Friday, December 31, 2010

God Grant Me

***Submitted by Kristin

I didn't mean for this to happen.

I guess no one does, but I really didn't. Because I should know better.

Hi, I'm Kristin.

My family has a history with addiction. Mostly alcohol. And they say this disease can be genetic. But in the nature versus nurture game, I thought I was in the clear. My parents both quit drinking before I was born. Years before I was born. So I never saw the addiction, never learned the addiction.

I thought I was in the clear.

But I'm not. And I need to come to terms with that.

Because I've got a kid that I love more than anything. Me? I hate to say it but I'd gamble if it were just me.

But it's not.

I read recently that SIDS deaths increase drastically on new year's day. Because caretakers are too drunk to manage putting their kids to sleep properly.

And while I want to judge and shame those parents, I can't. I've been drunk in the year since Alex was born. Too drunk. I don't drink every day and so I tell myself I'm "ok".

But when I drink?

It's a lot. It's unhealthy. It's too much.

Sometimes? I can't remember.

Sometimes? I black out.

And I'm scared.

Scared of what I might do. Scared of what I did do. Scared of saying the words "I need to quit."

Because I'm ashamed. I'm so ashamed I can't handle this. I'm ashamed that I'm not better than some stupid gene in my body.

I do so well sometimes.

But doing well just gives me an excuse to tell myself I'm ok.

And then I get together with friends and they refill my glass. To be nice. And they refill it again. Because I am drinking so quickly. I start to lose track of how many times they refill it. I'm not doing it myself! It's ok if I'm not doing it myself, right?

But still, it gets done.

And eventually, I start to do it myself. Even though I know better. Because I'm too drunk to care.

And my son sleeps. I don't drink while he's awake. Which makes it ok, right?

Please God, I pray, let him stay asleep. Let him be safe. Because he is not safe with me now. Please don't let him need me to care for him because I'm not equipped to right now. Let him stay asleep and be safe.

Praying that prayer? Is disgusting. Knowing this, why can't I tell them to stop pouring? Why I can't I tell them what I am?

Here's a secret: I relished being pregnant. Not only was I growing a beautiful life inside me, but no one pressured me to drink.

Well, one person pressured me to drink.

But he didn't really want to be around me while I was pregnant anyway. Getting pregnant lost me a friend. Well, not really a friend. A drinking buddy.

While I was pregnant I didn't have to explain to people that I couldn't drink because I can't control myself. I didn't have to tell them how awful I am with it.

But I'm going to have to start explaining. Because I can't be pregnant forever. And I can't keep drinking.

Why can't I tell people what I am? Because of my shame. I want to be normal. I put on a good act most of the time.

But I'm not normal. And I don't think people will understand that. I think they'll try to talk me out of quitting. Or they'll just stop talking to me altogether because who wants one of THOSE in their life?

Those that do understand how I am? Calling myself a drunk would be calling them drunks too. And that would just be impolite.

Hi, I'm Kristin. And I still can't say it.

I feel like saying it would let my parents down. They worked so hard to never bring this into my life. But I slid here anyway.

But I have to say it.

Because I'm not safe. Because I don't want to die. Or endanger anyone else. Or lose my husband. Or put my child at risk. Or lose a child to SIDs because I'm too drunk to care for them.

I hate myself when I wake up the morning after drinking. I cry copiously. I apologize to my husband. Profusely, I apologize to him. I hate that I drank so much. I hate that I don't remember how much I drank. I hate me.

I've sworn it off before. But it doesn't stick because I can't admit to my friends what I am. Maybe I haven't wanted to admit it to myself either.

Hi, I'm Kristin. And I'm an alcoholic.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grieving and Growing

*** Submitted by Robin who blogs at Diet Coke on the Rocks

I've been told that typically when someone asks you to lead an AA meeting, you just so happen to be going through a tough time in your life and leading is the LAST thing you want to do, but you do it anyway because you were asked, and you want to be of service.

I was asked 2 weeks ago, to lead my home group meeting last Wednesday.

