Archive for January, 2010
Note from Stef: About nine days ago, I received this letter from a blogger. I was moved by her honesty and eloquence and wanted very much to be able to post her words. I felt that where she was in her struggle would help more people than she could ever know. So I asked her. And she said yes. And, guess what, there is more to her story, but we’ll begin here:
“I have suspected (waaaay in the back of my mind) that I need to quit
drinking for a very, very long time. Years. But I never told anyone
because I didn’t want to be held accountable. I didn’t want the
pressure of failing in front of people. When I quit, and I fail, I’m
the only one who knows. I’m the only one I let down, or look stupid in
front of, or whatever. I just can’t stand the idea of people
whispering about me, judging me, looking at me. Also, I don’t know if
you realize this or not, but when you quit drinking you can’t drink
anymore. Fuck me!
Something changed for me in the last year or so, though. It’s subtle,
or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. I’ve started to confide in a couple
of people, be more honest with myself about it, think about it and
analyze things and wonder more openly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still
horribly secretive and sneaky about the whole thing, but the idea that
I may have a problem is a permanent resident in my consciousness now,
even if I make her sleep on the couch.
There are many things in my life that allow me to continue drinking
this much (a loving but very passive husband, friends who tell me I
don’t have a problem, a writing career that’s 100% flexible in terms
of schedule and obligations, kids in school, etc) but one of the
biggest is that I haven’t been able to identify with any drunks I
know. I’m not those guys. I am highly functioning. My drinking is not
affecting my relationships or my work. I’m not driving drunk, I’m not
hanging out at the bar, cheating on my husband, embarrassing myself
publicly, [insert additional stereotypes here]. I am nowhere near a
But then you quit drinking, and I saw myself a little in your story.
And I saw myself in some of the news reports surrounding your story.
And I’ve been following it all with great interest. Great interest.
and then, this summer, I read a book called Drinking: A Love Story by
Caroline Knapp. And I saw myself so clearly in the mirror of that book
that I freaked out and I dropped it and it shattered and though I’ve
continued drinking I am still stepping on the shards every once in a
while, and today, reading Heather’s admission, was one of those days. And I’m bleeding.
This summer after I read that book I went to a meeting and it was
exactly what I’d worried it would be and I never wanted to be around
those people ever again and I ran. I called my best friend and I said,
“Please tell me I’m not an alcoholic so I never have to go to another
one of those meetings ever again.”
And then I got drunk and I woke up that night at midnight hating
myself and I DM’d a friend much the same way I DM’d you. So, I mean,
I’ve done a little bit of reaching out. But I’ve done a lot more
continuing to drink.
My situation is so much like Caroline’s it’s shocking. I feel in my bones
everything she is saying, and I have said and done almost all of the
same things exactly. The thing that really struck me in that book, and
the thing that really struck me about what another friend told me on the
phone, is the sudden and sharp downward spiral. Caroline said she
“maintained” for a couple years, and her maintaining was 4-5 drinks a
night–that’s where I am right now. Then, all of a sudden,
she began drinking two bottles of wine plus hard liquor every single night? To me, that’s shocking—and then I think, wait, how long have I been at 4-5 drinks? Was there a time I thought that was a shocking amount too? And I can’t remember.
I think I still don’t believe certain things. I must not truly believe I can’t stop, or that I’ll hit that downward spiral.
Worst of all, I don’t think I believe that I can handle the day-to-day of parenting, particularly from 3-6pm. At 3pm I get a craving so hard I can barely move.
And so, today, after this whole dust-up with Heather’s confession, I’ve done
a lot of nail chewing and then I quickly made dinner at 3:45pm (!) to
try to fill the craving because when I’m full I usually don’t want to
drink as much (which is why normally I put off dinner until I’ve had
my fill to drink) and now I’m sitting here with hot tea on the couch
and thinking this is yet another time where I talk about quitting but
don’t do it.”
That letter was from Maggie. And I couldn’t be more proud. Go see for yourself.
