I had very strict parents growing up, and was about as straight-edged as they come through my pre-college years. I studied hard and had great grades, was captain of the Varsity soccer team, and did not party like I knew others were. The extent of my “rebelling” was being late for curfew quite often, trying cigarettes, which I was appalled by at the time, and fighting with my parents about their, what seemed like at the time, comparable-to-prison rules.
So when I arrived as an undergraduate at Michigan State University, I went nuts. Not the cute, haha funny nuts, but full blown alcoholic. I had dabbled a bit in drinking a few times the summer before college, but the obsession had not yet kicked in. For whatever reason, as soon as I got drunk for my first time as a freshman in college, I fell in love. I had arrived. I no longer had to care about making everyone around me happy, and being a chameleon to fit in wherever I went. When I put alcohol in my body, my worries and fears and discomfort in my own skin went away, for the first time ever. It was the most amazing thing I had experienced. I had never felt so happy and free - the first few times I drank.
It soon became a daily habit, and I could not wait to get out of class so I could find someone of age to buy me booze, and to get drunk with my new best friends. I could not drink without blacking out. I started sleeping through my alarm, and my roommate, who I went in blind with and quickly became close with, had to wake me up from a drunken sleep. I obsessed about drinking, and the next party. I missed class, or would barely make it to take exams and quizzes drunk still from the night before, and I am sure, still reeking of booze. I even had to run out of class to throw up on numerous occasions from nasty hangovers.
For the first time in my life, my grades began to show that my personal life was my top priority. I did not like blacking out, but once I took that first drink, who knows where the night would go, and I could not stop once I started. I managed to get 5 MIPs before my 21st birthday. I was put in jail twice. And this was in the “lenient” days when most police officers just looked the other way, or gave you a chance to put down your drink if you looked underage. But I thought this was normal. I thought this is what college students do.
Except my partying and drinking turned into drugging too, and it did not slow down after I graduated. In fact, it picked up quickly. I have no idea how, but I managed to graduate with a somewhat decent grade point average in four years. Many of us alcoholics/addicts are like that: we can manage to be high functioning for many years, despite heavy alcohol and drug use. My drug use got worse, and with progressively worse drugs.
I got sober the first time just to prove to others that I was not an alcoholic. I did intensive outpatient and went to meetings, even though I was terrified at first to go to my first few meetings.
By the time I became convinced I was an alcoholic, I found myself doing drugs because I thought I was only an alcoholic, not a drug addict. Things quickly progressed, and I could not stop. It took a significant consequence in my life, and almost dying, to make me realize I truly did have a problem. I finally was willing to get long-term treatment and worked the steps thoroughly.
Today I am a sober student in graduate school at the University of Michigan, about to graduate with my Masters of Science degree in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology (MCDB). It is not the career path I originally set out on, but I think this is my Higher Power’s will for me. Due to my focus on drinking, drugging, and partying all through my undergrad and beyond, I did not get accepted into veterinary school nor physician assistant school as I anticipated. However, I started working in a research lab, fell in love with medical research, and will continue on this path.
It has not been easy, but I would not change a thing, since it got me to where I am today. The freedom and peace and happiness that I wake up with and have every day is priceless. And the only way I have this serenity is through working a program of recovery. It is especially difficult on days I have to drive through campus when there is a football game, and people are tailgating and drinking, playing beer pong, and getting drunk on nice sunny days. That was one of my favorite times to drink and party.
Until I remember, I always blacked out and puked everywhere, and made a fool of myself. That is fun? I don’t go when invited to bar outings with my fellow graduate school students to bar nights, but that is ok. I know my limits and temptations now, and I avoid them. It probably won’t always be like this. And the main thing is, I am truly happy and free. Something I never thought I would find, especially in the dark depths of despair and hopelessness in my addiction.
I stay connected to sober students now, including through the Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP). I was shocked to find that you CAN have fun in recovery, sober fun! And remember it the next day. CRP, among other recovery programs that I participate in, have kept me connected. I continue to make such real, deep, amazing friendships with all kinds of people. Now I don’t want to miss out on life, there is so much to do and learn and enjoy! I am forever indebted to all of those that have come into my life to make this all possible. I hope to meet many more of you as I trudge this road of happy destiny!
The photo is me in front of the White House at the rally in WA DC. I attended with CRP/Students for Recovery to raise awareness and urge the government to get more involved in recovery, to help save lives!