The Phoenix

Found The Watershed
September 20, 2017
Unimaginable Hope
July 12, 2018

The Phoenix

My name is Terri.  I was born in Dublin, Ireland, and came to the United States when I was 27 years of age.

I had a wonderful childhood. I cannot remember anything that was a negative during that time.  I don’t have a horrific happening in my childhood that could lead to alcoholism. Everything was good. Oh, there were the usual ups and downs that people have, but nothing that could not be dealt with. I had a great social life: drinks after work, dinner in great restaurants, nightclubs at the weekend. I dated a guy for many years in Dublin. He was a real womanizer and I knew it, but I was crazy about him. He asked me to marry him many times, but I always said no because I couldn’t see myself in a marriage with someone who loved all women so very much. We split in 1984 and in 1985 I came to Fort Lauderdale with my sister. We came for 3 months to see if we liked it, and I guess we did as we are still here!!!!

We rented a nice apartment near the beach and both got jobs. I always drank a lot, but no more than most of the people I went out with in Dublin.  After a few years here I would notice that my sis would say things like “don’t drink so fast”. I was always one or two ahead of everyone. It was like I couldn’t get enough. We drank a lot over the years and I was very lucky that I was never stopped while driving drunk, because I did that a lot in those days.

I got engaged in 1998 and moved in with the guy. Then I really started to drink a lot. No one was saying “don’t drink too fast” anymore – he drank just as fast. Things started to go downhill towards the end of 1999 and I then started to drink at lunch time when home. I missed lots of days in work because of my drinking. I moved to an apartment on my own. Now I could drink whatever and whenever I wanted to, and boy did I. I lost a couple of jobs and continued to drink even though I knew drink was the reason. I ended up cutting my wrists one night, but not getting very far.  I agreed to go to a rehab facility in West Palm Beach. I stayed 28 days, and didn’t learn much. I came home to the same job and lifestyle, the only difference being that I was going to stay sober.  I went to AA meetings, but I was not working the program or my sobriety.  I wanted to drink, I really enjoyed it.  It made me miserable and depressed, but I really enjoyed it!!!! I found the image of drinking to be very romantic. I romanced my drinking so to speak.

I continued to go to meetings each week, and also went to therapy every two weeks. I would drink at the weekend when I was alone. I would plan my evening of drinking, have a movie to watch, snacks etc. I would also plan my hangover, lots of juices and ice cream for the horrible thirst, and Tylenol for the headache.  I started to have a lot of anxiety and asked my doctor for clonapin (Xanax) which he gave me. I found that if I took a lot more than he prescribed then my anxiety and shaking would go away. I refilled the prescription a few times but decided to try to order online. I didn’t think it would work, but it did. I could order as much as I wanted and always had a back up supply. The pills came from India, Australia and China. Sometimes I would get a notice from customs saying that illegal meds were seized and if I wanted to claim them I had to write to customs. I would just order another supply, they couldn’t seize every order!!  I now consider myself lucky that they never knocked on my door and took me to jail. Ha, me, a nice Irish Catholic girl in jail – never.

I now started to drink and black out a lot.  I would drink a couple of bottles of wine alone at home and then go out somewhere and drink more. I was driving and drinking a lot at this stage. I was wakening up with men I didn’t like the look of, and didn’t remember asking home the night before. That was so depressing that I would drink the next day to get the images out of my mind, but I would end up doing the same thing that night too. The shame I felt was horrendous, I couldn’t have hated myself more.  Many nights when I drank I would go for a walk around my complex. Sometime during the walk I would fall. I was always falling now when I drank, but that was ok because no one saw me falling. I slit my nose open, my knees were a mess, my elbows were bruised and my legs were in an awful state from falling. I was falling in my own home and not remembering the next day until I felt the pain somewhere. I had a lot of cuts and bruises, shame and guilt. I once stabbed my finger with a knife while trying to clean out candle wax from a votive, the knife went straight through my finger, of course I was drunk again. I also broke my shoulder in a fall. I was taking so many pills at this stage that I was very much “out of it”. I came home from work and went straight to bed each day. I would look at myself in the mirror and actually say “oh, you are going down hill fast”. I hated myself. I looked dreadful, felt dreadful, I just wanted to die. This went on for a long time.  One night while I was out drinking on my own I was stopped by police and taken off to jail. The cop video taped the sobriety test he gave me, boy was I bad. I kept this video tape and watch it every year on my anniversary to remind me of how bad drinking was for me.  I spent the night and the next day in jail. I had taken so many pills that day that I don’t think my time in jail affected me too much. I was horrified of course, and did what I always did – went home to bed when they released me. My sister organized a lawyer and paid all the fines etc. She went through hell during all of this time because of my continuous drinking.