And as always, if you need help from the Booze Free Brigade, we’re here.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 29, 2010 7:09 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
Today’s post is from Ellie. She blogs, she writes, she makes jewelry which she also sells on her blog (I really like that ring, Ellie – just sayin’). She has been a voice of sanity and reason over on our message board.
Also, today I have been sober for 8 months.
“I’m a Good Girl. I don’t mean I’m prudish, or square; I just like to do the right thing. I like people to be happy with me. If you’re happy, I’m happy … that is how I always felt. From an early age, I could figure out who you wanted me to be, what you wanted from me, and I would shape-shift to be that person. The most important thing to me was to make other people like me. And, for the most part, I was really, really good at it.
I grew up in a stable, loving family in an upper middle class suburb of Boston. I played sports, did well in high school, graduated from a reputable college. In other words, I colored within the lines, did what I was told. I didn’t question much – from the outside everything seemed great. The outside was what mattered to me.
In my twenties I was that cool, fun party girl – you know, the one who could keep up with the guys? I lived for the weekends – skiing, bar hopping, hanging out with friends. I was rarely really drunk, but was always the one who was most disappointed when the bar lights flickered, indicating it was time to go home. Drinking was fun, and everyone was doing it. I was just, well, a little more in love with it than most.
I got married when I was thirty, after dating my husband for six years. At the time I was working for a high powered consulting firm, traveling the globe, making money and feeling pretty good that I was checking all the boxes: Go to a good college: check. Get a good job: check. Marry a stable, loving guy: check. Kids were next on the list. By now I was drinking on a daily basis – wine with dinner, more than that on weekends. When I look back, I realize there were distant alarm bells ringing in my head – very, very quietly. I knew, on some level, that I really loved alcohol, maybe more than other people. I wondered about that quick jolt of panic I felt when four of us were out to dinner and the waiter put one bottle of wine on the table – only one? – for all of us to drink. My pulse quickened with excitement at the thought of my end-of-the-day glass of wine. But all the boxes were checked, everything was going well, so I ignored those distant bells.
I had my first child, a girl, at thirty-three. I didn’t put much thought into my decision to quit my job and stay home full-time. I thought that if we were fortunate enough to be able to afford for me to stay home, then that was what I should do. I got into trouble quickly.
Motherhood completely overwhelmed me. I felt totally inadequate – she cried all the time, and I couldn’t figure out what she needed from me. I couldn’t shape-shift for her. I was angry, bored, and resentful. I felt overwhelming guilt at being angry, bored and resentful. How did everyone else make it look so easy? It never occurred to me to ask for help. I just did what I always did: I tried to make the outside look okay, and I fixed the inside with a glass of wine. Or two. Or five.
I don’t recall when I actually started hiding bottles around the house, and I think I know why: I couldn’t admit to myself that I was stuffing a half-full bottle of warm chardonnay into my laundry hamper so I could nip on it throughout the evening and my husband wouldn’t know. I chose not to acknowledge it, or I made justifications in my head (I only hide it because I like to drink two or three at night, and I don’t want my husband to judge me), and I believed the lies I told myself. I had to, otherwise I had to face my problem. That is how Denial works.
Over the course of the next four years my drinking got worse, so I just worked harder at keeping the outside looking as perfect as I could. I had another child, my son, when I was thirty-six. Sometimes I would scare myself: I wouldn’t remember something that happened from the night before, or I’d create an argument with my husband in a drunken stupor and not even know why the next day. So I’d back off a bit, drink less. But I never stopped. I was too scared to find out I couldn’t.
One night I woke up at 2am, shaking and sweating. I went downstairs, telling myself I was going to get a glass of milk. I went to the liquor cabinet and drank a shot of whiskey. The shaking and sweating stopped. “Well, that’s it, then,” I thought to myself. “I’m an alcoholic.”
