Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Challenges and Gifts of New Sobriety

***Submitted by Kim

I recently quit drinking because I knew there was no other choice. I have 3 kids and I would binge drink every other night and sneak cigarettes on top of it. Talk about feeling like shit. Meanwhile I went to the gym 5 days a week and ate very well..go figure..does not make much sense. I also started to get short with my kids because I was always tired from waking up in the middle of th night and mentally beatig myself up for doing it again. I was not being the best mom and wife that I was meant to be because of my dirty little secret and I wanted to make sure that I will be around for my family and be happy and healthy.

I do think however that it is a challenge to stay sober when so many activities involve alcohol and many people can have a few drinks and be fine but not me..I will start with the intention of having "a" drink and once that first one hits my lips I can't get now enough is enough. I am finding it hard to engage in the activities that I used to without the drinks it seems boring, I mean something like going to a ball game or going to a cookout or having one of our many cookouts. Even sitting on the patio on a beautiful evening is not the same without a Bud light in my hand.

When you drink it is easier to talk to people, to be social, to laugh, to tell jokes..but when you are an alcoholic it is also easier to make a fool of have to check you text messages and see who you called last night and it is easier to wonder what damage you did last night in one of your dumb drunk conversations. When you are an alcoholic you think no one notices but they all do and they just don't know how to tell you..for everytime you go to any function you over talk too say dumb things..and you inevitably wake up with a hangover and swear off alcohol only to get right back in within days.

I think if you remember all of the reasons to stay sober it will make it easier..things like remembering tucking your kids into bed at night..sitting with them to read a book instead of sneaking out front for a smoke...getting up in the morning and feeling great that you did not drink last night..getting rid of that little gut that you got from drinking..not having to starve yourself because you drank a million calories worth of alcohol last night..knowing that everyday your body is getting healthier and healthier...not obsessing about the fact that what you are doing is a train wreck in the making....and lastly knowing that you don't have to look in the mirror with shame because you know that what you are doing is totally wrong and could ruin your life and your health.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Judgment Games

***Submitted by Susan, who blogs at Writing My Way Sober

I read this in the newspaper yesterday:

Police said they arrested a young mother after she abandoned her 2-year-old son at the side of a busy street on Tuesday. The woman who rescued the boy, said she found the toddler crying on Irving Boulevard and Prescott Drive at 3:15 p.m., and stopped to help him."I think he's not 2 ½ years old and he was just crying and crying and crying. He said, 'I don't want to be with my mom anymore,'" When she asked the boy where his mother was, he pointed at a woman walking unsteadily away from them."She was weaving all over the road. She was walking, but she was going all over the road."

Police said they found the boy's mother, a 21-year-old passed out at home. Officers said they couldn't even wake her up, so they had to call the paramedics. Police said that the mother's blood alcohol content was .29 -- four times the legal limit.
My first reaction after reading this was instant judgment. I felt intense anger at the mother and equally intense sadness for that little boy. I was self-righteous. Indignant.

Then I remembered that she and I share the same disease. My anger skidded to a humbled stop.

I started to wonder about that 21 year old girl. What has her life entailed? She was only 18 when she got pregnant. There is a good likelihood she comes from a severely alcoholic family. I wonder how old she was when she had her first drink? I wonder who gave it to her? Why did they give it to her? I wonder if she is all alone in this world.

I've been wanting to write a post for some time on how happy I am that my 6 year old daughter no longer pretends she is drinking. She has not "played drinking" for months. Out of all the benefits of sobriety, this, hands down, is the best. She used to say, "I'm drinking wine, Mommy", or, "This is vodka.", sippy cup in hand. My response? Chuckling, rationalizing it away. Within deeply ashamed denial, I would simply adopt the logic that Europeans who aren't as alcohol-phobic have lower rates of substance abuse.

Meanwhile, a fist was clenching tight in my sickened gut, knowing that children of substance abusers have higher rates of substance abuse themselves. Knowing, as a Guatemalan native, my daughter has a higher risk for alcoholism. I would picture her alcoholic future but shake it out of my head. I would imagine losing her to addiction, knowing I couldn't live with the guilt. Did this make me quit? Not right away, no. It was easy to just take another sip - make it all disappear.

How can I, of all people, judge this struggling woman? How?

What I want to do instead is wonder: How can I help her?

Here is my small start....

