“Hi! My name is Alyson and I’m an alcoholic. Not something I’d hope to grow up to say. I mean who wants to physically and mentally be addicted to a substance? I sure didn’t. I grew up in a small town on the Connecticut shoreline. My aunt even calls my neighborhood ‘Pleasantville’ to give you even more of a mental picture. I wasn’t poor. My dad coached my soccer teams. My mom knew everyone in town. My grandparents took me everywhere with them in the summer (strawberry picking, blueberry picking, and fancy restaurants). Not such a bad childhood if you look at is as an outsider, and to be honest, I should feel grateful that my parents and grandparents did all that they did for me.
I started drinking in college, not anything out of the norm. I binge drank on the weekends. But everyone else was doing that at UConn and at every college for that matter, so it wasn’t a big deal. Or so I thought. After graduating college I got a job in Rhode Island and moved into an apartment there. Picture Melrose Place because that’s basically where I lived. I got laid off from my job a year later thanks to the economy which plummeted in 2008. So now what do I do? Collect those unemployment benefits while I lay by the pool all day and drink. I know I’m going to get some heat for saying that, but it was the truth. My life was pretty much working out, laying by the pool, and going out at night. Again, not such a bad life to the outsider reading this.
At the end of 2009 I was dating a guy who I had known since high school. But what I didn’t know was that he was addicted to painkillers. I knew he had a problem, but I didn’t know the extent of it. I drove him everywhere and even to his NA meetings at Rushford. In January 2010, I found out I was pregnant. Now what was I going to do? He didn’t want me to have the baby, but there was no way I was getting an abortion. We broke up before I even had my son and there I began my single mom journey.
After having my son. I was barely drinking. I was worried about breastfeeding and pumping so I didn’t want to waste the supply. Plus let’s be real, I was absolutely exhausted. There was no time to have casual drinking sessions during the day or night. I barely got out of the house and when I did, it was to go grocery shopping or to run a quick errand. Fast forward a year and a half and I was out with a friend for dinner and drinks one night and I ended up zip tied in the back of a police car. What started out as a dinner with two glasses of red wine ended up at the local bar where everyone went just to get wasted. Hence, why there were cops out there in the first place.
I was too drunk to remember certain details but apparently the bouncer wouldn’t let me into the bar because I was too intoxicated. Well I wasn’t too happy about that and started to scream at him and an innocent passerby. The cops told me to be quiet and stop and have my friend drive me home. But did I stay quiet? Nope! So I ended up at the police station having my mugshot taken, fingerprinted, and having to show up to court the next week. I woke up the next morning being like, ‘What have I done?’ I’m a mom and here I am acting like I’m still in college. Along with the guilt and shame, was a terrible hangover where I could barely even function to take care of a toddler. This incident was not one of my finer moments in life.
I ended up receiving a year probation from the disorderly conduct charge. It was a wakeup call for me, but not rock bottom. Rock bottom wouldn’t come until 4 years later after trying to get sober twice. In that 4 years I had moved to a different town in Rhode Island to be closer to my boyfriend, but then shortly after moving, he broke off our 3-year relationship. Both my grandparents died within 9 months of one another. And I was so overwhelmed with life and being a single mom that I just chose to drink all the pain and anxiety away.
One glass of wine at night after a long day at work, turned into two then turned into three. Then turned into taking shots of vodka before work in the morning. Going to get vodka or wine on my lunch break, and then driving home at night to have more alcohol. I don’t know how I even functioned some days. I was a ‘functioning alcoholic’ for sure. I remember posting my one year of sobriety on Facebook and people who I had worked with had no idea I was drinking that much. Probably should mention I got ‘let go’ from that job because I wasn’t performing the numbers I should’ve been. I worked almost 5 years there and even after being let go, it still wasn’t a wakeup call for me.
Now that I wasn’t working I just drank myself into an oblivion. A few months had gone by and I didn’t want to live like this anymore. I wanted so bad to stop. And I tried so hard to stop for my son, but I couldn’t. I know some of you reading this are judging and saying, ‘Yes you could have just stopped. You made the choice to drink.’ To them I say no one will ever know what it’s like until you experience addiction first hand. Before my alcoholism I said the same thing. ‘These people are lowlifes and just can’t stop.’ That couldn’t be farther from the truth. At first it is a choice, but then it rewires your brain and you become physically and mentally dependent on the substance. I didn’t choose to be an alcoholic. I didn’t choose to not be present for my son. I didn’t choose to look like I was dying. In reality though, I was dying, and I was going crazy.
On November 14, 2016, I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to die. My son needed me. If I kept drinking, I was headed down a path for death. I’m the only one my son has, and I couldn’t let him down. I called my mom at 6 a.m. after I’d been drinking red wine all night. I told her I needed help. I needed to go somewhere, as in detox or rehab. Anything at this point. My sister came to Rhode Island to pick my son and I up and to take me to detox. She didn’t want me to have a seizure from withdrawal on the way to detox in Connecticut, so I poured the last of my red wine to the brim of my red solo cup and off we went. For being that buzzed I still remember the dark and dreary two hour drive to Middletown. I took my last sip of wine at 4:01 p.m. on November 14, 2016, in the detox parking lot, said goodbye to my son, and walked into the same building I had been in 7 years before for my son’s dad. If that doesn’t give you the chills, then I don’t know what will.
I spent 5 days in detox at Rushford in Middletown, Connecticut. It was pure hell, but I needed to muster up the strength to get through it for my son. I was able to talk to him for a few minutes every night, which helped me pull through. After not even 24 hours I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to feel sick and like a zombie anymore. I just wanted a drink and everything would be better. But that’s the thing, drinking won’t make anything better. No problems have ever been solved because you drank. It only makes everything worse.
Five days later I was released from detox and knew I could never drink again. Not even one. But when you’re sober everything is rainbows and unicorns, right? Not even close! Now I have to deal with all the pain, embarrassment, and guilt without alcohol. Hardest thing in the world to do is deal with your emotions, which is why a lot of us don’t want to and find other ways to suppress them.
I’ve learned so much about myself in the past 20 months. Not only have I learned, but I’ve been through a lot and I’ve dealt with it all SOBER. Nothing is worth having that first drink, because I know that first drink will lead to another destruction. One that my son doesn’t need to see. He’s already seen enough of that. Don’t get me wrong, some days are hard because our culture revolves around alcohol. There really is no need for that glass of wine every night, there is no need for beer at sporting events, there’s no need to get wasted just because you’re on vacation. But that’s how alcohol is marketed and the people who don’t drink are the outcasts. How is that? I get to experience life without a numbing agent. I get to be present for my son. I get to appreciate the little moments in life that turn out to be not so little. I get everything back I didn’t have when I had alcohol. We aren’t the outcasts. We are the strongest and bravest individuals on this planet.
I hope in telling my story I inspire others that it is possible to recover. I was at the lowest point in my life. Lost my job, lost my dignity, and almost lost my son. If I can do it, then so can you.
There are going to be some hard days, but those days are when we grow and we can look back and say, ‘Wow, look at all I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve come. This life is worth it, and YOU are worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
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