Saturday, May 29, 2010
I stopped drinking but not because I thought I was an alcoholic. My very last drink was to celebrate the birth of my last baby. My husband poured both of us a drink and we sat on opposite ends of the couch. My drink was gone before he had a sip of his. I remember worrying about what I was going to say if he noticed my drink was already gone. I had had inklings that my drinking wasn’t normal but didn’t like to dwell on that too much. I never knew that was going to be my last drink, but it was. I don’t remember how the conversation went that night, but my husband poured the rest of the bottle down the drain.
There were times during my early sobriety when I would lie on my bed, overwhelmed with the care of 3 kids ages 4 and under and be convinced that a case of beer would solve everything. It’s only by the grace of God that I didn’t try to find out how wrong I was.
One day one of the women in Al-Anon made an offhand comment “Oh you know how an alcoholic is, they can never sip their drinks. They guzzle them.” I felt like I had been punched in the gut. In that instant I knew I was an alcoholic. To this day I still have no comprehension of how anyone can sip a drink.
I went to an AA meeting the next week. I went sporadically from time to time over the next few years. I thought quitting drinking was enough. When I was 6 years sober, an AA meeting started in my home community. I attended for a year, working the steps as best I could. I didn’t want a sponsor as I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do! I wasn’t open to advice from anyone. I do, however, remember the freedom and peace I felt when I did my first step 5 and admitted to another person things that had haunted me for years. What a relief it was to not have to carry the guilt with me anymore.
Eventually I stopped going to meetings. I had a huge resentment towards another member and justified my absence at meetings because of this other person. Other addictions (food and sex) took over. The shame of those, especially the sexual addiction, became overwhelming. One day as I came to a stop sign in town, the thought came to me that I could go buy a case of beer because no one would know if I got drunk. My kids were all grown by this time and my husband was working out of town. The thought of buying booze scared me so much that I got myself to an AA meeting within a few days.
As I sat outside that meeting, I asked God to please soften it a bit by having someone there that I knew. I walked in and knew no one. I was shaking so hard from fear. At the very last minute, in walked the man whom I had had a resentment towards in my last AA meeting over 10 years ago. I said to God, “Okay, I hear you.”
Not too long after I began attending meetings I realized being honest was a serious issue for me. I knew if I did not get honest I would get drunk. That led me to go to a treatment centre for a 20 day program even though I had not had a drink in 19 years. My time there was life changing and it was as if it cleared my head. Afterwards I gave myself wholeheartedly to working a 12 step program. I got a sponsor. I read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I became willing, open and honest. I joined a home group. I went into counselling for the childhood sexual abuse. I stopped thinking that the solutions were all in my head and that I didn’t need anyone else. I lost my need to be right about everything.
I have had moments of wondering through the years if I was an alcoholic because I was a binge drinker. When I compared my story to other people’s stories, I sometimes thought that maybe I was kidding myself and that I wasn’t really an alcoholic after all. I didn’t wonder this as an excuse to go drink. That I couldn’t have another drink had been settled in my mind because God only knew what would happen if I had that first sip. I just wondered if I had truly hit my bottom before I stopped. In time I was able to settle that in my mind when I looked back to what happened after I had that first sip of alcohol. To how in my skin I would feel with alcohol in my body. I am convinced that eventually I would have become a daily drinker.
My mother is still drinking. Her health is poor. We have a decent relationship today. It has been a very long road with deepening degrees of forgiveness towards her. Her actions were fueled by her disease just as my actions were fuelled by my own disease of alcoholism. I cannot hold myself up as better than her. I have my own memories of wretched things I have done to my children. It does not mean I condone her behaviour, but it does not mean I hold it against her either as if it is the sum total of who she is as a person. In that way I am grateful that I followed in her footsteps if only because I understand what atrocities one is capable of when in the grips of this disease. Self forgiveness is a grace.
Today I go to meetings, have a relationship with a God of my understanding, I talk to my sponsor frequently. I follow a food program especially designed for recovering alcoholics. I have someone I’m accountable to for my sexual addiction recovery. I am finally at home in my skin as a sober woman. Life is good.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
"I'll never be like her! Ever."
Those were the thoughts I had when I left home two months after I’d turned 18, bound for a college as far away from my drunken mother as I could get. Six months earlier she had set me up to babysit for a man who she knew had a thing for young women and with whom she’d had her own affair. The second time I babysat for him he raped me. Desperate for affection of any kind, I entered into a relationship with this man who was 15 years older than me. I never confused his attention with love. I just wanted to be wanted by someone. Sometimes there was money exchanged for sexual favours. It was a soul killing relationship.