By not judging her.
By not pretending I am better.
By praying for her, hoping for her, dreaming for her, singing for her.
By continuing to write as honestly as I can about the truth of my own disease.
So that other women like her won't feel so alone.
So they will know that sobriety is possible.
So they can tightly hold their children again - open, whole, and unashamed.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Security and Discomfort

***Submitted by Corinne, who is a regular contributer to Crying Out Now

On any given day, at any given time, my son resembles Charles Schultz's Linus. He carries a blue blankie, warn with love, over his shoulder. It goes in the car, to the doctors office, and most importantly, to bed. It dries tears. It's a soft landing for the roller coaster of emotions that a three year old rides. It's an extension of Fynn.

Paige never took to a blankie. She has one, a matching pink to Fynn's blue, and while she snuggles it occasionally... it's not a necessity in her day.

I was a blankie girl. I had a Special Blanket {as my mother called it...} hand made by my great grandmother; it was made up of two cross stitched deer, a frog, a few birds. A white background that was loved to the point of holes. I slept with it nightly, I snuggled it when frightened, I huddled in various spots with it under my chin. It caught my tears and kept me company at night {my sleepless nights started early... I'm afraid I've passed the restless sleeper gene to my children}

The middle of the blanket, the part where the pattern is still intact, hangs in a pink frame over Paige's bed.

And now, I have a thing for blankets. I sleep on my side, with sheets and quilts atop no matter what the thermostat reads, wrapped over my shoulder and tucked under my chin. I feel secure. Warm. Cozy. Safe.

For long time a blanket wasn't actually a blanket, but a glass or four of red.

Like pulling a blanket under my chin, I swallowed glass after glass during movies that hit a little too close to home. Like Rachel Getting Married. I drank a lot during that movie as I watched it from my living room couch. The wine washed out every thought in my head that led me to believe that there was a problem with how I drank. It cleared the word addiction from my brain. On girls nights out with my mother's group, when talk would come up of an alcoholic or an addict, or someone who had issues in any way with substance abuse, I'd swig whatever was being poured and say wise things and spout off advice to those who wondered. I, after all, have a grandfather who is an alcoholic, so I knew everything.

But really, I knew nothing. Except that I liked my security bottles, and I disliked feeling uncomfortable.

Jillian Michaels has a yoga dvd out in which she says something along the lines of "get comfortable with being uncomfortable". I laugh every time I hear those words.

Part of this sobriety thing is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

A friend let me borrow her copy of Mary Karr's LitIt had been on my to read list for a while, but I never got around to holding it in my hand.

I started it last weekend, and it makes me terribly uncomfortable. I've stopped reading at times because it hits so close to home. It makes me remember, and realize, and think and work through things that I'd long forgotten about. Reasons and memories and the worst... triggers. Reading her words about her journey towards sobriety has me wanting to reach for a drink, wanting to drown the voices that come up and say that's me... that's why I did... and do... and... and... and...

Reading Mary Karr's words I revisit places I'm so thankful I'm not currently inhabiting.

And it makes me remember that while each of our stories of alcoholism, recovery, sobriety, are unique and individual - there are so many similarities. There are these recognizable traits, threads that are sewn through us to tie us drunks together.

Mary Karr writes "...the scared self holds on while the reasoned one lets go." as I read those words I'm reminded how scared I am of relapse, of going back, of the fragility of sobriety {I think I mentioned that last bit in a post not that long ago...} I'm holding on because I'm scared.

I'm finding myself holding a blanket more often than not while reading Lit. Whether it's the pink fleece Red Sox blanket my inlaws gave me for Christmas last year, the quilt that lies on my bed that my mother crafted with remnants of childhood dresses and doll clothes, or even Fynn's coveted blue blankie.

Security. I know that I can be secure while being uncomfortable.

It's possible.

I'm glad I'm once again a blankie girl.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Seven Years - Kathy's Story

***Submitted by Kathy, who blogs at Notes from the BRB Queen

On March 30th, I celebrate 7 years of recovery.

Seven years ago I was waking in a bed of my own urine and not caring. Seven years ago I was not able to look myself in the mirror without telling myself what a loser I was. Seven years ago I was going to bed each night praying that God would take me in my sleep, and then waking the next day so angry that I had to do my life one more day.

Seven years ago I was drinking an easy gallon of tequila a day. Most days I would start off with a pint or fifth, but I would always go back for more. If I was awake, I had to be drinking. I could not leave my home unless it was to get more booze, food for the kids or to take them to school.

Seven years ago, I had a suicide plan. I knew that if I drank one more day, I would go through with it. I was a single mother to two children, ages 6 and 17.

