Featured Story from Ms. McKaley

I have thoughts for weeks how to write this, approach it, and how to best share my story with those alike. I thought sitting down and writing would be cathartic, and it’s going to be. But just like quitting any addiction, it’s a lot easier to talk about than actually do. So here we go!

Inside every grown woman, there is still a little girl. She’s fierce, and kind and she has hopes and dreams for herself. This little girl never thinks it’s not possible, because the world hasn’t yet told her. I won’t spend to much time on my full life story getting us to where we are today. I will say, I was raised in a “normal” loving home, with my parents and a younger brother. I remember the first time I saw my best friend drink in high school. I told myself at that moment I would never drink! Look how stupid she is acting, she threw up on herself, she’s crying now! That lasted about 5 more parties before I had to see for myself. My journey to my love affair with alcohol really set in around the age of 22, first lots of beers and then I graduated to hard alcohol. Of course, when you are younger you bounce back from those hangovers. My drinking slowly increased and I was sneaking alcohol every chance I could get. I self isolated in my room for hours and hours to be drunk. I snuck whiskey into my coffee every weekend, or day off morning. I did not eat much because it would ruin my buzz. I would wake up most mornings (workdays) and have no idea when or how I got to bed. I couldn’t have drank that much? I swear I only had a pint of whiskey and 5 beers! I missed more work than I can count. I was sick, so sick, so much. I had constant digestive issues and crippling anxiety. But worse than all of that, I had convinced myself that it was okay. Alcohol was there to help me and sooth me. It wasn’t making me sick, it was keeping me sane. No one could love me or give me the time and attention alcohol could. So like any toxic relationship I blamed anything else I could besides me and the booze. 4/2020- I got sick, really sick. Emergency room visits, hospital stays, 5 surgeries most recently in 4/2021. By the grace of God, this issue was not related to my drinking. Good news right? So I should keep drinking! I spent a few months with this mentality. As soon as I am off pain pills and antibiotics I can drink again!

By September of 2020 I had enough, I knew I wanted to stop drinking. My eyes were open, I stopped ignoring God. I wasn’t fully ready, I was to scared. Who was going to be there for me and love me? Who was going to protect me, and be by my side always. People are finally going to know! My secrets going to be out! People will know I am human, and we make mistakes! I’m going to be judged so hard, and my best friend alcohol isn’t going to be there to get me through. So much of my life and so many of my friendships have had the original foundation removed and replaced with alcohol. I’m not going to have anything fun to do or talk about with my friends. I can’t have anyone over, what will we do? We always drink! I can’t go out, what will I do? I can’t drink. What if I went to a concert, or to a movie, a wedding? Anything. What do I do? I can’t drink, I don’t know how to function with out alcohol. You take it one day, one moment, one second at a time. These things are always going to be there, it’s how we respond to them that matters. You feel naked, and venerable, and so afraid. Just the idea it’s self shakes you to your core. It’s not fun, it isn’t pretty, it is scary. But in all those moments, seconds and hours you will find your silver lining. You will see yourself like never before. You are going to be so proud of yourself that you have lasted an hour, half day, to bed at night! I had made my decision that New Year’s Eve would be my last drink. Everyone loves a good resolution right? This time felt different, turning my health around had to be done. I had a brand new niece, I want to live for her. Break the cycle, the curse, the whatever you want to call it. Live for yourself, live for her. I had spent a lot of time before I put the bottle down thinking about it. It was time to outfox the fox! Or my brain, if you will. I knew that I would have a few good folks in my corner who I could turn too. I also knew that many of my long friendships would either end or come close. Yes, you find out who your friends are, as you should! Am I going to miss these people, or am I going to miss drinking with these people.

