Archive for December, 2009
Hi Everyone! Happy New Year! If you’re feeling crappy, if you’re feeling amazing, if you’re feeling despondent, if you’re feeling hopeful…come be with all of us and check in (that’s the Yahoo link for the online support group).
Cecily from Uppercase Woman was one of my early supporters when I started talking about making a decision to quit drinking. When I went on Dr. Oz, Cecily immediately assured me that she’d show up for me in the studio audience – because that’s what we alchies do; we show up for each other. And here she is again; showing up.
Ever since Stefanie asked me to post here (an honor I feel humbled by, truly) I’ve wondered what to write. Because while we have many things in common – we are moms, we are writers, we are happily married to great men, and our toddlers drive us absolutely apeshit, and yes, we are both alcoholics – the way our alcoholism choose to manifest is vastly different.
I often think if my life circumstances were different, perhaps my alcoholism would have made itself known through the elegant stem of a wine glass. Maybe if my father hadn’t walked out on us when I was two. Maybe if my mother hadn’t moved us across the country right before I started high school. Maybe if I hadn’t moved to a major city. Maybe if I’d married the first guy I dated, or the third, or the thirtieth.
But of course, the circumstances of my life are, well, the circumstances of my life. I did start hanging out with older boys that were all drunks when I was in high school, and started drinking with my boyfriend every day. Then I did move to Philadelphia, fall in love with the bar scene, and start spending six or seven nights a week hanging out until closing time. Then I did start hanging out with poets and writers, and we did start doing drugs, and before I knew what happened my last six months of drinking and drugging involved things like street drugs and needles and scary drug dealers and getting fired for stealing and almost dying of a drug overdose.
That is how my disease, my alcoholism, showed itself.
But guess what? The disease? It’s the same disease. It doesn’t give a shit if it comes to you in the form of prescribed pain pills, or expensive wine, a martini glass, or a syringe filled with heroin. It is actually a very close relation of the same disease that shows itself as too much shopping, or overeating, or over exercising, or gambling, or being anorexic. All of these sick, twisted, and it’s-so-sad-when-cousins-marry diseases spring from the same well, and show themselves in one similar way: they are a compulsion, a distraction, and a way to manipulate the universe to our liking. It’s a way to stop feeling our feelings, a way to smooth out the rough edges of the world, and a way to hide our head in the sands so we don’t lose our minds.
There are some basic truths I’ve come to learn about alcoholism and addiction in my fourteen years sober. First of all, it doesn’t discriminate; alcoholism could give a fuck about your background and whether or not you had a good family. It also is immensely self-centered, and doesn’t give much of a shit about your family, the people you love, or the outside world. Alcoholism is also demanding, eventually asking you to give it EVERYTHING, even your life.
There are some other basic truths I’ve come to learn about people like me and Stefanie. We’re smart, we’re creative, we’re wonderfully empathetic, and we are thin-skinned and sensitive. On the flip side, we also tend to be grandiose, self-centered, obsessive, and, well, thin-skinned and sensitive.
Another basic truth? Alcoholism is a family disease. While there might be just one person in your family that drinks alcoholically, everyone in the family is affected. Even the pets (funny how they disappear after that third glass, right?).
But there is good news. It is possible to heal. When I lay on that stretcher in the emergency room on December 21 of 1995 after my overdose, I knew I’d reached a turning point. I could either continue as I had, and wait to die, or I could step down onto the side of sobriety and embrace living. I was on the fence, there, for a while and unable to choose. Eventually, though, I made the right choice, and am alive today to tell you about it.
In a way, I was lucky. My particular version of alcoholism was pretty clean and clear; no one who looked at my life that last year I was drinking had ANY doubt that I was an alcoholic. Everyone knew. So when I got sober, I wasn’t greeted with disbelief; I was greeted with just plain old RELIEF. The entire city of Philadelphia let out a sigh that I wasn’t going to be pinballing through the streets of town any longer.
This made if far easier to accept the truth about my addiction and my alcoholism. It was very simple. I was a falling down drunk, a junkie, and a liar and a thief. Walking into my first recovery meeting was like coming home to my people, and not at all the feeling of being a square peg fitting into a round hole. Life has been a bit better, a bit brighter, each day since I got sober.
I won’t lie. There have been bad days. When I lost my twins at six months pregnant, I seriously considered finding a vat of heroin and taking a little swim. But I didn’t. I went to meetings. I cried. I ate a lot of chocolate. And now? My beautiful daughter, three and a half crazy years old, has never seen me drunk.
God willing, she never will.
Recovery is an option for everyone. It really is. I don’t know if my ramblings have helped anyone, but know this: you are not alone. You are not alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on December 31, 2009 10:26 pm
Not every blog entry can be deep or have a message or inspire people to change their lives for the better of society. Every time I sit down at my keyboard I can’t just magically cure blindness or single handedly prevent a global act of terrorism or convince PBS to stop airing Caillou (God knows I’ve tried). I’m not Oprah. Plus, between Jersey Shore and Biggest Loser Where Are They Now specials, I’m pretty busy.
