I knew I had to make a drastic change. In fact, my life depended on it.
I had lost my job and my Employment Benefits were soon running out. I live in a province that is heavily dependent on the Oil and Gas industry for employment and the recent recession had hit everyone pretty hard. Good paying jobs had become a scarcity and there weren’t too many people who were able to find even low paying jobs. The number of unemployed people had hit an all time high, so it seemed, and I had become one of those statistics. I felt alone, afraid and worried that I might end up living on the streets if I didn’t find some sort of a reprieve and soon.
But I just can’t use that for an excuse or reason as to why things seemed to go from bad to worse for me.
For many years I had been dependent upon alcohol.
It had kept me company, comforted me during an abusive and lonely marriage, and through other hard times. And now, it had begun to turn on me. Once, it had been my friend and now it was not only becoming my enemy, it was also turning me into someone I just didn’t want to be anymore.
My home life was a chaotic nightmare.
I had taken in a lot of roommates over the years. Some of them good, and others were just the opposite. Such as the young twenty-somethings I had allowed to move in. My once quiet and peaceful home which I had once ruled now seemed to be ruled by a group of manipulative party goers who I had allowed to ignore my boundaries by being disrespectful, dishonest, light-fingered and rude. During their stay my wedding band and ring were stolen. My roommates seemed very nonchalant about my predicament. One of them said that perhaps one of the visitors he had over during his house warming party had stolen them. Deep down I wondered if he was the culprit. Fortunately, my home owner’s insurance reimbursed me for the rings. But that didn’t assuage my feelings of loss, anger and sadness. I also felt I had been violated and betrayed, especially when I had allowed these people to move into my home after they played on my heart strings by telling me that they had nowhere else to go. I felt used and confused and ignored and instead of confronting them then and there, I drank even more to numb how I felt. The roommate who I felt was behind the theft of my rings moved out soon after I noticed the rings were gone, while the other stayed and had a continuous stream of visitors over during all hours of the day and night. I finally kicked her out.
And then there was the couple who held drinking parties on my front yard, with guests leaving behind empty food cartons and beer cans.
At first, I had joined in the fun but then I found contract work and would come home to find drunken people partying once again on my front lawn. I had thought they’d clean up the act after I told them to party somewhere else but my request had fallen on deaf ears. They seem to think that because they paid rent they could do what they pleased. They forgot that I actually owned the house and was the one who made the rules. My neighbours even privately complained about it to me and I felt ashamed and angry. I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. I had allowed the two of them to take over. I would come home, feel the anger and frustration along with feeling helpless about the situation well up inside of me, and drink my wine as I sat alone in the living room while they continued to party outside. The wine helped to numb those feelings and I allowed the couple to stay on.
I did manage to quit drinking for several weeks but because I was living with others who were still active in their own addictions and it was right there in my face, I went back to the alcohol.
Several months later, during a drunken fight, I told the front lawn partying couple they had to leave. I had finally had enough.
During my time as a landlord/homeowner I had roommates who were repeatedly late paying their rent, refused to help with the utility and cable bills even though they used the services, and ate my food without even thinking to ask first. The house was in total disarray as well. No one, including me, bothered to clean. I was filled with guilt about this and didn’t want people to come over to the house as it was always in a mess. I felt helpless and hopeless about the whole situation.
A home is supposed to feel like a castle where we can find safety and security. My house felt more like a war zone.
My son, who I had joint custody of at the time oscillated between living with his father who was emotionally and mentally abusive towards him, and my home. While at my house he witnessed me binge drinking or passed out on the sofa. That further increased my feelings of guilt at being a “bad” mother which led me to drink more to numb those feelings. He often saw my roommates or other drunk visitors I had in the home, become angry, unpredictable and volatile with me and whomever else happened to be there, making it a very unsafe and unsecure place.
Years before, when I was still single, I had leased out half a duplex and had roommates. They had respected and listened to me and in fact, were responsible and shared with paying the bills and the housework. Back then, I wasn’t addicted to alcohol, had a clear head and requested references and a signed rental agreement before they moved in. I had a backbone and wouldn’t put up with any nonsense.
The people who I had living with me in my “alcoholic” house, would have never passed the “roommate tests” I had in the former home. In fact, they probably wouldn’t have made it inside the front door.
Alcohol, had changed all that including who I really was. It had turned me into a boundary -less doormat and push over who lived in fear and shame.
My addiction to alcohol led me to associate with other alcoholics including the men I dated and became involved with as well as many of my so-called friends. We all seemed focused on that one thing, even if we were so-called functioning alcoholics who held jobs during the day and managed to keep a roof over our heads. And that was the next drink. I had ended up spending much of my free time medicating with volumes of alcohol. It not only depleted my valuable spare time, but my bank account as well. Which is why I ended up in so much financial trouble and needed my family to help bale me out.
I knew deep down within in my soul that what I needed was a fresh start.
I had been raised in a family where alcohol was either non-existent, or used only during social functions and in moderation. My drinking was not sitting well with me. I had always felt there was something wrong with what I was doing, even though many of my friends didn’t seem to care how it was affecting them or those who they professed to love.
