What does it take to say that’s enough?

I spoke at a gathering this past week about my journey into recovery. I started with my past, describing how sick I was in my addiction. It still amazes me how close to death I was, ignoring all the signs that my body, heart, and soul were screaming at me. I was a master at hiding the truth. The question for me, and for anyone who is addicted, is “What does it take to say that’s enough? I need help!”

I wish I had an easy answer, but it is different for everyone. I’ve talked to many people about what their “bottom” was, and each has had a different answer. Death, the scare of it, is one. The law, the judge’s nudge to get sober, the push from a family member, divorce, abandonment, finances — the list is long.

The decision to ask for help was the hardest one I ever made. I put myself through pain, anger, and shame. I called myself all the names I knew for drunks: weak, worthless, coward, liar, scum. I kept drinking because looking at that girl in the mirror was too painful and scary.

I had to go through many terrifying moments before I could face the truth about what I needed to do. I felt so alone. I didn’t know of another woman that was in recovery. I only knew a few people who chose not to drink. I didn’t know then that not many people talk about it! I had no direction. The only thing I knew to do was to go to AA. And that was only brought up in my social group as a joke, “Who does that?”

Telling my family was the first big step. Figuring out what to do next was huge. I wanted to do it my way. Have a nurse come to my home and see me through detox; and then go on my merry way. I rationalized that if I could stop the shakes, I’d be fine to just drink less from then on. I said with foolish confidence, “Trust me, I never want to be this reliant on alcohol again.”

I don’t wish that I had a different journey because I can’t go back in time, but I do pray that my journey will help others find their way into recovery.

How naïve I was. First of all, no nurse was willing to come and watch over me. They didn’t want the responsibility; and they knew it took much more than detox for a person to stop drinking for good. I didn’t need a babysitter. I needed help. Looking into rehabilitation programs was next. Already at my bottom, this process was incredibly degrading. I called and told the person who answered that I needed help. First question: what kind of insurance do you have? Then I was told that they don’t have a bed right now; that they would call after they’ve run my insurance. I’m sick. I admitted I needed help. I did so because I was afraid I would die. And I’m told I have to wait for a bed until they ran my insurance!

That was the Saturday of a holiday weekend. They couldn’t find me a bed until Tuesday. Looking back with a touch of cynicism I guess I should have admitted I had a problem on a weekday, because it seems that rehabilitation facilities have holiday hours, too. Ironically, I had to drink all weekend to stay safe. Humiliated and scared, I was under the watchful eyes of everyone around me. I had hid my addiction and its physical effects so well that to convince people of my dire state I even showed them what my body did when I stopped drinking. They, of course, thought I should just stop drinking. “Why go away, when you only need willpower and willingness?”

The step of going into rehab was repeated. Each time I swore that I would never put myself or my family through that experience again. But I did. I’d “graduate” from rehab and think I could have just that one drink. That one drink led me to the next and the next. My body hadn’t had a chance to heal. I went back to shaking and exhibiting signs of liver damage. I returned to rehab again and again, each time a new lesson learned. My last “graduation” was 5 years ago. I haven’t had a drink since!

I don’t wish that I had a different journey because I can’t go back in time, but I do pray that my journey will help others find their way into recovery. The horses were and are a great part of my journey. They’re great listeners, goal setters, anxiety relievers, and, of course, such a big part in the healing of my heart. I would love to share them with you. Call today. Make yourself a priority. And we’ll see you in the barn.