Raegan longed to go back to a life where she was no longer under the influence of alcohol. It took This Naked Mind to lead her there.
Unlike many who suffer from addiction in their adult years, I had an ideal childhood growing up in Richmond, Virginia during the 1980’s and 90’s. I attended a private elementary school, had a close circle of friends and was active in ballet and year-round swim team. Summers were spent at the local pool, attending Vacation Bible School and spending time basking in the southern sun while boating, fishing and swimming at my family’s cottage located on the blue waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
It was as close to a perfect upbringing as one can get in this world and I honestly wouldn’t change it for anything. Above all, no one in my immediate family suffered from alcohol or drug abuse and my innocent, young eyes rarely witnessed a person who was under the influence. I was completely shielded from that dark side of humanity.
Turning Off The Blinders
I switched over to public school when I entered the sixth grade. I welcomed the change since most of my friends from my elementary days were either starting to move away or were beginning to scatter to attend a variety of different junior high schools throughout the city and suburbs. While I was suddenly exposed to new people (including many who came from much harsher backgrounds than myself) I remained naïve about the cruel realities of this world, including addiction.
The First Time
A year later, at age 13, I was exposed to alcohol for the first time in my life. School was closed due to snow. That afternoon, three neighborhood friends walked over to my house and asked me if I wanted to go for a walk with them. I grabbed my heavy winter coat, gloves and hat and dashed out the door. Once we approached a field on the edge of some woods, we stopped walking. They pulled out wine and beer – enough for all four of us. I followed their example and took a sip of the beer. I honestly don’t remember much other than I thought it tasted absolutely disgusting and I was amazed to see one of my friends chug her can as if it were a Diet Coke.
That was the first time I ever had alcohol and the experience was so unappealing that I didn’t take another sip until college. You read that right, I didn’t drink again until college. I went through my entire high school career without taking in a drop of alcohol. And it wasn’t like I was some outcast student who didn’t partake in the traditional high school experience. In fact, the opposite was true.
In many ways, I was like millions of other American teens at the time. My weekends were spent with friends attending our high school football games, shopping at the nearby mall to grab the latest fashion trends, hanging out at the local movie theater, and spending countless hours on the phone discussing the latest FRIENDS episode. Alcohol never played a role in my life during those years. Classmates and friends would occasionally sneak it (some more than others), but I was never pressured into drinking. I chose not to and no one seemed to mind either way, so it just wasn’t an issue for me.
Not Under The Influence
The same can be said about my college years, at least for the most part. I think I drank a total of ten times during that entire four-year period. I occasionally attended parties across campus and at friends’ apartments throughout the city where my college was located (Virginia Beach, Virginia), but I rarely consumed any alcohol at those. I certainly didn’t experiment with any illegal drugs. I would bring a Diet Coke to parties, attending to simply enjoy time with friends and meet new people. I wasn’t against drinking and I didn’t mind that many of my friends would stumble back to their dorm rooms under the influence (it was their choice, after all). Personally, I just never felt the need to drink.
When college ended and I had earned my B.A. in Communications, I immediately applied and was accepted to a graduate school that was also located in Virginia Beach. These would turn out to be some of the best years of my life. I entered the program at age 23 and immediately formed amazing new friendships while maintaining most of my old ones from college as well. During this amazing two-year period, I studied abroad at Oxford University in England and traveled with friends to New York City, Mexico, and Russia (twice). I also started to work on my first book that would eventually be published and sold out due to popular demand. Most importantly, I completed my degree, earning an M.A. in Public Policy.
Getting Under The Influence
It was also during this time that my drinking increased; however, not to the point that it interfered with my life. Sunday through Thursday were dedicated strictly to school and work. However, I allowed myself to let loose and relax on my Friday’s and Saturday’s. I spent the days shopping, going to lunch with my roommate at our favorite Indian restaurant, and laying out at the beach. What I most looked forward to on these days off from school and work, though, were the nights. I had a very close circle of friends and every Friday and Saturday night were spent playing volleyball followed by enjoying each other’s company at someone’s apartment or house, drinking our favorite alcoholic beverages while playing card games, building bonfires and just relishing our time together as carefree, young 20-somethings.
Developing The Taste
It was during this time that I “discovered” mixed drinks. Prior to that, I had only tasted beer and wine coolers, not enjoying either. However, when I was introduced to rum and Coke, vodka and cranberry, and a host of other combined beverages, I started to develop a taste for alcohol. Still though, it never once interfered with school or work, so I never thought I was doing anything wrong. Not to mention alcohol is legal, which sent me the message that everything was okay. Little did my naïve brain know I was building a tolerance to a very toxic poison.
By the time I had completed my graduate program, I was all of 25 years old and ready to take on the world. I entered politics and started working in Washington, D.C. My office had a perfect view of the city, yet I was still so young and so naïve. I had stars in my eyes every time I walked by the U.S. Capitol or the White House. It was the equivalent of a young adult wanting to go into acting and arriving in Hollywood. That’s the best description I have of my feelings as I went to work every day in our nation’s capital.
My weekend drinking with friends slowly started turning into weeknight drinking with co-workers at happy hours or political events. Yet, it still wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t interfering with my job during the day, and it was not out of the norm for everyone I worked with (whether in the office or around the political scene in the city) to wine and dine at the strike of 5:00 pm and last for three to four hours. I never felt particularly pressured to drink with them, I just did it because I thought that’s just what a person in politics did after office hours. I was following their example and since alcohol is a legal substance, I never imagined that these seemingly innocent after-work drinking episodes would eventually lead down a destructive path.
