Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Not The Amount That Counts

***Submitted by Anonymous

I've read every single post on this site and found them to be informative, gut wrenching, sad, triumphant and beauitfully transparent. I've gone back and forth for years now about my drinking. Based on my background as a Christian I often struggle with how much is guilt without reason and how much is actually God speaking to me through my conscience. I'm a firm believer that you should always listen to your conscience and not violate it but the lines can be blurry at times. How do I know this isn't just culturally induced dogma and how do I know that I actually have a problem that needs addressing?

I too come from an alcoholic family. I use to get very drunk in Jr. High and High School but then I began to go to church after High School so getting drunk was pretty much out of the question. Not because I felt guilt about it but mainly because I knew there was freedom and I wanted to live differently. I was pretty sure if I kept acting like a child I would end up going nowhere. So for about 17 years I didn't really drink. I would have the occasional glass of wine but I knew when to stop before I got tipsy. Then I got married. My husband is European so wine is customary with meals. We both love beer as well.

Since we were married years ago I can say I pretty much had a drink every night. Then I got pregnant.... this is the hardest part for me because as I've read so many of these revealing posts by such honest women I found that hands down all of them said, "I drank except when I was pregnant". Well, I did not. I still had the occasional glass, sometimes two, of wine even while being pregnant. I was still at this place in my thinking where all I was doing was drinking like a European. I never got drunk but I did have too many a few times while nursing. Then I would swear off booze because "What the hell am I doing here? I am a mom...a nursing mom!" But I would always reason out, "I'm only just having a glass or two occasionally. I still carry a lot of guilt about that and it doesn't get better knowing that most women never could do such a thing when they were pregnant.

While I was nursing this is when the real struggle came into my thinking as to whether or not I had a problem. I kept having conscience issues and even spoke to a friend who was in AA about it. She said, "If you think you might have a problem you probably do". Oh, did I mention I was in Christian ministry this entire time? This is why I had a hard time even thinking of going to AA. Still do!

Then baby number two was announced. I told my husband, "You know I don't think I want to even drink this time around". He has always been very supportive so he said, "Ok". I did much better with that pregnancy. I actually really didn't think about booze much at all. Then after I weaned our baby I found a new tension in my life....being the mother of two kids and staying home with them all the time. I relate so much to Ellie's posts about how kids are a trigger for drinking. It's not that I don't love them either. I love them painfully. I just know that often I feel like a huge failure with them. I'm bored being at home. I get lonely and all of my personal issues with "what I'm not doing with my life?" culminate and I want a "treat" at the end of the day.

I started getting migraines in the mornings and it was always after having some sort of booze. The reason I kept wondering (then being pretty convinced) if I had a problem was because I am such a strong and determined woman. I take on a good challenge and almost anything that I put my mind to I have had the courage to achieve, but I couldn't/wouldn't let go of my "treat" at the end of the day. Even though it was starting to make me sick. People would say I was likely developing an allergy to alcohol but I still wanted to have a drink or two. I was even able to stop eating sugar for nearly a year, any form of sugar. I had a health issue and so I just did it. It was hard but I did it. Yet drinking is one thing I really wasn't willing to let go of.

I began reading more sites and posts like these and related to so many of the stories. I still don't believe that alcohol is morally wrong. I have no issues with people who want to drink. I even explained to my husand that I believe I have a problem with alcohol and he was so confused. Why did I even think that? He's only seen me drink one or two drinks at a time. And that's true, even though there were nights I drank three. I really didn't drink that much in quantity. It wasn't the amount of booze I have been drinking over the years. It was the frequency of it and how much I thought about it. For the past three years I have had a drink nearly every night. I was never willing to give it up even when it was affecting my health.

I can relate to women who are watching someones's glass as they sip it slowly and seem to forget they even have wine, wondering in astonishment how they can do that. I can relate to showing up at a dinner party where the hostess serves tea or juice and getting very disappointed. I use to bring it casually into the conversation, as if I didn't really care whether we had it or not, so that someone would run out and get a bottle. I remember taking big sips while the husband was out of the room and refilling so that it looked like I hadn't drank much. I also relate to feeling like I have lost a friend in giving up drinking. My treat is gone and sometimes severely missed.

