Hey guys! I hope this blog finds you happy, healthy, full of joy, and that the holidays have been a good one for you. I’m not sure why, but over the last month I have found myself thinking a lot about the people who struggle this time of year. Maybe it’s because leading up to the holidays I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel, or if I would be able to make it through them sober, but whatever the reason, it’s been on my mind a lot. So, if you are one of those who has struggled this holiday season, I’m praying for you.
Before I get into the purpose of this blog, I have some good news to share for those of you who are wondering. I did it. I somehow managed to stay 100% sober through Christmas and all the days leading up to it. By the grace of God I am 69 days sober and loving every second of it. Has it been easy? No. Has every moment been great? Also no. But I can tell you that sobriety has given me more happiness than the bottle ever gave me, and I’ll take every single hard day over all of my best days when I was drinking. This time around feels different, and I’ve learned so many lessons. I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t matter if I have 10,000 days of sobriety, or 69, each day counts and can’t be taken for granted. I have also experienced things that I would have never been able to experience if I was still drinking. Experiences that I will never forget and that have changed who I am for the better. One of these experiences happened last month, 11/23 to be exact, and after contemplating for weeks on whether or not I should share it, I decided I had to. I think it would be selfish of me not to in a lot of ways, but mostly because I think it’s a good reminder for everyone, alcoholic or not. And, hopefully through sharing my experience you will learn the same thing I did: Always trust your gut because it’s usually right.
Before I tell you what happened, I’ll give you the back story. When I decided to start this blog, one of the driving forces for sharing my story and being honest about what I’ve been through was first and foremost to help other people. That has been my number one goal throughout each and every blog I write. Another reason for this blog is to remind people that you are never alone. R.E.M. says it best through their song “Everybody Hurts”. Its all so very true. We all suffer and we’ve all been in a place that feels impossible to get out of. So, with all those reasons in mind I posted my first blog on November 2nd and overall I felt really good about it. I was amazed by the responses I got from so many people, many who I have never met, showing support and sending so much love my way. It truly has brought me to tears on so many occasions thinking about it. Along with all the messages of support, I also received messages from people who could relate to my story and struggled with many of the same things I do. As I was scrolling through some of these messages, there was one in particular that stood out to me. I had known this girl since high school, but hadn’t seen her since we graduated except for a few pictures on Facebook from time to time. Her life seemed so put together, good job, kids, etc., etc. To be honest I was shocked to hear that she also struggled with alcoholism. I wrote her back, we chatted for a couple days about the stuff we’ve been through, and we were both shocked at how similar our stories were. We started checking in with each other almost daily to see how each other was doing, and she told me a few times how much my blog helped her and thanked me for writing it. We decided to exchange numbers, and I told her to call me if she ever needed to talk and that I would always be there for her. A few days later that call came, it came on 11/23 around 12pm while I was at my sisters hanging out with her and my niece. My sister and I had planned on going to lunch that day, and then I was maybe gonna babysit, but nothing had been set in stone yet. My phone rang right as we were getting ready to leave for lunch, and all I could hear when I picked up the phone was my friend sobbing on the other end. Through many tears, the one thing I did manage to hear was that she had drank and was terrified of losing her kids. I spoke to her for a few minutes, tried to help her feel better, and then told her I would come by a little bit later to check on her. By the time we hung up, she had stopped crying, and it felt as though she was ok for the time being. So, as planned, me and my sister left, walked to the car, and as I was standing in the driveway about to get in the car something inside me told me to go check on my friend now instead of later. I ignored it though, told myself she would be ok while I ate, and proceeded to get in the car. Again, there was that same feeling I had gotten before, but this time it was much stronger. I stopped, looked at my sister and told her that I was going to check on my friend and that I would be right back. I felt awful for bailing on her, but I couldn’t ignore the feeling I was getting. The whole drive over there I had the most unsettling feeling. I can’t explain it. Even though our conversation ended ok and she seemed to be fine, my instincts told me something wasn’t right. I drove as fast as my car could go praying so hard that the feelings I had were wrong. I don’t know if I ever ever gotten out of a car so fast when I pulled in the driveway. After banging on her door for what seemed like forever, I decided to walk in hoping that the door was unlocked. It was, and I have since learned that it is a miracle it was unlocked because it usually never is. I started calling her name when I got through the door thinking that maybe she didn’t hear me knocking. No response. I kept calling it as I walked around the house searching for her. I checked the garage for her car, it was there, and as I came back in I could hear her phone ringing upstairs, but she wasn’t answering it. This is when I started to get nervous. I wasn’t sure what I was going to walk into up there, but I knew I had no choice but to go check. As soon as I walked in her bedroom, there she was, asleep in bed, breathing, almost as if she was just taking a nap. I tried to wake her up just to make sure she was ok, and thats when I knew something was wrong. I got no response out of her. Nothing. I was doing everything I possibly could to wake her with no such luck. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure how much she had drank, or if there was anything else in her system, all I knew is I couldn’t wake her up, and to put it lightly, I started to panic. I can’t explain the feeling of doing everything you can to try and wake someone up and getting no response in return. Nothing. Not even an eye movement. No matter how loud I yelled, or how many times I slapped her face to wake her up, she didn’t budge. I knew in that moment that I couldn’t do this alone, and since I knew her best friend I decided to try and call her. I was so relieved when she answered, and I’m sure what I was saying barely made sense, I just remember feeling better knowing she was on her way. It was after I hung up with her that I knew the only other option was to call 911, so that’s what I did. I was shaking so bad I could barely dial the numbers, and I remember repeating over and over in my head, “why is this happening to me?” The dispatcher that picked up was so so amazing. I have a new respect for 911 dispatchers because of her. She talked me through everything while helping me to stay calm as I tried to save my friend. The first thing she asked me to do was to get her on the ground where the surface was flat. