Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Not The Amount That Counts

***Submitted by Anonymous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Taking It Day By Day

***Submitted by Anonymous

The downward spiral began probably 10 years ago. I have always struggled with depression and a childhood full of rejection, and dealt with both of those challenges with a fierce independence and rebelliousness. That independence has been a strong suit, yet it also created the perfect nurturing ground for turning to alcohol instead of others for relief. Bored? Have a drink. Restless? Have a drink. Sad? Angry? Anxious? Excited? Relaxed? Tired? Energetic? You get the picture, and I can see that I am not the only one who has dealt with life this way.

Not to bore with too much detail, but I ended up going through more than a bottle of wine practically every night. The nights I didn't have my wine, I thought about it all night and first thing in the morning. Toward the last (I have made it over 2 months, with one relapse) I was drinking half and half--half wine, half vodka, so I would drink it more slowly and no one would be the wiser. Hid bottles of wine and later vodka, too, in special places--my favorite place was the bathroom cabinet--could go in there with my wine glass, guzzle, fill up my glass, and flush.

I have embarrassed my boys (now young adults) and my loving husband and my mom and myself. When drinking in a social situation, my tendency was to get very deep, very fast. I would bring up topics like, "Who would you call if you had cancer?" or something brazen like, "How did you turn out to be so arrogant?" or interrupting someone's toast to tell them to "hurry up". If others were fortunate, I would go home early to pass out, leaving them to go on to much lighter subjects. It is only through dumb luck I was never stopped for a DUI. Toward the last years of my drinking, I would drink mostly alone at home. Hoping no one would interrupt my reverie, and feeling resentful if they did.

The hardest part has been what to do with my time and feeling like life isn't so fun anymore. I am so used to drinking to to pass the time--everything was so much more fun and tolerable with a wine warming my belly and brain. Activities like, cleaning the house, writing a thank you note, paying bills, camping, horses, dealing with teenage mood swings and husband's expectations, surfing the net, reading a book by the fireglow, all took on a sense of excitement, or tolerability, or coziness cuz I had my glass of wine for security and company.

I would have my best, most creative ideas when drinking. The things I could look forward to! It certainly seemed to help with my depression--the heaviness would lift and I would feel energized by "life" and it's possibilities! But when the morning would come, I would have lost all my confidence and motivation to follow through with any of those ideas--leaving me feeling the lowest of lows. It started to eat away at my belief that I could follow through with any of my ideas, which eroded my sense of purpose and confidence.

So, I haven't been drinking, but started smoking. Why is it that I am so driven to change my feelings by a substance? I read somewhere that "almost no one" starts smoking after 25 years old. I'm 46. One of the most helpful things (besides smoking) has been reading books like, "Drinking--A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp, "An Uncommon Drunk" by Jeff Herten, and "Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore" by Rachael Brownell. These books have really made me feel not so alone--knowing that if others have made the change, then maybe I can, too. And maybe there is life after drink.

Yet, here I am, taking it day by day. Not planning on going to AA, as I live in a very small town and I cannot bear to put myself out there like that. Plus what if I decide to drink again down the road? Then it would open my heart up to have people judging me and thinking I failed. Maybe if I am ever in a situation where I can slip in anonymously, I will try it. But for now, I am reaching out here--maybe this is something Ido need others' help with managing. Oh, I don't know. But today, I am not going to drink.

Thanks for listening,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Want To Change

***Submitted by Cynthia (not her real name)

Let’s start with the basics. I was a model student, an over-achiever, for sure. People said they were envious of me, but I had a hard time reconciling that sentiment due to my overwhelming knowledge that I was, in fact, a FAILURE. Didn’t matter that I had a perfect GPA; I was not okay. I’d been outed with my eating disorder (bulimia) in the most embarrassing way. I’d gone to the local Safeway and stolen: diet pills, a magazine featuring Tracey Gold’s eating disorder, some granola bars. This itself was bad. But, even worse, a lot of people from my high school actually worked there and my apprehension took place in their break room. My grandparents came to get me and I said nothing, because there was nothing to say. My school peers said a lot. I was admitted to an inpatient eating disorder hospital the next day.

