Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alcoholic Feast

***Submitted by Jackie

And It was a Feast! By the age of 26...drinking 365 nights a year, starving my body to size 0, seeing no end to my self inflicted torment...I continued to order a drink till my eyes closed and oblivion!

Fort Worth Tx. The mall of topless clubs. My hangout, place of work, through out the late 1980's....early 90's. It did not make sense to me how a middle class catholic shifted 180 degrees opposite of my morals! Born in Hercegovina 1962, raised in the mountains of Croatia by grandparents my first 5yrs. Dad divorced mom and left for united states. In the mountains I climbed cherry trees, fell from trees barely obeying my frustrated grandparents.

By the time a car drove up with my new mom and dad's brother to pick me up and wisk me away to America with my gramma crying and waving goodbye to me, I was untamed and full of energy!

First day of school in America was confusion ! Not knowing how to speak to ask where the bathroom was? Quickly retreated into myself....I was lost emotionally, parents were busy working, trying to learn to speak american themselves.

St. Vitus school taught me about a man called Jesus, the visual of Jesus on a cross frightened me, their was no comfort from the nuns and priests, it was sit down! fold your hands! and be quiet young lady!

So by the age of 20-something, entering bars gave me a sense of freedom! Topless bars.. the drinks, beer, wine, mind erasers, sex on the beach, black velvet, crown royal, tequila, snorting crank and so on. When I walked on main stage wearing 4inch spiked heels, strobe lights flashing...dancing to Van Halen music, money flying in the air towards me like rain, it was utopia! Morals down the drain, ending up living with a dee-jay, bartender, and eventually by myself, then the couch....her couch...his couch....anyones couch!

Spent money same as I drank, liquor was my food. Family would call and beg me to come home as I lied and told them I was happy and not to worry.

Even blackouts were not enough to sober up, at least for a while longer. Alcoholism has no feelings..its goal is to kill you. I was headed in that direction....screaming half naked outside my apt. balcony in the middle of the night, next day not remembering why I was screaming. Hitching rides with strangers on several occasions...ending up home and not knowing who helped me and most of all I was least I thought so.

Waking up on the floor in my living room next to the married bartender I worked with and not recalling our evening together. Yelling at the policeman in front of my apt. door after neighbors called about the noise and not being arrested.

After evening of tequila a friend bobby pinned my hair away from my face as I puked in the toilet....she gently need help, you're an alcoholic.

Alcoholic...alcoholic....alcoholic....thats all I obsessed about for days after my puking tequila night. I reached for the phone and seeked help for my drinking, my own will to control not drinking was fleeting. Many relapses later I committed to myself to stop my madness and sobered up July 5, 1991. 18yrs. clean/sober. My issue's are tamed, daily process of letting go and living my life.

1. Alcoholism
2. Anorexia
3. ADD-attention deficit disorder
4.OCD- obsessive compulsive disorder
5. Bipolar-mania-depression
6. Ex-Smoker
7. Cancer Survivor

Divorced 14yrs. my son turned 17 October 17, 2009, I am 47. Life is about shooting hoops with son, being a supportive mom. Being productive, having fun, helping others.

Alcoholism and other serious problems can be treated by support groups, therapy, treatment centers. Alcoholism has no feelings!...its goal is death.

But Hope is alive! Help is available.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Snapshots from Before - The Beginning of the Journey

**Submitted by One Crafty Mother

I'm sitting in my car in the church parking lot. I want to go in. I don't want to go in. I watch as people saunter into the meeting, sipping coffee, chatting with each other. Laughing.

I'm sick, and I'm miserable. I'm here because I have to be here - my husband told me to go to meetings, or else. I don't know what the or else is yet; in my heart I can't really believe he would leave and take the kids, but that is my fear. Part of me doesn't care. They would be better off without me.

I glance at the clock - the meeting starts in three minutes. I don't know what to do. I could drive around for an hour, say I went to the meeting. But I know where my car will go: to the liquor store. I want to prove to my husband that I can do this. I still don't know what this is, I can't imagine it will be to stop drinking forever. I've lied so much, though, said I would stop, tried to stop, and I can't. I just can't. I know I need to go in, but I can't get my feet to move.

One minute until it starts. I burst into tears. I'm so angry. So, so angry, that I've let it come to this. A life of church basements, coffee, strangers. If only I had stopped after one last night, like I promised myself I would. Steve wouldn't be so angry today, and I wouldn't be here.

I wipe away my tears, grab my coffee mug, and get out of the car. Maybe there won't be an empty seat, I think. If there are no seats I'm turning around and leaving.

I swing open the door. Right in front of me is an empty seat. Shit. A woman smiles at me, pats the seat, and says, "Welcome."

I knew it was a cult, I think. I keep my eyes on the floor as the meeting starts. I feel like everyone is staring at me. The weak one. Most people are smiling, so they can't be as bad as me. I'm the worst. I'm the worst ever.

The chairperson, or whatever he's called, says, "Anybody new here? Anyone want to introduce themselves?" No freaking way, I think. But my hand goes up. All heads swivel towards me. I'm staring at my hand like I've never seen it before. I'm supposed to say something, I think. Crap, what do I say?

"I'm Ellie," I stammer. I'm not going to say it, I think. I'm not going to say the A word. "And, I think I'm an alcoholic."

"Welcome, Ellie," they say in unison. I'm shaking from head to toe, and the tears start flowing before I can stop them. The woman next to me puts her hand on my shoulder. "It's okay," she says. "You're going to be okay."

No, it's not okay, I think bitterly. Screw you. Screw you and all you people in here. You have no idea how much pain I'm in, what a terrible person I am.

A woman about my age gets up to the podium to speak. I stare at the floor. She is blonde, pretty, smiling. She introduces herself, says she is a grateful recovering alcoholic. Whatever, I think. Cult.

And then she tells my story. She's a mother, she has two kids, she has been sober two years. She hid her bottles the same place I do, she came here because her husband made her come. She stays now, she says, for herself.

I'm not looking at the floor anymore. I'm staring at her, agape. I thought I was the only one, I think.

Someone else gets up to speak, but I don't hear what he says. I keep stealing glances at the pretty blonde woman. There is no way, I think. There is no way she did those things she talked about. There is no way she's just like me.

Suddenly, the meeting is over. An hour passed? Already? One whole hour passed, and I didn't think about drinking. Not once. Some people come up to me, give me their phone numbers. I'm just trying to get out of there. I'm wondering if I'll go straight home, or if I'll stop at the liquor store. I don't know yet. I never seem to know.

I stuff the phone numbers in my pocket and mumble some thank yous. I don't think I'm thankful. And I'm definitely not calling anyone. As I open the door to leave, I feel a hand on my shoulder. It's the pretty blonde woman. "There is a meeting tomorrow too, you know. I hope I see you there." She smiles and walks out to her car.

I don't know if I'm going to the liquor store or not, but I do know I'll be back tomorrow, because I can't remember the last time I didn't think about drinking for one whole hour.

It felt pretty good.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Just Breathe

**Submitted by Diana (and written on St. Patrick's Day), who blogs at Diana Republic

Days like today challenge my sobriety. I am not tempted by the alcohol itself, but by the promise of escape and numbing ; those both sound really good today.

I am an exposed live wire today. It’s early and I have already been frustrated and anxious to the point of tears. My morning has been spent trying to manage the mole hill that my brain keeps telling me is a mountain. The point is that nothing unusual has happened. The dog was barking, the phone was ringing and there were things that had to be accomplished. My faulty brain sent out an all points bulletin on its PA system to freak the hell out. Tonight’s dinner is not a national emergency, but don’t tell that to my brain. It is in full panic mode. Shorten the breathing, hasten the heart beat, see if you can get the palms to sweat, it tells my body. Some tiny logical part of my brain is whispering that this is all nothing, just ride it out, but the PA system is too loud.

