From Mugshots to Motivator

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I didn’t start drinking until I was separated from my husband.  I got the house, but selling it was the only way I could survive, so that is what I had to do.  I had the summer to get the house ready and for the first time in my life, I was alone.  I was suffering from depression, losing my world as I knew it, my family, my security, my collective identity.  I just knew that I wasn’t equipped to make it in the world on my own.  Marrying young, way to young, I never was able to define myself as an individual.  I was a small part of a collective, part and parcel of a pair.   Now I had to figure out what to do.  Embarrassed, I never looked to anyone for help, I felt too vulnerable for that, and distrusting.  My husband taught me that.  I only knew what my husband told me, and to go against him while being afraid of him, being afraid to be without him only confused me more.

I went to a wholesale club type of store, the type where you buy the super-size versions of everything.  Need some aspirin?  Here’s 500.  Need some toilet paper?  Here is enough to last a family of 4 for a year.  I didn’t even know how to shop, how to budget, how to deal really with anything, my husband did and now he was gone.  I walked past the alcohol section on my way to the bakery section, about to buy 24 muffins for just me, when I saw the magnums of champagne.  I thought they were so ridiculous, laughing to myself while thinking, I wonder how long a bottle like that would last?  So since I was alone and could do whatever I wanted, I bought it and a 2 gallon jug of OJ, mimosas sounded like the perfect idea.  I can finally use my champagne flutes I bought a long time ago for no apparent reason, we didn’t drink.

I drank the whole magnum in two days, and didn’t feel so great, but I did like how I felt drinking.  I wasn’t really worried about anything, and I liked that.  The problem now was I had no more champagne.  A problem that is easy to fix.  I went back to buy two more magnums.  This time I didn’t need any OJ in my mimosas.  I didn’t need my champagne flutes either.  They only hold four ounces and after the bubbles subside it is about two anyway, so out came the tumbler.  That way, I could dip my feet in the pool and not have to keep to keep running back and forth.  Simple fix.

When I was drinking, everything could wait until tomorrow, which was great, because I sure as hell couldn’t deal with anything today.  My life was no longer anything I recognized and being alone was unbearable, so I decided to take a friend’s advice and head out, which meant go to a club.  I never really did that, a few times maybe married, but that was it.  We didn’t do that either.  Now, I can, so I will.  I used to love dancing as a teenager and I realized I missed it.

I started going out, loved it!  No worries, all smiles, new friends, new clothes that were club worthy, the discovery of different drinks, like vodka and cranberry, all this made me feel like I had a lot of catching up to do!  Still losing my house, my former self and I wasn’t going to deal with that, because thinking about ’that’ sucked.

I sold my house and moved, from being married to single, from being a home owner to a renter, from being responsible to being a partier was a great way to ease the pain, because I didn’t want to feel that.  I became quite the drinker, felt like I went from 0-60, and discovered that my true drink of choice was Heineken.  Vodka was too hard core and as much as I drank, I didn’t want to appear like I was starting to have a problem as some of my friends were suggesting.  So I resolved that problem.  I got new friends.

I started drinking six days a week; the seventh was reserved for a 16 hour ‘nap.’  Then the cycle started again.  I became engaging, felt fabulous, was cooler than most, and had the best friends ever.  They drank as much as me, most more and never judged me.  I didn’t need to be judged, I have been through enough.

After a year at this speed, I had to downsize again.  An apartment.  Oh how depressing.  I couldn’t believe this was my lot in life.  I couldn’t deal with my life; I was chronically depressed by this point and just knew things couldn’t get worse.  Famous last words.  I was running out of money quickly, which only fueled my drinking.  I wanted to die, but was too chicken, so I slit my wrist, just the left one and ended up in a 5150 lock down, psych ward for those that don’t know what that is, which not the place for me. In California, it is law to keep you for 72 hours, but I convinced them that I knew what was best and got out in less than 24.  I was never going back there.  There were ‘real’ crazy people there!  “F” that.  They sent me home with some type of pills, valium, I think, which I didn’t take, I can’t stand pills.  I only needed to be left alone and my Heineken.

Money is almost gone and I am still alive.  I would drive with my 12 pack next to me, praying each time I would just drive of a cliff and it would all end.   The only thing that ended was having money.  I was now broke.  I had to sell my car to pay my rent and went from a new Mercedes ML 350 to a used Mazda 626 LX, I thought that LX stood for luxury.  Now I am not sure what the hell it means.

Drinking was my only solace.  Thankful I had that option.  I convinced myself that I had every right in the world to drink.  Drowning in depression, losing everything, driving around in a frumpy car, no one could possibly understand.

Did I say things couldn’t get any worse?  I was wrong.

Eventually I couldn’t pay my rent and I ended up at this girl’s house, which I would have recommended to be on Hoarders if it were on TV at that time.  I haven’t seen anything more disgusting or foul smelling ever but I had no place to go.  So I was stuck. I was broke and I was pissed about everything.

I didn’t have to stay long; I burned that bridge and was kicked out.  The first place I lost a lot of my possessions, which were pretty expensive.  I even lost my cat. The future brought more couches, more losses, more drinking, more depression, more despair.  A couple of friends gave me some money after I told them I needed a change of pace, now I understand that to be a ‘geographic.’

I drove my crappy car with my 12 pack to Utah, a pit stop and my transmission blew.  I had this car almost a year to the day.  I was stuck in Utah until I got another car, took off again with my trusty 12 pack, and drove straight to Atlanta, GA.  Met a guy and within three months my newest used car got repo’ed and I got the eviction notice.  He took off.  I didn’t have anything to eat for nine days.

