Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dancin' Fool

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

I have waited almost six years for this to happen.

I have waited, not at all patiently, to attend a social function sober and not feel like an alien. I was the life of the party while I was drinking, the first to show up and the last to leave. Since I quit drinking I have mostly felt like an Amish girl at a strip club. I have tried valiantly to embrace the fun at parties and weddings and the like, but I inevitably end up having to politely duck out early having failed again. I had all but resigned myself to feeling at least somewhat awkward in all social situations where alcohol was served.

Last night it finally happened. I don’t know what the shift was, but Bob and I went to a wedding and I had a great time. I did put in the advance prep work, selecting a dress that I liked and planning all my accessories in advance. I gave myself enough time to get ready and planned the contents of my party purse. With the exception of an anxiety attack that came on when I saw the traffic and decided incorrectly that we would be late, I had absolutely nothing to obsess about (not that the absence of viable reasons to freak out has ever actually stopped me).

We saw friendly faces right as we arrived and I caught up with friends while Bob went to the bar to get me a diet coke. Most of the people at the wedding were aware that I don’t drink anymore and as we know, we alcoholics are much more inclined to pay attention to beverages that normal people are. The couple at whose wedding I had my final vodka-infused hurrah was also there. (I always joke with them that their reception was so much fun it sent me to rehab.)

I toasted the beautiful young couple with my diet coke and my water. I chatted above the DJ’s too loud music with our tablemates. But the real test came after dinner. The post dinner portion of the reception is usually all about drinking and dancing; the former is an activity that I have retired from and the other an activity that I felt much more secure in prior to my retirement from the former. This is also the part of any evening when I run the risk of being drawn into a conversation with an over served, slurring reveler. Last night I dodged that particular bullet and I danced. And I didn’t feel awkward.

When I was drinking I thought I was a very good dancer, just the right mix of sexy and rhythmic. I fear, in retrospect, that I was probably less sexy and more flail-y. I suspect most people who are liquored up and dancing think that they are pretty good. With the clarity of sobriety I don’t have any idea if I am a good dancer, but last night the music was really good and I didn’t care. We danced to songs both old and new and when I wasn’t dancing I was watching others dance. Everyone seemed to be having a really good time and whether or not alcohol contributed to their fun was none of my concern. I was having fun too. I didn’t feel other than.

I don’t know how other people reintegrate themselves socially. Maybe because I don’t have a heavy social calendar I have been slow to get to this point. Possibly because I was such a confirmed party girl it has taken me this long to find any level of comfort in a new sober version of my social self.

This may seem inconsequential to some, but it was a huge victory for me.

It was a big hurdle and I danced right over it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

To Know Thyself - The Beginning of The Journey

*** Submitted by Anonymous

It's been a long time coming.

Admitting the truth about my addiction to alcohol; and to say out loud. Hearing my own voice say the words: "I have a problem" was inspired by an article in Redbook I read in the waiting room of my chiropractor's office. Chiropractic care that I need once a week for neck and shoulder issues. Truthfully, more the result of drunken falls rather than the more benign excuse that it's the result of years of computer work. The title of the article was jarring - "Mommy is an Alcoholic". I fast forwarded 10 years and imagined hearing those words come out of my children's mouths. I felt like I had gotten hit by a train of truth.

For the past 5 years, I have been drinking a magnum bottle of wine almost every night. In my early forties with 2 young children; wine became my companion. As delighted as I was to have children and the great joy they bring - my life of freedom changed overnight. I turned to wine so I could shuffle through the monotony and routine of motherhood. It gave me patience. I have never been a patient person. My entire life, I have been plagued with anxiety and perfectionism. Nothing could ever be out of place. My house was always in order. I organized to the point of obsession. But children are unpredictable. I couldn't script or control every move or mess they made. I didn't want them to be like me so I let them just be children.

It was my new friend Pinot who told me that it was okay to leave the dishes in the sink and the toys on the floor. At least until morning when my sober self would manically whirl the house back to order. If the house was in order, there was no evidence of my internal dis-order.

