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Don’t Get Drunk Fridays: Jennifer’s Story

My name is Jennifer and I am an alcoholic. And a drug addict. I have been in recovery for 15 years, since I was 20 years old. On January 29’th I will have 2 years sober.

Based on the above figures, it is obvious that my sobriety path has had some forks in the road. I was sober for ten solid years, during which time I got two master’s degrees, began a career as the clinical director of drug and alcohol treatment center, and got married. In my career, I helped create a nationally based drug and alcohol prevention program for Jewish teens. My entire identity was based on being sober. I had never even taken a legal drink, and my husband had no personal knowledge of my alcoholism. No matter how many stories I told him about the out of control girl running around New York City drunk and high as a kite, he had a hard time matching that image with the accomplished and seemingly well-balanced woman he had chosen to marry.

I spent my days working as a psychotherapist to low bottom alcoholics and drug addicts. People alternatively sentenced to treatment from prisons and jails. Young men and women who had lost everything and been forced by their families into rehab. Moms whose addiction had caused them to lose their children.

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were elated, and I felt deeply rooted in my sobriety, career and life.

At 8 months pregnant, my husband’s mom died suddenly, and it took much of his time and energy to process his shock and grief over this loss. After I had my son, my mom’s cancer (which had been in remission for several years) returned full force and she was given 2 years to live. I was flattened by postpartum depression and anxiety, which despite my clinical background, totally pulled the rug out from under me.

My return to alcoholism and addiction began slowly and insidiously. My anxiety was so severe that I found myself unable to eat or sleep for several days in a row. My OB prescribes a low dose of Ativan to help me. It worked beautifully.

I began to question whether I was ever really an alcoholic. After all, doesn’t every one party when they are in college? Granted, not everyone goes to Harlem in the middle of the night to score drugs off the street. Nor do normal college kids have take a medical leave from school because their drinking and drugging is so out of control. But I was convinced that as an adult and a mother, I could now handle drinking responsibly. I cleverly found a therapist to tell me that she didn’t think I was an alcoholic, and she even encouraged me to try drinking again. I hadn’t had a drink in so many years, I didn’t even know what to order. “What do you like to drink?” I asked her.

“White wine,” she replied, with a small smile, “I love to have a glass of cold white wine at the end of the day.” My husband and I went to Vegas and I ordered my first glass of white wine in over ten years.

I wish I could say my story ended here- that I had somehow grown out of my alcoholism and could enjoy that ubiquitous glass of wine at the end of the day without consequence. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well for me. I spent the next few years battling alcoholism and addiction. I stayed sober during my second pregnancy and controlled my drinking while nursing. At 7 months pregnant my mom’s cancer took a major turn for the worse. She died exactly two weeks before my daughter was born. After I brought my baby girl home from the hospital, the grief, pain, sadness and anxiety I felt was indescribable.

I had all the rationalizations. I believed I was a better mom when I was under the influence of pills and alcohol. I was more relaxed, more able to deal with the stress of raising young children, more present, more in the moment, generally happier and able to function. I prided myself on the fact that I was never abusive. I never screamed at my children or put my hands on them in anger. I took them to the park and made them organic, homemade baby food. I had the perfect image of peaceful “earth mama” down pat. I somehow believed that this persona mitigated my alcoholism and addiction, which was now spiraling out of control.

I knew I needed to get sober again. When I wasn’t under the influence, my anxiety was off the charts. I literally felt like I was jumping out of my skin. I kept breaking my own rules: no drinking until they were asleep was quickly replaced by holding out until 6pm, then 5pm, then 4pm. I needed more and more of those little pills to simply get me through the day. My husband was terrified, but didn’t quite know what to do because he had never dealt with an addict before and I was such a brilliant liar and rationalizer (as all alcoholics and addicts must be to justify their using.)

Things got really bad. Without going in to all the gratuitous details, my husband came home on a Friday afternoon and told me the jig was up. Unless I could immediately get sober, he was sending me to a detox treatment center for 28 days the following Monday Of course, I couldn’t stop drinking and using. I was in the middle of a run and my body was completely physically addicted. On Monday morning, he dropped me off kicking and screaming at a treatment facility. In that moment, I was a desperate, broken mother who had come within millimeters of losing my children because of my addiction. I knew that I had to get sober or I would lose everything.

