My family was never a loving one. There were no hugs, no kisses, no “I love you’s” that I can remember. If someone was upset or traumatized and needed support, they weren’t going to find it in this family! Nobody ‘rallied around’ to support them. I never knew self-esteem or self-worth-not even briefly. Everywhere I turned, I found cruelty, sadness, fear and pain.

Any attention-seeking or moping around was usually met with something like-“Oh, for Christ’s sake! Get over it!” If I had friends over, she would scream and yell and completely humiliate me right in front of them. After a while, kids just stopped hanging around with me.

And, of course, my mother’s favorite: the wooden paddle! It was in the shape of a hand and had ‘Mother’s Helper’ written across it and when she got really mad-well-you knew you were getting smacked with that paddle.

I truly felt like my parents resented having to raise me. I was sort of born and left to figure life out on my own; to somehow instinctively learn right from wrong; how to be a perfect child. Of course, when mistakes were made, she made it perfectly clear what a failure and disappointment I was.

My childhood was over before it started

I took my first drug at age nine. One day, in 2nd grade, I had come home from school crying, probably from being bullied. My grandmother sat me down at the kitchen table and put a half of a little orange pill in front of me. “Don’t chew it” she said, “It looks like a baby aspirin but it’s not. Just swallow it with your milk”. So I did. And I loved it! It was a valium.

I started drinking at 12 years old. See, my parents had a fully stocked “liquor closet”; full of every kind of liquor imaginable. This puzzled me because I had never seen either of my parents drink alcohol-ever. But, there it was, so one Sunday, while both of my parents were working, my friend Pam and I filled BIG Styrofoam cups with a little bit of every type of liquor. We just mixed some from each bottle.

I blacked out that day, and when I ‘came to’, Pam and I were across town and hanging at the park with some boys from the other second grade class. I soon learned that kids wanted to hang out with me when I had drugs or alcohol. Heck, it beats not having any friends at all, right?

Within one year, I well on my way to becoming a full-blown addict and alcoholic. The first thing I remember noticing is that I was unable to go to sleep without a drink. I had to wait until everyone went to bed, then sneak downstairs for a big cup of alcohol.

Then I had an “AHA” moment. “This”, I thought, “must be why mom and dad keep a liquor closet!” I honestly thought all grownups had to drink to sleep! Since I never heard my parents talk about drinking, I assumed that it just wasn’t something to share. So, I kept it to myself.

I think it’s worth mentioning that, being so young and na├»ve, I had no idea what alcoholism was-even at age 14. I had never heard of an alcoholic, much less known one! I had no idea there was anything wrong with what I was doing!

By age 14, I physically couldn’t stop drinking. I suffered a couple of minor seizures, woke up with the shakes, developed insomnia unless I drank at night, got really nauseous when I couldn’t drink and all sorts of other hideous withdrawal symptoms. My depression was also worsening rapidly. I was beginning to think about suicide. I stayed in my room all day, every day reading books.

I remember sitting in my pediatrician’s office one morning (I think I was 13-years-old) and telling her-no, begging herto give me some antidepressants. I told her I was so depressed, I didn’t care if I lived or not (and, in fact, only days ago I made a feeble attempt while I was walking to school. I could hear a heavy truck coming up the road behind me and without a second thought, I jumped in front of it. Fortunately, the driver was alert and stopped just in time).Anyhow, her response was a flat “I’m not prescribing many medicine for you as long as you’re drinking the way you do”. This was coming from my DOCTOR! Not a single adult in my life had ever had a discussion with me about getting help. Nobody had ever told me that there were places I could go for help, like detox.

Around age 19, I started dabbling with heavier drugs. At the time, I was working at a sports bar. Each night, after our shifts ended, the other waitresses and I would sit down at the bar and have a few drinks. When we got to feeling pretty good, one of them, Barbara, and I would go across town to another bar where we would buy cocaine from the bartender there. Then we would proceed to get majorly fucked up into the wee hours of the morning. Still, I didn’t see that a problem. To me, it was just the norm. After all, we ALL drank the same way. I had nothing else to compare my drinking to!

Then, one afternoon Barbara came back from break, crying, and told me she needed to go to a hospital. “Why?” I asked. She said “Because I’m an alcoholic”. I said to her, “No. You’re not. You drink the same as the rest of us!

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