies big and small. Like many adults, my personal identity is closely tied with my work, and currently, I hold a position as Online Marketplace Manager for a small company outside of Chicago. I am a daughter, friend, niece, and granddaughter. I am an only child and my parents and I are again closely tied, our relationship having severely suffered throughout my years as an active alcoholic.

I am a recovering alcoholic, having been sober since that Dreadful Day. At the point of writing this letter, in just a few days I will have 17 months sobriety.

In that 17 months, since the Dreadful Day, I have gone to inpatient drug & alcohol treatment, moved to a sober living house in Chicago, attended intensive outpatient therapy, transitioned to weekly therapy, went to jail, started probation, attended countless meetings, started a meeting/support group of my own, amongst so many other things in order to get myself better.

More than that, I obtained a part-time job that evolved into my current full-time career, become a person that friends and family once again recognize, and have transformed, and continue to transform, into a productive member of society.

Prior to the Dreadful Day, I had relapsed from a period of 6 months of sobriety. I have been through many attempts of trying to get healthy, and I was labeled as a ‘lost cause’ by my parents, my family, and most importantly myself. I truly believed that I was a lost cause, never to recover and only meant to die a slow suicide by alcoholism.

My life became ravaged by alcoholism in my early 20s. After graduating college and stepping into my first ‘big girl’ job in the real world, I had the realization that ‘this is it.’ This is what life boils down to, working, paying bills, and for me, being lonely and isolated. I had moved to a city that was far from family, where I had no friends, no social interaction, and over the course of a year I went from being social and motivated, to isolated and depressed.

I self-medicated my depression and growing anxiety with alcohol. The more I fed the beast of growing, unaddressed mental illness inside of me, the more I needed alcohol to function, and I crossed the line of social drinker to alcoholic in a very short period of time.

Next came countless attempts at sobriety. I knew I needed to do something about my festering addiction before something terrible, like accidental death, happened.

Long story short, I found myself at my first sober living house, and then on my own in an apartment again, having achieved 8 months of sobriety. All the while, the underlying causes of alcohol and addiction were never addressed, leaving me with unshakable feelings of utter unhappiness, loneliness, frustration, and deprivation. I was deprived of real relationships, real feelings and emotions, a clear conscience, but most of all, an identity. I could not say with certainty who I was as a person, what I enjoyed to do, what my hobbies were, what I was passionate about. It was miserable, in all forms of the word.

Shortly after I celebrated 8 months, I relapsed. A deep, dark relapse that led me to suicidal thinking, psych wards, and the bottom of countless bottles. I dug myself into a dark hole of seemingly no return. I truly believed I deserved to die and never recover to feel what happiness and peace felt like.

The morning of Dreadful Day, I am not sure what demon took over my body, but somehow it was decided that it was going to be the day I ended my life.

I woke up to ‘go to work’ earlier than usual that day, knowing I would not be going to work at all, but rather, I would be the first patron at the store to buy alcohol. I set off to find somewhere to park my car and drink myself to death. I remember screaming and crying at the top of my lungs, “I just want to die! I am worthless!! I hate this!!! I HATE THIS!!’

Shortly thereafter, I blacked out, and the next thing I remember is waking up, handcuffed to a hospital bed, with an officer next to me, having an out-of-body experience, where I was looking down upon myself, sobbing, thinking “what have I done? How did it come to this?”

After that, I was taken to a detox center in Madison, because my blood alcohol level was so high it would’ve killed most people. Medical professionals are still unsure how I survived that, physically unscathed, but emotionally and mentally shattered.

Then, came homeless shelters, inpatient treatment, a new sober living house in Chicago, more treatment, jail, probation, and the beginnings of a new life.

Upon receiving the police report, and realizing what I had done on the Dreadful Day, I was overcome with sadness, hopelessness, and deep remorse.

I am not the monster who drove through your yard that day. I become that monster when my body interacts with alcohol. Once I consume alcohol, all bets are off, and I’ve been told that the life leaves my eyes and my face, and I am unrecognizable in body and spirit. I understand this now, at the most fundamental level, that I cannot expect to live a fulfilling, happy, and peaceful life if I consume alcohol. Alcohol obtains a super-human power over me, a power that is only known by other alcoholics and addicts.

I am deeply sorry for the events that ensued on Dreadful Day. I think about things like ‘what if his child had been in the yard?’ ‘what if I had driven through a part of his house?!’ and I am embarrassed and ashamed and extremely guilty of the situation I caused that required you to act.

However, I am grateful. I am grateful that you were a diligent citizen who called the authorities to put a stop to the madness. I am grateful because it has brought me to where I am today, a youth volleyball coach, an Online Marketplace Manager, a friend, and daughter, and more importantly, someone I am proud to be. I am someone that my parents again recognize. After years of an unrecognizable daughter, they can finally breathe peacefully, knowing I am not out there wreaking havoc on whatever I touch. They can say they are proud of me and the personal, spiritual, and material growth I’ve been able to accomplish over the last year and a half. Hearing my parents say “we are proud of you” after hearing, for years, “you are a lost cause,” is one of the most meaningful things that has happened in my life to date.

I am making a living amends to the people that I’ve hurt, and I hope that hearing what my life used to be like and what it is like now, is a meaningful amends for you and your family, enough for you to find it within you to forgive me.

Because of you putting a stop to the demon inside of me, I am able to learn who I am and what I believe in, continually, every day. I keep a daily diligence of things I need to do to ensure I stay on the right path, to ensure I keep picking up the pieces of my life that shattered in the years of alcoholism. I have a mantra, saying to myself, “just do the next right thing,” in my mind, all the time. My parents have adopted this mantra, and through the journey of alcoholism to recovery, my life has become meaningful once again, and I no longer desire to put an end to it by drinking myself to death.


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Letter from my Therapist (while I was in Jail)

My therapist wrote me this letter while I was in Jail.

11/17/17:

J!!

It’s E here. How are you? I hope that your first week there has been okay. Your mom emailed me to give me an update and said that you are adjusting well. And that you may be done Dec 1? That is great.

Things here are good. Our group misses you! They always ask how you’re doing. One person said they are sending you money too, so hopefully you receive it.

I hope the library for the work release situation is working well. And that you are able to get a coffee and feel comfortable there.

Things with me are good — not much is new and we are building up the PHP program here and I am working on curriculum materials for it. I am still biking to & from work some days, but the cold has kind of killed my motivation to do that.

I am thinking maybe I will enclose coloring pages, but I don’t know if you have colored pencils or anything to color with… hopefully you aren’t too bored!

I am so proud of you for taking this in stride and just DOING it. You are so smart and driven — soon, this will just be a memory of one month of your life (that you can put in your memoir!).

Sending you a big hug!

Love,

E

Jail

Here’s my story about the time I went to jail.

For a little background… I went to jail in November 2017 for my 2nd drunk driving offense. Although I live in Chicago now, I got myself in trouble when I was living farther north and ended up in a county jail in Wisconsin. A for-profit county jail. Jefferson County Jail.


 

So in the days before I was admitted to Rosecrance, detailed in the Relapse blog posts (specifically Relapse, Part 3), I was well aware I would be going to jail for the events that occurred Monday, May 9, 2017.

The morning after I was released from jail, when I was in a dirty, grubby, smelly hotel room in Jefferson, I was pacing around the room thinking ‘how am I gonna get out of this one?! What am I gonna do??! How did it all come to this?’. My phone still had about 20% and I had already called the cab company to come pick me up and bring me to the impound lot to get my car, so I decided to start making some phone calls to lawyers.

At this time, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I surely didn’t have any money to pay these lawyers, but I was oh so desperate to know what I was in for. Just to get an idea of what I had done to myself.

I’m still shaky and trembling from the alcohol withdrawal and I haven’t had anything to eat in several days. I try calling a few lawyers, and to my surprise, I get a couple of them on the phone, but what they have to say to me is not what I want to hear.

They all tell me I WILL be serving jail time, no doubt about that, anywhere from 14 days to a year! Of course, my mind latches on to the year… a whole year in jail?!!? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

All the lawyers ask the circumstances around my arrest, and I tell them that I was passed out in the back seat of my car. At this time, I was hopeful that because I wasn’t actually operating the vehicle when the cops found me, I could somehow get out of it.

I tell them an eyewitness saw me (I later read the full report and was MORTIFIED to find out that I drove through his yard, destroying some landscaping, like some type of monster out to destroy everything in its path), and the eyewitness called the cops, who didn’t find me at the scene, but were later called in because a car (my car) was in a ditch, still running, with a suspicious subject in the back seat. The suspicious subject was me; I had crawled into my back seat after pulling into a ditch and passed out, with the keys still in the ignition and the car still running.

The lawyers tell me that because my keys were in the ignition, the car was still running, and the eyewitness identified me as the person who drove through their yard, that there was little hope of getting it dismissed.

Then, they ask, ‘how drunk were you?’

