Command Joy by Putting a Pause on the Partying

Note from the editor:   This article traces the steps of someone who became addicted to a substance, let it take over her life, and was left with massive regrets.  I urge you not to be put off by the initial seeming negativity of the story line, because it finishes on a high note.  The moral of the story-the story of whatever it is we can become addicted to-is the lesson that we can create our own joy; we don't need to give ourselves away and become slaves to anything else in order to find it.  I hope you'll feel empowered by Erin's story...

By Erin M

As a kid growing up, my Mother was the only person who really truly deeply had my back. Through the years I spent going to gymnastic classes, at dance recitals, sporting events, she was always there to watch me. ALWAYS. She never missed a performance, a game, a show... her kids were her world and she put me in first place in her life. She believed in me and told me I could be or have whatever I wanted. When I would come home crying about how my best friend ditched me for another best friend, she would tell me how it is their loss and how they were just jealous of me. She believed that any boy who didn't love me was just an idiot, and that I was too good for them anyway. Whatever crisis I went through in my life, my Mother was there for me. She picked up the phone, she listened, she cried with me, she gave me strength. She reminded me that when I would look back on the situation 5 years from now, it really wouldn't matter. She gave me confidence and she always stood up for me.


So how did I repay her for her love? I was mean, selfish and cruel. My Mother got diagnosed with melanoma in 2006 and how did I respond? I ran. I moved away from home and I broke her heart. I started a job in the alcohol beverage industry and I became an alcoholic. I was already into partying, but this job and the new city just enabled me even more. As my Mom was dying, having to go to doctor's appointments alone, scared and facing the reality of her death, I was out partying. Chasing bars, boys, and beer, I couldn't wait to find the next happy hour... it was my goal to get black out drunk every weekend and I truly lived to drink. I surrounded myself with people who loved to go to bars and what slowly became a weekend thing turned into an everyday thing. I couldn't go to sleep without getting buzzed first, and my routine was to come home from work, drink with my roommates, and pass out asleep. It got to a point where I couldn't fall asleep without getting drunk. While I made partying a priority, I turned my back on the one person on this earth who actually had my back.
 
I remember her calling me day after day after day and I would see the call, roll my eyes, get annoyed, and hit ignore. Then I would send her an email about once a week with the same opening "what do you want Mom? I am busy." All she wanted was to talk, and I couldn't even give her that. She gave me her life, took care of me, made me into the woman I am today, and I treated her like shit. As her condition grew worse, I moved even further away and started becoming even more mean to her. She wanted to visit me, I would make up stories about why I didn't have the time and was too busy. I could not be bothered to stop my drinking for a weekend to be with her.



I needed to go out and meet someone! I was in my 20's and still single... and I would be damned if I turned 30 without getting married. I would even have work trips that had me travel to my hometown and I wouldn't tell her, I couldn't bear to see her. I couldn't deal with her depression and the updates on her condition... she was so sad and down about it, but who wouldn't be depressed when the Big C has just given you a life sentence? 

I also was a mean drunk - yelling at people, getting irate, I was awful and would say terrible things to the people I love... but don't worry - I was really great at rationalizing and justifying my behavior! If I woke up the next day with a hangover and embarrassed about calling someone an asshole from the night before, yelling at a bartender, throwing a bottle at someone, I would blame it on being drunk. It let me not take responsibility for anything. It was immature, selfish, and stupid.

During this time, there were small voices in my head that told me I needed to stop drinking... they would say "if you stopped drinking, something would happen" "if you could just put down the bottle for one day it would be better" or "you have to stop this" I would have flashbacks of how when I was 15... during the DARE campaign days in school... remember those? I wrote in my diary that I would never use alcohol or drugs. When I had hangovers and felt terrible about breaking this one promise to myself.

When I was drunk, there were moments when I really felt I was on top of the world! I felt attractive, smart, important. special. Popular. Liked. Connected. Looking back now, I realize I would rendezvous for hours while never actually accomplishing anything when I was drinking. I would just sit there, at bars, with friends, Watching. Talking. Wasting time.
Alcohol cost me precious limited moments with my Mom. I knew I needed to stop but I kept getting drawn back in. I thought I could handle one or two drinks, but then it would become four or five drinks, and then I couldn't stop, but in my head I heard that I must stop. I can't stop, I must stop, where does this stop.
   
So Mom, I am sorry, but I have chosen alcohol over you. Surely you'll understand. I have to drink to feel alive, while you are by yourself, all alone, dying." When my Mom did die, I stood over her body and hugged her, sobbing uncontrollably, for all I could do is say I am sorry, I looked at her dead body and I screamed and I pleaded "Mom, I am so sorry. I am so sorry. You didn't deserve what I did to you. I am so sorry." Every day since she has died, I have cried myself to sleep visualizing me hugging her and begging for forgiveness for abandoning her, betraying the one person who loved me.


During the 20 years of my life I spent partying, I put myself in many dangerous situations, some that were so stupid that I should have been the dead one, not Mom. Spending your time around these party animals gets you no where. Trust me, by making partying a priority, you are simply distracting yourself. Pouring alcohol down your throat also means you are pouring down the drive for your dreams. The next time you find yourself chasing the next bar, sit down and think about chasing the next dream. There is a life bigger than dollar beers and half price apps, and if you are going to grow as a person, you have to grow up first.

For the last few years, I've woken up not wanting, but needing to tell young women that they don't have to spend their lives waiting for something to come save them. That they can and should trust themselves and realize they are enough as they are, and that their intuition is the best guide available. I hope that in some way, my coaching will show young women that they command their own joy.

It's time to command joy in our lives. if not now, when? For more information, visit our website: http://www.commandjoy.org/

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