Fixing A Hole: A Battle With Alcoholism

     You don't realize how damaged a person can be until you take away their armor, and see the scars underneath.

     My childhood was marred with self-esteem issues that came along with being the new kid and never really feeling comfortable in my own skin. My mother is and was an amazing woman who did the best she could, but there were times where I didn't feel like I was good enough for her. And my father... oh how I worshipped and adored him,  but I never could get that amount of love and adoration back that I craved so much. I wanted so badly to be daddy’s girl, but as hard as I tried, I could never be the apple of his eyes.

     Things got worse when I turned 14 and due to a rare ovarian condition, my parents and I were told that I would never bear children. I couldn’t process that. Hell, I had just gone from playing with Barbies to liking boys and now the fate of my womanhood was decided right then and there. I felt empty, lifeless, like I had no purpose. My mother brushed it away, saying it could be so much worse and to not make it a big deal. My dad laughed it away and never spoke of it again. That was my first real memory of the gaping hole inside me. The one I would use to suppress my darkest feelings.

     And the one I would learn to fill with my first love, Alcohol.

     I moved to New York City City when I was 19 to be an actress. I had been accepted into a wonderful conservatory and even though the world was at my fingertips, I was still that scared little girl who thought very little of herself. I figured out right away which bars I could get into underage and made friends with the bartenders. I eventually got my first waitressing job at a little dive place downtown that held the same familiarity of every Cheers bar. I loved being there. It was the only place that made feel comfortable in my own skin. The half-broken neon lights, sawdust on the floor, and the jukebox with Billy Joel on repeat greeted me with a warm feeling like I was finally home. Alcohol was liquid gold to me, with every drop, I felt prettier, smarter, funnier, and more alive. And then there would be the downfalls. One night after heavy drinking, I convinced a ‘friend’ and fellow student to take my virginity. I thought I was making a smart decision by choosing a close friend.

     The next day, he had passed out cards with my name and a big V on them to all the guys in my school. I got my first taste of demoralization. I took that horrible experience and I stuffed it deep down in that gaping hole, and I went to my safe place, and I drank. I drank until I couldn’t feel anymore.

     A friend introduced me to cocaine one night and everything changed. I could suddenly drink more than I ever could before. And I fell in love. The demoralizing behavior got worse. With the partying came longer hours out, seedier bars, and I found myself leaving the apartments of strange men in the wee hours of the morning. It was an ugly cycle full of guilt and shame, and a tremendous amount of self-hatred.

     I ended up meeting and falling in love with one of my one-night stands. He was a night club owner and also connected to one of New York’s most elite drug dealing rings. He was also 26 years older than me. If I didn’t have a giant sticker on my forehead then that said, “ALCOHOLIC W/ DADDY ISSUES” well I should have.

     I became his Stepford Wife, so to speak, and didn’t have to work. We partied hard together, and I drank all the time. On the surface, everything looked perfect. I had an apartment in Manhattan, a Mercedes, a house in Vermont. Not too shabby for a 22 year old girl from the Midwest. But inside I was terrified. All I ever wanted was to be unconditionally loved and to just stop hating the reflection in the mirror. And the more I drank, the uglier that reflection  grew.

     I left him and New York when I was 27. In sobriety, they call what I did pulling a geographical. Basically I moved away, thinking that would solve all my problems, when of course the problem was me. I continued my long downward spiral into Nashville, Tennessee like a tornado that lasted 10 months. At 28, I made a gut-wrenching decision to move to Colorado to live with my mother. None of these things were helping the black hole inside of me. The one that was full of trauma associated with emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

     You see, any girl with a drinking problem has one story. Mine was a bar in midtown New York, during a blizzard. There was only a couple of us there at closing time because we knew the bartender (of course). I remember having an odd feeling about the barback. Turns out my drink was roofied, and he waited for my drunk friends to be outside smoking. I woke up on a pool table downstairs with my pants around my ankles. I remembered nothing.

     In Nashville I dated a Chef from my restaurant. Six months later, he was beating the crap out of me. When you think so little of yourself, you attract the same.

     I wholeheartedly believe alcoholism is genetic.  My dad was a severe alcoholic who suffered tremendously. He unfortunately never got help. In February of 2013, my father committed suicide at the age of 59. It was the darkest day of my life. It was also when my drinking took a turn for the worst. I then had to drink to breathe. My drinking took me to very dark places and almost killed me. I started to get sick, I woke up with severe stomach pain one morning and had to go the ER. I had alcohol induced Pancreatitis. Did I get it that once and stop drinking for good?

     No, you see, my name is Megan and I am an alcoholic, a real one. I developed Pancreatitis so many times that they eventually had to remove my gallbladder in my 30’s. My liver was enlarged and in the early stages of liver disease if I didn’t stop what I was doing to myself. It wasn’t just the physical suffering, there was the mental illness as well. There was the severe depression and anxiety, two things that have brought me to my knees countless times. Chester Bennington once said, "My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I should not go walking alone."

     I had to get help.

     I tried on my own, although it has worked for many, it was not the path for me. In October of 2016, I entered treatment near downtown Los Angeles. And believe me this place was not like what you see on those commercials. This was hardcore, in your face, do-you-want-to-save-your-life-or-not rehab. I did everything they asked me to and I stayed there for 90 days. I cried, I journaled, I screamed, I was scared, but most importantly I let myself feel every damn thing. It was the most vulnerable I’ve ever been in my entire life. With that and the help of therapy, support groups, and the unconditional love of my family and friends I have now been sober for eighteen months.

     What I know now today, is that I no longer have that empty void inside of me, screaming to be filled with a temporary high. I am whole with compassion, grace, peace, and most importantly, gratitude.

"A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles."

By: Meg Henley

Instagram: @megraehenley