I came home on my 18th birthday from a school awards ceremony to find my birthday cake on the counter, still in its cellophane wrapping and my mom passed out in her bedroom. My bus driver had taken me to the bar after the ceremony to celebrate my 18th birthday. I was terrified I was doing something wrong and only ordered a Coke. I had no desire to drink. I certainly wasn’t going to be like my mom.
The second month I was in college, my new best friend suggested we buy a mickey of rye. I have never forgotten that wonderfully warm flush that hit my face after my first taste of booze. I was comfortable in my body for the first time in my life. I fit in my skin finally. What a relief. My half of the mickey was gone in about 15 minutes. I phoned my new boyfriend (a classmate of mine) who reminded me that I didn’t want to be like my mom. I was none too happy with him for reminding me of that. I hung up and relaxed into that sweet feeling.
After that I drank on weekends when a bunch of us girls would go to the bar. Sometimes I drank at my boyfriend’s apartment. I could go weeks without drinking, but once I took that first sip I never had a plan for when I would stop.
A year and a half later I married a different man. One I had known since I was 14. We had been pen pals and had resumed a writing relationship during my first few months of college. So desperate to be attached to a man I broke up with my college boyfriend in the morning and was engaged to my pen pal boyfriend that night. I stayed in college and my pen pal fiancée drove 2500 miles back home to wait for me to be done school so I could join him.
We eloped shortly after I arrived in his home community. Five days after our wedding we went to a birthday party for one of his friends. In the corner of the room was a Texas mickey - one of those giant never ending supplies of whiskey. I don’t remember a lot of that night other than I made inappropriate comments to strangers and have a big gap in my memory of what happened.
I went for long stretches of time without drinking. I had several miscarriages and eventually had three full term pregnancies. I didn’t drink with two of those babies. With my oldest son I drank when I was newly pregnant, before the test came back positive, and had half a bottle of beer when I was 9 months pregnant. I mention that only because I still have moments when I feel bad about that.
Once in a while I thought maybe I had a drinking problem. It was okay for me to wonder but heaven help anyone else who wondered for me! One night we went to a bush party and left our newborn son and his 2 year old sister in the car while we partied. During the night as I took our son out of the car to feed him I remember a lot of women scowling at me. I thought to myself, "What’s your problem? I’m feeding my baby.”
The day came when I told a new friend my story of childhood sexual abuse, about the rape when I was 17 and about my drunken mother who used to beat me and my siblings. I had never spoken of the whole story before and having that pain rise to the surface just about drove me crazy. By this time I was abusive to my own kids. As I shared with my friend I had a moment of clarity when I realized if I didn’t change things then my daughter would sit across the table from someone one day and tell the exact same story of having a drunken, abusive mother. The cycle would continue. I nearly went out of my mind because I knew that on my own strength I had no hope of changing. God knows I had tried.
Within a few weeks I was in Al-Anon – certain that my problems were my mom’s fault and if I went to Al-Anon then I could fix her and all would be well! I can laugh now but at the time I was so sure I had found the solution. Of course it wasn’t long before I learned that all I could change was me which was both a relief and a bummer.
Monday, May 24, 2010
I’ve been reading this blog for a couple weeks... and I feel really connected to so many stories.
I thought I was alone.
I thought that no one in this world EVER drank like I have.
I can’t believe I let it get like this.
This self medicating lifestyle HAS to end.
For my child.
For my husband.
For my family.
My body flushes with emotions as I think about the shame I’ve done.
I went to visit my family...and drank all day.. everyday... for 7 straight days.
I thought they didn’t notice.
I thought wrong.
I know they did. I know it shames my dad to know that his daughter is so sad. So lost.
That she has to guzzle vodka to feel better.
Who does that?
I’m ashamed. Embarrassed.
Even worse than before.
I need help. I’m going to kill myself if I don’t stop this destructive behavior.
I haven’t been myself for 2 years. Well... maybe 3. I had a successful radio/TV career.. then moved shortly after I got married... for my husband’s job.
I lost my life, I feel like.
I gave up so much for him..my home... my career...my body for his baby. (I gained so much weight.)
I’d drink to feel pretty.
To feel like I had a purpose. When in truth.... I was becoming even more worthless.