I’m embarrassed, horrified, to admit just how drunk I was. I mumble, ‘I was blacked out, I don’t remember any of this. I was told my BAC was above a .4’.

At this point, the lawyers take a deep breath and forge ahead, telling me ‘well there’s not a whole lot we can do besides mitigate what’s already going to happen. Are you going to go to treatment?’

Again, at this point, treatment was a passing thought in my mind, but I wasn’t at the point where I was ready to accept it. The alcoholic demon inside of me was telling me ‘just escape all of this, rent another night in this room, find some hard drugs, and get wasted. It’ll all work itself out.’

Like, fuck no, something like this isn’t gonna work itself out! But I was so sick, hopeless, and low at the time, that the alcoholic/addict/demon voice inside of me was so loud, it was the only voice I could hear and I succumbed to it, every time. Well, almost everytime.

So anyway, I get off the phone with the lawyers and go pick up my car at the impound. Needless to say, because I’ve told the story before, I didn’t end up getting shit-faced and high, even though I wanted to SO BAD, I ended up staying in a homeless shelter until Rosecrance admitted me.


 

A few days after that morning of hysteria, I was admitted to Rosecrance. A few days after I was admitted, I met with my primary counselor for the first time, D.

D called me out of group one day, and I was SO HAPPY I was finally going to get the chance to get all of this shit off my chest. We sat down in her office, and I immediately start sobbing. I didn’t even get a word out before the tears started flowing.

She asks me to just tell her a little bit about what’s going on. I tell her about the DUI, the dungeon of detox, the grubby hotel, and facing jail time. I tell her I don’t have a lawyer, I don’t have money for a lawyer, I don’t even have money to be in treatment! She offers me solace, telling me they (Rosecrance) already applied for my financial assistance, and then tells me I was approved so I can remove that dreadful thought of ‘how am I going to stay here with no money’ from my mind. I can put that part of my worries at rest, for now.

I confess several of the most awful actions, thoughts, and words I have said while drinking. I confess that I don’t know if I’m strong enough to go through recovery, and tell her, to be completely honest, I don’t know if I’m ready to be done drinking. I was so caught up in the grips of alcohol that I couldn’t see how truly terrible of a person, daughter, friend, citizen of society I was being. Alcohol was whispering in my ear the whole time ‘it’s not that bad! You’re not prostituting, yet. You’re not pawning your belongings, yet. Your car is in the parking lot, you can just live out of your car, the weather is getting warmer and nicer! Doesn’t that sound fun! You’re only 25, there’s still time.’

Keywords: YET & ‘there’s still time’. In recovery, we say there’s always the ‘yet(s)’ and ‘yes, but(s)’ as excuses to keep going down, down, down. I haven’t sold my body yet, there’s still time to try that wonderful idea. Alcohol was seducing me with the thought of ‘there’s still time’. The fact that I was (and still am) young, the thought of ‘there’s still time’ to ruin more shit sounded almost as good of an idea as the thought of being done with drinking and that lifestyle and getting sober. I was so sick at this time. So friggin sick.

She says ‘well, since you’re voluntarily committing yourself to treatment, it’s likely the sentence is going to be shortened, but yes, you need to prepare yourself for at least a couple months of jail time.’

I think, but… but… but… but it’s only my second DUI, I didn’t hurt anybody, I am here, aren’t I? Of course, my sickened mind was thinking ‘only second DUI’…. like, c’mon, that’s TWO too many.

I felt better just having all of that out in the open. I don’t know if this is how D is with all her clients, or just me because she sensed it about me, but she gets out a pad of paper and starts writing me a to-do list. Oh, the to-do list felt SO GOOD. I finally have things I can take action on. On the to-do list was: get paperwork for a public defender, call the court to see when my first court date is, and STAY. IN. TREATMENT.

We call the court and my court date is about 3 weeks away. I get the public defender paperwork, and to my disbelief, I don’t qualify, even though I’m technically homeless, and on a disability leave from work.

She and I (and other counselors at Rosecrance) worked tirelessly to have me stay at treatment through my first court date, so I could get a continuance and find myself a lawyer (and with that, figure out how I was going to pay for one).

We make calls to different offices trying to find a lawyer who will do some pro-bono work. No luck, none whatsoever.

I am released from treatment the day after my first court date was supposed to take place, but because I was in treatment, I did get a continuance and now I have another 3 weeks to find a lawyer and figure out the payment part of it.

I get to my sober living house in Chicago, and I’m so overwhelmed by the city, the roommates, the house, the house rules, and getting my legal situation under control. My parents are just a teensy bit more open to me, now that I’ve successfully completed treatment and moved straight into a sober living. After a few weeks at sober living, I call my parents and we start having a conversation about the court date coming up in a week.

They extend to me an offer to help, one that I am eternally grateful for. They say, ‘OK, we know you’re hurting. We know you don’t have any money. We know you are a good person at heart, but you did bad things. We will do what we can to help you mitigate the bad things you did, but you MUST and WILL pay us back when you get to a point where you can, and this is the only financial help we are going to offer.’

So, my mom, dad & I work out a plan to get a lawyer. Lawyers are expensive, but they’re even more expensive on the second offense than they are the first. So, we have to pay $1500 up front, and $750 a month for 4 months after that. I die a little inside, knowing how much money this is going to cost. And this is only the first real expense of a second DUI… the rest of the expenses include court fees and fines, getting a breathalyzer installed and maintained, car insurance, mandatory alcohol assessment and counseling, probation, and soon, paying to be in jail.

We go through the court dates over the course of about 6 months. The entire 6 months, I know I’m going to jail… but I don’t know when, where, or for how long. I just know I’m going.

Everyone (therapists, roommates, parents, friends, etc.) keeps telling me ‘oh you’re not going to go to jail! Look how good you’re doing… you’re sober, you’re racking up days, weeks, months of sobriety, you go to meetings, you live in sober living, you got yourself a job, blah blah blah’ and the whole time I’m thinking ‘No, I’m GOING to jail, stop telling me I’m not’.

The day comes for my sentencing hearing, and I’m nervous, hopeful, skeptical, scared, yet excited to finally get this over with and know, just KNOW, what I’m in for.

The lawyers made a plea bargain: I would go to jail for 30 days, serve 18 months probation, and several other conditions.

I was desperately praying that the judge would override their decision and give me the minimum sentence for a second offense DUI since I was doing everything in my human-ly power to get myself right. The minimum sentence is 5 days.

At the hearing, the judge says ‘well, you are the almost the perfect case, wherein I could exercise my right to give you the minimum sentence of 5 days. I wish I could, but your BAC was just too high. I can’t sentence you to anything less than 30 days for that reason. You are sentenced to 30 days in Jefferson County Jail, with work release privileges, and 18 months probation, which if circumstances allow, is transferable to your current state of residence, Illinois.’

UGH! SO CLOSE. but no cigar.

The judge allows me to go back home for a week before I report to jail to tie up loose ends, try to work the absence out with my employer, figure out my living situation, etc. etc. Thankfully, I thought ahead and had already worked it out with my sober living that I would pay full rent while I was gone, to have the security of a safe, familiar environment to return to when I was released. Also, at this point, I had already told my employer of my situation. They knew I was an alcoholic and would be going to jail, and if it was 30 days or less, they agreed to let me take a leave of absence and return to my job when I was released. All of these situations took quite a bit of planning and collaborating to get the necessary strings pulled so I would have a place and a job to return to.

However, even though I was offered the privilege of work release, I didn’t think I would be able to take advantage because I had no way of getting to the office from the jail. I had a brilliant idea one day, and asked my lawyer ‘do you think they’d let me bring my work laptop and go out during the day to the library to work remotely?’ he said ‘I’ve never heard of that before, I doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.’

So before I went to jail, I called up the work release officer and explained my idea of working remotely while I was in jail. To my absolute delight, he agreed to let me go to the library during the day to work. I just had to arrange letters from my employer about hours, pay, etc, and get the library’s permission to use their internet for the next month. I got all of those boxes checked before I turned myself in, so I was able to take advantage of work release.


The day I turned myself in, it was November 9, the day I had 6 months sobriety. I had gone out and purchased the mandatory white underwear, bras, and thermals. I brought in a few changes of clothes for when I would be out for work release. I brought several packs of cigarettes and my work materials.

They bring me into the jail, strip search me, and confiscate my cigarettes. I wasn’t aware that cigarettes and lighters were not allowed in jail, even for work release inmates. Some of my white thermals were also confiscated for not being up to their standards and definition of ‘thermals’. I took a drug test. The drug test was faulty, and when I mentioned that that day was my 6 month anniversary, the deputy just looked at me and scoffed. A few hours later, I took another test and passed. Fuckin’ deputies.

I was told I had to sit my ass in jail for 48 hours before I would be allowed for work release. This was the LONGEST 48 hours of my entire life. I was also informed that work release was 6 days a week, so at least 1 day I would be in the dorm for the whole day per week.

