Living For Today: My Battle With Alcohol Abuse
Editor's note: This article first appeared in Issue 12 of Holl & Lane Magazine.
Words by Erica Musyt // Images by Chris Rubeiz
On November 11, 2013, I woke up with a horrendous headache and a terrifying feeling. I couldn’t remember much of anything from the night before. There was this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt a nudge to check the trash can and there I found three empty bottles of wine. How had I gotten to this point?
I grew up in a loving household. My parents would entertain and have friends over. I might have seen my parents intoxicated a handful of times, but nothing major. When I was little I remember being in our backyard during a barbecue and my dad let me take a sip of his beer. I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever tasted. When I was 16 years old I tried it again. I was out with some older kids one night after work. They bought me my own six pack of Smirnoff Ice and it was a joy to drink all six bottles! Later that night I helped one of the girls finish off a bottle of vodka. I experienced my first blackout and was hungover for two days. I was also grounded for two weeks.
A couple of years later I went away to college. Drinking was everywhere and it was normal to be drunk Thursday through Saturday. That was what college life was all about! Did it matter that I might have been a bit promiscuous? “I was so drunk!” was always the excuse for inappropriate behavior. “Everyone did it” was just another. There were several mornings where I would need friends to help me remember the night before, but so did everyone else. Binge drinking was the normal thing to do. It wasn’t until after college, when I moved away from home, that my binge drinking wasn’t quite so normal.
After I graduated from college, I packed up my car and moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams of being a movie star. It was tough being out there on my own. My family was on the other side of the country and I was all alone. In time I made friends and became social. I had my nights out dancing and drinking and having a good time. Nothing like in college, but I was having fun.
A NEW ROUTINE
After being in LA for a few years I started to realize that my acting career wasn’t going anywhere. I had been dropped by a talent manager and already gone through two talent agents. I was working the front desk at a Hollywood hotel wondering where my life was going. I remember walking home from the gym one day and bursting into tears. I sent my mom an email saying that I didn’t understand why she and dad were so proud of me. I was just some kid with no money and nothing to show for herself. My nightly routine had become a bottle of wine and a frozen pizza after work. Dating in Los Angeles was dreadful and I went through men like candy. They only seemed to want ‘casual’ relationships; at least with me anyways. I continuously got the excuse that being in a real relationship wouldn’t give them time to focus on their careers. I didn’t know it, but I was beginning to fall into a deep depression.
After 5 years in Los Angeles, I headed home to the east coast for a job in Washington DC. I thought being closer to my family, now only a four-hour drive away, would fix all of my problems. I had a great job in a fantastic city and got really lucky with a wonderful roommate. We had a great time living together. Our apartment became known as ‘Bar #5,’ because we were always having people over for parties.
The depression, however, was still there. I found myself in fits of tears for no reason at all. One weekend I went home to visit my parents and my mom had made an appointment for me to see our family doctor. He suggested I start taking a mild antidepressant. After being on medication for a few weeks I could feel a difference. I felt normal again. I thought all of my problems were finally fixed.
My drinking was still going strong, but I thought it was normal. At the time someone I was close with was in a relationship with an active alcoholic. I saw what he went through with her and I swore that I would never do that to anyone that I loved. It was awful to see him in so much pain, because of her poor choices. I was nothing like her. I didn’t hide wine bottles at home, I didn’t go to work drunk, and I didn’t drink at work. I was fine. I was a ‘normal’ drinker.
OUTSIDE OF NORMAL
In early 2013 I started to think that my drinking might not be as ‘normal’ as I thought. I had done a report for my boss at work and she was really pleased with me, so I decided to celebrate when I got home. I bought a six-pack of beer and told myself that I would only drink two beers. When I realized I was on the sixth one I poured the rest of it down the sink and sat down. Why couldn't I have just two beers?