I am married to a patient and kind man who never questioned my alcohol intake. I suspect he assumed I didn't really have a problem if the house was always clean; the kids were happy and cared for; there was always supper on the table; and my business was flourishing. Truth is - what appeared to be intact had a devastatingly weak foundation underneath. I have been hiding like a child who covers her eyes and assumes no one can see her because she can't see.

I have been living a life of shame and guilt for 5 years. Even in spite of that shame, I still drank. The first glass always had a magical way of drowning it out. In 42 minutes, half the bottle was down. It was almost a race to see how fast I could drown the guilt, the shame, the worry and the fear. I started watching the clock to see how long it took. A few more glasses and I was comfortably numb. While in that state of numbness, I drunkenly played with my kids; read to them with slurred speech; and tucked them into bed with double vision. One night, I fell asleep in their room. While I was asleep - they were playing with my video camera. I discovered the video a few days later. They were recording each other having a puppet show. In the background I am snoring. To my horror, they panned the camera on to their unconscious mother. I dropped the camera and began to shake.

There it was. In vivid color. My despicable truth.

But I stayed silent. I kept my hands tightly over my eyes. I felt like a horrible mother and human being. How could I subject my children to this? They weren't even afraid and should have been. What good would I have been if they needed me and I was in that condition? The guilt has reached epic proportions that even Pinot can't drown out anymore. I feel desperate and terrified.

I know the liquor store has one more bottle of guilt for me. Instead, I sit here writing my story, so one more hour passes that I don't get in the car and get it. The addiction is whispering, "Just one more bottle and then you stop. Just one more." While many of you have years, months and even days of sobriety - I only have hours. I need to get through this night without succumbing to that whisper. I know if I don't stay strong, tomorrow morning will come and the guilt will be sitting on my chest like "Fuseli's Nightmare".

If I can do it, tomorrow I will wake up and say to myself, "See how good it feels to wake up sober? Remember how productive and happy you felt the last time?" Those times are few and far between. Coming to this blog is my first step. Today is my first "one day at a time".

My children deserve a sober mother. My husband deserves a sober wife.

Thank you all for listening to my story and for sharing yours. You are a great inspiration.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Getting Through A Social Event

***Submitted by Christine

Note from Ellie:  We post submissions in the order we receive them, so a bit of time has passed since Christine submitted this post, and I want to let everyone know she made it through, sober and strong.  This is a beautiful example of things we think about/things we can do when faced with a social occasion where alcohol will be served.

My name is Christine and I’m an alcoholic. 

I’ve been sober since April 2nd, 2010.  The handy “count your days” meter on the Grapevine website tells me that’s 504 days.  Five hundred and four?  For real?  Because I never thought I’d get to four days, much less another five hundred. 

Two years ago if I attempted not drinking for a day, I would start the morning with the best of intentions only to find myself drunk by 8 o’clock that night.  It took one traumatic event and a few hard line ultimatums from my husband before I finally was willing to accept that my drinking was out of control and my behavior was hurting the people I loved the most. 

I did not go to my first AA meeting with an open mind and willing heart.  I went because everyone was telling me that I needed to go.  That I needed help.  That I was one false step away from a DWI and a stay in rehab, or a dandy little seizure…whichever came first.   I did not stop drinking when I started attending AA meetings.  I went to my first Saturday morning meeting totally hung over from the night before.  But I went.  And I listened.  And I started to feel that it would be possible for me to get sober if I kept going and kept listening. 

The first time I stopped drinking I made it forty-three days.  On the forty-fourth day I went to the liquor store, bought two bottles of vodka and proceeded to drink daily for the next two months.  I still went to work, I still functioned as a wife and mother (barely) but I was just a drunken excuse of an employee, spouse and Mom.  There was no big bang or white light moment for me.  There was no intervention.  There was just the knowledge that I had to stop.  I could not continue the way I was going without serious damage to my brain, my liver, my job, my children and my marriage. 

And so I began the long, painful crawl towards sobriety.  During these past five hundred (and four!) days I have avoided almost all social functions where I might be tempted by alcohol.  I’ve passed on anniversary parties, picnics, holiday parties, and birthday parties because I’ve not been absolutely sure that I could not give in to the temptation to drink.  After all, I’ve been using alcohol to make socializing fun and comfortable since I was thirteen years old.  That’s thirty years of buzzed or drunken schmoozing.  How’s a girl supposed to re-learn how to mingle, laugh, dance, and have a good time without the crutch of alcohol to lean upon?