And I know just how to shut it down. Nothing shuts down my brain like a few drinks. Vodka immediately disables that PA system and all its ridiculous messages. The anxiety that is currently making me want to scream will melt away with the first sip. In this moment, as the exposed live wire figuratively flinging myself back and forth, a danger to anyone who might accidently come in contact with me, this feels like an appropriate recourse.

The problem with this solution is that it isn’t a solution. The anxiety I feel now would cower in the shadow of the anxiety that drinking would leave in its wake. The chaos that my sober day to day life brings with it is nothing when compared to that of my drinking life. And the dog will still bark and the phone will still ring and dinner will either get prepared or it won’t. And shockingly there is no tragedy in the latter.

The only way I can get through these moments is to breathe. I just need to breathe through the chaos that my brain is creating. I need to ride it out and remember that I am stronger than this. It sucks and I may have to cry and I may have to scream, but I have been here before and I know I will be fine

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reinventing the Calendar

**Submitted by Corinne, who blogs at Trains, Tutus and Teatime

This past weekend felt like summer. Sunshine, warm breezes, highs in the 70's. My husband and I hit the beach with the kids, and the only thing missing was the scent of SPF 30.

Until our drive home. And then it hit me.

There will be no margarita's this summer. No sangria. No white wine on restaurant decks soaking up the sun along with an easy buzz.

Those facts hit me like a bullet through the heart.

I've heard the first year is the hardest. All of the firsts without alcohol. Holidays, changes of seasons, back to school, ups, downs, vacations and 52 Mondays. I'm almost two months in, and the first month wasn't as bad as I expected. It was filled with boosts of confidence from friends and family, self indulging hours spent journaling and pondering, taking hot baths and eating dark chocolate. But somewhere around day 40 or so things started to get back to normal.

Except I felt like I was redefining my normal. All of a sudden, because children call and dinner needs to be made. Sheets don't clean themselves and neither do toddlers. So back to work.

And that's hard. Because when I'm busy, I will sometimes forget for moments - even hours at a time. I'll forget about the whole alcoholism thing. And then I question whether there was a problem at all. But there was. There is. There will always be.

It's living with a void. Kind of like moving on with life after a loved one dies. The first month, two months, are painful. Raw, unavoidable, but you're given time to grieve. You're expected to grieve. And then you move on. You live with the void he or she has left behind, and somehow the impossible happens. They are not on your mind every moment. Hours will pass where you don't feel the pang of grief in your stomach. But it still hits you, sometimes unexpectedly, and sometimes you fall to your knees in grief. In mourning. Because on some level you'll always mourn for the loved one.

This year, I'm in mourning. I'm mourning the trip to Napa Valley my husband and I always talked about taking {because really, that would now be torture...} I'm mourning champagne in France and margarita's at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

It's necessary. It's my way of coping, of living my life without my friend. And with every milestone, every day that goes by, I know that next year I will look back and think one year ago, I got through the day, I was sober.

And with each day, I am reinventing my calendar, my life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

After 7 years sober, 11 years later

**Submitted by Susan

Here I am, a big fat alcoholic, done with the alcohol and its rule over my dominion. I'm not literally big and fat, but when I consider my alcohol use, I sure feel that way. So, I was sober from 1993 to 2000. I was active in AA for at least 5 of the 7 years, but once I got married in 1997 (happily sober), and we moved out of state, I fell away from the program. My husband had no experience with alcoholism, or me when I was actively drinking. Since I quit when I was 23, and we moved to a fairly hard drinking state, it was easy to rationalize "just one". Eleven years later, I'm quietly downing 2 bottles of
wine a night.

For awhile I told myself that just because I was drinking didn't mean I forgot everything I learned in AA. I didn't, but I just wasn't ready to quit, mainly because my marriage has disintegrated during the past several years. It was going bad in 2001, and nothing has really changed. Two nights ago, while drunk of course, I told my husband that I knew I needed to quit drinking, but I didn't know if I could tolerate our marriage without it. For the record, he has never objected to my drinking as long as I don't hide it. But, of course, I still do.

When I woke up the morning after my confession, I had the usual internal scramble to remember what had happened the night before. I can't tell you how many movies I've watched with my husband that I can't remember anything about.

Luckily, today, I could remember. My first reaction was to apologize, blame stress from work, etc. But I realized I didn't want to take it back.

It was true. I didn't want this marriage as it was. I wanted the man back that I married. One of the AA phrases I learned, when you're pointing at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at you. To do my part I have to go back to being the woman my husband married. I have to stop drinking. I'm ready.

I'm done.

I'm concerned about withdrawal after the past 8 years or so of drinking every night until I fall asleep (details). My tolerance is obviously high, I haven't been hung over for years. God only knows what my liver thinks of all this. I don't want to do rehab. I know how to do this, but the last time I quit I hadn't been drinking that long, though the pattern was very similar. I didn't have withdrawal then, I'm concerned I will now. My palms are sweating as I write.   I know now that back then I was probably abusing alcohol, now, I am physically addicted.

Today I attended my first AA meeting in 13 years. How could I have forgotten so much? I didn't have a day yet, only the desire to stop drinking. But I went to a Closed Women’s meeting. What I heard:

The steps. I am powerless over alcohol. I AM. Without a doubt, I am. God, had I forgotten the power of the steps.

God, or the god of my understanding, as I called him (for lack of a better pronoun). I have lost my spirituality and I miss it.

Yes, I said it: I'm Susan and I'm an alcoholic.

Someone said: "I'm an alcoholic, I will create chaos around me." Shit, I'd forgotten that. No wonder my family life is chaos. Then I felt hope: if I stopped I could repair the chaos or at least deal with it SOBER instead of drunk.

The meeting topic? Acceptance.

Can I accept that I may have withdrawal problems? Yes, but I am committed to this path. I have an appointment with my therapist (of 8 years ago for marriage, not alcohol counseling, though I knew she specialized in that--REALLY???) and will call my Dr. to get some help and make sure I don't have a seizure and scare the shit out of myself and my family. I promise this is not an excuse to drink. I have broken my silence.

As for my husband, I am asking him for time, and plan to get my own house in order before making any decisions there. I asked him the other night, drunk, why we have everything but we aren't happy. Well, if both of us are creating  chaos...what the hell else is going to happen?

Not yet free, but hopeful.

P.S. Mine is a cautionary tale. Folks who relapse move away from remembering they are alcoholics, and start hoping/thinking they can drink normally. We can’t. Not even one. If we could drink one, we wouldn’t be here. Even when I took my first relapse drink, I knew I was making bullshit excuses. Please. Don’t go there. Find a way to not drink: reach out to people who understand (Booze Free Brigade), go to a meeting, anything. I’m still in the jail. You do not want to be here. Don’t drink.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Alcoholism As A Part Time Job

Every once in awhile, we alcoholics need to laugh at ourselves. Laughter helps me to take some of the power away from my disease. Diana from reminds us of just how exhausting our job as active alcoholics actually was. ~Val

Help Wanted: Active Alcoholic

Duties & Responsibilities:

1) Make certain that there is enough alcohol in the home at all times. (Quantities may vary according to activities.)
2) Make certain that no wine or liquor levels indicate that any extracurricular drinking has occurred (i.e. daytime or alone or both).
3) Shop at multiple stores for said liquor to avoid giving the impression that you may have a problem with alcohol (because cashiers at liquor stores keep running tabs of who buys what and when and, more importantly, care).
4) Budget for alcohol.
5) Plan activities around consumption of alcohol. Make certain to have all the day's errands completed before first drink so there will be no need to drive. Have all the day’s errands done as early as possible so there will be no need to delay drinking.
6) Carefully choose glassware to camouflage the contents.
7) Prepare excuses for mysterious drunken behavior after “one glass of wine with dinner."“I have my period," “I didn’t eat lunch," “I didn’t sleep at all last night,” and “the moon was in retrograde” will all work when said with the appropriate level of indignation.
8) Use CSI-like detective skills to piece together the activities of the previous evening. Interview friends without tipping them off to complete loss of memory. Gauge husband’s attitude and prepare to be remorseful or defensive depending on mood.
9) Constantly obsess about part time drinking job and whether or not you should cut your hours or just quit. Strangely the more you obsess about said job, the more hours you actually “work."

