46 Years Old – 16 Years of Active Addiction – In Recovery Since 05/01/2006
Profession: Director of Market Development for KING 5 NBC, a local TV Station in Seattle, WA & Founder of The Sober Curator
Status: Single, Never Married, my son Jakob is 24 yrs old, Dog Mom to Roxie & Bella
Hometown: Centralia, WA
Drug of Choice: Alcohol, Cocaine, Meth
Initial Treatment: Out-Patient Rehab + 90 in 90
I was coming off a weekend bender with alcohol where I attempted to control my drinking. My last drink was consumed on April 30th, 2006. It was an open, leftover bottle of wine that my son, who was nine at the time, had filled with gumballs to keep me from finishing it. I was a hard liquor drinker, but wine was all I had left.
A few weeks before, I had visited Residence XII in Kirkland, WA, a women’s alcohol & drug addiction treatment facility for a full evaluation. (It has since shut its doors) This was my third evaluation in a one-month period, over the March/April timeframe, with a variety of other specialists and treatment facilities. The main difference on this evaluation?
I decided to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. At this point I’d realized no one was going to teach me how to drink normally. I was feeling defeated and I knew instinctively I was at a tipping point where things were about to spiral even further out of control.
After a 16-year drinking career, were there consequences of my drinking? Countless. More than I could possibly list over my 16-year drinking career. And that’s just the ones I can remember. I was a blackout drinker, so there are many things I don’t recall, or I have permanently blocked. That said, there were things I had not lost…yet. I still had a job, my son, a place to live, a little money in the bank, a car and a valid driver’s license. I felt as if I was on the brink of losing all these things and I was desperate.
During this evaluation, I bared my soul. I kept nothing back. The result? They strongly recommended I seek inpatient treatment for a minimum of 28 days. My mind flashed to the Sandra Bullock movie “28 Days” and I panicked. I can’t go live with strangers and abandon my job and my son for a month. Are these people CRAZY?!?!? I don’t want to have to keep a plant alive and get a dog.
That was a no go for me. I was in pain, but not THAT much pain. I quickly asked about other options. Like how about a pill? Maybe start seeing a regular therapist that specializes in addiction? Is there a TED Talk I could listen too? Hypnotherapy perhaps? I can be very persuasive when I want to be. I pleaded for any other options besides a 28-day lock-up.
Reluctantly, they offered me the option of Out-Patient treatment that would be three days a week, three hours a day, in the evenings, over a three-month period. “Sign me up!” I exclaimed as my mind started already scheming what brilliant excuses I could use to “no-show” at least once a week, making the commitment seem more manageable.
I was asked how soon I could start. Mmmmm, ohhh, now let me think about that. It was the middle of April and I was a single mom working a full-time job. “How about June?” I suggested. The intake evaluation lady, looking straight through my bullshit, quickly replied “How do you plan on staying sober between now and then?” Trying to scramble for an answer, I had none. She then asked, “Can you control your drinking?”
And there it was! The BRILLIANT idea I was seeking. Just control my drinking. Why hadn’t I thought of that myself? “Oh yes, I should be able to do that” I said somewhat slowly. (I’m a terrible liar) She then asked me how. I think I fumbled through some kind of excuse like “I don’t have to drink every day” or “I’ll just try to only drink two” or some other nonsense like that. Then she asked me if I’d ever been to an AA meeting. “Yes. I have and they are not for me.”
In my head I had already stereotyped that alcoholics were homeless, didn’t have teeth, and drank all day and night regardless of consequences. Clearly that did not describe me. She then explained that they held a women’s only 12 step meeting at the treatment center every Tuesday night at 7:30pm called Sober Gals and that I was welcome to come by and check it out anytime I wanted. She hinted I might find several women there that I thought were “more like me”.
I filed that away and headed out of that appointment firmly resolved to either not drink or only have two. Nothing or two. Nothing or two. Two or Nothing.
Here’s the problem. I could drink nothing, but then I became highly agitated and my life still seemed totally unmanageable. White knuckles were only going to hold out for so long. Or, I could only have two drinks. Because if I had three, then I couldn’t stop. Not until I ran out or passed out or blacked out. So, two would be the magic number. When I was able to accomplish this, probably not more than twice, I was still miserable, and my life was still unmanageable.
