Wednesday, June 30, 2010
One year ago this month, I was in rehab. It sucked and it was totally interfering with my plan to drink myself to death. However, wasn't raising any hell over it. My brain was traumatized by the seizure I'd had during my last withdrawal and so much of the stuff that made me myself was disabled. Smartass comments, rationalization, logical thinking, short-term memory, and even anger and fear were all lost in the fog. I allowed others to lead me and put one foot in front of the other because I couldn't see behind or in front of that.
The first time I had a drink, I was 17. My best friend and I made cocktails not to get drunk or have fun or be social. Rather, we wanted to get used to the taste and the effect of alcohol before we started college. We didn't want to be "that girl" who pukes all over herself or winds up in a stranger's bed and can't remember how, so we experimented with booze as with a very combustible substance. My life at that point was all about control. I had an eating disorder and lived with constant, soul-suffocating anxiety over all the things I could not manipulate.
Within days of arriving at school, I was in love with cheap punch mixed in garbage cans and a guy who treated me like garbage. That relationship really put me in touch with the concept that I was worthless and no matter how hard I tried, things were going to fall apart anyway. My goal in life was to be "that girl" as thoroughly as possible. If I couldn't be perfect, I was going to excel at being bad.
Over the next 8 years, I vacillated constantly between success and failure. I didn't like the middle of the road, so I was always pulling to one side or the other and ending up in a ditch. No matter the circumstances - a promotion at work or a fight with my boyfriend - I could reach my happy place, numb and safe, with a drink. Booze was my port in the storm, my key to the VIP room I felt I'd been locked out of my whole life. I identified very strongly as a drinker; I felt most myself, most comfortable in my own skin when I was holding a cocktail or a cold beer. It was incomprehensible to me that a life without this magic potion could be worth living.
My sponsor tells me I drove 80 miles an hour straight into a brick wall. I never wanted to stop drinking longterm and never made empty "I'll never drink again!" promises to myself, even in the depths of a hangover. When my hangovers started intensifying - including days of throwing up, insomnia, and shaking - I turned my attention towards becoming a more successful drinker, a moderate drinker. The Mythical Moderate Drinker. The Big Book of AA says it is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker to be able to drink normally. The "one glass of wine with dinner," "take it or leave it" mindset was my holy grail. At that point, I was drinking a couple of bottles of wine a night. When I lost my job due to my alcoholism, I drank all day, every day and that's what brought my body to a crisis point, culminating in the seizure that saved my life.
I mentioned earlier that I had planned to drink myself to death. I was not pursuing this goal in any organized way, but I was resigned to dying an alcoholic death if it meant I didn't have to quit drinking. Pouring a drink was the only coping mechanism I had. Without it, I was left with some seriously screwed up brain chemistry (almost entirely attributable to my alcohol consumption) and no idea how to navigate in the world. I was caught in a place where the only thing keeping me alive was simultaneously killing me.
Today, I'm happier than I've ever been. The chronic anxiety and depression I suffered during my drinking life (and even before I started using alcohol to self-medicate) have become manageable. I have coping mechanisms that work. And that has become the acid test, the principle around which I construct my life: What's true is what works.
I don't live in a place of endless contrarian nay-saying anymore. The peace of mind I have found in sobriety is a self-evident truth, regardless of any attempt on my part to logically explain or disprove it. I go to AA meetings regularly and I am developing a spiritual consciousness because that works for me. It is my daily reprieve from an alcoholic death. Simple (and miraculous) as that.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
***Submitted by Anonymous
I had 14 months sober.
Superbowl Sunday - January 2009 until April 1st 2010. I was out to dinner then off to the Denver Nuggets vs Portland game. Why not? I’d been fantasizing about having that drink for months. Besides, we were on spring break, a vacation, we'd traveled to Denver to stay with good friends. We were out – adults only, celebrating. I announced at the dinner table just before the waiter came “Tonight, I’m going to have some wine with dinner. We’re celebrating, this has been fantastic week”. Reluctantly, my husband glanced at me from the corner of his eye; says nothing (he never does). My girlfriend, faces me and asked “Are you sure it‘s ok”?