Although I can’t always bring it, I do have these two-year-olds who seem to love the lens only slightly less than Tyra Banks. The other day Sadie was mid crying jag when Jon brought out a camera. She looked at him and still crying, tilted her face toward the camera and whimpered cheeeese. Imagine the “Tres jolie, Coco” moment in Fame -crying and performing.
And then there’s Matilda who is convinced she’s Angelina Jolie. She just has to smell a camera to start making a sexy face. You’d think we were behind the camera coaxing her, work it Mattie! Sell it Sweetheart! You own it! The camera loves you, baby! YOU’RE A STAH! (Imagine I’m an obnoxious Brit)
I give her a year before she refuses to get out of bed for less than ten thou.
The other day I was at the park with them when Mattie broke into a gallop and approached a group of friendly strangers to say hi and give them a little dance -her signature greeting. They all giggled at her and said hi back and then watched her trot back to me and Sadie. Then they all sort of got silent for minute at started to stare. At first I thought maybe I was being a little paranoid, oversensitive. But then I heard them comment to each other in what they mistakenly thought were lower tones trying to figure out if Sadie and Mattie were twins. “I don’t think so but they are definitely close in age” I heard one say. “One is so little.” I could hear them easily and I felt my face get hot. What the fuck? Were we a museum exhibit? I couldn’t understand why I was upset, maybe I figured I was getting past the obvious phase.
As I walked by, on my way out, one of the men in the group asked if they were twins and I said yes. He said “I thought so but they’re, well, so different.”
“Yeah,” I said. “One is a lot smaller.”
And then I realized I didn’t care. Because those people were only staring at the cover of the book. They’d never even read the first chapter so how could they possibly know our whole story?
Our twins were born two years ago on November 26th weighing 2lb and 4lbs. Three weeks later, Matilda came home and right before Christmas, Sadie joined her. Our little Christmas miracle.
And as Natasha Bedingfield sang over and over and over in 2005, the rest is still unwritten.
How weird is this? Natasha Bedingfield was born Nov. 26th.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on December 28, 2009 8:31 pm
So let me introduce you all to Jane. She’s a newish friend of mine. Lets just say I met her around the same time that I quit drinking. I absolutely love her because she’s warm, honest, loving and lovely -and she inspires me everyday. She’s here to share a little of her story with you so that you can see that we drinkers are EVERYONE. Please leave your Friday comments here so that we can continue to lend one another support and also, please please visit Sweet Jane’s blog at Lights! Camera! Diapers!
I get why people drink, I sure do. This life can be ass-kickin’ hard time filled with constant constantcy of the constant angst. Constant to-do. Constant brain-chatter. Constant noise. Expectations and desire and you know, the missing pieces that we just keep reaching, striving and wanting. And I found that a little drinkee-poo was a nice filler, take-the-edge-off-er and all around salve for what just ain’t right.
I didn’t drink all the time. I wasn’t an every day type of a gal. I was a once-in-a-while-but-you-better-be-ready-to-duck kinda drinker. Do you know this type? Yeah, a FUN drunk.
You know, the girl you want to get drunk with. The one who wouldn’t make you feel bad because she stops after two. And maybe you’re done after four but oops, she might not be. And then you watch her slide into that slippery too-much place and that makes you feel a bit superior as she stumbles around slowly disintegrating. Or maybe you don’t notice that she’s out of her mind because she’s carrying on a perfectly lovely conversation about world religions and why Top Chef is such great television or how Europe is generally a better place because they don’t pasteurize the crap out of their dairy, but that doesn’t mean she’ll remember it. Oh, no, probably not. So please don’t embarrass her by talking about last nights conversation in mixed company, she’ll blush and look around wildly while biting her lip.
Boy it’s nice talking about myself in the third person, it’s feels a little less threatening to share at this level.
But let me just say this: For me, continuing to drink meant I could not be authentic.
And it was dangerous. It was Russian roulette with a loaded bottle pointed at my existence and the possibility of oh you know, a drunken foot on a gas petal. Or a drunken, harmful monologue to my fantastic husband. Or a lost friend due to some random moment that she hates me for but gosh if I can’t remember. I was tired of the excuse that alcohol gave me, as nice as it was…I was missing the good by running from the bad.
And I wasn’t getting pregnant either. In fact, this was the pattern:
1) Drink ‘normally’ for two weeks. (And by normal I mean sometimes one drink, sometimes eight…who knew?)
2) Then try to make the baby. Not drink for two weeks.
3) Find out not-so-much pregnant, drink heavily.
4) Rinse and repeat.
Then there was the pregnancy that lasted eight weeks. When that sweet feeling ended at the OB’s office with an empty womb a few days before Christmas three years ago, I thought it was an excellent reason to drink. Kinda was. Trouble is, you can drink your feelings away and even have some cool professional success and really alot of goodness can go down along with the champagne and excellent wine that you got at that fancy wine shop. But. Then you become Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways all talking about the strawberry and asparagus in the wine but ultimately you are totally full of shit and like Miles in the movie. Because the escape hatch of wine was keeping you from your truth and your own personal brand of magic.