1) Shame
2) Humiliation
3) Remorse
4) Loss of dignity
5) Anxiety
6) Weight gain/bloating
7) Alienation of friends
8) Potential liver damage & other health issues

1) Physical appearance of a haggard fish wife

I have never been so glad to quit a job in my entire life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Learning To Feel Again

** Submitted by Sadie, who blogs at Life is An Octopus

Since I was three years old I can remember having extremely addictive behaviors. My parents were going through a traumatic divorce and nasty custody fight over my brother and me. I watched my mom deteriorate into a thin shell, a fragment, of a person with each passing day. My dad took every opportunity he could to brain wash me into telling the judge, or whomever else might listen, what a horrible mother my mom was. (Absolutely NOT true). And, of course, his manipulation and mood swings would increase with every drink he took. I remember doing anything I could to escape my situation and, more importantly, to escape my feelings. I continued trying to escape until very recently.

I am now 22 years old. Three months ago I admitted that I am an alcoholic. It took almost dying in a hotel room in Vegas for me to be blessed with the sudden clarity of what my life had become. Being three months sober now, I have whiplash from being jerked around by my emotions.

My first month of sobriety was a piece of cake. The world looked perfectly wonderful from up there on that fluffy pink cloud. After that first month, however, my emotions began to run amok. I found that within an hour I could experience sadness, bliss, rage, annoyance, jealousy, sheer joy… and that was very scary at first.

One time that sticks out in my memory was a morning about three weeks ago when I found myself stuck to the floor. Now, when I say “stuck”, I mean that I had decided to lie down on the floor (okay, okay, maybe I threw myself on the floor after an inner temper tantrum but let’s not get bogged down with the details) and found that I was physically incapable of scraping myself up into a sitting position. Had I suddenly and inexplicably been hit with a freak case of being paralyzed? If so, would it be forever?! Thinking I had finally lost my damn mind I called my sponsor. She asked, “Well, have you thought that maybe you just need time to sit and process your new found emotions?” Shit. You mean I had to not only FEEL my feelings, but I had to sit and reflect on them, too? When did I miss that memo? Perhaps it was sent out when I was on the floor…?

Let me tell you. After one becomes so overwhelmed with emotion (and not being able to stuff them inside with one’s anxiety pills or alcohol) that one becomes the horizontal version of a Velcro wall really makes one stop and think. I decided that perhaps my sponsor, bless her, might be right. Maybe I should try to SIT WITH MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS. *insert pregnant pause for dramatic affect…perhaps even a gasp! Is heard off in the distance.*

So I have been trying to find a quiet place and time in my day to reflect and actually feel. The other night I even allowed myself to cry great big old sloppy, ugly, heaving sobs of healing goodness. It had been quite some time since I had allowed myself to do that. Why go through it when wine and Lorazepam were so readily at hand? All these years I have been convincing myself that crying from any emotion other than happiness, gratitude, or relief was a horrible thing to have to go through. I am here to tell you that I was dead wrong.

Crying for any reason turns out to be remarkably and gloriously healing. Sure it can suck to go through disappointment, grief or fear, but, actually getting to FEEL those sucky emotions is a gift. A really big shiny gift wrapped in an impressive bow in fact. Because along with feeling truly awful at times, I get to feel peace, joy, giddiness, and pure happiness.

How freakin’ cool is that?!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Other Side

A note from Robin: As hard as I try, there is one perspective I will forever be shut out from completely getting, and that is the perspective of the non-addicted person who loves an addicted person. While a healthy person may one day develop a problem, an addict will always be an addict. But both can be in recovery, and that's worth everything.  As an addict I feel a strong need to hear the stories of those who have cared for us; it helps me get as close to their truth as I can be. I am grateful that people like Natasha are willing to share.

One Monday morning as we were getting ready for work, my husband turned to me and said, "I probably won't be home tonight, I am going to the hospital today."

He had been acting strangely for about a week; he called his brother one morning and took the phone outside to talk.  He had called his parents the day before and again took the phone outside where I could not hear.  That same day, we went to the baseball game and he didn't have anything to drink.  My daughter told me that he said to her that he was trying to quit drinking, but he never said anything to me.

My husband has always drunk a lot. When we first met (at a bar) he would drink himself to sleep every night. At times it was less, but over the years it was steadily more.  I pointed it out occasionally, even going so far as, after he had poured the whiskey in his glass for his nightly "one-of-only-two" drinks, picking up that glass and dumping the whiskey into a measuring cup. It measured a full cup, 8 ounces of whiskey in each drink. "Do you realize you drink a full pint every day?" I asked him, "That is not two drinks, it's sixteen." He was very angry with me for that.

A few years ago, his drinking began to affect his health. Gout came after our last visit to his parents' house on the east coast, where he drank beer for breakfast and we ate seafood every day. Before that the acid reflux problems had begun, and others as well. We went to have an upper-GI scope done, and afterwards the doctor came in and sat down with us. He reported that there was no real serious damage yet. Then, he looked my husband in the eye and told him that every one of his health problems would be cured if he would stop drinking. He told my husband that even though he wrote on the pre-op paperwork that he only has "two drinks a day" they knew it was way more than that because it took an unusually large dose of anesthesia to knock him out.  When we left the hospital, he went straight to the liquor store.

On that Monday morning last July, he went to work and asked for leave  He told his boss everything, and went to the local hospital and checked himself into an in-patient detox program. A co-worker dropped me off at the hospital to get his car, so I could drive it home. On the passenger seat was a tupperware container half-full of koolaid and vodka. I took the car home, and told our kids where he was. We talked for a while, about being supportive, and how good it was that he was getting help. They had seen him every night, falling asleep in his chair by 7 pm, the erratic behavior and the mood swings affected all of us.

He told our family doctor that I had no idea how bad it had gotten. My family told me they had no idea he was "that bad." I knew; I just never told anyone  When my brother asked how I was, I surprised both of us by telling him I was angry. I hadn't really thought about it, but I was angry. He had ruined our vacation plans (we were supposed to be going camping that Wednesday), he announced it on Twitter before I could even tell our kids, and he obviously talked to everyone else in his life about it but he wouldn't talk to me. He wouldn't tell me, the person with whom he pledged to share everything.

He came home three days later, and was signed up for an outpatient program that required him to be back at the hospital every day from 5 pm to 9 pm, and every Sunday morning for an hour. He drank that Sunday at the baseball game. He went to that outpatient program for two weeks, then switched to a one-on-one counselor at a different hospital. He did that for a month. His last visit was August. He went to a different physician who prescribed a medication that is very expensive (Suboxone), and I'm not sure what it is for. When I asked him, he said he didn't want to go into all the ins and outs, but it helps. He is on an antidepressant, the drinking medicine, the reflux medicine, a mild antibiotic for his acne and now a medication for high blood pressure.

He's still drinking.  He still won't talk to me about any of it. 

