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”
I’ve been there sister. Today I have 567 sober days. Hit those AA meetings. If you can, tell your story. The woman in those rooms will keep you a– from falling off.
Thank you Laurie.
Mommy on the Spot said,
That is an amazing story, Ellie!
Congrats on being sober for 8 months, Stefanie!
.-= Mommy on the Spot´s last blog ..“I feel like I am taking crazy pills!” =-.
Ellie – I heart you. I love the way you show up for yourself, your family and other women in recovery. You are an inspiration.
And that ring is really, really pretty.
And Stef, actually, ditto the above. 8 months!? Fawking right on girl. It’s an honor to trudge with you.
.-= Jane´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Who needs toys when there is a bucket nearby? =-.
Lisa Rae @ smacksy said,
8 months is crazy great. Congratulations, lady.
Thanks for your story Ellie. It’s so important for people to know that there is help out there for those who want it.
.-= Lisa Rae @ smacksy´s last blog ..Wild Parrots and Wood Floors =-.
Congrats Stefanie. And once again, thank your for presenting us with these stories. With each one, I feel less and less alone.
.-= Brooke´s last blog ..Addiction =-.
Wow. Wow, Wow, Wow. Thanks
.-= Cynthia´s last blog ..Spreading the Word =-.
I’ve read other posts on her blog. She is so real and I can relate to so many of her posts regarding children and motherhood. I’ve laughed and cried over them. She is helping so many people.
Thank you, thank you! From another mom, with an identical story.
I’ll have 10 months on February 1st!
Congrats on the 8 months Stefanie!
Thank you, Ellie, for this post. I am getting close to 30 days of sobriety and starting to feel less shame about the whole thing. Reading other Mother’s stories, struggles and successes helps so much!
And keep rocking it sober style Stefanie! You are my inspiration!
.-= seekingclarav´s last blog ..Being okay with beige =-.
Wow Ellie, well said.
(an Ellie groupie, but always happy to be introduced to a well-written blog)
Congratulations, Stefanie. I can’t believe it’s been that long!
Ellie, what a wonderful post, and so bravely told. Maybe you can do for other people what that woman did for you–prove that admitting that you have a problem and seeking help will make your life better, not worse. Thanks for being a role model.
.-= Kendra´s last blog ..Deep Thoughts =-.
Thank you for sharing your story. I so relate to the idea of wanting everyone to like me and trying to make sure that everything looks perfect on the outside, regardless of the turmoil on the inside. Congratulations on your sobriety.
.-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Maybe the truth doesn’t have to hurt? =-.
I have so much respect and admiration both for Stephanie and for the guest posters who share the power of your stories with us. You’re all amazing. Congratulaitons on your sobriety.
thank you for sharing Ellie and for letting her Steph.
I am not addicted, but in many ways my battle over infertility felt just like this. It was something to hide and be shameful of until I found the message boards and support groups that made it ok just by showing me there were other woman like me.
Congratulations on your sobriety and thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself.
Thanks everyone for all the supportive comments – it means so much to me.
And congrats!!! to everyone out there fighting the brave fight with me. You are all inspirational. Keep on keeping on.
And thanks SO MUCH, Stefanie, for letting me guest post, and for your courage, humor and grace. I totally want to be you when I grow up.
.-= Ellie´s last blog ..Wanted: One Hobgoblin. No Navels, Please. =-.
I ‘m at my screen and I hear you. There must be a reason I’ve showed up today. Reading your guest-blog post felt like reading about myself. I’ve never even blogged before, about anything. I’m just so scared.
Gail – having the courage to even say as much as you did is huge. As you can see, you’re not alone, not by a long shot. Check out the Yahoo board (link above in Stefanie’s intro) if you want to connect with other women who understand how you feel.
.-= Ellie´s last blog ..Chickenhawk Down =-.
