I never intended to stay, or even get, sober. But towards the end of my drinking, I had to either choose sobriety or death. It had gotten that bad. I no longer had a choice. I had to drink. I was only 25; I had my whole life ahead of me…. I was way too young to be an alcoholic. Later I learned that this disease, alcoholism, doesn’t discriminate.
I guess you could say I started drinking “later” in life. I took my first drink at 16 and although I drank alcoholically from the beginning, I didn’t drink very often until I went off to college and experienced a bit more “freedom.” You see, I also suffer from a little something called “perfectionism” and “people pleasing.” I didn’t dare break the rules while I was at home living with my parents. They would have been disappointed in me and it would have made them (and me) look bad. I couldn’t fathom upsetting my parents with my behavior. Until, of course, I started drinking daily and couldn’t stop. Until, of course, all I cared about was where the next drink was going to come from, what excuse I was going to use this time, and if I had enough liquor left for tomorrow morning when I would need a shot of vodka just to get out of bed to stumble to the bathroom. I had turned into a person I didn’t recognize.
My alcoholism took me down physically very rapidly. I was missing work for days at a time, claiming “panic attacks” and “stomach bugs.” Within two years of heavy drinking, I was lying in the ICU of the hospital, suffering from DT’s, alcohol induced seizures and jaundice. I don’t remember those four days in the hospital, and I don’t know that I really want to. My parents, however, remember those four days quite clearly. Funny how the people I was deathly afraid of hurting, were the people I ended up hurting the most. Crazy how this insanely cunning disease takes a hold of its prey and holds on for dear life. You would think that after that little parade to the hospital I would have stopped drinking right? Oh no, I’m an alcoholic remember? I drank more.
After a couple more fun little alcohol induced “episodes,” I found myself in the back of my parents’ car being driven to a treatment center for alcohol and substance abuse in the mountains of North Carolina. Although I didn’t quite see it as this at the time, it turned out to be a magnificent blessing. I spent 3 months at that treatment center and don’t regret a single minute of it. I learned about this disease that I have and why I was doing the things that I was doing. They introduced me to a 12-step recovery program and told me that the 12 Steps would change my life. The doctor there also recommended that I contact the NC Caring Dental Professionals as another form of support and accountability in my recovery. She told me that it would be very beneficial to me to have other recovering dental professionals in my network to lean on and relate to. Boy was she right.
When my time was up at that treatment center, I moved back home and dove right into my recovery and signed a contract with the North Carolina Caring Dental Professionals. I was scared and anxious and full of fear, but I was taught that if I wanted to stay sober, I better get involved immediately. I was encouraged to go to 90 meetings in 90 days and to find a sponsor right away. I didn’t understand why I needed a sponsor, so when I got the courage up, I asked. I was told that a sponsor would guide me through life, more specifically, the twelve steps. Without my sponsor I wouldn’t have known what in the world to do….do I write out the steps one by one? ; do I read them and answer them to myself out loud? Do I talk to my parents or a friend about the “answers” to the twelve steps? My sponsor answered all those questions for me. She showed me how she was taken through the steps and showed me the actions I needed to take. True to what I was told in treatment, the twelve steps have changed my life. Incorporating my NCCDP requirements into my daily recovery program has been nothing but a blessing, and a necessity. I will be perfectly honest, I wasn’t too “thrilled” when I signed the contract and saw all of the things that were being asked of me, BUT, and that’s a big “but”, the CDP has and still is (and always will be) a huge part of my recovery and I know, without a doubt, that I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Although I have done nothing “perfect” in my recovery (besides staying away from a drink), I continue to practice and try. As long as we strive to “practice these principles in all our affairs,” perfection is never expected of us. Whew, what a relief!
I have formed an incredible relationship with my Higher Power, God, in my recovery. I understand today that my sobriety is based on the maintenance of my spiritual condition. I can actually FEEL God working in my life today, and SEE Him working in the lives of those around me. Isn’t that amazing!? It’s truly amazing to me. I find tremendous comfort in knowing that my God is with me at all times, as long as I continue to seek Him and ask for help. Before I got sober, I just “used” God. I didn’t strive to do His will in my life… I mean lets be real, I doubt His “will” included drinking myself into oblivion, into DT’s and hospitalizations, into hurting myself and those around me. Today I can remain in conscious contact with my God, and keep close awareness of His will for me. Thanks God!
I have been able to make amends to those that I harmed. I have been able to mend broken relationships and make my wrongs right. I can look the world in the eye with nothing to hide. I have learned that I must surrender to my disease of alcoholism and accept spiritual help every single day. I must continue to take personal inventory, to seek God, and carry the message. I must give away the gift I have been given in order to keep it. See all of this stuff I would be missing out on if I weren’t sober! What a GIFT.
Today, I am a registered dental hygienist at the same office I have worked at for going on 7 years now. I work for an incredible doctor who is supportive of me, and my recovery and who encourages me to put my sobriety first. My co-workers are also proud of me and so happy that I have gotten my life back. I look back and can see the person I was three years ago, and she is unrecognizable. She is a girl with an incomplete soul. With so much fear and sadness. She could sit in the middle of a capacity crowd and feel completely alone. That is not the woman I am today. I know that I never have to be alone again. For a girl who couldn’t even get out of bed to get to the bathroom without having a shot of vodka, I think I’ve come a long way. This is all thanks to the NC Caring Dental Professionals and its participants for showing me tremendous discipline and respect, the 12 step program I am a part of for changing my life, great sponsorship for leading me, my God for giving me a second chance, the women in my life and the fellowship that has grown up around me. Today I am sober. Today I am, quite literally, happy joyous and free! Thank you all for helping me stay sober every single day, and showing me what the true meaning of life is. I am blessed.
Grateful Recovering Hygienist