Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forgive Me Bill W.

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


Forgive me Bill W. for I have sinned. It has been almost two years since I attended my last AA meeting. That meeting was at Blogher ’09 with three or four other attendees and was actually one of the highlights of that conference for me. (I wish that I could have attended in 2010 when there was a Serenity Suite and more “out” alkies.)

I feel as if I have to come clean here, I don’t attend AA meetings. I believe in AA and think that it is an amazing program. It is a source of strength and guidance for people who want to stop the madness, including both my parents (doesn’t that make me a “double” winner?). And to be very clear, I am not saying that it is never going to be a part of my life. It just isn’t now and hasn’t been for some time.

I don’t profess to have all (or any) of the answers. My recovery plan has worked for me, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. I am actually very envious of those who have found relationships in AA and who have that fellowship that evaded me. I tried AA. I went to all sorts of meetings five years ago when I first got sober. It didn’t take, but sobriety did.

I didn’t feel the warm embrace that others talk about in AA. I felt “other than” in the one place where I was supposed to be connecting. Everyone was polite and nice, but I felt that social awkwardness that has followed me around my whole life and without a glass or three of wine to help me through it. I went to a number of different meetings at a number of venues and I liked some more than others. I almost felt like people didn’t think that I was a good (or bad) enough alcoholic to take me under their wing. I didn’t know how to connect. I was prepared to feel this way at a cocktail party, but not at meetings.

The well meaning, but overzealous AA members who encouraged me to get a sponsor further tainted my experience with Alcoholics Anonymous. They encouraged to the point of badgering. I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t met anyone who I felt comfortable asking or with whom I might entrust my sobriety. The people that I met just insisted that I didn’t have to marry my sponsor, just chose one. I understand the program and how it works, but the inflexibility that some members showed alienated me. I didn’t need to feel like I was doing AA wrong. I also didn’t get to speak enough in AA. I enjoyed speaker meetings, but I wished that there had been speaking meetings. I didn’t want to be the speaker; I just wanted more of an exchange. Some said that happened over coffee after meetings, but not for me.

Some may say that I am a dry drunk. I don’t know what that means. Others say that I am white knuckling it. I am not. I read about recovery. I write about recovery. I see a therapist. I also attend group therapy with six other members, one of whom is also a recovering alcoholic. This venue offers the free exchange (I get to talk more) that AA doesn’t and allows me to work though my issues with a group of people who support me unconditionally. I don’t take my sobriety for granted ever. And if there comes a time that I feel that I need to head back to the rooms of AA, I will run, not walk, there. My program, such as it is, is just that; mine. It works for me. It makes sense to me. I don’t judge the journey or path of others. We each have our own way of getting where we are going.

The bottom line is that I have more peace in my life than I could have ever imagined, my marriage is stronger than I might have hoped and I haven’t taken a drink in more than five years, so I must be doing something right. Whatever the path, sobriety is not an easy road and any program that helps you stay sober is OK by me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Dry Drunk

***Submitted by Robin, who is a Co-Moderator at Crying Out Now


Two years ago today, I grabbed the life-ring, backed off the ledge, dialed 911 – whatever metaphor you use for that last whimper, the one that slips out after we think we’re already dead, when we don’t have enough breath or soul left for more than a whisper and it’s pointless because we’re sure no one is listening anymore anyway. But someone is, and what that sound really means is that we’re finally ready, finally able to be helped, to let someone pick us up and begin to glue us back together.

Two years ago today, I went to rehab. And that’s when things got tough.

Stumbling and graceless, I went about getting better. In the rehab center, I fattened up. My roots grew out, the Botox wore off: I was real. I sobbed and I hugged, I snuck onto the internet to run up my credit card and ate another girl’s ice cream and lied about it: I was authentic. I was made women’s section leader so I got to stomp around with a flashlight and ask the other women intrusive questions. I begged everyone in my life to send money so that I could stay and stay and stay, wallowing in the only place I’d felt safe in… maybe in forever. It didn’t hurt that I had a private room with my own bathroom and a door that locked.

But eventually I graduated. And that’s when things got tough.

