Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Awakening: A History of Female Wreckage

***Submitted by Lorie

No. Oh, no, I did not do this again.

I lay there, my need to urinate overpowering, my embarrassment at my behavior the previous night more so. I cannot look my husband in the eye, so I remain in bed until he kisses me goodbye, tells me he loves me. I don't remember much of my behavior. It will be told to me in bits and pieces, which I will share with you. I am still in half of my clothes. My bottoms are off, my bra still on, my dress in a heap on the floor. My shoes are beat-up. I go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. I quickly look away.

It started innocently enough, it always does. We were invited to attend a wedding reception, as the couple had eloped. There would be many of my former co-workers there, people I had stayed in touch with, people who I had consumed copious amounts of alcohol with. We leave the house, already a little hung over from a wedding the night before.

We park, enter the building and collect our little place card. Find our table, deposit my belongings, with one more look in the mirror to check my makeup. We go to the outside patio, and the compliments begin. "You look great!" "Oh, my God, your hairdo makes you look just like Audrey Hepburn!" "What a great dress!" I eat it up. I have not seen quite of few of these people in a long time, and I wanted to make a good impression. I picked an elegant Calvin Klein sheath dress in black with a low-slung belt. Patent leather Mary Jane skyscraper heels, the ones I beat to shit later because I cannot walk on them any longer. I am getting cocky, arrogant, because of all the attention I am receiving. I have a drink already, white wine, because I convince myself that will keep me sober. I have three within 15 minutes. Always nervous in social situations, I need to drink to become less self-conscious.

My sober friend, Sarah, was there. I caught her looking over at me a few times. She looks concerned. I give the thumbs up, I am fine. After dinner, my husband needs to get home. He works early. I tell him I will be fine. Go on without me, there are plenty of people there that can give me a lift home. He knows what will come next, he tries not to spoil my fun, hoping this time it will be different, since I have cut back on my drinking. I am starting to get courageous. The dance floor is winding down with the last of the party, the ones that refuse to admit the party is over. I am one of them. Three of the other women are going out. Would I like to go? "Sure! I'm in." Of course I am. We used to do this all the time. At the time, though, it always seems like a good idea. It was a work night for most of them. I don't have enough alcohol in me.

By now, the bar is a cash bar, because it is after 10:00. I bullshit the bartender (a woman) into making me a double vodka rocks, on the house. I down it, find my friends, and we say goodbye to the few last people. My friend, Sarah, looks at me and she knows. She knows I will cross over at any second to the dark side. I have no idea. I never do. She goes home. I wish she had taken me with her, but she knows. I would not have gone.

I remember up to this part. We are in my friend's car, she should not be driving. We go to a bar that still allows smoking because it has an open air roof and they all like to smoke when they drink. I do not do this anymore, but I think I did that night. I hate this place. It’s a dirty dive. The vodka hits me like a ton of bricks. I remember vaguely not being able to stand. I was eating something. After that, nothing.

It's morning. I wake up. I have bruises on me, my nose is swollen and sore. So is my forehead. I am worried I got into a fight with someone. I am too mortified to call anyone to find out. My friend, Sarah, happened to have talked to someone who was there the night before, and she came over. "Do you know what happened?" she asks me. No, I do not. We talk, and shame floods my body. I walk her to the front door, and see a long scrape on the stoop. I laugh about it probably being from my shoe, but I was just kidding, trying to pretend what happened was not that bad.

This is what she told me. "You got kicked out. You were eating stranger's food and falling off your bar stool. They got pissed and kicked you out. They put you in a cab and got you home." I guess I was okay at first, and then I started eating other people's food, off of their plates. I was unable to sit on my stool, and fell off several times. I was kicked out, and the bouncer was not even going to let me take my purse, but one of my friends grabbed it, got me into a cab and somehow got me to my house. The cab driver knocks on our front door. Pounds on it. It is 11:45. My husband answers, naked, thinking it is me, but I am still in the cab, semi-conscious. He excuses himself to dress and then he asks the cabbie if we owe any money. "They took care of it at the bar." He has to half carry me from the cab to the bathroom, because I am mumbling something about the bathroom. He goes outside the bathroom to wait, so he can help me to bed. Hears a crash. I had fallen and hit my head and nose.

When I hear about this the next day, I am actually relieved this happened at home, even though it hurts like hell. I spend the entire next day in bed. I do not learn my husband's story until the evening of the next night. We are standing on the porch. He says "See your shoe mark?" He had to drag me. He loves me and wants me to get help.

This is how a 45 year old, well-dressed, successful woman became a wreck that night and many others before it. This was my final public humiliation, when I took my drinking indoors. For the last two years I have battled quitting, trying moderation, failing.

