* After writing "My Addiction to Alcohol and Drugs," I relapsed. I think it is important to note this, because relapse can be a part of recovery. A relapse doesn't mean the end of everything and it doesn't mean you can't try again. My relapse ultimately taught me a lot about myself and my addiction to alcohol and drugs. Relapses can be filled with guilt and shame, but they can also be very enlightening. I just want to be very open about my own experiences and I don't want anyone to be afraid or embarrassed to share their own.
The story below is very important and explains much about the earlier days of my addiction to alcohol and drugs. To read about my relapse, click here
I don't know why I am an addict. I could spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out, but I don't think I will ever have an answer. Sure, it's a combination of genetics and the environment, but that's about as far as I can go with that. What matters more is that I find a way to stay clean and sober. That will include taking a closer look at why I drank and used drugs, though it won't tell me why I am an addicted to alcohol and drugs and why I can't stop once I start.
I don't have a clear memory of the first time I had a drink, but it was sometime around age 12. It wasn’t an everyday thing for me; I would drink on the weekends or drink on vacation. I didn’t go out of my way to drink and I didn’t drink alone, but I was always waiting and looking forward to the next time I would be able to get drunk. I believe my addiction to alcohol and drugs was beginning. I drank because I liked how it made me feel and I liked being able to escape from my life.
My parents fought a lot and I was really unhappy at home. At some point during my life, I got sick of being sad and sick of being angry and insecure and sick of feeling so alone. Most days, I hated going home from school because the fights between my mom and my step-dad were unbearable. I didn't know how to deal with the things going on in my life, and I didn't feel like I had anyone I could turn to for help.
My solution for this was to drink because I quickly realized that it took the pain away.
I continued to drink on the weekends without suffering any severe consequences for quite some time. Sometimes I would do things or say things that I regretted while I was drunk, but nothing that bad ever happened.
It wasn’t until I was in high school that drinking started to interfere with some of my daily activities. I was also in high school when I started to experiment with different types of drugs. I tried Ativan and Adderall, and started to use those fairly regularly in 9th/10th grade. I had no idea that my addiction to alcohol and drugs was about to become serious.
I would take Adderall a couple times a week, and from the first time I tried it it was something I loved. I also continued to drink on the weekends. Usually I needed something to help me sleep, so I used Ativan for that. I would pretty much always mix Adderall and alcohol, which I now know can be extremely dangerous. But at the time I didn't know anything about addiction to alcohol and drugs. Even if I did, I probably wouldn't have cared.
For me, the bottom line was I just wasn't happy. I didn't like that my parents were divorced and that I had to go from one house to the other each day. I didn't like that my mom and her new husband fought all the time. Being at home was scary and miserable. I dreaded going home from school at the end of each day. I always had a lot of friends because of sports, but I wasn't comfortable with who I was. Even around my friends, I always felt like I didn't fit in. My solution was to drink and use drugs - this was the only way I knew how to deal with any pain that I was feeling.
Playing sports was the most important thing in my life for a very long time, but no matter how much I cared or how important the next day's game was, I drank or got high anyway. I would drink on nights before I had to get up early the next morning for a game. I would go to the games hung-over and be unable to play up to my full potential. Sometimes I would smoke pot before games because I just didn’t really care anymore. I almost always took Adderall before any kind of sporting event I was participating in.
Maybe this should have been a warning sign that an addiction to alcohol and drugs was developing, but I didn't notice.
It was also at this time that I started to realize that succeeding athletically just wasn’t enough for me anymore. From the time I could run around and play sports, I did. It was something that I was just naturally good at. As much as I loved playing, it didn’t make me happy the way it used to, and I needed something more. That ‘something more’ ending up being an addiction to alcohol and drugs.
I never got into too much trouble, and that's part of why I continued to drink and get high. I never had to suffer any serious consequences due to alcohol or drugs, so why would I even think about stopping?
I continued to use Adderall, Ativan and alcohol on a very regular basis. Toward the end of my senior year of high school, I tried cocaine for the first time. It was the most amazing thing I had ever felt in my life. I liked to drink, and I liked other drugs, but I didn't like anything as much as I liked cocaine. Cocaine was the answer to all of my problems.
My senior year in high school was a really hard time for me, and the drugs helped me through it. I was so unhappy, and I felt like I had no one to talk to about it - not that I even knew how to talk about anything. All I knew how to do at this point was drink or get high. That solved everything.