I never thought my alcoholism would progress enough to warrant me having to go into treatment. Being separated from my children during that time was the most painful experience of my life. I was dripping in shame. I felt like the worst mother in the world. It took me a long time to realize that my addiction didn’t care about my children. It didn’t care about my family, my accomplishments, my master’s degrees, or my career. It only cared about getting me drunk and high, isolated and alone. That is the very essence of the malady.

The guilt and shame that alcoholic and drug-addicted moms feel is overwhelming. We really believe that we are worthless as mothers if we can’t even stay sober for our children. What I learned in recovery the first time (and had to relearn the second time around) is that it is not my fault that I am an alcoholic, but I am responsible for treating it. Sobriety is the foundation of my life now. I truly understand that without my sobriety, I cannot function as a wife, a mother, a friend, a therapist and a writer.

If you are reading this and finding yourself relating to parts of my story, please know that there is a way out of this destructive cycle. You are not alone.

stef’s note: Thank you so much Jennifer for sharing your story. Lives are being saved by not keeping this “in the closet” anymore! Jennifer’s website is http://www.jenniferginsberg.com/ (from there you can get to her fabulous blog and other site as well) Jennifer also offers groups and individual therapy if you live in the LA area.

For anyone who is struggling, please come share on our Yahoo group (which is already HUGE) or look in the front of the phone book. There is help.

For anyone who would like to turn this into a Lifetime movie, uh yeah!

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 8, 2010 7:19 amDon't Get Drunk Friday,Drinking32 comments  

32 Comments

  1. Lynn from For Love or Funny said,

    What a compelling story – wishing you all the best in your sobriety.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 11:03 am

  2. Lola said,

    Thank you so much for sharing. Your story touches me in many ways.

    I was at a 4th step mixed meeting the other night and got stuck at a table of all men. They talked about how they never felt guilty for their actions while drinking, because they could always justify that it was "over" the next day. My comment was something like this:

    "I don't know if it is because I am a woman, or because I am a mom, or just me but I feel guilty about EVERYTHING and that is part of what kept me drinking. The guilt and shame of being an alcoholic mother."

    We women are given this image of the perfect mom all around us. We are supposed to have good educations and brilliant careers and provide homemade meals and keep a beautiful immaculate house and volunteer our time and drive our kids to 5 different activities a week and bake cookies for the class and and and. The pressure of it all is overwhelming. Always trying to achieve this image of a good mother and always failing and the guilt associated with never being good enough is one of the main reasons I kept drinking. Now in my sobriety I have learned that guilt is deadly to me, I cannot allow it to stay in my life long or I will drink again.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  3. Stacey said,

    What a powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  4. Shannon said,

    I second the Lifetime movie…I get to play Stephanie eventhough I am not nearly as beautiful as she is!
    Jennifer:
    Your story is heartwrenching and inspiring. I told my story about my medication use. It kills me because they are prescribed to me because of my Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am on so much freakin' med's my cupboard looks like Walgreen's. I worry about becoming addicted to these pills because I find myself waiting for the next time I have to ake them when the pain gets too bad. I have been on them for YEARS, like since 1993, and I don't want to die from Cardiac Arrest like poor little Brittney Murphy. I get so stressed out sometimes I find myself reaching for the Xanax way too much. My hair is falling out by the tons, I am screaming at the kids, fighting with everyone that looks at me the wrong way, I swear if one more thing goes wrong, I will snap. My mom's health is poor, my sister's death is weighing heavy on my mind, my daughter will NOT sleep through the night, I NEVER get any time to myself. I go from teo kids to four kids with never a break! The winter blus are getting the best of me with the 3 ft of snow bucketing down. And to top it all off, my arthritis is in full inflamation! I am so happy you got the help you needed. There is nothing worst than losing your kids when you really are a great mama. Your husband must love you to death!!!! Great victory story. But remember, it's going to be a battle for the rest of your life! But you can do it!

    | January 8, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

  5. inannasstar said,

    What a brave woman for sharing her story in order to help other women who may be experiencing the same kind of pain. Good luck in your sobriety, one day at a time.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  6. Ellie said,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It made me cry, because it was all so familiar to me. I am about 2 1/2 years sober, and the birth of my first child kicked my drinking into high gear. I completely, totally related to your description of the anxiety, the wanting to jump out of your skin. I also went to treatment kicking and screaming. I so get it. Finding out I wasn't alone, that other MOTHERS did this, too, was the key to getting me to try sobriety. Thanks so much for writing about your story so beautifully and honestly. You helped me today, for sure.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  7. erin said,

    This is such a great idea.