I didn't have any trouble going on in my life, but I have to admit....I DID NOT want to lead, from my fear of speaking in public. But just like the others before me, I agreed to do it, both to address my fears, put the task in God's hands, and to be of service to alcoholics hearing my story. Maybe it would help someone. I could only hope.

What I didn't expect to happen was spend a week revisiting my "what it was like" aspect. I got a big ol' dose of my remember when?'s. And that in itself was a scary, mournful journey. A journey I went through for grief, growth and perseverance.

Now that I'm sober, and I've got a year under my belt, it's real easy to sugarcoat what it was like. But the truth of the matter is that it had to get to a place bad enough for me to say that's enough! And those harsh memories are what have been slipping away. And anyone who has some time under their belt will agree, that's dangerous territory. That's the perfect recipe for relapsing. For failure. For going back.

When I drank, I sleptwalked. I was a sleepwalker? Whatever, you get it. My husband and I thought it was something that always occurred with me from younger days, and typically found it pretty funny. I had episodes where I got up out of bed and crawled under the dining room table, claiming it was cozier under there. One time, definitely not funny HA HA but rather, OMG can you believe it?, I lifted up our bedroom tv (19 inch tube tv), dropped it on the floor in front of the dresser, and walked out of the room. Rick, startled out of his sleep and now in panic mode, followed me out of the room and asked me what I was doing? Actually, I think it was more like, What the hell do you you think you are doing? My response? I was redecorating the room. makes complete sense, right? The next morning I didn't even know it had happened. Until I saw 50 pieces of plastic sitting on the floor.

So, looking back, one can see how sleepwalking can just be a quirky thing a person goes through. But it wasn't. It wasn't, when it started involving my kids. One time I randomly grabbed Avalon from her crib in my sleep, walked into my bedroom, and attempted to put her in bed with us. Except, on our way there, sleeping of course, my pajama pant belt loop got caught on the door handle and I tripped. Holding Avalon. Somehow (thank you God), when I fell, I cradled her just so, that neither she was injured nor did I crush her. I woke up upon hitting the floor and was stunned at what had just happened.

Several types of these occasions happened, and I started putting 2 and 2 together, and sleepwalking episodes always occurred on nights I had a lot of alcohol or usually specifically, tequila. Margaritas. So, I had been sleepwalking since I can remember, but also drinking since I can remember.

The guilt part of it sets in when I look back and remember that it took much more than 1 sleepwalking incident to scare the shit out of me and quit drinking. I endangered my kids! It seemed so innocent at the time...i wasn't drinking and driving. I was sleeping. In my own home. I guess it took me some time to figure it all out, but the fact that I put my children in any danger, still weighs so heavy on my heart.

Plus, I could've dropped the TV on one of them! Or my cat!

I stopped drinking. I changed the behavior. I am now present for my kids in every way that I should be. But I frequently thank God for watching over me and my children during that time period, I thank him for forgiving me, and I ask him to continually work on my heart to get me to a place of acceptance.

I guess being asked to lead that meeting was meant to be for a reason. My healing. One step at a time.

I am getting there.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One Good Day

*** Submitted by Anonymous

When I got sober, all I wanted was one good day.

One day free of the obsession to drink; my mind was like a prison.  I couldn't enjoy anything I did, because that voice was a constant stream in my head:  when can I drink, do I have enough, will I be able to keep it in control, where did I hide that bottle.

Nothing was more important to me than drinking - not my family, not my kids, not my friends. Nothing.  

I've been sober three years now, and life is so much better.   It took me a while to lose the obsession after I got sober.  The first four or five months that voice still nagged at me:  c'mon, you can have just one, you weren't that bad.    I hung on for dear life, believing those people who had walked the path before me that it would get better, if I could just give it time.

Eventually, the voice quieted, and life without alcohol became my New Normal.

Now, three years sober, my life is very full.   My business is thriving, my kids are doing well, my marriage is back on track.   I work on my sobriety - I go to meetings, I connect with other alcoholics in sobriety, I try to have gratitude.

For the most part the desperate, broken woman I was when I got sober feels very far away.   I'm grateful for this, but it also scares me.   I don't want to lose sight of how awful it was to live in that mental prison - how dark and small my world was when I was drinking.