But today, the reckoning has arrived.  In three hours I’m going to join my co-workers at a large event where the booze will flow freely and I will be forced to face my cunning, baffling and oh so terribly strong disease head on.  This event will last until Sunday morning.  On Sunday morning, I plan to come home with five hundred and six days of sobriety on the counter. 

How will I do this?   First, I am taking back-up.  My fifteen year old daughter is going with me.  I’ve already told her that this might be hard for me and I might be very tempted by all the alcohol around me.  I’ve told her that I will not drink.  I will not throw away all of my hard work or the trust that I’ve had to regain from her and her sister.  I will not disappoint my family that way.  Second, I have prepared myself mentally for the battle ahead. 

I’ve reminded myself of what it took to get sober and what it means to stay sober.  I have repeated my serenity prayer multiple times this week and asked my higher power for the strength and grace that I will need to make it through these next two days. 

And third, I have asked myself if I can do this.  And myself has said, yes—yes you can.  If myself had wavered at all, I would not be going.  Because I’ve learned to listen to myself and trust myself in these last five hundred (and four!) days in a way that I could not before.  And finally, I am here writing this to you all; my sisters in the struggle.  I’m sharing with you and I’m asking you to think of me this weekend. 

Think of me, send me your positive thoughts and know that we’re never alone in the battle.  I will carry you with me, knowing that you’re cheering me on from afar

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One Year

***Submitted by Renee

One year ago, I was miserable. I was desperate. Despite outward appearances to the contrary, I had nothing.

There was a big gaping hole in my soul that was threatening to consume me. Nothing I did could close that hole. I was lost.

I said I was depressed. I said I was tired. I said many things to explain it away. But I knew better. I knew deep down that I was an alcoholic.

I was an alcoholic. I am an alcoholic. The thing that I loved so desperately was no longer working. My best friend, my lover, my everything could no longer offer relief. I turned to it more and more but it no longer numbed my pain. Instead I was left a raw nerve aching at everything life presented.

When I could no longer take the pain, I cried out for help. I turned to others. I admitted out loud to others that I was an alcoholic and I was powerless.

A miracle occurred. No one shunned me. No one thought less of me. I was welcomed with open arms. “Don’t drink, just for today,” they told me. I listened. Nothing else had worked for me so I tried it their way. Today became another day and another and another. I followed their suggestions.

I followed their suggestions. I surrendered. I worked hard. It got better. I changed. I grew. I stood straighter, prouder. I stayed sober.

Today, I am no longer desperate, no longer miserable. I found the perfect thing to close the big gaping hole in my soul. Today I am free.

My journey isn’t over. It’s far from over. There is still work to be done, actions to take.

But for today, for the past year, I can say I am a happy woman. I can say I am a sober woman.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Want A Drink - Confessions of A Binge Drinker

***Submitted by Anonymous

It’s Friday night and my mouth is watering.

I want a drink.

The sane, rational, good, sober side of myself is livid. This desire welling up in me is growing, and I’m afraid -- afraid I can’t control myself.

How am I so weak?

Last Saturday, my husband called an ambulance because by 9 in the morning I had consumed such a vast amount of Vodka I could no longer stand -- or remain conscious. I drank almost the entire contents of a half gallon of the stuff. I’m sure my blood was flammable.

I’d like to tell you this was unusual. It’s not. I binge drink - 3 to 5 times a week, going through anywhere from a half to an entire gallon of hard alcohol per week. This is the one thing in life I am committed to, or rather the only thing I do with any consistency.

Normally I buy vodka, but sometimes I get rum ... “for my husband” (who never drinks more than a shot). I poured myself one large drink, (8 oz vodka and equal amounts cranberry) relaxed my throat and downed it in a matter of seconds, then went to sleep. I woke up at five in the morning clammy and itching for a drink. I was relieved when I saw how much alcohol remained, (the level dwindled just inches below the shinny red cap) because when I woke I wasn’t sure if I had chugged one drink or consumed the entire bottle ....