I haven't joined AA and I'm sure if anyone leaves comments that is the first recommendation. I know I need accountability I just don't know that I want it to be there. It is a tried, tested and true organization though. I'd really like to get counseling if I'm honest. I know it's not really about the booze, it's about what has been happening in my own life that I want to run from or avoid. I want to be at peace and be a happy person. Taking a few drinks always "make me happier". I wasn't as lonely or as bored. I forgot about all I am not accomplishing with my life.

There are still things I just really don't like about myself and areas where I feel like a total failure. The funny thing is I have so many life accomplishments that I can recognize if I look at them objectively. They don't carry me through dark times though. I wrestle in my head over what I'm NOT doing with my life, even while I have these amazing kids. There is still a lot of control that I try to maintain, there is anger I keep dealing with (likely from loss of control) and even sadness over how isolated I feel as a mom. I'd like God to be the freeing force in my life but that too has been a source of frustration for me in that I still don't feel completely free.

Thanks for listening.

12 comments:

  1. I can so relate to so much of this...I've lost a few friends through giving up drinking, which is such a shame, but then it's a testament to what the friendship really was.
    And the nursing guilt... oh my word... I won't even get into it here, but I know I did exactly as you a few times, and I still feel awful about it...
    So glad you shared today - thank you.
    (and AA is not my first rec... I haven't been to a meeting since my first month of sobriety... I'll just say this - it works wonders for a lot of people, but it's not for everyone. By all means, email me if you want to chat with someone crnnoel at gmail dot com)

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  2. I commend you for your courage in honesty. As a Christian, I struggled with my
    inadequacies and living up to the faith that I proclaim. Going to Bible School and being in the ministry, I thought I knew everything about grace and forgiveness. In my 'intelligence', I couldn't imagine that anyone could teach me something on that topic that I didn't know. Filled with pride and a lack of humility, I walked into the AA rooms with my arms crossed. Little could
    I also have imagined that that God could meet me exactly where I was...at the bottom of a Vodka
    bottle. AA is not for everyone, but it is there that I personally learned to live and operate under an umbrella of grace and love, rather than condemnation. The honesty and spirit filled rooms taught me how similar paths we are all on...regardless of creed or religion; how we all face the same struggles in our recovery (albeit different circumstances). As a woman
    of faith, I oddly believed that I couldn't be myself, that somehow I had to prove I was 'better'. Ironically, our weaknesses are God's specialty. It was in my weaknesses, and sharing with others,that the miracle happended and I found a strength I never thought possible. The hardest thing EVER was getting started by reaching out, so be encouraged that you have started by exploring and sharing! I believe there are many who need to hear your story...thank you for listening, and thank you SO MUCH for encouraging others with your honesty.

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  3. Thank you for thinking out loud with us here. I too can relate to SO much of what you said. I drank at the 2-3 glasses a night amount for a long time. For me, when stress increased BIG TIME in my life, so did the drinking. And that just compounded the dependence and obsession.

    I quit drinking when pregnant, yes...but I also totally and completely understand justifying a glass or two. (I also can admit that I didn't stop until I knew FOR SURE FOR SURE FOR SURE I was pregnant) You are not alone in not stopping. There are many posts when the "except when I was pregnant" isn't brought up...perhaps because people don't want to admit it so they simply give a number of years or don't mention pregnancy at all. Knowing you aren't alone helps a little, but I know it doesn't take away your guilt. It's hard to forgive ourselves. For a lot of things. Really hard. I think it simply takes TIME.

    I guess the beauty of AA for me is that I'm learning HOW to do that, by simply sitting and listening to how other people have found it.

    Thank you so much for sharing your words. As a very smart lady named Ellie would say...keep talking. :)

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  4. Thank you so much for your brave honesty. I relate to SO much in your story, and I've been thinking about this post a lot.

    The things you describe - the drinking glasses down when your husband walks out of the room, watching others' drinking, etc. are things I remember from the earliest part of my own struggles.

    To me, I think of that time as the beginning of my 'emotional addiction' to alcohol - the physical addiction came much further down the road. Alcohol (wine, in particular) became what I turned to - almost automatically - to get through tough emotions, the long days, boredom, anger, etc. I knew on some level that I was using alcohol as a way to escape, and I was concerned on some level, but not enough to stop. OH how I wish I had listened to those little internal alarm bells sooner.