Did I ask for help? Did I tell anyone? No. The shame of being an alcoholic – an alcoholic mother, no less – was way too great. I thought I was weak. I thought I was the only one who did the things I did, felt the way I felt. I went deep underground with my drinking. I would secretly drink before or after a party, or dinner, so I only had one or two around other people. I stashed bottles around the house. I went to the recycling bin every day to hide the evidence. I was totally miserable, but determined to keep the outside looking okay. I wasn’t scared that I was an alcoholic, not really. I was scared people would find out, that they would know my perfect veneer was built on a foundation of quicksand.
Eventually, of course, it caught up to me. I crossed that invisible line into physical addiction and couldn’t go more than an hour without drinking. My husband found a bottle of wine stashed under the wet clothes in the washing machine, and the jig was up. I began a long, painful road to recovery. I could put a few days of sobriety together, and then I would start feeling the overwhelming guilt and shame. And I would drink.
It took a stay in a 30 day rehab, and an ultimatum from my husband to get help or he’d leave and take the kids, for me to stop drinking. But it was a few months after I stopped that I wanted sobriety for myself. What changed? I finally went to a 12 step meeting, and a woman I had never met stood up and told my exact story. She was articulate, brave, beautiful and intelligent, and she did all the same things I did when she was drinking. And she was a mother. I realized I wasn’t alone, and I started to open up.
Eventually I told my darkest secrets, my biggest fears, to other women in recovery and they understood. And they accepted me, just as I am. It was the first time I had ever been really real with anyone, including myself.
It was the healing power of talking to other people in recovery, owning my fears and sharing my truth that saved my life. I was so consumed with being a Good Girl, with doing the right thing, with making everyone else happy, that I lost myself. I filled the void with alcohol, creating a false sense of normalcy, of contentment, of confidence. I couldn’t imagine a scenario where I could reach out for help and not be rejected for being weak, being a bad mother, being a bad person. I drank for almost twenty years searching for even a fraction of the sense of belonging and comfort I get in recovery.
Now I’m two and a half years sober. I still want you to like me – of course I do – but I’ll be okay if you don’t, too. I’m a good Mom, because I’m not preoccupied with being perfect, or looking perfect. I am present for my kids. I feel my feelings. I am okay with just being okay.
I am open about my recovery because it keeps me real and it keeps me safe. I also feel strongly that we can’t battle addiction if we don’t talk openly and honestly about it. We can’t overcome something we can’t face. So if you’re struggling with addiction, wondering about your drinking, or if you’re suffering in silence – please know you are not alone. Talking about it takes the power away from the alcohol, the stigma, the fear and the isolation. With our hearts and our voices, we can heal”
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 22, 2010 4:05 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
I’m having a hard time remembering what it felt like to have three healthy children. I imagine it must have been idyllic -what with all the park visits and hopping in the car (fine, minivan) to take off for the grocery store on a crazy whim -we need milk? What the hell -let’s go get some! Oh and of course the sleeping through the night without anyone spiking a fever and needing to be held, administered to, spoon fed Tylenol. Let me close my eyes and try to recall that life, that carefree existence…nope…it’s gone.
The twins have some sort of respiratory illness that apparently sounds a lot worse than it is. “Plenty of fluids,” my pediatrician’s office told me this morning when I asked what to do. And do not give Tylenol and Motrin at the same time anymore. (I honestly thought this was what you do when your child has a high fever. I’m certain that my doctor told me I could layer the two but lesson learned: Don’t come to me for important medical advice because I will probably suggest Dum Dum lollipops, copious amounts of Dora and a Tylenol Motrin cocktail).
Last night sucked trying to get the babies to bed. Off and on, they’ve been deciding to scream bloody murder when it’s time to actually close the door and go to sleep. Right up until I walk out of their bedroom, they are perfect angels. We do the bedtime routine, get snuggled into cribs, music is turned on, I love yous are said, the door is closed and BOOM -screaming ensues. Although intellectually I know there is nothing wrong, my brain is not sending a memo to my nervous system and I get seized with stress. Every fiber in my being wants to run in (or make Jon go) and give comfort, find the problem (plastic Diego figure fallen out of bed) but mostly I biologically need to make it stop. Sometimes I’m able to let them cry which, again, intellectually, I know is the right thing to do because there is nothing wrong, people! And, yes, I realize that if I go in and whisper comforting words, give love pats and remind Matilda of the fabulous time we had at My Gym earlier in the day, it will reinforce that screaming brings mommy and I don’t want to do that (but oh, yet I do).