I hide it from my husband.
In the closet. In the garage.
In my child’s closet. Who does that? I don't want this devil anymore.
I need God. I need to know that I can stop what I’m doing. My heart aches knowing what I’ve done. How could I have drank 6 bottles of vodka.
I don’t even remember visiting my family.
And deep down, I miss them so much... I wasted my trip.
I think about how I woke up with the shakes.
I can’t believe that I drove with my child to the liquor store.
What kind of mother does that?
Can you please help me with my sadness? I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to be content with this life. I want to know that I’m a great mother. A great wife. A great daughter.
I am almost 33 years old.
And I feel like I'm nearly 100.
Please God. 3 years is long enough to be so sad.
Or should I sign: Alcoholic
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
**submitted by Anonymous
I’ve been desperately searching for a story like mine because I’ve felt such a need to find other women with *my* drinking problem. It will be clear, within the first short paragraph of this story, that I am NOT a writer. Forgive me. I am close to my mid-forties and have been struggling with *my* drinking problem for well over fifteen years now.
I, like so many women, started drinking at a young age. One of the first times I drank, in 8th grade and at classmate’s party, I got very drunk. I remember being on the couch in this home with the hostess’ mother placing a washcloth on my head. I don’t remember anything before or after that.
Without boring you with too many details, the fact is I began to drink at too young of an age and learned to drink irresponsibly. Some will say genetics are the cause of this. My belief is that it is probably a combination of both nature and nurture, as they say.
Regardless, I became a “weekend-only binge drinker” and that pattern never stopped. Here is where I am different from many alcoholics/problem drinkers. I have never had any desire to drink daily.
My problem with alcohol is that I can never predict how much I will drink once I take that first sip. It must have been around my late twenties when I realized that having blackouts wasn’t “normal” and that not everyone had them. They certainly frightened me and, with my growing responsibilities and maturity, I realized these may not be a good thing to be having. Duh.
Shortly after that time I began a journey of self-awareness and a journey through the alcohol addiction recovery world. Throughout the years I tried a short stint in out-patient treatment, involvement in a variety of recovery groups, therapy, journaling, and reading, reading, and more reading.
I have had several periods, both long and short, of “sobriety,” but have always returned to drinking. Due to the ease I find in abstaining for periods of time, I always convince myself that my problem isn’t “that bad” and that, perhaps, I really have been overreacting after all. Memories of my horrific “morning-afters,” full of shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, etc., somehow begin to fade.
The amount and frequency of my drinking has never progressed, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual suffering I experience becomes more and more painful all the time. Because I’ve never been a daily drinker and the frequency of my drinking has never been the issue, I have never been physically addicted to alcohol.
However, I am, hopelessly it seems, psychologically addicted to alcohol. I love it and I hate it. I want it and I don’t want it. I’m drawn to it and I’m terrified of it. I have an extremely unhealthy relationship with alcohol and have, over the years, accepted the fact that I will never have a normal relationship with it. Other than the very real danger of having alcoholic blackouts due to unpredictable overindulging and the obvious dangers that come along with that level of intoxication, alcohol causes me emotional and spiritual suffering that I cannot even describe.
Becoming a non-drinker is my dream and has been for many years. Yet this is the one thing in my life I’ve been unable to accomplish. This time around, I haven’t had a drink for about a month. This to me, though, is no accomplishment as I’ve done this a million times. This part is not the hard part. Within the next few weeks or months, though, something will click in my head that gives me the permission to drink again. I will, more than likely, drink responsibly on that occasion. I may drink responsibly and safely on several more occasions. Even so, though, I will still suffer from depression, shame, guilt, and all those painful emotions.
Then, eventually and without predicting it, my “off-switch” (which is definitely faulty) will fail me and I will drink to ridiculous intoxication. I will, more than likely, make love to my husband and not remember it the next morning. My gosh... how many times has that happened? Too many to recall. Wouldn’t that tell most women they have a “real” or a “legitimate” problem that calls for abstaining forever?
As I mentioned before, I have tried so many ways to stay sober forever, but I have failed time and time again. When I stopped this most recent time, after a night of drinking that didn’t produce a blackout, but did produce that same familiar self-loathing the next day, I decided that the one thing I had not tried that maybe, just maybe, might help me this time, was being honest with those closest to me. Up to that point only my husband (who denies or minimizes my drinking problem) and one of my friends who also struggles with alcohol, actually knew of my struggles. My closest circle of family and friends have always been accustomed to my abstaining (for millions of reasons or “excuses”), but have never known the truth behind it.
