I grew up in a small country town, where everyone knew everyone, including all their business. We moved there when I was 6 years old in the first grade and lived there until I graduated high school when I was 18. Most people that knew me would probably say that I was a well-adjusted child. I loved to sing and dance and was always willing to put on a show for anyone that would watch. What most people didn’t know was that from the time I was 6, I was being sexually abused by my father, and that did not stop completely until I was 14 years old. When I told a counselor at school, my father was arrested, but the papers said it was due to involvement with a minor, which is what my mother told the entire family.
When I told my boyfriend at the time – he did not take it well. He and his friends spray-painted the slandering words that I was raped on the concession stand at the baseball park, which completely humiliated me. My dad was my softball team coach. All of this was pretty much swept under the rug, or at least no one at school talked about it. However, my mother blamed me for it and was upset that I didn’t go straight to her because “look what you cost our family”. I share this because it was the primary cause of my terrible lack of self-esteem, my constant need for reassurance, and my inability to have an intimate relationship with anyone sober.
I started drinking at the age of 15 and drank heavily for another 30 years. I was not a daily drinker but would drink until I blacked out. Throughout these years, I contributed to the ruin of countless relationships, two marriages, two DUIs, and lost respect from my friends and children, but most of all, myself. I was depressed most of the time. I was a single mother raising three boys and they were out of control. At this stage in my life, I used this as an excuse for my drinking, but it only caused things to spiral more out of control. Eventually, this led to my two oldest getting expelled from the school district and almost losing my job. It was about the only thing up to this point in time that I cared about so much and had excelled at.
So, you see, I hadn’t really lost that much… had I? It’s crazy how the mind works. I was always lonely, bored, and the victim. I could not think clearly, I was impulsive and an emotional wreck. I kept myself involved with unhealthy relationships with other men that abused alcohol and drugs so that I could feel normal about my behavior. All my friends liked to party too, so everything we did was normalized and the behavior that would be abhorrent or unacceptable to most was easily overlooked and forgiven. Eventually, I would meet a man that was not this kind of person. He cared enough to hold me accountable for my actions. He loved me when I was unlovable and told me that I was better than I was treating myself and was truly worried about my safety.
Even then, I continued to drink and would disrespect him to the point that something had to be done. So, I decided to stop drinking to show him that I did not want to be like that – blacking out and doing things that I couldn’t remember. So, I researched some programs and selected Lakeview Health. I decided that I would join their Intensive Outpatient Program. This program lasted 16 weeks. During this time of sobriety, my head became so clear of what a ridiculous life that I had been leading. They provided me with a therapist along with four days a week in the evenings of group therapy where we discussed different ways of thinking and ways to cope with real-life situations. The topics were new each week and provided education on sleeping and eating habits as well.
The staff and counselors there were truly amazing. You felt welcomed, cared for, and part of something that I hadn’t felt before. I completed the program and was referred to an outside therapist. They shared their alumni program with me and continued to follow up with me on a weekly basis. This kind of follow-through was incredible. My therapist helped me face the abuse as a child that I had never dealt with before. For the first time in my life, I was able to face it with a clear mind and hold those accountable.
I have been able to process that part of my life and move past it, let it go, and no longer be the victim. I do realize that healing takes time and work. I was able to stay sober for quite some time, but eventually, my brain told me that I was stronger and more in control than I had ever been and after 7 months of sobriety, I decided to drink again. I know now that this was warped thinking. I did not answer the calls that Lakeview Health was making. I did not participate in the alumni program that they offered. I eventually had stopped seeing the therapist as well because I thought I was “okay”. But I know now, I was just a dry drunk, not working a program and not seeking any outside help or fellowship. I continued to hang around the same people, going to the same places and doing the same things. After about 18 months of drinking again, it eventually led me right back to where I was before I went into the program – black-out drinking and out of control. I was truly in a place where I did not have any options left, so I reached out to Lakeview’s alumni program. They welcomed me with open arms as if I had never left. I have supplemented their meetings with the AA program and have connected to my Higher Power, which has kept me sober now for six months. It has saved my life. I wanted this new life and now I have it and could not be more grateful to Lakeview’s program. That is the key to success! Finding a program where there is fellowship and support along with a Higher Power, where you can finally be honest with yourself so that you can find the path to healing.
Now, I am getting to know myself, my interests and am truly enjoying life as it was meant to be. I will be getting married to that man that lead me there in a month and my kids and I have been mending our relationships as well. I have learned to create healthy boundaries. Most of all, I have been able to start giving back. There is nothing else that can keep you sober like helping others that want it too. In between meetings, helping others, and spending time with my family, I have discovered so many other things that I love like riding our new Harley, off-roading in the Jeep, gardening, and all other craft projects. I am living my best life because I am not that woman I used to be anymore.