Warnings from an almost alcoholic

TW: this article contains descriptions of sexual assault, alcoholism and suicidal thoughts.

Amid the world of intoxication lives a swirling vortex of memory and emotion. Alcohol is an insidious vice. You may think you’re drinking to escape, but in reality, the memories you drink to forget are the very ones to which you will succumb. This is my story of alcohol abuse after trauma. I would like to share it as a warning for those headed down the slope and as a message of hope for those at the bottom.

Once you take that first sip, it’s hard to stop. Your drink of choice doesn’t matter — the outcome is always the same. You relish over the first taste. A few sips later, your body begins to float.

Then the second glass happens and the liquor burns its imprint into your flushed cheeks, so you start to think maybe you should stop. But it’s still fun and games to the friends who don’t know why you started.

You start to stumble and have to walk with hands out in front of you. The floor begins moving in the opposite direction. Suppressed feelings suddenly resurface. Ignored memories make a daring comeback. “What is happening?” your subconscious screams.

You go for a third drink even though your friends are coming down from their peak. You need to keep going because something isn’t right. Something isn’t going as planned. Somehow, the first two drinks didn’t work because you’re starting to have flashbacks of a date gone terribly wrong. You drink a little more because you have to forget. “Tonight was supposed to be fun.”

Four drinks in and now you can barely stand; your arms only work well enough to spill more shots down your raw throat. But it’s not fun anymore, because now you realize that you’re all alone. No one is around and you can’t remember if anyone ever was. Then you suddenly remember the nightmare you were drinking to forget.

Instead of being alone in your apartment, you’re back at that stranger’s house. You see the clothes he was wearing — the details on his face, those cold, calculating eyes. You commented on the wall color in a failed attempt to stall the inevitable. The clothes you were wearing are still hidden in the back of your closet. You remember what he said, the way he looked at you and touched you. You buried your face in a pillow, digging into it with your fingertips so at least you wouldn’t have to look at the face of a monster. Pain. Panic. Petrified, you tried thinking of ways to get out of that house alive. It felt like trying to play a chess game without knowing the rules. When you tried to leave, he followed you out of the isolated house on the side of that quiet road. You almost hit a tree backing out of the driveway. All things once blurry are now clear and you remember everything you wish you could forget.

Now you need another drink.

You don’t realize how slippery the alcoholic slope is until you are too drunk at the bottom to climb back up. You just have to sit there and wait for the ice to melt. In those deep moments of darkness, you have two options: succumb to hypothermia or fight against the frostbite.

The bottom of that slope is where I lived for almost a year. My Christian values were compromised and replaced with lies and self-deception. The roommates who had treated me so well felt betrayed, and I lost their trust. I became someone I no longer recognized or wanted to be. Life wasn’t worth living anymore. 

It’s challenging to express the terror of being simultaneously intoxicated, suicidal, and alone. I cannot begin to understand the concern of friends and roommates who were scared for my life during those months. The immense guilt I feel has not gone away, and it may never. In my hurt, I hurt others, and I’ll have to carry that for the rest of my life.

If you’re suffering from untreated mental illness or trauma, please get help. You are valuable. You are loved. You are worthy of so much more than this. I’m getting better. I’m going to therapy. I’m rebuilding what I lost. I’m leaning on the Lord now instead of liquor. But the shards of broken bottles still remain.

If you or a loved one are struggling with trauma or are considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text HOME to Crisis Text Line at 741741, Campus Safety at 616-526-3333 or contact Safer Spaces.