Candace Bighead

My story begins before I was even born.

My grandparents on both my biological parent’s sides have a history of substance abuse. Both of my parents have struggled with addiction their entire lives. I have 10 biological siblings and at least 8 of those siblings struggle with addiction. My mom was and still is a chronic alcoholic and made the choice to drink while she was pregnant with me. I was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and I have birth defects including a complex heart condition and a predisposition to addiction. As a baby I was removed from my substance abusing family and put in a foster family. This family would raise me into a proper young Christian woman. I had everything I wanted; a beautiful home with loving parents, two amazing older brothers, many pets and many good friends. So what happened? How did alcohol seep into my life? First I underwent major open heart surgery. After which I was bullied about my surgery scar and recent weight gain and that shattered my confidence. Next fate decided to reintroduce my biological family into my life along with alcohol. I would eventually use alcohol to forget the trauma of getting sexually assaulted in 2011 and the suicide of my biological father in 2014. Finally let’s not forget that addiction runs in my family and that as an FAS individual I am pitted against a 70% chance of becoming an alcoholic or an addict. The odds have not been in my favor however I am the one who made the choice to drink.

When did drinking become an addiction for me?

If I’m honest I can say I was addicted from the first time I got drunk at the age of 18. I loved it, I felt free and happy. It took away any pain I had or felt both physically and emotionally. As I got older I thought I was a “responsible drinker.” I would drink up to 10 Liters of coolers in a single week to cope with the stress of work. I worked at a nightclub as a DJ on weekends and so free booze were always available. Spring and summer of 2014 found me in and out of hospitals fighting infections. I became seriously addicted to narcotic painkillers. I lied to doctors frequently in order to get prescriptions of morphine or Dilauded. By the end of 2014 I was heavily drinking again. I was no longer a “functioning alcoholic.” I was living on Employment Insurance and told not to return to work until 2015. I didn’t end up getting a part time job until April of 2015. At this time, I moved in with a friend and slowed my drinking to only drinking on the weekends. It was after I got fired from my part-time job that I started spiraling out of control. Summer of 2015 was spent drinking and drugging. I went hungry so that I could drink. I lied to and manipulated my friends and family so that I could drink. I was in debt so that I could drink. I compromised my health so that I could feed my disease. I drank because I couldn’t bear to deal with the pain and trauma that had been brought upon me. Alcohol made me free. I thought drinking every weekend to the point of blackout was a good time. Waking up the next morning still drunk or extremely hung-over meant the night before had been awesome regardless of whether or not I remembered what happened. In reality my body was reeling and suffering badly from the poison flowing through my veins. I would find myself suffering withdrawals. My body couldn’t regulate a proper temperature, so I was either freezing or over-heating. I was getting awful stomach-aches because the lining of my stomach was damaged due to alcohol.

I always thought I had control over my drinking, the alcohol made life manageable.

Manageable for me meant drinking a 26 oz. of 40% flavored vodka every day; because that was the fastest way to get alcohol into my system and then sipping a case of twisted teas to keep the buzz going for as long as possible. I had this disease and it was slowly killing me. It had me gripped so tight that on September 30, 2015 I stopped breathing. I awoke to find myself on the X-ray table at the hospital. I had no idea where I was or how I got there. I would later find out that paramedics were called to the house because I wasn’t breathing and was barely responsive. I had overdosed; I drank a 26oz of 50% vodka in about two hours plus a handful of Tylenol tablets. I woke up the next morning still drunk and in pain. My gut hurt from the activated charcoal they gave me to make me vomit and my head hurt from dehydration. The doctor warned me that I needed to be careful, and that I should probably seek help from a therapist.

What do we do now

Two days after that my foster mom came to the house to talk to me about what happened. I don’t remember much about her visit other than her asking me, “What do we do now?” We discussed a plan of action which included her contacting someone from Alcoholics Anonymous. It also involved me agreeing to stay sober for that day. I remember getting out of my mom’s car after her visit and walking into the house and seriously contemplating walking a few blocks to the off-sale and grabbing a bottle of vodka. My entire being was shaken. My mom had made me realize that my friends and family was seriously concerned about me and that I may have a drinking problem. I spent that weekend suffering awful withdrawals and crying. I decided to reach out and contact the number that had been given to me for a ride to AA. I was shaking when my ride arrived that evening. I really don’t remember much about that first meeting. I do know that I was scared of criticism and afraid that someone would recognize me. Instead I was met with smiling faces and kindness. I was welcomed in and given a newcomer’s package. Everything that was said in that meeting was meant for me. By the end of it I knew full well that I was an alcoholic.

New Hope

Sobriety has not been easy. I fought for each sober day and continue to do so. I lied to cover up my pain and I ended up hurting a lot of people. Being sober has helped me slowly rebuild some of those relationships; it has given me hope, new healthy memories and gratitude. I still have a long way to go but I know that I am loved, valued and worth being known. As of October 1, 2016 I am 1 year clean and sober.

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