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this because the bed she was laying in was a king size and she was right in the middle. I told the dispatcher to hold for a second, put the phone down, got in my friends bed and picked her up like I would a baby and carried her to the floor. The dispatcher then told me to count her breaths and say “now” whenever she took a breath. I only counted 2 in 30 seconds, which I knew from being a CNA that 2 was no where near enough, and I also knew that breaths shouldn’t sound as labored as hers did. After I told the dispatcher this, she asked me to tip my friends head back, clear the airway, and start CPR. I did exactly what the she told me, and after what felt like hours (it was really just a couple minutes) I heard the paramedics bust through the door and come running up the stairs. The amount of relief knowing someone was there to help me was something I can’t explain. They immediately took over while I just stood there trying to digest what had just happened. As they were working on her, they asked me if I knew what she had ingested and how much, as to which I had no answer for. After searching the house with one of the cops for whatever we could find, we found nothing. Not a single bottle of any kind. It was so hard to wrap my head around, and as I headed back upstairs to see if they were making any progress, I couldn’t help but hope that what I had done was enough. I prayed and prayed that I didn’t do anything wrong and that she would be ok. By this time, her best friend had arrived and was there with me. What an amazing person this girl is, and I am so thankful she dropped everything to come over. As we stood there watching them hook her up to every machine they had trying to wake her, there was a moment where I could see myself laying there. It was the most unreal feeling, almost out of body, and the only way I can describe it is I felt like I was watching myself die and not being able to do anything about it. I was helpless. As awful as it was to see my friend struggle to live, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was witnessing that for a reason. And, as hard as it was for me to believe, I knew that I was the one who was supposed to find her. God knew I needed to see this, and he put me there that day to show me how fragile life is, and that I needed to do everything I could to save me from myself. There are so many times in my past that I should have never woken up. Many times that I woke up soaked in my own urine after consuming so much alcohol that my body was starting to shut down. Times that I woke up with vomit on the pillow next to me having no recollection of how it got there. Every single one of those times I should have been the one laying on the floor trying to survive, but somehow, I never was. Somehow I was saved and am able to sit here and tell you about it. In that moment as I was looking at my friend, my life as I knew it, changed. The way I treat people changed, the anger and harsh feelings I had towards those I felt hurt me went away, and suddenly I felt lighter inside. Not one of those bitter feelings I was carrying around did any good for me, and after seeing how fast life can change, none of it mattered anymore.
After they took her to the hospital, I decided to go and wait and make sure she was ok. I didn’t want my friend sitting there alone, and I wanted to support any way that I could. After a while of waiting, the doctor came in and told us that she was no longer breathing on her own, was on a ventilator, and was being transferred to ICU. We just sat there not really knowing what to say. My heart sank. After about an hour of no change, I decided to go home and try to sleep. I felt her family would want to be alone in this time with not a lot of commotion. Plus, I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me, and I wasn’t sure what to say to them. In the brief moment that I was able to meet a few of them, they thanked me over and over for going over to check on her, and told me that I saved her life. I wanted to cry, how could I be the one to save someone else when I felt like I was the one who needed saving all this time? It was a hard thing for me to understand, and I spent many nights unable to sleep thinking about how that should have been me in that hospital, and not her.
The next day, I got a call that they were taking the tube out and that she was starting to breathe on her own. I can’t tell you how happy that made me and how grateful I felt. She was still unable to talk, so I decided to wait until she was more stable and aware before I went and saw her. The next day, 11/25, my phone rang and when I answered it was her. All I could understand through some tears a scratchy voice was, “Amelia, you saved my life. Thank you.” For the rest of my life I will never forget how I felt in that moment. Although it’s easy for her to say that I saved here life that day, I also feel like she saved my life and I want to thank her for that. After I hung up with her and as the day went on, I was reminded that as hard as it is sometimes to be vulnerable, it can change peoples lives. Never be ashamed of your story, because you never know the impact it can make on others and how it could save someone’s life. The best part of this story is not just the fact that she survived, but also that because I was sober, I was able to show up for her that day. Choosing to stay sober is the reason for some many things I am able to do these days, and what a blessing that is. I am grateful, and I have realized that the hardest experiences we go through in life can have the ability to save someone else one day. Well, at least it has for me.
Anyway, so there you have it. It wasn’t easy to share that, but I had to. I didn’t tell that story to get any sort of “hero” status, or to make myself look any better either, I tell that story so that hopefully everyone who reads it will stop ignoring their intuition and listen to those little “hunches” they get from time to time. If something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t. There are reasons for the feelings we get, nothing is random. I know that for me, I will never again ignore any feeling that I get. And I also know, that after many years of not really knowing if there is a God out there who cares, I am as sure as I know the sun will rise tomorrow that there is, and that He does care. He cares more than you know. Never forget that.
Heres to another 24 my friends. Thanks for all your love and support.