 I am ready to not fail.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Still A Work In Progress

***Submitted by Anonymous

I really wanted to wait to write in when my story was a success story. A story I could tell with a year or more sobriety under my belt. But truth be told, I haven't been able to string more than two weeks of non-drinking together in who knows how long.

I am so ashamed. In fact, tonight as I type I have had three glasses of ice cold Pinot Grigio and two shots of gin, yet I do not feel buzzed, yet alone drunk. That scares the shit out of me.

A little background about me--I am 30 years old and come from a very Christian household. My parents and two sisters are all complete tee-totalers; my mother and father waited until marriage for sex, as my older sister. My younger sister is single and plans to wait until marriage for her first sexual experience. I, on the other hand--the middle child--had sex before I was married (if it matters, I was with my now-husband for more than a year before we had sex, and he is the only man with whom I have had intercourse), and am the only person in my family that drinks.

My husband drinks occasionally but it is very moderate--a pint of beer or cider once a week or so. For me--on the other hand--I can easily drink a bottle and a half of wine by myself in an evening plus a few shots of hard liquor or even a fifth of vodka or gin over the course of a day. Trust me, I am not bragging and I am not proud of this.

I am highly educated with a Masters Degree in Pharmaceutical Science and I am a professional in the Clinical Research field and am paid very well for what I do, but what people do not know is that I overindulge in alcohol at least 2-3 days out of the week, if not more. I only highlight this to show that it really does not matter your education or income level--alcoholism can affect anyone.

My rational mind knows that I am on a slippery slope to destruction, but my physiological mind tells me to fuck it and just do what feels good at the moment. I really do not like the feeling of being out of control.

At this time I really don't have any words of encouragement to offer anyone, but I could surely use some encouragement if anyone has some they would like to offer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Faith and the Power of Sharing

**Submitted by Anonymous

I write in my space to document. To journal. To have a record to look back at years from now.

I have never been great about filling up the baby books with information and report cards and printed pictures, but I am good about typing the day-to-day stories and attaching jpegs from my computer. And that is why I keep my blog. For me. I have never had many readers or commenters.

I work full-time and do not put much effort into the social aspect of blogging, that I admit. I started my blog almost 2 years ago to document how I felt about not drinking, how hard or easy sobriety came to me in the beginning months/years and how memories I had about past drinking affected my ongoing sobriety. I wanted to see years down the road if it was really hard in the beginning, how I achieved victory. How I overcame.

Little did I know that only 1 month after choosing sobriety I would find Jesus and my whole world would change. My original idea for a blog about sobriety quickly became a blog about sobriety and faith. And as Jesus worked His grace and mercy into my life, especially the path of recovery, my blog became less about the hardship of sobriety and more about my love for Christ, His Creations and the new-found joys in my life.

With open space to utilize, I wrote more about my family, the day-to-day musings of my young kids and the bigger pictures I saw from everyday life. Sometimes I have felt like I should write more about sobriety, since that was the original intent after all. But I quickly remind myself that I write for me…the comfort that I will have a journal to look back on when the kids are grown and my memory of the little details has faded.

I received a call yesterday from a friend I’ve known for almost 11 years. A woman I partied with a LOT in my 20’s, the woman who introduced me to my husband, a friend who has moved to another state but we still keep in contact through email and Facebook. At the beginning of the conversation I asked how she was doing, and her reply was “I think I have the same problem you did, and I need to get help. Do you have a moment to talk?” We went on to talk about sobriety, AA, the emotions, the guilt...the good the bad and the ugly. I felt so honored to be the person she called in time of need. But one thing that really caught my attention. She said she has read my entire blog the past 2 years and not only have the posts about sobriety helped her realize she has a problem too, but she saw the joy in my recent posts and said she wants that for her life.

Without even writing exclusively about sobriety, my blog made an impact on someone. And that brought even more joy to my already filled heart.

So, I’ll keep writing. For me, and for any single person out there who might be reading. Us alcoholics are all over the place, there is no shame in being one, and there is a life of joy waiting for anyone who reaches out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

There But For The Grace of God Go I

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

There is a man who panhandles at the exit ramp by my train station. I see him often when I walk home. He wears jeans and a t-shirt with a leather vest and has longish grey hair. He looks like an aging rocker or a thin Harley guy. He has no sign explaining his plight, just a cup that he holds out to oncoming traffic. To me he has always seemed rather benign.

I say a silent prayer for him whenever I walk by. I feel for him and I wish him safety and recovery. When he holds out his cup to me, I smile and shake my head. There is pity, though. No judgment, just a sad sickly feeling for a fellow addict who has not found his bottom and doesn’t seem to be looking.

