I watched as Bradley Cooper’s character glanced at the camera and pulled down the garage door. I couldn’t breathe. I knew what he was going to do. I knew what he was feeling. I glanced at my husband, who was now sound asleep. I started to cry.
It has been 4 years for me. 4 years since I woke up in the ER surrounded by family. 4 years since I felt what he was feeling on that screen. But I knew those feelings intimately. He was just a character in a movie, but at that moment, he was me. Aging, past his prime, alcoholic, an embarrassment to his family. I had become all those things.
I had this big plan. I’d been thinking about it for a while, but always found a reason to put it off. I was always looking for a reason to put it off. But this day, this Friday morning, I really couldn’t find a reason to stay. I had made a big mess of our lives. My oldest son was angry with me, I was no longer allowed to babysit, my youngest daughter wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, my husband told me he didn’t want to be married to a drunk and my best friend of forty-something years just told me she was done with me. I knew people would grieve, but not over who I was right then, but over who I had been before the alcohol changed me. They would be sad, but they already were. In my head, this would provide my family with the opportunity to move on and stop worrying about me.
You would think that the simple thing to do, and the most obvious thing to do would be to quit drinking. I tried. Every day. I was afraid. It had become such a part of who I was, I was terrified to live without it. My crutch had become my lifeline.
So, I grabbed the bottle of Xanax that I had talked my friend into giving me, I poured them on the counter and mentally thought, that should do it. I grabbed a beer out of the fridge, and I put them all in my mouth. I swallowed them with a big pull from the beer. I went to my room to lay down. I thought I would just drift off to sleep and not wake up again. It would be over.
Suddenly I became frantic. I wasn’t done. I loved my family, and I couldn’t do this. I tried to throw it all up and couldn’t. I called my husband. I didn’t want him to know what I had done, so I began telling him without telling him. I wanted him to come home so my daughter wouldn’t be the one to find me. I was having a tough time being coherent at this point.
I vaguely remember the ambulance and the paramedics. I sort of remember our dear friend showing up to make sure I was still alive. The rest is vague.
I spent almost a week in the psych ward. During the first couple of days, I was still messed up from the Xanax. I know my husband feared I had damaged my brain. Slowly, I began reading. I joined the group stuff. I talked to doctors. I just wanted to go home.
I was okay but felt strange for a couple of weeks. I didn’t know how to exist without alcohol. So, I started drinking again. Slowly at first, then a lot. Right back where I was. It took more fight from me. It took strength I wasn’t sure I had. But the looks from my family was enough. The fact that they kept showing up for me was enough. It was time I showed up for them.
Then, one day, I did. I made an appointment with an addiction counselor. I began doing the work to heal myself. From the inside. It was work, but all I had to do was follow directions. I had to dig deep and look inside myself for what got me there in the first place.
Little did I know that day 4 years ago, how much living I still had to do. I didn’t understand how fulfilling it would be to heal the damaged relationships with my children. I didn’t know how much I could love my husband, whose love saved me. And those grandbabies. It scares me to think I almost missed all of this.
So, I sit here, grateful for the second chance that Bradley Cooper’s character and so many others don’t get. I still have a lot of things to do. I have a lot of life to live. And, if you are ever thinking you can’t find any reason not to, remember me. The purpose was always there. I just lost sight of it for a minute.