I told myself I need it. I need a drink because my wisdom teeth are coming in and I’m in agony. I need a drink because my husband and six year old son will be up in a few hours and I can’t possibly deal with them without a little “hair of the dog” to quell this nausea and panic. I need a drink because I’m anxious -- it’ll calm me down.... the same reason I need it now... right?

I lost all of Saturday save for a few patchy moments sprawled on my bathroom floor crying -- err blabbering -- to the EMT about how embarrassed I was, about how I drank because my teeth were KILLING me. I remember screaming/slurring at the male EMT, and cop, and husband that I wanted them OUT!! I’m sure that statement was followed by some derogatory remark about men, but that’s all conjecture.

I woke Sunday covered in deep purple bruises and sporting a broken toe. My face is still black and blue. I actually told someone I got in a car wreck -- there’s no way they’d believe I could have done this much damage to myself by falling on (and off) every piece of furniture we own. Of course, that’s assuming I had enough courage to admit to anyone what a drunken state I had been in.

I have to pause now to shudder, and swallow the wave of unbearable shame and sorrow. How dare I??? My husband is the hardest working, funniest, smartest, most forgiving, strongest man I’ve ever known. He has enough character and integrity for the both of us, but it’s not fair -- I cannot do this to him any more -- not one more time. And oh, the number of times I’ve done it to him -- to my son. In the past year (I’ve been drinking heavily for three or four years, but it’s been out of control for the past 18 months-ish) I’ve blacked out countless times, peed the bed, broken my hand, broken my toe, driven drunk, lied, broken promises and commitments to the people that matter most, and generally been a less-then ideal wife and mom -- which is putting it kindly, I think.

I feel blanketed in fear, in shame, in regret and I’m so SICK of my behavior. I do not deserve the life I have. I do not deserve my husband. I most certainly do not deserve to hold the esteemed title of mommy -- not like this. I just want a level of reciprocity, and to be the wife and mother I can be, should be, desperately want to be... used to be. I’m losing my life -- and ruining theirs, and what’s worse .. this is the life I want!! What the &@!# is wrong with me??? Why won’t the urge go AWAY? It’s so illogical. I hate illogical.

I am an alcoholic. It doesn’t sound like much of a revelation after what I’ve shared, I’m sure, but its taken me a very long time to accept the title. The question now is, am I able to do what it takes to be a sober alcoholic -- and not just for a week, but forever.

It’s Friday night and I want a drink... but I’m not going to have it. I’m scared, ashamed and a little bit hopeful. Tomorrow is day six. One at a time, right?

Your stories have been an inspiration. Thanks for taking a moment to share mine.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Letter To My Friends And Family

***Submitted by Jennifer

Dear Friends and Family,


It's me, Jennifer.

I miss you.

I miss ME too. The old me anyway, the Jennifer who we all used to know and love.

I just want you to know that I'm sorry for the mistakes that I've made, how I've isolated myself, chosen alcohol over friendships. How I've been too drunk to make it to parties or family reunions, calling at the last minute with some lame excuse about being sick or running out of gas, trying to ignore the tone in your voices letting me know that you didn't freaking buy it anymore.

I'm sorry for borrowing money that I have yet to pay back. Money that I would never have needed to borrow if I hadn't spent all my monthly budget on booze.

I'm sorry for picking fights with everyone I know because of drunken drama.

I'm most sorry for not being there for you when you needed me as friend, as a daughter, as a sister - because I've been too selfish in my alcoholism. At this point, I am barely here for myself.

If it makes any difference - in the wake of my personal, mindless destruction, I want you to know that I'm working really hard right NOW to make changes.

I want the old Jennifer back and I hope you still want me too.

I've been taking proactive steps to get sober. Going to AA. Reaching out to those who can help me when I cannot or will not help myself.

I'm trying to forgive myself. A part of my recovery has been to educate myself about this disease. Accepting it as a disease has been helpful, as well as finally understanding my many genetic predispositions and life circumstances that have led me down the path into the evil arms of alcoholism. In no way is this meant to be a cop out or endless list of excuses. However, the facts remain that the deck was stacked against me from the beginning. I can see that now. I cannot reverse the bad choices I made in the past as a partial victim of these physiological realities, but I CAN do something now in order to pave the way for a healthier future.