“Absolutely” I say. “I feel great, it will be ok”.
My friends husband orders us a bottle. White, expensive, very chilled, my favorite. We toast to a great week together.
Those first few swallows, so warm, so wonderful, I could feel the alcohol gushing through my veins: instant relaxation, instantly happy. If I could have shot it into my veins, I would have. If it had not been rude, I would have chugged the bottle. God it felt good.
I don’t think we had a second bottle. I did though, order a final glass (to go with dessert). I wasn't drunk. None of us were. Just happy, warm, nicely buzzed. We headed off for the short walk to the stadium for the game. Front row seats, actual chairs – not stadium seating. Each of the chairs had a ‘menu’ with drinks, cocktails, beer, wine and snacks. There was a waitress dedicated to the fans sitting in the ‘good seats’. I kept waiting for my friends husband to ask ‘who wants a drink’? (you see, he to is a big drinker) He didn't ask. I was to self conscious to order anything. They had ice cream. I had a bottle of water. The entire game, I just kept waiting, anxiously. I went to the ladies room, all the while thinking I could chug a beer before sitting down, and no one would know. But I didn’t.
Once back at the house, I remember getting ready for bed and congratulating myself. “You did it! See you’re capable of having a few drinks and walking away. Way to go ! You can do this. Social drinking, here I come!”
The next night was our last before heading home. We decided to stay in, BBQ and watch a movie for our final evening. I had a glass of wine with dinner, then a bottle with the movie. My friend didn’t say anything, but I remember feeling embarrassed to be leaving the empty bottle on her kitchen counter. Why didn’t I tip-toe to the recycle bin and just leave it there, lost amongst the other bottles and cans?
April 1st was 83 days ago. I’ve drank nearly every one of those 83 days. I can count on 1 hand the number of days I haven’t. I’ve been looking back at my accomplishments over the past 83 days – I’ve been busy:
- I drank at least 60 bottles of wine, probably more
- Girls weekend to another city, where now in addition to a husband – I also have a boyfriend
- I said stupid things to friends which I can’t remember
- Emailed under the influence (EUI): only to wake up the next morning cringing while I check to see what awful things I may have said.
- Cried on friends shoulders for falling off the wagon, then confessed I’m not ready to get back on, I’m having to much fun.
- Driven drunk on numerous occasions. Why I haven’t been pulled over is beyond comprehension.
- Gained back the 10 pounds I lost when I quit drinking.
- Receive wordless but painful stares from my 11 year old daughter.
- Told my husband he can’t help me … this is my doing.. and I just have to get through it. I pushed him away so many years ago. He just sits by, goes to work, sleeps mostly on the couch, afraid to say or do anything. In so many ways, my marriage is a joke. But, he’s a nice guy. And a good Dad. And I don’t have to work out of the house.
- I went out with the girls for Cinco de Mayo: ended up with my head in the toilet at the bar then had to be driven home
- In my scheming to see my ‘boyfriend’, I’ve made up ridiculas lies, spent days with him in another city, and can’t wait to see him again.
- I’ve ignored my children (10 & 11)
- Treated by husband worse than usual
- I loathe myself, most of the time
- I may have implicated myself in having an affair during a heated discussion with my husband. I was going on about needing friends and being lonely… I don’t know what all I said - I can’t remember: I was drunk. He hasn’t mentioned it since.
I don’t remember what pushed me over the edge to quit in the first place, but I found a therapist, went to my Dr. I faithfully took Antibuse for at least 6 months, saw the therapist weekly for months and months. I told everyone I knew I stopped drinking. Ran more, ate better, helped with homework and school projects.
I quit the therapist after I felt I had a good handle on my sobriety. I told him I wasn’t ready to deal with the issues with my husband (maybe because I felt awkward talking to a man therapist about my husband?) … that would come in time. For now, I was happy with getting my health back, not waking up hung over, not doing all the things you do to be an active, daily drinker. I was really feeling good.
That all ended 83 days ago.