Yesterday was a bad one. I felt like an emotional hostage while Jon and I listened to Mattie scream for twenty minutes. When she did finally stop, although we were still tense, we ate chili and watched American Idol (Chicago, get your shit together). Now, in the old days, I would’ve been able to unwind with a few large glasses of Mama’s Unwinding Juice, but these days a Weight Watchers’ Fudge Cone has to do. I’m not gonna lie, it’s not the same because at 1 a.m. when Matilda was suddenly crying again and it turned out she was running a temp of 103.5, I was only too aware of what was going on and the stress barged back in full force. Fudge cones have a short stress relief half life.
Jon took the first shift with her while I slept fitfully knowing I’d need to be ready to relieve him at some point.
At 3 a.m., I lay on the couch with my slightly shaky, highly feverish, freshly puked out toddler and watched Mystery Diagnosis. It was the episode about a girl whose boob turned purple for any fans out there. Every so often, Mattie would open her eyes to little slits to hazily request “Dora Christmas!” or “Ting Tings.” Since there was no way I was going to miss the conclusion of Purple Boob (inflammatory breast cancer!), Mattie had to settle for a soft rendition of “That’s Not My Name.” It seemed to do the trick.
My baby dozed on my chest for another hour while I nuzzled into her sweaty forehead, stroking her hair, happy to just hold onto her, happy to be available and awake, so incredibly grateful to be sober. And there on the couch with almost no sleep, a sick baby and two other kids recovering from similar ailments, I found peace.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 20, 2010 7:35 pm
Today’s guest post comes to us from Anna. She’s opinionated, smart, cute, accomplished and a big old alcoholic. I thought she’d be perfect for Don’t Get Drunk Friday and when I got her post, I was not disappointed. You can check out her cool blog which is here.
“My drinking career was hard and fast, applied to the point of obsession, like everything I do. I was never a daily drinker, but I never saw the point of drinking without getting drunk, either. I would rather have stayed home than to have tried to control my drinking, and this is why my early adulthood is best described as a long period of intense boredom interrupted by periodic episodes of insane and horrifying blackouts.
There came a time where I knew that I had to quit drinking. So I did it on my own, because that is the way I’ve always done things. Several times I did this, once for two years straight, white knuckling it through social events, dates, the dreaded New Year’s Eve, rather than admitting that I needed help. Years later I would say that I managed independent “sobriety” by watching a lot of TV and not leaving the house — sobriety via Ally McBeal. But it always failed. There was always some reason why I had to drink again, or an example of how it wasn’t socially acceptable to give up drinking altogether, for the rest of my life, because society expected it of me, and what was I supposed to do?
When I finally made it to AA for good, I would learn that there is a special name for alcoholics of my type — “periodics” — which was exactly the kind of thing that I needed: a special distinction for myself. I have spent most of my life feeling that I am different, and that the rules that apply to everyone else should not apply to me. And even if I knew that the periods in between my drunken rampages were getting shorter and shorter as time passed, I still needed something separating me from everyone else. Even in recovery I needed to be different.
It was galling to me to have to go to meetings where people were proud to string a few days of sobriety together as if it was some kind of massive accomplishment, gripping onto their 30 day chips as if they were life rafts in the open sea, or crying through a speech after they received their one-year-of-sobriety birthday cake.
I hated — hated — that I had to come to these people for help. I hated the thought of having something in common with the prematurely hard-faced drunks in my women’s meetings. I was insulted when former heroin addicts would lecture me on how I should be feeling at 20 days sober. Most of all, I hated introducing myself in meetings as a newcomer, because it suggested that there was something I did not already know, that there was something that these people could teach me, and that beneath all of these superficial demarcations of age, class, experience, and gender, we all had something in common.