I decided, on that Monday morning, to tell my five closest women friends, with whom I’d be most likely to share a drink, about my struggles. I had never even confided in my best friend of 33+ years. Admitting that I had a problem that I’d been living with for so long was scary and very embarrassing. What I found was support, love, and understanding.
It makes me sad that, deep down in my soul, I doubt that I can give up alcohol forever and become a true non-drinker. I find myself admitting to myself that I AM a drinker. That’s who I am and will always be. I’m the fun party girl. Who is that other woman? Will I every truly become her?
I sure hope so.
Friday, May 14, 2010
An Inauthentic Life: Part 1
***submitted by Robin
By the end I was living so many lives -- so many lies -- that I could not keep them straight.
For me the end came fast, but not fast enough to prevent me from doing a lot of damage. I had accepted a job in another city, a job that would take my daughter and me away from the husband who nagged me about my drinking. I thought I was in love with another man, who lived in still another city, an old boyfriend with whom I would drink and feel like I was still young and free and adventurous.
Which is a lot to accomplish, I suppose, for someone who was pretty much living in her bed. My daily reality was that each morning I would drag my sick and miserable self out of bed, then as soon as my daughter and husband were out the door I would fall back in it. I would grade students' papers in bed, then lurch up just in time to shower and get to my afternoon class. I would have a few good hours at work then would head home to pour a glass and make the simplest possible dinner, ravioli perhaps. We'd put our toddler to bed, and then I would be back in my own bed with my bottle by 8. My husband, mute with frustration, would disappear into the living room.
And on and on and on it went. Until it didn't, anymore.
I can't remember a time when alcohol wasn't a part of daily life. But my "normal" family could put the wine bottle away with the dinner dishes and go on to live productive lives. My sisters and I whispered to each other that the problem drinker in the house was my dad, who would drink beer like water; yet he could stop. As a veterinarian he was on emergency call once a week and he never drank then. And for weeks he'd stop all together and he never seemed to mind if there wasn’t any beer in the house. I never will understand how he did it, managing to walk so close to the edge and never falling in. Growing up, I absorbed the lesson that one could drink prodigiously and stop on cue.
Oddly, I was never a drinker in high school or college. I hated the feeling of being out of control, and I hated feeling dizzy. I thought this would keep me out of trouble forever. Until a few years ago I could count on my fingers the number of times I had been drunk. But throughout my life I desperately wanted to feel cool, to look cool, to be cool. So I was the girl who accepted drink after drink and poured them discreetly into the bushes.
I wasn't cool. What I was was a liar, perfect preparation for out-of-bounds addiction. I wasn't the type of liar who lied for fun, or to steal from you; I lied out of fear. I pretty much did everything out of fear; fear ruled me. If I felt backed into a corner, I lied. If I could guess what you wanted to hear, I would always tell you that instead of the truth. If I didn't like the truth? I lied. I made up my own reality and I convinced everyone it was real. I convinced myself.
I certainly couldn't convince my new baby daughter, though. When we brought her home I tried to sell her on the idea that I knew what I was doing, that I was competent and enthralled and strong. In truth I was more terrified than I'd ever dreamed possible. Far from dealing with this honest emotion, I grew angrier with myself: this infant had started life in an orphanage, travelled across the sea to live in a strange house with people she didn't know and I was the one who was scared? Dear God, what was wrong with me?
This mental state plus hours and hours alone with a baby set the stage for my drinking to escalate. Within six months I had moved my first evening drink down to about noon, and I started looking forward to it, oh, about the time I woke up. I connected with every moms' group in town, if only to milk them of their "mom's night out" winefests. I found I was only interested in reading blogs by mothers who celebrated drinking. I switched from red wine to white because white was easier to disguise in a plastic soda bottle while I pushed a swing, endlessly, backandforth and backandforth. I knew that all of this wasn't really healthy or right, but since I wasn't healthy or right, in my opinion, it made a sort of sense. Mostly, though, I didn't think about it. I just grasped the lifeline.
The next year, 2008, is a blur. We hired a nanny and I went back to work, which I was sure would be my redemption. My daughter would be in more capable hands than mine, I felt, and I would spend my days doing what I knew how to do. Soon I was traveling again, hopping on planes, sharing photos of my daughter with colleagues. Drinking held a different place here. Airports are drinking meccas. Sipping expensive wine in the lobby of a posh hotel, in a suit and heels and a $100 haircut, felt fine, glamorous even, worlds away from sulking along the edges of the playground hoping no one would notice a slur if I said hello.