    Wonderfully written and powerfully thought out.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  8. Anonymous said,

    Thank you for your story Jennifer. I think a lot of women out there don't quit because they don't feel they are an out of control, need to be dragged to treatment, drinker. But, in reality, if they keep going that's where they'll end up. It is a progressive thing. No one would ever have their first drink if they knew it would lead to rehab.
    This is day 8 for me sans alcohol because of stories like Stefanie's, Jane's, yours and all of the other women willing to share.

    Jenny

    | January 8, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

  9. Anonymous said,

    Wow! that was a gorgeous story: heartwrenching, inspriing and beautifully written.

    thank you for doing this.
    Sami

    | January 8, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  10. Robin said,

    Congrats on your 2 years. Well done, and thanks for sharing.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

  11. TZT said,

    I am close to someone in recovery. Thank you for what you've shared here – it helps me better understand addiction. (As do several of these comments!)

    And congratulations on two years.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  12. amyisadd said,

    My shame and guilt over my actions while drinking keep me drunk. I don't know how to quit "living in the past". The friends I've alienated, the way I've shamed my family, it's all heart wrenching and is a constant reel playing in my head. I hope one day to say I have two years sober as well. Congrats to you for being able to over come the demons on addiction.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

  13. Kendra said,

    What a brave story you tell. I really appreciate you admitting how you felt like a failure as a mom. Being a mother is such an important job that if we are anything short of perfect, we feel that we've clearly failed our children. I still feel that way all the time. Congratulations on the two years sober, and I hope it gets easier over time.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  14. Anonymous said,

    Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story. May you continue to be sober!

    | January 8, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

  15. little t said,

    Wow… I can't believe all of this, look at what we put ourselves through, the hoops we have to soar through, the tasks we have to accomplish. It is very overwhelming to see read this.

    All of us hurting ourselves like this with alcohol and/or drugs. More than anything, I shed a tear at the fact that their are soooo flipping many of us that have struggled and lost and then regained our selves, so close to the edge that one more breath would take us away.

    I feel for the ones that have been taken over and cannot find themselves and also the many women that have lost the battle, lost their lives.

    A tidal wave of women kept affloat with the strength and support of one another. That is what Stephanie has created here.

    Courage and strength to every one of you fighting the battle against the bottle and the pills.

    little t

    | January 8, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

  16. l'ananas said,

    Thank you for this. "It is not my fault that I am an alcoholic, but I am responsible for treating it." I love it and I needed it. Thank you for sharing your story.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  17. Daney said,

    it takes much bravery to share a story about your struggle such as this. We moms are just supposed to DO IT AND LOVE IT and not have problems coping, at least according to my mother… who did neither… I know it is a process and I wish you much success in the future.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  18. Anonymous said,

    Strong stuff. Thanks for your honesty. You are inspiration to so many women.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

  19. seekingclarav said,

    Wow. The "I had all the rationalizations" paragraph spoke to me in particuliar. I felt the exact same way. Thank you for sharing this.

    I'm 13 days sober today. For the first time in my life I am not drinking for any reason other than my drinking problem.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

  20. Anonymous said,

    It's so much more than not getting drunk.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

  21. Gemini-Girl said,

    I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. Although I dont have the same addiction (mine is shopping), I understand it to no end.

    The sentence that resided the most in me was "it is not my fault that I am an alcoholic, but I am responsible for treating it."

    I know that my shopping has so much to do with my childhood. I talk about it every week in therapy.

    It has nothing to do with my love for my kids, husband… even for myself. it's stronger than I am and I am always trying to quiet it.

    Thank you for being so brave to write about your battle.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  22. Caroline said,

    While I was reading, all I could thing was, there, but for the grace of God . . . .

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jennifer. It is stories like yours that keep me coming back to hear how this disease can progress to the point where one literally stands to lose everything.

