By Courtney Lea
Reprinted from Coming Clean issue, 2016
“Hi. My name is Courtney. I am an alcoholic. I have 3 years today.”
Announcing this on Facebook a month ago may have caused friends and family a bit of discomfort, or even possible embarrassment, but I owe it to my fellow alcoholics to be honest and open about my disease. In the beginning of my recovery, I was also embarrassed to admit that I was, in fact, an alcoholic. I felt soooooo alone. So different. A friend in A.A. once referred to it as the condition of feeling “terminally unique.”
In my selfish head, I was the only one on Earth who was suffering as badly as I was. The only one who had similar stories as me. I was special, in a very fucked up way. That feeling of uniqueness quickly vanished when I sat in a room with other alcoholics and heard their stories. My reality check; we are everywhere! When I sit in my weekly meeting and the time comes for me to announce “Courtney, Alcoholic,” I can now let it roll off my tongue as if it is a badge I wear with honor.
However, when I am in a situation where I am divulging my illness to a group of “normies” (those without the disease), I have this incredible desire in my heart to follow it up with: “I am also the mom at school drop off, the woman at the gym on the elliptical next to you, your neighbor down the street, the lady in the car beside you at the stop light, the person in line behind you at the grocery store. I am someone’s mother, daughter, sister, and ‘BFF.’ I am a human, and my disease does not define me.”
I started this journey simply because I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I admitted to myself that I alone couldn’t beat the house. So, I folded, got off my stool, and walked out into the “sunlight of the spirit.”
My kids were losing their mother to a slow death that I was committing to myself. They watched me take that first drink, and I could see the worry in their eyes. For all they knew, that one drink would mean ten more, and I would not be their mom for much longer. Our roles would reverse, and they would have to take care of me for the night.
They were 10, 8, and one. Yes, one.
I write this only because I remember thinking while I was in the midst of this horrible cycle that I had it all under control. It wasn’t until I sobered up that I realized they were scared. My babies were scared. Of me. I was the Boogie Man. Me. And, I didn’t care. I just cared about how and when I was going to get my next fix so the pounding in my head and the guilt in my heart would go the fuck away.
I am Courtney. I am an alcoholic, and for a while there, I was a horrible mother, a terrible friend, and a shitty daughter. Today, I still struggle with parenting decisions. I still selfishly dominate friendships on occasion. I continue to disappoint my parents on a monthly basis. The difference is that now I know these indiscretions are just because I am a human, not because I am a drunk.
If you are struggling with addiction, please know that it does not define you either. You are not alone. We are everywhere, and we are ready to love you until you can, and will, love yourself. Ask for help. It is the bravest thing you can ever do. And, to everyone else, know that love is the answer. Love is always the answer.
Courtney Lea considers herself an average 40-something-year old, single mother whose appearance is average, socio-economic status is average (for the ghetto), and social life is fairly average (minus the men, and her insane ability to down 5-6 soda waters with lime in one hour.)