I Believed I Was Crazy

One morning, after the office holiday party, I woke up with a massive hangover next to my boyfriend who looked at me with complete disgust. My antics, or “adventures” as I liked to call them, just weren’t cute anymore. I knew I had to do something; I wasn’t going to remain alone for the rest of my life because I couldn’t drink. I knew a woman who was sober and happy about it so I reached out and asked for help. That was seven years ago. At first I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I had absolutely no idea of who I was or what I was capable of. I had hated myself for so long that I was sure everyone else felt the same way. Little by little I began to open my eyes and realize people weren’t nearly as obsessed with...
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My Life Was a Series of Costume Changes

All I know is that I feel a helluvah lot better waking up without a hangover and knowing the name of the person I just slept with. Seriously. All drinking has ever given me is a talent for making bad decisions, the majority of which have had disastrous consequences. I'm a risk-taker by nature, prone to not thinking things through. I simply don't need alcohol and other substances to increase the danger. It took me until I was 26 years old to figure this out. Prior to that, all I knew about myself is that I didn't fit in. Anywhere. High school was fine, but after that I didn't have a clue. My life was a series of “costume changes” in an attempt to find the one external situation that would somehow fix the feeling of being lost in my own life. I came out as a lesbian, and then...
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Getting the Message

The first time my daughter came home drunk, I’m embarrassed to say, I thought it was kind of cute. She was only 15, but she was swearing like a sailor. So I sloughed it off. But, unfortunately, it didn’t stop there and her behavior began to get more and more problematic. For a kid who used to love school and had a lot of friends, things started to change, and by the time she was 17 my wife and I were truly concerned. When we talked to people about it, they often expressed the idea that it was just a phase that would pass, but before long we realized it wasn’t getting any better. We tried all the usual things – grounding her, telling her she couldn’t hang out with certain kids who seemed to be a bad influence, withholding her allowance, thinking this would limit her ability to get...
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He Thought He Could Handle It

Jason was the kind of person people were drawn to.  He made friends easily and had a great sense of humor.  He was a caring person and a loving son who respected his family.  He was helpful around the house and in the winter he always shoveled our neighbor’s walk.  He loved kids, he was active in his youth group and he often volunteered for various community projects--he even worked for the agency I work for, a community-based group in Middlesex County, New Jersey that works to prevent substance abuse. When Jason was a little boy, he’d lie about little things.  When he was seven years old and swore he had taken a shower, even though the tub was completely dry.  He got caught in lies like that all the time, but as he grew into a young man we talked about it and he said he realized how silly...
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My Sister, an Alcoholic

My younger sister and I are two years apart, and were very close growing up.  After high school I moved, and we lived on opposite coasts but talked all the time and saw each other on holidays with the family.  Then suddenly she stopped calling. I would call and leave messages, and rarely get a call back.  I knew she drank and smoked weed, but at the time had no idea she had started messing with dope. I called her job, only to find out she'd been fired months ago.  My parents went to her apartment to find her gone, unopened mail filling the mailbox.  Now we were really scared.  We all felt so powerless.  When the money ran out my sister showed up at my parent’s house and was sent to rehab.  But when she got out, she started to use again.  Like before, she disappeared. I felt worried,...
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Living With an Alcoholic

Living with an alcoholic was not in my dreams when I thought of getting married and living “happily ever after.” But that is where I found myself after a few years of marriage—in the middle of alcoholism.  First I thought there was something wrong with me.  If he loved me, he would stay home. I thought I could say something that would make him understand what he was doing to his family and his life. When words didn’t work I used tears and threats of leaving if he didn’t change.  All I could think about was “where was he, who was he with, how much money would he spend, would he kill someone while driving home, would he kill himself, what kind of mood would he be in when he came home?” Every time, he said, “I promise I won’t drink again.”  Or, “when  we move to our next home...
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No Shoes

On June 15, 1998,  I entered a rehab facility. I was 18 years old, confused and abusing drugs.  Alcohol was my drug of choice but I smoked pot, popped pills, used acid, crack, cocaine--whatever I could get my hands on. It wasn’t about a particular drug. I just wanted to escape, get away from being me, so to speak. I started drinking when I was 14. I agreed to 30 days of treatment, ended up staying for 16 months. Today, I remain employed at this same place. Back then, I had heard crazy things about this rehab and what they made you do. I was scared, desperate and broke. I needed something to turn my life around. Treatment was the only option I had left before I killed myself from using drugs. I used drugs from the time I got up in the morning until I fell asleep, whatever time that was. Just before...
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Sweet Seventeen

I was 15 the first time I went through treatment. I had no idea what was going on and wasn’t ready to listen. I knew it all, and no one could tell me different. Drugs and alcohol were the only things that I thought made me happy. I was having fun. When I was 17, I came back to treatment beat up and ready to listen. I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was young and not sure if I was going to be able to stop drinking and drugging. I struggled, trying to decide if recovery is really what I wanted or if I wanted to continue to use. I was in treatment during the holidays and came up with an analogy that worked for me. I thought back to when I was a little girl and couldn’t wait to open up my Christmas presents to see what kind of toys...
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I Stopped Running

I reached a bottom, an awareness that this was not working enough to numb the pain and other difficult emotions I was being tormented with inside of my head and heart. One day, I awoke for the first time with a feeling I needed to make a change in my life around this pattern of drinking and drugging. So I went to a meeting. I met a young person who then introduced me to another person in my age group and I saw that this was working for them. I wanted what they had. I developed a support network of friends that helped me embrace a program of recovery, which has managed to keep me sober.  - Juan, 17
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Full-Time Junkie

It started with drinks before a night out, and it ended in a very small bathroom with a needle in my arm. Along the way many good friends said goodbye because they offered help and I refused it. I fell out of the usual circle of family birthdays and holidays. I promised attendance and didn’t show.  I lost my job and became a full-time junkie. I traded sex for money in order to get a fix. My life became very small and very scary, and I just let it happen. Homeless and out of money, one day I was offered help and I said yes. The moment I accepted help my world changed. There were challenges. I had to get honest. I had to be careful about falling into familiar patterns. But the truth is the challenges in recovery are easier than anything I had to do when I was...
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