And I'm still angry.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Long Road

**submitted by Diana, who blogs at Diana Republic

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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In The Beginning

**submitted by Angelynn, who would like to recognize Maggie, whose post Nine Days Sober helped her decide to seek help.

I was 16 the first time I got drunk. I hadn’t had more than a few sips of beer or a taste of my parent’s cocktails before then. I visited a friend overseas and went out to a bar. I remember diving into my first scotch and soda. I expected to hate the taste but was pleasantly surprised. I quickly felt the effects of that first drink. Intrigued, I asked for another. I don’t recall the number of drinks I actually had that night. I do remember staring at myself in the mirror, smiling and thinking to myself, "I'm drunk," and I liked it.

At 17, I started frequenting bars with a girlfriend. I don’t remember ever seeing her without the evening ending with drinks. Drinking made it easier to relate to other people, my shyness quieted down and I was able to communicate without fear. I envied her confidence and tried to amplify mine by drinking. I felt sexy and in control when I drank.

Fast forward to age 20. My girlfriend and I went to a club to see her boyfriend’s band play. I hadn’t eaten since early that afternoon and drank a few too many beers. Cops were waiting on the streets near the club. Not more than a block away I saw a red light in the rear-view mirror. The lights from the police flooded our car. The officer asked if I had had anything to drink. Without thinking I admitted to a couple beers. He told me to step out of the car and follow him to the side of the road. I don’t recall each sobriety test, but I remember thinking I performed a lot better than what my scores revealed. I registered 0.1 on the breathalyzer. The legal limit is 0.08 and when you’re under 21 it’s 0.04.

was handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car. My girlfriend paged her boyfriend so he could pick her up because she was too drunk to drive. I spent the night in jail. I met several other women while we were waiting to make our phone calls. I remember one woman in particular dressed in a blue skirt suit. She joked about how we should go out for drinks when we got out. I remember just wanting to sleep but not being able to. As the alcohol wore off it was less interesting to sit in a jail cell with no money and no clue what was going to happen next. A small piece of me was thankful that I got pulled over. A night in jail was certainly better than what could have happened if I had continued on to the freeway for the 45-minute drive home.

Thinking about my highs while drinking brought back all the lows. The day after my first experience being drunk was the sickest I had ever been in my life. It was a 12-hour plane ride home with a hangover. It was hopping up to rush to the bathroom to throw up only to have a flight attendant with an attitude growl under her breath that I better not throw up in the cabin. Drinking in bars with strangers led to leaving with strangers that I never got a chance to know. Spending a night in jail meant learning later that the reason I couldn’t get hold of my girlfriend to come pick me up is because she and her boyfriend wanted to “get some sleep.” 

They also used the last few dollars in my wallet to buy themselves breakfast. Those beers cost me over $6000, 2 days of community service (see also: cleaning public restrooms at the fairgrounds), and losing my license for 6 months. The group sessions the court ordered me to take were my first introduction to AA. 

That was 13 years ago.

Sometimes things get a lot worse before they get better. That was certainly true for me. Today I am 10 days sober. I returned to AA last night a different person. This time I walked in those doors willingly and with purpose. Alcohol doesn’t speak for me anymore. I’m learning to say no with an authority I didn’t possess years ago. I’m learning to fight the feeling in the center of my chest that aches for a drink. I’m standing at the edge of a cliff peering over the edge. A glass of wine is just out of reach, dangling over the abyss. If I reach out to it, I will fall. And I don’t think I would make it back.

What It Was Like, What Happened, and What Life is Like Now

**submitted by Sheri

My disease took me to hell and back, and hell again and back again, and hell again...You get the point!  I suffered for more than 10 years with different lengths of sobriety in that time. The most I have ever had was over a year. As of today, I have just over 9 months, and I'm not looking back. Well, maybe to rejoice in this great life of sobriety!

I always knew how to get sober; my big problem was staying sober. In my worst state, I would find myself hospitalized with different health complications due to alcoholism. Liver failure, pancreatic issues, esophageal bleeding. You know, all that fun stuff. The last time, my health was terminal. The doctors told me and my family that I would not be leaving the hospital alive. Well, I decided then that I wasn't ready to die just yet. By some miraculous intervention, I survived.... only to find myself, once well enough to drive, right back at the liquor store. 

I let this disease continue on running the show for around 6 more months. I was a hard liquor alcoholic, 'Mr.100 Proof Smirnoff' was my best friend. He was always there for me, morning, noon and night. Me and the bottle...we were tight. He was the answer to everything....when I was sad, celebrating, mad, glad -- like no other of my friends, he was there.

I finally had to end this relationship, before it ended me. So in  June of 2009, I checked myself into an outpatient rehab center. I learned there everything I was dying to know... literally.

I can't say that it's always been easy, but then again, nothing worth having is. Sobriety to me is a gift, a daily gift that I give myself, my children and loved ones. I hear people talk about the cravings, and the desire to have just one. I've come to learn that one is too many and a million would never be enough. As long as I think before I drink, I have a choice and a chance... So do you!

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Name is Sara and I'm an Addict

**submitted by Sara

My name is Sara and I'm an addict. I won't ever say recovering, because do we ever recover?

I'm 31 and about 12 years ago I started using heroin. Not pot, not booze, but heroin. I was the fat lil' nerd everyone loved to hate, and when a "friend" said, "Try this, it will make you thin," I jumped on it.

I went from 175 pounds (at 4'10") down to 95 lbs in a matter of months. I was happy with my looks, but when I was in a car crash that almost took my life and the life of my daughter, who was two at the time, I hit bottom. Or so I thought.

For two years after, I robbed, stole, and went to jail, all for dope. I didn't care who I hurt. When I went to jail, I was 70 pounds and had abscesses on my arms from shooting. Two years I spent in a cell, kicking. Yes, detoxing only lasted a few weeks. But for me, I wanted to get high, and I still do, but I met a great guy, got married, and now have two wonderful little girls.

There are days I wanna get high, but I don't because I don't want to go back to being 70 lbs, and I love life too much to get high.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Geese, The Chips and The Woman in Amber and Yellow

A note from Ellie:   Addiction is a disease that effects everyone around the addict:  family, friends, loved ones.   My friend DaMomma posted this on her blog, shortly after I had the first year anniversary of my sobriety.   She said this to me once:   "You can have unconditional love, but you don't need to have unconditional acceptance."    I think this is some of the best advice to give a loved one of an alcoholic or addict.    She told me the truth when I needed to hear it.   She stood by me and helped me, as long as I was willing to help myself.   She is proof positive that friendships, honest friendships, can survive addiction.   And thrive.    For another post by DaMomma about what it is like to care about an addict, please go here

Orginally posted at
August 23, 2008
Reprinted With Permission

When I pushed open the door to the small church rec. hall my first thought was that I had not been this nervous in a long time. And then I wondered just how nervous El must have been, all the times she walked into this room – before she was serious about it and then when she was.

Ellie smiled when she saw me, and I was struck by how lovely she was. She was wearing yellow and amber, and her hair was up in a pretty knot, and she stood next to me and grinned and looked the very opposite of hapless and out of place.

Her husband joined us and we sat in the front row, and at first I thought, “Oh, couldn’t we sit in the back?” – and then I realized that the back was for the people who had a real reason to be scared, and I should give them their privacy and stay up here.

Ellie spoke first, and when she got up and said those words – My name is Ellie and I’m an alcoholic – I waited for every clich├ęd drunk movie character I’d ever seen to wander through the room: Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Elizabeth Shue, sexy and gorgeous and stumbling. But she said it, and they said, “Hi, Ellie” and I didn’t see a fall, but a rise to an exquisite sort of grace. Ellie, glowing and funny and articulate: telling the story I had been witness to – and some of the parts I hadn’t.

After Ellie, there were others: each with familiar notes of despair and agony, and a descant of hope. As one man was talking -- in his sixties, stout, tattooed, the sort of man who’d wander into my life to fix my kitchen sink and never be heard from again – a cool gust of autumn wind blew in the window, carrying the honk of a flock of geese -- the sound of coming winter.