And I AM. Please know that.

It took a while for me to arrive at this terrible, hurtful place. I know it will take me a long time to claw my way back. I have slipped along the way already, and may slip again. My greatest hope is that, after reading these words, you will feel the depth of my commitment to be better - to get back to that Jennifer who you all used to love.

I beg you. Please don't give up on me. Please find it in yourselves to want to know and love me again.

Fondly,

Jennifer

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Slipping and Scared

***Submitted by Mindy

Note from Ellie:  Because I've gotten several emails about it ...the Redbook article Mindy is referring to in her post is a piece in the October issue (on stands now, Jillian Michaels from The Biggest Loser is on the cover) entitled "Mommy Is An Alcoholic".  To view an online version of the article, click here.  It features me and two other sober bloggers: Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary and Corinne of Trains, Tutus and Teatime [she is also a regular contributor here at Crying Out Now], as well as another blogger named Deb who is still drinking, but taking a hard look at it and talking openly about how drinking impacts her life.  Crying Out Now is also mentioned in the article.
~~~~
Tonight I struggle!

 Like I have so many times in the past but tonight is different. Tonight I am alone! For the first time in 5mths, my husband isn't here with me. We married just 5mths ago, today! We haven't spent 1 night, nor one day apart since saying "I do"! I have been beyond blessed for that. See his business is a seasonal company and their season just started and will continue till New Year's day, so this is the first night of many nights to come. Some of you may think I'm just being a baby, and I'm whining but I'm truly feeling lost without him. I got sober March 2010, I tossed that out the window this past New Year's eve :(! But just as my therapist told me to get back on the wagon, I did and have done ok since....so I thought!

See I'm not only a recovering alcoholic, I'm also a recovering anorexic. They are both very slippery slopes to stand on, and right now I'm slipping around on them both. But I truly thought I had alcohol beat, but I was only kidding myself. One day last week, I had been drinking cranberry juice all day; my husband kept saying "You smell like you have been drinking wine". Now he wasn't accusing me, he was just stating what apparently the cranberry juice made my breath smell like. Well he made this reference several times throughout the day, by bedtime my addict thinking was in over drive! I had convinced myself that I could actually get away with drinking, I mean he already thought my breath smelled like wine when I'm not drinking so would he really know the difference? He didn't know what he had done to me by making those references, nor was I going to tell him! I have remained sober but that sleeping monster has been awakened and it's hungry for alcohol!

Of course my other demon, "ED (eating disorder)" I will call it is rooting me on as well. See when I was drinking, I wasn't eating for days, weeks at a time. I managed to get all my calories from my vodka or whiskey bottle. I don't want to go back to those days! But getting all this alone time is very dangerous for me and I'm not sure what to do!

I don't know why I get "Redbook" but it comes right to my mailbox and I opened it up....the page I turned right to unknowing what was in this months issue I read "Mommy is an alcoholic". I started crying on the spot and just had to read the entire thing right then! It's what led me to read of all y'alls struggles and for the first time in a very long time I didn't feel alone! I'm a mom to 4 beautiful children ages 3,5,8,9, they are my world and I wouldn't do anything to harm them, my drinking nearly destroyed them. What in me is wanting to put my children through that again?

What kind of mom does that make me?

My kids lost their dad to addiction December 25, 2007. They nearly lost me that same year to my anorexia then in 2010 to the alcohol. I'm truly scared and fear what tomorrow may bring....I don't want to drink, but I do have desires to drink!

Any words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Starting My Journey

*** Submitted by Rosie, who blogs at My Rosie Journey

I have finally admitted to myself that my drinking may be a bigger problem than I had originally thought. I have always enjoyed drinking, I grew up around alcohol - my parents always had a drink (or 5) to 'unwind' after work so I always knew I'd drink too.

I guess sometime around the age of 15 I started binge drinking but thought nothing of it because everyone else did it too. This carried on through University but I think even then I realised that I drank differently to others. I always drank to get drunk, as much as I could, every weekend. As I became a young professional I noticed I'd get a bit sad on a Sunday night because it meant I had to wait 4 more days til I could drink again.

