My name is Cherie Smith, and I am an alcoholic. My sobriety date is 10/28/2007. I have a sponsor today, I am a sponsor today, I have a home group, I have commitments in that home group, and I actively work the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous on a daily basis.
My journey started as a young child. I never felt I belonged, I always felt strange, like something was fundamentally wrong with me, that I was odd and I just assumed that that was going to be the way my life would always be, that I would always feel like the hole in the donut.
At the age of 15 I was committed to a mental institution. My diagnosis, even to the doctors was a mystery. I was depressed, but no one was able to understand or tell me why. I felt self-conscious and tried to spend more and more time in the isolation unit at the sanitarium because I felt safer there. I didn’t have to try so hard with other people. When I was around the other “inmates” I faked how I felt, who I was, until I was able to tell from the expressions on their faces that they liked me. I was lying, I was acting as if. I came out of that experience, having learned that it was not safe to be who I was, a feeling I had had before, but now firmly knew. I did not trust people, people did not know me, if I opened up and was vulnerable, I was hurt. Therefore, I would not open up.
I was raised in a very religious family, and I remember being very angry at the concept of god from a very young age. The whole idea of what I was hearing and seeing in “religious” people & institutions did not coincide with what I thought god should be. My previous experience in life had taught me that there was no loving god who was willing to save me from myself, no kind god, or understanding god, but a judgmental god, one who allowed bad things to happen to good people, and I could never understand why.
I had my first drink at 17 years of age; I did not cross that invisible line that you will hear some people speak of immediately. My progression with alcohol, at first, was slow. I remember definitely feeling like once I drank I was able to feel funny, pretty, like I belonged, and comfortably numb, but I didn’t feel immediately like I couldn’t live without it. In college, I recreationally drank, and recreationally used drugs, and I didn’t see a problem with it. I was having fun, and I wasn’t hurting anyone. Yet. I bounced from college to college, relationship to relationship, marriage to marriage, job to job, and still the feeling of not belonging plagued me. When I was sober, life was more painful. I wanted to be numb.
At the age of 21 I was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve condition. I underwent a variety of very painful experimental treatments, months of agony and debilitating pain. Once more I was ashamed of whom I was, and all of the old feelings of never going to fit in or be normal were exacerbated with a vengeance. This led me down the path of prescription drug abuse. I didn’t want to feel anything, I didn’t want to think, I wanted to numb life away and just coast in a hazy fog of no pain and no feeling. That lasted for several months, and somehow, I decided I was going to stop these drugs on my own, I would prove to myself I could. And I did. For then.
Life continued on, there was definitely still the addict/alcoholic awake inside of me but I seemed to be able to ignore it for time if I switched relationships, switched jobs, switched hair color, moved, etc. etc. etc.
Somehow I managed to end up in a relationship for a consistent three years. We were married, and I got pregnant. I was healthy, didn’t have a drink or do a single drug my entire pregnancy. I had a normal if not somewhat difficult birth. I ended up staying in the hospital with my new born son for nearly a week. I remember the nurses looking at me and saying “you have the blues”. I went home with a prescription for pain medication, and I absolutely hit my knees. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I felt like the walls were closing in on me and there was nothing I could do about it. So I took my pain pills and I drank, being careful to not nurse my baby afterward, but I was absolutely miserable. To save you some of the gory details, about 3 years later, I ended up without a job, without a relationship, hiding everything I could about myself from everyone I knew, hiding the track mark bruises I had on my arms and the bottles I was drinking myself literally to death with. There were seizures and suicide attempts, institutions and hospitals, all the while I couldn’t stop, I was descending into a hell of my own making, I COULD NOT STOP.
Somehow, by the grace of my higher power, which today I choose to call god, I stumbled into the rooms of alcoholics anonymous. My path began with alcohol, and at the end, alcohol was all I had left. In these rooms I heard a solution for my maladjusted thinking, my allergy to alcohol, and hope. I heard HOPE loud and clear. At first I didn’t believe it, but I wanted to so badly that I borrowed on the hope I saw in others eyes, and I put one foot in front of the other and I took one second at a time, and I believed in that borrowed hope.
I can proudly say that the program and the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and a relationship with a higher power have changed my life. I love my life today, with all of its flaws, and all of its challenges, the “life on life’s terms moments” like death divorce, or just my own crazy head. I have a spirituality that comforts me and a foundation of amazing people to lean on.
My father, a beautiful soul, the one person who never turned his back on me, never gave up on me, was a writer. We used to share our thoughts our feelings, and I would write him poems. The last 30 days of his life, I was able to write him a poem every day. And when he died, I was at his bedside telling him I love him, singing him to sleep. The greatest give I have in the world this day, for right now, is knowing that my father passed out of this world toward his journey into the next knowing that I was sober. I am sober, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Now, with you here, I will look at your face and treasure it
In time, your visage will accompany me in those moments when I feel alone
I may close my eyes and envision the words you have spoken to me in quieter times
I will take them with me and derive strength in their truth
I may forget, from time to time
The remarkable strength I have shown
I may pass over the will it has taken to breathe and exist
I will remember it again…
Your voice, its timbre, fluid and soft will remind me
I will take comfort in its knowing gaze and solace in its timid nod
I am a quiet soul
I am complete
I am free, I am a part of, and I am just me, all that I am
I am grateful.
10/28/2007-by the grace of god one day at a time