Years later, my issue is not eating, it’s alcohol. I’ve always sought to numb. I guess my coping mechanisms reach for what is most available to me, and surely, as a youth, alcohol was nowhere near my reach in a tea-total family. I think the symptoms and behaviors can resemble each other, though.

I am now struggling, as a mother, to curb my alcohol abuse. It seemed like a haven at first. I used to have a beer or 5, or 8, and go to sleep knowing I was “still cool” because, I guess, motherhood renders people uncool – what?

Then came the day when I knew I was alcohol dependent. I had moved from casual “I deserve this” usage. I began buying more wine than ever before. If I could have bought the Nebuchadnezzar, I would have. Instead, I went to Trader Joes. A lot.

That wore thin, I was an angry woman, so angry. Wine just pushed me away from some friends (other drinkers, in fact) and I swore there was in fact, no motherhood bond over wine. I felt in a very real way that things had changed, maybe for the worse.

Wine was no longer my friend. I couldn’t conceal that many spent bottles easily. Vodka seemed like the solution. Calories, fewer. Number of bottles, fewer. Level of buzz, greater. Perfect!

No, none of this has been perfect, at all. I’ve ravaged my health, drunk-dialed everyone I know, continued ruining my health in a wholesale manner.

I should mention that the side of the family that raised me (my parents were divorced) were so tea-totalling that Postum was the hardest drug in my family’s cabinet. Somehow it doesn’t fit with the fact that my other side of family was from Ireland, and drinking was established. Not questioned. Required.

I have gone at most 20 days without drinking. They were important days. I felt healthy and in charge. It was a very liberating experience and I could not believe my good fortune. I felt like a kid awaiting a holiday. My brain seemed to be pushing out with ideas and I was so productive that everyone remarked on it. Then I drank again. What was old, was new. I was a drunk again. In that meantime, a liquor store was built a block away. Perfect! I gave up any pretenses of seeming like a casual shopper; I was the person they might expect to see on a Monday at noon.

I look at my face in the mirror and I still see a pretty woman. Sometime I look inflated and my eyes, dead. However, I do see how that face is and will be compromised in the future. Some days I look like absolute shit and have a mottled complexion and a puffy area around my eyes. Not attractive. I challenge myself by wondering “who knows?”. Truthfully, probably everyone. That is one thing I know about alcoholics – they aren’t so discreet.

Everything gives them away.

I have joined online websites a couple of times, including the message boards. I am envious of these accomplished people. I have put myself in their ranks a few times when I have had 8, 4, 10 days sober. They are full of insight and reflection on the hard times. I love them for that, and their reaching love. I have yet to meet the requirements of a sober person, but I do love the feeling that emanates from someone who really understands my plight, and that of so many others.

I attended my grandmother’s funeral last week. She was made up like a clown, a mannequin, nothing left of the woman I knew so long and loved. It is hard to see that and discount the possibility that I might be next. After all, a fifth of alcohol goes down easy in just a few hours, and that can not be a good thing. I came from a family of tea-totals, so what the hell happened? I am full of reflection, nuisance though it may seem. I want to change. I have not drunk since the day of the funeral, four days ago.

And truthfully, I don’t want to.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

You Are Worth It

A note from Ellie:  At Crying Out Now we recognize that addiction is a family disease, and we encourage stories from loved ones of alcoholics and addicts in the spirit of helping to heal, educate and support one another.  

***Submitted by Michelle

It's often said as a joke, "the first step is admitting you have a problem". I know I had, in the past. I thought I knew what that first step says. It was a revelation to me then, on my first visit to an Al-Anon meeting to hear the real thing: "we admitted that we were powerless over the alcoholic, and that our lives had become unmanagable".

Unmanageable was definitely the word. I had tried everything to stop my alcoholic from drinking. I took away his money, his car keys, his credit cards. I warned the kids to keep an eye on him, not to give him money, not to ride in the car with him. I searched the house and the shed and the garage looking for the bottle that I knew was there, and when I found it I ranted and raved or became silent and sullen. I was miserable and I was going crazy. I found myself one day contemplating staying home from work, just because I wanted to stop him from drinking. I was seriously considering quitting my job of 15 years, working for the best bosses anyone could ever dream of and our families sole source of income at the time, to stay home and watch a full grown adult who resented my presence.

