39 years of sobriety today. Go team me!
I drank in grade school, the end years. My parents had a bar in the basement, and my dad was a buyer for a chain of grocery store, and salesmen were always giving him samples, and gifts that included wine and booze. He and my mother didn't drink much, other than rare parties at home or when they went out, so I was safe in swiping wine or whiskey. I remember a sixth-grade slumber party in my upstairs room (that my mother rarely came up to) and all the sixth-grade girls. I was the only one drinking. All the more for me, eh? My brother cautioned me to get rid of the boozey vomit in the wastebasket so our mother didn't find it.
By age 15 I had a full-blown habit. I emancipated myself at 17 and moved downtown. I was still in high school. (Although I was not one of these high-functioning addicts that can take acid and get A's in art class. I was more the "needs to be taken to the toilet" type.) Of course, it all blew up in my face. There were hospitalizations and one treatment. I am so lucky that I had one treatment. My poor late husband (who died last summer) had 40 treatments, but finally "got it" and died with 22 years of excellent sobriety. His sponsorees called him an AA legend.
The place I went to treatment wasn't AA- or NA-based. In the 1970s "the Synanon model" was popular. It was a behavior-modification treatment model that more resembled boot camp than modern-day treatment facilities. They employed head-shaving, wearing signs around your neck (e.g., "My awareness is low - ask me why") and "verbal haircuts," which is having someone tap you on the shoulder and beckon you into a room where half a dozen people yell their lungs out at you. It was meant to tear down your negative behaviors and build you up in their way. It worked, sort of.
I wish I'd gone to a more normal place, but I did possess the key piece to getting sober: I had a complete and utter willingness to get clean and sober. I would have done anything they asked to get better, up to and including standing on my head in the corner. Fortunately it did not come to that!
The program was supposed to be 2-3 months, but I was there 7 and a half months. The night they "graduated" me, I later learned another graduate and her counselor (with whom she'd been sleeping) were both hungover. I nearly relapsed with the disillusion, but had to tell myself firmly, "I may be straight, I may be square now, but I DO remember how horrible it was, and if others want to cheat and slide and lie to themselves and others, I don't have to." I really, truly, utterly wanted sobriety above all things.
Here's another key piece: I was willing to give it all up - playmates, playground, and playthings. I think a lot of young people relapse over going right back to the same life, particularly the same friends. I don't see how you can stay clean and sober if you're with your old friends. We had a saying in that program, "If you're willing to give it all up, you can have it all back." Now, I don't mean you can have the drugs back. But in my case, the best friend who was not an addict herself (but who was part of the overall scene) I did give up, and she was so hurt. HER, I eventually made up with after several years of sobriety. She was my maid of honor at both my weddings.
(The stupid place I went to treatment did mean by "If you're willing to give it all up, you can have it all back" that you could go back to chemicals. As if!! I remember my therapist telling the group, "I was a junkie. If I didn't work here, I fully believe I could enjoy an occasional beer on a hot day." Even with about six weeks of sobriety, I thought it was a foolish and dangerous statement.)
Well, that was 1974. To bring you up to the present, I did stay clean and sober. I went into treatment a week before my 20th birthday, and am almost 59. How I stayed clean and sober is truly miraculous. I never succumbed to what I call "The Drew Barrymore Syndrome," which is "I went into treatment so young, it must have been youthful highjinks, and surely I can drink now." Uh, NO.
I made a bad first marriage, divorced, and had an extremely happy second marriage. I finally got a career going. I want to add a final key piece: Don't underrate pot's capacity to zap ambition. It took me decades, literally, to finally find myself and earn real money. I know, coming from someone my age with this much sobriety you'd think I got it together much earlier, but no. It did take decades.
I wish you all well.
Opiferum had to remind me. I must be getting old.
June 24th, 2013