Every October 20th for the past six years has been a somber day for me. The seasonal changes remind me of how I felt back then; the chillier mornings, the wet grounds, the scattered leaves, and the increase of wind activity, it all reflects on a time of feeling empty and hopeless. My life had a dramatic turn in a new direction this day, where my daily activities as a dad would be stripped because of my own choices. I had lost custody of my daughter, all by myself.
It was earlier that year, around the end of March, when I decided to get sober. I prayed about it wholeheartedly, asking God to help me, and went through the physical pain of withdrawal. Sweats, shakes, and the irritability lasted for weeks. Day 3 was the hardest, causing me to set an appointment with my doctor, and letting her know what is going on. If I was going to die, I wanted someone to know why. She made a valiant attempt at prescribing me medications to help with the pain but I refused. I had willpower. I had God. If anything, I had turmoil that was rightly earned. I deserved it.
When I checked into the mental health facility, I met Hope. She was attractive, young, and had a calm demeanor about her. She was my first nurse. I remember her telling me about her sisters, Faith and Charity (her mom was a religious one), and convinced me to swallow the pinkish, orangish pasty substance she handed me. As one that was dedicated to his sobriety, it wasn’t easy to swallow. She reassured me that it was non-narcotic, and it would help me relax. I took it, literally trusting Hope. I didn’t really have anything else to trust in anyway, I felt like my God had failed me once more.
Be assured that if you’re ever admitted to the looney bin, they are going to drug test you. I’m confident that my sparkling, clean-as-a-whistle, drug-free, alcohol-free urine helped the doctors decide that bipolar would be the most appropriate diagnosis. After that, I was prescribed serious, heavy metal drugs. My willpower and faith in God was destroyed. No matter how hard I had tried to achieve sobriety, it had come to an end. If I ever wanted to get out, see my daughters, or be a decent, contributing person to society, I had to swallow the biggest pills of my life; my pride and ego.
I caved in. I gave up. My therapist hinted that my life prior to sobriety was a life of self-medicating, I just didn’t know it. Drugs and alcohol were actually helping me balance the nonsensical shit going on in my head. The real emotions stirring would get bottled up, passed off as more stuff to sweep under the rug, and when the bottle was shaken to explode, I could defuse it with any available, ingestible chemical. A looming divorce, shitty finances, house heading to foreclosure, a car about to get repoed – it was all there. My need for sobriety outweighed my desire to hide this time, except the emotions were like a new-to-me used car with 200,000 miles on it; I could break down at any time. And it did.
Life crashed and it burned; that was six years ago. I remember feeling the highest I’ve ever felt in my life, and it was completely natural. And as they say, “What goes up must come down,” definitely did; like the drop of a rollercoaster but you can’t see any track ahead of you. Fear limited my ability to have hope and faith. It took a minute to start feeling the upswing of a life worth living, and to rid myself of the shame I felt in losing custody. It happened, I was frightened while I was in the thicket of it, but life kept going and I kept nudging forward, little by little. My youngest doesn’t remember much of those days, she was barely two years old. My oldest does though. She was 7 at the time, now 13 going on 30.
I didn’t get through all of that without lots of ups and downs. Life didn’t become perfect but every day it gets a bit more enjoyable. I’m still dealing with the things of my past because that’s what I have to do in order to have a more fulfilling future. And though I definitely felt like my God had abandoned me, he’s given me hope to get me through. With hope I can regain faith, and with faith, I can have charity, giving the little piece of me that would otherwise be put in a bottle and swept under a rug.