Prior to my 14 month of sobriety, I’ve drank as long as I can remember. I started in high school.
Over my adult years, it progressively got worse. I divorced my first husband. Remarried. Didn’t drink while I was pregnant (2x). A few years ago we returned from living in Europe for nearly 4 years, I drank the entire time. Every day, most every country, although it was hard to come by in Egypt. I’ve never started before 5pm, usually passed out by 10. Always wine, always white. Always the minimum of a bottle.
My husband rarely drinks. (I believe) my father is an alcoholic. Mom & sister are not.
In 1987, I admitted myself to a 5 week hospital inpatient program for the treatment of eating disorders. They warned then of the risk of ‘switching diseases’ because of my propensity to drink. I was sent to AA for the experience. That was 23 years ago.
I’ll be 47 in a few weeks. I’m a mom, a wife, a good friend to a few, an adulteress, a daughter, a sister and a chronic alcoholic.
Monday, June 21, 2010
If I were to go back in any given week to look over the days, they would be filled with shame, remorse, guilt, unmet responsibilities, embarrassing moments, forgotten evenings.
The trip to the beach? Sure – I sent postcards to our family of the beautiful scenery. I came back with a healthy tan, evidence of a fun-filled vacation. Inside I carried the memory of coming to in the hotel room, my husband downstairs eating dinner alone. Rather than the carefree, relaxing vacation I desperately needed, that week was filled with the exhausting obsession with alcohol. Were we close enough to a convenience store to walk? How could I drink more without my husband catching on? How could I maintain my buzz throughout the day and still go out in the evening. I wasn’t interested in touring Ernest Hemingway’s house – take me to the bar! He spent more time there himself didn’t he? A walk down the beach? Let’s find a beachside bar so we can stop and have a drink.
Dinner at a friend’s house? I agonized for a week over the perfect hostess gift or recipe for a potluck dish. How could I show that I knew what to do in social situations? That I wasn’t the imposter I believed myself to be? Of course, dinner out required much preparation. A few drinks before while getting ready to ensure the perfect level of intoxication. Then I would only need one or two drinks during dinner and I would be “fine.” Once at their house, I needed to assess the alcohol situation. Did they have the bottles of wine out on the counter for guests to serve themselves? Could I sneak in the kitchen to help myself from the refrigerator? I needed to maintain the right level in my glass, making sure no one would notice how much I was drinking. Then, the concentration required to not appear to be drunk (because of course I had more than the two I had planned). Listening closely to people talking, careful not to interrupt in my drunken enthusiasm to be part of the conversation. These dinner invitations ultimately led to guilt-ridden mornings spent piecing together events of the night. Did I “bob and weave” while eating dinner? Who did I talk with? What did I say? And then snuggling with my husband to gage his reaction. Had I embarrassed him yet again?
Household projects? Yet another opportunity for guilt and shame. Another weekend gone without cleaning the house. Oh sure, I spent lots of time that weekend under the pretense of cleaning, but really I was just going in circles. As productive as I thought I was (I was certainly tired enough!), I never got around to the “normal” stuff. Washing the windows would be much more fun with a cold beer. Or two. Or six. Then I would convince myself that I had worked much too hard during the week to spend my weekends washing windows. They looked good enough. I would lie on the chaise lounge with a book and yet another beer. Or by now a glass of wine – plastic tumbler so I wouldn’t break the glass on the deck. Hours later, I would come to on the deck. The sun already behind the house. Another week of looking through those dirty windows. Constant reminders of how I didn’t quite measure up.