Fast forward five years. I moved out to California to attempt my PhD. While the degree ended up eluding me, I spent three years in the Golden State enjoying a different lifestyle on the West Coast. I lived in San Diego and basked in year-round sunshine that often lead to many outdoor activities. I also traveled to other parts of the state, including San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. Those were three memorable years that I will always look back on and smile at the memories. Yet without realizing it, my alcohol consumption continued to slowly grow like it had when I first entered the working world in Washington, D.C. – except now I was increasing the amounts I took in.
My Go To
It started evolving even more due to the first roommate I had when I moved out west. For the first time in my life, there was more free time for meeting and dating new and interesting men, ones different than any back east. It was exciting, but nerve racking at the same time. My roommate suggested I have a drink before each date, claiming that the alcohol would allow me to relax and that it would take the edge off, making me less nervous. Sadly, I took her advice and soon I was drinking not only to relax, but to also fall asleep easier at night. It wasn’t long before I was relying on alcohol for almost every situation, considering it a “go-to” thing if I ever needed it for any emotion that I felt. If I was happy, I drank. When I was sad, I drank. If I was celebrating an accomplishment, I drank. It was becoming a part of my daily routine. Yet it still didn’t interfere with work, family, friends or life in general. I didn’t realize that I had become a “functioning alcoholic.”
The Road Ahead
I had no idea what was in store for me when I said goodbye to California after three years, but I headed back east. I planned to return to the political world; however, after one day back in D.C., I ended up being attacked by a person I was supposed to trust. This occurred almost two years ago, and my drinking went from being something that occurred mostly at night to something I did no matter the time. It could be 6:00 in the morning, and I would easily down a can of beer or several shots of vodka. It didn’t matter what I poured down my throat, so long as I passed out. That was my goal, to fade out of consciousness and to not think, not feel.
After about eight months of this horrific way of life, I entered a treatment program in another state that would include daily AA meetings. However, this did very little to help me. When the three-month program ended, I started another one that would address my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder concerning the attack. This program helped a great deal more than the first. My emotional needs were finally being treated, but I still relapsed on occasions – sporadically, but still happening.
Finding This Naked Mind
When the trauma became overwhelming, I was still viewing alcohol as a “friend” to help me get through it. That all changed when I saw an online advertisement for the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. It claimed to have a different approach to alcohol – a more scientific one. I ordered the book, started to read it, and as they say – the rest is history.
While I am not taking a shot (no pun intended) at AA, it never did much to help me. I realize thousands gain their sobriety back through these meetings and that’s great, but there is a portion of the population out there like me that have gained very little from sitting in a room and listening to someone’s story involving addiction. That’s where This Naked Mind comes in.
Tired of being under the influence? You can preview the book and learn how to live life alcohol free! Start reading This Naked Mind today!
The Cold, Hard Facts
Annie Grace stated a fact that really clicked with me; that willpower is often not enough to fight addiction. Remember alcohol kills thousands of people all over the world every year. Instead, we need to realize how alcohol impacts our brains and blurs the line between fact and fiction. We need to stop viewing it as something positive and realize the truth; that it is not only a drug, but the deadliest drug out there. Just because it is legal in most parts of the world does not change this fact.
Grace states another glaring fact in her book – that our society has made us believe alcohol is something good, something we need to swallow in order to relax, to have confidence, to aid us when we are feeling down or to enhance our happiness when we are up. None of this is true! I will repeat, NONE OF THIS IS TRUE! Daily, we’re dealing with bombardment by advertisements on television and billboards. Advertisements that make us believe that alcohol is the “go-to” we need in order to have fun, find the “right” partner, and unwind when we have had a long day, etc. These misleading advertisements do not reveal the truth – that alcohol will eventually steal from us.
As we build a tolerance to this toxic poison, we need it more and more. As stated before, alcohol is a drug, whether some want to believe it or not. Just because it is legal in the United States and most elsewhere in the world does not change this. Eventually it starts to steal from us. It takes our money, our happiness, our dignity and even our friends and family.
No Longer Under The Influence
Now, thanks to This Naked Mind, I see alcohol for the horrific liquid it is. I realize no one is immune from the horrors drinking brings with it. I am a perfect example of this. As I stated earlier, I did not grow up around alcohol. No one in my immediate family had a problem with addiction. I never drank in high school and I rarely consumed it in college. But even I wasn’t safe from its clutches. It nearly took me down, seemingly out of the blue, when I hit my mid-30’s. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. No one is safe from this toxic poison. Absolutely no one.
I am happy to state that today I can look at bottles of wine or cases of beer in the grocery store and I do not have even the slightest desire to add it to my shopping cart. I can go out to eat with friends and happily order a simple Diet Coke and feel no need to ask for a shot of vodka to go with it. To be honest, just the THOUGHT of consuming alcohol makes me feel ill now.
I am quickly becoming the person I was prior to the time when alcohol started to dictate my life. I am on the road back to becoming the successful writer, the world traveler, the dedicated friend, and the positive, outgoing person I have been for most of my life. Alcohol has no place in my world, and I am more than happy to leave it where it belongs – in my past. I owe my sobriety to This Naked Mind. This book saved my life.
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