This is how I spent the last two weeks of April 2006. Testing myself with not drinking, drinking only two, not drinking around Jakob (my son), not drinking before 8pm, never drinking in the morning. Changing what I drank. No matter what dumb rule I made for the day it wasn’t working. I was out of ideas. I’d been making and breaking these rules for over 16 years.
And that brings us to Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006. I’d called in sick to work for two days in a row coming off that rough weekend. In between sobbing sessions and detoxing, I was pacing back and forth chain smoking, while my son was at school, just trying not to drink. Gnawing in the back of my head, I kept thinking about the Sober Gals meeting the lady at the treatment center told me about.
Were these women going to be like me? Did they not only have their teeth but bleach them too? What brand are their yoga pants? Do they binge watch Sex & the City and imagine that their life is better than it really is? What about all the dark things that have happened in my life. Will they judge me if I talk about them? Will they just sit around and complain? Because I have no patience for that. Is it just a big cry-fest? Are they going to try and hug me and hold my hand? Not interested. Many questions and I was out of answers. Pain is a motivator, at least for me it is. Like it or not, I was very motivated.
I remember pulling into the parking lot and noticing what kinds of vehicles were parked and trying to not make eye contact with anyone walking into the building. Sitting as close to the door as I could possibly manage, I pretended to check emails on my phone right up until the meeting started. I sat there on that cold metal chair and spent the next hour listening to women I had never met before, in my life, talking about things that they had done, or seen, or that had happened to them that were exactly like things I had done, I had seen, or that had happened to me. Every. Single. Woman.
WTF is happening?!?!?
Every single woman that spoke that night pierced into me like a cutting knife landing into a perfectly cooked steak. The appearance of toughness on the outside, but once smoothly cut into, totally tender at the center and easy to digest. I am exactly like every woman in this room. It was in that moment I truly, at my core, accepted that I am an alcoholic.
Overwhelmed by emotions, I darted out of that meeting as fast as I could once it was over. I didn’t stay to hold hands in a circle. Nor did I put my chair away. In a sprint I ran back to my car as fast as I could, holding back tears, chanting “do not cry public, do not cry in public” over and over again in my head. Driving home I was a potpourri of emotions.
Crying, yelling, screaming, angry laughing, shaking my fist at God. I was not happy. “I have to give up vodka? Are you F&*(#!% kidding me? If that’s the case then just give me one more sign!!!” I demanded out loud at the top of my lungs headed north on Interstate 405 in my white Chrysler Pacifica.
At that exact moment an audible *DING* went off in my car. As I peered into the dashboard, my car read to me two simple words. Perform Service.
Jesus take the wheel, God was in my dashboard!!!! This was my once in a lifetime burning bush experience. That’s the only way I can possibly describe something to you that is indescribable. It was that spiritual. So much so, I had to pull over on the side of the highway and just sit with my feelings. I cried. I laughed. I ugly cried, laughed and snot went flying.
Yes, of course I know that my car was really trying to tell me I needed an oil change. As I sat there, just letting it all release, I finally looked back up, wiping tears and mascara out of my eyes, and peered back into the dashboard. My point of view had changed.
Now it was showing me that I had about 1/4 of a tank of gas. And at that exact moment, I heard these words as clear as if the person speaking them was sitting in the front passenger seat right next to me leaning in closely …”You can give it up now, before you are on empty. The next time I come for you it will be a different situation. Do you want to lose everything, including maybe your life?”
I have not had a drink since that day. Now, this isn’t because I haven’t wanted too. The last 15+ years have been an incredible ride. One that was incredibly hard and incredibly rewarding. My career excelled and I became a full-fledged workaholic. I was suicidal around five years sober and had to seek additional help and medication. Just shortly after celebrating 10 years sober, I had emergency heart surgery, due to the workaholism and long-term alcohol/drug use. The same week, my son was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Over the next three months post-surgery, I tripped and sustained a concussion with short-term memory loss. My son had a major surgery and our four-year-old dog died unexpectedly. I left my high-powered magazine job and took a year off to put our lives back together. In 2018, I was diagnosed with Stage One Melanoma Skin Cancer and had a huge ass chunk of my ankle cut out, that I now fondly refer to as my shark bite.
One day at a time, thanks to God, my friends, my family, my therapists, my many (many) sponsors, and many (many, many) hours spent in church basements (and more recently via Zoom or Clubhouse), I have not needed to drink or use to deal with life on life’s terms.
IG Handles: @alysseinthecity, @thesobercurator
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