Today my calendar is still the same, full of activities and obligations, but the outcome is much different. The month of May was crazy for us. In Georgia, schools get out on May 21st, so we were slammed with end of the year activities. Field days, teacher gifts, Cub Scout banquets. As a teacher, I was deluged with creating finals, grading papers, completing paperwork. As my husband says, if we put it down on paper, it would be impossible to get done. But we did it. Every single one – maybe not. Did we do them perfectly? Absolutely not. But not one day brings back an ounce of guilt. Or remorse. Or shame. Or uncertainty. How did we get through May? One day at a time. Just like they tell me to do. Progress not perfection. Stay in the moment. This too shall pass. Even though, thankfully, my obsession to drink has been lifted, I live by these simple statements. Because if I don’t, a drink is waiting for me right around the corner. My disease is doing push-ups, just waiting for me to come back. He will attack me with a vengeance. And if I give him that opportunity, my calendar will be blank.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Submitted by Immy, a 37 year old working mother, who is married with two chldren, 15 and 8 years old. In other words, she's just like me, change a few details, and maybe you identify, too. -- Robin)
Outside, a picture perfect day of bright sunshine and nature blossoming; inside, clouds of anger and frustration piling up and the struggle in my head begins.
It has been five days since my last drink and since I woke up with yet another guilty conscience for having drunk so much that I didn‘t remember what I said or did. It was my big sister‘s birthday and our brother was arriving after a year of not seeing him. That particular morning I did remember that I‘d gotten angry for some reason and slammed the door as I went to bed, but I could not remember why, despite my attempts to lift the fog of my brain.
“I must stop doing this,“ I thought for the hundredth time. I felt lousy and embarrassed to face my family. I didn‘t ask them if I said anything or did anything hurtful and they didn‘t say. I still don‘t know.
That morning I told myself that this was the last time I did this to myself and to my family and friends.
I took a walk, sat by the sea and contemplated.
And it has been five days.
And the struggle has begun.
My sister is arriving this evening, with alcohol. A bottle of rum to make mojitos in the sun, and beer to enjoy. I fear that I will not be strong enough to say, “Thanks, but not for me this time.“ I fear the reaction and questions as to why, because I‘m still not ready to say out loud, “I‘ve stopped.“ I am trying to come up with a plausible reason for me not drinking.
Another struggle for next weekend, as the family is going to a family reunion, camping for two nights and the weather forecast screams for cold beer and white wine. I don‘t know how I will cope. I am so used to embracing every occasion available to pop a bottle and this is an occasion with a capital O.
I feel angry today because I am not in control.
I feel angry because I am thinking: It will be okay to have this drink with my sister and to enjoy the weekend with some wine. I will just stop drinking alone at home. I will only drink when there is an occasion to do so, at parties, with friends. It will be ok as long as I stop drinking on weekdays. Weekends only.
I feel sad that it has come to this and a part of me longs for the bottle. I feel a sense of loss when I think of an alcohol-free life. What about all those times I drank moderately, was able to stop and turn to water? I‘m not so bad, am I? I can do this now. Right?? ....
If my husband buys a sixpack of beer, I usually finish it.
If we buy a three-liter box of wine, I finish it within days.
In the recent year I have finished all the vodka, gin, and liquor in the house that we owned for years and most of the cognac my husband got for his 40th birthday. I have used all the popular excuses in the book, saying, “Ironing is so boring I just have to have one beer with it.“ or “Cooking is so much more fun with a glass or two before dinner.“
I am so scared that I will not be able to follow through this time, as I have failed before and always ended up convincing myself I do not have a problem, that I just have to cut down a little bit.... I am scared, frustrated and absent minded... all the time.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
By Robin. I share my story here and at Life... On Its Own Terms,. This is the first I've talked about rehab. It saved me, and please, if you want to know more about going to treatment (for yourself or someone else) please contact me. We -- Val and Ellie and I -- are here to keep the conversation going. Take care.
It would not be truthful for me to tell you I went to rehab to get better. I went there in search of the same thing I'd chased with pills and alcohol: oblivion.
I've planned to check in the next morning, but on the way to our hotel my sister, who has been charged with delivering me to the detox I’d found on-line, unexpectedly swings the car right instead of left and pulls under the hospital portico and says, Goodbye. I acquiesce silently, a response most unlike me, instead choosing in this visceral moment to shut my eyes, hold out my hand, and be led into the darkness.
As I'm weighed and blood is drawn, it's easy enough to tell myself this isn't any different from the few other times I've been admitted to a hospital. This holds until they give me a breathalyzer test -- my first, ever -- and lock up my purse. No one asks me to tell my story, not yet, instead giving me a form to complete: "# of drinks per day" and "how often you use needles to administer your drug."