Tonight was different, though. I saw him as I exited the train station. He was stumbling as someone looked for change to give him. Tonight he terrified me. His eyes were clear blue. I couldn’t see his pupils. The sight of him jarred me, almost physically. Tonight this poor soul had no humanity in him and I saw where this disease could take someone. It was heartbreaking and truly frightening. I choked back tears the whole way home.

I suspect that this man’s drug of choice is something stronger than chardonnay or vodka, but that isn’t the point. And he may have been genuinely dangerous, but that wasn’t what I found menacing.

I don’t like to be around really drunk people. I hear my slurring voice in theirs and see my stumbling in their unsteady feet. I experience the conversations that they won’t remember and imagine the repetitive nonsense that I have fortunately blacked out. These people make me squirm but they may or may not be addicts. This man was the personification of addiction and he had reached lows that I am so blessed to have never seen.

Tonight I saw what my future really could have been if I had not sought and received help.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Alcoholic thinking ... AGAIN

I'm going through a serious bout of alcoholic thinking today, so it seemed a good time to check in. Mimi and I are in Florida visiting my family for a month, which is simultaneously the most pleasant and the most stressful of endeavors.

A year ago, I was unemployed and deeply in debt. At that point I'd been sober just a year, but crossing a year was major: no longer did every "a year ago..." end in something horrid. Things were looking up, despite the unemployed and deeply in debt part.

What bothered me the most about that was that I'd continued some of those habits into sobriety -- I was still spendy even though I was in debt, and I had turned in one of my worst semesters teaching just that past spring, when you would have thought I'd be joyously riding my pink cloud, clearheaded and competent. I'd lost all sense of what it felt like to do a good job.

I was picked up by an online university, my first job! I was determined to find it interesting (I did) and to do a stellar job (I didn't). I did an okay job. It took an insane amount of time to keep up with it, and much of that time was spent on tasks I found mundane and silly -- a recipe for disaster for me. I've now taught a few of their terms, and while I've improved -- getting various templates down helped a lot -- I'm still not anywhere near where I once would have been.

So the other day I opened my spring evals and they were exactly as I'd expected:  nearly every comment was "great feedback on the assignments but not enough participation in discussion boards." Again I resolved to do better next term. Then I noticed that my summer class was not listed. It had had only 14 students enrolled so it's certainly reasonable to assume that it didn't have a high enough enrollment and that's why it wasn't listed.

It's equally reasonable to assume that my evaluation scores were too low and I'm not going to be asked back.

I sat a moment debating what I should do, and decided to write my department chair an email saying the course wasn't open. This had happened once before, and it turned out she'd simply forgotten to unlock it, so it was reasonable to assume this was what had happened.

But who ever said an alcoholic was reasonable?

Ah, failure. It's so familiar, and so damned welcoming. As an alcoholic, I don't need much cause to feel miserable. I catastrophize like no one's business.

As soon as I pressed send, I started to tremble and shake. I got up and walked around, trying to shed the feeling. You know it, don't you? Sweaty palms, swirly stomach, slight detachment from everyone around you. It sucks.

I decided to write about this because of that feeling. It's the feeling I used to carry around all the time, sometimes justified and sometimes not, and it's that exact feeling that I dampened with all number of substances. 

I suppose it doesn't really matter if I deserve to be fired or even if I was fired; I suppose what matters is that I learn to deal with that feeling because it's not going anywhere. I can hope to have it less (and hey, it's been many months since I last felt it, so that's progress!) but I can't hope to never have it, and I can't use over it anymore either.

So here I am. I'm petrified to open my email in case her  reply verifies my fear that I'm not welcome back. I don't like that job, but I need some job. And ... that feeling. it's always Right There.

Perhaps I can just look and see if I'm assigned to anything; that would answer my question. That, too, is alcoholic thinking, isn't it? Peek around the corner then run as fast as I can and never look back? 

I also know that the healthy thing is to accept the criticism of my work for what it is, and not view it as a character assessment. If I did a bad job they have a right to turn to someone else who might do a better job. It just hurts that they would say that first. 

I have convinced myself to check my email. I might as well get this over with. I know I'll feel terrible if I am indeed fired, so what will I do to feel better? Go to a meeting. Talk to my family. Enjoy my little daughter this afternoon.

And probably write about it here.

Thanks for being here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"I'm Not That Bad" Kept Me Drinking

***Submitted by Anonymous.  Today she is 60 days sober.

My story is not a tragic one. No DUI’s (although I deserved many of them), no arrests, no ultimatums, no embarrassing moments of being woken up by sprinklers in the front yard in nothing but a thong as children walk to school. My kids still loved me and so did my husband.

