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I’m trading in my car today. I don’t need an Acura, nor does my bank account on short-term disability. I loved that car, but at the end of the day there is so much stuff I don’t need; what I need is my health. In a sense I’m doing a deep clean of my entire life; materialistic things included.

I knew I’d be waiting at the dealership while my tires got changed over, so I thought I would bring some reading material. But instead of bringing the latest fiction-romance book I’m reading, I brought a much more relevant piece of literature; my 12 step book. As I placed it in my purse, wondering how many looks I would get in the waiting area while I read it, I thought, wow, how did I even get into this predicament? Where exactly did I loose my way and spiral so deeply into such a serious addiction? The illness is a gradual process I know, but how did I not see it coming?

I came from an alcoholic family, and as most of society knows, this piece of my heredity is nothing less than an inescapable beacon, warning that I too may suffer from the disease one day. But heredity isn’t the only factor at play. In very simple terms, according to HU, people with the alcoholism gene also need a traumatic event(s) to turn the genetic switch on. Check. Check. Double check. The old me would have stewed wondering what the exact event could have been. But I see now that there’s no need for me to search my inner soul to try to isolate which event turned the switch on…it’s futile. I will never know. And it really doesn’t matter anymore in my eyes. My energy needs to be focused on getting better.

It’s amazing how we can fool ourselves! If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t believe I had this disease until a few days after arriving at HU. I thought I merely abused alcohol from time-to-time. Rude-awakening! ANY stress or event in my life was a good enough excuse for me to drink! I had a long day – I need a glass of wine. I had a short day – I need a glass of wine. I had a busy day – I need a glass of wine. I had a slow day – I need a glass of wine. I’m cooking – I need a glass of wine. I’m doing laundry – I need a glass of wine. I’m eating, breathing, tired, sad, happy, celebrating – I need a glass of wine. It’s winter, spring, summer, fall, the harvest moon- I need a glass of wine!  And let’s be honest, my glass of wine always had an endless bottom. More realistically I should have wrote – I need a bottle of wine.

My drinking didn’t start to get out of control until maybe 5ish years ago. Relationship break-ups, school, kids, financial stress post break-ups, and life in general increased my cravings, and I loved how alcohol numbed my pain. When I was in school, bottles were replaced with boxes of wine. I couldn’t fall asleep without being drunk, and I thought that was totally fine. At school we would all joke around about how much we drank because of the stress. But what I didn’t joke around about was that the amount I drank each night left me hung-over on a regular basis…really hungover. My one friend would call or text me almost every morning to make sure I was awake, and I dreaded being asked questions until the afternoon because my head would be pounding and foggy. Looking back now, I’m not sure how I wrote my tests sometimes, let alone made the Dean’s List.

More time went by and my drinking got heavier. What use to ‘do the trick’ before wasn’t cutting it anymore. I went to the LCBO every day. And had some scary black out moments; one being when Ian found me passed out in the hot tub with the water over my mouth. But still I thought I wasn’t out of control. I would tell myself,  “Lot’s of my friends party and drink”, “We all have such stressful jobs, and see horrible things. I drink a lot because of that.” But waking up with the shakes on a regular basis that could only be relieved by time or another drink started to scare me. As time went on, I could no longer convince my family that I was just drinking at night. I was the manipulation queen when it came to convincing them that my drinks with lunch or second bottle of wine was totally fine because, “I had a big meal”, or “I had been drinking all day so it’s metabolized”. Right Natalie…lies. But when I was saying these things, even MY brain believed them. The voice of this disease is a powerful thing!

Finally I got tired of convincing my family that my drinking was under control so I hid bottles of wine in the laundry and would chug from the bottle any time I was alone in the kitchen. I filled white wine bottles with water to make it look like I hadn’t had too much, and returned empties as often as I could. At one point I had an orange liquor bottle hidden under the sink incase I needed more before I went to bed. My day revolved around my cravings. Sometimes I would even lie to my kids saying that Cub’s or swimming was canceled. How could I have done that? And I made Caroline find her way around the city on her own all the time because I’d rather be home popping the cork on a wonderful bottle of Cab Franc. And when I DID bring them places (out of horrible guilt) getting home was all my mind was fixated on. I never truly allowed myself to enjoy where I was if I was sober, and if there was an opportunity to have a glass I would. My mind would race, “I’m almost home! I’m almost home!” a thousand times in the car, and curse every yellow light and slow driver; I couldn’t wait to have that sip! And when I was in the throws of theses thoughts, I was the queen of irritability. I feel so much remorse for that. When I eventually got home and poured a glass of wine, smelled it, and took that first beautiful gulp, all the world was good again. I was happy, cheerful and physically feeling better. What kind of life had I created?

My life was completely out of control with alcohol. And HU has shown me how serious my disease had gotten. I started craving more than alcohol. I was super sick and made it to HU just in time. I still have a long road a head of me, but I have  the first of the 12-steps completed with flying colours. Step 1: “We have admitted we are powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Check. Check. Double check! 

I’m sorry to anyone I have ever hurt due to my drinking; I know there are many. When the time is right I will be making official amends. I love you all. Thank you for still loving me.

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