By: Marilyn L. Davis
The Greeks believed in the healing powers of amethyst, or amethystos, signifying, sober, not drunk.
On this 33rd anniversary of sweating out alcohol, withdrawal from benzos, and crying softly in my detox bed, I’ll wear an amethyst-colored T-shirt and remember why I appreciate ‘not drunk.’
Scared of the Truth
I’ve written about the five caring individuals who staged an intervention on me on September 30, 1988. Each participant was holding a 3×5 card. As a psychology major, I knew what they were preparing to do – tell me in minute detail why my drinking and pill use were no longer acceptable.
I could not endure the humiliation of hearing the truth, so I caved and asked them, “What do you want me to do?”
There stood five highly successful people, the college president, deans, and coworkers, glancing back and forth, waiting for someone to respond to my question.
Finally, the president said, “You have to go to treatment, or you don’t have a job.”
Then they all rushed towards me, and each tried to hug me. All of them talking at once, saying, “We believe in you,” “We know you can do this,” “Is there anything you need?”
All I could muster was, “No, I’ll pack my bag.”
Off to See the Wizard
I felt overwhelmed with what they needed me to do and cared about by these people that I’d used, manipulated, and lied to for years. Walking back to my apartment, I knew I had to go to treatment, but I didn’t think the facility could hold me for more than 72 hours.
I packed just the basics: underwear, jeans, sweater, socks, and toiletries – and my three bottles of Xanax. By now, I was using five different doctors and pharmacies scattered around town so I wouldn’t run out. And I certainly didn’t intend to run out of Xanax in detox. Little did I know.
I Can’t Clean Out All the Incriminating Stuff
I usually cleaned out the empty Bailey’s Irish Crème bottles on Friday nights when the girls in the dorm were heading out for the weekend. I’d started drinking this in coffee cups in classes, meetings, and talking with students, believing it was the right color and would fool people. It didn’t.
But I had to be at the treatment facility by 8 PM to comply, so I stuffed as many bottles as I could in a black trash bag, grabbed my duffle, and wrote a note for the students.
The only blank paper on my desk was a piece of, ironically, purple construction paper. Since this was a Friday, I wrote, “Ms. Davis will be gone for the weekend,” taped it to my door in the dorm, and headed to my parent’s house.
They Never Saw the Damage
My parents, like many, were oblivious to my use. I didn’t see them much, relying on the phone to stay in touch, but that day, my dad said, “You look tired and upset.”
Tired and upset didn’t begin to describe my feelings. I was scared, embarrassed, and resentful. All those feelings had to be numbed with more Xanax before I headed to Atlanta for treatment.
My dad asked me if it was true that I had an alcohol and drug problem, and of course, I lied. That lie would prompt my dad to get his attorney to threaten the college with a lawsuit. Unfortunately, his attorney was on the Board of Directors at the college and ended up calling me in treatment, saying, “If you don’t have a problem, I’ll pursue the suit, but if you do, you need to get honest with your dad.” I told him that it was true and I would tell my dad the truth.
Oh Crap, The Bottles
Halfway to Atlanta, I realized that keeping the bottles in the trunk of my car was probably not a great idea. I was sure the facility would search my vehicle, so about 5 miles from Charter Peachford Hospital, I started looking for a commercial dumpster behind a restaurant. Finally found one and got rid of the bottles. Whew. Intake was what you’d expect.
How much do you use?
Do you ever drink during the day?
Do you ever have withdrawal if you run out?
Do you think you have a substance abuse problem?
Evidence of My Lies
Getting checked in meant that staff searched my duffle. My detox doctor was in the room, and when they wanted to confiscate my textbooks, I explained that I had tests the following week and needed them. He took them and placed them on the counter. Next, they pulled out my Daytimer. He laughed as he looked through it and said, “You seem to have a lot of plans; perhaps you should add treatment.” I didn’t see the humor.
When he got to my three bottles of Xanax, he asked why so many if you don’t have a problem. I explained that I had nerves and didn’t want to run out. He explained that nerves weren’t a medical condition and were more of an indication of addiction.
As calmly as I could, but with a haughty look, I said, “I would expect you to say something like that since your livelihood depends on labeling people as addicts. I am not one.”
Much to his credit, he didn’t kick me out right then.
Withdrawal and Willingness
After 48 hours of lying, I finally confessed to how much I was using and was given phenobarbital. While I dutifully took it, the nurse said, “Since you’re awake and haven’t slept, you might want to start reading The Big Book that the doctor left for you.”
Reading has always been another of my escapes. I could be transported to a more pleasant place or get involved in an intriguing story. But a book written for, about, and by alcoholics?
I wasn’t sure what effect the pill was supposed to have, but I was still wide awake and hurting twenty minutes later, so I grabbed the book. What jumped out at me was the following passage from Alcoholics Anonymous:
“We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and
body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing
that no further authentication will be necessary. We think this account of our experiences will help every one to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not
comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.”
I immediately felt relief, and I knew it wasn’t from the pill but the profound belief that this book would change my life.
The Big Book, The Basic Text, Sponsors, HP, and Steps
“Recovery is an acceptance that your life is in shambles and you have to change.”– Jamie Lee Curtis
There is no way that I could celebrate 33 years with acknowledging The Big Book as the beginning of my healing. In treatment, I was introduced to AA, CA, and NA fellowships.
In each of these meetings, getting a sponsor, finding a Higher Power, and taking Steps was the usual message, and I listened.
Let Me Encourage You Today
While I’m celebrating, I also want you to know that recovery is possible. I would encourage you to put the same time, energy, and effort into your recovery as you did into getting and using and seeing the results you get. Talk to someone today and see if they can sponsor you. Find a Higher Power. Take the Steps. You won’t regret any of those actions, I promise.
Writing and recovery heal the heart
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.
Your Turn to Help Someone
Every one of us in recovery has a story.
All of us know the dangers, losses, and mistakes we made in our addiction. We also know the benefits we get when we finally give up the substances and find recovery.
But how we talk about these issues is individual. Your words will touch someone in ways that mine can’t. That’s why it’s important to have as many styles, tones, and voices letting people know that recovery works and is possible.
I’d like you to consider writing a guest post to share your experience, strength, and hope with someone who’s struggling in their addiction or recovery.