By Christie RudwallSeptember 18, 2020
It is hard to imagine today that my addiction path was not recognizable to me when I was 15 . That was nearly 40 years ago. However, as I recall my past, I can identify that my disease started as a thinking problem and not a drinking problem. I did have my first drunk before 14. I do remember that awful feeling of being sick after my dad gave me a little whiskey because I had a cold. Yes, even a little bit at the age of 6 made me very ill. But as I said, it all started as a thinking problem. My dad thought that giving a child a bit of whiskey was a normal remedy. Alcohol is technically a medication isn’t it?
My experimentation with alcohol started early. I remember intentionally drinking with my friends for fun—but the same result would happen every time. I would drink to intoxication and then I would get sick from the alcohol. I remember thinking at the time I was committing a sin because of these experiments, and I vowed to God that I would never let that happen again.
I was not able to deliver on that solemn vow.
In the spring of 1981, I had a virus that kept me out of school for one month. I was unable to eat. As a consequence, I lost 20 pounds. Someone told me I looked great and I believed them. I was convinced that I would be accepted if I was thin, popular and pretty—and I did not have a problem with that ideology. It became my quest.
And so my disease of addiction manifested from another disorder. I began calculating every calorie I consumed. I also began exercising to ensure that I would burn off any extra calories and by the fall of 1982. I weighed 100 lbs. I am 5’9” and I did not think this was a problem.
I was convinced that I would be accepted if I was thin, popular and pretty—and I did not have a problem with that ideology. It became my quest.”
In my eyes, this was not a problem with my thinking or my ideology. All I saw was a number on the scale. I did not look in the mirror anymore. Friends would express their concern and my thinking was: they are just jealous.
This is when I actually lost control, but I did not know that at the time.
I am going to go back a little into my childhood: I am the second child of four. My parent were in their early ’20s when they started a family. Both of my parents worked. My dad was a young businessman and my mother was a registered nurse. Because money was tight, my mother worked second shift. None of this really has anything to do with my addiction except that I thought that I had to be responsible for my younger siblings. I thought if I took on responsibilities I would be loved. Also at this time, my father began drinking heavily after work.
My experimentation with alcohol started early. I remember intentionally drinking with my friends for fun—but the same result would happen every time. I would drink to intoxication and then I would get sick from the alcohol.”
I mention my father’s drinking because it helps me to understand the genetic component of addiction. My father’s family history includes alcoholism. I was exposed to the chaos of an alcoholic home and I was introduced to alcohol early. I was determined that I would not be alcoholic.
I had a tremendous, false sense of control.
I will be liked if I am thin and I will be loved if I am responsible. I became a “good child” when I was 100 lbs. I stayed “good” for a very long time. I controlled my weight and I controlled my drinking. My thinking became rigid.
I ultimately lost all control when I was 37. I was a mother of three children and a wife. My husband was a successful businessman. After my twins were born, he decided to hire a staff to assist with taking care of the children and the home. I did not work outside of the home. I thought my husband thought I was not capable of handling the chaos of parental responsibility. I was angry, and I drank to be able to get some relief from my feelings.
By the time I was 38, I had experienced all of the symptoms of the disease of addiction. I entered treatment numerous times. I was powerless over my thinking. My brain would not let me challenge my own defenses.
Finally, on November 26, 2007, I had my last drink.
I had been to treatment and suffered consequences. Nothing was getting better because my thinking was not getting better. In therapy, I learned about rational emotive behavior therapy. This helped me learn to challenge my thinking errors. I began to understand that in order to stay sober, I had to surrender my thinking to the care of my therapist, my sponsor and other women in recovery.
Today, I can find humility and ask others to help me.
Today, I am surrounded by people in recovery on a daily basis because my program tells me that is what I have to do.
Today—12 years sober—I am finally accepted and loved for being myself.