Now I had driving school and court to deal with and knew I could never do that.  I now got more depressed, if that was possible. I continued to drink and take as many pills as I could so that the thoughts of what I was doing was just a fog. My sister actually refers to this time as my “Felias Fog” time. I was in a constant fog, couldn’t remember anything I had done even 20 minutes ago.  On June 3rd 2006 I drank 4 bottles of wine and took every single pill I had in my home. This included a months supply of Lithium, (I’m not bipolar so I do not know why this was prescribed), over 180 clonapin and a variety of other meds which I had.

I was sure I would not wake up the next day. I didn’t want to die. When sober I would never, ever attempt suicide. It is against my religion, and I also believe it is the most selfish way to escape out of any situation. But drunk I could believe and do anything to make myself feel better.

My sister came round the next day, June 5th and she took me to the Watershed in Boynton Beach.  I checked in and don’t remember a thing of the next 4 to 5 days. I was somewhat unconscious and was kept in my room in bed. I couldn’t eat or drink. The staff did not think that I would survive this as my kidneys were shutting down. My family was told this and they did not expect me to live. I did however, I woke up on the 5th day and I was put in a wheelchair and brought down to the land of the living drunks and addicts.  I hated being there, but looking back I can see how much I learned and actually took in.  The psychiatrist told me that a horse would not have survived the overdose I took. I was in terrible pain, withdrawal pain. I wanted to curl up and die it was so bad. But I made a decision: I would go through this just once and try to come out well on the other side.

Therapy at the Watershed was something that really taught me a lot about myself. We did many exercises in self examination and a lot pertaining to the family.  Some days I just couldn’t get out of bed, so I would work on my writing. I wrote letters to family members, some of whom were dead, but these letters were to heal me, not them. There were many speakers who really brought home the message of “living in sobriety”, and “having fun in sobriety”, (something I never thought I would have again without drink).

I had a lot of time to think while there. I had wasted many years of my life with drink and pills. I saw women there who had lost their children and husbands because of addictions. I learned that addiction truly is a disease and not just a kind of bad behavior. I learned how to deal with all of the shame and guilt I had. Family weekend opened my eyes to how much my sister was hurting.

This was just the start of my recovery. The start of my rising up out of the ashes of addiction. I wanted sobriety, and I wanted it bad. I was now willing to do anything in my power to get it. The therapist at the Watershed told me it was achievable, so I set out to achieve it. One thing he said was the most important step was going to a halfway house when I finished my 30 days there. Oh boy, the images that came to my mind when he said “halfway house”. I saw lowlifes, junkies, filth etc. I put up a huge fight not to go. My sister said she would not take me into her home and that I could not go to my own home unless I did this. Anxiety set in big time. I was so upset – I was really afraid of the unknown. I said I would go, I knew it was the right thing to do. Some days my legs just wouldn’t work because of so much anxiety in my body, but I fought it. It really was a hard battle, but I kept moving forward.

I have to mention one thing about the Watershed – the food is wonderful, that’s the truth!

My sister picked me up the day I was leaving and we arrived at the halfway house, an apartment block in Delray Beach. It really was nice, but I just cried and cried because I was so afraid, afraid of everything. I stayed for 3 months, did 90 meetings in 90 days, went to therapy and even had my day in court for my DUI. What saved my sanity at the halfway house was the Catholic church in Delray Beach. They had 24/7 adoration and I took advantage of it.  It healed my soul and took away all of the anxiety I had inside. I can never thank God enough for this.

I came home at the end of October 2006. I moved my furniture around in my home so that it was never the same as when I was drinking. My Publix has closed and a new one was opened up just blocks away from me – that was God helping me. I wouldn’t have to look at the old wine aisle I used to frequent. I went to my therapist once a week. I went to my AA meetings. I got a new job. I prayed like I had never prayed before. I changed everything from the way it had been and finally came out the other side of alcoholism. I still go to therapy. I have learned so much about myself and others through therapy. I just wish others knew what I know from therapy, it really helps in every aspect of life.

God, and God alone got me where I am today. I handed everything over to Him. I live for today and today only.  I pray a lot, I talk to God a lot, I thank Him continuously for what I have. I now read, paint and meditate. I love my own company, something I couldn’t stand before. I love “silent” time. I watch EWTN (the Catholic channel) which has wonderful programs of faith and spirituality. I go to adoration when it is available. The peace I feel when I come out of adoration is unbelievable. God is with me , He is in my soul, my heart and my mind. If I don’t have God, I don’t have sobriety – its that simple.  If I do the right thing in every way, every day, God will take care of me, and he does. My spirituality has grown and grown. I am in a most wonderful place. I love God’s creations and creatures, something I thank Him for every day. If I wake in the middle of the night for any reason I immediately turn my thoughts to God and just thank Him.

I am exactly where I should be in this world.  I have been sober since June 5th 2006.

I hope everyone who starts this journey of recovery finds the peace and spirituality that I have found. It is a wonderful journey and the gifts received during it are amazing.