I graduated from high school and was recruited to play lacrosse in college. Despite the fact that this was supposed to be my dream come true, it wasn't. The summer after I graduated, pretty much all I did was drink and get high. I didn’t work out or train as I was supposed to, and I didn’t care. For so many years, drugs and alcohol numbed most of the pain that I felt, and all I cared about was having enough drugs to get me through the day.
When I got to college in the fall, I decided to try out for the soccer team as well, and made it onto the team.
Being away from home and away from all of the things I thought were making me unhappy was supposed to make my life better. I thought playing soccer and meeting new people would make me happier. What I soon realized that it didn't matter where I was.The unhappiness and the anger and pain I was feeling were inside of me. No matter where I went or what I did, those feelings followed me.
Drinking and getting high didn't really seem like a choice for me. I drank the night before a game, the night of the game, the night after the game..it’s just what I did. I used drugs before the game and went to games high. I didn't think for a moment that I had an addiction to alcohol and drugs - I was just doing what I thought made me happy. What I was doing wasn't making me happy, though. It was just making my life a little bit more bearable.
I would sit in the back of some of my classes and drink. I did well in soccer and I did well that semester in school, so it never even occurred to me that it was a problem. Externally, my life seemed perfectly okay to everyone around me.
The semester ended and I was still able to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Spring semester came and it was pretty similar to the fall. I continued to drink just about every night, and use Adderall and cocaine very regularly. If anyone had known the complete truth, they would have known that it was an addiction to alcohol and drugs, but I was very good at concealing it. That was what I worked hardest to do - pretend like I was fine, and not let anyone know how much I was drinking or using. If I could do that, I could continue to drink and get high as often as I wanted to.
During the spring semester, I got in trouble at school due to drinking and using. I was suspended from my lacrosse team for about a week, had to do community service, was required to attend an alcohol class as well as attend therapy once a week, and I was put on disciplinary probation.
Even after I got in trouble with the school, my drinking and drug use continued and worsened. I remember waking up one morning with a broken nose, and another morning with a few broken fingers/knuckles. On both occasions I didn't know what had happened. Many nights I didn't know how I got home the night before or who I was out with. Still, I wasn't bothered by these situations enough to recognize that I had an addiction to alcohol and drugs.
I was still able to do fairly well in school and incredibly well on the lacrosse team. Not drinking, or slowing down my drinking, didn't even cross my mind as an option.
When I got home from college for the summer, I met Sam. We started dating, and things were pretty serious between us from the very beginning. For the first 2 or 3 weeks that we were together, I drank less. We would go out and not drink. We would take my little brother out to the movies and spend time with my family.
However, within just a few weeks, I began to drink even more than I had during the past year. I would drink all night, every night. During the day, I would sleep, get high, and wait for Sam to get home from work and then do it all over again.
We were together all summer, and the drinking and the drug use only progressed. My moods changed drastically when I was under the influence, and yelling and throwing things became a normal part of my nights. I would wake up in the morning and there would be broken glass on the floor, or a dent in the wall. I didn't even remember what happened - I would have to ask Sam. I didn't know then, but I do now, that this kind of behavior can be quite typical of people that have an addiction to alcohol and drugs.
When I went back to college in the fall, things started to really fall apart. I found that I was absolutely incapable of being honest with Sam and incapable of being faithful. I lied and I cheated. Over and over again. For whatever reason, he stayed with me.
I isolated myself from my friends in college, I quit soccer, and I went to class less and less. I would drink while studying for finals and tests because I would be so wired from other substances that I felt like I needed alcohol to balance me out. I would continue drinking into the night and then take my sleeping pills and whatever other downers I had at the time. Somehow I still managed okay in my classes, but I was absolutely miserable. I hated myself for the way I treated Sam, but I didn't know how to behave in any other way. I knew that he deserved better, and I didn't understand why he would stay with someone like me. I never thought I was good enough for anyone, and this relationship just reaffirmed that for me.
During winter break of my second year in college, I decided to transfer to a school close to my home and move in with Sam. I never imagined that things could get worse between us and in my life in general, but they did. I didn't know anyone at the new school and I felt completely alone. I had left my friends behind and everything that I had gotten used to. I started to resent Sam because I felt like it was his fault I was at a new school that I hated. I was mean and angry, and drinking and drugs only made that worse. I didn't want to die, but I certainly didn't want to live that life anymore.
