Thursday, June 30, 2011

The No Drink Club

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

I'm fortunate to have magnificent role models for sobriety. People in the "No Drink Club" (as my friend's son calls it).

My older brother, my only sibling, is numero uno. He just booked tickets to come visit me in October for the Balloon Fiasco. He and his wife have two wee boys - sweet, sweet, sweetie pies! My brother, a great big bear of a guy, has been sober for over twenty years. He was horribly abused by my father, so of course he was lost and wounded for years. He has finally made some happiness, and a family, after decades of fearing he would never find it.

But I still haven't told him I am an alcoholic. I think I will sob when I tell him. For he was there too, when my dad did the terrifying things he did. My brother and I shared that horror and the scars we bear have the same shape. And yet, we are both pretty remarkable people.

Next comes my friend Gratitude Girl, who I have written about before. Over 5 years sobriety under her belt. We were drinking buddies in college. She sent me my first chip. She tells me about her meetings, about how much she loves them. She's a force of nature who has not been dealt an easy hand but she spins life into magic every chance she gets.

Then there is my father-in-law. Starting using at age 13. Grew up in San Francisco in the 60's. Mother was a severe alcoholic. Guy barely had a chance, and yet he got out. Took him several decades. But he got out. Now he hikes, backpacks, and built a frickin' cabin with his wife, with all repurposed materials, from the ground up. He supports a boatload of people in recovery in his community.

And then, there is even my Dad. A curious case. My father is a "quit cold turkey" kind of alcoholic. He did the same thing with smoking in his 20's. Once he makes a decision that's the end of the story. He's done. While this can make him incredibly intolerant of those who struggle, he still is a role model for me and I am grateful.

One thing I have begun to notice, is that people in recovery are pretty amazing people. Now, everyone is wonderful, but people in recovery, man, they "know" something. Not quite sure what, but we do.

Feel free to comment on this "something."

(As an aside. I know someone who doesn't even drink or do drugs of any kind, but she goes to AA meetings because she likes what she learns there. Is this allowed? I think it's really cool. She just really likes the wisdom of alcoholics. She's a wanna be No Drink Clubber.)

After I told my father-in-law I was an alcoholic I gave him a fist bump and said, "Hey, I'm in the club now too." Some of my favorite people are in the No Drink Club: my brother, my best friend, and of course, Robert Downey Jr.

And then there are all the women from Crying Out Now. And Dawn and Dawn again. And Guinevere. And Heather, and Julie, and Sharry and leapyeargirl, Marcia, Cadan, Anonymous, Harma, and everybody else in the No Drink Club.

We're Sober Ordinary People. There's something really special about us inside our sober ordinariness.

The password? Simple. Please help.

That's probably the best password I've ever heard.

I can't seem to stop writing about how spectacular it is to be ordinary and sober. I need some new adjectives.

Here's the deal ---- this is what is fueling this. Someone I know is struggling right now to detox from severe alcoholism, for the second time, at least. This person may have finally hit bottom after his family has pretty much given up hope. His mother's heart is breaking and she is hoping, while protecting her heart from being smashed again by his disease.

There is a small chance he is reading some of writingmywaysober and cryingoutnow. How do you let someone know they are not alone? That sobriety is worth it beyond belief? That life after recovery can be so incredible that even people who don't drink want to go to meetings to hear these wise people speak about life?

Just pray. Hard. For E.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Really, Your Voice Matters

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

When I first read Ellie's blog, I thought she was a goddamn lunatic. I'm sorry Ellie but it's true.

She was talking about alcoholism like it was NO BIG DEAL. She just TOLD people she was an alcoholic as easily as telling them she was human. Clearly she had to be nuts. I mean, if you ended up having to quit drinking, that was something you hid like the shameful secret it was.

But Ellie talked about it like not drinking was just a part of her life. It was a choice she'd made, a choice she continued to make, a choice that made her life better.

How could that be? At the time, I didn't see how admitting to alcoholism wouldn't ruin your life. I was positive that if I said I was an alcoholic my life would crumble around me. I couldn't understand that alcoholism wasn't something I could simply steel myself against. I was sure I could just decide not to be an alcoholic and then try really, really hard not to be, and then I'd never be a full blown alcoholic.

And it was almost sort of that easy. All I needed to do was decide not be an alcoholic. Or rather, I decided not to be a functioning alcoholic anymore. And in order to stop being a functioning alcoholic, I needed to quit drinking cold turkey.

