I got out of the hospital that night with 12 staples in my head, chemical burns over my back and neck from the gasoline, and some cuts and scrapes. The liquor store was indeed closed but luckily the hospital gave me something for the pain, which took the edge off of my need for booze. I really don't remember much about the few weeks. For the first few days I felt okay, I guess. On about the fourth day after the attack, I began to drink vodka. Lots of vodka. I stayed at home and in my room with my dog. I took her out when she needed to go but other than that, I drank. I got fired from one of my jobs. My friends and family worried about me. The attack exacerbated my emotional state and that in conjunction with my alcoholism resulted in my inability to stop drinking at all. So I drank and drank.
I finally dragged myself out of that room and went to work at my other job which as luck would have it was a bartending gig! Sweet! I had motivation to go to work. Booze. So, I worked and drank for about another month. One night, I remember going to work and that was it. The rest of the night is completely gone; I was there physically but was operating in a total black out. I'd blacked out many times before but never at work. I woke the next day and had that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that so often happens after a black out. (Oh, by the way, black out drinking is not normal.) Years earlier, my sister and I named that feeling "I'm-a-loser-itis," which is also accompanied by the familiar nagging question, "What the hell happened last night?...." UGH. Fuck. What. the. fuck.
The following day I got ready and headed back to work, pit of my stomach still nagging, where I was greeted by the owners of the bar. They told me that I no longer had a job and that they were also worried about me and said that they thought I needed some help. They didn't even know me at all and they were worried about me. Whoa.
|This was in June 2007. Sushi was just a puppy and her mommy was in bad shape.|
For some reason, that night was the night. I was standing alone behind a building where I once worked when it all came rushing into my head. I had, as they say, a "moment of clarity." I was 300 miles from my nearest family members, I had almost been killed by a madman a few weeks earlier, I had lost two jobs, was living with some people who had taken me in out of the kindness of their hearts, had a dog who relied completely on me, $60 in my pocket, and I could not stop drinking. Alcohol was going to kill me if I didn't get some help. I was 36 years old with no car, no house, no husband, no children, no nothing. I was done.
I called my sister and told her I was ready for some help. I think she may have screamed, "THANK GOD!" The rest is sort of a blur. I went for an intake evaluation at the local health department and was told to continue drinking until they had a bed for me at the treatment center, otherwise I may have a seizure and die. Apparently the only drug from which you can die during withdrawl is alcohol. Who knew?
So, on the morning of July 12, 2007, I took what I hope to be my last drink and went into treatment. My last drink sucked! It was warm, cheap, white wine that I pulled out from under my bed and swigged so that I wouldn't begin to withdrawal. It was purely medicinal with no pleasure whatsoever. I'm glad about that.
When I walked into that treatment center with my mother by my side, I was told that they would do everything to help me get sober but that I had to do the work. It was my choice, my work, my recovery. I became willing to listen to directions that day and began my journey. The obsession and craving for alcohol left me rather quickly and for that I'm so very grateful. That is not the case with many people, so I look at that as a gift.
Here's the kicker. I was getting sober and learning to live by a whole new set of principles yet I still had to go to court repeatedly over this case with Steve. The first time I saw him in the courtroom I thought I'd die. I'd never been more nervous in my life but I did what I had to do. The very worst day during that time came when I received an automated phone call stating in a computerized voice, that Steve was being released because he had posted his bail. You know that feeling right before you pass out? Like the world sort of spins and starts to go black from the sides toward the center? That happened. I also felt like I might lose control of my bodily functions. I was completely freaked out.
So for the next ten (yes, ten!) months the case plodded along. Steve tried every trick in the book to delay the trial, spin the events, slander my name, and legally get out of the punishment for this crime. It was awful. During this time I was still living with my dear friends in Maryland and Steve was up in New Jersey with his family. It didn't seem far enough away to me at all and I lived with a certain amount of constant fear. A few times when I was out with my dog in the evening I would get spooked and run home. He knew exactly where I was and that scared the living shit out of me.
Also during those ten months I came to understand myself in such a different manner. I was so raw when I got out of treatment and had no idea how to live without alcohol. Simple tasks confused the hell out of me and making decisions was hard! I worked through the twelve steps of recovery with a sponsor and began to change my life. I did a lot of work on myself but sheer willpower did not get me sober. I had to rely on a power greater than myself which is different for everyone. Doors opened and small victories were had. At first I worked for a fiber artist friend of mine weaving rugs, which was incredible, actually. The repetition of the loom and the colors of the thread were a meditation for me. About 8 months into my recovery I was asked to return to work at the shop from which I'd been fired. I paid debts, made amends, and began to really live. It was amazing. All the while going to court and looking over my shoulder. Looking back it's hard to imagine that I handled it all.
After going around and around in circles, the day finally arrived! We were going to court so the judge could hear the case and sentence Steve. I was beyond nervous but now had a band of people with me both in and out of the court room. When my turn came, I stood up before that judge and told my side of the story. The beauty was that I had already shared the story with women in recovery groups and people in treatment centers so I felt comfortable with the details. The scary part was that I felt Steve's eyes on my the entire time.
I think originally Steve was charged with 11 things but it was eventually whittled down to three main charges: first degree assault, second degree assault, and violation of a protective order. I know, I know, "Why isn't it attempted murder?" I shouted the same thing, believe me. Well, in Maryland, first degree assault and attempted murder hold the same amount of "weight" in sentencing and since there is no doubt of the assault, the SA went with that. I'm fine with that decision.
The judge decided to sentence him above the guidelines for the crime, due to the violent nature of the whole thing. He got 20 years with 10 suspended and was to be eligible for parole after 5 years. I was thrilled with that, especially the "above the guidelines" part! I was free in a very real sense! The very next day I celebrated 1 year of sobriety. It was a perfect full-circle moment!
|My sister and I celebrating my 1 year sober anniversary!|
I went on about my life. I got better and better and changed more and more. I have become the person I was meant to be. I met my husband and got married! We bought a house! I got a master's degree! I have a job that I love! My Sushi is happy and healthy at age 6! I have a new Jeep! My life is amazingly wonderful. I am a good daughter, sister, aunt, wife, dog-mom, and friend.
I knew the day would come and now since it's been almost five years since sentencing, I'm standing in a familiar spot only I'm not the same person.
This brings me to that phone call from a few weeks ago. The one where I found out that Steve was asking for a sentence reduction so that he could get out on parole sooner. Meaning, like, now. All of this came flooding back to me in a second. I immediately called my husband and expressed my terror and he calmly talked me down. I talked to a few more people and the load got lighter. I've learned to share this kind of stuff instead of thinking I need to handle it on my own! I'm not alone anymore and have many people with whom I share on a continual basis. I truly believe that this is all happening the way it's supposed to and that everything will be alright. It just will.
The outcome of the sentence reduction hearing? I'm relieved to tell you that he was not granted a sentence reduction and will not be eligible for parole until November 2014. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
I am happy, joyous, and free. Oh, and grateful as shit. ;)