I signed up for lacrosse at the new school, but quit after a month or so. This just made me feel more alone and more like a failure. Playing sports was the one thing in my life that I was great at. It was what people knew me for and it was where I got pretty much all of my self-esteem from. I threw that away because drinking and getting high became more important.
Living with Sam definitely didn’t solve any of our problems. I continued to lie to him nonstop and I continued to cheat. It came to a point where I stopped lying ...I didn’t care enough to lie. I just told him I was going to do what I wanted, and that he was more than welcome to wait for me and stick around if he wanted to. It wasn't unusual for me to go out and not come back until sometime the next morning without letting him know that I was okay or that I would be coming back. It wasn't unusual for me to go out with another guy, and call Sam later in the night because I was too drunk to find my car and I couldn't get home.
I love him so much and I loved him then, but I didn’t know how to be in a healthy relationship. I loved spending time with him, but I loved using and drinking more. We fought nonstop, and I constantly yelled and threw things all around our apartment. We had some good times together, but most nights were filled with screaming and crying - mostly on my end. He knew I drank because we sometimes drank together, but he didn't know I was using anything else.
Drinking and driving was a very regular occurrence for me. No matter how much I had to drink or what other drugs I was on, if I needed or wanted to get somewhere, I would drive. Some mornings I would wake up and not know if I had driven home, or if I had gotten a ride home. Sometimes I would get a ride home and have to go back out the next morning to try to find where I had left my car.
Emotionally I was a mess. I just couldn't imagine getting up the next morning to repeat the same thing over again. Physically, I had lost 25/30 pounds from using drugs, drinking, and not caring about eating or staying healthy. There were so many signs of alcohol abuse that we both just sort of ignored for a very long time. I just didn’t know how to stop drinking alcohol or how to say no to drugs, and I didn't really want to know how.
After I quit the lacrosse team, I met some new people and I began to experiment with opiates (heroin and oxycontin) on top of drinking and the other drugs that I was using. I only used heroin on the weekends, and Oxy sometimes during the week. I wasn't using either of these everyday, so I thought it was fine. I had a picture in my head of what an addict was, and a young middle class girl at a private college didn't conform to that image.
I guess on some level I knew that what I was doing was dangerous, but I didn’t care and I didn’t know how to stop. I never stopped and wondered, "am I a drug addict?" I never really cared about the negative effects of alcohol or the long term effects of alcohol and drug abuse. It never crossed my mind to think about what alcohol was doing to my body and what the drugs were doing to my life. It never crossed my mind that I had an addiction to alcohol and drugs.
Sure, I cared that my relationships were suffering and that I was hurting people, but I cared more about drinking and getting high. At this point, I just gave up. It seemed like a lost cause to try to repair any of the problems in my life and relationships.
On May 29th, 2009, I was out at a bar. I was supposed to pick up Sam earlier in the night, but I drank too much and refused to pick him up so he took a cab and met me at the bar. It was a typical night - I was drinking too much and and hanging out with other guys, but somehow I thought I had a right to be angry at him for one thing or another. No matter what I did to him, I always found a way to make myself believe that I had a right to be mad at him and that he was at fault.
At some point during the night, Sam and I were arguing so we left the bar. We drove a couple of miles and got out of the car and were arguing on the streets. I don't know if he drove or if I did, and at the time, I had no idea where we were. We were screaming at each other and I was crying, which is all I really remember. The cops showed up because someone had called to report our yelling. They arrested both of us and brought us to the police station.
Fortunately, the consequences of the arrest were fairly minor. By some miracle, neither of us ever got a DUI or hurt anyone else while drinking and driving. There are so many alcohol related deaths/alcohol related accidents, and I am grateful every single day that I didn’t hurt anyone or myself while drinking and using. The next morning I woke up and couldn't find my phone - I looked everywhere for it, including the street we got arrested on, the police station, and the bar we had been at earlier. Later that day, I found my phone completely smashed and shattered. Sam later told me that I hit him with it and that's how it shattered.
Being brought to the police station wasn't enjoyable, but the worst part was watching my mom and my little brother walk in to pick us up. Despite how drunk I was or how high I was, I hated myself so much for putting my family through this.
Getting arrested and woke us both up enough to realize how big of a problem drinking had become in our lives. We decided that we had to stop drinking. At this point, Sam was still unaware of the other substances I was using. I told him I would stop drinking, and we did, but it never even occurred to me to stop using everything else. I was starting to admit to myself that I had a drinking problem, but I still didn't acknowledge that I had an addiction to alcohol AND drugs.
