It’s a great privilege to share Candi’s story. Candi is a family friend and her honest vulnerability makes her story so powerful. As a counselor working with children and families, I honor the hard choices she took to overcome her addiction both for herself and her children. Addictions of various kinds are becoming commonplace in today’s families. She took the difficult, but best road. Here’s Candi’s story.
It’s more than a road that takes us where we are going. Sometimes we get there by feeling great amounts of hurt, pain and bad decision-making. Mostly, it’s what we do with those things that truly gets us going in the right direction. The journey I’ve traveled has brought clarity and healing in my life. From the bad, came the good!
My name is Candi, and I’m a grateful, recovering alcoholic and addict. This is my story.
Seven years ago when I became pregnant with my third child, we were surprised. I was happy but my husband was not. I understand now why this wasn’t the best news for him. He was worried and scared at providing for another life. At the time, it crushed me because he wasn’t sharing my joyous feelings. I ran to a neighbor’s house and cried for hours. What was I going to do knowing I was carrying a baby that wasn’t wanted? I felt lonely, scared, angry and sad most of my pregnancy. I couldn’t share the wonderful moments of pregnancy with the man I loved. It was heartbreaking. When the wonderful spring day arrived that I gave birth to our son, my husband saw him and wept! He was sorry for his past feelings and couldn’t imagine life without our boy. While I was glad his feelings changed, I was still hurt and angry at him. I didn’t feel the love I once had for him.
During that spring and summer, my husband and I grew farther apart. I became short and snippy and he became withdrawn. Most of the time, I felt lonely and angry. I focused my attention on the kids and figured this is what life was like. Meanwhile, my heart and soul grew dark and clouded. One day I hurt my back and was introduced to Vicodin. I didn’t have prior experience with pain medicine. I found out one evening, after kids went to bed, that having a glass of wine and a pain pill made me feel pretty good. I felt no sadness or hurt, I was just happy. In that moment I didn’t worry about the pressures of being a “perfect” wife and mother or making sure the world thought everything was “okay” even though we had problems. I felt numb and it felt amazing. I found a secret trick of how to handle a bad day.
As time passed, I found myself wanting the same “good” feeling during the day. Once a day I would take a pill. The euphoric feeling I got helped me mask all that was wrong and I put on a happy-go-lucky attitude. Unfortunately, the pills eventually ran out. A voice inside me warned me to tread carefully, but I didn’t listen. I told myself, “Who cares? Just do it! Why should I care anymore?” I began doctor-shopping, finding the doctors who prescribed to “whatever or whomever.” My lies were many and great so I could bring home a bottle of what I needed. I did this for a long time and much of my time and energy was spent getting my “happy pills”. When the pills wore off, I was anything but happy. I needed an extra boost to keep the euphoric feeling for longer times, so I began mixing a bit of rum in my soda. I justified that if I did it after five o’clock, it was acceptable (right?). This worked as long as I had a couple more drinks throughout the evening.
Over time, the little rum turned into more rum, early bedtimes, and a hangover every morning. I heard when you have a hangover it’s best to drink it away. So, I bought vodka and put it in orange juice. A pill and a screwdriver greeted me each morning. This took care of the head pounding and “shakes,” but it left me empty of emotion and feeling. When I began to feel the issues I had been burying, I would just take more, resulting in coma-like state. While everything seemed fine and put together on the outside, inside I was ripping apart. I started to realize I had a problem. I worked hard to keep enough alcohol in the pantries so it looked like none was missing. On recycling day, I couldn’t let my husband see how much I had been drinking. I became a master at hiding and hid empty bottles everywhere. Empty pill bottles and vodka bottles were hid in the bottom of trashcans covered by paper. I heard a rumor that vodka doesn’t smell, so I’d dump half a can of Red Bull and fill the rest with vodka so it looked like a regular beverage.
The thought of being an alcoholic went through my mind. Though it scared me, I couldn’t stop because my body needed it along with my mind. I was of no real worth to my family, preforming my duties like a zombie. The anger, hurt and pain was far worse than when I took the first pill. The substance abuse was acting like a fertilizer on the feelings buried. It was time to do something different, because I was alone in my secret. No one knew all I was hiding. I realized I was wasting away my precious life, but I was terrified to tell. In sharing my secret, I would have to give up what my body craved. I would look like a loser and failure, acknowledging I.am.not.perfect.