Inside, I’d learned not only how to let everyone else make my decisions for me but I’d learned to like it and now I not only had to run my own life but I had to run my little daughter’s and my dogs’ and also of course my job and my house and my marriage. I learned pretty quickly though that no one expected much, so as long as I kept breathing and didn’t drink or use I could pretty much meet expectations. I gritted my teeth through the firsts: first Christmas, first sober sex, first phone calls, first stumbling social explanations: no, thank you, I’ll have club soda with lime. At my one-year anniversary my sponsor said nice things about me to a room full of women who still didn’t know me very well and we ate cake. That same week I left my long-suffering job (one step ahead of the axe) and took my daughter out of daycare.

I was ready, at long last, to pick up the pieces of my life. And that’s when things got tough.

I had no idea how to be a stay-at-home-mom, how to not work, how to be broke, how to bother to get up in the morning when the only person who would notice was four years old and happy to lie around in her pajamas. I had to find some sort of part-time work, so that brought the inevitable little indignities of job searching, the small accumulating miseries, death by a thousand cuts. And I had no liquid courage, of course, no false bravado freeze-dried into a little pink pill. For someone who was at long last living an authentic life, I felt awfully out of place, an awful lot of the time. Many moments were happy ones, joyful even, quiet and good, but of course the more authentic the moment the less I knew what to do with it, so I was always dizzy and I never trusted anything my feelings told me. They say a liar never believes the truth, and they are right.

Slowly, I began to figure it out. And that’s when things got tough.

Life settled into a rhythm, with its new freedoms, its new restrictions. This ‘anonymous’ thing brings its own limitations. Where I once tucked away my shameful secrets, the bottles and the pocketfuls of pills, I now hide new secrets, ones I’m assured won’t hurt me, the what-I-do-on-Tuesday-nights and where-I-know-you-from kind. I try to remember to journal, to pray, to read my daily meditations. When I do, it all makes sense but, honestly, sometimes it’s all just more gotta-do’s, more chores.

I’m better at a lot of things now, really truly, although I know enough to never say I’m better better. I confess when I err. I think through the action. I don’t hide from life, living like a roach, sticking to the shadows and trying to stay out from under your feet but never trying to make anything better. My house is neater. I don’t fight with my husband too often; it hurts, now that I can feel it. I know the miracles won’t come until I go out and get them, and I intend to, as soon as I finish work and pick up my daughter and go to the library and get the groceries and fix dinner and give her a bath and read books and can I take a shower now? But, wait, I know there was something I was supposed to do …

Life goes on. My demons and I stepped over the two-year mark, hand-in-hand, going to bed one night and waking up the next morning, no fanfare, like always. And things are tough.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My First Time

***Submitted by Anonymous

Last week I googled the words alcoholic-woman-blogs.

I was surprised what the search came up with.

I used to keep a diary, but now find I can't because I won't be telling the whole truth. I can't tell the whole truth to my diary. What if my kids found it, or my husband? What happens when I die and they read the repetitious entries on drinking, dieting, needing to stop drinking, needing to lose weight? The same old story, no growth, no personal development over all those years.

Me, I drink too much. I have always drunk too much. But since maybe 2004, it's been every day. And maybe for the last 3 years, or 4, it's been a bottle of wine a day. And sometimes I add to that. When the bottle is gone, perhaps a shot of hard stuff or something tame, like sherry.

To read the blog entries touched me. I thought, hmm, before I drink I'll read them and it will stop me. It didn't.

I was surprised to read entries from women with stories just like mine, not coming from a tragic background. Educated. In good financial status. And hiding their alcoholism.

Perhaps by writing here I can help myself, because I do want to. I'm a hypocrite, feeling angry at my brother for his alcoholism, the drain it puts on my mother, our family. Why doesn't he just die?

But I'm no better, only luckier. Still undiscovered. Still under cover. Exercising. Preparing healthy meals. Draining the fat from and rinsing the hamburger meat the rare (though less rare) times I cook with it. Eating whole wheat bread and low fat dairy.

Hoping my sons have inherited my husband's non-alcoholic genes, not mine.

I don't live in an English speaking country. I live in a small town. My neighbors' houses are so nearby that I can hear their phones ring and hear them talking. I know about AA. But I can't see myself going there. Not here. Maybe not anywhere.

