I Couldn’t Heal Until I Was Able to Face My Life

alcoholism recovery

Rae says God touched her life after her years of drinking and gave her the strength to chart a new course

By Rae Allina

I was in sixth grade when I started drinking alcohol. My friends and I would steal sips of the leftover beers sitting in my basement after my high school-aged brothers partied. We would pick up cigarette butts that had a drag left or find them on the ground outside of our local movie theater and smoke them. By 13 years old, I was pouring gin into my orange juice after school before my parents got home from work, replacing the missing alcohol with water. This continued through high school.

I found every opportunity to feed my addiction. My best friend’s older brother was attending a local community college and lived with his buddies, who threw parties every weekend. During sleepovers at my friend’s house, I would sneak away and hang out with her brother’s friends. I often ditched her, putting her in compromising situations when I showed back up drunk. 

My drinking escalated to the point where I needed at least six beers and a few shots to reach the high I wanted, and I was blacking out on a constant basis.

If there was a will, there was a way. I graduated from high school early, my motivation being to move out and party as much as possible. My parents were getting divorced, and I used that as fuel to escalate my drinking. When my dad moved out of the house, I followed suit and lived with a girlfriend, paying a very small rent that my job covered. I spent weekends driving six hours back and forth to visit my boyfriend in college, but then I cheated on him with one of his friends in our hometown. My life was unmanageable chaos, at best. I was creating drama in all my relationships by dating multiple men at once and bouncing around different places to live.

My ambition to be an esthetician and makeup artist was delayed by going away for a semester to college, where I drank every waking moment that I wasn’t recovering from a hangover or working. Depression and anxiety were my baseline, and I drifted through my 20s with different moves, jobs and relationships. Eventually, I found myself climbing in my career as a makeup artist. I was promoted to a management position at a flagship location in downtown Chicago for a well-known salon and spa, which was a big dream of mine at the time. Life looked normal on the outside, but I was still living for that drink!

I was in a serious relationship (with my now-husband), and we decided to move in together with a couple of friends. Life was going well … except that every moment I wasn’t working or sleeping, I was drinking. I relied on that to function. My drinking escalated to the point where I needed at least six beers and a few shots to reach the high I wanted, and I was blacking out on a constant basis. I couldn’t go a day without drinking.

Around this time, a pattern developed where I would cry at the end of the night when I was really drunk. I found myself sharing about my childhood trauma, even with strangers at the bar. Looking back, I can see that I was desperate for relief from the emotional pain my trauma caused me. Alcohol had numbed me emotionally from the time I started drinking, but that was wearing off. The last six months of my drinking were miserable, because no matter how much alcohol I put into my body, I could no longer experience the relief or euphoria I once felt.

My last night of drinking was no different from many other nights: I awoke first in the stairway of my apartment building with my neighbors walking over me to enter their apartment, and then again in vomit on the bathroom floor as I hugged the toilet. I called in sick to work because I was so hungover. Looking in the mirror that day, I didn’t recognize myself. I felt shame creeping in from all the hurt I had caused people I loved. I thought, I am going to die if I keep living like this. I felt broken. I was in despair, crying with my face in my hands, and yelled, “God, do you exist?” Internally, I heard the voice of God: “Yes.” I was astonished to feel a peace I never had experienced.

I still needed the supernatural healing of the spirit to be free from the bondage of alcoholism that had kept me chained to shame.

I prayed and said to God, “Help me,” and He guided my footsteps in that moment by giving me specific instructions of what to do next. A client with whom I had been sharing my struggle with drinking came to mind. She was two years sober and had given me a card with her phone number on it months before, telling me to reach out to her if I was ever serious about getting help. I called her, and she took me to my first recovery meeting.

I have been sober ever since. I couldn’t heal from my trauma until I was able to face my life and accept reality. Sobriety gave me the ability to experience my feelings and acknowledge what happened so that I could move on with my life instead of allowing it to consume and control me. The years I had gone to therapy as an adolescent were a steppingstone to bringing my trauma to the surface. Yet I still needed the supernatural healing of the spirit to be free from the bondage of alcoholism that had kept me chained to shame.

In the exploration of my faith in the God who changed my life with that prayer, I came to believe in Jesus Christ. Through reading the word of God in my daily devotionals, I became hungry to know the God of the Bible. God revealed Himself to me before I knew who He was. He interceded for me when I was at my lowest point, and I believe it is because I simply asked for His help. He was always available—I just needed to take the first step of faith to seek Him and come to know Him. He has given me the strength every single day to stay sober and do the next right thing. My life has been forever changed by His grace and love. We are made strong in our weaknesses when we rely on Him.

Rae is founder and president of the nonprofit Worthy Girl, whose mission is to help women and teen survivors of sexual trauma by providing tools and resources for recovery and to raise awareness about sex trafficking.