I started attending an outpatient program to help adolescents with their drinking and drug use. For about 4 months, I went there pretending to be sober. Sam and I spent the summer together “sober”, trying to rebuild our relationship. I wasn’t drinking, but I was still doing other drugs every day.
I attended a couple of AA meetings. I also tried NA meetings, but I really had no interest. I see now that the reason I wasn’t interested in the NA meetings is very obvious - I had no desire to be clean. I didn’t really even have a concept of what being clean and sober meant.
I continued to lie to Sam and everyone around me and kept using drugs. I would sneak out of our apartment in the middle of the night when he was sleeping so that I could go buy or use drugs. I would do drugs at home in the bathroom without him knowing. I would lie to him and cancel plans with him so that I would have more time to buy and use drugs. I continued to drive under the influence of drugs all the time. At this point, it should have been clear to me that I had an addiction to alcohol and drugs.
I thought our relationship was better now though, because I wasn't cheating on him and we weren't drinking. When I wasn't drinking, I didn't scream or cry or throw things anymore. The amount of energy it took to hide what I was doing though was exhausting.
Finally, I just got tired of the lies. I got sick of pretending to be someone that I wasn’t. I was sick of worrying every second of the day that I was going to get caught using and I would have to explain it or stop. I began to realize that I was going to lose everything I still had that was important to me. I had already lost sports, friends, school, relationships with my family, self-esteem, pride, dignity, and I was close to losing Sam.
At this point, I absolutely hated myself and I was starting to hate everyone and everything around me as well. I didn't want to be doing drugs anymore, but I really felt like I had no choice and that I was unable to stop.
I would wake up and say that I was definitely not going to use drugs today, but I would use anyway. I can't really put into words how miserable and hopeless I was feeling at this time, but I knew I couldn't go on living this way. Stupid as it sounds, this was one of the first moments that it occurred to me that I might have an addiction to alcohol AND drugs.
On October 3rd, 2009, I told Sam the truth about my drug use. I told him what I was doing and that I wanted to get clean and that I wanted to make things work between us. I didn’t want to be miserable anymore. I just wanted to live a normal, happy life. If only it were that easy!
The next day, Sam and I went into my outpatient treatment center to talk to the counselors about my drug problem and the next course of action. We all agreed I should take the fall semester off from school and try a drug and alcohol rehab center.
We drove to a drug and alcohol rehab center in New Jersey, and I checked myself in. I hadn’t had any experience with drug and alcohol treatment centers before, and I didn’t realize how scared I was going to be to take part in treatment for drug addiction.
I was only there for about 12 hours before I called and begged my mom to come pick me up. I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from Sam and home and my family for 30 days. My Mom tried to convince me to stay, but I just couldn't.
The bottom line is I was just scared, and I wasn't willing to give rehab a chance. Sam picked me up and we went home. A lot of people thought that coming home was a mistake, but I had my mind set on staying sober, whether I was in a drug addiction treatment center or at home.
The next day, I started a full day outpatient program. I attended a rehab program from 7am-5pm for 2 and a half weeks. The first day I was finished with this program, I drank. Sam knew, but I never told anyone this until very recently. I just pretended like my sobriety date was still the same. I only had 2 beers so I thought I could just go back to being sober and not tell anyone.
I began working every day for my mom and continued to attend my original outpatient groups. I went to those twice a week, saw a counselor individually, and worked. I also still pretended that I never drank that night.
After taking the semester off from school to try to get my life together, I went back to college for the spring semester. I was happy to be able to start accomplishing things in my life, but I was scared about being back in the ‘real world’ and trying to stay sober.
I was still living at home with Sam and commuting to school. I was attending another new school where I didn’t know very many people, and this was scary to me. What was even scarier was that the people that I did know from school were people I used to use with or buy drugs from. I was really scared that being there would trigger a relapse.
I promised myself I would do everything I could to stay sober. I would go to my classes, come back and spend my time close to home. I knew that if I spent too much time around school it would be dangerous for me. It was really hard at first because I felt like I was missing out on a lot of the ‘normal’ college experiences, but my sobriety was more important to me.
I have had to make huge changes in my life. I don’t talk to most of my old friends and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my life is going to be different. I've had to accept the fact that I have an addiction to alcohol and drugs, and that I will never really know all the causes of drug addiction for me. I've had to come to terms with the idea that there is no ‘cure' for addiction to alcohol and drugs.
**Sometime around 10 months sober, I relapsed. You can read about other parts of my story on the pages below.