I’m brought in to the dorm I will be staying. Classic white/grey cinderblock walls, 1 stall shower, toilet with no toilet seat and no door, steel bunk-beds, steel picnic table, and a small TV blaring some shitty sitcom. They distribute to me 1 padlock (which I’m very surprised they let us inmates have a padlock — it can be used as a weapon in a sock), 1 2″ thick mattress, a set of blankets and sheets, a smelly towel, washcloth, and hygiene kit.

Since I was at a for-profit institution, I would have to pay $20/day to be in jail, and I had to pay for the hygiene kit, toilet paper, and anything else I would need like ibuprofen, shaving cream, etc. It costs a lot of money to be held in a for-profit jail. I can’t imagine what the inmates do that don’t have the opportunity to make money while they’re in there… especially the ones that are in for 6 months, years. How do they pay the $20/day? I will never know.

Since I got to the dorm in the middle of the day, most of the inmates were out on work release. I try to lay down, but the 2″ mattress does nothing to soften the steel bunk bed. The overhead lights are on full blast, the TV is blaring, and several of the inmates who weren’t out for work release was talking or snoring. It was loud, uncomfortable, bright, and most of all, boring.

Later in the day, the inmates come back from work release, and it was so loud. Everything they say sounds 100x louder because of the echo in the room. Plus, these women don’t really give a shit — some of them have already been there for months or years, some won’t be getting out for months or years, and a few have their out-dates in just a few days.

The food wasn’t terrible, but I can see how people gain weight in jail. White bread, hot dogs, cake, brownies, not to mention commissary junk food. The whole time I was in jail I was dying for fresh veggies and a lean piece of meat. But, I was only going to be there for 30 days, so I just kept my head down and did my time quietly.

When the 48 hours were up, and I was able to go outside and to the library to work, it felt absolutely amazing. To get out of that stagnant, damp, cold dorm felt incredible. I immediately walk over to the gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes and a diet Pepsi. It tasted like heaven.

The women at the library knew my situation, but they were so nice to me. They just let me come in, park myself at a desk, and work without interruption. I did do a few volunteer projects for them as a thank you for letting me work there and use their internet. Of course, those volunteer projects had to be approved by the deputies, and I don’t know how or why, but they approved them for me. Other inmates were jealous and threatened by this. But again, I just tried to keep my head down, my mouth shut, and do my time.

When I had to go back to the jail after a day of work, I had to figure out something to do with my cigarettes, because I couldn’t bring them in with me. So, I got a plastic bag from the gas station, found a garbage can outside that wasn’t being used, tied a knot with the loops of the bag and my cigarettes inside, and stuck them in the garbage can with the knot in the lid, so I didn’t have to reach into the garbage can to get them the next day. This kept my cigarettes dry when it rained. I had to get a little thrifty if I didn’t want to buy a new pack of cigarettes every day, so this is where I stored my cigarettes for the next 30 days.

Going back to jail and waiting to get back into the dorm was not fun. I would have to announce my name (last name only) and then sit in the waiting area until a female deputy was available to strip search me and let me back into the dorm. On several occasions, I sat in the waiting area for 2+ hours. If I missed dinner while I was waiting, then tough luck.

Lights were flipped on full blast at 4 AM sharp. If I wanted to shave, I had to be sure to grab a razor from the supply cart and get to it right away because they came and collected the razors at 5 AM, when they brought meds and breakfast. I would go back to bed until 830 when I was allowed to leave. I would grab a bag lunch before I left for work, sit at the library until about 6, and head back to the jail. By the time I was checked in, I often missed dinner and meds, so I had to beg the deputies to bring me dinner and my medications. The thing was, if you missed dinner and meds, it wasn’t the deputies responsibility to get you these things. It was your responsibility to predict and know what time you would be back, and ask for these things beforehand. I got used to asking for 2 bag lunches when I left for work so I had lunch and dinner, but I wasn’t allowed to take my meds with me, so sometimes, I just had to go without. Those nights I had to go without were restless and sleepless.

Every night when I went to bed, I would think to myself “29 more nights, 28 more nights, 27 more nights,” until it was “1 more night”. The day I was to get released, I was informed that I actually had to stay for 2 more days — someone had made a mistake calculating my time/time served/’good time’ and so, I had to stay for 2 more days after the excitement of “1 more night.”

When my time was up, my mom came to pick me up and we went to lunch. It was one of the most amazing days of my life — the day I got released from jail.

I stayed at home for the weekend and returned to Chicago and the office the following Monday. It felt so, SOSOSOSOOO good to be back to the city, work, normal life, and recovery.


Jail (at least the one I was in) does NOTHING for rehabilitation. I understand one of the main purposes of an institution like this is punishment, not rehabilitation. But, 90%+ of the people I was with were in there for drug or alcohol-related offenses, and I don’t think any of them were first time offenders, they were all second, third, fourth-time offenders. Wouldn’t it serve in the jails best interest to offer some rehabilitation to the inmates? Oh wait, I was at a for-profit jail, so nevermind, they want people to keep coming back to make more money off the sick and hopelessly addicted people.

Jail was demeaning, embarrassing, and in some ways, humbling. While I fully recognize that I had it ‘easy’ by getting work release, I never, ever, want to go back. It made me realize the places I could end up if I kept on going down the road of drinking and drugging. It was uncomfortable, lonely, and hopeless. Every day was spent just counting down the days and hours until I could get out.

When I got back from jail. I thought I would be lighter, without the heavy load of impending doom hanging over my head. I was not. It took several weeks and truthfully, months, to begin the process of releasing the weight on my shoulders that had been hanging around for the last 7 months.

If there’s one thing that any reader takes away from this, it’s this — you DO NOT have to wait to hit rock bottom and end up in dirty hotels, homeless shelters, treatment, and jails to get better. You don’t have to experience the ‘yets’… if you have an inkling that you have a problem and that drinking/drugging is disrupting your life in negative ways, do not wait until you end up in jail to do something about it. Do something about it now, while you can, while you’re still alive. Too often, people wait to hit rock bottom and end up dying and/or killing themselves in the process. The time is never going to be ‘right’ to quit, just make it the right time and do whatever you need to do (cutting back, therapy, exercise, making amends, finding a hobby, etc) to start making positive changes.

Thank you for reading.

I just want to say, if any of you readers have questions about my story and where I’m at today, or need to vent to someone who will NOT judge you, I am here for you. You are not alone.

Sincerely,

Judith

Relapse, Epilogue

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The picture above is my disgusting face, after my aunt’s dog bit me, a few days before I got my 2nd DUI. It’s so gross I can hardly look at it.

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This picture is of a dog with boots that I saw on my way home from work the other day. Idk… just something a little more uplifting than that awful picture of me with band-aids on my face.


 

I feel like depression, perfectionism, feeling misunderstood and not good enough, and a deep, deep sense of loneliness and unhappiness fed my addiction. It all started with feelings of something missing, feeling unfulfilled… a void… and feeling like ‘this is it?! This is what my life is going to be like for the rest of my life?? Well… this fucking sucks,’ and then realizing that I could escape all the emotional and mental discomfort with alcohol.  My mind would quiet down when I drank, and it seemed I could fit in better with the world. I further realized that benzos and cocaine offset the side-effects of alcohol. I didn’t use the latter two on a daily basis like I did alcohol, but I definitely believe that if I were to go back to drinking, those 2 things would very quickly follow.

There are a lot of other horrifying stories during my drinking days, but those will come out as time goes on. It’s not to say I didn’t have good memories when I was drinking, it’s just, the way it ended really offsets those good memories. I’m just really happy to get the story of my relapse out into the open, and not just in the confines of my brain anymore.

After I went to Rosecrance, it took about a week to realize I needed to talk about what happened in order to begin the process of forgiving myself, moving on, and starting anew.

Once I finally told the story, that I thought no one would understand because I’m the worst person ever, at least 2 or 3 other women shared that they had done the same, or worse. Just knowing I wasn’t the worst person ever, that I wasn’t alone, allowed me to begin the healing process.

The first step in my healing process was forgiveness. Forgiving myself, mostly. Forgiving myself for the things I had said, done, thought, and acted upon when I was drinking. I came across a quote the other day that read:

Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal. Everytime you remember, you forgive again.

And every time I remember the truly horrible things I did to my family, friends, society, and myself, I have to forgive again and again and again.

There is a misconception that sobriety is boring. And, sometimes that’s true. But when I was drinking, I was SO BORING. I spent most days, holed up in my apartment, drinking until I passed out, only to wake up and keep doing it. I didn’t leave my apartment for days or weeks at a time. In sobriety, I have the energy, confidence, and motivation to go out and do things… go to the grocery store, go to work, go to the library, go shopping, go to a parade, go to comedy shows, even just going for a walk. My daily life is so much bigger, so much more meaningful, and way more FUN than drinking ended up being.