Sitting in the hallway, waiting for a room assignment, I practice different faces on the people who wander by. A perky smile for one (surely I'm not the first debutante to go to rehab) and a level gaze for another (I am an intellectual -- didn't Dorothy Parker get treatment?), a don't-fuck-with-me glare for the next. Nothing fits so I finally just look at the floor.
A recovery meeting is going on down the hall, so I enter a unit empty of patients except for one hysterical red-headed teen. My room is small but has a window that looks out on the haze of the smoking patio. When I stretch out on my back with my head against the window ledge I can just see the sky over the top of the tall concrete wall. I lie like this while the nurse gives me an injection, and I fall asleep while she's explaining the rec. room rules.
I awaken in the middle of night, not at all disoriented, I know instantly where I am. Panic turns my innards to ice as I reach blindly for the pills that are not there; I feel like I've dropped my rifle just as the lion charged. Then I do something I still can't explain: I drop to the floor and lay my forehead on the scratchy industrial carpet. I wonder for a moment if I'm going to pray, but instead I twist my head left and right and left again and right again and left. It's an animal act, mindless, disturbing. The nurse who stops by for room check isn't impressed.
"What are you doing on the floor?"
"I don't know."
"Okay. Have a good night."
We'll repeat this conversation two more times before I finally move back to the bed, holding a towel to my bloodied forehead, which stings like hell. The next morning I wake up early, before the 6 AM vital-signs check, and brave the smokers' patio, waving my forehead at them like gang insignia. They aren't impressed, either.
After that I refuse to leave my room for days. I will later learn that this is something of a feat: one after another counselors, nurses, doctors, file in and try to lever me out of bed. "I can't," I say. "I need to rest," as if the effort of sitting in the common room listening to a lecture is just too much. Weeks later patients will ask how I'd managed not to get evicted and I'll say, "What were they going to do? Carry me out?"
And so passes the first block of days without alcohol in my entire adult life. I don't notice this, or anything else. It's as if I've plucked my feathers and chopped off my wings and dropped my sails; I have no momentum, no will. Sometimes I flaunt the rules and sometimes I follow them; neither is a conscious decision. I am a one-celled creature, moving only as much as is needed to secure the barest sustenance. I live on graham crackers and coffee purloined from the break room when everyone else is gone.
Each day the nurses come and go, giving me lessening doses of the medicine that is easing me off of the drugs that had hijacked my body and refused to leave. That's what this feels like to me: hostage negotiations. I am given the text known as the 'big book' in recovery circles and devour its stories. It reads like fiction. As visiting day approaches, I memorize the book like a script, learning the words to say to appease my frightened family. I am powerless, I realize now that I have a disease; the counselors nod when I say these words so I know I am on the right track.
I feel calm enough, buoyed by the withdrawal medications they've given me. Five nights have passed and I have spoken only to my sister, asked only for news of my daughter. I have yet to speak to my husband, who faithfully calls the nurses' station every day for news. It's as close to oblivion as an all-vital-signs normal, healthy human being can achieve: protected, safe, womblike. I only begin to grasp the enormity of it all when I look in the metal mirror to brush my teeth and come face to face with the bandage covering my oozing forehead, white, the color of innocence but also of cowardice, of fog, of ghosts.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
*** Submitted by Gappy. She's chosen today to share her story not only here but on her own blog, Single Parenthood: Tales from the Frontline. It's a brave and powerful thing to do; please let her know if you identify. (I sure do -- Robin)
Up until quite recently, it never occurred to me that I was an alcoholic. I still balk at the term now - not out of any sense of denial, I know full well that I cannot drink moderately or safely - but simply because to say it seems so dramatic. It makes me think of the people I see on the benches in town on my way to work sometimes, drinking Special Brew at 9.00 in the morning. I sometimes find myself fantasising idly about joining them, about throwing all of my many balls straight up in the air and not even bothering to try to catch them again. I am drawn to it like one is to the edge of a cliff or the bank of a deep river. It's terrifying yet strangely magnetic.