    What I think is so amazing and brave is that you're looking at your drinking now -- not waiting until the floor falls out from underneath you. My only advice is to trust those inner voices that tell you maybe alcohol is playing a bigger and bigger role in your, robbing you of experiencing your life to the fullest .. both the good and the bad.

    It's a tough truth that there is an arc to addiction - it always progresses, always increases, and it takes a LOT of strength and self-love to examine it when you aren't being forced to. I admire this in you - a LOT.

    The only antidote that I know of to stopping the progression of the disease is to open up, talk about it, ask for help, start engaging in other behaviors and actions instead of turning to alcohol for solace or comfort. Sitting through the tough times, feeling all the emotions and realizing you CAN do it. It takes time, and it's hard, but it's very possible if you stay true to yourself and keep looking honestly at your life.

    Thank you SO much for sharing this here. I wish you all the best of luck, and you know you can email me anytime you need/want to talk.

    -Ellie

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  5. what a beautifully written post. so honest and i relate to so much. when my first child was about 15 months, i reached out to a sober friend and tried AA for one month. was not a daily drinker and not ready at the time. about two years later i had another baby. i didn't drink during the pregnancy but nursing was another thing. i remember that first glass of wine and not finishing it and thinking "good, i can handle the occasional drink thing." within a month i had the first horrible black out. i would pump milk to have when we were socializing but i, too, feel guilty about the handful of times i should not have nursed. this goes for both kids.

    you nailed it on the weaning and having two kids. i weaned my baby girl at 6 months and then it was on. a few drinks at the end of the day quickly became a bottle a night. and for a while, my justification with "it's only four glasses between 5:30 and 10:00" worked. but again, my conscience was getting louder. you talk about having the reward at the end of the day. i look back now and remember that at the end i practically drank the first glass like it was a shot to just get the warm, cozy feeling. i felt "normal" and i could breathe. then i could go cook, maybe enjoy bathtime and be the cool, calm and collected mother they deserve. loving my children madly is a given, but loving the tedious tasks and tantrums that go along with it isn't.

    last summer, i picked my "quit" date and kept moving it out, then trying to stop and only being able to not drink for a couple of weeks at a time, i could see that i was powerless over alcohol.that is when i went to outpatient treatment. when my baby girl was 13 months. reading your piece brought me back to the moment i was able to admit that i couldn't do this on my own. i am strong-willed and determined and usually accomplish what i set out do. and i couldn't do it on my own.i will have one year in a little over a week. what ellie says is true, it progresses. i know in my soul that i if i picked up again i might be able to manage it for a few weeks or few months, but my 5:30 kick-off would creep up to 4 and then 3 and you all know the rest. also believe what you wrote about it not being the amount but the time spent thinking about it. the obsessive thoughts and time spent thinking about drinking was a huge one for me.

    i still sometimes grieve the loss of my first "love" and "best friend." now i go through cases of san pelligrino and bags of limes every week because that is what i chug as soon as husband walks in the door.

    -adrianne

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  6. Check into Celebrate Recovery.

    I agree with all that has been written above. Momma Guilt is real. Hang in there-

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  7. Thank you, everyone, for your input. This is invaluable to me (not to be confused with 'un-valuable'). I'm still in this process of trying to fill my life with other ways of coping with stress, anger, sadness and fear. The fear is a huge one. What if this is all there is to my life? That fear screams out to me and the times where I've been slightly numb, the thought of what I am doing with my life really doesn't matter anymore.

    Another difficult issue for me is that I still want to be able to drink (not get drunk- that's not really what I want or what I engage with). I have always liked how fun and relaxing it can be. I still don't think that people who have a few drinks to relax necessarily have a problem with booze. The issue is that I don't want alcohol to be such an escape or a vice in my life. It's like a pal or something. If it's not there I sort of miss it. This is not to be confused with a justification or a place where I'm trying to find a way to just have a few every now and again. It's just like everyone keeps saying, "It would be nice if we could still have just a few every now and again because it is sort of fun". I keep seeing the word 'normal' to describe what we all wish we were.

