We all have a story, rich in plot and full of characters. The chapters progress in chronological order, mostly, weaving the fine details of our lives through the colorful fabric. And, within our tales, there is often conflict and resolution, action and stillness, heartbreak and joy. The setting can feel predetermined, the families and homes in which we are born, and it evolves as we grow up and out. This is my story, or at least part of it. I am the protagonist and this is my point of view. There is still much not written, more to be told; the text lingers somewhere beyond the present, ready to be grasped, ready to be molded by me, and by my maker. There is always more to be narrated. The big question is what will I do with it before I reach the final page.
I grew up in Fairfield county, privileged and naïve. I had a roof over my head, was never without three meals, attended private schools, enjoyed tennis lessons and spent vacations in sunny Florida. A spectator might think I had won the lottery, and in so many ways I had. Financially, I never worried. I knew where I would lay my head when night fell. But, hidden within the folds of my Lily Pulitzer dress, a deadly disease was lurking, camouflaged in the window treatments of my family home, and dysfunctional dynamics were killing me.
Over thirty years ago, I put down my last drink. That sounds so neat and tidy, but in reality, the truer version is that I have no memory of how I put down my last drink. Perhaps I spilled it, knocked it over or threw it. But, maybe it’s not important. All I recall is that some time over one weekend, spent alone at my mother’s home, I had my last drink. I was 23 years old and had been drinking long before the legal age, having started in my early teens. I was keenly aware that my relationship with alcohol was toxic and that I needed to end it. I didn’t know how but used the chance to spend a few days alone with the bottle to come to terms with this impending divorce. I do not recall my last drink. There were no long good byes. Deep in black out, I called out for help and lucky to still have people in my life who cared, I was headed to rehab before I had the chance for reconciliation.
My drinking lead me down a path that was unhealthy at best but probably better characterized as a slow painful march towards suicide.
It didn’t start out that way. In fact, in the beginning, alcohol gave me everything. I ran happily to it with open arms. It gave me courage and numbed the negative feelings that seemed to rule my life, and what a relief that was. I liked the way it made me feel: light and carefree and fun. Alcohol became the perfect ingredient to everything in my life. It didn’t matter if I was sad, lonely, tired or happy. A drink in hand made everything better.
And it worked, until it didn’t. I began to choose drinking over everything and everyone in my life. I dabbled in other illegal drugs that would also afford me the same type of break. I did a lot of stupid things. I hurt a lot of people. My world became small. In the end, I lost my education, trust, health, time, friendships and spiritual connection. I dropped out of school and became a bartender, drifting from job to job, person to person, place to place. I was alone, lost, tired and sick and was addicted both physically and psychologically to alcohol. I had no idea how to stop. At night, when I had a place to lay my head, I was terrified to close my eyes and be alone in my thoughts. And yet, I was lucky. I was young. I was never a functioning alcoholic and that turned out to be the best gift.
If you could, would you rewrite your story? Would you delete those passages that make your skin crawl? Or would you edit the painful moments and shed them from your life? For me, it has always been the difficult times that have truly shaped me and given me an ability to have perspective and empathy. The challenges have made me fight for a life worth living, a life I like. My story would be so much different if it had simply been given to me neatly on a silver platter. I chose the fight.
My story isn’t unique, and while the details may differ, maybe the feelings strike a similar chord. I know there are many who have suffered more, lost more and have less. And yet, I have found that there is beauty and hope in the connections I make, connections made through shared experiences and shared emotions, through shared adversity and shared success and through sharing our stories openly and willingly. Sobriety takes work and I still don’t always get it right, but I have learned to live my life with the help of others with similar stories, and I do it without the need for alcohol and drugs, and that’s something.
Often I wonder, what will I do in my next chapter? What twists and turns will my narrative take? There is so much for all of us to do before we get to the end of our lives and we get to choose how we are going to do it. Will we allow our past to guide us but not control us? Will we pick ourselves up from adversity and keep fighting? Will we let joy join us on the path that we take? Will we reach out to others with a helping hand or to receive a hand up? Will we connect, share, embrace and own our story from the once upon a time all the way to the end?
Icy Frantz grew up in Fairfield County, attended and after a brief pause graduated from Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut. She received her Alcohol and Drug counseling certificate from Marymount Manhattan College and worked in the field of drug and alcohol prevention and education at the Freedom Institute in Manhattan and at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Connecticut. She was the Assistant Director of the International Institute for Alcohol Education and Training which worked with professionals in Russia and Poland. Icy is the author of Sergeants Heaven, a children’s book that she wrote after the death of her fourth child, to help children process the loss of a loved one. While raising her four children, she has sat on the Boards of Greenwich Country Day School, The Taft School, Arch Street Teen Center and the Parents Board of Bucknell University and has volunteered for Liberation Programs, LifeBridge, OSSO, and Inspirica. Currently she writes a column for the Greenwich Sentinel and is co founder of CT WOMEN UNITED, an organization created to inspire and educate women about local and state politics. She lives in Riverside, Connecticut with her husband, her two dogs, two cats, a fish and her four children.