I knew then that this was it: this is as good as it gets. Wealth, power, fame, success: meaningless. You have achieved something when you know the despair of the world; when you are aware of and forgive your own basic faults, and those of the people you love; when you love the humanity of others and stop placing yourself in categories above or below, and are reminded of the divine simplicity of your own creation by the sound of geese passing by.

At the end, the presentation of chips. Anyone sober a year or more got to raise her hand. El quietly put her hand in the air, and I, of course bawled.

Anyone sober six months this week? -- A chip. Three months? -One? -- a young man strode to the front of the room to a roar of applause. A terrified smile and he took his chip.

24 hours? No one stood. See me after if you’re too shy, said the man handing out the chips.

And now the presentation of the one-year chips. Someone lighted the candle on Ellie’s cake, while her husband took the podium. She had asked me to be his backup, in case he flaked. Let me tell you, he flaked. He flaked beautifully. It was raw and sad and lovely, and just when I thought I couldn’t take another word he said, “You know, after seeing all this, I think … alcoholics are amazing people.”

And of course we roared, and wiped our eyes, and then cried again when the amazing person we were there for got her chip.

So I wasn’t called on to speak, which is good, because I don’t think I would have made it – but if I had, here’s what I would I have said:

When you find out that someone you love and thought you knew very well is an alcoholic, you find out that you were in a sick relationship. And it takes two people to make a sick relationship.   I don’t think that the people inside this room are any worse off than the world outside of it. The only real difference is that the circumstances that bring us here give us an opportunity to see what many people never see – our basic flaws and our basic goodness, the goodness in each other, the bad results of our best intentions and the strength to try again. When I understood how sick Ellie was, I knew that I had to grow and change, too. And in that, Ellie was my leader and role model. And she set the bar pretty god-damned high.

The meeting broke. We shared in Ellie’s cake, and told jokes that only alcoholics and their loved ones think are funny. I saw some of the people in the back of the room wander quietly away, and I said a prayer for them; that they would find themselves here some day, having lived through despair and learned that the only way home is through surrender, and friendship and humor.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yes To Me

**Submitted by Corinne

For years I felt the eyes. Everywhere.

I felt them questioning how much and how many. I felt them watch as I picked drunken fights with my husband. I felt them stare as I bought gigantic bottles of wine for one. I felt them linger as I slept away weekends in booze induced comas. I felt them on me as I chose the bottle over being present at night for my kids. I felt them burn into me as I took an escape route. I always felt eyes on me while I drank. Or thought about drinking. As I poured my glass that never became empty. As I became sneaky and defiant. I felt eyes on me through my addiction.

My addiction told me it was enough. That I was not, and it was everything I had. It told me I was weak and needed an escape, that my life was crap and I couldn't handle it. So I took the escape, I took the glass as many nights as I could, using any excuse that I could. Red wine helped my migraines, the kids were driving me insane, I'd had a long day. I deserved my wine. It was all that I had.

So I'd sit with my third glass of wine as my husband came out of the kids bedroom from putting them down for the night. Many nights. We made a point of him being the bedtime guy, so that I could have a break.

So that I could drink.

So that I could check out from my family. My life.

I would hear the click of the kids bedroom door, and wait for him to come out. I'd listen to the sound of our living room clock, and try to squeeze myself into the silence that was between the tick and the tock. I tried to disappear, and then maybe - just maybe - he wouldn't see my glass. He wouldn't see how far gone the wine bottle was, or that there was a second waiting to be opened. I avoided my husbands eyes as he would walk through the living room. Otherwise, I might owe him an explanation.

I always felt I owed everyone when I drank. I was a yes drinker. Yes to more, yes to crazy plans, yes to favors and yes to people walking over me. Yes to guilt ridden hungover mornings and days with no patience for my children. Yes to the addiction and isolation.

No to me.

By the end I couldn't decipher myself from my addiction. We were one, close knit and the best of friends. But those eyes kept coming back, and I could never feel total peace, could never be alone with myself without feeling like I needed something more than me. And I was lonely when I was playing with my kids or having a quiet night with my husband. Whenever that glass was empty, I was lonely.

And then I was lonely with the glass. Because I'd be the last one drinking. The only one drinking, or the only one pouring. It was me and the bottle, and those eyes of shame.

Ending my relationship with alcohol has been the hardest thing I've ever done. The first week I felt ill, not from withdrawal symptoms, but from the feelings of guilt, shame, and fear that overwhelmed me. Sick from flashbacks and memories of every time I picked up a drink. Sick from realizations of where drinking took me, the dark places that could have been avoided, the pain that I inflicted on myself and others.

The hardest part has been figuring out how to listen to myself and not the addiction. Because the voice of addiction still lies within me. Today I'm on day 44 of my sobriety, but without constant vigilance I could slip. Sobriety is not something I will ever take for granted. Now I pray a lot. I read a lot. I drink a lot more water and hot tea than I used to. But I can also be alone with my thoughts. I can look at my kids and get teary not because I miss my wine, but because I'm here to witness their beauty. To be in the moment with them.

Now, I know I'm enough. And the eyes?

The eyes smile down on me with love and patience.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Just Don't See It

**Submitted by Caroline

I remember back in the day . . . back when I was usually so drunk I couldn’t imagine being sober that day, or the next, or the next . . . I remember thinking that I didn’t look like an alcoholic.

An alcoholic, in my pickled mind, was a complete degenerate.

An alcoholic was some poor sap whose drinking had progressed to the point that he (and the image I had in my mind of the stereotypical alcoholic always involved a “he”) had lost his family, his friends, his job, his home, his network of people who are always the last to extricate themselves from an alcoholic’s life. An alcoholic was someone who was absolutely penniless, standing outside the convenience store, begging for a few dollars “for something to eat” (which we all know is code for “something to drink”). An alcoholic was someone who trembled only slightly when he was drunk, and whose shaking verged on the terrifying when he was sober.

I did not look like an alcoholic.

On August 10, 2007, I was finally ready to admit that, although I might not look like an alcoholic, I am one.

I could no more control my drinking than I could stop breathing for any amount of time.

At that point, I had even started to exhibit some of the “signs” of an alcoholic. I had woken with the shakes a few times. One time, the shakes were bad enough that I couldn’t lift a spoon to my mouth. My sister, who was furious with me when she arrived at my apartment, took pity on me and helped me eat the first meal I had eaten in days.

Still, I just didn’t see it. I didn’t see that I could ever come close to resembling an alcoholic.

The funny thing about it? In the past two and some years, I have met so many alcoholics, I can’t count them. I attend meetings several times a week with an ever-expanding group of people who have become willing to admit that they are utterly and absolutely powerless over alcohol. One of them has been instrumental in my sobriety as she has guided me, and other women like me, through our journeys of recovery.

I sit in those meetings. I look around the rooms. I look at the people I see in those meetings, and the thought that I have had, more than once, might sound like denial, but it’s not.

I just don’t see it.

That nurse who sits in the back corner of the room by the door, hesitantly sharing only when compelled? She doesn’t look like an alcoholic. There is an elderly man who comes when his health permits who has been sober since 1968—longer than I have been alive. I just don’t see him as an alcoholic. The quiet somber girl who sits by her attorney boyfriend several times a week and who has been sober for nearly 10 years? She just doesn’t look like a drunk. Neither does he, come to think of it. And that woman who has been so pivotal in the maintenance of my sobriety? I honestly cannot, for the life of me, imagine her with a drink in her hand, much less comprehend the unloveliness that is an alcoholic after a few drinks have been downed.

