Thank you Stefanie for asking me to share my story. You are an inspiration and I know that you are helping change the lives of so many with your honesty and humor as you share your sober journey. And you are also foxy. Obviously.
My name is Lisa R. and I’m an alcoholic. I was 23 years old when I got sober. My sobriety date is October 10, 1987. That makes me 45 years old. This is astonishing since I never expected to live past the age of 26.
From early on I can remember feeling like I lacked the buffer that everyone else seemed to have between themselves and the world. I knew I was being left out of the secret meetings that were going on where everyone else was learning how be a person. I was wearing the wrong brand of jeans with the wrong haircut and wrong brand of lip-gloss all the way down to my soul. I had a lot of big feelings that I didn’t know what to do with and the thought of just feeling them was terrifying, and not an option.
In elementary school, I was a bookworm. With my nose in a book, I could escape into another world and not deal with the present. In high school I became an overachiever and stayed incredibly busy. I slept very little and ran as fast as I could to keep ahead of the tornado churning inside.
When I was 15 my dad was killed in a car accident. My innocent understanding of the religion I was raised with lead me to believe that God was a sort of all-powerful Santa Claus: if you were good, good things would happen to you, if you were bad, the bad things would rain down. I knew that I was a good kid and when my father died, I saw that God was not holding up his end of the bargain. I decided at that moment that the whole God thing was a sham.
I was accepted at the university of my choice. Filled with hope and potential, I moved 350 miles away from home to go to college. Very quickly the bottom fell out. My old ways of coping weren’t working anymore. The pain and fear were excruciating. I tried to kill myself. That didn’t go so well. I found drugs and alcohol and they saved my life.
Drinking was sweet relief from the feelings of grief, and despair, and shame, and boredom and I couldn’t get enough of it. I often took speed or did cocaine as a way to keep drinking longer. I was drinking to feel pretty and fun and I was drinking to forget and to not feel. Classes started getting in the way of my all-night partying schedule. I quit school.
I was spiraling. I would only hang out with people who drank more than I did to make myself feel like I was normal. I worked downtown as a taxi dancer because, as I explained it, I did not have the self-esteem to be a prostitute. I was a regular at the emergency room because I often felt like I was dying and everything in my life was an emergency. I started most mornings with a cup of black coffee, and a wine cooler (It was the eighties.) and then I would throw up blood and switch to whiskey. (Crown Royal because I was fancy.) I stole a car.
In five years, I went from being the new girl in the dorm to being the girl with alcoholic hepatitis living downtown in a ’65 Volvo. I did not connect my drinking to how crappy my life was; I just knew I was a loser. I was hiding my life from everyone who loved me. The drinking wasn’t working to keep the feelings away anymore and my body was giving out.
One afternoon, I took a “Do You Drink Too Much?” quiz in Mademoiselle magazine. I didn’t know then that this was a version of the 20 Questions found in Alcoholics Anonymous Literature.
When I finished I read my results. The crazy magazine actually thought I had a problem with alcohol. Maybe I did? There was now a crack in my denial armor and a little light started peeking through.
I called the number in the phone book for Alcoholics Anonymous and they directed me to a nearby meeting at a small rec room at a park. I had walked into what is known in the program as a Gay Men’s Stag. This was a meeting designated for gay men only. The guys let me stay. I listened to them talk and realized that we had more in common than I could have ever imagined. Their feelings and problems sounded just like mine and they were alcoholics. The guys also shared that they had found an answer.
I worried that AA was probably a cult and that it was just a matter of time before they demanded my money and my soul. Of course, I had no money and just shreds of a soul left so the joke would be on them. What I didn’t know was that all they wanted was to help me. In order for these AA’s to stay sober themselves they needed to help other alcoholics. I stayed because I had run out of options and there was free coffee in the meetings.
I learned that I have an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. To treat the allergy, I needed to put down the alcohol and drugs. I also realized that simply “cutting down” was not an option for me. Regular people didn’t think about trying to manage their alcohol, this was generally the domain of the alcoholic.
Then there was the whole “God” issue that I knew would be a problem for me. I found out that AA was about spirituality, not religion. We had all done things while we were drinking that we knew were wrong, lying, stealing, hurting ourselves and others. These were things that went against our spirit. By working the steps we would be finding a way back to working with our spirit.
And so, I go to meetings, I work the steps. I share my secrets. I apologize for the things I do that hurt other people. I help other alcoholics. I work on replacing my despair with hope, my false pride with humility, and my fear with faith. I would never have come up with this stuff on my own. This is what they taught me in AA. And I have stayed sober, 24 hours at a time for 22 years.