I looked up the local AA groups today and found one that is a woman’s group which is where I think I’d be most comfortable ( I grew up in a family of five girls, no bros,but I’m raising 3 sons. Go figure.). It meets Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. buy I work from home and 2 of my 3 are in high school so I can get there but I just don’t want anyone to know. I feel so ashamed. I’m not planning on telling my husband either. But he’ll never know. That’s just where I am right now. In fact, this coming Wed. I have a 10:00 meeting so I won’t make the AA meeting but I’ll wish I could be there and I’ll make an effort the following week. Thanks for understanding. And for being at the other end of this email.
Awesome post Ellie! I relate so much to your story~ too much in fact! =)
Way to go on 8 months Stef! It is no easy task!! I am approaching the 4 month mark and this last month has been particularly hard for me. I can’t figure out why exactly, but it has. Visiting here really, REALLY helps.
I will always be grateful!
NY Mom said,
Stefanie! Thank you. Read about you in the New York Times and meant to be here 6 months ago, but am finally here. 6 days without the white wine. Already looks like I will be able to save my marriage and my life, if I can keep it going. Will be here looking for support, especially on Fridays!
Congrats a million times to you! You can do this and you should be so proud of yourself for taking this step. I am very proud of you!
Wow, just watched the Monday night episode of Intervention on A&E (Brett, 2009). If any parent needs a wake up call about the consequences of alcoholism on the family and kids, this was it. It was powerful and left me in tears. A must see for any parent questioning their drinking habits!
Congratulations on the 8 months, Stefanie! It doesn’t seem that long but, at the same time, it seems like it should be much longer.
I appreciate you sharing Ellie’s story with us. It makes me really happy to see people making progress with their recovery and, as a result, their lives.
Continued success to you both!
Is it Friday yet?? ; )
.-= Brooke´s last blog ..Call me MC Panik =-.
What a wonderful, honest post. Like you, I’ve always perfected the outside to hide what I deemed a mess inside. I grew up in an alcoholic home that looked very much “perfect” from the outside. My mother found AA after 10 years of drinking and was sober almost 30 years when she died two years ago.
Though I’d alway been the “party girl”, I managed to hold my drinking together through three kids until discovering my husband’s infidelity — sex addiction — I was so busy making sure I wasn’t marrying an alcoholic, it never dawned on me to look for other addictions.
I’ve struggled with healing from his betrayal and took comfort in the bottle too many times. Fortunately, thanks to my mom, I knew I had to stop BEFORE I got too far down the path.
Thanks again. I’m glad you found yourself through recovery. As much as I occasionally want to kick Buddha’s ass, he does remind us that “out of great suffering, comes great lessons.”
Heather of the EO said,
A long time ago, I think it was you’d just hit the year mark in your sobriety, I read about you on your friend’s blog. I’m almost certain it was you. Then I came over to your blog and found your genuine heart and beautiful truth-telling. I was drinking too much and at the beginning stages of feeling the pangs and ignoring the red flags. I saw myself in your story and HAD to click away because I wanted to keep drinking. I’ve thought about you ever since. Many, many times, I’ve thought about your courage. It was your story, and Stef’s, that haunted me in the very best way…finally quitting has totally SUCKED to be honest, at this point in my journey…nine days, the way I still want to drink SO SO SO badly. But thinking of you guys helps me more than I can say. Because it brings hope. I believe you when you say it gets better. I believe you that it feels better. I can only believe that because you told the truth even when the truth wasn’t pretty. So thank you for being your honest and beautiful self.
.-= Heather of the EO´s last blog ..On both sides =-.
Hi Heather –
Yes, that was me on my friend’s blog… I knew I recognized your ‘handle’ (or whatever the cool kids call it these days).
You have such an incredlbe journey ahead of you – your honest and beautiful posts touched me right ot my core. The beginning sucked for me, too … I wasn’t one of those people who felt all happy right away. But you have such insight into yourself, and you are so brave to share your journey with others – there is great healing power in that.
I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk more.
.-= Ellie´s last blog ..Take that, Failure =-.
Heather of the EO said,
Wow, that first sentence (among others) makes no sense. And I’m not even drunk…no excuse
.-= Heather of the EO´s last blog ..On both sides =-.