My name is Clarissa O’Neill. I am a 22-year-old mother who is also a recovering alcoholic. I was baptized Easter Sunday at New Life Church, and I believe my story can show proof of God’s grace, forgiveness, and redemption.
Over the past year, I have been in and out of rehabs, detox, and the hospital. I have lost my husband, 2-year-old son, my home, my military career, and for awhile, my faith that anything was worth living for. In the past, I was a member of New Life Church. I was very involved with the youth ministries and ran a Bible study at my school with close friends of mine. In high school I decided there were more important things than my relationship with God and I got into the party scene. I started doing drugs, drinking, skipping school, lying and hurting all the people who loved me. I stopped going to church and rarely had a day that I was sober. From the very first drink I took at 17, I was hooked.
I grew up in an abusive home and for a very long time, even up until this year, I blamed God for that and cursed Him for not rescuing me. This grudge fueled a lot of anger inside of me, anger that went hand-in-hand with depression. I would find anything I could to make that pain stop whether it be drugs, alcohol, or even self-injury, which I had struggled with since age 13. When I was 17, I was raped at a party by a drug dealer. He took my virginity. From that point on I was completely miserable. In the last year, I attempted suicide twice, and contemplated it more times than I can count.
By age 19 I was drinking every day. I wouldn’t necessarily drink before work, but as soon as I got home and walked in the door, I started drinking. Vodka was my drink of choice, and by age 21 I was up to drinking nearly half a gallon of vodka a day. I cannot recall most of the last few years of my life.
I joined the Army Reserves when I was 17. My drinking was brought to light with them in February. Only days after that, I was arrested for domestic violence. The charges brought against me were actually false, but being as intoxicated as I was, there wasn’t much reasoning going on in my head. I was released on bond after 24 hours and I was offered a chance to get into rehab. I took the opportunity, knowing that I had a problem, but still wasn’t quite sure if I was ready to do anything about it.
I had my first stint in rehab from March through May 2010. I was originally only going to do 30 days, but I stayed for 60. In those couple months of sobriety, I began to feel again and more importantly, I began to recognize that God was still in my life. And though the thought of never drinking for the rest of my life didn’t sit well with me, I was enjoying the returning relationship between me and my Lord. When I went to my court date for my domestic violence case, the charges were dropped. It was a miracle.
Unfortunately, the day after I got out of rehab, I relapsed on pills and started drinking again a week later. The physical effects of the alcohol on my body were severe. I had convulsions and delirium tremors, and I was blessed to make it through the night. For two weeks, I felt the physical effects of my body craving alcohol, and it was the most painful, sickening thing I have ever had to go through. After I relapsed, things became much worse. After drinking for only the second time after my relapse, I had a seizure. A friend who was with me called 911 and I was rushed to the hospital. From there, I was put into detox on a 72-hour manditory hold. My blood alcohol level was higher than .40 when I came in to the hospital.
I stayed sober for about 150 days after that incident. Once I got out of detox, I went back to rehab and completed another 30-day program. I had recieved news that I would have my first deployment to Afghanistan later that year and was thrilled . I spent most of the next few months training for the mission and staying sober. But in October, after returning from a month-long training session in California, I became addicted to some pain pills that had been prescribed to me after I was injured in training. And that led me right back to the alcohol. In no time I was back to drinking every day, and when I didn’t drink, I had seizures or I got the shakes.
After that, my husband left and took my son away from me. This sent me over the edge. I drank the rest of my bottle and began planning ways to just end it. I couldn’t stay sober, but I couldn’t live with out alcohol. I couldn’t take it anymore. By the grace of God, as my husband was leaving, a friend of mine stopped by unexpectedly to pick up something she had left. She stayed with me until a fellow soldier arrived, and they took me to the hospital. I was sent to Cedar Springs under conditions of suicidal ideation and alcohol detox.
I completed 72 hours at Cedar Springs and returned to my unit. They kept me in the barracks to keep a closer eye on me, but soon I was back to drinking again whenever I felt depressed. I would sneak in bottles, slamming shots whenever no one was around until one weekend I enough was enough, and I decided to kill myself. I wrote suicide notes to my command apologizing for the trouble I had caused and reassuring them that they did all they could. I kept the notes in my room and a few days later they were discovered by my roommate who showed them to my platoon leader. In a drunk rampage, I lunged at the officer, tore apart my wall locker and was restrained by a staff sergeant. I was fighting anyone who touched me and finally the military police were called. When they arrived I resisted them and was twice given sedation injections. I woke up the next morning in the ICU with no recollection of what happened.
I was yet again transferred to another rehab for 30 days and was unable to deploy with my unit. I was told that I would be discharged from the service due to my alcoholism. This was absolutely devestating to me, but I decided that maybe I was done with this lifestyle so I dove into my recovery head first. I completed the program in January and exited as a peer leader. My desire now is to become a drug and alcohol counselor to help others free themselves from their bondage.
I left the program homeless and jobless. I stayed with friends, hopping from home to home and now, 4 months later, I have just gotten my own apartment. I have my old security job back and I am working on getting my son back also. I have slipped since rehab in January, but I have picked right back up where I left off and have been going strong ever since. I now have 40 days of sobriety behind me. This is all possible because of my God who has given me the strength when I had none, and never gave up on me. It’s a miracle I am still alive and I know he has great things in store for me. I was lost, but now am found. I was broken, but today, I feel whole. I am happy for the first time in my life and I am free.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.