TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with an account of sexual assault and self-harm and may be triggering to some people.
Hi, I’m Adriana and I’m an alcoholic.
When I look back at my life, I realize it was inevitable that I’d end up here.
By the time I was nineteen, I’d already had a history of self-harm through cutting, a bi-product of my depression and anxiety. I was anorexic. I’d had a near cervical-cancer scare not once, but twice within a six-month period, leaving my gynecologist back in Sydney speechless. “I have never had a case like yours.”
I’d survived an abusive relationship that, I believed, left me with no other choice but to end my own life. If I were going to die, I’d rather die by my own accord, not his. So, I swallowed forty panadol pills, two at a time, within thirty minutes. I felt my body slowly shut down as each minute passed by, and ironically, it was the first time in a long time that I felt alive.
I’m not writing about the sugarcoated life many have engaged with on my social media feeds over the years. I am here to introduce you to my self-hatred, which you don’t see each time I post a filtered photo on my Instagram page.
I fell in love with the wrong person when I was seventeen. The first six months together were filled with happiness. I was convinced he was the one I’d spend the rest of my life with, and at seventeen my hunt for a husband was over. Hashtag winning.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Over the course of the ten months that followed, he routinely beat me, and I covered up the evidence to protect him. He psychologically raped me, repeatedly telling me, “Who’s gonna love you when I’m done with you?” He even sodomized me.
He threatened my life if I didn’t listen to him or if I dared to tell anyone the truth. I had two friends who begged me to walk away, but no matter how powerless I felt, their concerns meant nothing to me. So over time, they gave up trying.
He told me when to speak—“Don’t be too funny, Adriana. I don’t want people liking you more than me.” He also told what to wear and I had to ask permission if I wanted to go out. Worst of all, he stripped me of my right to feel human, true to the nature of how insidious an abusive relationship can be. In this case, love really was blind.
I internalized the trauma to such an extent that I carried the shame, guilt, and pain with me throughout my twenties. I forgave him long before I forgave myself, which led me to a path of unconscious self-destruction.
It was my fault for holding onto those first six months and hoping the real him would return. It was my fault that I let him treat me the way that he did. It was my fault for not leaving, particularly after the first time he hit me. It was my fault because surely I was doing something wrong that would trigger him to hit me. It was my fault because by staying, I was asking for it.
So I did what most young people do when they’re nineteen and single: I started my clubbing career and my relationship with Jack Daniels. A year before, alcohol repelled me; now it was my savior. This also led to the introduction to a string of dysfunctional people I’d come to call my friends.
You know, you should never judge a party girl. Every party girl has a backstory, but in my case, no one cared enough to find out. They just bought me more drinks.
People would say they envied my life—how I had zero Fs for the world around me—but what most people failed to see was that, in reality, I had zero Fs for myself.
Then I entered the permanent hangover I now call my twenties.
I started going to festivals and was introduced to ecstasy. I still remember the first time an e hit my bloodstream. Like most users, I tried to relive that feeling every time I popped a pill. Eventually, ecstasy became boring and I started experimenting with pure MDMA. It was a little bit riskier and more dangerous, but it didn’t matter because I didn’t matter.
I was then introduced to cocaine when I was twenty and that became my favorite drug of them all. Cocaine meant that I could drink more. It also meant that I had something in common with people who I usually wouldn’t associate with.
Cocaine turned me into a version of myself that was confident and unstoppable. When I was high I used to think to myself, “Imagine you were this confident and unstoppable but didn’t need cocaine to get you there.” Just imagine!
I often found it funny how the drug commonly referred to as “the rich man’s drug,” yet it left me feeling emotionally bankrupt.
At twenty-one, I was partying in Las Vegas with some friends when I got busted with an eight ball of cocaine—and got away with it. Fortunately, I was given a slap on the wrist and banned from entering half the hotels in Vegas, for life. Personally, I was more devastated because that meant that I could never be a Playboy bunny
I remember the undercover policewoman taking me down to the public toilets, handing me over the bag of coke, and asking me to flush it down. I took this as an opportunity to bribe her into letting me keep the bag.
You’d think that an incident like that would encourage me to hang my party dress and clean up my ways. But it didn’t. I continued down this path, playing roulette with my life.
Not all was tragic. I did find myself in a loving relationship a year later, and for three years lived a ‘normal’ life. He loved me and I loved him as much as I could. But what is love when you don’t love yourself? This voice inside my head constantly whispered, “You’re not good enough for him.”
Once that relationship ended, I was straight back to my self-destructive ways, drinking heavily on most nights.
On one occasion, I decided it would be “cool” to bring a guy home and skull cafe patron out of the bottle. Mind you, I was already intoxicated. The next morning I woke up peacefully in my bed. A few hours later, I received a message that read, “I need you to take the morning after pill asap.”
I thought, hmm, it’s not my ideal situation; sh*t happens I suppose. It’s $30 in Australia, and you can buy it over the counter, fortunately, but the problem was, I couldn’t remember having sex.
To this moment, I don’t. I had blacked out.
I felt so exposed, vulnerable, and disgusted with myself. Then the shame kicked in. Who the hell did I think I was? What was I becoming?
I decided I needed to stop drinking and I was successfully sober for three months. I survived parties, lonely nights, and even the ultimate test, a big fat Croatian wedding.