I had some time in a 12 Step fellowship 5 years prior. I had gained 9 months of sobriety when I went out and drank with my partner. The courts had ordered him to the fellowship after we had a domestic violence incident. I went to meetings with him because I didn’t want him meeting women. Then it became a contest to see how much more time sober I could get than he. I had 9 months and he had pretty much given up on saying sober but was still going to meetings for the courts. We went away for the weekend (he is my daughter’s father) and I drank with him.

I blacked out the first night of drinking, waking in our hotel room the next morning. From what I hear, I had a great time. I don’t remember a thing. That evening pretty much set off 5 years of the same… drinking, blacking out, waking and starting it all over. Most days I could wait until evening, but in the end I would need to drink close to waking each day.

My relationships were strained to say the least. That man and I had broken up a couple of years prior to my new sobriety date. My children were not happy with me, especially my oldest. I don’t blame him, he had lived with a drunk since his father and I had divorced about 10 years earlier. I was not a nice drunk most of the time.

Seven years ago I called my doctor and went in for some help with my depression. She took one look at me and smelled the boozed coming out of my pores, and told me she would not help me until I checked into the Kaiser outpatient treatment program.

I will never forget that drive from her office to the treatment office. I had to pull over many times because of the anxiety and because I was throwing up. I was so scared, but I knew that if I didn’t make it there I would go through with my suicide plan. I made it though, and I went back each day for meds to detox with and to blow into the alcohol detector. After a week I was detoxed and started a year of outpatient treatment.

During that year I took advantage of everything offered by that treatment program from acupuncture to help with the anxiety to psychiatric services to one on one counseling.

They also required 12 step meeting attendance, which I dove into. I followed the suggestions given by that fellowship and the suggestions that are within its beautiful blue book. While doing the step work for each of those steps I was able to get to know myself a bit more and figure out why I react and do the things I do. In turn, I was able to learn to live life in a manner that does not require me to drink.

My life has not been easy. If I’m being completely honest here, the last year in a half has been hell. My life has fallen apart on many levels. I’m currently battling depression. I’ve lost my grandmother whom was the most important person in my life besides my kids. I’ve had to downsize to a one bedroom home on my parents property for myself and my daughter. I’ve lost my job and in doing so lost a career and am reinventing myself. My grandfather is in the process of passing.

I don’t mention those things to seek pity though. I mention these things to hopefully give hope to those that are still struggling. I have not felt the need to drink through all of these trials. Sure, there have been passing thoughts here and there, but they have been fleeting. They are only fleeting thoughts and not obsessions though.

You see I am an alcoholic. It is the obsessions I have to worry about because if I give in to them they set off the allergic reaction I have to alcohol. If I give in and take a drink my allergy goes into action and my allergic reaction is that I don’t respond to alcohol like normal people do. When I give in to the obsession to drink and put alcohol into my body my body is never satisfied. It wants more. The more I drink to satisfy that craving for more….. the more it wants.

I can’t say it enough. My name is Kathy, I’m an alcoholic and I have an abnormal reaction to alcohol.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brilliant Shards

***Submitted by Kristin, who is a regular contributor to Crying Out Now

Since quitting drinking I have been very fortunate.

I have been lucky that I haven't desperately wanted a drink. I feel spoiled just saying that.

But a lot of that is because every time I even see alcohol I can taste my last hangover in the back of my throat. Still makes me want to vomit. It's something of a powerful deterrent for the time being.

Unfortunately, quitting drinking hasn't been as easy as just not having a drink. I'm doing well with that part. But not having an escape from my feelings? Well, I've got feelings busting out all over.

And my husband bears the brunt of it.

The littlest things set me off now. Simple statements pierce my heart. And there's nothing to do but feel these emotions. There's nowhere to hide anymore.

I used to reach for a bottle when I was nervous or frustrated or angry. And it dulled things. I didn't feel so crazy anymore. Because I can be very, very sensitive and dramatic. I hate that about myself. Alcohol stopped me from feeling like I was coming off nuts. If I did come off nuts? Well, hell, I was drunk! Of course I came off nuts!

So, it was a win-win for me.

Except for the fact that I didn't really know if I'd acted crazy or not because I was too drunk to remember. Whatever, we all know about my forgetting. That's not the point here.

The point is, when Ellie called alcohol a numbing agent, I laughed it off a bit. I was sure I didn't use it to get numb so much as I used it to relax.


Because the littlest things cut me so much deeper now, like shards of glass slipping under my skin. When work is hard or my husband is cranky, I don't have alcohol's waiting arms to run into. I have to stand and face the problem. Or wait it out patiently.