I’m happy and grateful to report that today, March 9, 2018, I have 10 months clean and sober. Sobriety has given me all the things that I thought alcohol could — peace of mind, meaningful relationships, sleep, love, forgiveness… the list goes on.

I have so much more work to do on myself and so many more things to learn about myself. Today, I have the wherewithal to do that.

It’s hard to fight every single day for my life. If it was as hard as it was in the beginning, I would’ve given up by now. It does get easier, and the obsession over drugs and alcohol slowly escapes. But, all the sudden, I’ll sit back and realize, ‘wow I didn’t think about drinking today’… and that’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Thank you for reading and please reach out if you want to chat!

Sincerely,

Judith

 

 

Relapse, Part 3

I’ve gotta finish this story, so I’m going to finish it tonight.

To see parts one and two of the story, click on the links.


I wake up in the hospital, completely out of sorts. How did I get here? What day is it? Am I still alive?

Immediately, I’m overcome with insane flashbacks… I recall myself chugging and chugging alcohol, screaming about how much I hate myself, crying so hard the road was blurry, and then my mind goes blank. Completely, utterly, horrifyingly blank.

My eyes are like sandpaper, dry, puffy, and everything is blurry and I’m seeing double. I look down at my body, and I feel like I’m seeing myself from above. I look at my left arm and there’s an IV in it. I look over to my right and I see my wrist is handcuffed to the bed. I slowly make my way up to see an officer sitting next to my bed. I groan, release an utterly ugly and painful groan, and ask ‘what happened? Where am I?’

The officer looks over at me, disgusted and pitiful. He looks away and says ‘I found you passed out in the backseat of your car in a ditch, you had a .437 BAC when I brought you in.’

I ask, ‘what day is it? What time is it?’ He says ‘it’s about 1:30 PM on Monday, May 8.’

Wooooooaaahhh woah woah… it’s still Monday and it’s only 1:30 PM? What the fuck time was it when I blacked out? What time did he find me?

I slowly come to a grizzly realization… I’ve been arrested for drunk driving, again.

The first DUI was bad, don’t get me wrong. But I remember every detail. I remember talking to the officer when he pulled me over, I remember resisting breathalyzing and blood work, I remember calling my parents to come pick me up, and I remember all the bull shit that followed it including court, fines, assessments, breathalyzer, etc. etc.

This time was so, so much worse. I have absolutely zero recollection of the officer waking me up in my car. I have no memory of the sobriety road test, I have no memory of the ride to the hospital or being hooked up to an IV or being handcuffed to the bed. I’m racking my brain trying to connect the dots, but all I can remember is screaming and crying in my car.

The officer goes out to the hall to call the nurse and tell her I’m awake. The doctor and the nurse both come in the room, without looking at me or saying a word to me. I feel humiliated, I feel so small, I feel so alone.

They take out the IV and the officer tells me it’s time to get back in the car.

Apparently, he was taking me to a detox in Madison. I didn’t know this — I was under the assumption I was going to jail.

The ride over to Madison was so confusing. My entire body hurt, as if I ran a marathon. My head is pounding and spinning. My guts feel like they are going to spill out any second. My eyes feel like they are bulging out of my head. My hands and fingers hurt, I’m already trembling. I keep feeling like my body is not my own — I can see it, I can see my legs, my feet, my hands, my abdomen — but it doesn’t look like it belongs to me. Not only is my body in shock from all the alcohol, but I’m in shock from what just happened and what is going to happen.

I get to the detox in Madison, and they breathalyze me to see where my BAC is. I still had a .33-something BAC when I got there. In other words, I was still completely and helplessly wasted.

As I come down from the alcohol, I have tons of emotions, thoughts, and physical discomforts flooding me; I become EXTREMELY nauseous, shaky, and antsy. I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin. I feel like I have bugs crawling all over me, mostly in my hair and on my face. I feel like the bugs are getting in my eyes and I keep rubbing and scratching and the nurse is threatening to put me in restraints. I remember that my parents thought I went to work in the morning, and they have absolutely no idea where I’m at. It’s clear I’m not coming home tonight, so I start to think ‘how am I going to tell them how bad I fucked up this time?’. I remember that I got arrested, again, and I start yelling about how I want out.

I was in a cinderblock, damp, dark room. The bed I was in had bells on it, so every time I even blinked, the bells jingled. I can see nasty water stains all over the walls and the floors. It looks like there’s something growing on the ceiling. All of this makes me more sick to my stomach and I keep trying to make myself throw up because I think it’ll make me feel better.

A nurse comes in and starts asking me questions about what happened. I don’t know, I don’t know, I DON’T KNOW! They tell me that the officer found me in a ditch passed out in the back seat of my car. I know I’ve been told this before, but I still can’t believe it, and because I can’t remember even the slightest of a detail, I have a hard time believing it’s true.

Then they ask me if I have any family I’d like to notify, since I will be at the detox for at least 24 hours. Painfully, oh SO painfully, I squeak, ‘can you please call my mom? She’ll be worried when I don’t come home tonight.’

I’m thinking so many thoughts… they’re just racing and racing through my mind. I can’t even finish a thought before another one comes up… “fuck this. I can’t get out of this one. I really did myself in this time. Who does this?!? I’m such a monster!!! Who drives around on Monday morning, drinking themselves so drunk that they pass out in the back seat of the car?!! What have I done?! What am I going to do? Why? HOW? Where? When? What?!? I’m going to be homeless now. I might as well just end it. I’m giving up. I’m going to deny any treatment offered because it doesn’t work anyway. I’m a lost cause.’

I was thinking about how.. when I managed to get out of this god-awful, disgusting, bug-infested detox, I was going to try to find some opiates and just… fuck it. It doesn’t matter anymore. I ruined everything. I RUIN everything I touch… I’m done, my life is over. I’m a worthless, no-good, mean, manipulative, destructive, awful human being that shouldn’t be allowed to walk this Earth. I don’t know how to live life without drugs and alcohol, so I’m just not even going to try anymore. It’s over.

I managed to get my dad on the phone and he made it clear — I’m no longer welcome at home. I have 20 minutes to get home and grab some things and figure out where I will be living for the foreseeable future, because it will NOT be with my parents. And… don’t I DARE ask another family member to house me. How DARE I put someone else through the hell that is trying to love me?!

I ask the nurses to print out some information about homeless shelters near Rockford. I think about sleeping in my car. I think about finding an abandoned house and calling it home for a while. I think about getting a dirty hotel room and possibly trying to sell myself to make some money, but then I remember, no one wants me anyway. I’m disgusting, fat, stinky, bloated, gross… I start to think.. I can’t wait to get my hands on some hard drugs so I can stop this madness that’s going on inside my head.

After 36 horrible, horrible hours at the detox in Madison, I’m at the mercy of the Jefferson County Sheriff to come pick me up in Madison and bring me back to Jefferson, where I was apparently passed out in a ditch, to get booked into jail. I was actually hoping they would keep me in jail even for a few days.

The sheriff FINALLY comes to pick me up at the detox at about 1 AM on May 10. By the time we get back to the Jefferson County Jail and I get booked, it’s about 3 AM. Then, they say, ‘OK here’s information on where you’re car is located, and you’re free to leave.’

Free to leave?! Where am I supposed to go?! How am I supposed to get anywhere? It’s 3 AM on a cold, early Spring night, in a town I’ve never even heard of, and I’m just supposed to…. walk the streets until the tow company opens in the morning, so I can get my car?

I leave the jail, and I start walking. I didn’t have a coat, my coat is presumably in my car which is in an impound lot 30 miles away. My phone was barely charged, it’s too late/too early to buy any alcohol. So, as I’m walking, I’m looking for abandoned houses to try and sleep in for a few hours.

After walking for about 30 minutes, I see a hotel. One of those dingy, bed-bug filled, prostitute hotels. I think ‘what a perfect place for me tonight, this is where I belong.’

I buzz the door, and I hear a stir. I buzz again, and again, and again, and finally, someone comes to the door.

It’s a middle-eastern guy with a thick accent, clearly upset that I’m waking him just before 4 AM for a room.

The room cost me $40 and I cringed over spending every penny, because I needed it to buy drugs later.

I get to my room and I don’t even want to touch the bed. The faucet and shower are leaking, the drywall is peeling, it smells like mothballs.

I watch TV until around 7 AM and I start calling lawyers with my half-dead phone.

The lawyers don’t have anything good to say — they all tell me I’m in real trouble — and that no matter what I do I will be going to jail at some point in the future and I will be looking at spending over $10,000 by the time all is said and done.

I’m hyperventilating, having an anxiety attack, and I feel so, so alone. I feel like the world is over as I know it.

I make a call to a cab company to bring me to the impound lot to retrieve my car, and by the time I get my car out, it’s another $300.

On my way home to my parents, for my allotted 20 mins to pack up some things that I might need, I think about drinking.