    It's only been about a month of being tea total for me but I'm still sort of on the fence of whether or not I should be tea total forever. I told my husband that my main concern if I have a beer with a friend, for example, is that it will put me in a place in my thinking where things are just fine now. "See, I can do this....just every once in a while". Maybe that's how it would be. But wisdom tells me that is highly unlikely and that's a real shame for me. Not being in control. That's actually why I never get drunk. I don't like to be out of control. I want to have my wits about me. Yet, feeling toasty is just on the edge of the cliff as well and that's where the guilt would come in.

    As strange as it sounds it's actually comforting to hear that others have made mistakes while taking care of babies. Having kids has been the main reason for me to want to stop drinking. I don't want my kids to smell booze on my breath at night while I'm kissing them before bed. I have been very struck with a few women who have likely got this phrase from AA but it describes how I want to walk: Being present. The other one is Accepting Life on Life's terms. I'm still not sure how to process the last one entirely but the first one really speaks out to me.

    I do have one question for those of you who've had blackouts. Would you black out because you drank so much or was it some sort of reaction the longer you'd been drinking? I just keep reading about those so I'm curious.

    Thank you again, Ladies. The encouragement is reassuring where I don't feel others can really relate.

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  8. I really related to Adrianne's comment, too. It made me remember a point where I realized it was easier in many ways to have none than to have one, because as hard as it was to have none, stopping at one was even harder. Again, I ignored this and would always, always go back. I think the turning point for me was the surrender to my powerlessness over alcohol, and realizing that even during the times I wasn't drinking it was way harder, way more effort than it should be.

    As for the black-outs - I had "grey outs" for a long time .. periods of time that I only sort of remembered from the night before. It wasn't always related to how much I drank .. some nights I'd have a grey-out when I only had two or three, and other times I could drink much more than that and not lose any time.

    Towards the end, though, the black-outs were more common - couldn't remember what I cooked for dinner the night before, watching my husband's moods in the morning to see if he was angry or upset to try and figure out if we fought the night before, or if I said anything out of turn.. that was hell on earth. For me, it was a gradual process - the grey-outs were the first clue (one that I also ignored) that things were progressing.

    These comments are amazing - thank you, everyone, for sharing pieces of your own stories.

    -Ellie

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  9. Thank you for this very real and raw post. You have helped me by sharing your heart. It feels like a safety net--to be able to examine (and open up for others to examine) our feelings, fears, guilts and vulnerabilities. You mentioned knowing you "need accountability",I'm not sure being "accountable" (such as in AA)to others would work for everyone at all times. The gift of being strong, determined and independent can backfire on us if we feel we have to answer to others for the "shoulds" that are eating away at us in our heads. But being accountable may work at a later time in this process. I am really understanding that this a journey. That my problem with alcohol won't be fixed right away, even though that's what I long for. Personally, I have had to allow myself slack in the rope to find my truth about alcohol in my life. I realized a few years ago that alcohol had too much control over my thoughts and my life. However, it was only a year ago August, that I actually took the step to completely abstain from drinking for a week (!). Since then I have had periods up to 2 months without drinking. That process of the last year has led me to today, where for the first time I admitted to myself and outloud to my husband, that I am an alcoholic. This is a journey and that you are seeing more clearly in your head what your heart already knows is huge. For acknowledging and being aware of your uncomfortableness and fear, I would be grateful. For me, that was a turning point that led me to today.

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  10. What Ellie said about coming to this conclusion earlier and quitting now is so so so good. You know the stories of those of us who couldawouldashoulda...and the road we traveled was really damaging.
    What you're saying about wanting to be able to have one with a friend? That was one of the hardest parts for me. It kept me drinking longer and enters my mind a lot now that I'm not drinking at all. I wish. I wish. I wish.

    But I don't. The more time that goes by, the more I realize that alcohol is NOT the friend I thought it was. At first I just couldn't let go of loving it and I was so sad, grieving this lost friend. Maybe I'm just saying it gets easier...and as you learn these new ways of coping, you lose that desire more and more.