Forced to bounce around like a ball, I was a day from being homeless, I was in a motel, had money for that night only, I got a job which I couldn’t believe since I wasn’t qualified.  Eventually I was able to get a place with my new boyfriend.  We were a great team, both stoners, which I preferred, so did he because I didn’t get so drunk and obnoxious.  It was a nice apartment close to my job so I could walk to work.  By this time I already had one arrest under my belt.  I got super drunk after losing my car and place and went off verbally on a sheriff and got a disorderly conduct charge.  Not because I had a drinking problem, but because he was a racist redneck.

I was starting to get arrest more and the more you get arrested the cops just assume you did something wrong, so off you go to jail.  Charges were always dismissed, but I can say I have been traumatized even if I traumatized myself.

The last time I was arrested was for a DUI. I could have gotten away with it but I panicked and turned into a gas station, as if the cop couldn’t get me there.  Panic not alcohol got me there. He mentioned how cordial I was, and I was, I mean I have gotten into it with cops so many other times, I finally figured out that was a battle I would never win so jokingly said, “Well, I fought the law and the law won.”  I had to do the breathalyzer, it was so high he asked me if I wanted to do it again, I said sure.  Same number, 2.54.

That DUI cost me every penny I had saved which was every penny I had plus my income taxes and I still had to make payments for a year.  Still no car, I got a DUI in my friend’s car, which I needed to borrow to go to court for some other issue I created being drunk.  Nice friend huh.

Guess who ended up losing another apartment.  Everything I had worked for was gone and I was in a sad, state.  I ended up living with a much older guy who was into me and I had no desire to take Anna Nicole Smith’s place, so the battle was constant.  He gave me money every day though and I spent it on weed and beer.   I don’t know how old he was but I am guessing 30 years my senior.  I had to stay drunk every day.  I hated my life and disliked him very much, and he knew it, but as long as I stayed he didn’t seem to mind.

I got arrested again, I can’t even remember for what, but I had to turn myself in, we actually went out to restaurant beforehand, and he bailed me right out and paid for my bail and fine which was 700 dollars. I didn’t work because I didn’t want to.  I’d rather be high and drunk and he let me. I finally got a job as a banquet server and in a lucid moment I realized I have to get the hell out of where I was so a friend I worked with let me move in with her.  I started dating a heroin addict; he was an engineer but never worked as one and became abusive. Then I was gone.  I was still drinking but was started staying sober a lot more, three months, then I would binge.  I ended up going back to school online because I never knew where I was going to be.

I started hanging out with this guy I used to go to the clubs with.  After getting kicked out of my friend’s house I moved in with him.  Then I really started getting my ass kicked.  One time he beat the shit out of me, and I ran to a convenience store, and they arrested me, because I was the one with the record.  My head was throbbing I had blood all over my shoes and shirt and was in hand cuffs again going to jail.  I wasn’t even scared of jail anymore.  I was just getting tired of getting arrested in my boxers.

I was complaining about my face throbbing and they actually let me see the nurse and I was beaten so bad they put me back in cuffs and two sheriffs put me in the back of the squad car and I went to the emergency room.  I was detained in the hospitals “criminal” area, which was concrete cells for 13 hours before I was seen.   I remember freezing as much as the throbbing pain.  Come to find out my nose was broken and I had a torn muscle behind my eye and lots of welts and bruises by this time from the guys dress shoes that he was wearing when he was kicking and stomping on me while I was on the floor.

I was released charges dropped. Again.

I saved up 240 dollars and flew out of Atlanta.  I needed to go ‘home,’ but where was that?  I needed to get back to California, and by some miracle I did.
Back on someone’s couch, then another’s then someone’s floor, almost arrested again, I realized I was done.  I wasn’t living, I don’t know what I was doing, but I knew that either I was going to live or I was going to die.  After all I went through, it all came down to one thought.  With my broken weed pipe in my hand I thought, “If I make this,” meaning get it into the garbage across the room, “I am done.”  I made a hole in one and I was done.

I went to AA meetings, probably 150 in the first 90 days, a few more bounces moving around until my new healthy boyfriend and I could get our own place and we did.  That is where I am typing this now.

Since my own struggle, I have discovered my calling; I guess I can call it that.  I became a recovery coach and founded  I am now an advocate of recovery coaching and alternative pathways to recovery, including SMART Recovery.  I have been invited to be a speaker at a conference in Las Vegas to speak on Recovery Coaching & Alternative Pathways, which is the title of the abstract I submitted and that was chosen.  I am actually attending two conferences this year and both happen to be in Las Vegas.

I still have bouts of depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but with the help of my doctors, I have received therapy and medication, which I am now off of.  I have learned basically how to deal, by using coping skills I never learned.  Life is a lot better now because I work at it every day.  Life is still hard, but in different ways, but nothing in life comes easy if it worth anything.  Sometimes a thought is triggered, and I cannot believe I am even alive.  I am glad the G-d didn’t listen to me when I kept praying to drive off a cliff.  Today my concerns are different.  Instead of trying to stop smoking weed and getting arrested when I am drunk,  in case I am randomly pee tested by my probation officer, I had to figure out which graduate program was right for me and which school would I go to.  For those of you wondering… I decided on the MFT program at the University of San Francisco.  I start August 2013.

Shira Goldberg BSc., Recovery Coach
Twitter @LivingsoberLC
LI ShiraGoldberg

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    John Cawley

    October 12, 2016 at 4:43 PM

    What a journey you’ve traveled Shira, thanks for sharing and I’m glad you were able to write it.

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    Megan Fritz

    July 11, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    Congratulations on your recovery and thank you for sharing your story with us!

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    July 7, 2016 at 12:21 PM

    Thank you for sharing your story with, Shira. Congrats to you on your recovery!

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