I had the best year of my life when I was in grade nine, Alateen had given me some self-esteem and popularity. However, I still lived in a tension-filled, abusive home and my good sense-of-self didn’t last long. I had also been having digestive issues for years and was diagnosed with gallstones and was scheduled for major surgery that September. Prior to that though, my devolution from Alateen to alcoholic was pretty memorable.
As I had mentioned, I was a popular Alateen speaker and was invited to a big Alanon conference in Sault St. Marie so a bunch of Alanoners and I took the long trip from Northern Ontario. While the adults were out at a bar (Yes, a bar) I got bored and went for a walk along the highway and this ‘nice’ guy stopped and offered me a ride…
Well…I vaguely remember drinking in Sault St. Marie, Michigan before going back to his place. By the time I made it back to our hotel – it was in a state of emergency because they had been looking for me for hours! Once home, I met an older woman I started hanging out and drinking with regularly. We even went to a local country bar so often, I was dating the lead singer of their house band, I was 14. The night before being admitted for my surgery, I got drunk on screwdrivers.
This was 1977 and I was in the hospital for 8 days! I was also left with a huge scar across my abdomen that negatively affected my self-image more. The recovery required me to miss about 2 months of grade 10 and I was completely overwhelmed when I tried to catch up so I just gave in and started stealing pills from my mother who was still very ill after having a near death experience of her own where a huge tumour was removed from her pancreas. I skipped school more than I attended and was either drunk or stoned or both most days. I was regularly ordered to school detention or, “sin bin” as we called it, but I skipped those too! Eventually, they asked me to leave school, just weeks before my 16th birthday!
My great year was long gone and I made a deeper descent into despair, depression, and addiction. I went from the school honour roll in grade nine to trying and failing to finish grade ten 3 times. I was out of it most days on booze, pills and whatever drugs were going around. I would disappear for a few days every couple of weeks too. My poor Mother! In one foul swoop, I went from Alateen to Alcoholic and would spend the next few years submerged in a bottle.
In those years more trauma piled on; my father had physically assaulted me and I spent a month in a soft neck brace but had to lie to everyone about what happened. My sexual predator had friends who took advantage of me too and I had an abortion at 16 years old that I hid and lied about too. I had no self-esteem and knew I was a waste of space, but I wanted to matter, somewhere, to someone. Then I met my first boyfriend, he was one of 18 Nigerian exchange students that had come to study at our college, we were young and became inseparable until my anxieties and PTSD lead to hard drinking, drugs, and promiscuity. I walked away from the first man who loved me because I believed I didn’t deserve him and I was driven by self-destruction.
Now I understand that PTSD will cause self-destructive behaviour, depression, anxieties, and addiction, but back then, to me and everyone around me, I was just damaged. There was so much ‘wrong’ with me I couldn’t imagine ever mattering in this world and I became more and more paralyzed emotionally, mentally and physically. I fell into my first major depression and my childhood anxieties evolved into full-blown agoraphobia and I was completely unable to leave the house and at times my room.
My Mother’s health had improved while she continued in Alanon where she had found some serenity, healing and loving friendships. She even attended an Alanon retreat that profoundly affected her and she convinced me to go because she believed it would help me and I had nothing left to lose. I met one of the most influential women in my life there, Sister Peg. She was very down-to-earth, a self-composed, and self-confident woman who saw the path I was on and helped me to see it too.
My next post will be about the power of love and planting the first seed of hope.
Thanks for reading this and sharing in my journey. Please remember that I am no longer in those depths of despair or depression and that IS the whole point of this blog. I regret that there are many incidents of trauma, tragedy, and grief that I have to share with you but I am going to interject with some positive ones, just like the small seeds of hope that have kept me going.
Love, Lyn xo