The holidays are hard, though.   When the kids and I were decorating the tree this year, I missed alcohol a LOT.    This would be so much more fun with a glass of wine, I thought.   

Alcohol is everywhere.   Billboards, television commercials, magazine ads - everywhere I look I see images of happy people drinking.   It makes me sad; I miss alcohol like a long-lost lover.   

My first sober Christmas was really hard.   I couldn't enjoy the festivities, because I couldn't imagine having fun - ever again - without alcohol.    The first Christmas was, well, endured.     But, like I was promised, it got better.    My second Christmas sober wasn't nearly as hard as the first.   I know how to keep myself safe - I bring my own car to a party, so if I feel itchy I can leave.   I stay close to other alcoholics in recovery so I can remember that I'm not alone.   

Thoughts of a drink cross my mind, though, especially this time of year.   I can start to feel like the only person on the planet who can't enjoy just one freaking glass of wine in front of a roaring fire.   The only thing that I have found that makes those feelings go away is to talk about it.    I can't deny the sadness I feel sometimes, but I can talk to other people who understand, and together we make it through.

Mostly, though, I remember that dark prison in my mind.   When nothing else works, I remember how awful that obsession was - how it nagged at me constantly, and robbed me of all the light in my life.   It took my self-esteem, it took my love, it took my hope.    I don't ever want to go back there again.

So as hard as it is this time of year, I am grateful that the voice isn't there.   Sure, I feel sadness that I can't drink, but the feeling always passes.    I'm present for my kids this year - I can decorate the tree, make a snowman, read a story or play a game with them and not feel that constant tug to go drink.    I never, ever, thought that day would come.

When I got sober all I wanted was one good day.  Today almost every day is good.   The times that are hard?  They are just moments.    I can survive a few bad moments.    It's a small price to pay to be free of the obsession.

I also have to remember that for all the hoopla about Christmas - you know what it is?   It's just one day.

One good day.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2 Years

*** Submitted by Off Her Sauce

730 days ago I took my last drink. Gin poured into a sobe bottle. I took the bottles into the living room, away from the lights of the kitchen and poured at least an inch worth of gin into the bottle. I don't like gin. It tastes like Christmas trees. But it was all I had and I drank it anyway.

I drank it, knowing full well it would be my last drink for awhile. Possibly forever. I drank enough that night to have a buzz, but not get drunk.

I haven't had a buzz since. I've wanted one. I have desired the escape of a few glasses of wine. The softening of my shoulders, the slowing of my breath, the fogging up of my brain. I have fantasized about it even.

But I haven't experienced it.

A few weeks ago the topic of my meeting was Relapse. I almost didn't go, flippantly thought, Oh, I'm all past that now. Wrong. As I listened to the speaker I became a little angry. I became a little wistful. I again wanted that imagined freedom of a buzz. I left my meeting and went to a friend's house. She is a new friend, we have become close this fall. But sometimes things just click and you know when folks are legit. She is that friend.

I sat on her couch and slowly my feelings came to the surface, came bubbling out. I was feeling sorry for myself. Feeling like life was unfair, that I had the 'right' to drink. Now T doesn't know my whole story, or the instances of the very worst drinking. But she knows enough to know that I go to meetings and I collect chips and I can say with certainty "I am an alcoholic."

She asked my why would I want to go back there? Why would I want to go back to the pit I had been rescued from? Why would I want to lay awake at night in a panic, wondering what I had said and to whom? Wondering if I had flirted too heavily, laughed too loud, shown too much? Trying to remember how I had gotten home, if anyone from work had seen me, or if I had kissed my kids good night.

Yeah, NO, I don't want to go back there. I do not miss those types of feelings. Of inadequacy and shame and fear and sadness. Such sadness.

So here I sit, 2 years sober. My shame is gone. My smile is genuine. As are my tears. I still struggle and I still seek out help. I'm not even going to tell you how many text messages I send and receive in a given month. I have surrounded myself with strong friends, some of whom have walked this road ahead of me, many who walk alongside of me and a few that I hope to lead into the light. Things are easier with my extended family and my friend that has been praying for ripple effects might be seeing some fruit from her labors.

