I AM NOT AFRAID OF MY TRUTH ANYMORE
by Dee Harris
“My name is Dee and I’m an alcoholic.” Holy moly. One of the scariest things I ever had to say or do was admit that I am an alcoholic. Especially in my first local AA meeting. Dang. There were going to people in there who knew me. They’ll know what a loser I am and how weak I am.
As a matter of fact at one of my first meetings I saw a friend go by on his bike in front of the club house and kid me about going to an AA meeting. I quickly responded that I was going to the laundromat next door. I felt so shitty I uncomfortably, but victoriously, told on myself in the meeting and later made my amends to my friend.
And in that first local AA meeting there were, indeed, people I knew. How could there not be? I had lived in that town 18 years and was a grocery checker. Unless they didn’t eat, we had met.
But something magical happened in that instant I entered the club house. I got a feeling of “home”. Damn, I’m home. I’m comfortable. I was greeted in this moment of overwhelming fear with open arms, hugs, understanding, and NO JUDGMENT. No long-ended series of questions and words. Simple. Thank goodness, or I would have been out that door in a heartbeat.
Backtrack a month. I am going in for an assessment to see if “I qualify” to enter a 28-day treatment facility for alcoholism (an hour away from where I live so no one would no me. NOT!). I don’t know what they’re going to ask me. I don’t yet know about rigorous honesty. But they do. They know an alcoholic is going to lie about their drinking habits and how much they drink. I did. I “passed” and spent over 28-days in rehab.
And that first night when I lay in my bed I think that I don’t need to be here; I’m ok now. I realize that alcohol is my problem and now I can go home and control, or even stop, my drinking. But deep down inside I knew that wouldn’t happen as I had tried which seemed like forever, so I stayed.
Even when I called to make that appointment for the assessment and I was told that after that initial meeting I would be sent home and called back later to see whether or not “I qualified”, one of my first experiences with rigorous honesty appeared. I said that if I was sent home, I would not return because my mind would think I am now ok because I admitted I had a problem. I was told to bring my suitcase with me.
The day before the assessment I want to yell from the roof tops that I am an alcoholic. I’m going to get help and I won’t have to drink everyday anymore. But I selectively let one of my neighbors know. And my aunt and brother (I would have told my mom but she was on vacation in Hawaii). I, of course, let my boss know. And my husband and my two boys. Something magical happened that day; the weight that I shed by admitting I had a problem was magical!
And then on the morning of the assessment as I was getting ready to make the hour drive, I hear a knock on the door. I know it is not my husband who had gone off to work. I know it is not my kids who had gone off to school. It was my auntie, grandma and brother who had driven two hours to take me, support me, love me to my appointment. I break down crying, secretly. I was full of guilt and shame for what I had allowed myself to become. I was full of gratitude for the love that was apparent by their being there for me. I was not worthy. Why the hell would they drive all that way for the piece of shit that I had become?
My husband and my boys don’t accompany me to the assessment. Everything with them is blurry because most of my time with them is blurry. I was a black-out, pass-out, closet drinker. Only they knew the real me. And that me was ugly. And that ugly me is all I can remember of my life with them up to that point. One who had to drink everyday to that place of pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. Many of them. Many, many.
Backtrack to the day before the assessment. It was my day off but the day prior I had hit my bottom. I had not come towhen my kids came home from school to get ready for work like I did forever. I had passed out and missed my shift at work. The red light was flashing on the answering machine. The message was from the night manager who was concerned whether or not I was ok; it wasn’t like me to be a no call/no show. And that night manager was one of my best friends (and still is) but I couldn’t call her back. I just couldn’t.
So I fish like I had done so many times before. Fish for answers from my husband and my boys as to whether I had called back and, if so, what I had said. I don’t remember getting a response from them.
So on that day before the assessment I knew I had to talk to my boss to let her know what had happened. What kind of excuse can I make up? But I was so sick and tired of making up excuses, living a life that was a lie. A life that was full of hiding. I was exhausted. So I told her the truth, on the phone, because I didn’t have the guts to look her in the eye.
She listened. She offered empathy, kind words and support. She got me into a recovery program that changed my life, saved my life, gave me a life, and I shall forever be grateful.
So one day at a time I get better. I go through the 28-day program for alcoholism. I am the poster child for AA and do everything that is suggested to me there. But something inside of me is missing and I can’t put my finger on it.
So after about seven years I one day at a time get worse. I go to fewer meetings, do less service and stop reaching out. And then one day when offered a drink on automatic pilot I reply that I haven’t had a drink for 13-1/2 years so no thank you. That drink was left there for me in case I changed my mind.
At that point in sobriety my mind was once again king. It was running the show. My ego had once again taken over. I had forgotten how awesome it was to live from my heart with my Higher Power in charge. I had forgotten what it was like to be humble and grateful. I had forgotten what it was to be a newcomer. And I had forgotten that unless I give it away, I can’t keep it.
So I drank that shot of tequila. And IMMEDIATELY, and I mean IMMEDIATELY, the disease, the devil, whatever you want to call it, reared its ugly head in victory and yelled, “MORE!” So my friend gave me another. And the lying, cheating, hiding and all the negativity that alcoholism smothered me with once again took priority in my life. That quickly. Positivity and optimism turned to negativity and hell.
Today I realize that shot of tequila and that friend who left it for me was a God Shot, a message from a Power Greater Than Myself that I have a purpose to share my experience, strength and hope with others suffering from the disease of thinking, whether it be alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, overeating, sex, shopping, abandonment issues, abuse, or life itself.
Today I am not afraid of my truth anymore. I am comfortable in my own skin. I can be who I was meant to be and love myself, with all my character defects. I no longer live in fear that you won’t accept me, judge me, talk about me. You’re on your journey and I am on mine. When our paths cross (like they are right now) I can give you the respect you deserve for your opinions even though they might not be mine. That’s the beauty of life and the humanity placed on this planet. I shall learn from your opinions and experiences and become a more compassionate person. And I shall share my compassion with those who enter my bubble.
Thank you for crossing my path. I look forward to hearing about your journeys. With warmest aloha, Dee Harris