When he finally made that choice and went into rehab, the program had specific requirements for family members, including educational meetings and group therapy with the patients and without. I heard those questions over and over again, and asked some of them myself...."how can I help him? can I stop him?...what am I supposed to do?" They encouraged us all to go to Al-Anon meetings, and eventually I went. I was a sponge, all I wanted to do was soak up knowledge, find the answers. I wanted him to be all right. I wanted my life back, and would do anything to get it.

The first thing they tell you is that you can't stop the addict from using. It's there in the prayer they recite at every meeting, "the serenity to accept the things I can not change" and the biggest thing you can't change is someone else. I will admit I was kind of peeved when they said that I was the one I had to change. Damnit, I am not the problem here, I said. Oh, but you are, they replied.

No one gives you answers in Al-Anon. There is no advice, just a hand extended by people who know where you have been and have been there themselves. They gave me their phone numbers, and listened to my tearful and/or angry rambling sentences about the injustice I felt I was living in. They smiled, and said "keep coming back" and I did.

I have learned so much about myself, and have found some peace in those rooms that I didn't think was even possible. One thing that I have noticed the most was the different social aspect of going to the meetings. Here is a whole new group of friends, and things to do. I was astonished at this hidden world of activities and meetings and retreats that had been going on in my area all along that I never knew about. Just like an alcoholic finds in AA, you suddenly have a whole new social circle that you automatically have something in common with.

It's not all perfect, there have been relapses and there are days that I forget my own learning and just lose it completely, but I have hope again that with practice we will all be okay. I have found in myself a serenity that I thought might have been gone forever, and I know that no matter what happens, I can handle it, with the help of these wonderful people and my own resources.

I encourage everyone who is struggling with someone else's addiction, be it a parent, a spouse, a child or even just a friend to look up a meeting in your area and go. You don't have to talk if you don't want to, just listen. Give it a chance, and give yourself a chance to change and heal. The best way to help everyone else is to take care of yourself.    You are worth it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eleven Months

**submitted by Adrianne

So, two days ago I hit 11 months. Only a few more weeks until I make it an entire year without a drink. It’s becoming more difficult, more of a struggle. Not having a hangover is not much of a motivator anymore. Remembering everything is not much of a motivator, either. In fact, it would be nice to blur some of the more emotionally raw moments. So I am back to where I started…doing it for my two small children. 

I have been really careful about not putting myself in social situations that might be tempting or might end with me being an asshole because I can’t join in the fun. And right now that is the biggest part of the struggle - fun. I am just not having much of it. Haven’t entertained because I can’t enjoy the vino with my friends. Haven’t gone to dinner at the new hot spot because I can’t enjoy the vino. Left town during the biggest party of the year - Kentucky Derby - because I was right at six months and knew it would be miserable. I am accustomed to not having the reward at the end of every day. I am used to weekend activities revolving around the kids - birthday parties, fall festivals, family outings. Sure, I go to movies and meet friends for coffee and ice cream. It’s just that it’s not so fun. 

Boredom was a big trigger for me in the beginning but it was the beginning and I was focused on putting days together. Guess the “not having fun” is just another form of “being bored.” Intellectually, I know that meeting friends out and getting lit is not the answer. Know I can’t have just one. Hell, I don’t even pretend I want one. When I tell my husband or friends I am struggling, I say I want a nice BOTTLE of red to go along with the new chill in the air. I loved the way a nice buzz would break up an afternoon or evening, either speeding it up or slowing it down. Everybody drinks for the effect. Normal peeps unwind at the end of the day or celebrate their birthdays with booze. Normal peeps may pop a xanax if they are having a hard day. So, I get it. I am not normal. But what are us boozehounds to do for fun without the booze?

When I hear people talk about “sober fun” I want to run to the nearest exit in the church basement or hang up the phone. What I want is fun, straight up. I mean, bowling. Hell no. Didn’t enjoy it when I could do it while drinking a few cold pilsners so I don’t want to do it now. I am ready for the time when I’ll be ready to go out to dinner and have friends over on the weekend, but I’m not there yet. 