They say that alcoholism is progressive, and I don't doubt it, but I cannot remember a time when I drank normally. I cannot pinpoint where I might have 'crossed the line' because I have always drunk to excess. Even as a young teenager I would always be the one passing out in unsuitable places while my friends agonised over what to do with me. From that point on my alcoholism has gone through phases. There have been periods when I have been either drunk or hungover almost all the time. I have experienced black-outs, drunk spirits in the morning, and woken up shaking with the cold sweats. I also spent about six years trying desperately to moderate with varying degrees of torturous success. It was always going to be doomed to failure eventually. True moderate drinkers just are. They don't have to try with all their mental might. These days I make the only reasonable choice left to me, which is to be sober. See? Mine's a lime and soda.
Except when it's a gin and tonic.
You see, this was supposed to be a post all about my sobriety. About how sobriety was a righteous choice that I had made. About how I was done with self sabotage and self pity. It was going to be a post that said fuck the backstory, because whether to drink or not is a simple choice to be made forever in the here and now - that said how I was never again going to repeat another pathetic story from my childhood because I alone was responsible for my actions - not some demon from my distant past. It was going to be a post about how my sobriety was rooted in the fertile soil of my own power, and about how - for me - there could be no higher power than that.
Except that last night I drank again. A group of us went out for a friend’s birthday and I could not resist the peer pressure to have a drink. I could not bring myself to spill when my friends asked me why I was not having a cocktail. I attempted a feeble, 'Oh you know, I'm not really drinking at the moment...' only to have it waved away by friends who wanted to see me have a great time. Friends who I have managed to hide so much of myself from. Friends who wanted to go to a club to get drunk and dance and flirt, and who wanted me to join in. So I broke a promise to myself and I did.
And nobody died. We drank cocktails and danced and flirted. It was fun. The only person in the whole world who knew what I was risking was me. But today I feel frightened and shocked. I feel turned inside out because I thought I had being sober pretty much sewn up. I had been completely teetotalling for six months. I thought I was learning to trust myself, dammit. 'You takes your responsibility, you makes your choices' had become my personal motto, and I still wholeheartedly believe that. I did make a choice last night, but it was the choice to drink. The choice to jeopardise my good life - and by the same token, my children’s good lives. Today it is unthinkable.
So now what? The fact that the night passed without incident is precisely what makes this relapse so very dangerous. How easy it is now for the devil on my shoulder to whisper seductively: "See? What's the problem? You're fine to have a few drinks every now and then. Real alcoholics drink until they pass out every time they pick up. You can control it now." I can't. I don't want to go into lurid details about my own personal rock bottoms but I know that I can't control my drinking - that I've never been able to control it. I know that I will always be an alcoholic and that the only way I can win is to not feed my body and brain with the substance to which they are addicted.
So this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to get up, dust myself off and keep going in the same sober direction. I'm going to formulate a comprehensive plan as to how I'm going to deal with the next situation in which there is social pressure to drink (if anyone's got any tips I would be most grateful) and I'm going to takes my responsibility and makes my (better) choices. In the end what else is there?
Mine's a lime and soda.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
We all have/had fear about living without the booze in our life. It is our safety blanket and we can't imagine how we will manage without it. I think that alcohol messes with our minds and starts to create this monster fear of life without booze--- kind of like a manipulative controlling lover who makes you feel like you will be nothing without them. I think it is safe to say that it is probably what ultimately kept all of us from quitting. Many of us pushed through that and "faced the fear and did it anyway."
And it is so true that the fear is much worse than the thing we are actually afraid of, but the only way to really know that is to try it out and see for ourself-- and jumping off the cliff with a little faith and a lot of fear is scary. It's very similar to being in a bad relationship.
We are afraid we'll never find anyone better, that we'll never find that kind of happiness again. And yet, breakups happen and we all manage to not only survive, but eventually thrive.
