Friday, April 20, 2012

The Secrets Behind Substance Abuse

There will come a day when water will be the only beverage in my wine glass :-)

On February 11, 2012, the world lost a song bird and an icon that changed the world with her voice. Whitney Houston, was pronounced dead at her Beverly Hills hotel suite. The circumstances surrounding her death seemed to lie within the pages of a toxicology report. I finally got the opportunity to sit down and read the entire report last weekend. I found it quite disturbing and it was honestly a little uncomfortable to read. The coroner that examined the scene was able to provide a very illustrated account of what he saw in the suite on the afternoon of her death. As a reader, I felt almost as if I was prying into this woman's private affairs. A total invasion of the secrets that she would have never shared with the world. What caught my eye the most was the amount of "unknown" substances listed on the report such as, the crystal and powdery substances discovered. There was also open alcohol and a ton of cigarette butts. As I continued reading I began thinking, "Oh my, what things we do in private as individuals living with free will." Whitney Houston was undoubtedly a substance abuser. There was no question about that. Whether her mother and father wanted more for their child, whether her daughter wanted more for her mother, this woman was a substance abuser. As I delved further into the report, I delved further into my own issues with alcohol abuse. It's such a close topic to home that it dawned on me immediately that I haven't spoken of it much here. I've struggled with alcohol abuse for a little over 20 years now and I'm thankful that with each day that comes to pass I move a little closer to recovery. My Grandmother, a woman that adored while she was still in this world was a recovering alcoholic. My Mother was in the closet with her alcoholism. Hiding alcohol under the kitchen sink or in the freezer it was very strange. Occasionally, she would binge drink at a party and come home loud with her make-up running down her face. Alcoholism isn't only hereditary, it is also learned behavior and it passes easily through the generations. I am an alcoholic.
I need you to erase any stereotypes or hang-ups you have about what an alcoholic looks like. I do not drink alcohol on a daily basis (although if I let my cravings supersede my logic I would). I have never taken a drink of alcohol while I was pregnant with any of my children. I am an alcoholic. I am not a fool. Now if you're wondering what makes me classify myself as, "An alcoholic", let me begin to offer my explanation. The DSM-IV substance dependency code for my illness is 303.90. Addictions is defined in the dictionary as, "The continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences". Some consequences were more adverse than others trust me. There is something very comforting about drinking alcohol. My drink of choice at the moment is white wine, Pinot Grigio is my favorite. I lose myself in my drink. I can release all the tension going on in my life right there in my first glass. Anyone that suffers from an addiction like mine will experience symptoms of withdrawal anytime the substance is reduced or discontinued from the body. My most obvious symptoms when I try to discontinue or decrease my alcohol intake are noticeable anxiety and irritability. From time to time I suffer from headaches and nausea as well. Pretty deep stuff huh? I am not in control when it comes to alcohol not in any situation. I can exclude myself confidently from the population of social drinkers even though there are times that I willingly curb my drinking. My alcohol consumption exceeds that of a social drinker by far and in one sitting I can easily down anywhere from 5-7 glasses of wine, beer, or even mixed cocktails. My consumption exceeds a social drinker's because I have no limitations. At this level it's easy to slip further and further into self-embarrassment. Talking loudly, laughing harder and dancing idiotically are all things that come with easy for me when I am drinking alcohol. When I'm "On one", as I like to call it there is an on-going battle between my unconscious and my conscious. Each one fighting to gain control over the other. Irresponsibility, is easy in this state and as embarrassed as I am to say it I have gotten behind the wheel of my car on numerous occasions. Each time I swear it will never happen again. I am a responsible sober person. I am by no means a responsible drinker.
These are the things that make me an alcoholic. My ego would much rather me tell you that I drink occasionally or every once in a blue but that would be a lie. My ego has a difficult time understanding with all of my intelligence, how I could be so stupid. The one thing in life that I have failed at miserably is not having control of my drinking. I didn't realize until I read Whitney's coroner's report how badly my addiction consumes me. Although I don't drink everyday, the addiction is still a part of my everyday life. Everyday that I don't have a drink is a battle overcome for me. While Whitney Houston's death rocked the world people were posting the comments and condolences on all of the social networks. (*smiling*) God is always right on time folks. The Heavenly Father will never forsake you. Never doubt that he will catch you right before you're about to fall. One of my fellow blogger's Madame Noire shared a link to a video on YouTube, posted by Talk Show Host Wendy Williams. The video was 7-8 minutes in duration and I happened to be watching it around 6am. I watched the video with my mouth open about 3 times before it really sunk in. It was so heartfelt and Wendy's grief was so visible that you could feel her sadness for the loss of Whitney. Wendy identified herself as a "crackhead" in the video and she shared a time when she was "hitting a crackpipe". She explained that this was something that her and Whitney had in common although they were never friends in this lifetime. Wendy said that she wanted to see Whitney overcome her addiction in this lifetime. She also hoped that one day her and Whitney would have shared a stage to help others suffering from the addition. She felt as if in the end their common addition would actually bring them closer together and mend the interview gone sour between the two years prior in 2003.