But I took that step. I called my mom and I told her everything that had been going on for the past two years. Then I told my husband. They both were in dismay, but supportive. Sharing my secret was a relief. That was the first step, but the greatest. I thought I could detox at home. But I had children to look after and detoxing from alcohol and prescription drugs isn’t pretty. I felt like my body was being pulled apart. I didn’t have accountability and ended up in the same old routine. We decided to take action and figure out what our choices were for treatment. There was no way I could do this at home. I remember sitting on our back porch that September day, looking for rehab centers, praying to God to help me find a place that could help me. A strange box appeared on my computer screen. When I saw what it was, I knew we had to call the number.
We set a date for when I would leave. I had two days to tell those I loved what was going on. Feeling humiliated, I went to our daughter’s school and told her teacher and principal so that she could get support if she needed it. The boys were too young to understand what was wrong with Mommy. We told them I had to leave for a few weeks. Our daughter was old enough to know I would be gone for long time and she was very sad. I still remember her face as my husband and I were driving away. I felt as if my heart was detaching from my chest.
I was in treatment for roughly 66 days. The program was difficult. I had a hard time understanding my issues weren’t about drugs or alcohol, but stemmed from thought patterns and how I lived. While I was there, I sought Jesus in a way than I ever did before. I asked for His holy, healing hands to touch me and heal me. I asked Him to help me understand what was hindering my heart, mind and soul. When I opened my eyes each morning, I had so much anxiety and fear. I learned how to really pray and I prayed and prayed and prayed. I learned God was a loving God.
I gained clarity about the smallest of hurts and hang-ups I couldn’t let go of. I began to see the poison littering my mind. I learned to face what was buried and what I needed to let go of. I was resentful toward my husband, for his lack of support when I was pregnant, and I stopped seeing the good in him. I was angry for small, selfish things that snuffed out my inner light. I lived in self-centered blindness.
I realized I always suffered from a thinking problem. It started at an early age, I just didn’t know it. I relearned how to think, drink, eat, love, walk, talk, and give of myself. I learned to be silent, create boundaries, set goals and realistic expectations and clear unwanted thoughts from my mind. I was completely transformed by my Savior and Lord, Jesus! All because I asked, believed and wanted!
While I was at rehab, I felt safe from the outside world. I was around other like-minded people and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. When it came time to leave, I was frightened to come home to my family. I self-medicated every day in my home. How would I face a swarm of triggers? What kind of parent would I be with this new self? How was I ever going to fall back in love with my husband?
I had to realize that in order to heal and be forgiven, I had to ask God to help me forgive myself. Isaiah 1:18
Answering these questions took time and prayer. Honestly, it was the scariest time of my life. I didn’t feel strong enough to face everything waiting for me outside of rehab. I had damaged my family. I had to prove the “new” person I had become. I kept on praying! When I arrived home, I realized my children and husband were also different people. They had also been trying to survive, especially my husband. Family responsibilities had fallen on his shoulders. My daughter would cry herself to sleep because she missed me. Tear stains were on the picture of me in her journal. The boys didn’t call out my name when they needed something, they called out the names of those who helped while I was gone. It was like I didn’t exist in their memory. My heart ached and I grieved that I put them through this.
I was determined I would stay in a recovery program like AA. Not under any circumstance would I go back to the darkness. I would forgive anyone who hurt me. I would ask for forgiveness with a humble tongue. I would ask God to change my heart so I could love those I wanted to stay angry at. I would let go, and let God.
It’s been four and a half years since I left rehab and began a new life in Christ. I’ve received the gifts of substance and emotional sobriety. I look around me and see truth instead of fear and lies. I love my children and husband to my fullest because I have God’s love! He replaced my old friends with new ones that I could not live without today. The goals I set in treatment have been accomplished as of this writing.
I have vitality and strength to make good things happen. I want to be responsible and act with compassion. When I’m feeling low or under loved, I turn to prayer. My life, my family, and opportunities before me have been amazingly touched on this road of recovery. I choose to take the steep, rocky, and curvy path of life. I don’t want an easy road. There isn’t spiritual growth to it. The greatest lessons I’ve learned have come through pain and being uncomfortable. To really know what the Light is, I had to be in the dark.
I have verbally shared my story on a few occasions. Writing it out for this post has been a challenge. I literally went back to every single awful moment of this story and cried. Once I reached the end, I cried again. But this time I cried tears of gratitude and joy. I am so loved by our Creator. He brought me up from the ashes and gave me new wings to fly!
I pray for all of those who struggle with self loathing, fear and hopelessness, that you may find the Light of our Lord!! Many beautiful blessings to you, the reader! Thank you for reading my story.
Love and Peace,
You can contact Candi Watson Miller at Can.firstname.lastname@example.org