"Hi, my name is Jayn, and I am an alcoholic/addict" are words that I never thought I would ever hear; much less have come out of my own mouth. They must have been meant for the person behind me. Yet they have come out of my mouth over and over again in the past four years. Truth be told I have been an addict since birth and didn't know it. Being an undiagnosed bipolar has all kinds of attendant problems—addictions of all kinds being among them.
I started drinking alcohol when I was in elementary school with friends on weekends. I liked the taste and the warm glow that I felt and couldn't wait for another weekend to come around so I could do it again. As I got older, I began to sneak alcohol from my father's cabinet. By the time I was 16 I could drink almost anyone under the table, and I was the life of all the parties.
Slowly my circle of friends narrowed to only those who drank and did drugs. I was introduced to amphetamines in my junior year of high school, and I took to them like a fish to water. Several of my drinking friends were rich kids who stole diet pills from their parents' medicine cabinets and passed them around at parties, and I was hooked from my first pill. The quest was on to keep an ever-flowing source of pills coming in (to get the alcohol was no problem).
I married young, had a family and was too preoccupied with husband and children to think about my selfish wants and needs of alcohol and drugs. It wasn't until after my divorce that I began to self-medicate to ease the pain of a broken and fractured family. It was easier to do that than to face life head-on and get on with it. My parents who lived in denial, enabled me to continue to live in my alcoholic/drug-filled lifestyle; they would babysit my children while I was out in pursuit of life, liberty, alcohol and drugs.
The 1970's were a blur, and the early '80s saw me starting to get my life together, and by the mid '80s God's Church had found me. I was baptized in 1986 and the need for alcohol and drugs had left me, or so I thought. Don't get me wrong, there were times in my life when the need for alcohol and drugs were totally absent. I would go for many months or even several years without drinking or doing drugs, and then suddenly one day the urges would return as suddenly as they had gone. Little did I know that this was the bipolar part of me. Had I known that this was the problem would I have done something about it? I doubt it. I felt as though God had not truly dealt with me yet.
Almost 20 years saw me alcohol and drug free. Since I missed out on college I decided to return as a full-time student when I was 53 years old in 1999. By that time I had a lot of life experience behind me and was able to maintain a 4.0 grade average, and was sought out by lesser grade average students to do their homework or papers. It started innocently enough, a few dollars here and a few dollars there, until one day a student offered me some methamphetamine, and another a bottle of scotch, and I was off and running, again.
I had seen the breakup of my Church in the mid 80's, and the break up of the splinter groups into the 90's, but even that was not enough to set off my drinking and drugging. Yet something as worldly as college did. I guess it was an effort on my part to fit in. I even took up smoking so I could be part of the crowd. I was still attending Sabbath services, so I had to learn ways to hide all my addictions from the brethren, which I became very adept at. Looking back, it seems to me that God was setting me up for my fall from grace, which was yet to come.
Slowly I began to put my spiritual life on the back burner and to withdraw from the Church and the brethren, thinking I could deal with my life and its attendant problems on my own. Over time, God was the furthest thing from my mind, and He let me know what He thought about that. Only I was still too blind to see it. I felt as though God was slapping me upside the head with a two by four and literally bringing me to my knees before I finally got it.
It started with the alienation of my immediate family, which I love more than my own life, especially my grandsons. Then came the loss of income and eventually I ended up homeless. But this was still not enough in God's eyes. I had yet more to go through and to learn. Even this much did not stop my drinking and drugging because I self-medicated to ease my problems instead of doing anything about them. Being forced to live in shelters and on the streets put me closer to what I thought I needed. What it finally took was me being so drunk, suicidal and full of enough drugs to get 10 men and a boy high to bring me down, not to mention the loss of everything I owned in the world.
God knew that I needed the help that He was going to provide, so it was up to me to accept it or not; and believe me, half dead and scared witless, I was in no condition to fight it. So He opened the floodgate of blessings. First I was sent to a psychiatric crisis house where I was diagnosed as being bipolar, put on medication and could detoxify from the alcohol and drugs. The crisis house also helped me to apply to a rehabilitation house for women and to an outpatient psychiatric center for therapy and medication.
A mandatory part of the rehabilitation program was that I attend three Alcoholic Anonymous meetings a week, plus the house meeting. Or one Narcotics Anonymous meeting and two Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, plus the house meeting, and I had to have a sponsor within the first month of being there. All of which I complied with. I did so well there that I was elected to the house peer council, a group of women who oversee how the house is run. The Crossroads Program is two and a half years long, and I managed seven months. I wanted to stay the whole term, but my daughter had cancer and needed me to come home and take care of my grandsons. I believe that this was also God's doing that my daughter trusted me enough to do that.
While staying with my daughter this last time, I rejoined the Church, this time with United. The church I was with before United would not accept me back because I was too great a sinner. The United congregation in San Diego has accepted me warts and all and could care less about my past, and accepts my entire positive input. I am greatly blessed to be in the United Church of God. I also applied for Social Security Disability, which finally came through in November of 2005, and I moved into my own apartment in August of 2006. My financial situation at the time was very tenuous, but again God opened the blessing floodgate and I am making it. I still go to twice weekly meetings, take my medication on a daily basis and talk with my sponsor as often as necessary, work my steps over and over and pray on a daily basis that I never find myself in that position ever again. It takes some of us longer than others to finally get it, and I now get it and do not plan to forget it or let it go.
Now when I hear the words "Hi, my name is Jayn, I am an alcoholic/addict," I know that it is me I am talking about and that I can truly be proud of the fact that I am in the company of other people who are in the various stages of recovery. Although many of them are worldly, we all have one factor in common: we rely on the God of our understanding for our strength to overcome; and as long as I rely on God, my sponsor and keep working my program, I will stay clean and sober.
This article appears in the following topics: Substance Abuse