Contributor Emily Ash discusses her the events that led her to her bottom, what happened, and how she escaped the pain and suffering of addiction. This piece contains language that may be triggering to some. There are frank and open descriptions of addiction to drugs and alcohol, and reference to physical and sexual abuse and assault. Please read with care.
Not too long ago I was attending my last semester of my Bachelors degree program and living halfway across the country. Not too long ago I was very intoxicated, very hopeless and very isolated. Picture yourself coming home to an apartment in the ghetto every day. You live with an addicted significant other. Your apartment is covered in bed bugs and crawling with roaches. Your downstairs neighbor is threatening to call management and have you evicted. You have a negative balance on your debit card and only change in your pocket. You’re being abused sexually, verbally, and physically on a daily basis. So you drink, you drink to oblivion. That was my life.
I remember waking up every morning with a hangover, praying to a god I didn’t believe in to take me away. I often woke up in the middle of the night trembling, and would go to the bathroom, drink and debate commiting suicide. I felt trapped, I had pushed everyone I knew away from me and my family was living 3,000 miles away. I was living on a remote island of a life. Until a week after my college graduation when my family invited me home for a family reunion. I had no intention of getting sober. Once I had perspective on my life, what I had really accomplished in 4 years and where I would go next. I suddenly realized the only real decision I had to make was life or death. I could go back to abuse, addiction, and lose my apartment, with plans to bum around SoCal (the grand idea my boyfriend had dreamed up) or I could get sober. A choice I was seeing for the first time in my life. So why did I decide the latter?
I could see that my family was clearly a part of my choice
I wasn’t only choosing sobriety, I was choosing my family and lucky for me, I have a pretty good one. Being at my family reunion showed me glaringly the difference between my bleak and toxic relationship with my boyfriend and what true companionship and love looks like. I was reminded that my family cared for me and wanted what was best. It’s hard to prioritize other relationships above your own family, and therefore I could prioritize myself.
I could clearly see 2 pathways
My plans for after college involved ditching my apartment with my boyfriend and touring California in my van. Yup, that was the “plan”. More like drugging and drinking in the streets while we wandered aimlessly from town to town, looking for the next hookup. I could see that pathway led to the endless cycle of drug addiction, out in the streets, with no job, no money and nowhere to go. I could also see myself getting clean. I’d always wanted a “normal” life with a comfortable house on a nice quiet street. At the time though, that thought terrified me almost as much as a life lived on the street drinking and doing drugs. I wasn’t sure where it would lead, but I knew that sobriety would lead me to at least being clean, clothed, and fed - a luxury I hadn’t fully enjoyed in years.
My van was stolen and it was the best thing that ever happened to me
And I drank before the cops even showed up. The van from my grand “plan” for California. Yup. That van was gone. I’m not big on signs, but I started to connect the dots. It sounds like a horrible accident but I couldn’t help but feel partly responsible. The night before I had been drinking and hadn’t managed to lock the doors. When it was gone in the morning, I spent an hour retracing my black out to try and remember something. When I finally came to terms with it being gone, I drank over it. Before the cop even showed up to write his report I had downed a ½ bottle of tequila. When he began interviewing me, my credibility went out the window.
I needed to save myself from abuse
I believe most people are in toxic, if not abusive relationships when they are active in alcohol and drug addictions. I was in one for sure. I had tried to throw him out on several occasions. I had broken up with him more than I could count and he kept persisting. I kept allowing it because I had become as dependent on him as I was the alcohol. I needed to depend on trustworthy people, and at that time in my life, the only healthy, trustworthy people I knew were my parents.
I didn’t want to kill myself, but didn’t want to live
My options had become few and my world had become small. As well as abuse, I think addicts also have a tendency to suffer from mental illness. I have struggled with anxiety and bipolar depression my whole life. By the end of my drinking, I really had no will to live anymore. I felt trapped in the endless cycle of drinking, I truly felt like I would try my best to get out of this and if it didn’t work, I would at least know I tried.
For all of these reasons, I got sober. I found out that most of my problems had really stemmed from my drinking. My life became immediately and wildly improved. My family helped me back to my feet. I ended the cycle of abuse and the cycle of addiction in one swoop. My pathway became the right decision, and looking back the only decision.
-- Emily Ash for Avenues New York, 2018
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction or Alcoholism reach out to your health care provider or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). If you are experiencing withdrawal from drugs or alcohol call 911. You don’t have to do it alone.
For more information about helpful recovery services like at-home detox, recovery coaching, sober companionship, interventions, and more, contact Life Assurance Recovery. We’ve got your back.