I felt a bit like myself again. I found a therapist I liked, sharing carefully selected bits and pieces of my story, saying whoo boy, that stay-at-home-mom lifestyle nearly did me in. Yes, she would say, it’s tough. You found a healthy solution, going back to work. You will be all right now.
I should have been all right. If the months of escalated drinking had been an episode, a short-term response to stress, I could have scaled back then. Were I anything short of a real alcoholic, I would have been able to moderate. I tried. I couldn't. I couldn't stop. I couldn't settle down. The alcohol had me.
Here is a picture of me, as a baby, that I once thought was cute:
After all, every one of the children on my father’s side of the family, and their children, have a similar photo. It is me, at 4 months of age, propped up with a Coors longneck. Beer and babies, a family tradition. I did, in fact, learn that I was a gassy baby and my doctor recommended an ounce of beer to cure it. My first drink was at 4 weeks of age. Apparently I was gassy a lot. Beer continued to be my parents’ medicine of choice. (Not to mention vodka or schnapps on the gums or dipped with the pacifier.) I don’t blame my family. They did what they knew. And everyone on my father’s side knew and knows addiction and mental illness. The side of the family that I worshipped as my role models, I grew to emulate.
Me at 6 months:
I’ll hit the milestones. My first hangover (that I can recognize as a hangover), age 7 – Hot Toddies from Dad.
My next, age 10 – Strawberry Daiquiris from Dad.
My first experience of alcohol poisoning, age 12 – Sambuka.
My first blackout, age 13.
Spending my tween and teen years in Europe afforded me an acceptance of drinking at an early age. The “if you can reach the bar you can drink” times in Europe. This was during the late 70s, early 80s.
What then occurred were experiences in binge drinking, more alcohol poisonings, hash, marijuana, huffing, prescription, and over the counter drug use and sexual experiences far beyond the norm. My first child at 15, my second at 18, with sprinkles of bingeing throughout my late teens and twenties. Married for 2 years and divorced. Next alcohol poisoning? 21, of course.
I went to nursing school during the day, bartended at night. Used speed to function and care for my 2 children. I slept 1-2 hours a day for a year. During this time, I met my soul mate who has been by my side on this ride. We ended up with 5 children total.
In the early 90s I worked from 7 pm to 7 am. I began to experience insomnia after work. The cure was a beer or two, and then sleep. I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but it soon became a 6-pack then sleep, then a couple of beers before work, and when off work during the days, and social drinking, etc. Soon I was drinking a 6-pack or more before work, going to my car during breaks or lunch to drink. On off days, I began sneak drinking to disguise how much I was drinking. I stole so often from my stepfather, who was living with us. While he didn’t say anything, he installed a padlock on his fridge. I managed to take the door off on more than one occasion.
I was confronted by my supervisor at work. I felt “fine” even after almost a 12-pack before work. Submitting to a breathalyzer, I blew a 1.8. I was summarily fired, reported to the nursing board, and reluctantly entered rehab to keep my license.
I played the part of recovering nurse, drinking all the while, starting the day after I left rehab, sneaking again. Stealing and drinking in the store bathroom, drinking in the attic, in the boys’ clubhouse, in the car, under the stairs, in the closet, bathroom and kids’ room. In the woods, at the park, on the deck. At work, in the parking lot at my nurses group, during group, during AA meetings…..the list is endless. I continued to drink this way. Confronted at nurses group, I again entered rehab, determined to keep my license and win this battle. I drank the day after leaving rehab. I was reported to the board who presented me with a consent order. An agreement to follow a certain mandatory plan for 5 years under probation to keep my license. This involved mandatory AA and weekly nurses group and weekly impaired professional groups.
This time I was not determined, I was angry. Who the hell were they to tell me what to do? I stopped going to nurses group. I, during a hazy period, stapled my nursing license to my consent order, wrote fuck you across it, and sent it in. Done.
Everything I worked for gone.
For the next 5 years, everything doubled, tripled, quadrupled. Confronted by my family, I was asked to leave my home. That night I wrote my suicide letters to my family. I wanted to die rather than take another drink. I called a friend thinking that I’d leave a message on her machine. I wanted to tell her where my body could be found so I wouldn’t lay there alone in death for long. She was supposed to be gone. She was home and convinced me to go to an AA meeting. There was a turn. For the next 6 months, I was sober.