Which is how I found myself one hungover morning, lying in bed and choking on my tears. I had finally realized what I needed to do, I just didn't know how to do it.

And I remembered Ellie. I suddenly realized how brave and amazing she was to admit something so huge not just to herself but to the world. I wanted that bravery for myself.

So, I submitted a desperate post to Crying Out Now, quit drinking and made a discovery: there was nothing shameful in not drinking. I knew tons of people who didn't drink, I just hadn't paid any attention to them before.

It's good here. Not without hard times but good overall.

I just don't know how it would be without Ellie and her voice. Ellie's voice led me through the darkness even if I thought she was crazy at first. She wasn't crazy. She was just saying something I wasn't ready to hear yet.

Thanks Ellie. Again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not Fun Anymore

***Submitted by Anonymous

This is not fun anymore.

It stopped being fun a long time ago. The amount of time I have spent worrying, ruminating, and berating myself about my drinking in truly staggering.

I am 45 year old woman with 3 beautiful, smart, athletic, fun daughters. I am also a woman whose marriage is crumbling before my eyes. I read a book titled something like Too good to leave too Bad to stay. One of the first questions in the book was when it was good, in the beginning, was it really GOOD? Or just OK? It realized it was just OK even back then and it sent shivers down my spine. 20 years later and it is not even OK. I think this stuck marital spot contributes to my drinking. My therapist does not. He thinks I am an alcoholic pure and simple.

I am not in denial about this anymore, truly. But I can’t seem to stop.

One thing no one ever seems to mention is the withdrawal symptoms. I have been drinking every day for most of my adult life except when pregnant. I had a corporate gig for 17 years so then my drinking was a glass or two of wine after work….but I always had one when I got home to ‘unwind’. When I left said corporate gig 5 years ago because it was way too big of a job to handle while having a husband who traveled for work and raising 3 kids, my drinking escalated. I still cannot fathom how this ‘disease’ snuck up on me. Let’s just say I am in shock, truly. This thing is kicking my butt.

Wow, when did it go from a few glasses to needing 5-plus a day just to feel normal? And now can we please talk about withdrawal? Because that is where I am now. If I don’t have my fix, I start to feel nauseous, achy, and there is a pressure in my chest. So now I drink just to make the physical symptoms go away. I read waaayyyy too much and am terrified I will have a seizure or DTs or otherwise lose control and that can’t happen, right? I would hate for the kids to see Mom in that state, so I better have a glass of cabernet to stave it off. But I have to have the glass in secret. Because I am terrified if I get a divorce my husband might play the alcohol card and I would lose the kids or it would affect the custody arrangement in some way.

I have not had a DUI, been arrested, passed out etc. etc. but am so scared he will use my drinking against me. So get help, right? My soul has been crying out for years, so last year I went to a rehab center hoping they would admit me to their outpatient program. The physician informed me you had to be clean for 5 days before they would do that. The intake lady on the phone told me not to stop drinking suddenly, so I didn’t. Said physician told me since I was not clean, she could not admit me to the outpatient program because I was still drinking. But they told me not to stop, I said. She said of course, because you might have a seizure. So why exactly did I go there, I wondered? I went to get help…and was sent home and advised to go to my regular physician to detox ambulatory. I did, being the good girl I am, and it was so hard to admit to my beloved GP I was abusing alcohol. I did a 5 day valium detox, and guess what? I was clean about a week and then right back at it.

I then went to a few AA meetings hoping the miracle would occur there. I listened to tons of inspiring people, but then let that fall by the wayside too since I felt like a fraud, still drinking. So here I sit at 9 am on a Saturday hating myself for drinking 9 glasses of wine yesterday and feeling so hung-over. Of course the first few were to make me feel ‘normal’ and not nauseous, but I just kept on going throughout the course of the day.

Like I said, not fun anymore.

I was drinking just to make sure I don’t feel like sh** . How did you guys get off the bottle and handle the withdrawal? I know that is just the beginning, and then the real work starts, but for now, that is what I truly need to know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sober Grief

*** Submitted by Ellie, who is the Founder and co-moderator of Crying Out Now

My Dad died on Saturday.

Even typing those words feels totally surreal. It was very sudden; Friday night he was out having dinner with friends like any other night. Early Saturday morning he woke up with a high fever and chills, and steadily grew worse, so he went by ambulance to the hospital by 10am. At 1pm my phone rang, and it was my sister telling me Dad had an acute infection and they were trying to stabilize him and figuring out the correct antibiotics. At 1:45pm she called again and told me to get to the hospital, now, because he was failing quickly.