OH MY GOD did I want a drink SO bad. It was only Wednesday, and I hadn’t had a drink since Monday. My body didn’t know what to do without alcohol for that long. I was still shaky, in pain, my liver was pulsing. My anxiety was sky-high, I still felt nauseated. I need something, anything, to quiet my brutal thoughts and calm my nerves.

I pack up some things at home and head for the Rockford Rescue Mission.

Somehow I didn’t pick up alcohol along the way, and I found a bed for the night, safe in the walls of the homeless shelter.


 

I start to think about what I’m going to do. Should I stay at the homeless shelter for a while? I’ve worked at Jimmy John’s for 5 years, is there a Jimmy John’s around that I can get a job at? Oh GOD my employer!!! I’ve been a no-call no-show for several days by now!! Surely, my job is gone. There’s no way I can get up to Wisconsin from Rockford, even if my job was still there for me.

I call my employer and tell them how I ended up in the hospital and I’m very sick and I’m going to need to go away for a while to get myself better. At this point, I wasn’t thinking treatment, I was thinking drugs and alcohol. They offered for me to take disability to keep getting a paycheck until it was figured out when I could return to work.

The only thing I truly know will at least help my legal circumstances, if not my family and mental circumstances, is treatment. But, do I really have the energy to try that again?


 

I make the call to Rosecrance the next day, and they tell me that there’s a waitlist, but I can come in the next day for assessment. They say the most important thing is to try to stay in a safe place and not drink or use until I have my assessment. The lady tells me that although there’s a wait list, she might be able to get me to the front of the list if my situation is bad enough.

I go in for the assessment and I can’t get a word out before I start bawling. I’m crying so hard, hyperventilating, shaking, that I throw up. She says ‘Judith, you have to give me something to write down, otherwise you’ll never get the help you need.’ I take a break to try and calm myself, but I can’t seem to calm down enough.

They bring me into another room with a couple of counselors and start asking simple questions… ‘how old are you? have you been in treatment before? what’s your drug of choice? do you have a safe place to stay right now?’

I finally calm down enough, where I’m still crying but able to answer their questions.

The lady tells me that because of my situation, being homeless, being suicidal, wanting to go out and use hard drugs, etc., that they can put me in the detox area of the treatment center that same day. She says she doesn’t know how long I’ll be there until a bed opens in the women’s unit, but it’ll be a safe place to stay… warm, good food, nice bed… she says all I have to do is work on sleeping, hydrating, and bathing, and they’ll take care of the rest.

I give it a good, hard thought.. I think, am I ready to commit to this again? I just want one more drink, just one more. One more pill. I don’t want to do this yet, just give me an hour.

They say it’s either now or never.

I accept the offer and I’m sleeping just a few hours later, in detox at Rosecrance.


 

So, that’s the story of my relapse, 2nd DUI, and ultimately rock bottom.

I truly think it was divine intervention that day, when the officer found me passed out in the back seat of my car and brought me to the hospital, and it essentially saved my life.

I’m grateful that I have another chance to be a better version of me.

 

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Judith

Relapse, Part 2

OK, it’s been a while since I told the story of relapsing in Octoberish of 2016, but I think I’m going to try to finish that story tonight. Read part 1 here.

I’ll pick up right around where I left off when my parents decided to let me back in the house to try and get my shit figured out.


I moved back in with my parents around mid-march 2017, so around this time last year. When I moved in, my parents were going to be leaving for Mexico for 2 weeks in just a few short days. They arranged for Adam to come over from Libertyville (about a 1.5 hr drive) to check up on me every other day or so. We had agreed I could drink, but only 1 bottle of wine a night, and ONLY if I followed the rules mentioned in the Relapse part 1 post.

We arranged for me to move out my things from the apartment in Libertyville over time, instead of just going over there 1 day and packing everything up and moving, since they were so close to leaving for Mexico and I couldn’t necessarily do it all on my own.

In my mind, I felt like I was already on thin ice when I moved into my parents’ house. I had just lost a good job, again, because of drinking. I had very little money to my name, and I couldn’t afford to pay rent to my parents yet. They knew that I was in a downward spiral, but we all didn’t recognize just how low I already was, and none of us could comprehend that it would go even lower. We all thought I was on the cusp of either getting it together and figuring it out, or dying.

Since it would be a couple months before my lease with Mandy was up, I had to pay rent and utilities on an apartment I was no longer living in. I had plenty of financial obligations… paying rent and utilities on the apartment with Mandy, paying off my first DUI, paying student loans, credit cards, etc., and now having to come up with money to pay my parents for rent… I was overwhelmed from the very start.

When I moved in, I didn’t have a job, and I had no connections or friends in the area. Literally, not one person I could call a friend around where I parents lived. They live in a neighborhood out off a country road in Northern IL, so there’s no quick walking to the gas station or grocery store. It’s very quiet all the time, and lonely if you want it to be. I didn’t really have a choice of being lonely for the first couple weeks… I had no job to report to, no friends to call, and my parents were going to be gone for 2 weeks.

When my parents left for Mexico, I was off to the races. The rule at my parents’ house was no ‘big’ bottles of wine or boxes. I’m pretty sure one of the first things I did when I was home alone was buy a couple big bottles of my favorite poison. I was drinking by 9 AM (or even earlier, I don’t remember), passing out by 2 PM, and getting up and doing it all over again, day after day. Adam would come check on me, showing up around 7 PM after he got off work, and he saw all the rules I was breaking while my parents were gone.

I DESPISED Adam at this time. I could not stand to hear his voice, see him, be around him, anything. It was the deep hate that you can feel in your bones… just pure hatred. He was the only thing getting in the way of me and my prerogative while my parents were out of town. He would come over and see that I was already plastered, take the rest of my wine and dump it down the drain. He would find the bottles I had for the morning and dump those out too. PERFECTLY GOOD UNOPENED WINE he would pour down the drain!!! I was SO FUCKING MAD… I mean red-hot RAGE mad, because I was running low on money and I knew I would feel like complete shit the next day if I didn’t have any wine to get me going.

One day he came over, and the weather was decent, so I had some windows open around the house. I saw his car pulling in the driveway and I went around to quick lock the doors so he couldn’t get in. I was SO DONE with his bullshit pouring my wine down the drain and looking at me with those stupid, sad puppy eyes… just go the fuck away. As if locking all the doors wasn’t enough, I then went in my room and locked that door, too.

Apparently, I had forgotten to lock the back sliding door, and all the sudden, I hear footsteps in the house. I scream ‘GET THE FUCK OUT, I DON’T WANT YOU HERE, I DON’T NEED YOU HERE, JUST LEAVE!!’. I can’t remember a time when I was that rageful, that angry, at a person.

He found out how to unlock my bedroom door (which is not that hard and I knew this, but it helped me feel safe behind a locked door), and came in my room. I pushed him out, and I kept pushing him back to the door that he found his way into the house through. I was screaming, crying, begging him to get out and leave me alone. I never wanted to see him again. We were fighting, and I was pushing and shoving and probably punching him with all my might to just get. the. fuck. out. of. my. house.

I wanted him to leave, get out of the way of me and my drinking, and just SHUT UP already about how my parents wouldn’t want this. He threatened to call my parents in Mexico and tell them they needed to come home, and I begged and begged him to just leave my parents alone and let them enjoy their vacation.

I finally calmed down, but not because I wasn’t angry anymore. I calmed down as a way to manipulate him into thinking I was OK to be left alone and that he could go now, no problems. I sat in the living room and said ‘yes I know I’m not following the rules and I’m drinking too much. Yes I know when my parents get home I’m not going to be able to act this way. Yes I know this, Yes I know that…’.

He left, fucking finally, after a long while of talking about my problems. I was beyond pissed off… I wanted to scream, punch, kick, destroy. Most of all I needed alcohol, and I needed it FAST, because now it had been several hours since he poured the last of my wine out.

I went to get in my car to drive to the nearest store for more alcohol. When I opened the door, the light didn’t turn on. When I put the keys in the ignition, nothing happened. My car was dead.

I called Adam, and I was like “WHAT DID YOU DO” in a voice that I didn’t think could come out of me.

He had unplugged my battery and TOOK THE BATTERY WITH HIM so I couldn’t start my car, even if I wanted to. He also took my debit card and ID, so if I did get a ride or walk along the country road to the store, I couldn’t buy alcohol. He also took my Ativan and other anti-anxiety meds with him, so I had NO relief from what was coming to me.

OH. MY. GOD. I was absolutely furious. I was so fucking mad, I am getting mad just typing about it, a year later and 10 months sober.

The only thing I could do was go to bed and suffer through the withdrawal.

I called him the next day, hate and anger just spewing out of my mouth. I said ‘you want me to DIE?! I could DIE without having alcohol right now, especially since you took all my medications with you!!!!! What’s wrong with you!? Why the fuck would you do that? Why would you take my medications with you when you KNOW I could literally die without them! I’m not supposed to just STOP taking them!!!! FUCK. YOU.’