I look at them all, and I just don’t see it. I don’t see how any of them were ever so out of control when it came to alcohol that they lost their children, lost their jobs, lost their dignity, their self-respect, their ability to even try to convince others that they could drink like a normal person. I just don’t see how some of them were ever so bad off that they went to jail, to prison, to detox centers, to treatment.

I just don’t see it, because although they might have been those people, they aren’t now. They are people who live. They work. They love. They have problems and they deal with them, like normal people do, without drowning their problems in the bottom of a bottle. There is laughter there. They regain the respect of their families, experience love and romance, find friends, and regain their self-respect after firmly believing that that elusive creature was long since extinct.

I think that I just don’t see them as alcoholics because when we come in the rooms, that might be all that is left of us. We are alcoholics. For some of us, that is the only title we can still claim, having lost our role as someone’s wife or husband, the mother to one or more children, our career as a teacher, a nurse, a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, even. We were alcoholics, unable to claim any other titles but that. Over time, though, through sobriety, some of us are blessed.

I am.

I am still a wife.

I am still an attorney.

I am a daughter, and a sister to four beautiful women who have graced me with their love and respect after I had reached the point where I didn’t believe I was deserving of either.

By the grace of God, I am also a mother.   My Bitlet.

I know there are people out there who don’t believe me when I tell them that I am an alcoholic. They are shocked that I was ever that person who couldn’t control my drinking. They can’t imagine me drunk, even though I remember still when I couldn’t imagine me sober, without alcohol, forever. To them, they don’t see it.

I’m not an alcoholic.

I am just me.

I am Caroline. I am an alcoholic, but that is only a part of who I am, and it is only something I admit. It’s not something that others see.

That is the true blessing, I think, of sobriety.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fighting the Current

**Submitted by Anonymous

I hate that I can never have another drink. I hate that I can’t enjoy a beer or two with my husband or a glass of wine during dinner without knowing it will turn into a full night of drinking. And not drinking just to loosen up or enjoy myself. I drink enough to distance myself from everything that is real in my life. I drink to allow myself to stop fighting the currents that are pushing against me. Work, kids, appointments, bills, debt…the usual. I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions and I want it all to stop. After my first glass the jets turn off and I seem to start flowing at a normal pace.

I drink wine. And I only drink it after the kids go to sleep. Once in a while I’ll have a glass during dinner and maybe another before their bedtime. The other five days a week it’s only after 8pm. And I don’t stop until the moment I go to bed. Sometimes it’s a lot later than I even realize. For two weeks I got black-out drunk every single night. I spilled red wine on the carpet and didn’t know it until the next morning. I got angry at my husband asking why I was up so late when I seemed so tired but don’t remember snapping at him. Every morning I would check the cupboards and trash to see what I drank or ate. I also checked my email and other online accounts to make sure I didn’t say anything stupid to anyone without realizing it. I was on auto-pilot from about midnight on for days.

Sometimes I woke up on the couch and went to bed on my own. Other times I would wake up in bed with my husband relieved I had made it. I would then try to fall back asleep with the crushing headaches that I lived with. I floated throughout the day in a fog. I couldn’t focus. Many mornings I still felt drunk. I would wake up late after hitting snooze for 45 minutes trying to sleep off as much of the sickness as I could. Then I’d load up on allergy medicine and pain relievers to get through the day. This was on top of the anti-depressant I started taking last fall.

Every morning I’d promise to take a night off drinking. Every afternoon I reconsidered.

Before I left for work in the morning I would make sure there was enough wine in the house to get drunk that night. If my husband didn’t have beer in the fridge I would offer him a glass of wine but only if I could spare it. I never got to the point where I needed a drink in the morning. This was my excuse for dismissing the fact that I had a problem with drinking. Alcoholics drink all day and they usually drink liquor. I only drink wine in the evenings. I couldn’t possibly be an alcoholic. Right? It took stumbling across a blog post one evening in January to finally realize what I'd known on some level for years. I held my breath as I read each word. I understood everything she said and my heart sank into my chest.

I wanted to get sober, but I didn’t know how. I'm scared of letting go of my crutch. I’ve spent hours online reading and blogs by women who are going through exactly what I’m going through. I still haven’t attended a meeting. I’m terrified of looking at all of those people in the eye and admitting I’m an alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in 6 days. I want a drink right now. What I’m finally conscious of is that I can already taste the fourth drink. 10-12 a night was average. I used to think it was 4-5 until I actually looked up a serving size and measured it in the conveniently oversized glasses I’ve been using for years.

I feel like I’ve started to shake the fog that has surrounded me for over a decade. I remember having dreams again. I wake up without sickness. I can face my husband and kids in the morning knowing I don’t have to cover up any mistakes. I’ve finally admitted that I can’t do it alone. I’m still learning about AA and I’m closer to walking through the doors of a meeting. I initially quit drinking last month. I was surprised when I had really good days. I actually thought hey, maybe I don't have a problem. Maybe I just needed a little break. So I had a couple beers one night, a couple more on another, and finally drank an entire 1.5L bottle of wine the next. It's a slippery slope. I'm trying to learn to not take the good days for granted. I have no idea what's waiting for me a month or a year from now.

The community I’ve discovered online has given me the strength to get this far. I’m still reaching out because I know I have a long road ahead of me. Knowing if I were to have a drink now, that I could spiral right back to where I left off (or worse) terrifies me. The worst moments of my life involved alcohol. I can’t take them back, but I can prevent new ones. I'm lucky to be here. I have a chance to raise my kids in a home without alcohol abuse.

I am an alcoholic, but I am recovering.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

From That First Night

**Submitted by Jane

"You're a horrible mother."
"You messed up again."
"You do everything wrong."
"Everyone would be better off without you."

These are the kinds of thoughts that have rolled incessantly through my head for as long as I can remember. I have always known that I am a fuck-up. A failure. No good. Despite that knowledge, I always strove for perfection; and I always failed to achieve it. Sometimes that failure made me try harder, but most of the time it just made me hate myself that much more.

I never had many friends in school, I was always the loner, the loser, the weirdo. But my freshman year I found friends and acceptance. One night I was out with those oh-so-cool friends and they introduced me to pot and wine coolers. I thought I was flying. I lay on a bed in a stranger's apartment and swore I saw heaven. And for that short time I didn't worry about being perfect. I didn't have to watch every word I said, every move I made. I felt free.

Now, nearly 7 months into my sobriety I realize I was an addict from that first night. But back then I just thought I had arrived. I was cool, I had friends, I went to parties, I "knew" what the straight people never would. I thought they were pathetic, those non-druggies, passing up a straight line to heaven all for the sake of normalcy. What I wouldn't give now to go back and live my life the way they did. Normalcy would have been a small price to pay to not spend so many years in hell.

College was when I really discovered drinking. Drugs were still my preference, but they were harder to get, and alcohol was everywhere. I drank to black out most nights. Half-way through my freshman year, I was raped at a frat party because I was too drunk to fight. You would think that would've stopped me, but I just used it as an excuse to drink and drug 24/7. I stopped going to classes, went from straight A's in high school to nearly flunking out. I didn't care; at least that's what I told myself. But I did care. I was disgusted with my behavior, and I drank to push down those feelings too. Ah, the insanity of this disease.

The years after college were the darkest of my life, all thanks to alcohol.

I thought once I moved on to my new life as a wife and mommy I would automatically get better. After all, mommies don't drink. Mommies are perfect. They keep a beautiful home, cook 4 star meals and have clean, well mannered, intelligent children. They work and they volunteer their time and they bake cupcakes for school and they throw magnificent birthday parties and still manage to be skinny and gorgeous. They are what I could never manage to be, and once again I had all the reason in the world to hate myself.