    Thank you, again.

    | January 8, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  23. Gretchen said,

    Thank you, thank you all, for being here, for sharing. Today was one of those, wish I was opening a bottle of wine at say…4, but most likely 3. BUT I have been sober 9 months (as of New Years Day!)and I didIn't have that wine, and am so grateful for my daily choice to stay sober, for my kids, my husband, but mostly for me. I know the guilty mom feeling, and don't want to have it again. Ever.
    Jennifer IS right, the alcoholism isn't my fault, but treating it IS my responsibility. Happy Sober Friday all!

    | January 9, 2010 @ 1:56 am

  24. Anonymous said,

    Thank you for sharing. Because of your words, I don't feel so alone in my journey.

    | January 9, 2010 @ 4:48 am

  25. Natika said,

    Thanks Jen.
    That is almost exactly my story. Of course some of it is a bit different but most of it is parallel to me. I had 5yrs then I blew it. Now I have almost 3wks. It's a long trip back and this time I need to do it for myself and nobody else!

    I am so FREAKIN tired of addiction!

    | January 9, 2010 @ 7:29 am

  26. Anonymous said,

    Jennifer – what a powerful story. Your strength comes through and I know you are helping other women out there. I am making changes in my life because "there but for the grace of God"…I also am a master's level clinician, so can relate to the shame on that front as well. You had so much to lose -thank you for giving me hope.

    | January 9, 2010 @ 11:51 am

  27. Alisha said,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am 5 days sober today and joined the Yahoo group. If I stay sober all day today this will be the longest I've gone in 18 months! Anyway….I am kind of confused by the message board…It is probably just me. Thanks for having the Friday posts! :)

    | January 9, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  28. Anonymous said,

    I am so sick of sneaking to the store on my way home from work and hiding my beers in the garage until my husband leaves for work so that I can squeeze 8 or 9 into the evening before I have to put the kids to bed and usually pass out next to them. Wow .. just typing that scares me to death – and it doesn't sound anything like 'me' to me. I started drinking in college, continued afterward, and pretty much married my drinking buddy. I quit during my pregnancies, but was oh-so-happy to be back to the bottle again once I had my two kids. My husband recently decided to pare down his drinking to just occasionally and is able to do it .. I, on the other hand, am shocked and frightened to find that I have not been able to. I try to make a joke of it with him instead of admitting that I have a problem. Mostly because I think that if I were to tell him, then I couldn't drink anymore … and the truth of the matter is that I really like to drink. It takes me to a place where I can relax and I am also guilty of thinking that I'm actually a better, more patient parent with a few beers on board.

    I wake up for work (albeit hung over most days) and do my stressful job with apparent ease, but the nightly drunk is just not working for me. If you asked me yesterday (and probably if you were to ask me tomorrow) I'd tell you that I don't have a problem. But in those moments when I'm most honest with myself, I know that I do. I once read on this page that 'non-alcoholics don't sit around wondering if they're alcoholics' and that rings true in me. I want to change for so many wonderful reasons, the most important being my two tiny miracles and a husband whom I adore! The amount of money spent on beer in our household is ridiculous and the calories added to my ever increasing waistline due to drinking are unacceptable to me.

    So, today is the day that I draw MY line. I have made so many empty promises to myself in the past, but I cannot except those excuses and rationalizations any longer. I am determined to succeed even though I know I will be angry about not drinking … I'm hoping that feeling will go away. I am so grateful to have stumbled upon this blog and am certain that it was no accident. I find strength and a sense of community in each one of the stories I read here. Thank you all for being so honest … thank you!

    | January 10, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

  29. lalomar said,

    Jennifer – I really related to your story. Each time i visit this blog, it gives me hope and relief. There is so much shame involved with being an alcoholic/addict mommy. At least for me. 23 days sober today. Longest i've gone in 4 or 5 years. Yesterday was the closest I've come to slipping…, but I survived it (the day) sober, But woke up this morning with a massive headache…as if I were hungover. What is that all about??!

    | January 10, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

    • laurie said,

      Yes- that very thing used to happen to me in early sobriety. Watch out for the drinking dreams.

      | January 13, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

  30. Lisa Page Rosenberg said,

    Jennifer – thank you for sharing your story. So glad you found your way back.

    | January 10, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  31. Debbie said,

    Compelling is an understatement! I sent your blog to a friend of mine who decided it was time for her. Well she lasted one month, went back to all her old friends who are toxic and I have not touched base with her since. I was so happy when she decided to go to AA get a sponsor and start working toward her sobriety. She is also a personal fitness trainer, and she is awesome at what she does. But let me tell you when she is drinking you want to run the other way. I truly hope she reads your blog, I believe this would inspire her.

    | January 11, 2010 @ 12:35 am

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