Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cunning and Baffling

***Submitted by Anonymous 

For 50 exhilarating and sometimes-despondent days, I didn’t drink. My parents told me I seemed “so much calmer.” My rear-end seemed to have magically tightened and lifted itself about an inch.

But last Monday, while having dinner with a friend, I ordered one glass of pinot grigio and sipped it slowly. It was part of my new experiment to drink only when there was an “occasion” of sorts – and to limit myself to two, no matter what.

My friend and I saw a movie; I went home, proud of my self-control. 

Driving home the next day from work, I spotted one of my favorite local bands setting up for a concert at the neighborhood park. I drove to the store and bought a bottle of wine, debating myself the whole way and tossing up half-hearted prayers. At home, I carefully measured 10 ounces – the equivalent of two glasses – into a plastic cup and headed to the park with my blanket.

Again, I sipped slowly. That worked until I ran into two gregarious friends who shared their champagne with me. And another friend who shared her sangria. Then I went home, poured myself another glass of wine and watched “Smashed” – a movie about a young woman who quits drinking after facing too many scary mornings-after. I woke up hung over, on a Wednesday morning. 

Of course, the only thing that steadies a hangover is booze, so the following evening, I drank two glasses of wine. Two glasses = no big deal, but combine that with the half-sleeping pill I took, and I have zero recollection of eating the S’mores Blizzard that was in my freezer. I groaned loudly when I saw the empty cup in my bathroom trash can. I looked up the calorie count online – 420 calories and I don’t even get to recall the pleasure of how it tasted??

Thursday night, I drank almost an entire bottle of wine – not sure what “occasion” I imagined for myself, to justify the consumption. I woke up mildly hung over on Friday, the day I would host my daughter’s sleepover party. Knowing I would need a nap, I decided to work from home. (Always conscientious about work, I made sure to get everything done and then some.)

Around 5 p.m., I wanted some wine to ease my headache, but I didn’t want to drink before any of the parents dropped off their kids. One mom came by; I asked her if she wanted something to drink. She said a beer, so I poured myself some wine – careful to control the amount in case she was judging. (She wasn't.)

A couple of hours later, my husband – we’re separated and share custody of our daughter – came over to help with the party. I continued drinking wine while he drank *one* beer. He had been very supportive during my 50 days of sobriety; and now, he was supportive of my attempt to moderate.

“You haven’t had any more than two, have you?” he said. “Come on, don’t fall off the wagon.”

I laughed. “I’ve already fallen off the wagon.”

Later, outside, in the backyard, we talked while the five beautiful little girls splashed in a small pool. My husband noticed the blue plastic cup in my hand. “Are you drinking more wine?”

Yes.

“Why? Why are you doing that to yourself? You were doing so great.”

I paused, and then poured out the wine in the grass, explaining how it’s every alcoholic’s great obsession to be able to drink normally. I had to admit that my experiment had failed, and failed quickly. Cunning, baffling, powerful...

The next morning, I woke up understandably tired after trying to keep five energetic girls fed, comfortable and happy - but I felt great. I played games with the girls and had fun.

And I had to hit the reset button, after 50 days of sobriety. I’m now on Day 2.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Overcoming the Stigma

***Submitted by Anonymous

I didn't want to be an alcoholic. I didn't even like to think of that word. It sent shivers down my spine. It was shameful, humiliating, and weak. It meant I was out of control. What would people think? What would they say about me? The big black cloud of stigma followed me around, and helped keep me sick. For too long.

But what I've learned is that this stigma was in MY head, based in shame, regret and fear of the unknown. It's what kept me trying to moderate, control, change my drinking for 2 years - falling short every time. It wasn't until my gig was up, and my loved ones were honest with me about the fact that I wasn't fooling anyone - they knew about my struggle with alcohol. It was no secret. Truth is, I knew they knew. At some point, my drinking to escape life's struggles turned into drinking just to feel normal. Without it I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Things in my life weren't working anymore. In almost every aspect of my personal life I found unrest and discontent. But I didn't know what to do. I just knew that drinking wasn't it.

That was all before leaping into a program of recovery, finally surrendering myself to the process. I don't know how much longer I could have lasted out there, my drinking was progressing so fast. I knew I was unhappy, I just didn't know how to fix my life. Drinking worked for a while, until it didn't. Then it was working on killing me. I started meeting people who understood my pain, in a way only another alcoholic does.  People who spoke without reservation about their struggles, and listened without pause or expectation. I don't know at what point I became an alcoholic, or if I was born with the tendency, and it doesn't much matter to me now. I just know that the only way I can be present and sober is to abstain from it 100%. 

At first all I wanted to do is stop drinking. But a funny thing happened. 

My shame started lifting. I started changing. Changing the things in my life I drank to escape. I started allowing myself to feel. Changing my perceptions about feelings, people and things and changing from a place of control to submission. Willingness to take certain steps, and let go of the result. To take it on pure faith and prayer that it could get better. Accepting life as it is and not how I would want it to be. Life on life's terms. And I'm learning that my sobriety depends on my willingness to releasethose things that aren't serving me anymore. I'm free because I'm not forced to find the answer any more. And most days, I can find a few moments of serenity to hold on to. And when things are hard, to fall to my knees and pray:
 
Serenity Prayer (long version)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is
, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Amen.

Each day that passes, I feel shame that I used alcohol in that way. I'm even grateful for my disease. Because it brought me to my knees. Which is someplace I hadn't been in a while, but needed to visit. I'm practicing getting out of my own way. Out of my head. And what's in others' heads is none of my business anyway. 

Stigma faded. Poof!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Drinking and Anxiety

***Submitted by Anonymous

The past year has been hell, well technically the past three years have been hell. 

A break-up, two back surgeries for my child, lost the home I owned and loved, moved twice, lost my dream job and finally filed bankruptcy.

All in that order and I am certain that is not everything major that has gone wrong. I started drinking daily a little over a year ago as my way to escape the anxiety from some of these things, the losing of the job happened about 6 months in.

I've never been treated for anxiety until recently but I think I've had a few very minimal bouts with it in my past, I can say that now that I truly know what it is.  I've been doing so much soul searching recently and for me, I've discovered I have anxiety because I am not living the life I should be proud of. 

I'm mostly embarrassed of what I have allowed to happen to me, or I have done to myself.  I isolate. I don't like to see family, I only have one friend I will talk to about my problems but not about the alcohol. 

While I have medication that is a godsend for anxiety, I do not like to take it, but it does work wonders when I do.  Sometimes if the anxiety isn't too bad I can get by with just drinking it away. So do I drink because of the anxiety or do I have anxiety because I drink?  I know that the alcohol makes it worse. 

Waking up at 4 am every day so shaky and wired and anxiety ridden, having a beer or two and then going back to bed for 2 or 3 more hours is a habit. Most days I drink instead of eat and I've gained 50lbs with that logic. It is disgusting. 

So I really tied one on the other night, got up and kept drinking the next day a 30 pack of beer and two packs of cigarettes in about 24 hours. I am going to die.  I didn't even recognize myself in the mirror.  It just made me so sick. 

I'm just over 24 hours without a drink and doing pretty well. I cannot tell you the last time I went without a drink for 24 hours.  I had an episode a few hours ago where the anxiety almost made me sick but I did not go to the liquor store and am feeling recovered from that.  I know alcohol played a role in the things that have gone wrong. 

I just want things to start going right and I don't want to die.  I know I can go to the liquor store, I told myself that, but then I made the decision not to, just for today at least.