I was being dramatic, but the truth was, I could actually die from withdrawal at the point I was at. I had the worst, absolute worst, time of trying to get myself together the next day. I was uncontrollably shaking, nauseated, and most of all.. bored out of my mind. I was incredibly anxious and I was beating myself up so bad, I was completely desperate for something, anything, to relieve the physical and emotional pain I was experiencing.

He came back that night and hooked my car back up and gave back my wallet and IDs. Shortly after he left, I went to the store and bought alcohol. When I got home and finally had a glass, I felt the wooooosh of relief over me, and I wasn’t angry or mad anymore, it was worse… I had a grudge building and building and that was the last time I talked to Adam.


My parents came back from Mexico and were sad to see I didn’t have a job yet. I really was trying to get a job, but it was taking longer than any of us expected. I finally got a promising interview about 50 mins north of where my parents lived, for a buyer-planner job at HNA (that’s what I’m calling it for the sake of this blog).

Making the drive up to HNA where I had my interview was boring and long. And I thought to myself, do I really want to make this drive every day at 6 AM? The hours of the job were 7-330 PM, so it was early in, early out. I would leave around 6 in the morning and get home around 430 if I got this job.

The interview went ok, the guy that interviewed me was so monotone and boring, I couldn’t stand the thought of being his subordinate. He just seemed so… blah. Everyone at that company seemed blah.

I got hired, and I took the job, because I really needed a job and benefits at that time.

The actual duties of the job itself were not bad or hard, I had done them all before and it was going to be an easy learning curve. The hours weren’t that bad, I just had to make sure to stop drinking and get to bed early enough in order to not be terrible the next day. But the people at this job…. oh man, they were something else.

The 2 ladies I worked directly with were straight up bitches. They were older, in their late 50s and early 60s, either about to retire in a few years, or really need to retire in a few years. They were so judgmental, I remember hearing them talk about other coworkers like ‘oh well that Cheryl, you know her son is one of those… what do you call them… addicts?! That’s why she leaves work all the time, to take care of that mess…’ or ‘Bob just cannot do his job, I give him one task and explain it thoroughly and he just can’t get it right, I actually wonder if he’s retarded. No, I mean seriously! Not trying to be mean, I just seriously wonder sometimes!’ the list goes on… but they couldn’t find anything nice to say about anyone and complained ALL DAY long about literally anything and everything. It was exhausting to be around them.

Things weren’t going well with my parents. I had broken the rule of getting blacked out a couple times already. The shame I felt for getting that drunk and belligerent in front of my family was unparalleled… they would tell me horror stories the next day of what I said or did, and I just couldn’t picture myself doing and saying those things. My mom said ‘I wish I would’ve taken a video of you yesterday so you could see what you looked and sounded like. It’s almost like you’re a different person when you’re like that… you don’t look or sound anything like yourself.’ I was thinking… oh God please no, don’t do that, I don’t want to know what I’m like when I’m that drunk. Truth is, I was like that more often than not, so maybe I should’ve seen it. Another curious truth about this, I had friends and other family members that used to say this to me — like ‘I wish I would’ve taken a picture of you last night because you just don’t even look like yourself when you’re that drunk’ or ‘I want to prove to you truly how different you look and act when you’re that drunk,’. It must’ve been quite the sight if multiple people told me that I wouldn’t believe the person I became when I was blackout wasted.

At first, I tried really hard to stick to the 1 bottle per night rule. But, after a while, that wasn’t enough and I started to sneak a few drinks here and there, mostly on my way home from work. In the car. Remember how I got that DUI and had the breathalyzer in my car? Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about that, AT ALL, because I was drinking AND driving again. And I so embarrassed and mortified to admit it… but it’s true, and I’m sorry.

The job was getting more and more irritating by the day… the ladies I worked with were so difficult to be around and so difficult to please. Anything I did, they had to critique it, nothing was ever good enough. They bitched and bitched and bitched. I was starting to feel like I was boiling over.

I was breaking more rules at home — calling in sick to work, not paying rent, drinking more than a bottle of wine at night, hiding alcohol in my room, drinking when my parents weren’t home from work yet, the list goes on. I broke all the rules in a matter of a couple weeks. Things were going downhill, fast.

One day, I told my parents I was going for a drive to the grocery store. I went to the store to pick up a case of wine, which was going to be my ‘rations’ for the week. I had also picked up a 6-pack and intended on driving around the country roads for a while before going home. It was a gorgeous early summer night, and my car was the only place I could be by myself, which at this point, meant the only place I could drink without anyone judging me.

My mom texted me after about an hour of being gone, and said ‘you better get home right now or you’re not going to be allowed in the house and you’re gone.’ I exhaled a massive groan, like ‘UHHHHHHHH why can’t they just leave me alone?!?’ and started on my way home. When I got home, my dad was standing in the garage and was like ‘Judith, you’re going to get another DUI if you drive around like that, and I know you were drinkin’. If you get another DUI you are totally on your own, we will not help you.’ I literally, and not for the first time, thought to myself ‘GOOD, maybe I will get another DUI and go to jail, and maybe that will make me FINALLY stop drinking!’.

Shortly after that, the weekend from hell arrived.

On one particular Friday in May, I decided to go out during my lunch hour and drink. I went and bought several cans of some type of malt beverage, and drove around chugging them down. I only had 30 mins for lunch so I had to be quick. The alcohol soothed my nerves and calmed my inner voice that was constantly beating me down.

After work, I went to the gas station and bought several cans of beer for the drive home.

By the time I got home, I was feeling pretty good.

It was Friday night, so it was time to have some drinks after the long work week. My parents and I sat out back on our deck with some beverages.

At the time, all of us were in denial about my alcoholism. I think that deep down we all knew it was a problem that needed to be dealt with, but we all wanted me to be normal so badly that we didn’t directly acknowledge the unhealthy and destructive drinking habits I was exhibiting. So, drinking together at the end of the week like this, I don’t know… it wasn’t healthy by any means, but we were all at such a loss about why I was doing the things I was doing, that it was easier just to leave it alone.

Saturday morning came and I had to get up to work my part-time job at Jimmy John’s. On my way to work, I stopped by another gas station to buy more booze to get me through my shift at JJs.

During my shift at JJs, someone said to me after I made a careless mistake, ‘What do you have in that Diet Coke you’re drinkin, Judith?! Whiskey!!?’ and all I could think was ‘fuck it.’

After JJs I went to buy more alcohol and finished that off on my way home.

That night, my mom and I went to my aunt’s house. It was my mom’s high school reunion so she left to attend that for a while and I stayed back with my aunt and uncle. My aunt made some margaritas, and since I was already half-way to black out wasted, the margarita put me over the edge.

That night, I tried to pick up her dog that we all KNOW hates being picked up. He snapped back and bit my cheek and I started bleeding.

By the time my mom got back to my aunts, I think I was passed out, drooling all over myself with band-aids on my cheek from trying to pick up the dog.

It was such a mess, such an embarrassing mess.

The next morning, I got up before anyone else and started sneaking sips of alcohol. I found some alcoholic seltzer water things in the fridge, and I drank a couple of those. I drank a few glasses of wine. I was guzzling alcohol like there was no tomorrow.

I don’t remember the details, but I guess I called my dad and begged him to come pick us up and bring us home. Something about that phone call… I can’t quite remember now, but I know I said something that put me into trouble because when he came to pick us up, he looked at me with a face I’ve never seen before and I never want to see again.

I promised to mow my parents’ lawn that day as a favor to them for staying at the house. When we got home, I guzzled some more alcohol and passed out in the middle of the day. This is me on that Sunday, passed out around 3 or 4 PM, when I had to go to work the next day:

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The next morning, I got up and started getting ready for work. Uggghhhhhh I felt terrible. I was just coming from a weekend where I started drinking at about noon on Friday, and didn’t stop till my body couldn’t take any more on Sunday. I hadn’t eaten much that weekend, I hadn’t drank hardly anything other than various types of booze, and my eyes were totally bloodshot and glassed over. My eyes were so puffy I could poke them like a marshmallow. My lips were so dry, cracked, and stained from all the wine. My ears were ringing and my balance was off. I could feel my pulse in my liver.

I don’t know what came over me that morning, but I wanted to be done with everything. Done with trying to be good enough, done with being an alcoholic, done with depression and anxiety, done with all the hurt I was causing everyone around me, just DONE with it all. I wanted to check out.

I left for work that morning, earlier than usual, knowing I wasn’t going to work that day. I don’t know what came over me, but I decided this was the day. This was the day I was going to check out, for good.

I drove up near where I worked in Wisconsin and bought a case of beer at 6:15 AM. I started driving around country roads, guzzling, guzzling, guzzling beer and screaming at the top of my lungs in the car — “I HATE MYSELF!!!! I HATE THIS!!! I HATE THIS SO MUCH!!!! WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF!!!! WHY WON’T I JUST DIE!!!!!!”