I told my sponsor this morning- my recovery doesn't define me anymore. It is a part of who I am, not all that I am. There are even days I forget what I have been through.

But today is not one of those days. Today is December 16, 2010 and I have been alcohol free for 2 years. 24 months. 104 weeks. 730 days.

My friend T sent me a note of encouragement this morning. Part of it reads:

My prayer for you today is that you hold steadfast in your journey to serve God through your family, friends, work and church. I pray that you remember only enough of your PAST to keep you focused on your PRESENT ministry, knowing full well that your FUTURE is secure in the grace and love of your Lord, Jesus Christ!
Two down...a lifetime to go. Continue on, taking one step at a time, allowing Him to carry you on the days your weakness seems too great.

Here we go..................

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Behind The Glass

***Submitted by Ellie, and originally posted at One Crafty Mother

The house is still, quiet.  I should be sleeping.  

In a moment I'll head up to bed, but I treasure this time alone.   I lie on my couch in the semi-dark, and I breathe, sifting through moments from the day and savoring them like sweet treasures.

Tonight, though, my mind is tugged to you ..  the woman quietly crying, wondering how she ended another day with a glass in her hand, a nearly empty bottle calling to her from the kitchen.

You promised yourself tonight would be different.   You woke up feeling strong, determined, your softly pounding head thumping a beat to your misery.  Not tonight, you swore to yourself.    No more. 

Then four o'clock comes around, and the kids are edgy, restless.   You can't bear to fetch one more snack, answer one more unanswerable question.   You are bored, exhausted and empty.    There is homework to be done, dinner to prepare, endless nighttime rituals to perform.    The thought of giving the kids a bath without the soothing effects of wine seems preposterous, cruel.

Just one, you say.   Just something to dull the edges.   You want to find that loving place, the one full of warmth and light.  

You don't drink the glass all the way down before you fill it up, just a little.   Then a little more.   Then one with dinner.   When your husband steps out of the room for a bit, you drink one down quickly.   Just one.

That soft warmth turns prickly; the kids won't go to sleep, your husband makes a remark that settles on you wrong.   Just another sip or two, to push back the edginess, only enough to get back to the soft place.

You notice the bottle is almost gone.   You've done it again.

Tomorrow, you are telling yourself.   Tomorrow will be different.   

I'm thinking about you tonight, because the tomorrows will keep coming.   And coming.   In their wake they will leave the shattered remains of broken promises to yourself.  Everyone's needs are met but yours; you are left empty-handed, helpless and scared.

You have a secret.  You are looking at the world through glass.   I know, because I've lived there, too.   You press your nose up against its cool, tear streaked surface and you wonder:   what is wrong with me?  

You are dancing on that thin line between keeping it all together and falling apart.    The world doesn't know, but you do.   

You know.

You have built a house of cards around the not-knowing, but you do know.   You do.

I don't drink and drive, I only drink at night, I only drink wine,  I'm not the one falling down drunk at a party, not like so-and-so.  I need to drink to be creative.  To socialize.  To be a more patient mother.   

You look at your life the way the world sees you, instead of looking from the inside out.   Through their eyes, you look fine.  If you look good through their eyes, you must be okay, right?   The world can't see the glass, so as long as you keep moving you can pretend it's not there.

You have created the perfect movie set - props artfully arranged to present the perfect picture.   

And you?  You are in the audience, at a safe distance, watching your life play out on the screen.

I'm thinking of you tonight, as I listen to the creaks and groans of my old house, and hear my dog's contended sigh as she settles down for the night.   The clock ticks softly; the refrigerator hums.    I am here, just listening.   Just being.  

This sounds so small, so insignificant.    But it's not small to me.  There is no glass, you see.    The glass is gone. 

How do you make it stop?  How do you make the endless tomorrows stop coming?  That is what you want to know.

You make the endless tomorrows stop coming by being in today.   It's the only today you've got.

You can opt out, disappear behind the glass, or you can feel it.   All of it. 