    We just hate waiting :)

    It sounds like (and I could be wrong) that you have been very careful about your drinking and you may believe you can continue to be that careful, to go back...but like the title of your post says "it's not about the amount"

    It's about the obsession. How much it takes away from being able to handle life on its terms or to be present in your life. To think about drinking, how to handle it, how to understand it, how to do it in a healthy way, how to control it, etc. etc. etc....people who do not have a drinking problem have no need to do that, you know? I'm only saying that because I finally realized I was an alcoholic when I looked at it that way.

    The first step in AA is "we admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable."

    I would sit there going "well, not really...so maybe I'm not an alcoholic." Then one day a kid half my age looked at me and said "well...okay, you didn't lose your house or your family or drink as much as a lot of drinkers...but what is unmanageable, really? Was YOUR life in YOUR eyes manageable? Were you comfortable and happy with where it was going?"

    Oh. heh. good point.

    I love that kid.

    End of rambling. Please forgive my thinking out loud. Is early :)

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  11. Wow! Thanks for this honesty. I am a alcoholic in recovery 3 yrs. Mother of 2. I don't know when alcohol became a problem for me, but the obsession was driving me crazy. I did quit during my pregnancies but I drank way too much during nursing. I remember some times that my baby would sleep WAY too late after a night feeding of booze-soaked milk. Horrible guilt. If I were to have mentioned it to someone it would certainly be in jest. As though it couldn't have really been that bad. As though I would would NEVER to anything that careless. Thing is... I really thought I was a good mother. Thing is...I was. I am. I just did some things that were not good. Did I really think I was perfect? That I could ever be perfect? Yes I think I did. In sobriety it has been so liberating discovering that I am an average person. So my obsession with when I was going to drink (I had to wait until 5), how much I was going to drink (making sure the bottle was big enough that I didn't finish it--or if I did have another to begin). After a while going out to parties or functions was no fun anymore. Either they were lightweights that couldn't drink enough or God-forbid it was a non-drinking affair. We would get together with like-minded folks with kids and have romp-roaring New Years parties. I guess I thought that I was being a better parent being with the kids instead of going out.?? I would gather up my strong will and quit for short periods of time. 4-5 days. I quit hard liquor for years. I thought I had much more control over wine. One time I quit for Lent. Sometimes I would quite during the week and drink on weekends only but I would just get so much more drunk on Fri and Sat. I would force myself to stay up and finish the crossword at night. Surely if I'm the last one to bed I've been responsible? Every night I would go to bed saying I would not drink like this again and every morning I would agree but by 5 my resolve would disapate. This erosion of will was terrifying to this person that thought she was in control. About 5 years ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer. You know my first thought? Thank God this will interupt my drinking. And it did for a little while. Surgery. Then chemo. During chemo I couldn't feel the buzz and that made me desperate. But a year later I was right back where I used to be. Every day saying I was not going to drink and every night braking my own promise. This wore me out. I'm still not sure how or why I found my way into an AA meeting. I remember thinking I was going to throw up from nervousness as I was walking up the stairs. I knew that if I tried and failed this...well I didn't know what would happen but it would be bad. Also what would people think? My whole culture was based on the cocktail hour, parties, wine pairing with meals...would I really be able to attend my daughter's wedding without toasting? What is celebration without drink? Would I ever have fun again? What would people think? Would they think I was a horrible mother--drunk on the couch all day? Out of control? My first meeting was both excrutiating and comfortable. I felt like I didn't have my skin on. Exposed. But also I heard others tell about things that were very familiar to me. Some sounded like me. I was interested and so I went back again. I did not share with anyone (except my husband)what I was doing..in case I decided not to really quit. I did it on my own for 3 months. Discovering powerlessness was remarkable. How could a person feel so strong accepting that they are powerless?

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  12. Thank you for writing your story. I am coming up on my 4 year soberversary on April 16th and I still feel guilt about being buzzed and nursing. One great thing in becoming sober and meeting other alcoholic women is that you have much in common with them. You don't feel so alone. I have never gone to AA, but instead "belong" to Women for Sobriety. There is an online forum and face to face meetings (not as many as AA...). I attended meetings starting at about 6 months sobriety until about 1.5 years. I quit going because the time/day was no longer convenient for me. BUT I have remained sober through the support of women just like me on the WFS online forum. Good luck to you in your journey. Getting sober was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I don't regret it for a single moment!

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