I admire those writing. Thank you for opening up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Am A Weenie

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

I'm just gonna say it. I'm a weenie white bread* alcoholic. I didn't blackout for days, lose my job or my husband or my family. I didn't rage, hit people or things, dance on bars or even email drunk. I once Facebooked drunk, to an old friend from high school. After that, never again. See, I'm a control freak drunk, not stupid. I learn from my inebriated mistakes. The facade, always maintain the facade.

No one thought I had a problem. Not my mom, not my husband, not my kids. Not even my best friend. She regrets this, but when I finally confessed to her during a visit to California, drunk, that I was drinking too much (and she was there for my first sobriety: '92-'00) she said, "Stop trying so hard to be perfect." Which my mind took as "it's OK to get your drunk on", or something like that. Because she's my best friend I tried hard to not try so hard to be perfect. Which, actually, I don't try to do. The be perfect part, not the get your drunk on part.

Deep down I knew she didn't really know how bad it was, and I didn't confess it that night. I didn't tell her about the 8 little bottles of wine I'd stashed in my suitcase and guzzled down over the evenings I was there: when I went to get her present, when she put her son to bed, when I changed into comfy clothes, when I went to get my cloves out of my purse. In addition to the wine we were drinking, at least two bottles of it. Christ, I could put it away. I gave it a lot of thought too: I made sure I bought the plastic bottles not the glass ones, because the glass ones clink together. The glass bottle clink from your suitcase or from the plastic bag you hastily push into the trash at the gas station will clearly give you away as an alcoholic.

God, I was batshit crazy with the booze and the rituals to hide the booze, and get the booze, and figure out if it was time for the booze yet, and keep track of everyone else's booze consumption, and cover up the booze smell. Oh, and look for people who drank more that me. Always have to have one of those around to compare your insides to, both for yourself (I'm not THAT bad) and your husband (So and So has a problem).

But here's why I am a weenie alcoholic. I am a control freak about appearing drunk. I avoided hard liquor, if possible, because I couldn't control the buzz. I'd be having drinks: feeling fine, fine, fine, DRUNK. Stupid drunk.

So, no hard alcohol, unless there was nothing else to be had. Couldn't really drink beer either. My bladder sucks and it took too much liquid to catch the buzz I needed. Wine buzz I could control. I knew exactly how it would go. It would end in inexplicable bruises on my hips from running into things. Toenails falling off from dropping things (like a hammer) on them and not remembering. Wetting the bed while passed out. Yep-I had that wine buzz under complete control.

I'm also a weenie addiction person because I am an old fashioned alcoholic.

Again, control freak. I didn't want a high from any drug getting in the way of my buzz. Can't smoke pot, end up too paranoid. Tried just about all of the drugs one can without sticking a needle in my arm over the years, and talk about a hassle to get ahold of. I didn't need to get illegal about freezing out my feelings when I could walk into Costco and fix myself just fine with a swipe of my credit card. I wasn't looking to obliterate, just remove myself from the picture a bit, take the edge off, relax. And the only way I knew to do that quickly, without a lot of extra effort, was a drink. Because a significant hallmark of the weenie drunk is drinking alone, at home.  For safety's sake. No driving, no huge bar bills, no potential for inappropriate sex with strangers (back in the single days). No counting drinks, your own or others. Just you, the couch, a good supply of your drink of choice, and a nice bed to black-out in.

I've been thinking about this weenie thing a lot during this first year of sobriety post relapse.  I know a lot of women who are going to AA meetings for the first time. Where you see folks that had to lose more than you did to get sober. Have more amends to make. Are shaking more. Are twitching more. Are crying more. Are taking the bus to get to meetings.

It's hard not to look at those folks and feel like a white bread weenie. To imagine what they must think when they look at me. To not compare myself and wonder why it didn't have to get that bad. But it was that bad. I have the half grown back toenail to prove it. I may look like white bread on the outside, but I was a wino on the inside through and through.

* The Co in me that wants to control your feelings usually avoids the use of any term that may be politically incorrect. I get that white bread can have racial connotations, and I chose the term for several reasons, one which is that I am, well, caucasian. I'm not sure who could be offended by ME calling MYSELF white bread, but this is the WWW. So just for the record, I googled slang and "white bread". This is the first definition that comes up and is exactly what I mean by the term: white bread, adjective (onlineslangdictionary.com): bland, uninspired, boring, or insipid. Especially used to describe "middle-American" mores, people, etc. Derogatory description of things that are naively wholesome, suburban, and middle class. Example, Donna Reed and Harriet Nelson were incredibly white bread women.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Crossing Over

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

I was at a party with a bunch of other Moms the other night, and I ran into me.