Listen to those things you tell yourself; examine each card in that house you've built.    Turn it over, really look at it, and ask yourself: is this about living my life, or about hiding from it?

After you've been living behind the glass it's frightening to be on stage with the starring role in your own life.  The glare of the spotlight, the endless eyes watching you, expectantly; it is all overwhelming.   It will make you want to hide.   You will feel raw, vulnerable, exposed, uncomfortable.   

But only for a while.    With time you stop seeing the spotlight, stop wondering what the eyes are thinking.  You will feel comfortable, just being.    It will happen.

In order to be free of the glass, though, you have to admit it's there, and that it is slowly suffocating you.

That's a good place to start.


Monday, December 6, 2010

6 Months Sober - What It Is Like Today

*** Submitted by Leslie

I decided to quit drinking 6 months ago. Actually, I decided to quit years ago, but I actually stopped 6 months ago. It is the holiday season and I must admit it is hard right now. When the darkness falls and the candles are softly glowing, fire snaps and crackles from the fireplace, white lights twinkling on the tree; what would be more perfect than the oaken scent of a golden chardonnay swimming in sparkling glass with a long delicate stem. OK, in reality, I would have found a reason to ‘celebrate’ well before the sun set. By evening, I would be on my third, lacking the motivation to fetch wood for the fireplace. I might switch over to a proper wine glass near dinner time, but a tumbler has been a more discreet option for the afternoon. Honestly, I don’t care if the wine is chilled or not, and I won’t stop at a glass. I will more likely nearly polish off a 1.5 liter before I fall asleep on the couch ‘watching’ SNL or some other show I won’t quite remember in the morning.

This drunkenness doesn’t suit me. This is not what I aspire to be as a wife, as a mom, as a daughter, as a friend, as me. I don’t feel authentic or whole and I haven’t for a long while. Truly, I am an imposter who pretends to be a social drinker, always lively and fun to be around. But when I wake to a foggy head, grateful that my tolerance has mitigated a full blown hangover, I am afraid. Who noticed how much I drank? Did I say anything stupid or offensive? Did I slur, did I stumble, did I fall? Is my husband annoyed or disappointed, even embarrassed? Am I the topic of conversation amongst my friends? And scariest of all, did my kids know I was drunk?

We are a beautiful family. How dare I continue to take the risk of delivering the damage of alcoholism. I have driven drunk, I have passed out on the couch at night, awoken by the warmth of my piss soaking through the cushions. I have crawled in with one of my boys for a quick good night snuggle, trying to avert the direct current of my wine stained breath, only to wake beside him in the morning, still in my clothes from the day before. I want to believe that they are young enough to not quite notice, to believe my explanations. I want to believe that all of the love and goodness of our family has outweighed any impact from my drinking.

And so I find myself here on a therapist’s couch, keenly aware that I am running out of time as an imposter. I am on the verge of being discovered by everyone around me, from me and within me. I know people are starting to talk and it pisses me off. As I sit here today, talking once again with my therapist about my intention to stop drinking, he asks the million dollar question. “What is it going to take for you to move from this place of contemplating sobriety to actually achieving sobriety?” I stop breathing and drop my face to my trembling hands. In that moment, I see my little boy’s face looking at me with confusion and sadness in his eyes. “Mommy, why do you drink so much wine?” he asks my panicked soul. With my breath I release my tears, my fears, my denial and all of my resistance. My time has run out, I will do whatever it takes to be stop drinking.

So I find myself here on this December eve, romanticizing the allure of golden, oaky chardonnay and I ask myself “who am I to flirt with such fantasy?” I remember with gratitude that I lost that privilege long ago.