I arrived at the Emergency Room at 3pm, and he was gone. I missed his passing by about five minutes.

His condition was complicated by the fact that several years ago he had his spleen removed due to Lymphoma.  The removal of his spleen put him into complete remission from cancer, and he was totally healthy up until the day he died.  Without his spleen, however, he couldn't fight the infection and it galloped through his body so fast there wasn't anything anyone could do.

I am almost four years sober, and over the years I have wondered what would happen if tragedy struck. Would I be able to make it through the death of a loved one? How on earth would I handle grief without drinking?

Now I know. And the answer surprises me.

I don't want to drink.  I have horrible moments where I just want to escape, to not feel what I'm feeling, to drop away through some secret trap door where life feels normal again.  I don't think that is any different, though, than most people feel when faced with unspeakable shock and tragedy.  It feels a lot like a trigger, but I don't want to drink or numb myself.  I just want to jump into some parallel universe where my Dad is still alive.

The waves of emotion roll over me, sweep me up with their sheer force. I flash from knee-buckling sadness to heartfelt gratitude in the blink of an eye. I find myself smiling at a pleasant memory, and then sobbing uncontrollably because he is just so gone.  I slip into periods of numbness, where my mind goes flat and I robotically move through the moments doing menial household chores. 

But I don't want to drink, and I am so, so grateful for that.

I write on my personal blog a lot about being in the moment, about feeling all the feelings - good and bad - and getting to the other side of discomfort, sadness and anger.  I talk about how on the other side of adversity is growth and peace of mind.  Since I have been sober, though, I haven't had to experience this kind of pain. I put into practice everything I have learned in recovery, and I feel all the feelings.  I remember that they can't kill me, although there are minutes where they sure feel like they could.  I wait it out. 

And no matter how bad it is, it passes. Then it comes again, and I repeat the cycle all over again.  Bit by bit, I can feel my body and mind healing. Life will never be the same, but I'm learning to embrace my New Normal.

It feels so much like early sobriety, where every emotion - joy, sadness, anger, regret - feels so pointy.  Lights and sounds are grating, confusing, and the simplest decisions befuddle me.  But now I know I can make it through.  That is the gift of recovery; you experience all your pain, all your joy, and you fold your life experiences into the fabric of what makes you you.  You don't numb them out or go around them, so you give yourself the gift of growth.

I surrender to the feelings, to the fact that so much of life is outside of my control, it's just that it's hard to remember that when life is clicking along nicely.  When something like this happens, it reminds you to be grateful, to accept life on life's terms, because you never know what is going to happen next.  No matter how much you wish you could control how life will unfold, you can't.

Surrender and acceptance.  They bring so much peace.

My father was a big part of why I finally got sober. During a family intervention, as I sat on the couch sobbing about my worthlessness, drowning in self-centeredness and self-pity, he looked me right in the eye and said, "No matter what, Ellie, we love you.  No matter what."   He was by my side as I felt my way through early recovery, and he did it with an open mind and a loving heart.  

If I were drinking, I could make the feelings less scary, less awful, for a brief period of time.  I could try to manufacture the emotions I wanted, hide from reality.  What I didn't appreciate, when I was drinking, is that you never grow when you constantly fast forward through the hard stuff. You don't learn to metabolize pain, any more than you get to experience authentic joy. If I were drinking I would be sobbing into my cup, wailing about all the pain.  I would slip into the victim role, and miss all the beauty and gratitude that is everywhere, even in the face of all the grief.  I would hijack this tragedy to make it all about me.

I was reluctant to even write about how I'm feeling, because these days are not about me, but then I realized that in sharing our experiences - like all the beautiful, honest, brave submitters to this blog - we all grow together.

I'm here, I'm feeling it, and I am going to be okay.  I get to experience all of it, and it is full of moments of grace, joy and peace that I would have missed if I were drinking. 

I am truly, truly grateful that he got to know me as a sober woman of grace, dignity and compassion.  He taught me those values, and it is an honor to give them back to the world.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Me

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

Lately, I've been finding myself mad at my husband on occasion.

I don't care if he leaves his socks on the floor. Or the cap off the toothpaste. But when he comes home drunk, I am nearly murderous.

Which makes me feel like a hypocrite. I mean, clearly I've had my own share of not so great nights or I wouldn't be writing here. Who am I to judge?

But every time it happens, and it's far from a nightly thing, I just want to scream. Haven't we learned anything from my drinking? Why can't you learn from watching me? I want him to want to live a quiet, content, easy lifestyle - simply because that's what I want right now. I want nothing to do with loud raucous parties or late nights in bars.