Imagine… imagine an early summer Monday morning, at 6:15. You feel terrible, emotionally and physically. You feel broken, you don’t remember the last time you felt happiness. You don’t remember the last time you genuinely smiled or laughed. The only feelings you can remember are shame, guilt, and embarrassment. You know that your family loves you but all you keep doing is hurting them, so all you want to do is separate yourself from them so you stop hurting them. You are breaking all the rules, and nothing is making you feel any better. You keep telling yourself ‘you’re a failure, you aren’t doing anything right, you are a criminal, you are a monster, you aren’t worth anything, you might as well just live on the street now and get it over with, you might as well just drink so much you never wake up, at least then you would stop causing everyone so much pain,’.

I felt all of these feelings plus so much more… I was thoroughly disgusted with myself, I hated what I was doing to myself and my family, I couldn’t stand being in my own skin. I was ruining everything I touched. Life was falling apart in front of my eyes.

So I’m driving around in the early hours of Monday, May 8, screaming about how much I hate life and I hate myself, getting progressively drunker. The thing is, I was coming off a weekend where all I did was drink. There was still alcohol in my system that morning, and my body was so malnourished from all the drinking, I got very drunk that morning, very fast.

After screaming and crying about how much I hate myself and how much I hate what I’m doing to myself and others, the next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital.


OK, so this is actually going to be 3 parts!!! I will finish the story sometime soon, I promise.

I just want you all to know, that it’s a great day to be happy and free of the chains of addiction, or free from the chains of whatever is holding you back from living happily and freely and loving without abandon.

Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day everyone 🙂

Sincerely,

Judith

Relapse, Part 1

Hey guys! I’m baaaackkk!

I gave my lead at the treatment center and it was very well received by the clients/patients there. Many people chimed in and said that my story was powerful, moving, and inspiring. Later, the counselor of the group, said that the clients who spoke up usually don’t have too much to say, so I felt grateful I could provide some of the people in the room with some type of inspiration.

Most importantly, I wanted the clients to know and feel that they are not alone. So many times, I felt like I was alone in this. I was the only one who would hide empty bottles in an apartment that I had to myself, I was the only one who would do the awful things I did (like drinking while driving, as mentioned in this post), I was the only one who would take themselves to the ER twice in one day to feel better, I was the ONLY one, blah blah blah. Now, that I’ve had some time to get to know people in the rooms, I KNOW I’m not the only one, and I’m not alone in the way I feel. It’s comforting to know that other people did the things I did, it made it feel less god-awful. It gave me hope that these people could share with me the things that they had done, overcoming shame and guilt and embarassment, and then they went on to move past it and create a new life.

One of the ladies said ‘God.. I thought I was the only one that did that…’, referring to switching up liquor stores as to not frequent one too many times and risk the cashier knowing about my alcoholism. No, honey, you’re DEF not the only one! In fact, there’s many of us, right here in this here city of Chicago, who did the exact same thing.

An older gentlemen in the room, who looked to be straight from the 70s, said something like ‘when you first started telling your story, I thought ‘so what?! you blacked out in college, big deal,’ but then as you kept sharing and got into the honest details, I couldn’t help but realize how similar we actually are.’

One thing I LOVE about going through addiction and coming out the other end (recovery), is that we truly see how similar we are, instead of focusing on the differences. Young, old, black, white, Asian, American, Mexican, poor, wealthy, professional, blue-collar… IT DOESN’T MATTER.. we can all relate to the pain, suffering, fear, thinking there’s no way out other than just pulling the plug… ending up in horrible places with horrible people and questioning why and how it ever came to this… We ALL have that in common. This is why I’ve learned and come to be a ‘grateful recovering alcoholic’, which I plan on writing about in a whole separate post of it’s own.

So, I think the goal was achieved — I think at least one person got one good thing from my lead, and that’s all I care about.


I think it’s time to elaborate and reflect on the dark days of late 2016 and early 2017. I think this will have 2 parts.

WARNING: this is going to get nitty-gritty and brutally honest.

So, in August of 2016, my stay at the halfway house/homeless shelter in Libertyville, IL was coming to an end.

I moved to this halfway house, we’ll call it the 12-step House (it wasn’t actually called that, and if you want to really do your research, I’m pretty sure there’s only one place like this in Libertyville…) right after treatment at Gateway in Lake Villa, IL in very early June 2016. It was a true halfway house, with strict rules, curfew, and scheduling. We had to be up by 8 AM, showered and ready for the day by the 9 AM check-in group, most days included an 11 AM and 2 PM group of sorts, and mandatory 4 PM and 6 PM process group. We couldn’t leave the house for more than 4 hours unless it was for work. We couldn’t even leave the house WHATSOEVER (unless it was for a meeting) until we were there for a full 2 weeks. Residents could only work after being at the house for 90 days (even if you were sober for 6 months prior to moving into the halfway house). We were required to go to a meeting every day, outside of the house, obtain a sponsor, and meet with the case manager at the house at least 2x per week. Curfew was strictly 10 PM and lights out at 11 PM. Very regimented, scheduled, strict living environment.

Some people really need the regimented routine after treatment; I struggled and fought it, tooth and nail.

I remember less than 2 weeks in to my stay, I called my mom, crying and very upset about the fact I was held hostage in the house. I couldn’t go for a walk, I couldn’t go get a coffee, I couldn’t do anything! I felt so helpless and powerless. She was like, ‘well, where exactly do you plan on going? Cuz you can’t come back and live with us.’ I was trying to think of someone, ANYONE, I could live with to get out of that house… an ex-boyfriend in Milwaukee, someone I had met at Gateway with their own house, it didn’t matter, I just needed OUT, NOW!

I hadn’t learned the art of sitting still yet. I hadn’t learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I was fighting, clawing, running from exactly what the halfway house intended for me to see — that (me, myself and I) was the problem. I hadn’t experienced the power of meetings, yet. I fought back with everything I had… you’re suggesting I find a higher-power? Fuck that. You’re telling me I need to get a sponsor? I don’t need nobody tellin me what to do! You’re telling me I have to sit here for 90 days and go to all these mandatory meetings before I can put myself to some use and get a job?! WHAT!

Finally, the 2 weeks was up and I could walk to the library and get a coffee. Slowly, but surely, the 90 days started to tick by.

Fortunately, I was there during summertime, so almost all of my 90 days were spent sunbathing and smoking cigarettes. If I get skin cancer, I know exactly which summer caused it.

Sure, I went to the mandatory house meetings and the outside AA/NA meetings. Sure, I met with my case manager 2x per week. Sure, I was in by the curfew and up by the 8 AM wake up time.

I was convinced I was dealing with my anxiety and depression. I was convinced I was doing the best I could do to stay sober and set myself up for long-term sobriety.

But, that entire summer, in the back of my mind, all I could think about was my next drink. The obsession never left me. And frankly, even though I thought I was doing the best I could do, I didn’t do anything to relieve myself of the obsession to drink. I didn’t do squat for my depression or anxiety. I thought I was being introspective and examining my thoughts and behaviors, but I soooo wasn’t. I was bullshitting my way through everything that summer.

And yeah, my relationship with my parents got better. My legal problems were starting to resolve. And, on the 90th day, I was going back to work at a big-girl job, as a Project Manager for a small company, making more money than (I think) either of my parents were at the time.

But, still, my thinking was the same. The way I saw life was the same. I knew, from the moment I moved into the halfway house, that the day I moved out I was going to drink. And I wasn’t gonna let that thought go. I couldn’t face myself just yet.

The time came for me to move out of the house and either into the 12-step House’s ‘Phase 2’ program, or get an apartment of my own. Screw phase 2, I was SO over that, and I got this!!! I’m so ready for this! NOT!!!

Me and Mandy became really close over that summer. We moved in around the same time, so we were serving our 90-day terms at the same time. We cooked together, went to meetings together (though most of the time we just sat outside and smoked), and were attached at the hip. The case managers saw this and tried to warn us, saying ‘you guys are going to get each other into trouble’ in a jokingish manner, but so not joking at the same time. My case manager got real with me one day and said ‘Judith, if you move out with Mandy, I assure you that you will relapse, and it’s going to get worse than ever before, and I can only hope and pray you stay alive long enough to really get yourself better.’ I was like ‘PSSSHHHTTT… you don’t know nothin’ lady!’

We decided we were gonna move out together and be roommates. The case managers heard about this and made a plea, offering us Phase 2 together, if we would only stay in the program.

Neither of us were ready nor willing to do what needed to be done to stay sober, and we were headstrong in our determination to move out together and have a cute apartment and make dinner for each other and live happily ever after.

To be honest, a part of me knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I knew I should listen to my case manager and give Phase 2 a try. I knew I should NOT move in with this girl, who had relapsed twice since moving into the halfway house, who was clearly not ready to give up either. But, the addictive side of my brain was telling me, ‘C’mon, this will be fun!!! You’ll be on your own again, able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and omg Mandy will be so fun to drink with! You’re not like you were before, you haven’t had a drink in 4 months! C’mon it’ll be a blast!!!’