But I am fortunate that I am so stubborn, because even if I hated everything about AA’s brand of sobriety, I knew that my own way was not working anymore. If there was anything in the world that I hated more than the idea of needing AA it was the thought of ever again feeling like I did on the morning of June 3, 2001, when I tried to kill myself after a particularly bad bout of drinking and insane behavior the night before. After that, I knew I was fresh out of ideas and that anything I did my own way was never going to work. And that’s the only reason, eight and a half years ago, I chose AA.
I did everything they said to do: I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, took phone numbers of people I had no intention of calling, found a sponsor, worked the steps, found another sponsor, worked the steps again, took commitments, became a sponsor myself. I did it, cursing “God” under my breath and shaking my fist at the sky the whole way. I would get into debates with people at meetings, separating myself from the “big book thumpers” and arguing about whether alcoholism could rightfully be called an “allergy” or a “disease.” I was difficult, annoying and snotty, but I was consistent.
And somewhere along the way, the hatred started to fade into the background. Along with it went the need to intellectualize all of the questions about God, and finally one day I decided that maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to have something in common with “these people.” Because here in this crazy motley crew of drunks was something more like family than I had ever known before. I could tell them anything, all of my most awful, embarrassing thoughts and feelings and exploits, and they would nod and tell me something they had done that was just as bad or embarrassing, and we would laugh about it. And through each other there was something kind of like healing.
Today my life gets so full of beautiful things that sometimes I forget that I’m not different. But I don’t ever want to go back, and my life today could never exist without sobriety. So if you’re out there reading this and thinking that maybe you’re different, don’t worry — I am too.”
Please join us here to get support from the Booze Free Brigade (our kick ass Yahoo Group!)
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 15, 2010 7:38 am
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
What have I done to deserve the wealth of bad, bad, oh so good reality fare that’s on television this week? It’s like God knows I quit drinking and decided to have a meeting with a couple of networks to figure a way to keep me sober.
God: So I have a very special client -well, she thinks she’s special -ha ha-all these addict types think they’re so special-me, I know I’m special, I mean, hello, have you met me? I’m GOD. Anyway, Stefanie needs a distraction. What have you got?
CBS: Oh, I think we have just the thing for her. How about we roll out a brand new CSI?
God: I don’t think she likes that franchise.
CBS: Hang on, I haven’t told you the best part. This one could be in Hoboken. Lotta crime. Should be right up her alley.
God: Can you use the cast of Jersey Shore? We love that show.
CBS: Don’t think I can do it. Trust me, I love that show too. But those kids’ quotes are through the roof. Snookie costs a hell of a lot more than say Chris O’Donnell. We just don’t have the budget.
God: Not my problem. What else you got? Anything with some D-level celebs? Like maybe a Tom Sizemore or a porn actress no one’s ever heard of? She loves that crap.
VH1: You’re talking my language. I can hook you up. Can I interest you in Celebrity Rehab?
God: You, my friend, have just earned your wings! Say, while I have you here, can I pitch something to you?
VH1: Uh, okay.
God: So, I had this hysterical idea based on something that really happened to me when I was facebooking with this girl for awhile until I found out she was underage. What if…okay, this is kind of tricky, but what if there’s this teen-age girl, and she’s on earth doing stuff that I tell her to do. In this case, helping people or whatever. It’s not that fleshed out yet but I think there’s something there.
VH1: Yeah, uh it’s been done. Joan of Arcadia.
God: Man. Okay. Real quick: Is there some way we could put together a project with my buddy Kirk Cameron? He’s a pretty big fan of mine and I’ve been promising him I’d talk to someone about helping give his career a little lift. The young girls used to love him. Couldn’t get enough of the old Mike Seaver.
VH1: I don’t know…he’s not really for our demographic. Have you approached USA network? Don’t they do 7th Heaven reruns?
God: 7th Heaven? That show is a piece of shit. Totally unrealistic. No one is that nice.
VH1: Tell you what. How about we do another season of Sober House?
See? Someone is looking out for me.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 14, 2010 1:14 am