Patient has never been my strong suit.

It's not entirely easy. It's harder to face these issues than it is to not have a drink. The issues are what makes me want the glass of booze. The bottom of a bottle is a good place to hide, I guess.

So, it's hard.

But here's the thing: it's a lot easier to wake up and not be hungover. It's a lot easier to remember what last night's fight was about and to address it with a clear head rather than sweeping it under the rug because you don't want anyone to know you don't remember what you said.

So, as hard as it is, it's easier too.

Plus, I'm losing weight since I'm not consuming all that booze.

So, it's win-win in a new way.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Introduction to Recovery

***Submitted by Jess, who tweets at @AllThingsWell

Hi, my name is Jess. I am 25. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict, recovered from a 7 year eating disorder, and recovered cutter. I must consider this a bit shy of a miracle due to all the hard work I have put into recovery. I can live each day accepting my normal size, and not wondering where or how to get my next drink. I am blessed with three beautiful very young children, whom are one of my major incentives for recovery. I am separated from my alcoholic husband, which is a must in order for my recovery to progress.

I have had many attempts at sobriety. Pregnancy was a great way to stay dry, and try to convince myself that all I needed was to abstain. I could achieve a a year and a half, then a year, then 6 months, then 3, then barely 2 days. My alcoholism was getting worse, although I couldn't recognize it. Consequences were only deterrents. In the end, I could rationalize and believe anything I wanted. I've had some major consequences: car accidents, psych wards, legal, inability to stay in college, children services, very damaged relationships. I relapsed after each one because I couldn't accept that I cannot control my drinking. I was an alcoholic, but different.

I finally got tired. Thus, with no new consequences, I slid into a real sobriety. I threw my arms up, and turned to the only thing I've seen work. AA. I stood at their door very vulnerable, hoping they could do better with me than I could. Although scared, I felt more relieved than I ever had in my life. I could stop fighting myself. The second I let go, and followed their directions, I knew I could stay sober. With that being said, it was hard to not get angry at the fact that I tried with all my might for so long, and theirs worked instantly. It worked well. I felt relieved, happier, and the mental obsession was lifted. Drinking urges still popped up, its only natural, however the sheer obsession was gone.

I never once imagined saying this, but I've found a way. It consists of multiple support people, and following their advice. I still have so much to learn. I haven't been sober very long this time around, but there's more quality in it than all my dry time put together.

Things are not perfect, far from, but I am happy enough to recognize that I never want to go back again.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Her One Year Anniversary .. The Power of the Truth

***Submitted by Claire, who blogs at Self-Reliance Run Rampant
I am only as sick as my secrets

March 31, 2010 was my sobriety date. But the truth is, it isn't.

After years of a heavy wine habit, ending at 2+ bottles a night, I knew I was done drinking. My relapse lasted 11 years. For the last several years, I waited every day to wake up and know that the pain of continuing to drink was more than I could pay to drink. When that day came, I tried to quit. The shakes, sweats, and insomnia were more than I could take. If I could have ripped off my skin, I would have. All I needed was a few days, 3 or so, and I knew I could go from there. I had done it before, but the first time I quit, I hadn't drunk as much for as long.

After confessing to my doctor, he gave me 5 days of librium. I took it for 4 days and got my few days. On Day 6, with my husband traveling, I slipped.

There was a bottle of scotch I intended to take to my mother's house, and despite loathing scotch, I drank myself stupid. I may have puked. We were having our house painted, and I awoke the next morning to the painters knocking at the door, more hungover than I had been in years. It was all I could do to open the door, mumble I was sick, and go upstairs to pass out in the guest room for another six hours. When I awoke, still miserable, they were gone. I was mortified. I was supposed to be working from home, but I hadn't even logged in or checked on my team all day. As we all do, I felt shame and guilt and sick. Librium is supposed to pass out of  your body pretty quickly (it was no accident that it was two whole days after

I'd stopped taking it that I drank), but there still must have been some in me.

I felt like a walking corpse.

And since I had 5 days of sobriety on April 6th, I did what I have always done: rationalize, minimize, deny, and tell no one. I took that slip and buried it deep away, put my happy AA face on and stuck with my original sobriety date story. And while I didn't completely forget, I didn't take that secret out and examine it either.

My drinking was hidden in a cupboard, that is my go to position: hide, lie by omission, and never waver from the original story. I'm just starting to understand how deep and old and reflexive that habit is. It's so deep it
doesn't feel like a habit, it feels like a Prime Directive.