Ah I did it again, did you see that? Snuck it back out of first person. Sneaky little drunk. But, here’s the thing. Since I come from a long line of boozehounds, I happen to know that my body is seriously allergic to the stuff. If you’re like me you’ll know you’re allergic too because you black the eff out after as little as one drink. If you’re like me you know you can’t drink because you can’t trust yourself with booze. And if you are trying to control it, chances are, you might be like me.
I was lucky. No DUI, no jail, didn’t lose my husband or my house but I was losing little bits of my soul with every drink. Was it luck? Or smarts? I dunno. I just feel lucky to have chosen a different path. And I didn’t need a court order to realize that help would be um, helpful. So I got it. And despite all of my previous thinking, it’s been pretty fawking great. I’ve met extraordinary women who inspire and amaze me. I’ve learned so much about myself and how to safely unravel the darkness in search of some gems. Life is getting better all the time. Sure it sounds kinda cheesy but it is cheesy and true. My best, brightest hope for anyone struggling with this crappy, frustrating, physical addiction is that you too find some help. Get help and kick this hell and noise called booze to the curb.
Oh and by the way, I did finally get pregnant. Three months after I stopped drinking. He’s now eight months old and a little blessing that life gifted me when I got brave and dove back into said life. And it’s pretty magical.
Thanks to Stefanie for letting me bend your ear up here, it’s a privilege and an honor. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on December 25, 2009 3:45 pm
I’d love to leave a longer post for today but I’m jumping on a plane for NY to go talk about booze and the holidays on the Today Show. I will be on between 8:00 and 8:30 am. if you’d like to watch. I suppose this means I’ll have to shower which wasn’t on my agenda for today but I’ll deal with it. That’s the trouble with being a huge celebrity: you’re forced to shower semi-regulary. I feel I owe it to my fans (otherwise known as “the little people”)
I’ll tell you something about traveling sober that you may not have thought of: you can’t drink on the plane. I know it would seem like there are different rules for air travel with regards to sobriety like it doesn’t count if you’re above a certain altitude but, turns out, it matters. Who knew?
So I’m going to be all wide awake reading magazines and obsessing about shoes.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on December 21, 2009 6:58 pm
So here we are. It’s Friday. I invite all of you lushes out there who are trying to make a change to come to my blog for support. It’s only on Friday because seriously, we can’t talk about it every minute right? Well, I can but I’m very OCD and that’s a whole nother issue. And seriously, if you aren’t someone who is needing to, considering or already has quit drinking, I’m not fucking judging you. Drink away! Or don’t drink away!
Listen, contrary to what you may think, I have not changed my stance on believing that booze can equal a good time. In fact, I encourage my husband to drink as much as he wants. But, here’s why: my husband does not have a problem. I have not one time in the history of our relationship ever seen him have a drink and thought, “Uh oh, here we go.” Never. You know why? Because Jon is 100% predictable when he has a few drinks. Even when he drinks every night, he doesn’t need to drink every night. But I bet you there has come a time when Jon has seen me with an open bottle of wine and wondered if I’d be fast asleep by 8:00 p.m. and if he’d once again be responsible for getting up in the middle of the night if the kids needed attention. I’m sure he’s cringed a little bit at a party when I’ve gotten a little (a lot) extra “outgoing.”
Some people, myself included, struggle with calling what they have a drinking problem. Most people especially have a hard time identifying themselves as an alcoholic. I totally get that. Once you use the word alcoholic to describe yourself, it’s pretty hard to change your mind, right? I mean, saying you are an alcoholic is like announcing to the world that you cannot care for your children, you are one step away from drinking Boone’s Farm Tickle Pink next to a dumpster, hoping someone will give you a dollar. That is just not the case.
To me, alcoholic means that I should not be drinking ever because alcohol in my body can lead to unpredictable (or actually fairly predictable) bad behavior or at least behavior that I don’t like. Alcoholic means that I don’t want to drink and yet sometimes (all the time) I do it anyway.
So once you say you’re an alcoholic there’s no turning back right? Well, that’s kind of ridiculous isn’t it? Have you met Robert Downey Jr.? He’s changed his mind about 8000 times.
I think that I am an alcoholic but if I died and went to heaven (because I’m a super awesome person -and that’s where our kind goes right?) and God said, “Oh, that’s so funny that you thought you were an alcoholic! Sorry if I implied that. Actually, you just drank a lot when you were stressed out but you probably could’ve drank a little now and then without horrible consequences. My bad!” would I be really pissed that I missed these years of alcohol? No, I wouldn’t.
There’s no blood test to determine whether or not you OFFICIALLY have a problem. There’s just the voice in your head that is nagging at you that you need to quit.
So, if you want to do this, every Friday, starting today, let’s share a little something about our experience and if we’re struggling or not and then if you want to leave your email, do it. If not, that’s cool too. Let’s encourage each other. We’re not alone.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on December 18, 2009 6:32 pm