Oh, I put on a pretty picture. I made sure that everyone outside my home thought I was the perfect wife and mother. I gorged myself on all the "How do you do it all?" and "Jane is so amazing" and "You are such a good mom" compliments. But inside my head I knew it was all fake. In my head I knew I was a horrible granddaughter for not writing my grandma a thank-you letter when she sent me $5 for my birthday. I knew I was a terrible daughter for not making photo albums of my babies to present to my parents. I knew I was the worst mom ever because I forgot to get my daughter's ice skates sharpened. I knew I did everything, absolutely everything, wrong.

This litany of self-abuse could only be quelled by alcohol. When I had that glass of wine, everything got better. My edges softened and I could flow around things instead of grating against them. I could be a better, more patient mom. A kinder, more loving wife. If only I could stop at that glass, everything would have been perfect.

But I never could.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saving Myself

**Submitted by seekingclarav

Like most major decisions in my life, my decision to get sober was quick and rash. I was in bed enjoying some me time during my daughter's nap and I began reading a blog that a friend had recommended to me. As I scrolled through and read some comments, I was shocked scared. Comments from women who were just like me, only they were brave enough to admit it. Alcoholic mothers trying to stay afloat in a life boat because somewhere along the way our ships had gone down and we were drifting away before we even knew what was happening. Disgusted with myself and the truth that I was terrified to admit, because I knew what that would mean, I made the choice to stop, right then. I got up, walked to the bathroom sink, poured out my wine and rinsed the glass. That was on December 26th, 2009. I haven't had a sip since.

I would be lying if I said I didn't want to drink, everyday, because I do. I just don't do it. Somehow I get through it. I'm hoping soon it won't be so shocking to my soul. I'm hoping that the feeling of breathless that washes over me when I think of the term "never again" will subside. I'm hoping the feelings of jealousy I have for the woman at the table next to me, casually sipping a glass of red, will diminish. But who's to say she's not totally freaked out that the bottle is almost empty and they haven't gotten their entrees yet? Because that was me. I can't tell. No one can.

I grew up in an alcoholic home. I have been saturated with both the shame and the reality of it for as long as I can remember. Now, it will be my reality for the rest of my life. I am determined to make it a positive reality. I will not be sad about this forever. I will do whatever I have to do to move into a place of peace about this change. This change for the better. Sobriety is opening up doors inside myself that I have never known. I have consciously kept some of these doors shut, with alcohol, because I knew what was behind them. But the hinges have worn out, they won't stay closed anymore. And it's hard. And some days no one understands. And some days I wish I weren't like this. Then there are the moments when I think I am going to burst because I feel so proud of what I am doing.

I realized this past Wednesday night that I can't do this alone. I had a drinking dream that stuck with me all day and the only thing I could think of was getting to a meeting. I needed that room full of relative strangers that I am growing deeply fond of. It was an incredible meeting. I found out that my favorite AA friend is open to being a sponsor. I just have to work up the nerve to ask. I need you. Can you help me find my way through? This is huge for me. I don't ask for help.

I will never forget the day when I called my Dad to pick me up at my friend's house, only to look down the street half an hour later to find him sitting in his car, in the wrong driveway, a few houses down. I will never forget how he drove me home that afternoon swerving into the wrong lane, repeatedly. I will never forget the sound of my own little girl voice yelling at him. Are you trying to kill me, Dad? Hot, salty tears streaming down my face.

I don't blame him. I don't blame anyone. Not even myself. If this is what is meant to be for my life then so be it. This is something that cannot be changed, no matter how hard I try. I just have to do the work and come to terms with it so I can feel the happiness and freedom that I deserve. So I can enjoy all the little moments that life is full of, and remember them clearly, and with meaning. I am excited that my daughter will never have a memory of me holding a drink. That she will never see the different me's. That I saved myself in time. I saved myself. That feels really good to say.

My name is Clara, and I am an alcoholic.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Path

**Submitted by Anonymous

So, who am I? I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a friend. I am educated and professional. I live in the suburbs in a nice house, even have the picket fence. But I am also lonely, isolated and desperate. I sometimes can’t stand being in my own skin. I despise myself most days. I want to scream and I want to cry.

Five days ago, I finally admitted I was an alcoholic.

I don’t really get it yet. All I get is the anger so far. Anger for letting it get to this point. Anger for letting this “thing” screw up my marriage. Anger for not being able to have a drink. Ever. Again. And this surrendering thing, who or what am I supposed to be surrendering to anyway?

It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now. All I feel is pain and sadness. I feel lost in a way too. I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know how to fill the time. I know that it will get better, or at least I have to believe that right now. It can’t get any worse. If it does I will be dead or even more alone without a family.

I am scared but hopeful. I want to be happy again. I want to enjoy every minute with my beautiful children. I want to laugh with my husband again. I want to giggle with my kids and dance with them and be there with them. All the time.

I want my life back.

I am starting on a difficult path. I am giving up something that has always been so comforting to me. My escape, my refuge, my “ahhhh” at the end of the day (or the middle of the day).

My tears are hitting the keyboard right now. I want to beat this thing. But I am scared, so scared. I don’t want to lose my family.

I don’t want to lose myself anymore.

So, who am I?

I am you and you are me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

You Deserve This

*Submitted by Val

The night of my last drink, I came to in my empty house.

I walk out in the living room, looking for my husband. He is not there. I run upstairs to the kids’ rooms. They are not there. I drop to my knees in their room, not to pray, but to look for the vodka bottle that I had hidden in the closet earlier that day.

Panic sets in. Not because I can’t find my husband or my children. I know they are ok. He would keep them safe. Safe away from me. Panic because I can’t find any alcohol. I don’t feel safe without some alcohol.

I begin looking frantically around the rest of the house. My husband has taken the car and the keys to the other car. He has taken my pocketbook and the change jar. I feel desperate. I search some more for the vodka. I remember putting it in the closet but maybe I moved it since then. My heart is pounding.

I need something to drink.

I begin searching the house for money. I look in jacket pockets, old purses, dresser drawers. Relief! I find a crisp five dollar bill in the piggy bank my daughter was given when she was born. A silly pig wearing a frilly pink tutu. A gift from a family friend. The perfect gift for a perfect girl born into a seemingly perfect family. I push down the guilt and shame and run down the stairs and out the door.

I walk a mile and a half to the gas station. Through our perfect, family-friendly neighborhood. Down the main road. Quiet because it is 12:30 in the morning. Across the bridge. As I sober up, the irony is not lost on me that this is the proverbial bridge. The one I should be sleeping under because down deep I know that I am just a worthless drunk. I plod on. My destination and reward in mind. What can I get for five dollars? Maybe a six pack of tall boys. Maybe three 45 ounce bottles. Maybe a cheap bottle of wine. Which would have the most alcohol? My mind starts doing the math.

I walk through the gas station door, determined to not be ashamed. Everyone stops in the gas station at night, I tell myself. That’s why they are open after all. I start looking over my choices in the cooler. The cashier tells me he can’t sell me alcohol. It’s too late. Panic. I think about arguing with him but decide against it. I can’t come up with any words. Instead, I select two travel size bottles of Listerine, the only alcohol I can buy. I pay for my purchases, pretending that’s what I stopped in there for all along.

I walk out the door, open one bottle, and tip it back. Relief. I savor the burn as it goes down my throat to my stomach. I save the second one for home. I think, dear God, this has to be my bottom. Please help me!

I had promised my husband during the relapse before, two months earlier, that if I relapsed again, I would get help. So, I called him the next morning (they were at his aunt's house), and I told him I was ready to check in somewhere. I told him I was done. I needed help. I wanted to die. Later that morning, he dropped me off at the curb of a detox facility. Alone.