Then I started hanging out with other professionals and found it was 'okay' to have a drink or two mid-week. This turned in to me drinking every night... but it was OK for the most part, most of my friends did too. Well that's what I told myself anyway. As they slowly got married off and stopped coming out, the drinking continued for me. Often on my own, often more than a bottle of wine.

I moved away, met a guy (now my husband) and he liked to social drink. It was easy for me to mask my drinking with him because I'd always say that I preferred to have a glass of wine every night rather than binge drink on the weekends. The problem was, it wasn't just one glass. I would just binge drink every night.

I didn't drink at all during both my pregnancies, though I looked forward to them being over so I could drink again. I suffered postpartum depression/ postnatal depression and even though I take anti-depressants, I still self medicate with alcohol - my drug of choice. I've been to an alcohol counsellor who has told me I'm not an alcoholic, I am what is called a 'dangerous drinker'. This lulled me in to a false sense of security and as we worked on me moderating my drinking and being OK with drinking moderately. I thought life would be good and I could control it. But then she suggested I go on a holiday from alcohol... 2 weeks without a drink. I was outta there and I haven't been back.

Now I'm at the point where again, I'm drinking a bottle of wine a night. I can't remember things when I wake up - like if I've eaten or where I fell asleep. I watched a TV show the other day and vaguely realised I must've watched it one night after (during) drinking because I could recall bits and pieces of it but didn't realise I had already watched it.

I know this isn't normal. I know I drink too much. Regardless of what my drinking is called, I can see now that I'm addicted to alcohol. EVERY morning I wake up and swear I won't drink tonight. By 4:00 the pull is too strong and I start to drink. And the cycle continues. I wish I could just moderate my drinking but I'm starting to realise that probably won't be possible. A life without alcohol completely terrifies me but at the same time is strangely appealing. I won't have to waste all this time and energy on drinking/ hiding / planning it etc. I can free up that time in the evenings to do all the things I dream of doing.
 
But still... how will life without alcohol be?
 
What will happen when there's no Friday night drinks with my husband?
 
Will I go to parties and just... not drink?? How does that even look?
 
I can't even picture it. Is it possible that I can do it?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Diary of a Binge Drinker

***Submitted by Anonymous

The antabuse begins to dissolve on my tongue, and I swallow it quickly, cutting off my mind’s plotting on how to dispose of it indiscreetly. Two days ago, I hid gum on the roof of my mouth, and stuck the antabuse into the wad of gum. As soon as my husband turned away, I threw out the gum, and the contained antabuse.

With the antabuse gone, I could continue my four day binge, for one more day, and drink till the point of sweet oblivion and passing out

I am a binge drinker, and I mostly drink alone, until I pass out into oblivion. I am 29. I began drinking in college. I drank socially in college, binge drinking with friends on the weekends. After college, I drank socially, but also started drinking to self-medicate my own shyness, anxiety and insecurities. I began drinking alcoholically at around 25, when I taught English for a year in Asia, and was able to basically drink whenever I wanted, with a group of other young Americans, many of whom drank as much as me. I recognized I had a problem when I came back from Asia. I toned down my drinking for a year, and began graduate school. Every few weeks, however, I’d binge for several days. The binges became worse.

At various times over the past four years, the following occurred: I was admitted to a psych ward (due to the fact that I was too embarrassed to admit to my then-fiance that I was seriously drinking vodka at 7 a.m. that I told him I overdosed on pills and tried to kill myself. The fact was, however, I never tried to kill myself and I wasn’t taking any pills. I was simply too embarrassed to admit that I had been waking up early to drink vodka in the morning. I often drank in the morning so I could attempt to sober up by the time my fiancĂ©/husband came home from work), I ended up in the emergency room, I sprained my ankle falling drunk down the stairs, I drank and drove (I never had a DUI, but I should have), I missed weeks of class in graduate school due to drinking, I binged weeks before I graduated from grad school, weeks before my bridal shower, and several days before my wedding. I passed out drunk, and urinated all over myself in bed on several occasions, leaving my husband to clean up the mess. I joined AA at several points, but always stopped going about five or six weeks into a sober period of my life, when I felt confident and capable again.