The party wasn't in my home town, and I only knew one or two people. I was introduced to an attractive woman, someone I had never met before, and we got to chatting. It was early in the evening and guests were still arriving, cheeks flushed from the cold. The line for alcohol was ten deep. I was grateful for the distraction of meeting someone new; the first half an hour or so of a party is always the most difficult for me, drinking-wise.

We compared notes in the usual way. She was about six or seven years younger than me, and had a couple of preschool aged children. We chatted about getting used to being home full time, both of us having quit high powered jobs when our first child was born.

After ten minutes or so, she asked if she could get me something from the bar.

"I'm all set," I said, holding up my club soda and cranberry. "Thanks, though."

We parted ways, only to bump into each other again about an hour and a half later. "Hey again," she said, and winked.

I tried not to stare at the half-full glass of white wine in her hand. The small talk was wearing on me, and I was thinking about going home to a cozy couch, a warm fire and a steaming cup of tea.

"Soooooooo," she drawled. "Howzit going?"

Ah, I thought. She's drunk. All the power to her, but I'm ready to get outta here.

The room was hot and noisy, and we were pressed into a corner. I was trapped.

"Iss hard sometimes, you know?" she said, out of the blue.

I nodded, but I had no idea what she was talking about.

"You seem like a really nice person," she slurred, and threw her arm around my shoulder. "I feel like I can tell you anything." Her eyes rolled up into her head, ever so slightly, when she blinked.

"Thanks," I smiled, unsure exactly how to respond. I looked frantically around the room, hoping to lock eyes with my friend and use that as an excuse to move on.

"It's juss... juss so much WORK." She sighed, and took a long sip of wine.

"Ummm, what is so much work?" I asked, awkwardly.

"Ohhhh... you know," she puffed out her cheeks and exhaled. "Everything. Kids." She swayed side to side, almost imperceptibly.

She has crossed over, I thought, into that place where drunk people grope for meaningful connection. I don't know how to do this anymore.

We stood together in silence for a moment or two, her arm still slung over my shoulder.

"Well," she said, and her wine sloshed around in her glass as she gestured to the room. "Thass why we need to get out, right?" She winked again. "And thass what THIS is for!" She held her glass up to me in a mock toast.

I smiled again, but remained silent. She noticed my empty glass. "OH! You needa drink!"

"No, I'm all set," I said. "I'm getting ready to go."

"But you CAN'T go. You juss GOT here!" She grabbed my hand, and started pulling me towards the bar.

I let her lead me to the bar - I had no choice - and when we got there I said, "Really - I'm all set. I've got to go."

"Oh, not yet," she said, refilling her still half-full glass. "Whaddya having?"

This doesn't happen very often to me anymore. I'm open about my recovery, and usually hang out with recovery people or friends who know I don't drink. I wasn't sure what to say, so I just told the truth.

"I don't drink," I said. "But thanks anyway."

She blinked once, twice. Then she said, quietly, "Oh," and looked into her wineglass, as if the answers to the Universe were held in its depths. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry," I said. "It's all good. I'm just tired and ready to go home."

She just kept staring into her wineglass, so I quietly moved away, found my friend, and made my exit.

I went home and curled up on my couch with a book, but I couldn't concentrate. I kept thinking about her, that woman, because I knew her. For so many years, that was me.

I never used to be the drunkest person in the room. I was careful when I was socializing; I tried hard to control it in front of other people. I don't recall any overtly embarrassing moments; I didn't create a scene, fall down, or humiliate myself.

What was so familiar to me was that quiet desperation behind her eyes, that ache for a connection with someone - anyone. Conversations fueled by alcohol felt so deep, so meaningful. I know I must have crossed lines, over-shared, or made less drunk people feel awkward with my forwardness.

When I was drinking I felt such a sense of belonging. Until the next morning, when I would wake up with a slow thump behind my eyelids and missing pieces of the evening before.

I don't know if she has a drinking problem or not. It doesn't matter, really. When you're sober and you go to a party with lots of drinking, you can't help but observe how the atmosphere of a room changes as people get more drunk. Cheeks flush, laughter gets raucous, inappropriate comments or gestures are made and nobody seem to notice.

