The first time I drank to black out, I was 14.
By then, I was already bulimic.
As the only child of an emotionally distant single mother who failed to protect me from the men in her life, it was the only way I knew how to lock up the feelings and experiences that were happening to me.
I could not wait to escape home at 18 but was not prepared for life on my own. I found myself working night shifts in hospitality, using drugs to keep me awake, and drinking to black out.
I had no idea who I was. Each crowd I fell in with, I moulded and adapted myself to them, searching for acceptance and love. But inside, the anxiety would torment me, and I would muzzle it with alcohol and drugs.
Until I found out I was pregnant, and not long after, delivered my son at 26 weeks. This was a time of extreme stress and strain, but I managed myself without taking drugs or drinking, and I felt proud.
But it was not long until I relapsed.
In 2013, I met my husband. This was the first healthy, functional relationship I had ever had. I felt loved. But I also felt that I did not deserve it.
At the age of 43, I unexpectedly fell pregnant with twins. The pregnancy was complicated, and I delivered my girls at 29 weeks. This time, I did not cope and began drinking regularly.
I felt isolated and alone. My children were quite boisterous and difficult to manage, so we rarely went out. Every day was Groundhog Day and to escape this, my drinking escalated. I was self-medicating to cope.
Over the next two years, I accumulated a significant credit card debt which was primarily all spent on alcohol. Then the Department of Health stepped in, and I feared that I would lose my children.
I started to seek help – I went to AA meetings, spent 3.5 months in a rehabilitation facility and three stints in detox. But each time I would relapse. I couldn’t understand – I did everything they asked me to do. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t it working?
Meanwhile, I was spiraling out of control. My husband was supportive, but did not know how to help me, or protect himself and the children. On one occasion I was admitted to emergency because I was suicidal, on another, with alcohol blood levels so high I was at risk of going into a coma.
I didn’t know what to do, but I was sure I could not return to residential rehab. I couldn’t quit my new job – it was stimulating me and allowing me to financially contribute to the family. And I couldn’t bear to be without my children for another 3.5 months. But I was putting them at risk, and I was going to lose my husband.
Then I found ResetLife at First Step.
ResetLife is a day program that allowed me to continue working and being with my children. It was the answer I was looking for.
Up until this point, I felt like I was carrying around an empty toolbox. ResetLife filled it up with tools that I could use in daily life. And I learnt that alcoholism is a disease that does not make logical or rational decisions.
If I had not learnt this, had not filled my toolbox, I would still be in the cycle of relapse.
Now when I am faced with challenges, I allow myself to feel emotions, to experience what is happening to me, with the knowledge that I know how to manage them, to move through them, and to implement practical steps. I use the tools that I learnt at ResetLife.
I want to be totally present and available for my children. To be the mother I wished I had. I want them to grow into happy, healthy, secure adults who make wise decisions. Who know that it’s never too late to change the direction their life is taking.
ResetLife educated me. That was this missing piece. It provided support to me and my husband and showed me that I can live a life of abstinence. I was able to make meaningful connections in a safe space whilst staying at home with my children and in my job. Now I have inner peace, gratitude and hope for the future. Hope that I can break the generational cycle of addiction. And hope that my family and I can lead full, happy and healthy lives.
This disease will not bring me down.
To protect my privacy, Emma is not my real name. But this is a picture my 5 year old daughter drew of our family.