In spite of all this, if you met me during the past four years, you probably wouldn’t realize that I had a problem. I was an A student throughout high school and college, a bit of a perfectionist. I did well in grad school. I graduated with a good job offer. In public, I always looked put-together. I come from a loving, supportive family. I have a wonderful husband, and good friends. I am a kind person, although anxious and fearful and insecure. I am often lonely, and wonder if I am good enough, and if this “is all there is” in life. I apologize for myself all the time. Alcohol filled a void that I hadn’t found anywhere else. What you might notice, however, is that every few weeks, I would be hard to reach. I wouldn’t answer my phone, I’d respond to e-mails after several days. I’d make up an excuse that I was busy. I only revealed so much of my personal life to you. In reality, I’d be checked-out, and on a binge, and I was too ashamed to reveal. Up until six months ago, I had never revealed to anyone other than my husband and a few close friends that I was an alcoholic.

Six months ago, after about a five week period of sobriety, I started drinking on a weekend, and continued my binge for a week, calling in sick to work, running out of the house intoxicated out of my mind, passing out in parking lots, hiding liquor behind bushes and empty parking lots, because I knew my husband would throw it out or make me stop drinking if I came home. Each night, I would come back to our home for a period to sleep, and then sneak out the next morning, to get more alcohol.

In all of my binges, I have been terrified to stop drinking. First, because I know the consequences will be awful – guilt, shame, self-loathing for putting my husband and family through hell, the fear that I am completely wasting my life and destroying my mind. Second, because alcohol is my soul mate. I love it more than any person, and the thought of giving it up completely, which I know I’ll have to do when the binge ends, terrifies the hell out of me.

However, I had never snuck out of the house every day for a week, and woken up bruised and hiding bottles in a parking lot. The consequences of what could have happened scared me to death. I thought I was done. I quit my job, told my employer about my alcoholism, and attended an outpatient program. Again, I had several weeks of sobriety, and then I binged again. I’ve binged three more times over the past six months, most recently over this past weekend. I started drinking at a wedding with college friends, and I didn’t stop drinking for five days. I hid alcohol, I ran out of the house, and tried to hide myself. I put my husband in the terrible position of being my warden – hiding my contacts and glasses, taking my credit cards and my cash, hiding my shoes so I couldn’t leave the house.

Throughout this period of my life, I’ve been in shock and denial. I worked hard to become a successful professional – I never thought my twenties would become waylaid by this chronic disease. I have put my own husband through hell – and have lied to him and manipulated him and betrayed his trust on multiple occasions.

Today, I am on day 2 of my new sobriety.

Being sober is extremely difficult because I am constantly grappling with: how the hell did this happen to me? What if I am trapped in this binge cycle for the rest of my life? How could I have put my husband through what I’ve put him through – what kind of horrible person does such a thing to someone else? Have I physically injured my liver or my brain? What is wrong with me that I feel so compelled to drink that I’ve put my sanity, career and marriage on the line?

Then, there is also the fear of knowing that despite everything that I’ve been through, I don’t trust myself enough to think that I can stay sober forever. In a few weeks, when I’m feeling emotionally stable, I’ll begin plotting to sneak a drink, to stop taking antabuse because it makes me tired, or “have just two glasses of wine,” and then this whole thing will start all over again. I am terrified.

I am going to AA meetings, and meeting with my addiction psychologist, but I feel like I have no idea what I should be doing. Should I go to a 30 day inpatient program? Should I attend another outpatient program? I want so badly for someone to tell me what to do, and I feel so alone right now.

For the past six months, I’ve been looking at this website, and at One Crafty Mother, and have found much comfort in knowing that I am not alone, in the shame and secrecy embedded in my addiction. Thank you to all who share their stories here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Alcoholics' Daughter

A note from Ellie:  addiction is a family disease, and it impacts everyone who loves an alcoholic. Periodically we like to post submissions from the 'other side' of addiction. There are many people who read this blog who have grown up with alcoholism, or who love someone who is struggling, and so we feel it is important to talk about this aspect of the disease, too.

A little background about me: I am 27, married, no children and am the daughter of alcoholic parents.

