– A memoir by Laura Shepperd
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll know you’ve been told the truth in this memoir of Laura Shepperd’s quest for sobriety via rehab. This is no harrowing drunk tale, but rather a gritty, hope-filled story told in a voice so authentic it leaves the reader thinking maybe they’ve known her all along. Rehab takes her hundreds of miles from her rural East Texas town and worlds away from her life as a wife, mother and school secretary. What could she possibly have in common with a bunch of alcoholics, heroin addicts and Xanax housewives? At first, nothing. And then, everything.
Excerpt form Chapter 8
A goodbye Letter to alcohol? Really? What a bunch of kindergarten bullshit. I’ll smoke this assignment, blow her socks off and move forward in record time.
“And then you will read it aloud to the group,” Carla said.
Oh … well … now, wait just a minute. There are probably fifteen or twenty people in here! People I don’t even know. Don’t see what good can come of that. It’s bullshit.
“And today, Amy is ready to read her Goodbye Letter to the group,” Carla said smiling and turning to Amy. Everyone closed their materials and locked their eyes on Amy, and I followed their lead.
She began her reading with a brief background of her introduction to drugs and alcohol in the party scene. Then came her slippery slide into drug abuse and finally, the horrific tale of her intravenous heroin addiction. She told of days on end looking for the next fix. No food, no shower, no sleep. Just fixated on the fix. There was nothing too filthy or compromising if it would get her what she needed to get right, she said.
She read. She screamed and cursed. She cried. Her body shook like nothing I’d seen before. Her chest was heaving so, I feared she might pass out, and the ragged sides of her paper, torn from a spiral notebook, flopped up and down as her hands trembled.
I was mesmerized.
She cleared her throat and wiped her drenched face on her crisp, long-sleeved shirt, then sat up straight with new resolve. “And so, in conclusion, I say goodbye to you, heroin,” she read. “You’re the devil. I’m sure of it because you’ve taken everything. My family, my future … even the me I used to know. You took it all! Every fuckin’ thing that matters, you hear me?” she shouted with tears streaming down her thin, drawn face. Then she hung her head until her chin was on her chest, and with quivering lips, just above a whisper, she uttered, “Adios, you motherfucker. I’m done.”
No one drew a breath. There was no air in the room to breathe. And with trembling hands, she tightly folded her pages over and over into a small square, mashed them firmly between her palms and passed them down to our leader.
I internally noted the irony of the scene, her passing a note like that to the teacher. And though all the horrible mess that was her life and the dark secrets she had dragged through that mess were now out there all naked and raw, how she had meticulously folded her pages over and over themselves as if to keep the sad truth of the words inside from spilling out again. Those pages contained more pain, struggle and shame than any girl her age should ever have to know. She should be passing notes about dates and dresses, I thought to myself.
Most everyone in the group was wiping away tears, and we all looked like someone had punched us in the gut as we sat with our heads down and hands clasped tightly on our laps. I felt as if I had witnessed someone torturing herself. It was so brutal and jagged that when I finally did glance up at her, I almost expected to see slashes and bruising. But she just sat there all skinny and pale, limp with exhaustion.
I sat stunned in the silence. I had two days to work on the assignment.
That night, I read the assignment outline and set out to write the most articulate, well-organized, grammatically correct Goodbye Letter ever in the history of Rehab. What I ended up with was an emotional chronicle of my very close, very lengthy relationship with alcohol. One that started as a party, disintegrated into just plain pathetic, and now was ending with a bitter breakup demand by me. My anger towards my dear old friend surprised me. It was as if I had been plucked from a sick relationship, and only in that removal could I begin to see it for what it really was. My life partner alcohol had become a selfish sonofabitch:
“No one new in! And everybody who’s already in, Out with you, too if you disapprove! We go everywhere together, and we do everything together. If we’re not allowed in together, we just won’t fuckin’ go. To hell with you, and your judgment and intolerance!”
I cried for the me I had known and for the person I’d become. I cried for the mom and wife my family knew, and for the one they had ended up with. For two nights, I wrote and re-wrote. I threw away pages damp with tears and others crumpled in anger. At times, I meticulously edited each page. Others, I just copied the words over and over again. Finally, when words and tears no longer flowed, I neatly stacked my pages, shoved them in the folder on my desk, and let it be.
Then came the morning of my turn to read aloud, and I too, shook as I read with quivering voice, and I too, cried as I chronicled my relationship with my DOC. But as I concluded, I came to realize it was about the process, not the end product. It didn’t matter at all what was on my paper, any more than it mattered what anyone in that room thought of it. So I cleared my throat, gutted it up, and finished my reading:
“Alcohol, I’m scared to let you go. You were always there for me. Picked me up when I was feeling down, relaxed me when I felt tense, and made the good times even better. Then you turned on me, and now there are no good times together – ever. But I keep crawling back to you, begging for more, like a sick, pathetic, battered victim.
“You, once the maker of all things better, now the Betraye You, who eased my restlessness and took the edge off, have put me on an edge so thin and sharp, now the only way I can stay balanced and tolerate this excruciating mental, emotional and physical pain is to drink again. And then again, again and agan But we turned a corner, didn’t we? The party’s been over for a long, long time, and the relief you once gave is now an elusive memory I chased until I was busted up and finally, defeated.
“Yes, I’m scared to let you go. If this is life drinking, I can’t bear to think what waits if I stop. I didn’t want to keep drinking and seeing the disappointed looks from my children and my husband, but I could not, NOT drink! It’s all become a vicious cycle of fearful maintenance that has left me hopeless. Not the kind of hopeless that’s declared by an outsider. I am, within myself, for the first time in my life, without hope. Hope that I can manage my drinking, much less, quit completely. Hope that I can stop hurting my beautiful family. Hope for a better, happier life. And hope that I won’t be a drunken, sack-of-shit disappointment the remainder of my life. Yeah, that hope’s been long-gone.
“But I’m done. You’ve taken all I’m willing to give you, so go. Haul your ass away from me and my family. Somehow, they haven’t given up on me yet, so neither can I.”
Did I blow their socks off? Hardly. But the effect on me of honestly putting that history down on paper and then sharing it aloud with the other members of my group was deep and profound. I had written and read truths about myself that I had never even admitted alone, in my bed, in my busy, crazy head. I now trusted each and every one of these people, and they now trusted me. Seventy-two hours before, we’d never even met. And but for this one thing in common, our paths would have never crossed.
It’s Not All Rainbows and Ponies
by Laura Shepperd ©2016
About the Author
“It’s Not All Rainbows and Ponies” is Laura Shepperd’s first published work, outside a brief career as a print journalist. Laura is a native Texan who loves Rangers baseball, Dallas Cowboys football and watching her three grown children coach high school football and softball. She works because she has a mortgage. She writes because she loves it.
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Visit website at laurashepperd.com.
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