I kept a safe distance until my parents convinced me to fly down to my hometown in Florida to spend a few weeks with them relaxing and job hunting. I was scared they would know that something was wrong, but I was in such deep denial about what was really happening with me that I figured I could keep them in the dark too. Even though I drank more frequently than not, almost always blacked out, and was spending hundreds of dollars on alcohol a week.
Like any person with substance-use disorder, I was performing serious mental acrobatics to convince myself and those around me that I was fine. I tried to drink less around my parents and was mostly successful, but there were a few drunken nights when they clearly knew something was wrong. It became impossible to hide when my mom and I took a girls’ weekend to visit her friends and I got so drunk at dinner that I wet the bed in the middle of the night.
It wasn’t the first time I had done this in recent months. Just the first time anyone knew about it.
Before my parents had a chance to bring up their concerns in earnest, I was flying back to New York, where I had landed another job. It had been almost three months since I was fired, and four months since my birthday, so I thought I was ready.
But the night before I was to start this new job, I drank. I don’t even know what possessed me at this point, but I did. When I didn’t show up for work on my first day, they called my emergency contact—my mom.
Two days later I woke up from a multiday blackout to my mom banging on the door of my apartment. She had flown 1,500 miles to take me to rehab. “I’m here to help you,” she said. “You need help.”
After almost a year of excessive drinking, of stress, of worries, of fear of failure, of unhappiness, of blackouts, of spending more money than I can admit on bottles on vodka, I was ready to acknowledge that she was right: I did have a problem with alcohol.
After my mom showed up on my doorstep, I cried. I also dry heaved all day as I dealt with what was possibly the worst hangover of my life. She was there the whole time, comforting me, bringing me water, helping me get a little food in my system. She was there to talk to me, to tell me how worried she was, to help me come up with a plan. We packed my bags, and I flew back to Florida with her to attend a 30-day treatment facility.
When it comes to talking about any kind of substance abuse, a common thing we hear is that you can’t help those who aren’t willing to help themselves. I don’t disagree with that statement, but I don’t think I can fully agree with it either. If it wasn’t for the fights with my roommate, I wouldn’t have begun to suspect that my weekend drinking was getting out of hand. If it wasn’t for my friends expressing concern over my birthday drunkenness, I wouldn’t have begun to fully recognize that my behavior was becoming a problem. If it wasn’t for my mom coming to my rescue when I couldn’t admit I needed it, I wouldn’t have gotten help.
The months of denials, of lying both to myself and to my loved ones, would likely have continued if it wasn’t for all of these small interventions. It wasn’t as dramatic as you often see on television—nobody gathered me in a room and read me letters about how much they loved me and how much my behavior was hurting them—but it was still powerful. All these little moments added up to one big one, and I was finally able to admit that I had a problem with alcohol and needed help to fix it.
After a month in rehab (where I was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder) and another month in a sober-living house, I went back to my apartment in New York. But after a few months and a few relapses, I realized that staying sober while trying to fit back into my own life just wasn’t possible for me. So exactly a year after I lost my dream job, my mom made the 1,500 mile trip to help me one more time. She helped me pack up my apartment and move home to Florida, where I could focus on my recovery and on building a healthier life.