What value are we adding to each other’s lives? Zero, the answer is zero. If they respond to you with love, understanding and patience then yes there is value! If these same people like popping bottles in front of you, because you said you didn’t mind. Those people aren’t your friends, at least not now. Think about it, think of all the times you have drank together, the times you have confided in each other about your drinking. If one of you takes the plunge and the other shows up with the bullet and the gun. This person needs to be removed from your life, it’s not my choice for you to decide how long. But if you are vulnerable, remove those folks from your inner circle until you feel safe and healed. It’s messy, and it hurts, but everything worth fighting for is! You are worth it! You don’t realize in active addiction that the rest of the world is not spinning on the same axis as you. We live in a world where alcohol is glorified, I don’t have to convince you of this. Look what was deemed “essential” last year! Back to my journey. January 1st wasn’t to hard of a day, the first week or so I think I was enjoying not feeling like crap every day. However, I still live with folks who drink. We don’t always have the means and help to remove ourselves from a toxic environment. It’s unfortunate, and true, but you can still succeed! I relied heavily on my mother and a girlfriend. They have spent countless hours and days listening to me verbal vomit all of the cross wired information in my brain. They have watched me cry, yell, scream and every single thing in between. To these two women, I owe more than I could ever repay. But please know, the importance of having the right people in your corner. Neither of them will ever let me repay them in anyway. All they ask is that I keep going, pushing and always turn to them when I feel weak. That is the value of friendship. That’s it. This summer I have missed countless events and gatherings. I made it out for a 4th of July get together, and I think I lasted 1.5 hours. I watched as someone I knew was drug to a truck to be taken home after he couldn’t walk, and threw up due to drinking vodka since he woke up. He didn’t even make it to noon. I was smacked in the face with my past, I felt sick and ashamed and I could taste it. I have had one gathering where I have invited my girlfriends over for, let me tell you that was awkward! Half of them didn’t mind not drinking, the other half I thought may have been board to tears. It was in that moment, just 2 weeks ago I realized again who my friends are. The ones I could tell would have preferred drinking to being here, they will be removed from my life until we can all find a way to again “add value” to each others lives. I by no means dislike them, they are simply on a different path than I am. Some day we will enjoy being together again, it’s just not now. Another thing that I think is important, if you are a functioning alcoholic, and your good at it. Many, many people will be blown away to learn you had a drinking problem to begin with. We spend so much time thinking that people are judging us or thinking about us. In all reality, they aren’t. Sure there’s a fleeting thought or judgment here and there. But we don’t know about it. 99.99999% or the time people are solely worried about themselves and their lives. They really don’t spend the time we think they do. So with all that being said, boy was I surprised when I started telling people the good news. Some of my closest, and I mean closest friends had no idea how bad I was. So you can assume the same goes with people I’m not that close too. I thought for sure someone was going to roll out the red carpet, and my friends would like take me on a spa day, or check in all the time. Or swing by with a coffee and not a 6 pack. Zero of these things happened from 99% of people. Simply because I was level expert in hiding my alcoholic self from most people, there was a lesson to be learned when I felt ignored by them. Let me just say though, you can’t hide from your mother! Here I am today, almost 9 months sober. Here are some things I have learned and I know for certain. It’s hard, really hard! But your strong, so strong! Lean into God, he doesn’t care if you scream, yell,cry,cuss. He’s going to love you the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Advocate for yourself “I need some quiet time,

I’m battling some things right now.” “I don’t feel comfortable being alone, will you sit with me.” “My mind is taking over, I’m going to go lay down.” Whatever that looks like to you, find a way to facilitate that happening. If others are not understanding as you have explained it openly, leave them alone. You are your sole focus at this time. Please know, this also takes time. A week of quiet time here or there, or time on the treadmill isn’t going to “fix you.” This is a marathon, not a sprint. We don’t get “better” in a month. It sounds crazy, but every success story has a good plan. Pick a quit date, and just like you would prepare for any life altering event. Get your house in order. I fully understand that this is easier said than done. If you have children, is there someone who can take them 1 hour a day? How can you change the way your day is planned to fit time in for your self ? Take the walk, read the book, go to the gym, ride your horse, or bike. It’s so important to have an outlet. I have never personally went to AA, but I know they offer resources and sponsors. Have a person in your corner, get that sponsor. Get that pamphlet, get that knowledge you seek!

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Quitting In itself is a monster. Show yourself grace, lots of grace. Find that balance of self love and structure. You are an amazing person, you deserve love and care! Yes you do! No matter the bad things you did with alcohol cheering you on. You deserve love and you are worthy, so worthy. Once you can get through that barrier of self love, you kind of, in my experience start to treat yourself like you would your partner or your child. You want to do everything to protect them and keep them safe, happy and healthy. You mind your thoughts, you sit with them. You work through them, if one thought creates a question, keep following them until you get to the root. We can mask and layer all we want, and that band aid is just going to keep that infection closed in and growing. Let it all out! I have learned so much about who I really am, what my real personality is when it’s not soaked in alcohol. What I really like, what makes me fulfilled, and I am learning more each day! It’s some of the simplest things, waking up each day sober, sunrises sober, my sweet niece, my grandmothers. My sweet, sweet mama who no longer has to suffer as she watches her baby slowly kill herself. My anxiety is becoming manageable, I no longer have high blood pressure, I could drive somewhere at 10 am and not get thrown in jail! There are no large chunks of my days missing from being blacked out. I don’t constantly sweat no matter what the temps. I’m eating balanced meals, and I have put my health at the forefront of my life. I no longer have a beer gut! I can tell you what I do still have though, I have my family, job, God, amazing friends, a clean conscious, a smile on my face, and a love and appreciation for life that I can’t remember having since I was a little girl. So here I am today, 35 years old, recovering alcoholic. I want you to know, whoever you are reading this. You are not alone, if you have found this letter you are taking the right steps! I don’t know you, but I want you to know that I love you so much, even if you don’t love yourself. I believe in you, God believes in you and I know you can too! There is freedom on the other side, and please know my sweet soul, that freedom is there for you! All my love and all my prayers, you got this!