It’s been 18 months and 18 days since my last blog post. They say that a relapse begins long before you take a sip again. I can tell you that is the truth. I reread all my prior blog posts from the last time I was sober. Wow. The girl writing that blog was a sad, lonely girl. She was basically preparing for that relapse the day she stopped drinking. She wasn’t ready to be sober. She wasn’t ready for anything. So she did nothing, instead.
I relapsed hard the day after my last blog post. It’s so strange that I thought that I had hit my rock bottom back then. Reading those posts, I honestly don’t even recognize the person that was writing them. I barely remember her. This could be for a few reasons. That was a very dark time in my life, and I drank most of my days away, so there’s a strong chance that I was too drunk to remember a lot of what I was feeling. I also felt that being sober was a punishment, and that it wasn’t fair that I couldn’t drink. I resented my half-sobriety.
When I had gone to AA in the past, they told us that if an addict relapses, they pick up right where they left off. Well, they were spot on. in the beginning, I set rules for myself. Only a few drinks. Never get drunk. Only drink on weekends. Never drink alone. Drink water in between each drink. The list went on. I followed those rules. I still wasn’t happy about them, but I was proud when I followed them. But I only followed them for about two weeks. One or two drinks became more than one or two. When I thought that eyes might be on me, I still stick to the one or two rule, but I would add more and more vodka to each drink, so it was probably more like I was drinking four to six drinks. Eventually my pour became heavier, and even though I was visually only having two drinks, I had managed to drink half a bottle of vodka. So I was yet again, getting drunk and as fast as I possibly could. Yes, I only drank on weekends….as far as everyone knew. TH worked nights. He left at 9:00pm during the week. So I waited until he left, and poured myself my first drink. Then my second. Then more. This soon became my nightly routine. That also crossed off the “never drink alone” rule. Drink water in between each drink? I had somehow convinced myself that the water that I mixed with my Smirnoff counted as just that. I lived in this denial for a long time.
In early November of 2019, my life changed forever. I got the phone call that I had been expecting and dreading for years and years. It was Tony. My oldest brother, my first best friend. We lost him at age 34. He lost his own battle with drugs and alcohol. My baby brother had died, and my life would never be the same. After I got the phone call, I think I held it together pretty well. In a second, I knew that my parents were never going to be the same. This was absolutely going to break them. I was still the big sister, so I needed to keep my shit together for my brothers and my parents. Plus, I think that I knew this was coming long before I did. As soon as I got the call, I poured a drink. And another…..and more after that. Telling my own boys that Uncle Tony died was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my entire life.
The next few weeks are kind of a blur. My parents were dealing with what to do with Tony, where to have his ashes buried, waiting for the autopsy to determine what actually killed him. My other brothers and I took the lead on arranging Tony’s celebration of life memorial. We came together as a family and got things done that needed to be taken care of. No one in my family had the strength or want to be able to do Tony’s eulogy. I don’t think anyone else would have been able to keep it together. I was not a great sister to Tony. I wasn’t always there for him in the way that I could have been. We both struggled with the same demons, and he still drove me crazy. I owed this to him. So I put on my big girl panties, threw on some lipstick, threw back a few glasses of wine (two, four, maybe six) and made my way to the podium at the front of the jam packed banquet halls, and gave the most important speech of my life. I like to believe that he heard my words. I hope he knows how much I love and adored him. I didn’t tell him often when he was with us. I took him and his humor, selflessness and beautiful soul for granted. I miss him so very much. I do feel him with me, and I’m grateful he isn’t battling those demons anymore. I’m happy for him now. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier on the ones left behind. I would continue to drink. I would drink my pain away. I could put the agony of losing my brother out of my mind when I was buzzed. You’d think that I would have been smarter about my own addiction habits, considering Tony’s cause of death. But instead I did the opposite. I think this is where my spiraling started to get completely out of control. I started to hide it more. That should have been a sign. But hey, my brother just died, everyone grieves differently, right? And this was my way of coping. Feeling nothing at all.
My marriage hit a turning point right around this time. TH was not there for me in the way I needed him to be. I needed him more than ever and he was so angry at why Tony did to my family that the anger was stronger than the need to be there for me. He lost a brother too, he’d known Tony since he was a young boy. Tony always said TH was the older brother he never had. We both struggled with guilt. The more that he wasn’t there for me, and I know he tried to be, but not in the way I needed, the more I pushed my husband away. I resented him and started to become bitter towards him. So what did I do to cope with that? I drank.
So with the loss of my brother, the feeling that my marriage was falling apart, and the stresses of normal (or not so normal) daily life, my drinking habits became worse. For months, it was that I was self medication my depression and mental state. I was very scared when a few months later, when I woke up, I had the shakes and I started vomiting. This wasn’t a hangover. I’ve had plenty of those to know this felt different. I had started drinking earlier and earlier during the day. When I woke up, after not drinking for the hours that I was sleeping, I realized my body was going through with drawl from not having vodka in my system. This was no longer just to ease my overwhelming sadness. My body was becoming dependent on the booze. It got to the point that when I woke in the mornings, I would have to drink in order to feel sober. So I hid it more. I hid it at home, I hid it at work, I hid it when I was driving.
Last winter, maybe around October, things continued to get worse. October, November and December are all one big blur. I’m missing large chunks of time from my memory. If I was awake, I was drinking. I was getting so sick that I was needing two naps a day. I let my house, my job, my hygiene and my relationships all go to shit. Deep down I knew how bad this was. I knew what it meant. I stopped thinking about my future, because I didn’t believe I had one anymore. I tried to stop, or even slow down, and I would feel my head and brain start getting shaky. I could feel seizures coming on. I was afraid my kids were going to find me dead on a floor. I was slowly killing myself, and I was running out of time.
Right after Christmas of last year, I started getting very sick. I couldn’t eat. Nothing would stay down. I lost 11 pounds in 6 days. I’d even throw up a sip of water as soon as I swallowed it. I became weaker and weaker over the next few days. I had terrible pain in my side. I was vomiting blood now. All I could do was sleep…and drink. On January 4th of this year, I couldn’t go up or down the stairs on my own. I needed TH to help me. I knew what was happening. My body wasn’t working anymore. Keep in mind, I had been hiding all of this from everyone. So when I told TH that I had to go to the hospital, he thought I was exaggerating. He wouldn’t take me (he had a headache), so I called my friend to drive me. She knew I had been out of control lately. She dropped me off at the hospital.
After lots of tests, and me finally telling someone the truth about how much I was drinking, they confirmed what I was thinking. My liver had gone into failure and My pancreas wasn’t far behind. My organs couldn’t handle the damage I was doing to them. The dr’s told me that when someone comes in with the enzyme numbers I showed up with, only 50% actually leave the hospital alive. I was dying.
I spent the next 5 days going through detox in the hospital. So many IV’s, meds for anxiety, meds to prevent seizures, and more lies to family and friends about why I was in the hospital. By the time I left, my liver and pancreas numbers had greatly improved. My body was going to give me another chance. But they did tell me that if I ever drank again, I would die. They told me I needed to get treatment. I started an Outpatient Dual Diagnosis program on January 15th. It changed my life. I began treatment for my addiction as well as my depression. It was truly the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Today, as I write this, I am 94 days sober. I am a changed person. A lot has changed in my life over the last 2 years. I lost my brother. I filed for divorce, and that will be finalized in a few weeks. I’ve also met the love of my life. The biggest change, however, is that I am happy. I am proud of the woman I’m turning into. I am sober and I am in recovery. I still have miles and miles to go, but hell, I am on my way there.