I had fewer and fewer job prospects. I think subconsciously I had already given up. My self-esteem and self-confidence had reached an all time low. I lived daily with the constant fear that the utilities would be cut off, or I’d get a foreclosure notice in the mail. I was extremely depressed and wanted only to drink. I would wake up in the middle of the night with extreme panic and anxiety attacks that were probably the affects of the alcohol. One of the things I often hear at AA meetings is that once the drinking stops, the panic and anxiety attacks either greatly subside or cease altogether. Now that I’ve been sober for awhile I’ve had a total of 2 anxiety attacks, which lasted about 5 minutes each.
My brother had chipped in and helped out with the mortgage and bills a couple of times but now he had another idea. I should sell my home and move out of the city to the small town located about an hour away, where he and his wife and my mother lived. I didn’t want to. I’ve never been good about dealing with change, and now this on top of everything else that was going on sent me into a tailspin. Plus, I told myself, I’d have to be more careful about my drinking. My faulty thinking created by my drinking also led me to believe that I would be controlled and closely monitored by them. A situation I had already experienced during my abusive marriage and one that I didn’t want to repeat.
I seemed to forget that I had already allowed myself to be controlled by alcohol and those abusive and manipulative people I had invited into my life.
My brother and mother persisted in pleading their case. If we could renovate the house then I could sell it and move. I understood it would mean I would have to let go of what I knew to be my life. I’d have to start over in a new place. But, at least I’d have my family and I wouldn’t be alone and I knew they, unlike many of my former roommates, had my best interests at heart. On one hand I feared the many changes I’d have to make but I knew deep down that I would have to embrace them if I wanted to live a good life. When I voiced my worries about being monitored and controlled by them if I went along with their plan, they assured me that it wouldn’t be the case. I’d be free to do what I pleased. However, I’d later learn that some things would have to change.
My brother, his wife and my son did the renovations. Unlike so many other people who had fallen on hard times during this recession and lost their homes due to a foreclosure, I was lucky because I had been given a second chance and a life support.
My son and I moved out before the renovations took place. Two of my last roommates, who by some grace of God where actually responsible and stable people, stayed during the renovations while they looked for another place to live.
I now lived in my mother’s house, in her basement suite, and I still do. The day after we moved in my brother came over and he and my mother staged an intervention of sorts. I agreed that I would quit drinking, attend AA meetings in town and never ever invite my former “drinking buddies” from the City, over. If I reneged I would be kicked out of the house. Period.
For the past three or four years, I had thought about getting into rehab. Deep down, I had wanted to stop drinking but my lifestyle and those who I chose to surround myself with seemed to prevent me from doing that. Alcohol had become a staple in my life and I wondered what I would do without it. What would I use to numb my pain and fill the void? And, I didn’t know how I’d manage to keep a job (if I had one) and my home if I went away for two or three months. I had to come to the hard but truthful understanding that in order to become sober I would have to leave behind the friends, area and circumstances that coincided with my drinking.
I had to be willing to give something up in order to get better.
I knew that I had to make a drastic change and I could no longer fool myself into thinking that I still had time because deep down I knew that this was the right time. I didn’t want my life to go on like it had been. I knew people whose health had already been compromised by years of alcohol abuse. There had been one drinking buddy’s cancer scare. Still others would awaken the morning after the previous night’s black out without knowing who they may have hurt, what they had said or even where they had been. Some faced the early morning shakes along with the tell-tale yellow eyes and skin. Others had the need for a drink just to get started in the morning. All were warning signs that something was terribly wrong and yet, they chose to keep on drinking. Then there were the broken families where the adult children had cut their alcoholic parents out of their lives, after years of pleading with them to stop drinking. One had been kicked out of the matrimonial home after it was sold from under them by their estranged spouse, and had to couch surf at their friends’ homes in order to keep a roof over their head and out of the homeless shelter.
I had also known of chronic alcoholics who had died a very bad death, in the hospital after being brought in by relatives who knew that their life was ending and didn’t want their loved one to die alone. At least in the hospital, they could be made comfortable and have someone with them when they passed away. There had also been those I had heard about, who had been found dead and alone at home by family members, their lifeless bodies ravaged by years of alcohol abuse. And for what? Especially when their lives could have been much better. But instead, they had chosen alcohol over everything they had once held near and dear to them, including their health. And in the end, the drink had claimed them way before their time.
I didn’t want to put my loved ones through that pain. I knew somewhere inside of me, that I was stronger than that! And I had the fight within me not only to survive but thrive.
I was once again blessed when only a few days after we listed the house, someone came to see it and fell in love with it on the spot. She was a single mother who had grown up in the area and had very fond memories of it. She had also been looking for a house for the past six months. And then, she put in an offer which I accepted.
My fresh start has done wonders for me.
I just celebrated 18 months of sobriety. I am still in touch with some, but not all of my friends from my former life. I hope and pray that the alcoholics I chose to surround myself with will one day find what I’ve found before it’s too late.
My life hasn’t become a cliched bed of roses, since I made the decision to move, quit drinking and make that fresh start. But it is certainly much better than the hell I was living! I have finally won my son’s respect and admiration. I can now be “there” for him when he needs me. I have been able to set up new and healthy boundaries for myself as well as build up my feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. And in the process of turning a new leaf by becoming a self-starting woman, I have become whole again.
The Self-Starting Woman is one of 31 women who are featured in Kimberley Langford’s book, “The Evolving Woman Series, Daily Reflections” © 2004 which is sold on Amazon.ca. The second edition of the book titled, “The Evolving Woman Series Daily Reflections, What Lies Beneath the Mask” © 2018 will be published early this year.