However, my mental illness – bi-polar disorder – was slowly emerging after being hidden by alcohol for so long. Long periods of mania occurred. HUGE spending sprees. Deep dark depressions followed. I began to drink again.
The level of drinking was now outstanding. At 5’2, 105 lbs, I was drinking 18 to 24 beers a day, and soon that much plus a pint of vodka. In no time it was vodka alone. A pint to two pints or more everyday. Beginning from the moment I woke up to late into the evening. I began taking no-doze and ephedrine to stay awake so I could drink MORE, and then handfuls of benedryl to bring me down and help me sleep. Of course, I stole any pain medication from family if it was around.
I was now vomiting blood 10-12 times a day. Stings of days with constantly acidic black diarrhea. So much so that I soiled myself several times, even in public. I began wearing a pad just for this. I was taking 12 to 14 Imodium a day, then would have to take a laxative for constipation, then the cycle would start again. I still drank daily, planning for days in advance to protect my supply.
In 2005, out of nowhere, I woke up in the middle of the night, shaking all over. Strange, because I never had hangovers anymore or shook. My entire body was vibrating and my instinct had me down 6 beers in 20 minutes. All was well. 3 days later, alone at home, I again woke up shaking, feeling awful, but there was no one in the house. I couldn’t hold my keys to drive anywhere. My eyes were vibrating so that my vision was quadrupled. I certainly couldn’t call for help, or for my family.
My body exploded on and off releasing foul build ups of toxins it could no longer handle. I crawled to the bathroom leaving trails of waste. I could, though, reach for my computer (but barely). I remembered the group SOS. I had kinda joined them a few years back. Get to SOS!, I thought.
I did. I cried out for help. I read my posts from the first week and I barely remember writing them. I was able to down a ton of benedryl, make it to the store, and drink to keep my symptoms at bay.
Soon my withdrawal intensified, so much so that my “reaching up for air” experience was possibly a seizure? A brush with death? I’m not sure. But to this day, it was very real. Women in SOS pleaded, urged, cared and loved. I listened to them, and called for my brother. An emergency room visit, immediate follow up with my personal physician, immediate meeting with my psychiatrist – coming clean with ALL, with everything.
That next day was my first sober day.
I have been sober ever since. I have morphed into a person I never thought I was worthy of being. I’ve developed a sound, firm base of sobriety utilizing a huge array of tools. I remain closely bonded with the women in my “cyber” group. They are my meetings, my sponsors, my peers, and, most importantly, my dear friends.
They may never know the depth of my gratitude. Beyond the core of my very being, I know that they held my soul in care until I could care for it myself.
I now, through the group and through the birth of my own site, feel whole. Full of possibilities. Should I be so honored, I will gladly join in a circle of hands and hearts that offer to hold the soul of another, until she can hold it on her own.
Monday, May 10, 2010
I would be lying if I said that I never think of drinking.
When I was first trying to get sober one of the things that bothered me the most was that I wouldn't be able to have alcohol anymore. Like, ever. For real. By that point I couldn't even fathom life without a glass of chardonnay or a vodka tonic. (As a side note - the more blogs I read about women in recovery the more I'm struck by the fact that almost *all* of us drank chardonnay and vodka. After thinking about it I think I know why - chardonnay is a socially acceptable 'girl' drink and vodka? Let's just say that I think there are more than a few out there who think, "Oh, but it's ODORLESS". Don't laugh - I've heard many **including me** say it.)
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, that never drinking again thing. When I was first sober the thought looked something like this: OMGOMGOMG I CAN NEVER DRINK AGAIN? ARE YOU CRAZY? YOU AREN'T? WHAT DO YOU WITH ALL YOUR TIME? WHAT DO I SAY WHEN SOMEONE ASKS ME IF I WANT A GLASS OF WINE? ARE YOU SAYING I CAN'T GO ANYWHERE AGAIN? ARE YOU REALLY REALLY SAYING NONE? LIKE NOT EVEN IN FOOD? WHAT ABOUT A NON ALCOHOLIC BEER? NOT EVEN THAT? WELL THEN TELL ME MRS. RAY OF SUNSHINE COMING OUT OF YOUR BUTT - DO YOU *ACTUALLY* PRACTICE THIS TOO? REALLY? DAMN.
