My name is Tine Lee and here’s my story. I am 49 years old and I am an alcoholic. My sponsor’s husband, Jim, said it best: “Alcoholism is an equal opportunity destroyer.” Here is the romanticized version of my life.
My childhood, looking back as far as I want to remember, was a good one. I was born in Clovis, California. My father was a farmer’s son and my mother, a preacher’s daughter. I have one sister who I adored when I was younger and look up to as an amazing person. My parents were very kind, loving, hard-working people and my sister and I knew the Lord at a very young age. Truly, I think God was the first word I wrote. We went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. I can remember sitting in the front row at church watching my grandfather preaching with all my cousins and grandma. What I remember most was sneaking down the hallway watching my Grandpa Henry study the Bible and type his sermons until the wee hours in the morning.
I always believed in God but, as I got older, I put Him on the back burner. I married my sweetheart from high school and we had a son. But ironically, I left him because he was an alcoholic. Soon after, I remarried to a good man and he gave me a daughter. At age 31, I had a good life, a husband, two healthy kids, a good job, the picket fence. I was on the PTA, a Brownie leader, cheer mom, water polo mom, and my husband and I taught Sunday school at our church.
This disease does not care if you are rich or poor, old or young, educated or not; it can take a long time or a short time. Alcoholism will take you out. I was 42 years old when it began as just social drinking with my friends. My husband did not drink at all. Then I started drinking wine as I cooked dinner. The next thing I knew, it was nightly and my marriage was failing.
In 2009, my grandmother, Alice, was 94 and needed someone to stay with her. With my kids out on their own and my marriage a mess, I moved to Morro Bay to take care of her. She passed away in March 2010. I loved her as much as she loved the Lord. My world fell apart that day. I was 45 and for the first time I had no one to take care of. I was alone, middle aged, full of guilt for leaving my family, and full of pain because my grandmother left me. All I wanted was to feel nothing. I always drank alone, never at bars, never so anyone could see. Yes, I thought I hid it well. We all do, but we don’t. Well, I didn’t. I would drink because I was sad. I would drink because I was happy, I would drink because the sun went down or because it came up.
In 2011, I got my first DUI and 30 days in county jail. I could not believe it. After my sentence, I said never again. That lasted two weeks. My problem got bad fast. I was drinking every day, and a lot. Still always alone, my second DUI came 10 months later, and I got 120 days. My family was at a loss about what to do. From age 20 to 42, I had two jobs, and in the five years I was in Morro Bay, I lost four jobs because of my addiction.
In 2012, I started commercial fishing. I was smart enough not to drink while working on the ocean, but when I arrived back, the drinking began at the dock. I was living on the vessel and I saw the most amazing sunrises and sunsets. I worked in God’s beautiful sea, and the only thing I saw was the bottle.
That fall, my family put me in a rehab. They were afraid I would not live long if I kept drinking. I left two months later. On the bus home, I drank and have no clue how I got on a train to San Luis Obispo. Back in Morro Bay, it got progressively worse as this disease does. I was blacking out all over town. I would sleep in my car, which I no longer own, because in a blackout week I gave the pink slip to someone! This went on for two more times in jail and three trips to the ER for alcohol poisoning. My life was out of control. My family at that time gave me to God and prayed for me but had to stay away. Not only was I killing myself, but I was hurting my family horribly.
On November 30, 2014, my life changed forever. I was with a person who was in a blackout himself at 11:30 pm on a frontage road by the freeway. All I could remember was I wanted to go home. I tried to get out of the truck, but he would not let me. On my third try, he picked me up and put me in the back of his camper and shut the top. I knew I had to get out and fast. As he drove off, the only thing I could think to do was slide out on my back. So I dropped the tailgate and slid out. What I remember was looking up at the stars, my hands were on fire and numb and I could not move. I laid there in a crazy peace and all I could do was look up and ask God not to let me die. The man once again picked me up and put me back into the truck’s camper. The next thing I knew, I was standing up with police around me and him in handcuffs. The police officer talked to me but did not arrest me. Why they didn’t arrest me, still to this day, I know it was because of God. Five times I was arrested in that town—they knew me!
They took me to my friend Jack’s ship in Morro Bay. I had to sign a waiver that I would be okay. The next day, Jack called 911 and off to the ER I went. I was a mess. I knew I had been saved by God and I knew enough was enough.
I went back to the Valley to my parents home to mend. The second week there, I made the call to a place that heals the broken. I called Captive Hearts. (I met Chaplain Judy in jail.) In two weeks, January 2, 2015, against all odds and lack of money, they took me in.
On my second week there, I had what I call my first of many “Ah Ha” moments. I was in the shower crying out to God (really crying) that I love my children and I missed them and I would do anything to get them back. (My daughter and I had not spoken in a few years.) I wanted my daughter back in my life, and then it hit me. God knew how I felt. He felt the same way about me, I’m His child and He wanted me back.
The first few months here were so life changing. I was safe, loved and truly at peace, but God did not stop there. In the middle of February, my neck was hurting and my hands were going numb. Captive Hearts took me to see Dr. Finnegan at CHC. He is a chiropractor. He examined me then said what I had was very serious and needed to see a neurologist. I am truly blessed because him.
I was able to get in to see a neurologist who then sent me to a neuro surgeon. All in a matter of two weeks, and this surgeon’s office takes four months to normally get into. (That’s my God again!) I found out I had cervical spondylosis with myelopathy (in English, my spinal cord had no fluid around it and was being compromised). This was very serious and was not caused by the fall. I have had this for a while. I had the surgery on April 14th. While at the hospital, I was homesick, not for Morro Bay or Clovis where I was raised, but the place that I have called home for the last four months and the gals there—Captive Hearts, “God’s House.”
My life was such a mess. I put myself in a place of risk daily, but one night I jumped out of a moving truck, but did not die. With my condition, it was miraculous. The police came and did not arrest me as they always had before. My family came and took me home, when they gave me to God. Then at Captive Hearts, I saw a physician who told me this would have paralyzed me if I would not have found out about it as soon as I did. Quoting my friend Nikki, “That’s how my Daddy rolls!”
My God in all His wonder that November morning, just past midnight, picked up a broken child and restored me as the daughter I always have been.