I never considered that I had a problem with alcohol. I thought that alcoholism was a condition you could learn to control.
In my late twenties I decided to move myself from Sydney to London to “find myself.” We all know the saying that you must “lose yourself” in order to “find yourself,” and I did just that.
London is a fascinating city to lose yourself in. There was always an occasion to drink. I wasn’t one of those wake up and drink right away type people. I was more self-respecting than that; I waited till lunchtime and continued until I blacked out! But as a high-functioning alcoholic, I still made my work deadlines.
I was always around people who didn’t just use drugs; they abused them. And no matter how much I knew the difference between right and wrong, I was perpetually on a quest to distract myself from myself.
There was no one more delighted to meet another person who was more messed up than me. “Great,” I thought. “Let’s talk about your problems; I’m not ready to talk about mine.”
I slept my way around, seeking someone who would understand and rescue me. I was bed hopping, using sex as a way to validate myself and feel worthy. It was nothing less than a cheap thrill.
I attracted males who were misogynistic and dominant, and resembled the character of my first love. Everyone had an agenda to take a piece of me. I was aware of this; I just didn’t care.
I had one who would eventually tell me that that maybe I shouldn’t be so upfront and honest about my past with the next guy because “it may turn him off.” But it was okay for him to turn me over in my sleep, get on top, and insert himself inside of me because he was in the mood. This was the many occasions that I was raped.
Then there was the one who slapped my face as I told him to get out of me, but he kept going, smiling as he watched the tears roll down my face.
Before I forget, there was another who was more than willing to buy me cocktails all night while telling me he couldn’t wait to take advantage of me later on, but made me call my own cab when I threw up all over his bedroom. Apparently we had sex too.
We can sit here and go on about my clouded judgment when in actual fact, this dialogue and connection was just my comfort zone.
A year ago, completely fed up with myself and my chemically addictive ways, I decided it was time to kill myself. I was emotionally exhausted and starved. My body no longer felt pain and I could longer taste alcohol. I was so deep in depression I could feel it in my blood.
I planned my suicide, step by step, over several days and kept reminding myself that the world was better off without me helplessly roaming within it, without a purpose, doing more harm than good.
I was a bad person because I was a broken person, as many boys had told me. I may not have intentionally hurt those around me, but I had a decade-long struggle during which I perpetually hurt the one person I never knew how to love, myself.
I started writing my suicide letter and decided I needed some background noise. On the front page of YouTube was a video titled “How to overcome procrastination by leaping afraid,” by Lisa Nichols. This video would end up saving my life and distracting me from my open wounds that were so desperately trying to dry up.
There is nothing that scares an addict more than sobriety and having nothing to turn to when that darkness from your past begins to appear and say, “Hey, remember me?” But I knew my problem with alcohol was fuelling my depression and, therefore, contributing to my self-hatred. I had to break this cycle of hate.
I sat in my silence and said, “Adriana, you have two choices right now: You can continue down this path, knowing you’re going to keep doing the same thing, getting the same results; and I’m pretty sure that’s what Einstein defined as insanity. Down this path your addictions will kill you or you may do it yourself—whatever comes first. Or, you can do something you haven’t done in the last ten years: give sobriety a chance and see if things are different on the other side.”
I was twenty-nine when I said enough. My grandfather was sixty. Some people never have an age. Some people simply drown and instead of living to their full potential. They just exist.
Every year on my birthday, I would blow out my candles and wish for love. Last year, my wish came true and I started the tumultuous road to recovery, healing, and self-love. It may be a cliché but it’s true: Who’s going to love you if you don’t love yourself first?
I knew that the life I dreamed of was on the other side of my fears and getting sober was a stepping-stone. I just celebrated eight months of sobriety, and although this may not seem like long, it’s the longest I haven’t poisoned my blood in ten years.
It hasn’t been easy. I have cried alone in my room. I had cried walking down the street. I have cried at parties and events. I’ve had breakdowns in several AA meetings. I have cried during a yoga class when the tears were triggered by the damage I had done to my body. I felt it all.
I heard voices telling me I’d fail and I should just stick to my old ways, the ways I knew best. I almost relapsed twice in the first three months because I was tempted to show my new friends who my old friends knew me to be.
But I am healing and getting stronger.
I’ve learned that we find our greatest strengths in our darkest shadows, and there is no way you can know what happiness is until you figure out what it isn’t.
The relationship we have with ourselves is the longest relationship we’ll ever have. Yet, we spend prolonged periods of time neglecting ourselves to suit the world around us.
We chase happiness in momentary triumphs instead of simply choosing it by putting in the work to keep ourselves self-aware and on our own paths of personal enlightenment.
We avoid taboo topics like addictions because they make people uncomfortable, but are more than willing to engage in these addictions because they make us more comfortable with ourselves.
We are united by owning our struggles and sharing our stories, and divided by our quest for perfection and appearing perfect to the world around us. Perfection is an illusion, and God, did I learn this the hard way.
I don’t deny my demons because instead of feeling ashamed of them, I’m now proud of how I’ve overcome them. And I know my greatest strengths have surfaced from my deepest struggles. Because of what I’ve been through, I’m more compassionate with others in similar situations and I’ve also developed a strong sense of determination to do the inner self work required to get past my trauma.
How many of you can look yourself in the eye and say I love you without knowing deep down that you just lied? I’m still learning, but courtesy of sobriety, I’m getting there.