That shit will kill me one way or another. One day this month, while working on my fourth step, I went on the back deck to smoke. As I sat looking over the ridge, anticipating a sober spring and my AA birthday on 3/31, I realized I have a huge lie hanging over my sobriety. As my marriage knits back together, as my Higher Power links me into a sober community that helps me see the folly in my mantra of self-reliance, I risk it with a lie. I had a moment of clarity: Your sobriety date is not March 31st; you have to tell the truth.

Suddenly, I knew I had to tell my sponsor, then, everyone else. The fear of
everyone's disappointment was nothing to the fear that keeping my secret could
lead me back to drinking.

It took me another 2 weeks to actually tell my sponsor. But I did. Of course she understood, it is what people in early sobriety often do. Then I changed my sobriety date in our home group directory. Then I told my husband, then our therapist, and finally the rest of my sober network.

My progress is in confessing my secret. I refuse to allow it and that bitch 'Ism' to have this power over me. I bought her story for the last time on April 6, 2010. I thought I knew I was done on March, 31st. Apparently, I had to research one more night. I never, ever, EVER want to feel that way again.

I am an alcoholic, and my sobriety date is April 7, 2010.

P.S. A day after writing this I went to a meeting. The topic of surrendering our will to our Higher Power came up. I saw my slip and subsequent lie in a different light. It was my will that my sobriety date was 3/31, but God's will that it be 4/7. I think I'll go with God's version.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Alcohol! Oh, The Places You'll Go!

*** Submitted by Mata, who blogs at Mothers Addicted to Alcohol

I was 14 when I first picked up a drink. It was a warm beer, but I felt grown up holding the can. It was a warm beer and I loathed the taste. It was a warm beer and after just a couple of sips my brain ‘switched on’ to a feeling and I was instantly in love.

I was 31 when I first put down a drink. I had been able to stop before during my two pregnancies, but both were nine agonising months of waiting...not for the baby, but for the champagne to celebrate. Since my first drink at the age of 14, alcohol and taken me to places I had never dreamed of. It took me to beds with strangers who weren’t my husband. It took me on wild drunken drives to various bottle shops, seedy bars and nightclubs. It took me to hospital with overdoses of Valium taken during blackouts. It took me to my bedroom for 10 weeks when my kids were just 2 and 4, leaving their care to their Father. In my bedroom, I would sit, watch TV and drink from my beloved cardboard box that contained 4 litres of white wine that tasted even better after each glass. It took me to a ‘lockdown’ detox centre filled with criminals and other ‘drunks’. It took me to a rehabilitation centre filled with other women who were supposedly ‘just like me’. It took my marriage.

After only six months of sobriety I decided it was all too much for me to handle and so I picked up with my lover, alcohol, once again. In just three months, it took me straight back to rehab. This time it nearly took my children off me. I was lucky. I had gotten away with it.

At the age of 32, alcohol took me to AA. Here I learned that I wasn’t alone. It was a disease and I could get help, all I had to be was willing. I was willing for a while, but then I got tired of hearing about my disease. It wasn’t sexy enough for me, so I took myself off and decided I could do this on my own. I took myself on an ‘overseas self-discovery’ tour and managed to find some peace. This peace lasted a while, but slowly it began to fade.

I was 34 when I picked up my relapse drink. This time it took me nine months to get back to a hell that I had never experienced before. If I thought that life was hard for me the first time I got sober, then I really hadn’t seen anything yet. This time alcohol took me straight to hell and I stayed there. It took my mind, my children, my job, my relationship, my life, and this time, I didn’t care. Once again, it took me to hospital after I tried to take my own life. I couldn’t bear to live with myself. I had to die. I thought this was my only escape.

I don’t know what it took to get here today. I guess all I can say is I had family, friends and a team of doctors and therapists who never gave up on me. Above all this, I had my children. Looking into their faces when I was at my very bottom sparked something from very deep within me that told me I had to just hang on. So I did. At first by a fingernail and then by a hand and then before I knew it, I was sitting on top of the cliff. Today, 38 days sober, I am on my knees. I am praying to my God and thanking him for my life.

Alcohol took me to hell and back again. It took me 20 years to realise it was not my friend and it was a selfish lover. Alcohol showed me no mercy and tried to take everything from me, including my life. I have taken the first step to ensure that I can remain sober, one day at a time. This step is simply to say that I am powerless over alcohol. If I can hold onto just that simple notion then alcohol can’t take me anywhere again.