Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Upward Road

***Submitted by Laura

Unlike many of the women posting on this site, I haven’t been sober long. No “geological years of sober time” (as David Foster Wallace put it) for me to brag about. In fact, I’ve been sober only 18 hours.

I considered myself an ordinary drinker until perhaps a year ago. A glass of wine (or two) with dinner. Drinking to the point of tipsiness a few times a year. I hated hard alcohol and never touched it. And yet I’m now a woman with a bottle of vodka shoved into the back of our tiny kitchen linen closet, where I’m (almost) certain my husband and two-year-old son won’t discover it.

I didn’t drink during pregnancy. I didn’t drink during the first six months of breastfeeding. But when I began to wean my son, I went racing for the wine bottle after the last nurse of the night. I was confident the glass or two would depart my system by the time he woke up, hungry again, at 3 AM. And as the months went on, the two drinks became four, the wine turned into vodka, and the predictable stupid downhill roll of the alcoholic’s wheel began.

Parenthood is staggeringly hard, isolating, and frustrating for me. (An emotion that I never confess in public, because other mothers look at me as if I have three heads. It’s not hard for them. For them, even the tough times are lovely.) Alcohol is the way that I’ve coped, the way I’ve shored up my million weakness and failures. When my high-intensity son rejects the dinner I’ve just made for him; when he refuses to sit on the potty; when we run out of money again; when he kicks me, hard, in the stomach during diaper changes, I long for a drink. Anything to damp down the desperation and anger that rise when I simply don’t know what to do.

I had a child late in life, after much ambivalent discussion with my husband. I had never been around babies, or toddlers; had never taken much interest in them. But now there is this interesting, challenging, very beautiful little boy in our lives, and yet I cannot shake the feeling that I am not up to the task of raising him, that he should be with someone who can love him better, love him correctly, as every child deserves.

After a double shot of vodka, though, such anxieties recede. I can play Thomas trains with him for an hour without wanting to crawl out of my own skin. I can shoulder the burden of working eight-hour days, followed by the classic second shift of cooking, housework, cleanup, bathtime, book time, and bedtime, if only the magic silver liquid in the tall, etched shot glass is there for me. I won’t snap at him when he refuses to brush his teeth, screams his way through hair washing, and displays all the predictable illogic of his age. I can roll and tickle him and tell him how much he is loved.

I’ve gone to several AA meetings now. I’ve introduced myself, collected phone numbers, listened to everyone’s stories, bought the books, chatted politely after meetings. And yet, and yet. I don’t understand how the process is intended to work (perhaps because I can attend only a few meetings a week). When does the feeling of peace descend? When does the longing for a drink cease? How can the process work given that I’m a defiant atheist? When and how do I develop a sense of community with the other alcoholics in the room? I haven’t yet answered these questions, and while I’ve gone without a drink for a day here, a weekend there, I’m still the woman with the vodka hidden in the linen cupboard.

Last night my husband and I decided to remove all the alcohol (including that hidden bottle) from the apartment. I will see if I can go thirty days without a drink. The prospect is a desert to me, I must confess: no damper on my sadness, and no euphoria to balance my frustration.

I am standing at the bottom of an enormous hill, wondering how I will reach the top, knowing there is no top, because there is no drink, no relief waiting for me. I hope I can reach the month marker; I hope I can find other ways to still my anxiety, to access my love for my son. I hope there is another answer besides the magic silver liquid in its tall, etched glass.

But at the moment, there is only the endless upward road at my feet.


  1. Beautiful post...thanks so much for sharing. I hope you know, no matter how other women appear on the outside, most of us are feeling EXACTLY what you describe on the inside. It IS hard for ALL mothers, and the tough times are NOT lovely. I know it doesn't feel like it right now, but sobriety WILL feel more comfortable one day and you will be a better person and mom for it. You are not alone. Good luck to you!

  2. I nodded knowingly through most of this. I feel you, sister. I "started stopping" back in November. I too am a defiant atheist and I have a really hard time with the spiritual side of AA. But I go to my meetings two or three times a week and after one relapse at day 43, I'm back up to day 28 today. It's different this time. The last time was kind of a test. Could I maybe drink and not be alcoholic? Nope. I can't. One always turns into two, two to four, four to six...and on and on until I either pass out or run out of booze. I too had vodka stashed all over my house. When I finally got serious about stopping, I went around and found all of the bottles and containers and threw them out and told/showed my husband all of my tricks. I also took him to a couple of my counseling sessions and he's gone to a couple of Al-Anon meetings. I've found that including him, instead of trying to hide from him, has made a huge difference. I'm on the Booze Brigade, but haven't said much lately. I also have a blog where I'm hashing a lot of this out. If you need to talk, please feel free to get in touch with me. I'm christinemh1968 AT G-MAIL-DOT-COM Try to think of just today and not the whole 30 days. Today is the only day you have to deal with. And place a higher value on your sobriety...higher than you ever have before. I've found that to be a key for me. Hang in there!

