Wednesday, October 6, 2010

30 Days

***Submitted by Tara, who blogs at The Act of Returning to Normal

It's taken me 107 days to reach 30 days in a row without alcohol. One hundred and seven days ago I thought I would never drink again, but it took several months to get to that place. For a year prior, I tried everything I could to control my drinking, to prevent the frequent hangovers at work and the almost weekly shouting matches with my husband (the contents of those fights are lost to the blackouts). I drank daily, even on the days I swore I would take a night off. On infrequent days when I was actually able to resist the pull, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction, while at the same time, couldn't avoid the prickly feeling at the back of my consciousness that normal people would not even register a booze-free day.

My fall into alcoholism was swift in comparison to some - a mere three years ago, I still had an "off" switch, so although I drank to deal with stress and frustration, I rarely drank to excess. This progressed to nightly drinking and finally to drinking during the day. My primary memory was the hope that "today I wouldn't get too wasted."

My hopes were crushed nearly every time.

Then 107 days ago I hit bottom. As a reward for quitting smoking, I decided I would not try to control my drinking. After all, I reasoned, smoking was far more likely to kill me than drinking. I thought that once I dealt with that, quitting or controlling my drinking would follow easily. It was a Thursday night. My husband I and drank a bottle of grappa, after wine with dinner, and possibly cocktails before. It was late. We fought. I don't remember anything that happened after that, although, for some reason, he was upstairs and I was in the kitchen making tea. It was as if I'd awakened from sleep walking. I felt so much pain and hopelessness. I hit myself on my legs in an attempt to deal with the pain and frustration. Then, something made me look at a knife on the counter. It seemed the perfect solution to my pain. I wanted so desperately to take the psychic pain and frustration and make it physical. With that thought in mind, I cut my wrist. Twice. The knife was dull.

When I saw the blood, I panicked. There was so much blood I thought I would die. After soaking through multiple towels, I taped the cuts and snuck up to bed with an ice pack. I laid awake all night in fear of what I'd done. I truly thought I might die, and suddenly saw all that I would lose. The pain I would cause to my family. of course, in true alcoholic fashion, I told no one. The next day I felt truly ashamed and terror stricken. I'd long been afraid of what I might do while drunk, but never in my worst nightmares was such wholesale self-destruction considered. I went to the doctor to get stitches and swore I would never again pick up another drink.

I lasted a week.

It's not that the shame disappeared in such a short time, rather, the beast convinced me that I'd learned my lesson and would return to casual and very moderate drinking. As I'm sure you can guess, this moderation lasted a few weeks before I was back in the saddle. Out of control. After a month, I finally got down on my knees and admitted I couldn't do it alone. A return to normality simply could never include drinking. I finally had to admit that I was an alcoholic and powerless to control my drinking. I expected to feel shame and this admission, instead, I felt peace and love.

It has been an up and down road, but over the past few months, I have received so many gifts. It's early days, but my head is clearing. I feel like I can see my daughters for the first time in a long time. I feel boundless hope (sometimes). I feel community and support, both online and offline. Slowly, but surely, possibilities are opening up, because I can see the landscape around me. The most important gift has been the removal of near constant shame and self-loathing. I can look in the mirror with clear eyes and an open spirit.
 
This is priceless to me.

9 comments:

  1. I am so proud of you... your story touched me... I have been there... I am there.... and hopefully I will be where you are now.
    You are a strong woman.... keep it up.
    much love

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  2. Happy 30 days and thank you for sharing your story.

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  3. Congrats on your 30 days of sobriety! it took me 269 days to manage to stay sober for 30 days. I related to your story in many ways. Thank you for sharing and best wishes for the future!

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  4. Oh what a struggle, and 30 days is incredible!! One day at a time, that's all you need to think about.

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  5. Congratulations! 30 days is huge. Your story is very inspiring, thank you for sharing it.

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  6. Great post and I especially love the ending where you talk about how much better things are for you now. There will always be ups and downs - that's just life - but, somewhere along the way you'll likely start experiencing way more ups (and hopeful times) than downs. Thanks for sharing and I'm really happy for you. Congrats again on your 30 days!

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  7. Thanks so much for your feedback - your support is such an important part of my recovery.

    I also wanted to respond to anonymous by saying that even a short time ago I never thought it possible to reach 30 days, or 7, or even 1. (REALLY IMPOSSIBLE to escape the self-loathing and the urge to pick up a drink.) Over the past few months I've had so many day 1's. At the beginning the hurdles felt insurmountable and I felt shame whenever I stumbled. If one thing has changed (and although it sounds simple, it isn't easy), it was that instead of magnifying each failure, I really tried to look at each day anew. To forgive myself for my failings and admit my powerlessness over this disease. When I finally did that (hourly, or minute-by-minute) gears truly shifted.

    I'm new, so I know there is still so much to learn. And despite the ups and downs of life that continue around me, it is better than when I was drinking. Subtle, but powerful, changes make even the bad times easier to deal with.

    Keep coming back. There is strength in this community - far more strength than I hold personally. Lean on all of these women - it really helps me.

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  8. Such a tragic, but beautifully honest post. I'm so glad you survived to continue to be with us in recovery.

    While I was drinking, I couldn't bring myself to buy shells for my shotgun I kept in the closet for home defense. I was afraid I'd black out, become so morose and hopeless, that I might use it on myself and not even mean to.

    I'm filled with gratitude that neither of us have to live like that anymore. Thank you for your courage and honesty.

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  9. Hi Lisa - you've captured the exact nature of the problem with "I might use it on myself and not even mean to."

    I, too, am filled with gratitude that we don't have to live like that anymore. Thank you for sharing.

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