Now being sober for five months, I certainly wouldn't say that most of my sober moments have been "scary". Some have been uncomfortable, painful, annoying and not much fun, but here I am, still surviving and thriving despite the fact that I can't rely on my wine anymore.
And the best part is that there are lots of great positive moments that the alcoholic me didn't even know I was missing out on. So for those of you still struggling with quitting, there is a better, clearer version of your life waiting for you but you won't be able to see that it is there until you get out of the fog of the booze. And once you do see it, you'll realize how valuable it is.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Note to Self on Day 53 of Sobriety:
Tonight as you sat in your lounger, reading the Big Book there was a moment when your addiction asked you a question. The same question it has asked since it first began to weave its web in your delicate brain matter.
"If you're a "real alcoholic", how is it that you managed to keep a job, keep a family, never get a DWI, didn't even care about drinking until you were forty years old, and now you sit here in the sunset stone cold sober and don't have so much as a flickering thought about getting drunk?"
Hmmm. Good question, Addict In My Brain. Let's take a look at the "signs and symptoms" of alcoholism and we'll determine if I am a "real" alcoholic or not.
Tolerance. There was a time when a couple of glasses of wine got me quite loopy. Eventually wine did very little for me unless I drank it in vast quantities. When I switched to vodka, that hit harder and faster, but every month I could drink more and more to get the same effect. By the end I could easily consume a liter of vodka every 24 hours.
Withdrawal. I drank so much, so often, that when I didn't have alcohol in my system my hands shook, my heart beat too fast, I had horrific headaches and I could barely get through the day. My brain obsessed over getting the booze into my body every single hour of every single day.
Loss of control. I could not stop myself once I started. I would drink until I fell asleep, wake up and drink some more. I would fill my bottle in the parking lot at work and guzzle it down during the five minute drive home. I would fill it again in the bedroom and gulp that down before anyone could catch me. In the morning when I felt like shit and knew I had to face another long day at work, I'd fill the bottle again and slam that down as I drove in. Sometimes, if it was bad enough I resorted to spiking my coffee or tea right there at my desk when no one was looking.
Wanting to quit, but being unable to. There were so many days when I promised myself that I would not drink. That I would go home from work and enjoy my family and not drink. There were so many times when I sat in the parking lot of the liquor store and asked myself if I really wanted to go in there or not, knowing that I would because I simply couldn’t stop myself. There were countless mornings that I woke up and swore "never again", only to find myself completely drunk again that night.
Drinking even though you know it's damaging your body, your brain, and your life. I was very aware that I was sinking deeper and deeper into addiction. But I couldn't seem to muster up the energy to care. The bottle called to me and it was LOUD. It easily drowned out the voice of reason. I didn’t feel well and the easiest way to stave off those feelings was to drink them away. I could see the “drunk bloat” in my face and belly. I could feel the rapid heartbeats and the night sweats. But I could not stop myself from drinking.
Making drinking apriority over other activities and responsibilities. I spent a whole lot of time making sure I had enough booze hidden in a bunch of places so that I would never be caught without a supply. I spent a lot of energy getting rid of evidence. I spent months ignoring every other part of my life in favor of feeding my addiction. I cancelled plans with family and friends when it would interfere with my drinking. I purposely stayed away from my home at times so I could sit and drink.
I don't think I need to go on any further. The evidence is plain to see. Yes, I got up and went to work (except for two or three times when I elected to stay home and drink all day). Yes, I went to my daughter's events (but never without a solid buzz and usually with a spiked bottle of tea in my bag). No, I did not lose my home or my marriage or any friends. But that's only because A) I am very, very lucky to be loved by so many, and B) I had enough of a desire to change that I reached out for help, and C) help was there when I asked for it.
"Real" alcoholism doesn't have to begin when you're in your teens or twenties. It can begin at any time, to anyone. For me, it happened after the age of forty. The age is irrelevant.
So Self? The next time Addict In My Brain pipes up with all of those doubts and questions, you tell her, “I'm not falling for your tricks. I'm on to you and the way you work. Go ahead and ask me again when you think I might have forgotten what it was like to be your slave. I will remember.”
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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