It's not like he blacks out or hits me or wastes money gambling while drunk. Mostly, he's just annoying.

There are brief moments I feel like he's toeing the line. But mostly, he's just annoying. When he's drunk, I shudder to think how stupid I must have sounded to sober people. I despise contemplating how much I annoyed those who were not drinking. Yet now, hypocritically, I really, really don't want a drunk person in my house.

I struggle with this as I think it's unfair to ask my husband to quit drinking just because I did. I don't really want others to stop drinking. I'm not counting their drinks. I swear I'm not.

But I truly no longer have a desire to go to a friend's "fun" all night bash. I would rather get some sleep, thank you. Plus, if we were to go, my husband might get drunk and then I'd have to entertain him. Just the idea of driving home, tired and past my bed time, with a drunk person babbling away in the passenger seat makes me tired.

How unfair is this of me? To think the rest of his life he needs to be on a leash at parties because I don't want to deal with taking a drunk person home? I genuinely feel guilty about it. I don't think he shuold have to live the rest of his life being watched and monitored by a wife who can't control her own drinking. Why should I feel it is my right to control and judge his drinking.

But at the same time, I really don't want a drunk person in my house. I can't imagine I ever will again.

How do you find a balance?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Moving Forward

***Submitted by Jo

I’ve been coming here for a while. I can’t remember how I found you but I’m glad that I did. I’ve wanted to comment lots of times but felt that it was inappropriate because I hadn’t shared my story or introduced myself.

I’ve wanted to write down my journey for a while but always shied away. Firstly because I’m not a very good writer, my grammar is pretty bad (always hated it at school) I write how I speak and then hate how it reads. So I’ll apologise in advance. But the main reason I haven’t written is because if I write it down and put it out ‘there’ then that makes it real.

I’m a 48 year old Mum of three (17, 13 and 9) living in Australia. I’ve been drinking for approx 30 years, not always heavily but never just socially. I’m a binge drinker. I drink to get drunk, no other reason. I did stop drinking with my first two pregnancies but drank through my third. I worried the whole time that I was pregnant; I knew what I was doing was wrong but I still did it. My son is fine, he has no health issues or development issues. We’re a very lucky family, no allergies or development problems with any of the kids. But in the back of my mind is the question of what will the future hold for him. Will he have a problem with alcohol too? He had alcohol all the time he was in the womb and I breastfed him for 15mths..... still binge drinking every three to four days. He already has a few strikes against him. My grandfather was an alcoholic, my father was an alcoholic, my mother drinks too much and so does my brother and so do I. Will the alcohol I fed him when he was growing trigger something in him when he gets older and tries alcohol himself? I don’t know.

Whew, I’ve written down two shameful secrets there, truths I rarely face. I have a lot more shameful secrets. Driving whilst dunk, driving drunk with my kids in the car and worst of all driving drunk with other peoples kids in the car. Not falling down drunk but over the limit just the same. Each time I’d feel so ashamed but a few days later I’d drink again. There’s a song by an Aussie guy, Paul Kelly, called ‘Dumb Things’ part of the lyrics are “I’ve lost my shirt, I’ve pawned my rings. I’ve done all the dumb things”. I’ve done all the dumb things that you do when you drink too much.

On the outside my life looks pretty good. I’ve been with my husband for 33 years. We dated for 4 years, lived together for 12 and have been married for 17. We aren’t rich but we don’t struggle either. Our kids are good, they go to school, play sport, have good manners etc etc.

But on the inside is a family at the crossroads.

I had always thought that I’d hit a rock bottom and then I’d clean up my act but that rock bottom never came. What did come was something very strange. On the eve of my daughters 16th birthday I had been drinking for quite a few hours when she came home with her boy friend. It was obvious they had both been drinking too. We sat and chatted for a while, I was still drinking but they weren’t, and at some stage my pissed brain thought “This is just sooooo wrong” I had to be up early the next day for my son’s soccer and was standing in the freezing cold, hungover and alone. DD’s friend had walked up to the soccer fields (hungover) while the rest of the house slept. I don’t know what clicked with me but I looked at him and thought ‘I can’t be the Mum who sits and drinks with her kids friends’

I stopped drinking for 22 weeks, then my Mum came to visit. She was here two weeks and drank every day. I drank with her twice and felt so crappy afterwards. Since then I’ve mostly stayed dry. I fall off the wagon every few months but not badly. It’s been a year since I really decided to really look at myself and alcohol.