I know that seems a little over the top but seriously, this is how I felt. I felt like someone was taking away something from me that allowed me to function. In reality quite the opposite was true. I wasn't functioning, hell, I was barely living by that time. Still though, deep inside I remembered a life without all the drama, a life that centered around being a family rather than one spent building up walls because honestly? No one wanted to be around me.
It's the insidious nature of this addiction that creeps back into your mind. Just when you think, "Oh, I'm okay - life is good" life turns around and slaps you in the face. For me that's when I have to really step back and reset. It's the time when I find myself going over and over all the good things that *are* in my life right now when I think, "Maybe just one wouldn't hurt". Oh, it would hurt alright, it would hurt a lot. Sometimes I just have to go to bed. Sleep is safe.
I find that usually this feeling comes either when life gets anxious or when I have a dream where I think I am drinking again. Two nights ago I woke up in a sweat because I had a dream where I was drinking. In the dream I was drinking and was terrified that my husband would find out. I was hiding bottles and drinking mouthwash.
It was exactly how I use to live my life.
It's dreams like that and the joy I had this weekend of redecorating my 14 year old's room that stop me in my tracks and make me remember what it was like then and what it is like now.
I would be lying if I said that I never think of drinking.
But I would also be lying if I said that if I did I would lose all that I've built back up.
One more minute, one more hour, one more day.
That's the only way to do it.
At least for me.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
SPOILER: This post is about AA, and God within AA. For those who aren't into that, right on, you may want to pass on this post. For those who are, or struggle with God in AA, it may be worth a look.
In early sobriety many folks go to AA meetings because someone tells them to. There are posts on this site that share memories of going to that first AA meeting: the fear, the anxiety, the sheer terror of entering one of those "cult" meetings. And many people in early sobriety hear How It Works in their first meeting, or even just a reading of The Steps, and they hear God and Him and God's Will, and stop. They either stop listening entirely, or close off from the spiritual part of AA. They are agnostic, they are atheist, they grew up in a religion, but no longer believe, they are still religious but believe in a punishing, spiteful god. They are people who believe that God wants nothing to do with them and has turned his back. They are women who took a Philosophy of Religion course in college and can't stand all this patriarchal bullshit (ok, that last one was me).
My first meeting was 18 years ago. I can relate to going to meetings and getting hung up on God in early sobriety. In those days, someone said to me, "Well, can you conceive of something greater than yourself, even if it's just the power of the group?" That, I admitted, I could fathom. When I bought and read my Big Book, I first read the 1939 publication date, and put a grain of 1993 salt into everything I read. It wasn't the letter of the book that mattered, but the spirit of what was written.
As my sobriety lengthened, I simply replaced the noun God when I heard or read it, with spirituality. Stopped getting hung up on Him, and substituted him-for-lack-of-a-better-pronoun. And there were many, particularly women, who were right there with me. In California, that's just how we rolled. As I claimed a spirituality of my understanding, and spent more and more time in sobriety, I saw how it worked in my life. It was good for five years. Looking back now, my mistake came in not holding on to that spirituality, not maintaining it on a daily basis and moving away from AA. I never really shared my true spiritual beliefs with my husband. I thought he might not understand, mock me in his head. As I look back to 1997, I recognize that thought was just that crazy bitch Ism slinking back into the cracks growing in my spirituality (anyone remember Chaos from Sinbad--the one Michelle Pfeiffer voiced? That's how I think of her). Still, life was good, I was in love, I bought a house, I got married, we moved to a beautiful new state, I got a great new job, we bought a better house. I still HAD IT, sure I hadn't been to a meeting for a couple of years and I only checked in with my inner god occasionally, but wasn't that power still working in my life? On the outside I had it dialed in. Then the day came when I took a drink. I drank for the next 11 years, with a small, white-knuckling break when I had my son. I drank hard, I drank every day, and I couldn't imagine my life or living in my marriage without drinking.
