Trigger warning: Alcoholism
I contemplated putting this down on paper for a long time, because I knew there could be repercussions. Would I embarrass my family? Would I risk people looking at me differently? Maybe. Probably. Would I jeopardize my job? It was a possibility.
But I decided it was more important to share my story in the hopes it might help someone else. Well, here goes nothing. I am one year sober today. Yes, you read that correctly. Rebecca Pace, class president, class clown, the girl who is always laughing and happy—that girl. That is very weird for me to type, because when I read it, it immediately makes me sound like an alcoholic. Which by definition, I am. By definition alone, I think many of us are. It’s the excessive consumption of alcohol. I think a lot of us can relate to that on some level. It’s most people’s Saturday nights. Every activity with friends and family revolves around food and drinks. Celebrations, holidays, dates, sitting at the beach, catching up with people you love—most times, we’re drinking. Sometimes a whole lot. And if we’re NOT drinking, people look at you weird.
“You’re not drinking? Are you pregnant?”
So because it is so present in our lives and just naturally associated with social activities, I really didn’t think there was anything wrong with what I was doing.
That changed last year. Alcohol 100% had a hold on me. I know that now. I see that now. When I am really honest, I can admit that there has been an issue with alcohol for a long time. Even as a teen, it made me feel powerful and calmed my social anxieties, so I liked it. I liked being drunk. And I carried that feeling with me as I grew up.
Fast forward to adulthood—alcohol negatively affected my relationships, especially with my family. I didn’t know it at the time because I was living in such a state of denial. Everyone drinks—I just assumed I was using alcohol the same way everyone else was and in the same quantity. My family never once told me that I had a problem or needed help, but looking back, my drinking would change my personality and made me incredibly nasty and irritated, and at times I would hallucinate. No, I am not kidding. I don’t think I’ve even admitted that part before now. THAT is how much alcohol I would consume—I would imagine people or experience things that weren’t really there or happening. It was only after I stopped drinking that my family opened up to me about how my drinking impacted them. I worried them, I hurt them, I even scared them sometimes. Which of course was hard to hear, but necessary. Drinking got in the way of me getting out of bed to be somewhere on time. It made me sick. Often. I endangered my own life and the lives of others multiple times by getting behind the wheel of my car while intoxicated. Like, if you’re going to be a drunk clown, call an Uber. The absolute biggest regret of my life, hands down.
If I am really honest with myself, I cannot remember a time where I had just one drink and stopped. To me, there was no point in that. I drank to get drunk. Wasn’t that the whole point? A lot of the times, I would pour a drink for all the wrong reasons and oftentimes while I was alone. If I was stressed, happy, sad, or even bored, it was my go-to. It was my hobby, my roommate, the thing that I came home to every day and could rely on. My excessive drinking started making me physically ill multiple days a week, it was putting me in dangerous and embarrassing situations, but I was still ignoring it. One night, I even drunkenly fell in a friends yard and broke multiple bones, causing me to be laid up on the couch for weeks, and I was STILL drinking. It was the night I became a godmother to my niece, having spent the whole celebration at the bar tossing back drink after drink. Nothing else mattered, even on such an important day as that one.
I can’t remember the exact moment it all clicked for me and I finally admitted I needed help out loud. But roughly a year ago, I sought out help. Now, I say “roughly” because when I first stepped into an AA meeting, I was drunk. Yes. I made the decision myself to go to a meeting, but I was so nervous and humiliated to go that I drank to take the edge off. How disgusting is that? Unholy, even. I mean, I have seen tons of intoxicated people at these meetings, but now I was one of them, and it was a hard realization to have. Writing this out is making me feel like the absolute scum of the earth, but this is real and a true version of myself that I am not proud of. But the moral of this story is even though I was drunk AND on crutches, I walked through that door to take my first (uneasy) steps towards sobriety.
It’s incredibly hard for me to put this out into the universe (as one can imagine) and admit that I had such a big problem with drinking. It’s heartbreaking. It’s shameful. It disgusts me that I let it get so out of hand. But I think the biggest thing that gives me the strength to share this, is that I am lightyears away from the person I was a year ago. Truly. It sounds so cliché, but anyone who has been through the program understands—I genuinely see more clearly now. Getting sober was like I was being reintroduced to my life and everything in it with new eyes and a new brain. Like I had been walking through fog unknowingly and then the sun BURST through.
Born again, in a way. Lame, but true. Are you bored yet?
Making the decision to get help was a difficult one, as I would be admitting there was even a problem to begin with. But I was welcomed with open arms from this group of strangers in such a loving way that it brought me to tears. Literally. Alcoholics Anonymous saved me. It gave me the strength to face my problem head on and stand up and fight back for my life. The love and support of my family saved me. I was so overwhelmed by their unwavering love, support, somewhat adorable curiosity, and just pure willingness to help get me through this. I was able to have real, honest conversations with the people most important to me about what led me to this place and my plan to get out of it. It opened up dialogue about our family history with this disease and shed light on where this potentially all started. It also allowed me to apologize. To start over and prove I was above this and that I could change.
So, maybe you don’t consider yourself an “alcoholic”—I’m still unsure if I do—but you think you might have a little bit of a drinking problem or maybe need tools to cut back. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, if you need help, it’s available. I’m here. AA is here. You are in no way alone. You are loved and seen and it’s not shameful to ask for help. It’s responsible. It’s smart. And dare I say a little sexy?
I can remember a few months into my sobriety my sister telling me “I feel like I got my sister back.” And that sentence will legitimately stay with me for the rest of my life. Her saying that meant that she had lost me for a time. That I had slipped away and alcohol had taken me away from her. That sentence was the reason I kept going, kept fighting to stay sober. I’ll never disappear again, I promise.
For some people, 2020 has been the worst year on record, but for me, it was a year of transformation and raw honesty and self-awareness. I am not sure if I will ever have a drink again—that’s something I am still figuring out for myself. All I know is I will never be that girl again. I will never abuse alcohol again. I will never let a substance change who I am or come between me and the people I love the most. I am such a happier, clearer version of myself today and so in love with my life.
To my friends and family who are learning about this for the first time, I’m sorry if I let you down or if you’re disappointed in me. But I dug myself out of a very ugly place and I am proud to share my story. And if this reaches just one person out there who might need help and is encouraged to seek help or even start a dialogue about what’s going on, then it was worth it. Embarrassing beyond explanation, but worth it. I will say it again because I can: I am one year sober today. Thank you to everyone who played a part in it. You know who you are. I’m forever grateful.