A few weeks later, on March 10th, my life started to change. I had been out with a friend drinking, having a good time at a few bars. We even snuck some booze into the movie theater. On my way home I got pulled over for swerving on the interstate. The police officer had me perform a field sobriety test on the side of the road. I passed the test, but failed the breathalyzer. I blew a 0.126 BAC - the legal limit is 0.08. The officer did not arrest me or cite me with a DUI. He did write me a ticket for reckless driving, had my car towed, and called me a cab. I woke up the next morning feeling awful! I was too ashamed to call anyone to take me to my car, so I walked all the way to the tow yard. Over the next few weeks I was very ‘careful’ with my drinking.
When I went home for Easter weekend later that month, I broke down in tears and told my mother everything. I was crying uncontrollably and was so scared of what she would think of her daughter! My mom put her arms around me and comforted me. She then suggested that I find a meeting and that she would go with me. The next morning my mom went with me to my first recovery meeting. I picked up a 24 hour chip and admitted that I had a problem with alcohol and wanted to change my life. I cried through that entire meeting. I was sober for three months and twenty two days.
During the court process, my lawyer asked me to get a note from my family doctor saying that I didn’t have a problem with alcohol. The doctor asked me a few questions and after hearing my answers determined that I didn't have a problem with alcohol. Looking back on it, I may not have been completely honest with my answers. I got through court, paid a fine, and had some points added to my record for the next few years. I continued to go to meetings. I found myself sitting there judging people while thinking to myself, “I never did anything like that” or “I never went to jail.” If my doctor didn’t think I was an alcoholic and my parents didn't think I was an alcoholic, then I must not be an alcoholic after all. I just needed to be more careful!
How careful was I? Well, I pretty much went right back to where I was before in no time at all. I went back to being promiscuous, blacking out, needing a reminder the next day of what I did the night before. There was one night I drove around a police barricade. That police officer was not very happy with me. I would repeat conversations, because I was too drunk to remember already having them. If there was a happy hour, I would find it. If there wasn’t, then I would create my own at home. It was easy for me to go through two bottles of wine in one night. If I needed more, then all I had to do was walk a block to the store and pick up another bottle.
Drinking alone was what I did best. It helped cover up the deep loneliness that I felt. If I was angry or frustrated with someone in my personal life or at work, I would pour myself a glass of wine and all those feelings would go away. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions, so I drank them away instead. I could find any reason or excuse to drink. Everything was a drinkable occasion.
There is one particular night that changed my life forever. I was at home making tomato sauce and the recipe called for a ½ cup of wine. I drank the rest of the bottle and another one after that. I don’t really remember getting through dinner. My memory of that night is very blurry. I do remember that I was craving companionship. I just wanted someone to hold me. Being single among all of your married and/or coupled friends can be hard on a thirty-something girl. I sat down at my computer and created a profile on one of those free dating sites. I started chatting with someone and in no time invited him over. I don't remember his name or what he looked like. He came over to my apartment and stayed for a little while. I remember telling him that he could stay the night if he wanted to. I really just wanted to be held. He didn’t stay. Afterwards he left and I never saw or heard from him again.
I woke up the next morning knowing that I was lucky to be alive. He could have been a crazy person who rapes and murders people. Luckily for me he wasn't. I also woke up knowing that if I didn’t make a serious change right then, that I may not be so lucky next time. Next time I might not wake up. I called a friend and she agreed to meet with me that evening and then would accompany me to a meeting. That night I picked up another 24 hour chip and made the decision to change my life for good this time. In March, I was afraid of the consequences of my actions - losing my license, going to jail, etc. This time I was afraid for my life.
On November 11, 2016, I celebrated 3 years of sobriety. These past three years have been the best years of my life. I have learned how to deal with all of those emotions that I used to drink away. I have realized that so much of it was fear - fear of the past and fear for the future. I wasn’t focusing on today. I have so much in my life to be grateful for, especially my incredibly supportive family that has been by my side as I went through this. Alcoholism doesn’t just affect the drinker, it affects everyone around them. I didn't know that before. If anything had happened to me I would have been putting those people through a world of pain and forced them to confront so many questions they didn't know the answers to, because I was too selfish in my own actions.
I can’t change the past. I can only move forward. I can only be a living amends to those around me by staying sober and living the life I have been so graciously given.