Sometimes I wish my bottom was a little lower. When I quit, I was drinking a bottle of wine a night, give or take a glass or two, still having people over and going out with friends. Most of the time, things were okay, but the unpredictable or rather more predictable blackout was putting a damper on this. And oh yeah, that moral hangover was worse than the physical one. Bottom line, drinking is not an option for me. I am incredibly thankful to be clear-headed and present for my children in the evenings. It’s just that this being present and clear-headed gig is also not much fun.

When I was feeling a little squirrelly today, I decided to try to put it into words. It’s difficult to do. This site and the women who share on their blogs or post comments have been a tremendous help in me making it this far. Want to say a huge thanks to all of you for putting your words out here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

30 Days

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

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

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

My hopes were crushed nearly every time.

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

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

I lasted a week.

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

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

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It Wasn't Supposed To Be This Way

***Submitted by Kristen

I didn't wake up one day at 15 and say, "I think alcohol and bulimia are going to be great ways to destroy my life, ruin my friendships, tear apart my family, destroy my marriage and change the life of my innocent child," but all of those things did happen and I am lost, afraid, alone and hopeless.....

I will skip all of the teenage, college and 20-something antics that were "fine" when I was single. I was able to go out nightly, tie one on, wake up (sometimes with a stranger), wash myself off and go to work. I thought nobody noticed, but I knew I looked awful land stank of booze.   I continued this behavior for a long long time..... I moved from DC to NY, back to DC....any time I burned too many bridges my loving parents were always there to bail me out and give me a fresh start.

I met the man I was going to marry at 28 and he seemed stable and secure and exactly what I needed to finally calm down. He was aware of my faults and flaws and married me anyway. We quickly moved to Colorado (I believe he was trying to get me away from my family and have some control over me) It worked! Our relationship quickly became that of a parent and child. I had to turn in receipts, sneak bottles of vodka and wine into the house.... I would drink while he was on call and be hammered when he got home. We would fight, sleep in separate rooms, I would apologize and it would be forgotten....until it happened again a few weeks later. This went on for a long time.

Two and a half years into our marriage we finally got pregnant with my son. I was able to stay sober and healthy during my pregnancy (I would never be able to forgive myself if I harmed him). After he was born, something strange and bizarre clicked on inside me and I had to drink. I had to drink while I was home with him during the day, while I was up with him at night....I had to drink just to get through every moment. I never went to a Dr. to talk about PPD, because my husband was a Dr. and he told me it was all a farse!

Life got really bad towards the end of our marriage. I could not stop drinking, he could not stop yelling..... finally his threats were serious and he filed for divorce. I was shocked. Nobody had ever followed through with anything like this before. I skated by for so many years on it was real. I moved out (he could afford the mortgage on our home and I wasn't able to pay that) and we split custody of our son. I still have so much guilt for shuffling that little boy around from house to house. I continued to drink because now there was nobody at home to yell at me or tell me no. I drank around my son, I was hungover at activities with my son...I was an awful mother that he didn't deserve.

Finally, in August of last year, I finally hit my rock bottom and got a DUI.    It was awful, shameful and embarrasing and I cannot believe I drove drunk.   I always drank at home, but since I had been serial dating and wanting to feel loved and needed by men, I was out quite a bit at that time. My ex husband found out (I have no idea how) and we now have 60-40 custody until I can prove myself. I am taking antabuse, going to court mandated therapy and still am awaiting the repurcussions of the DUI. How does a Marketing professional with a "great looking" life get to this point?!?! Interlock in my car, impending punishment, probation????

So now, here I sit..... with so much guilt and shame. This happened in April and I was unable to finally quit drinking until August 5, 2010. I have no idea why, but that was the day I decided it was over. What kind of mother puts the bottle in front of her 4 year old son? What kind of mother does that? The brain disease of alcoholism was so damn powerful that my little boy didn't take precedence over getting drunk. I have been struggling with so much guilt and shame since April and I have moments when I don't want to go on..... but I still stay sober.

Will I ever be able to forgive myself?   I want my son to be proud of me one day and not remember this shell of a person I was.   I have to blow in my car to start it (and tell him it's for safety), and am at the mercy of my ex husband for the next year (he still has that control he always wanted).   It is totally in my hands to succeed or fail. Failure isn't an option for me. There is no "plan B".   I must succeed.   I hope and pray that this will all be a distant memory and my sober future will be amazing and filled with promises.