This is the conclusion of a tandem post written by DaMomma at Motherhood Is Not For Wimps, and Ellie at One Crafty Mother. The events described here occured in the summer of 2007. The entire post begins here and continues back and forth between us over three days.
This is the last chapter of that story.
Liz's conclusion begins here, with my perspective following below.
I spent the first two weeks of rehab in denial. I said all the right things, spoke at group meetings, pretended I wanted to change. I told my counselor that even if I lost everything, I was ready to be sober. As I spoke those words, in my head I was thinking: Liar. I listened to the other patients, all the while thinking I wasn’t as bad as them, that after thirty days of not drinking I would be able to control it. I wouldn’t have to stop.
And then came the day Steve and Liz took all the children to the fair. Across the bay at the rehab center, it was visitor’s day. Of the forty patients there, I was one of four who had no family or friends coming to see me.
Steve had told me the about the fair, and said that even if he hadn’t had plans with Liz, he wouldn’t be coming to see me. He said he was very angry, and he felt it would be too frightening for the kids. I opened my mouth to protest, but I had no words. I was crushed, but I wasn't going to beg him to come. And I didn't want the kids to see me like this. I felt they were better off without me. I felt everyone was better off without me.
One counselor was designated to take the four of us, the ones without visitors, to a local trail that leads to the ocean. I remember walking along a rocky path, gravel crunching under my shoes, smelling the salt air, feeling the warm breeze on my neck. It had been a long time since I had noticed these things.
We reached the water's edge and I wandered down the shore, craving some time alone.
I squinted into the sun and looked out across the bay. Somewhere, over there, are my kids, I thought. I imagined them squealing with delight on the ferris wheel, grinning sticky faces covered with cotton candy. I pictured Liz and Steve coming together to give them one normal day, and I felt grateful.
And then, like a stone falling out of the sky and landing at my feet, I realized: I am the problem.
The ugly truth of it took my breath away, and I fell to my knees. I felt sharp stones poking into my skin, and I pressed harder. I deserved the pain. I wanted to feel the pain.
I am here because I am very, very sick. I knew this with a sudden, startling clarity. I am here because I am not safe for my children. I said it over and over, like a mantra. I forced myself to stare at the truth, and for once I didn't look away.
My kids are going to be okay, I thought. Steve will be okay. Everyone is moving on without me.
I was relieved. My kids were surrounded by loving, capable people, and I was out of the way.
I didn't know if I would get better, because I didn't know if I cared enough to try. But I knew my children were safe, and at that moment, that was enough.
Author's Note: In the throes of active alcoholism, in the end game, I was not present. Even when I wasn't drinking, I was thinking about drinking. It was a singular obsession of mind and body.
One the hardest parts about getting sober, for me, was admitting this cold hard truth: once I crossed the line into addiction nothing was more important to me than alcohol. Not my friends, not my family, not my kids. This fact is so ugly, so hard to process, so hurtful, that it is very difficult for people who love addicts to face it. The addict is powerless over alcohol or drugs, and loved ones are powerless over the addict. But they aren't powerless over themselves.
I was floundering, sick, obsessed and addicted, and the energy, time and love other people poured my direction were lost on me. I'm not sure I will ever find words to adequately describe what late stage addiction feels like. Here is what matters: I would not have gotten sober if the people in my life hadn’t drawn a hard line and stuck to it.
In the end, what got me to stop was that I was forced to go to rehab, where I finally got some clarity. I realized, sober, that I didn't want to lose my family or my friends. That was my bottom. When I finally I poked my head up out of my dark, addicted, hole and realized that nobody was left, that I was going to get sober or I was going to die alone, that was the moment I started to heal. If I had been able to find anyone – any family member or friend – who would still love me as an active addict, I wouldn’t have been able to stop.
It isn't pretty, but it is the truth.