Fast forward to today, and my 13th day of sobriety for the second time. I read this yesterday, and recognized what happened the morning I made the decision I was done drinking, again: "To use modern language, there's some wisdom that is based on a fundamental desire for wholeness or healing- which has nothing to do with ego-grasping. It has to do with wanting to connect and live from your basic goodness, your basic openness, your basic lack of prejudice, your basic lack of bias, your basic warmth. Wanting to live from that." This may feel out of context, the whole post is here: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/shenpa3a.php
That morning I remembered some things that I had said to my husband the night before. While I had been drunk, what I said was my truth. It came from that fundamental desire for wholeness, but there was not enough left of me to say the words sober. In a moment of clarity, I saw that there was no spirit left in the woman in the mirror. Her integrity, her openness, her faith and her force was gone. I had more than I had ever dreamed on the outside, but it meant nothing. I was ready to throw it away because the night before I couldn't imagine not drinking. Sure, the husband is passive-aggressive, the kids are brats, but what was I bringing to the table? My innate ability to create chaos as an alcoholic. Covert chaos, to be sure. Who was putting up with PA crap (and right back at'cha, babe, two can play that game)? Who wasn't setting limits with the kids?
Enough. I needed to return to the woman I used to be. For me that means AA, therapy, and seeking my connection with the god of my understanding again.
This time around in AA, when I hear God, I internalize Grace. That quote, about "wisdom that is based on a fundamental desire for wholeness or healing" to me is Grace. Grace is beyond my understanding, neither male or female, not a matter of believing but feeling. Grace is what I lost when I relapsed, and Grace is what I want back more than anything. Grace is a safety net, it's what I know will catch me if I just let go. It's what I experience when I snuggle with my four yo son, or see my daughter treat her brother with kindness (FINALLY), or see Spring being its fabulous self. Grace is being present for all the small things we miss when we're closed down: meeting the right person at the right time, all the lights being green when we're running late, reading something that resonates so much we cry (or tear up in my case).I'm out of practice, so I don't feel it all the time, but when I do I try to revel in it. I feel incredibly blessed that I can experience it again so soon. I didn't think I would. But returning to AA has been coming home for me, I expected to feel like a failure, but I have been welcomed with open arms. It feels safe and right. Despite my green light example, Grace does not make all the lights green for me. Grace it too big to be bothered with that. BUT, if I spend time in Grace, even just seconds, I put positive energy from my basic goodness into the universe that affects my life. Only problem is, that works the other way around too, so I try to pay attention to when the negative creeps.
So call it spirituality or Grace, or Swirled Peas. Just don't let that one thing keep you from AA.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
The other day I was looking at a picture on our bookcase of me and my husband at the beach. I don’t remember which beach vacation it happened to be, but we look happy and carefree, tan with windblown, salty beach hair. I found myself thinking, “Man, I wish I could still drink like I could then.” Before it was a problem. Before I couldn’t drink “like that.” Before I couldn’t not drink. I thought, “Maybe I could drink like that again. Just enough to be happy. To have fun. To be tan and carefree.”
You see, that is how my disease works. I was tired after a stressful day at work. I was frustrated about the continual clutter that inches its way back into my home every day. My disease saw a chink in my sobriety armor and slipped itself in.
Fortunately, my sobriety has taught me to use my tools. In the second and a half that it took to have those thoughts, I had already played the tape ahead. One drink would quickly send me back to the closet, or the basement, or the garage to hide my alcohol. One drink would trigger that unfathomable obsession of alcohol: when, where, how could I get my next drink. The why is easy; I am an alcoholic.
I look at the picture again with the seriousness and honesty it deserves. As happy as we looked, that vacation was one of many that I ruined by drinking too much. I remember staggering through the hotel lobby, oblivious to the stares of others. I remember dinners missed because I passed out on the bed at 6 pm. I remember the panic attack at 3 am – how would my husband get my body back into the United States? I remember waking up the next day and having a beer for breakfast.
In the picture I am wearing sunglasses. Of course I am – I am at the beach after all! But behind those sunglasses are glassy, bloodshot eyes. Eyes that can’t look at myself in the mirror without a couple of drinks. Eyes that are disappointed that I can’t be the woman I think I should be. I am not the carefree, relaxed woman that I appear to be in the picture. I am a woman who lives in fear. Fear that I will be found out for the fraud that I am. An imposter who is pretending to be a happy and successful woman. Fear that I will be seen for what I am – a drunk.
Yes, even today after a few twenty-four hours of sobriety, my disease can trick me into thinking that it wasn’t that bad. That life would be better with a drink, or two, or . . . My life as a sober woman requires daily maintenance of my spiritual condition. If I let the chinks in my armor get too big or too many, this cunning, baffling, powerful enemy that is alcohol will seep its way back in. I know that to be true. So everyday I get up and work on caring for that armor and caring for the woman inside. The one who can be weak and insecure. The one who also knows that her life is infinitely better without alcohol.