  3. Good Luck Laura.
    I have 45days today

  4. After two years sober I had a party and decided I could have one drink and stop. Needless to say when you are an alcoholic, you can't have just one drink. I got drunk, texted a good friend all night crying about how I messed up again. I don't remember what all was texted but I do remember crying uncontrollably and feeling like crap the next day.

    I have been sober again going on 6 months. I too have tried AA only to be driven away because I do not believe in a "higher power". God or the gods did not make me drink. I did. I grabbed the bottle and took that drink. How can I give my addiction over to someone/something that wasn't even responsible for it in the first place.

    The hill gets smaller and things get easier. I am not saying it is every EASY - but easier. Good Luck Laura - I am sending you good vibes.

  5. Laura, You expressed your pain, and subsequently our pain as alcoholics, so beautifully. I felt the same terror while reaing your post that I felt when I first tried to top drinking. Not drinking was one of those horrible events that I needed to have a drink over! One day at a time. Just for today. You can do it. You are not alone. Your higher power does not have to be God, Buddha, or anyone or thing like that. Your higher power can be the AA group or a sponsor or a river. Just something that reminds you that you do not have all the power. Self will and self reliance are our enemies. You are in the right place Laura. Keep sharing!

  6. Mother hood IS hard, and frustrating and sometimes I just don't wanna. I hear you. I am not an addict but I love one and all I can say is, try it, and you'll get there.Thanks for posting.

  7. Hoping for the best for you, Laura.
    Have you tried setting smaller goals? "I will not drink for this hour, then I will re-assess?" "I will not drink until dinner, then I will re-assess?" "I will not drink today, then I will re-assess?" That's always been very helpful for me. After 10 months of sobriety, talking about 30 days at once is still daunting.
    Also, I was an atheist when I started attending AA meetings and I've found a way for the spiritual aspect of the program to work for me, rather than against me. I know that doesn't happen for everyone, but it's my experience.
    Anyway, thanks for your post.

  8. Hi Laura,

    There was a story about Stefanie on our local radio this morning and it really intrigued me. I am actually a dad going through the same stashed in the saddlebag of my Harley down in my garage. I have at least recognized that I have a problem and have been going to a 12 step course offered by the LDS (Mormon) church for the past few weeks and it has helped me a lot. There is a lovign spirit there and that gives you the strength to try harder, and with that I know I can quit, and I also know that it is hard. The key is to not keep it around the house. Then you don't have the option. If you need something to help you relax, see your doctor and explain the situation and they will help you through it. That's what I did and I can honestly say that it has helped as well. Just be sure not to drink AND take the medication; then you're just making things worse. I feel I have been the worst husband and dad in the whole world the last few years, and since I have been drinking secretly nobody knows but me, so I have been basically living a double life. It's my time to quit. I know you can do it to. I don't know where you live, but if you are interested in looking at an alternative program besides AA, but that follows a lot of the same principles with a spiritual twist as well look up:,11664,4177-1,00.html
    It is free and you don't have to be a member of the church to attend. It has helped me tremendously.

  9. Hi Laura. Thanks for sharing. It does get easier and I hope you hang in there, one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

    I understand the atheist thing as well. I do not believe in a god that answers my prayers or who I turn my will and my life over to... so I am finding my way a little differently.

    A friend of mine with 12 years of sobriety told me that he knew someone, also atheist, who defined their higher power as "their higher self," the one who knows better, the voice of reason, etc. It may sound like another form of self-control to a lot of folks, but it may perhaps work as a starting point. Just a thought.

    Much love~

  10. I just remembered something they told us over and over in treatment. Just think of GOD as Good Orderly Direction.

  11. Wow, Laura. I hear you on so many levels. Especially the part about admitting that parenting is hard and frustrating. Being a mother is the hardest thing I've ever done. The thing that I didn't realize while I was drinking is that the alcohol actually made it harder. Once the fog cleared, and my fog lasted about a solid month, I started to feel more calm. Even though I thought I was so much more mellow before, I was just checked out, in a wine induced half coma and my family deserves more. I deserve more. You deserve more.

    This is not easy. Anyone who tells you that ending a co-dependent love affair with alcohol is simple is full of crap. Expect hard days, see them through, true to yourself and your commitment, and soon, they won't be so hard.

    I'm rooting for you. And here if you need someone.

  12. Laura - what a wonderful story that sits right smack dab in the middle of my situation. I'm day 1 - again, again, again.....
    Thank you for sharing. Vodka is my poison and it is brutal.
    My head hurts, but worse that that my heart aches.
    Let's root for each other along with every other woman on this site.
    I am with you with the HP concept, but the Grace post (newest one on this site) really resonated with me.
    Keep asking for Grace and keep fighting - I will be right there with you. Hoping for day 2 tomorrow - if I can find the Grace to do it.

  13. I could have written this exact post. I'm an older mom of three year old twins that, although I love them, are driving me crazy. I'm trying to sober up, because while I think drinking helps, it really just makes it worse. I talked to my doctor about it, and he's helping me, so I'm not doing it alone. Sounds like you and I have a lot in common, so email me if you want to talk.