My father celebrates 19 years of sobriety this year. It’s a miracle and I’m so proud of him. Growing up I watched him drink beer after beer after beer every night. I never saw him drunk, never heard him yell. He was a loving and attentive father and a doting husband to my mother. When I was 18, my mother left him. As their only child, I then watched as our family crumbled. Soon after she left, my dad checked himself into treatment and told me he was an alcoholic.

“Alcoholic?” I thought. “But, we live in a gated community. My dad drives a Mercedes. He only drinks beer!” I scoffed at the notion that he was an alcoholic. “Your father is what is called a ‘functional alcoholic’” I was told by a counselor. I flatly told her she was wrong.

Little did I know then, what was in store for me.

I binge drank at parties and out at clubs with my friends and boyfriend through my 20’s, just like everyone I knew. I went in and out of an eating disorder as well, starving myself and purging with exercise to whittle my body down to what I thought would make me happy and others love me. I controlled every piece of food that went into my body and my worth depended on the number on the scale and the size of my jeans.

When I had my first child, I finally and thankfully put my eating disorder behind me. I was married to an amazing man and all my dreams were coming true. Looking back, I think my alcoholism was lying dormant, waiting for me to “need” it. Waiting for me to be vulnerable. Waiting for me to turn to it. I know now that when I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) cope with life by abusing my body with lack of food and too much exercise, I turned to alcohol. I can’t pinpoint when exactly my downhill spiral started, but it definitely picked up speed after the birth of my second child, 2 years after my first. I was bored being a stay-at-home-mom. I was overwhelmed, stressed and longing for something else. And yet I would sit on my couch with a glass of wine, watching “Intervention” and see other shows about alcoholics and think “Well, at least I’m not that bad.”

Last year after my children turned 3 and 1, I remember that December drinking an entire bottle of wine in one evening. I felt so ashamed and swore I would cut back. My husband is not a drinker, so mostly I was afraid he would see how much I was drinking and confront me. However, I was never drunk, I never yelled. I had it all under control. That was when I know I formally crossed the line and became a functional alcoholic. Drinking a bottle of wine a night became normal for me. Some nights I would only drink 2 glasses, but it was to prove that I could, not because I really didn’t want anymore. Other nights I would drink a whole bottle after drinking 2 afternoon beers.

Pretty quickly I started planning my daily activities around drinking. If it were date night with my husband, I would insist that we go out to dinner because if we went to the movies like he wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to drink freely. I would also plan ahead how much time I would need to get at least 2 drinks down before we went out. If it was mom’s night out, I was always a drink ahead of my girlfriends, and if they didn’t finish theirs, I gladly would.

At times I would promise myself I wasn’t going to drink for a couple days and I actually wouldn’t buy any at the grocery store. Come 4:00 that same day the anxiety was so severe, I would put the kids in the car and rush back to the store for a bottle or 2 of wine and something else that I “forgot”. I found myself justifying drinking earlier and earlier, and it got to the point where I would drink 2-3 glasses of wine before my husband even got home from work, which was usually around 4:30. I would put my glass in the dishwasher, and a half hour after he came home, I would pull out a new clean glass so he would think I was having my first one for the night. A couple times I found myself with the refrigerator door open, drinking strait from the bottle as he was pulling into the driveway. Just to get a few more ounces down. And once, towards the end, I poured wine into an empty soda can at 2:30 in the afternoon so I could play outside with my kids and no one would know I was drinking.

ALL of these things I just mentioned, I always had pretty long moments where the liar in me became paralyzed long enough to think, “Normal people don’t do this. I must have a problem.” And then I would do my best to push those thoughts away. Why? Because I could not imagine not drinking. I felt it was all I had left. And when I admitted that, I 100% knew I was an alcoholic. I was so sick and tired of obsessing. The constant stream of thoughts all pertaining to the alcohol, the drinking itself, or my feelings about it. It had become bigger than me. I could no longer ignore the voice inside me that was done whispering, it was now yelling for me to stop.

And so I did. Today I have 60 days of sobriety. I’m slowly getting my spirit back. The best part is that I’m lucky enough that my kids will not remember me drinking. They won’t remember me guzzling from the bottle or rushing back to the store for wine in a panic.

And if you’re reading this and thinking that you too “aren’t that bad”, well maybe you’re not. Neither was I. But, only you know when it’s bad enough. And what sticks with me is that true alcoholics don’t get any better. We just get worse.

I didn’t want to wait around to experiment with that.