The video closed with Wendy challenging her viewers to confront anyone they knew personally struggling with any type of substance and/or alcohol abuse. She said, "The best thing you can do for that person is call 'em out". Then she said, "Keep calling 'em out", because with any type of addiction it's much more difficult to keep it a secret once you've been called out on it. There was an impact that hit me with the intensity of how she made the statement. I could recognize alcoholism in others yet not in myself. Here's where God comes in. I was called out by one of my family members on my alcohol abuse a few days after Whitney Houston's death was announced. At the time of her death my own personal issues with alcohol never dawned on me. I was sad when Whitney died because I was a fan. Not because I thought to myself, "If I keep drinking I can die". I was sad for her daughter and her mother and the people that were closest to her in her life. I watched her funeral services on television and it was soaked in prayer and spirituality. Pastor Winans took me to church and I never even had to leave my living room. What I immediately realized was how disconnected I was from God. I was dealing with a ton of personal issues at the time and I had never really taken the time out to speak with God and to say, "I Trust you Father God". I just worried myself sick with how I would make a way to get my family out of the rut that we were in. The funeral brought me peace. There is something about the journey home that brings me peace. Living on Earth is difficult and when someone goes home there is a feeling of them being set free. This was how I felt watching the services. I was thirsty for God and I needed to make and immediate reconnection. That following Wednesday I was on my knees praying for forgiveness. The Ash Wednesday Service was to signify the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. I decided to give up alcohol in recognition of what my family member was right about all along. I was no longer prepared to make excuses for my drinking and it was time to stop.
Before Lent I was very standoffish with my family member. I remember at one point I even said, "Do I look like an alcoholic to you?" My defensive demeanor was the sad reality to me that I did have a problem. You can lie to others but you can never lie to yourself. There is a tremendous vulnerability to addiction in adolescence. I started drinking in the 6th grade. I was 12 years-old. When I pinpointed the age that my alcohol abuse began I realized that I was definitely in some real danger. By becoming addicted to alcohol so early on I am the type of alcoholic that uses alcohol as a coping mechanism for almost everything. For example, the death of a loved one, a really bad day at work, bills that I'm unable to pay and then binge drinking at social events in an attempt to let it all go. Young, intelligent, pretty, and addicted to alcohol...ouch! This definitely wasn't on my "What do you want to be when you grow-up", list in kindergarten. By the time that I was 15 years-old my alcohol intake was more than any responsible adult would drink. Who teaches a child how to cope with the stressors of life? In the absence of family members some children turn to substances and I was one of those children. My Grandmother (the only mother I've ever known) played a major role in my upbringing. Mostly by showing me her heart and caring for me unconditionally. She believed in the importance of my education and she contributed heavily to my tuition expenses. I was an extension of her heart. In that sense, I was her child. Coping with her death at the age of 14 was virtually impossible for me. I used alcohol to lean on. As alcohol seemed to always bring me comfort, it also took me to a place where I could lose myself. Dropping out of high school was inevitable for me with my addiction. My alcohol abuse led me to resort to emotion-motivated reasoning which was the major cause in many of the bad choices I made as a teenager. I missed a lot of life but in time I will recover.
I opened my Bible the other morning to, John 15 and I continued reading through John 17. The reading penetrated my spirit and I recommend that you read the entire verse. Here is the verse I'll leave you with. John 16:33: "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows". "But take heart, because I have overcome the world." We owe it to the Lord to go out and produce lasting fruit. To connect with the world we live in and to make it a better place with our contribution . You can overcome any adversity the world puts on your back through the Source.
***Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to finding a solution. Alcohol is poisonous in more ways than just over-consumption. It destroys families and it ruins friendships when it is abused. I hope this post makes it to the one that God intended for it to reach. I Love you all.
God Bless You All & thank you for allowing me to always set myself free here on these pages.

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