Today, December 6th 2010, marks the anniversary of 6 months of sobriety.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Growing Up In Alcohol

*** Submitted by TheActOfReturningToNormal

My dad always drank too much. According to my mother, this had always been the case, but she didn't recognize the signs, because no one in her Mennonite family ever drank. I didn't know anything about this until I was ten, although I have earlier memories of being anxious and uncertain because my dad sometimes acted strangely. When I was eight neighbors would come over and get loud after the kids went to bed. At some point during these get-togethers my dad would come into my room to retrieve my violin. I would pretend to sleep as I heard them trying to play it as a fiddle. This really worried me. Partly, it was because it was my violin and they weren't playing it right (I was trained in classical violin) and somehow it tarnished my love for play. The other part was that it didn't seem right for grown ups to act this silly (read: stupid). I just couldn't understand it. I can also remember listening to my parents talk some nights after we'd gone to bed. During these conversations my dad would explain my mother to herself. My mom would talk. My dad would talk over her. These weren't loud conversations, but something about them made me uneasy. It was like my mom wasn't allowed to speak for herself.
By aged ten, I'd seen my dad stumble around drunk. I'd seen him sit in his chair, alone in the living room, balanced precariously between consciousness and unconsciousness. I'd seen my mom beg him to go to bed. And I'd started to realize his promises were empty - we never did any of the things he said we would do. As a result, I was always anxious and only found relief when I escaped into books. Because I never knew when I'd have my dad around, instead of that weird drunk guy, I felt alone. Because my mom already had so much to worry about, I never felt I could turn to her to talk about my fears. In the absence of friends, which I avoided making, I read all the time. Escaping into a world of fiction was the only thing that relieved the pressure. Later, I would discover food. By twelve I was overeating to cover my feelings of stress and loneliness. By fourteen, I knew I had to be thin as well, so I over-exercised, and learned to purge. Bulimia became a full time compulsion. When my parents finally divorced, I was already locked into the behavior and couldn't stop, even though I was desperately unhappy and knew it was wrong. I didn't realize at the time that this was my first addiction. When I did stop at eighteen, I simply removed the behavior from my repertoire of coping mechanisms. I did not deal with anything that had driven me to do it in the first place.

Alcohol was never discussed in my house. We avoided and denied. We all pretended everything was fine. From my perspective, we each lived solitary lives in our house. We were more like roommates who were never in the house at the same time than like a family. I felt responsible for my brothers because they were younger. I hated my dad. I yelled at him and called him names whenever he was drunk and wanted me to talk to him. I worried endlessly about my mother, who was so stressed out that she started fainting with regularity. My worst nightmare was that she might die and leave us alone with my dad.

I now realize that these circumstances are not unique. As a child and in early adulthood, I oscillated between thinking everyone else had a better childhood and thinking it wasn't so bad, that others had it much worse. My dad was a quiet drunk for the most part. He didn't physically or sexually abuse us. As far as I can remember, he rarely yelled at us, though I know we were all afraid of him, but my memories are hazy and incomplete.

I truly believed I would never become an alcoholic. I hated my father with intensity and blamed everything on his drinking. For most of my childhood I hoped and prayed he would stop. I thought if he could only stop drinking we could have a normal family. By the time he finally did quit drinking, we lived in a different city and I began to forget what it had been like. I didn't drink in my teens. I couldn't bear the idea of becoming like he was. There seemed to be nothing cool in doing what he had done. I married (at 18) and later divorced (at 22) a man who had grown up with an alcoholic father. With my divorce, something shifted, and I felt l'd missed out on all of the fun everyone else had been having in college. I started to drink when I went out with friends. Sometimes I was moderate and sometimes I went too far. I spent the next ten years going overboard and then cutting back. I convinced myself that what I was doing bore no relationship with what my father did. I was always able to stop after an embarrassing episode, until suddenly I couldn't.

When I first realized I was an alcoholic about six months ago, I thought it was a fairly new thing...I estimated maybe four years. Tops. My math was predicated on the fact that "everyone" drinks too much in college, that I stopped drinking for both pregnancies, that when my kids were little I moderated. In looking back more honestly, I can see that each of those college, alcohol-induced, shameful moments were part of this whole. The bottle had me from the very start. I drank to hide, to soothe, and to escape from myself from the beginning.

I look at my daughters now and I sincerely hope against hope that changes I'm making now will provide some immunity for them from alcoholism and eating disorders. It saddens me to see signs of my childhood in their reactions to things, in the way they describe themselves, and in their concern for me.

If I can do one thing in this life, it would be to break the pattern so they can grow into strong women, who can trust themselves.