***Submitted by Ann, whose posts can be seen here.
Here is a picture of me, as a baby, that I once thought was cute:
After all, every one of the children on my father’s side of the family, and their children, have a similar photo. It is me, at 4 months of age, propped up with a Coors longneck. Beer and babies, a family tradition. I did, in fact, learn that I was a gassy baby and my doctor recommended an ounce of beer to cure it. My first drink was at 4 weeks of age. Apparently I was gassy a lot. Beer continued to be my parents’ medicine of choice. (Not to mention vodka or schnapps on the gums or dipped with the pacifier.) I don’t blame my family. They did what they knew. And everyone on my father’s side knew and knows addiction and mental illness. The side of the family that I worshipped as my role models, I grew to emulate.
Me at 6 months:
I’ll hit the milestones. My first hangover (that I can recognize as a hangover), age 7 – Hot Toddies from Dad.
My next, age 10 – Strawberry Daiquiris from Dad.
My first experience of alcohol poisoning, age 12 – Sambuka.
My first blackout, age 13.
Spending my tween and teen years in Europe afforded me an acceptance of drinking at an early age. The “if you can reach the bar you can drink” times in Europe. This was during the late 70s, early 80s.
What then occurred were experiences in binge drinking, more alcohol poisonings, hash, marijuana, huffing, prescription, and over the counter drug use and sexual experiences far beyond the norm. My first child at 15, my second at 18, with sprinkles of bingeing throughout my late teens and twenties. Married for 2 years and divorced. Next alcohol poisoning? 21, of course.
I went to nursing school during the day, bartended at night. Used speed to function and care for my 2 children. I slept 1-2 hours a day for a year. During this time, I met my soul mate who has been by my side on this ride. We ended up with 5 children total.
In the early 90s I worked from 7 pm to 7 am. I began to experience insomnia after work. The cure was a beer or two, and then sleep. I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but it soon became a 6-pack then sleep, then a couple of beers before work, and when off work during the days, and social drinking, etc. Soon I was drinking a 6-pack or more before work, going to my car during breaks or lunch to drink. On off days, I began sneak drinking to disguise how much I was drinking. I stole so often from my stepfather, who was living with us. While he didn’t say anything, he installed a padlock on his fridge. I managed to take the door off on more than one occasion.
I was confronted by my supervisor at work. I felt “fine” even after almost a 12-pack before work. Submitting to a breathalyzer, I blew a 1.8. I was summarily fired, reported to the nursing board, and reluctantly entered rehab to keep my license.
I played the part of recovering nurse, drinking all the while, starting the day after I left rehab, sneaking again. Stealing and drinking in the store bathroom, drinking in the attic, in the boys’ clubhouse, in the car, under the stairs, in the closet, bathroom and kids’ room. In the woods, at the park, on the deck. At work, in the parking lot at my nurses group, during group, during AA meetings…..the list is endless. I continued to drink this way. Confronted at nurses group, I again entered rehab, determined to keep my license and win this battle. I drank the day after leaving rehab. I was reported to the board who presented me with a consent order. An agreement to follow a certain mandatory plan for 5 years under probation to keep my license. This involved mandatory AA and weekly nurses group and weekly impaired professional groups.
This time I was not determined, I was angry. Who the hell were they to tell me what to do? I stopped going to nurses group. I, during a hazy period, stapled my nursing license to my consent order, wrote fuck you across it, and sent it in. Done.
Everything I worked for gone.
For the next 5 years, everything doubled, tripled, quadrupled. Confronted by my family, I was asked to leave my home. That night I wrote my suicide letters to my family. I wanted to die rather than take another drink. I called a friend thinking that I’d leave a message on her machine. I wanted to tell her where my body could be found so I wouldn’t lay there alone in death for long. She was supposed to be gone. She was home and convinced me to go to an AA meeting. There was a turn. For the next 6 months, I was sober.
However, my mental illness – bi-polar disorder – was slowly emerging after being hidden by alcohol for so long. Long periods of mania occurred. HUGE spending sprees. Deep dark depressions followed. I began to drink again.
The level of drinking was now outstanding. At 5’2, 105 lbs, I was drinking 18 to 24 beers a day, and soon that much plus a pint of vodka. In no time it was vodka alone. A pint to two pints or more everyday. Beginning from the moment I woke up to late into the evening. I began taking no-doze and ephedrine to stay awake so I could drink MORE, and then handfuls of benedryl to bring me down and help me sleep. Of course, I stole any pain medication from family if it was around.
I was now vomiting blood 10-12 times a day. Stings of days with constantly acidic black diarrhea. So much so that I soiled myself several times, even in public. I began wearing a pad just for this. I was taking 12 to 14 Imodium a day, then would have to take a laxative for constipation, then the cycle would start again. I still drank daily, planning for days in advance to protect my supply.
In 2005, out of nowhere, I woke up in the middle of the night, shaking all over. Strange, because I never had hangovers anymore or shook. My entire body was vibrating and my instinct had me down 6 beers in 20 minutes. All was well. 3 days later, alone at home, I again woke up shaking, feeling awful, but there was no one in the house. I couldn’t hold my keys to drive anywhere. My eyes were vibrating so that my vision was quadrupled. I certainly couldn’t call for help, or for my family.
My body exploded on and off releasing foul build ups of toxins it could no longer handle. I crawled to the bathroom leaving trails of waste. I could, though, reach for my computer (but barely). I remembered the group SOS. I had kinda joined them a few years back. Get to SOS!, I thought.
I did. I cried out for help. I read my posts from the first week and I barely remember writing them. I was able to down a ton of benedryl, make it to the store, and drink to keep my symptoms at bay.
Soon my withdrawal intensified, so much so that my “reaching up for air” experience was possibly a seizure? A brush with death? I’m not sure. But to this day, it was very real. Women in SOS pleaded, urged, cared and loved. I listened to them, and called for my brother. An emergency room visit, immediate follow up with my personal physician, immediate meeting with my psychiatrist – coming clean with ALL, with everything.
That next day was my first sober day.
I have been sober ever since. I have morphed into a person I never thought I was worthy of being. I’ve developed a sound, firm base of sobriety utilizing a huge array of tools. I remain closely bonded with the women in my “cyber” group. They are my meetings, my sponsors, my peers, and, most importantly, my dear friends.
They may never know the depth of my gratitude. Beyond the core of my very being, I know that they held my soul in care until I could care for it myself.
I now, through the group and through the birth of my own site, feel whole. Full of possibilities. Should I be so honored, I will gladly join in a circle of hands and hearts that offer to hold the soul of another, until she can hold it on her own.