My parents have been drinking since I was a baby. Since my sister was a baby. Little sis’ remembers a lot more than I do, which is strange, since I am the oldest. She remembers the two of us with our long blond hair and matching outfits crying confused in a corner as my mom, a usually passive drunk, stood in front of us screaming at my father, an angry, scary drunk. Our home was filled with threats, physical abuse (not at us, I don’t think) and harsh words to never be unspoken.

And then things changed…

You see, my parent’s were young, new business owners of a convenient store, restaurant and bar, all operating one block from our trailer house in the park. And one night, I remember my dad agreeing to our request to sleep outside on the picnic bench, the bubbling of laughter erupting in our bellies as we felt elated and spoiled to be doing something so wild. We fell asleep smiling, but awoke to confusion and fear in the form of police lights and an ambulance. My mother had come home drinking, my dad too, I think had left some time and joined her, and there had been hitting, the last one splitting my mother’s lip open. We still didn’t understand what was going on until the next day, after sleeping over at a friend’s house, until we saw my mother in bed; my father crying over her and her stitched up lip, and the word “divorce” was spoken. That’s when we came unglued. Even at our young age, divorce was more terrifying than that alcoholism. We begged and bawled, our five year-old selves crying for them to do anything but divorce. I remember the physical pain felt as though, through that one word divorce, our flesh was being ripped in half.

That was their rock bottom, which brought them to AA and counseling and nearly eight years of sobriety. I am thankful for those years, because it was in those years my dad was a dad: coaching us in softball and basketball, dealing with his anger sober. My mom worked out daily and looked great and cheered us at games. Sometimes they fought, but it was different sober.

What happened after that eighth year I do not know; I just know they succumbed to the drinking again. The harsh words began again, but this time I remembered them, sharp daggers in my heart every time. The incoherent statements telling me to “f*ck off” at three in the afternoon as I screamed and cried while my mother stumbled into the house, the detailed information of their sex life spilled over after one of their drunken fights, the humiliating experience with friends asking if my parents were “wasted”, and the hardest being told it was my fault they were drinking again, that our house has never been a home, because a home is where love is.

Of course, I could go on and on, but writing these facts only serves the darkness, when there is so much light instead.

The light of redemption. A path of a faith that has removed the scales from my eyes so I no longer look through a lens of shame and pain. I look at that young girl I once was, a girl who pulled out her eyelashes and was far too thin and lived with a constant anxiety that formed knots in my stomach, a pain that became my norm. A skeptic, critical girl full of anger and a need to control everything and every person. A girl who lost many friends because I wasn’t much of a friend, didn’t know how to be. A woman who almost lost her beloved husband (then-boyfriend) because he couldn’t stand my constant scrutiny and multitude of insecurities, the biggest one my fear of rejection.

The light for me has been my faith, my guide to a place of peace, of wisdom and of real, everlasting love.

Since that time, I have sat down with my parents, explained to them the pain their alcoholism caused, offered forgiveness and hoped they’d accept it. I had prepared myself for my dad to say “I don’t need your forgiveness” or “well, in that case, I forgive you for being such a difficult child!” But he didn’t. He graciously accepted it and commented that he has seen a change in me, one that he is curious to know more about.

They are still drinking. Often. My mom’s liver isn’t doing so well, and you can see the alcoholism all over the pores on her face, the vessels in her nose a little more purple. She has gained much weight since those sober days. My dad doesn’t take care of himself, often smells bad, is overweight, and his mouth is a dark hole of missing teeth due to improper care.

I have to be honest that until recently, I was still playing the role of savior, the perfect child, the one to look to when things are rough… “oh our daughter, even if life is hard right now, at least she’s got it to together.” Yep, I was a textbook child of alcoholic parents. It wasn’t until a recent visit that I realized, “I cannot do this anymore.” Because I am not perfect, I have struggles. And I need healthy relationships to talk through life.

But I do love my parents. I see my role now is to hope for them, pray for them and most of all, love them, right where they are. Because I am not their drinking; it is not my fault, and I am not their answer. I have learned that.

My parent’s alcoholism is not my fault.

And there is always hope.