health

'At 24, I had almost ruined my marriage before it even started.'

The definition of an alcoholic:

“An alcoholic is a man or woman who suffers from alcoholism – they have a distinct physical desire to consume alcohol beyond their capacity to control it, regardless of all rules of common sense.”

I read that over and over and thought, this is me. I’d known for longer than I’d like to admit that I was an alcoholic but at 24 going on 25 how was this my reality? How had I gotten here after everything I’d seen my father go through and swore I’d never repeat? Feelings of guilt, despair, disappointment and shame were feelings I’d carry around with me daily because of the way I was living my life.

All of my friends were drinkers. They’d have a glass during the week and share a bottle or two on the weekends. Not me though, I’d drink a bottle or two during the week or per night depending on how I felt. Come the weekend I’d be drunk before lunch time and this was all on my own, no social setting was needed.

I remember mornings waking up for work hungover, thinking about how if I had a drink I’d feel better. I never drank before work but the thought was there and then I’d feel shame for even thinking it. I knew I had a problem but denial, denial, denial.

I’d use any excuse to drink. I’d had a hard day at work, I needed a pick me up, I wanted a glass while I cooked, I wanted a drink while I cleaned the house, I wanted to relax, I was going to watch a movie, why not have a beer in the shower or a vodka in the bath? Thing is, it was never just one. I’d end up blind drunk and blacking out whether I was at home or out partying. I had no control over my alcohol consumption, no limits, I’d drink until I physically couldn’t anymore.

I hid this all really well from my friends and family. They didn’t know about my mid-week habits. I was very good at concealing it all and always putting on a happy face.

The person who this affected the most aside from me was my husband. There were so many fights and so much unhappiness caused solely by my drinking. He saw it all, I’d embarrassed him and our relationship more times than I could count because when I’d drink I wasn’t myself. I’d turn into this horrible person. I’d be nasty, aggressive and completely intolerable. I don’t know why he stuck around, looking back now I honestly would have left if the roles were reversed. It was that bad. I know that over time it started to change him as a person too. It broke him down because he loved me and here I was hurting him time and time again.

We had a break not long after our wedding due to my drinking. He needed time away from me and the negative environment I’d turned our home into. Even the possibility of losing the one person that meant the most to me wasn’t enough to stop me drinking at the time.

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It’s hard for me to think back to all of this and know that I self sabotaged some of what were meant to be the most precious times in my life and that I also took that away from him.

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It may be hard to understand. Why not just stop? But I couldn’t at the time. Alcohol ruled my life, I was always thinking about it and hanging out for my my next drink. Even when I had a drink in my hand I’d be needing the next one.

The shocking thing is that alcohol caused so much pain and sadness for me and my family because of my father’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. From a young age I promised myself I’d never be like him. It always scared me how much substance abuse can change a person and completely shatter their life and the lives of those around them. And here I was doing the exact same thing 12 years later.

When I wasn’t drinking I saw who I really was and I loved being that happy, loving and bubbly person. But for the most part I felt like a fraud, like who I really was was the alcoholic version of myself. I wasn’t worthy of a good and happy life. I don’t know why I felt this way but in a way I think it stemmed from past abuse as a child. I have always searched to be accepted by others and at the time never knew how to love or accept myself. I was unhappy and drank to escape those feelings and get that happy buzz that alcohol instantly bought me when I was feeling down. It’s a vicious cycle.

I remember the exact moment I decided to stop drinking. It was a few weeks before my 25th birthday. I was sitting on the beach. The one place I feel most connected to myself is by the ocean. I remember looking out at the water, the waves rolling in and crashing by my feet and I heard a child laughing. I will never forget the feeling of love that noise bought to me and that’s when my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach at the thought of wanting to try for a baby. The one thing I’ve always wanted most in this world since meeting my husband is to be a mother. If I kept going the way I was I knew I’d never experience it. As long as I kept drinking my husband said he would never discuss children. So in that very moment I decided it was time for me to change. Time to get to know myself and be the best version of myself for ME.

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It was hard at first, I had to give up a lot.

I felt quite isolated for a long time as I wouldn’t see my friends as much. A lot of my friendships faded. I guess catching up for a coffee isn’t as exciting for everyone. But it started to not bother me anymore. Those who are my real friends have stuck around and they know how much they mean to me.

To keep myself focused I decided to make a vision board of everything I wanted to work toward over the next 12-month period. Not drinking was a given but I had other goals too. I wanted to be the fittest I had ever been, to live a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to start yoga and meditation. I wanted to be a good wife and most of all, I wanted to be a mother. I cut out pictures of every that inspired me. Quotes, photos of mothers and daughters, healthy food, a nice home, everything I wanted, and kept it visible so I could see it all the time and be reminded I could have what I want. I could have the life I deserve.

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A few months passed and I was doing so well, it wasn’t an effort anymore. I was so happy from within that alcohol and wasn’t even on my mind. I could be around others while they enjoyed a drink and people respected my decision. There were no more questions or funny looks. I was beyond proud and grateful I made the decision to change. My relationship was the best it had ever been in our whole eight years together. We were so happy and so in love again and Randall finally had the wife and partner he deserved.

In this time I experienced the loss of someone who I loved with all my heart. She knew me since I was a child and is my oldest and dearest friend. She is the only person who knew my dad aside from my family. She saw me for who I was and never judged me, she in fact is and always will be one of the biggest parts of me. I miss her everyday. She passed away only months into my sobriety and this was earth shatteringly devastating to me, I honestly don’t know how I didn’t pick up a drink. That’s when I knew something in my had changed, I wouldn’t go back to that dark place because that’s also not what my friend would have wanted. For the first time in a very, very long time I felt my feelings. I felt who I was and I nurtured her.

Something else that kept me going through that time is that my husband and I had started trying for a baby. I wanted to be a mother more than I’ve ever wanted anything and that gave me the will power the keep moving forward.

Before long, I found out little Alina was on her way. It was the most incredible experience and I’ll always get goosebumps when I think about it.

So there I was, April of last year standing in my bathroom with that positive line on the pregnancy test staring back at me. In that moment I had everything I’d ever need, her. She is and forever will be the reason I keep going. The reason I am who I am today. The reason I love myself and will always chose the best for me and my family.

The meaning of Alina in Greek is ‘light’ and she is and forever will be the light that guides me.

This post originally appeared on Loved by Emily. You can see more of Emily’s work here.

If you or a loved one is suffering with alcoholism, Mamamia urges you to contact DrinkWise here.

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