Drugs in the Diocese: ‘I remember when I took my first drink. I was 4.’

By Kerry F.

   I remember taking my first drink. I was 4 years old. My parents hosted a party and I remember everyone had drinks and in the bottom of all those tinkling glasses were cherries. And I loved cherries when I was 4. And so I drank the drinks so that I could get to the cherries and I became quite ill, nearly died, but I was eventually OK.
   I was OK until I took another drink as I celebrated our high school swim team’s success in the state swim meet. It was 12 years after I had eaten so many bad cherries. I had a beer after the state meet and then after I had that one beer I could not remember anything. Except that I do remember that sometime after that beer, at 18 years of age, I kept wanting, and wanting, and wanting to drink. And the drink kept telling me repeatedly that it was my friend. It would make me feel good. That it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
   It was the beginning of a relationship yes. Beautiful no.
   So many people fail or refuse to understand that alcohol is a drug. Just like cocaine, just like marijuana, just like meth and heroin. It will grab you and it will not let go, and when you try to quit it you will think you have conquered it so you will tell yourself, “I am in control because I have not had a drink for a week or a month,” and then you will re-establish your relationship with drink and then the same destructive pattern will begin anew. 
   In those days when you are sober the sun will come up brighter and the days will be longer in a good way because you have a rebirth of desire to do something other than handcuff yourself to a chair and a bottle of booze.
   And when you slip, and so many of us inevitably do, the sun will be muted again and it will not matter how long the days are nor how long the sun stays in the sky. The only thing that will matter is the amount of time until you can throw another one back and numb the pain. Is the sun up? Or is it gone for the day? Who cares? Pour me another.
   I drank for years. I quit drinking because of this: I was sitting in a room staring out a window at my house and my 4-year-old daughter came into that room and called my name. “Mommy?” she said. She called out again and again. And I did not hear her. I continued only to stare out the window, the sound of the clinking of the ice cubes in my glass the only thing worth hearing. The only thing it was POSSIBLE for me to hear. Until my daughter put her hands on my cheeks and turned my head and made me look at her as she asked me, “Mama? Where … ARE … you?”
   And that was my turning point. To know that I was so wrapped up in my wet world that I would not, could not, hear the sound of my own daughter’s voice, that is what convinced me I was an alcoholic.
   But you cannot stop your drinking or your using for your 4-year-old daughter any more than you can stop your drinking or using for your 40-year-old spouse. To stop, you must do so for you. You must stop only for you.
   And so I did. I have not taken a drink since September 6th, 1984. But I am here to tell you that alcohol is just as powerful as any illegal narcotic; its pull as potent as any pill.
   Alcohol makes us lie. It makes us cheat. We steal for it and we hide it because we have to have it. It will beg us to continue thinking about it after we tell it goodbye and it will reward us with its empty promises (just as it always had before) if we welcome it back in again. Alcohol took me places I thought I would never go, never wanted to go.
   But recovery is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible and the rewards are more than the empty promises that lie in the bottom of an empty bottle. Life after alcohol is rewarding and fulfilling. It does not mean life will not have its hard times, but getting through those hard times with clear eyes and steady hands is, trust me please, so very much easier.
   Over 22.5 million persons 12 and older have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorders in America. 22.5 million! About 8 percent of all of us are addicted to drugs or alcohol. And today, there are 38 million children of alcoholics.
   We must talk to our children about drugs and alcohol. If we do not talk to them, they will not trust us. If they do not trust us they will cease to feel anything for us. And when they quit feeling, they will themselves begin to feel unneeded. And it is that vulnerability which can often start with a simple wall between parent and child and then often lead to what can be a deadly abuse and addiction.
   Consider this: there are only four ways out of the spinning and out-of-control reality of addiction: Death, incarceration, institutionalization or recovery. Only one of those outcomes is positive.
   Recovery is possible. And when we end the conspiracy of silence and the stigma associated with addiction we can better help others. Addiction and abuse is a disease. People are sick. 22.5 million people are sick. They are not bad or evil, but sick. Treatment always works even if we relapse, because our lack of knowledge about this disease is what really kills the alcoholic and the addict.
    Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-Step Recovery program is a way out. A proven program that has helped millions and millions of people who thought there was no hope. The people who seek out AA are just like you and me. Walking into an AA meeting may seem intimidating, but consider one more thing: the people at those meetings have been where you are. And they know enough to know that you are to be commended for taking that often difficult first step. But they want you there. Because the more of us clean and sober people there are in the world, the healthier we all are. And the healthier you will be too.
   Pick up the phone book, look on the Internet, ask a friend. Find out where a meeting is. Begin your road to recovery.

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