My first blackout was at a high school dance. It was one of the many times that I could have been kicked out of school, but somehow I skated. I was grateful then for the second chance (and the third and the fourth) but I am not sure I was done any favors.
I spent the next twenty or so years trying to drink socially. I succeeded for the most part, but as time went on it became increasingly difficult to predict the effect the alcohol would have on me. I negotiated; I would try to limit my drinks or make other promises to myself that I couldn’t keep. I would begin an evening with the best intentions and somehow the fourth or fifth glass of wine would seem completely reasonable. Most of my friends enjoyed a cocktail or two and claimed to find my drunken shenanigans amusing. The hangovers were nothing compared to the anxiety and shame that the morning after brought. Knowing that I had failed, once again, to control myself. Not knowing how that lack of control had manifested because, well, I was blacked out.
Time marched on – I married a man who loved me and didn’t mind the party chick act despite the occasional embarrassing scene. When I was in control, I think I was fun. The control was just hard to predict or maintain. I was muddling along falling off the occasional bar stool with a no real catastrophes and then came September 11, 2001. I knew no one who was directly affected by that horrific tragedy and yet it completely rocked my world. My husband was on the emergency response team for an airline and left on one of the few planes that flew on September 12th. He was away for the next eleven days. I spent those eleven days in bed watching television, crying, and drinking.
That was the turning point, but I didn’t ask for help for another four years.
By the time that I actually asked for help I could no longer go a day without drinking. I had begun to hide bottles of vodka behind the claw foot tub in my bathroom so that I could keep from shaking and sweating. I had finally reached the point where I saw myself as the stereotypical alcoholic. I felt that it wouldn’t be long before I lost everything and ended up with a shopping cart under a bridge. I desperately wanted to be able to drink “like a grownup,” as my husband would say, and the idea of never drinking again was terrifying.
I don’t know what the catalyst was that made me finally ask for help. I just know that I finally reached the point where I was ready to turn myself over to a higher power; a lower power would have been OK, too. I got to the point that the only thing more frightening than giving up alcohol was living one more day the way I was.
Sobriety is a gift now. The biggest obstacle for me was accepting that this was not a matter of self-control. Realizing that I was powerless over alcohol was huge for me. Once I stopped whining about never having a glass of wine with dinner and admitted that I never had just one glass, I turned a corner. With the support of the people I met in treatment and meetings, my family and my friends, my life is exponentially better. Don’t get me wrong, sobriety isn’t a cakewalk, but it is not the minefield alcoholism is.