While there, I slowly began to surrender. I told my husband and the doctors that I realized my own decisions were no longer working for me, and I would leave everything up to them. A family friend recommended a treatment program, and he contacted them. The day before I was to be discharged he told me he thought I needed a long term treatment program. I was crushed. Ninety days away from my children seemed unbearable. Away from home over Christmas? I was convinced he hated me three times as much as I thought he had because he wouldn't just put me in a 28 day program. But I was defeated, and now I realize I was also a little willing.

A small, feeble, quiet, desperate voice in my gut said, “Go, you need this.”

An even smaller voice said, “You deserve this.”

So I went.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Teensy Tiny Moment

Submitted by Faye:

Well, here we go, call me crazy.   I am all all over the place – little nervous too.   Feeling very unstable. So discontent – just like “before” – before I stopped drinking. At least I had that little – sometimes not so little reprieve. I would love to believe that all this turmoil – that’s right, inner – acting out turmoil is a precursor to some fabulous, significant, life changing growth. I don’t know what the hell I want, what I want to do, what I like, what I don’t – who the hell I am.

If I wasn’t an alcoholic and didn’t know others with this cunning affliction, I would swear I was insane, or at least well on my way. I am so unsettled, like a pre-explosion type unsettled, like a rumblings prior to that great big earthquake or the breaking off a some giant meteorite, the rattling of the top of the tea kettle - I'm acting out – all over the place - like some kind of fish out of water. I don’t know how to listen and look for messages. I'm praying – but then I think – well, maybe I'm not praying right?

What happened to those little wisps of inner contentment, teensy flutters of serenity that I experienced here and there that first year – was that just a cleansing of my soul and this is what I'm left with? I want to stay home, I want to work, I want to do weekends, I want to do weekdays. I want to manage, I want to get my Masters, no I want to write. I want to do photography, no I just want to be healthy. I want – what the F do I want?

Why do I struggle to live just in this moment, this very friggin, little teensy, tiny moment. Just this sliver. And relationships, hah – forget about it. Nil, none, void. Too self-centered, self-absorbed for any of that – now this where I would like to thinking a fellow would say – Whoa – you’re being wayyyy to hard on yourself. I would love to think that I'm just “a little dry” but I don’t know – I’ll give all racking up of meetings a try and see if there’s a difference – some slight transformation, but I really have my doubts, It just doesn’t feel like before, although, before I was never this remiss in meetings. I feel like I need to cram or crash test to catch up to where I would have been had I been going to meetings regularly. I’d like to spin off a little here and ask God for help again:

Dear God,

Please help me be open to your messages, your guidance, please help me trust that you will take care of me and that is what you are doing. Please show me the way to inner contentment and some balance in my life between work, family, play, and others. Giving and taking, obligations and creativity. I beg of you – what did you put me here to do – how can I make a difference. I want to enjoy and LIVE this life you’ve given me. Please show me the way.

Thank you.

Well, I guess, its time to rest the thoughts – well, we know that’s not going to happen so its time to rest the fingers –the little guy wants a hug. I do too.

Snapshots from Before

Originally posted at One Crafty Mother

It’s 11:30am on a gorgeous, crisp fall day. I’m sitting outside, soaking in the bright September sun with ten other mothers. It’s our usual Wednesday morning playgroup, and we’re chatting, sipping coffee, keeping one eye on our kids playing on the nearby swing set. I have a moment of clarity, a snapshot of myself: my long blonde hair is freshly frosted, swept up in a fashionable clip. I’m dressed in jeans and a colorful sweater, legs crossed, coffee cup perched in one hand. A friend is telling a funny story about her three year old’s latest tantrum. I see myself tilt my head back, laughing with the other Moms. It hits me, like a punch in the gut: I’m such a fraud.

Oh, God, if they only knew.

Greta, who is two, calls out to me to push her on the swings. I flash the other Moms a knowing glance – so much for adult time – and walk carefully over to the swings. I’m grateful for the interruption: my hands were starting to tremble, ever so slightly, and I was having a hard time holding my coffee steady.

I push Greta on the swings, her laughter coming to me as though from a great distance. My head pounds, my gut churns, and I’m starting to sweat.

“Two more minutes, then we have to go,” I whisper to Greta.

She immediately begins to wail. “NOOOOO! I wanna STAY!” The other mothers glance over, sympathetic.

I grit my teeth and smile wider. “I know you’re disappointed, but we really have to go.”

She jumps off the swing and throws herself on the ground, crying. I’ve got to get out of here. I scoop Greta up, and she clings to me, sobbing. Her cries cut me to the bone, the other mothers’ stares feel like lasers. Do they know? Can they tell? They are all smiling at me, wishing me luck. I give a quick laugh – oh, two year olds, what can you do? - and wave as I scuttle to the car.

I drive home, my hands gripping the wheel, my thoughts racing: I’ll be okay once I’m home. I just need to get home.

I put Greta down for her nap, humming to her until she falls asleep.   My hands are shaking in earnest, now, and my headache is blinding.  I head downstairs and open the fridge, telling myself I’m going to have a glass of milk to settle my stomach.   My eyes fall on the one-quarter full bottle of Chardonnay, glistening at the back of the top shelf. I reach for the milk, and grab the bottle of wine instead. Just one sip, to take the edge off, I think. It’s not like I’m going to get drunk in the middle of the afternoon. Just one to feel better.   I take a long swig, and my stomach heaves.   I wait a moment, wondering if it will stay down. It does. I take another swig, and the shaking in my hands stops. My body relaxes, my mind is blissfully quiet.

An hour later the bottle is empty.  How did that happen?  I don’t feel drunk, or even a little buzzed. I feel normal, finally. Without thinking about what I’m doing, I go to the sink, fill the empty bottle one-quarter full with water from the tap and shove it in the back of the fridge. I’ll have to buy some more later, I think. Before Steve gets home I’ll replace the water with wine, and pour the rest down the sink because tonight I’m not going to drink.

And at that moment, I mean it.

My daughter wakes up from her nap, and we sit on the floor and do puzzles, play games. My body is warm, glowing, and my patience is infinite. Again, a snapshot flashes through my brain: a happy, involved mother playing with her child. A good mother, an engaged mother. Not an alcoholic mother. I think: alcoholic mothers don’t play with their kids like this.

At 6pm, we sit down to dinner. I’m smiling, slightly flushed, animated. My husband and I chat about our day and Greta babbles along with us, pleased at her growing vocabulary. I have replaced the bottle in the fridge, up to the same level as before, pouring three-quarters of it into a large water bottle now stashed in the bathroom closet. Steve and I have a glass of wine with dinner. I have promised him I’ll cut back on my drinking, so I make sure he doesn’t notice when I duck away to the bathroom to nip from the water bottle filled with wine.

It’s my turn to put Greta to bed. I’m in an expansive, buoyant mood, and I make a game out of brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas. I kiss her good night, tell her I love her, and head back downstairs thinking: see? I can control my drinking. I played with my kid, fixed dinner, put her to bed. I am so much more patient after a glass or two of wine.

It’s 10pm, and I come out of a grey-out. I’m yelling at my husband about something – what? – I can’t remember. He looks at me with hurt and disgust and heads upstairs to bed. I’m crying, but I don’t know why. I turn on some sad music, flop on the couch and sob. Nobody understands me. I’m unlovable. I need a drink. I tiptoe to the bathroom and rummage around under the folded towels until I find the hidden water bottle. It’s empty. I begin to panic. I can’t be out, I’ll never make it, and then I remember another stash in the back of the coat closet.

One last snapshot: me, on my hands and knees in the coat closet, drinking straight from the open bottle, full of relief that there is more wine.  I think: tomorrow is a new day. It’s just that today was extra stressful. I won't drink tomorrow.

I don’t know it, of course, but I still have two more years of tomorrows to go.