My biggest problem is that I get no support. My husband drinks daily and sees nothing wrong with it, he doesn’t think that I have a problem. In his mind drinking is just a social thing that he does but I think he has a drinking problem too. I’ve been thinking for a while that I can’t be sober and be with him. I like me when I don’t drink. My kids like me when I don’t drink....... My husband doesn’t like me when I don’t drink.

I’ve really liked what stopping drinking has bought into my life. I’ve lost 12 kg, I have energy to burn, I sleep like I log and I feel no shame. That’s the best part, not feeling shameful. I’m more ‘present’ with my kids. I love what life has to offer us when I’m sober. I just wish that my husband would come with us. ‘Cause I have to keep moving forward.

Thanks for listening and thanks for being here.

Mind how you go.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Feathers in the Soul

***Submitted by Anonymous

I’ve done this before, this sobriety thing. I went to AA regularly and had a sponsor. I collected my coins and treasured them. I was sober for over a year. But apparently, I didn’t “do” sobriety well enough. On December 23, 2008, I drank while cooking for the Christmas dinner I planned for my family.

I thought I was safe. I was always a red wine girl, and the recipe called for white. I purchased a bottle of sauvignon blanc, and it stayed in the fridge for several days until the evening I started my preparations. I poured the wine into the measuring cup, and a few drops splashed onto my hand. I just looked at them for a few seconds. Then I licked them off. Well, that didn’t bother me a bit. I dipped my finger into the cup and licked again. The taste was odd, so different than the pinot noirs and cabernets I had consumed for years. It still doesn’t bother me. A sip. Just a little sip. It was cold and tart. Is that a hint of grapefruit? Another sip… and another and another.

I’m still drinking. It is true what they say in AA. This disease waits for us. It waits like a patient lover. I didn’t drink every day at first. It was sporadic and always in secret. No one knew. Not my sponsor. Not my kids. Not the man to whom I’m engaged. I still went to meetings but not as often. I felt like such a hypocrite sitting in those chairs. After a few months, I just stopped going. I was so ashamed.

I’ve had several weeks of not drinking. These have been single weeks, always when I’ve traveled with my fiancé. It’s daily now, in the evenings when I get home from work. If my son is at home, I close my bedroom door and “work on the computer.” Of course, I’ve been caught a few times. My son heard the uncorking of a bottle. One of my daughters smelled it. I’ve shown up at my fiance’s house having had a few too many. Always, I cry and feel lower than low and sincerely want to do better. And they believe that I’m doing better. But I’m not.

I have another secret. A secret that I have not shared with anyone. And I’m so afraid to speak it or write it now, but here goes. Nearly two years ago, during a rough time with my sweetie (due to drinking), I met someone with whom I have a lot in common, including an appetite for wine. He is the Other Man. Although he has many wonderful qualities, I know that the draw is the wine. We always drink together. My fiancé and the Other Man don’t know about each other, and I’ve lied to them both so many times that I abhor myself. When I’m with the Other Man, my fiancé believes I’m at a meeting because that’s what I tell him. When I’m with my fiancé, the Other Man believes I’m doing something with my family because that’s what I tell him. I am loathsome and terrible. Oh, and here’s another thing. I’m a Christian. I love God. I go to church every Sunday. When it’s time for the Confession, I kneel and silently cry. Please don’t forsake me. Please don’t forsake me.

I went to my doctor not long ago for routine blood work. (I’m always concerned about my liver function.) My liver is doing fine, but I have a B12 deficiency, I’m anemic, and my blood sugar is too high. She tells me to eat more protein, less carbs, take a B12 supplement. So I take cheese and almonds to work for my snacks. I take enough vitamins and herbal supplements to choke a horse. I eat only low glycemic foods. And all the while, I know it’s the alcohol. I know it.

There’s a powerful and sad song by Dave Matthews titled Bartender. There’s a line that gets me every time I hear it – Bartender, see this wine that’s drinking me… And it is. It feels like we are joined in some unholy union that’s destroying me and the person I want to be, the person I was before the drinking.

My fiancé has been sober for nearly 14 years. He “gets” me like no one else. I want to live my life, a sober life with him if I can untangle this mess.

I found Crying Out Now several weeks ago. I’ve read every post. There are other sobriety blogs that I read every day. I admire all of you brave and lovely women who have spoken your truth and are recovering. I have felt beyond hope, beyond redemption for a long time. Emily Dickinson described hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.”

Because of you, I feel an ever so slight flutter of her wings.