It seems odd to me that I used to want so desperately to be in the middle of all that. From my vantage point, now, it all seems so, well, flimsy.

When I first got sober, I thought I was saying goodbye to fun forever. I never thought the day would come where I would be at a party full of people who were drinking and instead of wanting to be whooping it up that I would want more than anything to be home reading a book, talking to a good friend, or cuddling with my kids.

The irony? The irony is that I laugh more now - visceral, gut-clenching laughter - than I ever have in my life. I no longer need to be clutching a wineglass to cross over into that place of feeling connected with other people.

I can get there all on my own.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Stigma

***Submitted by Diana, who is a Regular Contributor to Crying Out Now

I don’t list alcoholic on my business card, but I am not afraid of the title.

I understand the reason for the anonymity aspect of AA, but I think overall it keeps our disease in the shadows. And I hate that. If no one talks about it, how will anyone ever understand it?


Recently my husband, Bob, mentioned that he had a conversation with a friend in which he struggled to identify my situation. He said to the friend, “You know Diana doesn’t drink anymore” and as he relayed the conversation to me he added, “I don’t like the word ‘alcoholic’. It has such a stigma.”   Exactly, and avoiding the word perpetuates the stigma. I promptly gave him my permission to use the word alcoholic to describe me anytime. I am completely OK with identifying myself as an alcoholic. The face of alcoholism has too long been that of the old man with a paper bag sitting under a viaduct next to his shopping cart. No wonder there is a stigma.  We need to update the photo in our collective consciousness.

I don’t broadcast my disease at work, but I have alluded to it. Most people know that I don’t drink. Some of the younger people have asked me, incredulously, if I ever drank. My standard response is that I did and then I retired. I usually compare myself to Brett Favre and suggest that I probably should have retired sooner than I did. If I didn’t work for an ultraconservative company, I would be more forthcoming. And if someone, anyone, asks me directly, I will answer him or her directly.

The stigma that we are fighting is powerful and makes seeking help that much harder. We have enough of a fight on our hands with this sneaky bastard of a disease without the public humiliation, real or imagined. Some of our well-intended friends and family reject our diagnoses or make us feel flawed because moderation is not a word in our vocabulary. They would never debate a cancer diagnoses or shame us for our inability to process sugar, would they?

Alcoholism is not a weakness or a character flaw. As those of us on Team Drunk know, alcoholics are a smart, funny, good looking bunch of people. Wait, maybe that is the real reason for the anonymity. If people found out how cool alcoholics really are, they would all start hiding wine bottles in their laundry hampers just to fit in.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Accountability

*** Submitted by Hope, who blogs at A Better Gift

The reason for this blog. The only way that I can heal. The only way I will remember.


Hi, my name is Hope (a pen name for now...), and I'm an alcoholic. Phew! Why is it that my heart races, and I become short of breath when I type that? I know I need to put this down in words, so that three months from now, when I feel "cured" I will remember. I'll remember that no matter how much I try, how "good" I can be, I CANNOT control my drinking. That if I start again, it will just result in the same spiral...

I know that I'm not a bad person. I'm just not physically capable of having just one drink. I may keep it to three beers, but I'll want more. I may go a whole week without drinking, but the then I'll binge and put myself in danger. Not every time, but enough times that I'm scared. And I know that if I keep drinking, it will just get worse.

I need to remember two nights ago. Going over to a girlfriend's house after 6 hours of drinking, making an absolute ass of myself, falling down the porch steps, refusing to go to bed, and taking a cab home in one of her robes because apparently I really was about ready for bed - till I wasn't, stumbling in to my house, and scaring my loving husband. Oh, and I need to remember the next day: waking up at 12:30 in the afternoon, blowing off my sister-in-law, feeling like dog poo, and eventually puking the evening away. Yea, that's what alcohol does to me. Not all the time, but how many reckless instances like this can one have before saying is enough enough?

Now. I'm done. I can't do this anymore. I don't want to feel this shame, anxiety, fear, and self-loathing. I need to take control of my life, and of this addiction. And I can't do it alone. I'm hoping that with my husband, my friends, and this online community, I will be able to remember why I can't drink. And be able to live a life of recovery and hope.

And what better gift could I possible give myself than that?