So on September 11, 2016 we moved into an apartment together.

I stayed sober for a little over 2 weeks in the apartment with Mandy. Mandy had gone right back to drinking the day we moved out. But I was still on the fence.. like do I wanna do this? Should I do this? Ehhh… fuck it.. life is too short to not let yourself have something you REALLY want, like booze.

The night I relapsed was… not awful, but not really fun either. Mandy and I had plans to make a big dinner with lots of prep work that night. She was like ‘Judith, wouldn’t it be fun to have a couple glasses of wine while we’re getting dinner together?’ and I was like ‘uuuuuuuuuuugghhhhh yes it would be so fun.. but can I? Can I do that?’ and both her and I looked at each other and in a split second the decision was made… time to go to the store and grab a big ole bottle of Barefoot!

We got back from the store, and she opened the bottle. The sound of the foil coming off the neck of the bottle, the sound, smell, and sight of it being poured into a clean, crystal-clear wine glass made me literally salivate. I drew that glass to my lips and tasted sweet, sweet poison. And… just like that.. I was drinking again.

Within a few days, I was worse than ever before. I was binge drinking, from the moment I awoke to the moment I passed out. There was no playin games or messing around this time — the sole purpose and focus was to get drunk. I would open a bottle and wouldn’t/couldn’t stop till it was gone or I was passed out, and when I woke up and there wasn’t any left, I was angry. Often times Mandy would finish off what I couldn’t when I passed out, so I was angry at her. Then she would run across the street to the wine store and get us more, and everything was all better again.

Within a few days of starting to drink again, I lost the aforementioned Project Manager job, because I basically disappeared. I went back to Gateway about a week after the first drink. I called my employer from Gateway and they said, ‘you need to take time to get better and we’re not going to wait around for that to happen. You’ll get your last paycheck in the mail.’

So yeah, like I said, within a week of the first drink, I was back at Gateway, where I had successfully completed in-patient treatment just 5 months previous.

I didn’t stay long and checked myself out AMA (against medical advice) right after the benzo taper was finished. They had to call my emergency contact, who I put as my mother, when I left AMA. And the cycle continues.

Within a few weeks of the first drink, I had been to detox twice. Within 2 months, I had been to detox probably 5 times. I’m not exaggerating, I could not live on my own volition for more than a few days at a time because I drank myself to near death every chance I got.

I would get retail associate jobs that I would keep for about 2 weeks, enough to collect a paycheck, and then never show up again. I would stop showing up because I was either too drunk to get myself to work and/or care, would show up to the job drunk or severely hungover, or I was in detox again.

On, and on, and on, and on like this for 5 months. It was exhausting.

I was beginning to think of myself as a lost cause, and I think my parents were starting to feel this way, too. Nothing seemed to slow down my drinking. Not detox, not halfway houses, not inpatient treatment, not employment or money, not near-death experiences, nothing. I was starting to feel like there was no way out of this cycle unless I took my own life and ended it once and for all.

I remember one day, after a particularly shaky and anxiety-provoking hangover, I went to this little wine and appetizer bar right by the men’s clothing store I was working at. I had just opened a new bank account so I didn’t have a debit card yet, and of course I had no cash. I was about to declare bankruptcy so all my credit cards were cut up and thrown in the trash. All I had were those blank checks that the bank provides when you open a new bank account.

I drank $100 worth of wine that night, and I got drunk, fast, because my body was so malnourished and dehydrated, not to mention the amount of pills I had taken that day to try and make myself feel better. I ordered an Uber to take me home and tried to walk out of the place without paying. My Uber driver got caught up in the Chaos (with a capital C) and wrote the check for me. I got into the car and made some bullshit excuse for why I was absolutely plastered on a week night. The Uber driver was Adam, the guy I mentioned in this post, who for some reason or another, decided that he liked me.

Adam took me home that night, and I invited him to come up to my apartment. I was so drunk, I didn’t intend on sleeping with him, I just wanted the company. He put me to bed and stayed the night. In the morning, Mandy was SO UPSET that I invited him into the apartment. On the one hand, it was understandable she was so upset, he was practically a stranger. On the other hand, SHE had brought random dudes into our apartment, too, so I was like ‘what the fuck are you all mad at me about?!’

What a great way to meet a girl, right?! So drunk she tried to leave the classy wine bar without paying, invited you up to her apartment, and couldn’t see to getting herself to bed, so you had to make sure she made it there. Then you were so worried about her choking on her own vomit that you stayed the night to make sure she was OK… how cute!!!

Whatever the reason Adam decided he loved me and that he wanted to worship the ground I walked on, I will never know, but I am grateful for the many nights he made sure I went to bed with a Gatorade at the ready for the morning. I’m also grateful he let me borrow his Xbox and TV, so I never even had to leave the bed.

I brought Adam through the hell on Earth that was my life at the time, and I will forever be very sorry to him for that. But he stuck around, and I don’t know why, so I guess I’m not too sorry? I don’t know. To this day, I can’t bring myself to texting him back, because I feel so much shame and embarrassment for what he witnessed. It is what it is, I guess.

Over time, me and Mandy’s relationship became more and more volatile. She had this boyfriend, that I hated with every bone in my body, and he caused many-a-fight between the two of us. He would waltz in to our apartment like he owned the place, clean out the fridge AND the freezer, use my towels, mess up the bathroom and the living room, and never repaid us. IDK, maybe he could’ve like, bought a pack of toilet paper? UGH! To this day, I still can’t find it in me to like anything about that guy.

Well, Mandy would be in and out, in and out of a relationship with him. One day it would be over, the next day I could hear them having sex. One time, she gave him $40 to pick us up sushi, and he was gone for ~4 hours, and came back with NO sushi, but was super high on crack and heroine. He was a real winner. And Mandy ALWAYS defended him and her relationship with him. It drove me absolutely crazy.

There were several times I had to call the cops on Mandy and her boyfriend, because I would hear a very loud argument turn into something/somebody hitting a wall, or the arguing would suddenly go silent, and I was worried someone got hurt. She punched him, he restrained her, they ended up wrestling on the floor. They would yell at each other SO loud, that at times, I wasn’t the one calling the cops, it was the neighbors.

She gave him a key to our apartment, and I was absolutely enraged. I made it clear I didn’t want him around, like ever, but especially when she wasn’t there. When I came home and he was there but she wasn’t, straight for the biggest glass I went, and shut myself in my room, drowning my rage and anger with alcohol and Ativan.

To get back at her, I gave Adam a key. Adam was responsible with the key. He would come over on his lunch break and, for example, fix our internet or upgrade our router, or something like that. To get back at me, she made ANOTHER copy of the key and gave it to our other friend, Stu, also mentioned in the post Reliving Christmas 2016. Practically anyone could have gotten into our apartment it seemed.

We were in this cycle of ‘oh yeah, that’s what you’re gonna do?! Well fuck you, I’ll show you!’ and then we’d hug and make up, only to be at each other’s throats minutes later.

I already posted some of the details about this time in my life in the Reliving Christmas 2016 and Reliving December 2016 posts, and also in the Sober AF Thoughts for February 6, 2018, so I’m going to skip ahead a bit.

My life continued to be in a constant state of turmoil, chaos, and near-death experiences.

The day I lost my job at Siemens, I showed up drunk, with more alcohol to drink in my coffee mug. I left the office, practically stumbling over my feet, saying ‘I just really don’t feel good, I need to go home.’ I called an Uber to pick me up from work, and on the way home, I bought more alcohol to keep numbing myself. Later that day I got a call saying that I no longer was needed at the office and that my things would be ready to collect at the front desk whenever I could pick them up.

Like I said earlier, somehow Adam convinced my parents that if I was going to have a chance at getting better, I needed to get out of the apartment with Mandy, and in a safer, more controlled environment.

My parents, at this point, did not want the destruction that followed me everywhere, in their home. However, they agreed. I moved home, and I was like the Tasmanian Devil, tearing through and destroying everything in my path.

They tried to lay ground rules, like: Judith, you can only drink this much, you have to pay rent, you have to get a job and GO to that job, and we have to see some positive changes happening, or else, you’re out on your own and we’re done here. For good.

It was my LAST chance at making it work. If I couldn’t make it work living at home, then I was going to be living out of my car or on the street, and that was that. They didn’t have the capacity to care anymore, I was too far gone.


I’ll tell the rest of the story in a different post… I feel like this post is WAY long enough, and there’s still quite a bit to tell.

The good news is that I’m now within just a few days of 9 months clean and sober. I’m not homeless, I have a steady job, and I truly enjoy my life today. I found a way out from a situation that didn’t seem to have any other way out other than taking my own life. Recently, I read a quote that pretty much summed it up:

“You can start out with nothing, and out of nothing, and out of no way, a way will be made.”

This is what I did and continue doing every single day, tirelessly, just like I used to drink, relentlessly.

 

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

Sincerely,

Judith