In My Shoes - Addiction, Sobriety, and The Gift of Music

Each of us has a story and a journey.  Here is an important part of mine. I believe that sharing a personal and private story may be just what someone else needs to hear to know they can turn the corner and begin a new page in their life.  I also realize revealing my story does not come without risk to myself and judgement from others  but I so believe in the message of my experience and the gift of hope that can change a life. I grew up in Southern New Hampshire and I am 60 years old now, a Software Engineer for 37 years and still employed, a Singer Songwriter for a lifetime and so very grateful to have 17+ years of recovery.  Without this gift of sobriety I wouldn’t be here to share my story and songs with you.

Part 1

It was the summer of 1969 and I was eleven years old when I had my very first introduction to alcohol and my very first blackout. My father was critically ill in a Boston hospital and had been there for months while my mother was working nights as a Country & Western singer. My parents had a very troubled marriage with a divorce pending and my older sister, myself and younger brother were home alone often. Years of trauma would eventually surface and reveal the damage done to each of us as we tried to survive a nightmare within our home.  My sister and I and some friends met some boys at an amusement park in NH and one was old enough to buy a couple of cases of Colt 45 and bring them back to our house while my parents were away. That night I drank enough cans of malt liquor to throw up in a rocking chair and have my first blackout of many. So began my addiction that very night at only 11 years old. 

It was now the 70s and alcohol, marijuana, hash, orange sunshine, purple microdot, mescaline, etc was everywhere around. My house soon became the place to gather and to party. I had been a shy kid, a bit overweight and I struggled inside with intense fear and anxiety from the unrest at home. The very minute I found alcohol there was a new and fun way to calm and silence that inner pain and torment. I would continue to drink and get drunk and blackout through my teenage years, my 20s, my 30s, and the beginning of my 40s until I reached that dark hellish place of uncontrolled addiction and not being able to stop. In my mid teenage years I started having panic attacks and agoraphobia so I drank even more and in my early 20s I was finally diagnosed with panic disorder and major depression and put on anti-depressants. So now I drank and took medication and I would continue this combination until years later I started having waking seizures with sensations of losing control of my body and brain and experience the most frightening episodes one could imagine. These partial seizures would then trigger severe panic where I was in such a state of terror that only the ER and doses of Ativan and Xanax could quiet and comfort my suffering.

To survive and be able to even function I now took anti-depressants for depression, benzodiazepines for panic, and alcohol because I was addicted. 

Part 2 

Somehow in this darkness I found enough light to graduate from high school, go to college, pay my own way, get a degree, have a few long term relationships, have a steady and great profession, and continue to voice my heart through my songs and music. In time though, the progression of alcoholism and combination of medication with my history of major depression would take a very dangerous toll and I would find myself in a jail, in a psych ward and on the very edge of life and death. 

I was 40 and I couldn’t stop drinking even though I was losing my relationship, my home, my friends, my health and myself. I still had my job and it really was the only thing that kept me afloat and stabilized me. I sank deeper and deeper and deeper into a black hole of despair unlike any I had ever experienced before. No one really knew that all I could think about day in and day out was how to leave this earth because I had lost the very will to live.  I felt such torment in living that their was a sense of relief in thinking about how to end it all and find peace.  I spent a whole year in and out of hospitals as I kept trying to find a way to escape my life, experimenting with different methods and getting braver to try again because pretty much, I had sucked at doing myself in. I remember reading my file in the hospital when they wheeled me into a room for a test and it read “prognosis is grave” because I was so determined to end my life that it was clear to all I would eventually succeed.  My mother, father and sister were called and notified and it had to be such a nightmare for them. I remember thinking, my god Robin what has happened to you.  I was as shocked as those around me who loved me and didn't understand what was wrong.  I didn't understand myself I just thought I must be a bad person and the world would be better off without me.  I had no idea that I was so clinically and gravely depressed that my own thoughts were killing me. I was coming up with plan after to plan to exit this world when I next landed in jail from crashing my car into a tree on my way to the Tobin Bridge to sky dive into the waters below.  With an empty bottle of champagne by my side, a goodbye letter to my family and friends and an exploded air bag against me, all I could do is apologize to the police as I was handcuffed and shackled, stripped searched, humiliated and delivered to a correctional facility in protective custody.  I knew I was at the end of the road as I absorbed my surroundings and the inmates around me.  It would take a miracle to save my life. The last attempt was so very close to being fatal, with another letter by my bedside, and a cocktail of enough liquor, xanax and anti-depressants designed to do the job.  I remember making around 10 individual piles of pills on my bed and as I swallowed each one with a swig of beer I told myself with encouragement, "you can do this Robin, one more to go".  I was both amazed and horrified by my own behavior and clearly in a state and place that was out of my control. The last thing I recall is laying back and closing my eyes.  The person I lived with who was away for the weekend happened to come home a day early, find me unconscious, get me to the hospital and ended up saving my life.  I woke up from a coma with my Mom beside me in tears, begging me not to die.  She had been told my condition was unknown and there might be irreversible damage.  My first words were “I didn’t want to be here Mom” and that same overwhelming dread that fueled my need to leave this life greeted me when I awoke.   I will never forget that moment and never forget how my Mom was right there beside me as she is today. I soon recovered enough to leave the hospital but it would take another 2 years of agony, another DUI, more loss of myself and dignity before I would stop drinking for good. 

I believe the moment I truly faced my addiction and suffering, and the suffering I was causing others, and took responsibility for my life, there was an opening, a light and a shift in direction. I stopped running, I stopped trying to escape and there was a willingness and a surrender in me. There was a desire to stop this life of misery and a decision to live instead of die. There was acceptance and the awareness of so many angels along the way who loved and guided me and pulled me back each time I started to drift away.  And there was my belief in God and silent prayers to help me out of this dire place because I was helpless and powerless in this fight alone. I don’t know when and where and how it happened but it did... the life and sobriety. In November 2000 I had my very last drink.

My second chance at life has been richly blessed with 17+ years of sobriety that I am so grateful for. When I turned 50 I began to record my lifetime of songs and share them online. My songs are my heart and the ones with a message come from a very deep place within me, a place that knows about struggle and profound sadness and the grace of forgiveness and heartfelt joy. My goofy and wacky sense of humor is the most wonderful gift of all and brings me immense joy and glee. I have a young soul and my older years are the most creative ones ever in music, art, humor and humanity. My Mom lives with me now and is 84. She is my shining star and always will be and now I am right here beside her.

If you are struggling with addiction of any kind, be willing to ask for help, be willing to change, be willing to take responsibility for your life if you are able, but just be willing. Keep trying, keep praying, don't give up and on those days that you do, tell someone so they can help you when you can't help yourself. If you are struggling with depression, with anxiety, with any physical and or mental illness, reach out for support so arms can embrace you.  Look for those angels who are around you and believe in you.  If there is a breath within you there is a breath of hope. Miracles can and do happen. Take it from me, I know.  A door will open, the wind will shift, and freedom will come one day at a time.

I hope to write a book someday.  There is so much more to tell and actually quite a bit of humor to share during those dark times.