I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in the office of my place of employment, counting the money and jiggling the books in my favor, when that dreaded voice of conviction swept over me, “One of these days, you’re going to have to stop stealing. One of these days you’re going to have to stop sleeping around. One of these days you’re going to have to stop drinking and drugging. One of these days you’re going to have to stop throwing up everything you eat. One of these days…” And then the stark realization: “That day will never come.”
By this period of my life, my daily routine was torturous. I started each morning with six beers in order to get moving toward the office. By noon, I began to feel the headache and nausea from the deterioration of both my body and mind. As a remedy, I crept down to the kitchen of the restaurant for lunch and a few stolen beers. After eating, I went into the bathroom and vomited the food before guzzling the beers. I then hid the beer bottles at the bottom of the trash. Next, I returned upstairs and waded through the bookwork until 3:00.
I then went home for a short break in order to prepare for the evening shift. As I ironed my blouse, I drank two bottles of White Zinfandel straight from the bottle. Then I went to the restaurant and waited tables while drinking wine throughout the shift.
After work, I went straight to my favorite bar where I drank screwdrivers until midnight and then switched to straight vodka. When the bar closed, I went home with the “boyfriend” of the evening and drank whatever stolen liquor was stashed in my fridge. We did whatever drugs were available, and each other, until we passed out. When I came-to in the morning, it began again. Day after day I lived this existence until my only goal was to stay one step ahead of the ominous feelings of impending doom that lurked deep within me.
On the evening before Thanksgiving of 1986, I got to the bar early because the restaurant was closed. I met up with another “boyfriend” and we went from one bar to another. We got back to my small duplex around 3:00 a.m. and proceeded to do what I had done so many times with so many different men. As we rolled in the bed, removing each other’s clothing, I experienced an unexpected moment of vivid clarity. I had the sensation that I was standing next to the bed, observing what was happening in front of me. One dominant thought rang through my head, “Who is that drunken slob in my bed with that man?” Immediately, I realized that it was me! In that instant, the full impact of what I had become crashed into my awareness. At that moment, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I could no longer continue to live this “moral-less life”, as my mother had so often labeled it.
I immediately arose from the bed and ordered the man to leave. I sat on the couch in utter despondency. I knew that I could
no longer continue in the destructive pattern that had gutted its way into my being, but I also knew that it was impossible for me to escape. As I sat there, I looked down at the coffee table and gazed at a mirror that was on top of it. On the mirror were white powder and a razor blade. I then knew what I must do; I would cut my wrists.
The thought occurred to me that, since I would be dead, I needed to let my mother know that I would not be in Dallas for Thanksgiving Day. I left my duplex and traveled to the restaurant in order to use the telephone. The expense of a drug addicted and alcoholic lifestyle left no extra money for things such as telephones. I arrived at the empty restaurant around 9:00 a.m. The shelves of liquor were already beckoning me. I called my mother and told her that I would not be attending her Thanksgiving luncheon. She began to weep and to convince me to attend.
Addicts and alcoholics are like small children who stand in the middle of the room with their hands covering their eyes. Since they can’t see, they believe that they are invisible. My deteriorated life was definitely visible to my mother. Her pleas were successful and I agreed to come to Dallas.
After I hung up the receiver, the liquor’s attraction grew stronger. I thrashed with indecision. I had been convicted the previous evening that I could no longer live with alcohol, but I couldn’t live without it either. As I reached into my pocket for my car keys, I discovered a piece of paper that I had never seen before. On it, in my Grandmother Ruthie’s handwriting, was the telephone number for a local Alcoholics Anonymous group. It had apparently been placed there during one of the many drunken cries for help that I had wailed in my grandparent’s living room.
I picked up the phone once again and called A.A. I spoke to a nice lady who agreed to meet me the following day at noon for my first meeting. I hung up and left the restaurant without taking a drink. At lunchtime, I drove to Dallas to “celebrate” both Thanksgiving and Shannon’s engagement to her long-time boyfriend. I was already tired and depressed, but there was one thing that made me even more miserable than myself; the happiness of those I envied.
When I arrived at Mom’s house, I told her that I had made a call to A.A. She informed me that she had been there herself and gave me the textbook that went with the program. It was a blue book entitled Alcoholics Anonymous.
I opened it and looked at one of the pages. After many years of self-abuse my reading comprehension was somewhat impaired, but I definitely recognized one word that jumped off the page at me – GOD! Experiencing another period in my life of disbelief, my first thought was, “Is God inescapable?” My second thought was one of utter hopelessness, “If A.A. is about God, then A.A. will not work for me because I don’t believe in God.”
I made it through the day and was finally able to retire to a back bedroom where I could isolate myself from the excitement of Shannon’s engagement. I had always been jealous of her because she had a wonderful life while mine was a dismal failure. It never once occurred to me that the reason for our dichotomy was that she was a praying girl who strived for a life of righteousness while I was most definitely not. The understanding of things such as the consequences that result from various choices I make would not come to me for many years.
As I tried to fall asleep in the back room of my mother’s house, I experienced a desperation and hopelessness beyond any before. I tossed. I turned. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. Finally, I did something that I had never humbly done before, I prayed. It was a simple prayer, “God, I don’t believe in You, but if You’re there, please help me.” Nothing seemed to happen, but I was able to fall asleep.
The next day, I returned to Fort Worth and attended my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I don’t remember anything particularly impressive about it other than the observation that there was only one guy who looked attractive to me. I left the meeting feeling upbeat because I had finally done it – I had gone to A.A. and quit drinking.
It was now Friday and my father was taking Shannon, Kelly (my youngest sister), and me out for a fancy dinner to celebrate Shannon’s and my birthdays. With the bravado of two days away from alcohol, I ventured to the mall to buy a new outfit for the occasion. I purchased satin parachute pants, a velvet hat, and red lipstick. I was back in the game! The delusional belief system of addicts and alcoholics makes it possible to be suicidal one day and out buying a new hat the next. As they say, “Ignorance is bliss”… when it’s not misery.
That evening, I went to dinner with Dad. Although I had lived with him as an adolescent, Mom was more aware of what was going on in my life. By the evening of this dinner, Dad’s perception of me was that I was successful because I had a good job at a prestigious restaurant and I was thin compared to what I had been growing up. After dinner, he asked me to dance. I remember him whispering in my ear how proud he was of me. At that moment, the cocky bravado shattered and a sickeningly familiar thought crossed my mind, “If he only knew the truth.”
Two days later, November 30, 1986, was my twenty-fifth birthday. Miraculously, I was still alcohol free. I woke up around 6:30 a.m.; which was a stark contrast to my usual hung over “coming-to.” As I sat in my bed, alone, I experienced a sense of well-being that was deeper than the false bravado of believing that I had conquered alcohol forever. I looked out the window and noticed how beautiful the pink sky was in the early morning. It was one of the first mornings in years that I was awake at sunrise without having been up all night. Suddenly, a startling thought resounded in my mind, “You are loved. It’s not too late to change the path you’re on, but you must turn around and go the other way. But do not be afraid; for I am with you always – even until the end of time.”
I was shocked! “Oh my God, it’s God!” I thought. I began to search for a logical explanation. “God would not talk to me within myself,” I reasoned. “Paige, you don’t listen to anyone else,” was the reply.
I then knew without a doubt that God was real and alive – and that He loved me.
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