- Associated Press - Sunday, September 24, 2017

GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) - Abbeville’s Laura Beth Fields wanted to kill herself. Alcohol had consumed her life and she felt she had no hope.

She planned to pick up her niece and nephews from GLEAMNS preschool one day, take the kids to their mother, then commit suicide. Her eyes were filled with tears when she arrived at school that day. The teachers there asked if they could pray for her. She said yes.

“I meant for them to go home and pray for me,” Fields said. “They laid hands on me in the street. They prayed for me right there in the middle of the road.”

Fields said she had made up her mind that “this was it,” but, after the prayers, just five minutes passed when her phone rang. It was Tim Still, a counselor at Cornerstone, an alcohol and drug treatment and recovery program. Fields had left a message with him a while back, but now he was on the phone at this critical point in her life.

“He heard the desperation in my voice,” she said. “I was a complete wreck.”

Still helped get Fields set up in the intensive outpatient program at the Cornerstone in Greenwood. She went to the program three times a week for three weeks, then she went to the Abbeville office once a week for eight weeks. She tried Alcoholics Anonymous, but she preferred Narcotics Anonymous.

“I refer to myself as an addict because, whether it is alcohol, ice cream or shopping, I always go overboard,” Fields said.

The day she wanted to commit suicide was Fields‘ rock bottom; however, she has a unique way of looking at it.

“Rock bottom is the solid foundation upon which I have built my life,” she said.

Fields‘ battles with alcoholism started at a young age. She started drinking anything she could get her hands on when she was 14. Fields was born with TAR syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that is characterized by the absence of the radius bone in the forearm. She admits this, along with other things in her life, caused severe depression.

“With me being handicapped, that alone makes you feel like you are not accepted in the world,” she said.

Fields realized very early in her life that alcohol seemed to take away her inhibitions and improve her social life.

“It was emotional pain, and I was pouring alcohol on top of it,” she said.

The self-described “party girl” said that, at first, she would binge-drink on weekends when she went to parties. She said drinking made her feel “part of the group.”

As she got older, she started drinking on a daily basis.

“I was driving drunk all the time,” she said. “I would end up in ditches, but my four-wheel drive would get me out of it, so no one ever knew. I made a lot of bad choices.”

She said the anxiety, guilt and shame ate away at her. “I really wished that I was dead,” she said.

Fields was 29 years old when she stopped drinking. It was Oct. 10, 2014. She hasn’t had a drink since.

“There have been several times I’ve wanted to drink, but that’s where the program steps in and you call someone,” she said.

One counselor introduced her to Zentangle, a type of art doodling.

“I’m an artist,” she said. “When I am happy, I’m not inspired. But when things aren’t going well and I have those feelings, that’s when something marvelous comes out on paper.”

Fields hasn’t had it easy after stopping drinking. Her NA sponsor died when she was just nine months clean, and then her former roommate was killed in a car wreck.

“All of that has made it hard to keep it together,” she said. “There are so many reasons or excuses I could give to go out and buy a bottle of vodka and get completely hammered, but, when I wake up, those people are still going to be dead. There’s no point in it anymore.”

Her secret today? “I am honest with myself and honest with others,” she said.

Fields did not want to give up her social life, especially her love for karaoke. She won the first karaoke contest at Wings 101 in Abbeville. She’s learned how to be around alcohol but abstain from it. Plus, she gets help in the community since she hasn’t hidden her problems.

“Since I’ve made my recovery so public, people at gas stations, local restaurants and bars have told me that, no matter what, they will never serve me any alcoholic beverages,” she said. “I think that is so awesome and means so much to me to have their support, encouragement and accountability.”

Today, when you see Fields, she’s mostly likely carrying a drink; but it’s iced tea or Pepsi instead of alcohol.

She still goes to Cornerstone’s after-care program to “talk it out” when times get tough.

Fields has a message for others struggling with alcohol or drug abuse: “No one is too vile to become clean,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. There is hope. There are people who care.”

Relapse is not an option, Fields said. “I think that if I were to relapse, then all the guilt, shame and lies - all the things I tried to cover up during addiction - would cover me whole.”

She said she is grateful for God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness, and for the support she has received from family, friends and the community. “Everyone around me has cheered me on,” she said. “Without God, Cornerstone, NA, my family and friends, none of this would be possible. I am accepted and loved as a sober, productive member of society and, because of that, I am proud of the woman I see in the mirror today.

“I still make mistakes, but, as long as I don’t take that first drink, everything will be OK.”


Information from: The Index-Journal, https://www.indexjournal.com

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