Lisa R. said,
You’re right Jessica – “sober” and “dry” are so different. In my experience, sober takes work but is a much easier way to live.
Heather of the EO said,
Thank you, Lisa. Just thank you.
.-= Heather of the EO´s last blog ..Work (In which I’m terribly random and weird) =-.
Thank you Lisa. That was brave and beautiful.
.-= mindy´s last blog ..for the record…Gimli is my favorite =-.
Grumble Girl said,
I’m so very proud of you, woman… thanks so much for sharing your story. Wow. Incredible.
.-= Grumble Girl´s last blog ..Grrrrrrr… =-.
maggie, dammit said,
Lisa, you have no idea what an inspiration you are to me. Thank you for this.
.-= maggie, dammit´s last blog ..Serenity =-.
That is a beautiful blend of truth and humor and laid bare honesty.
Thank you so much for letting us into your life.
You are amazing, Betty.
Thank you for this. And congrats on 22 years, that is an accomplishment to be proud of.
.-= robin´s last blog ..Friends =-.
Lisa R. said,
Thanks Robin. It’s just single days in a row. For real. xoxo
That was wonderful Lisa. Thank you!
So great. You are such a talented writer and apparently a very skilled alcoholic in your day. Can you tell me what a taxi dancer is now? But seriously, thanks for your honest and inspiring story!
Lisa R. said,
Thank you ma’am.
Taxi Dancer explanation below.
I was a bad drinker and a bad dancer.
Amanda Feela said,
Steph- notice how she doesn’t write fuck, screw it, or even suck once?
Thanks Lisa, this is a beautiful I also want to know what a taxi dancer is.. lol
Lisa R. said,
Ah… Taxi Dancer… See below.
Wow. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, strength and hope – you are truly an inspiration!!
.-= Ellie´s last blog ..Smalltalk Warfare =-.
You are amazing! That was fantastic. Thank you so much for telling your story. You are an inspiration, and an awesome writer! That was a fun ride.
Lisa R. said,
So… questions about taxi dancing. Shirley Maclaine played one in “Sweet Charity?” Tina Turner sang about it in “Private Dancer?” The awesome Pat Benatar video for “Love Is A Battlefield?”
So a Taxi Dancer, sometimes referred to as a Hostess Dancer, gets paid to dance with guys in a club. It’s especially popular in LA with Asian businessmen. The girls sit in a room behind one-way glass. If a guy picks you, your number is called and then you hang out with him in the club. It is creepy and demoralizing at best. It’s on my list of Things I Will Never Tell My Mom.
Sunday will be Day 30 for me. Right now I feel like crying because the thought of never getting to drink another glass of Pinot Noir is depressing me. I have become a shut-in, a social mis-fit. Afraid of ever going out again. Afraid people will know my “secret”. “She can’t drink like a normal person”? “What’s up with that”?
Lisa R. said,
“Never” is too long for me to ever wrap my brain around. I was told early on to “wait another day and see what happens.” I just keep doing that and keeping it all about right now, today.
I was definitely more of a social mis-fit when I was out there drunk trying to run over my friend in a car.
You can email me directly if you want to talk more:
smacksyblog (at) gmail (dot) com.
Lisa, Stefanie, and all your readers: I come here each week to read the Friday post and send positive thoughts your way, that you will all get the sobriety you deserve! I work in criminal court, and I see a lot of people at their rock bottom, and I tell you this from the trenches: it is worth it to fight this fight! You guys rock, and you can be successful, you really can. Treat yourselves well!
.-= Ginger´s last blog ..The little red headed girl gets fancy =-.
Lisa R. said,
Thanks Ginger. I’m always in the market for positive thoughts!
I so enjoyed reading your story. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. And congratulations on 22 years! That’s huge!
.-= Corinne´s last blog ..Untitled on a Thursday =-.
What an honest, beautiful look inside that gorgeous exterior! This is why I will be showing up at your house someday like Bree Van de Camp, a basket of gluten-free muffins hanging from my elbow.
And then we will sit and laugh. And cry. And laugh again. Then cry some more.
Inevitably, one of us will blow Diet Coke out her nose.
.-= Nancy ´s last blog ..Not Peculiar But Happy (Pt III) =-.
Nicely done Lisa! 22 years is a whole lotta one’s at a time.
.-= Jane´s last blog ..Gold =-.
Beautiful, powerful story Lisa. Last night was one breath at a time, one minute at a time for me, but your story helped. My sister and I know many casualties of the 80’s, some on their death beds – thanks for this positive story.
Thank you, for this very raw and true story.
.-= Betsy´s last blog ..Look what I made =-.
wow. you are an amazing person, gifted with such a beautiful way of sharing. i am so inspired by this story, in ways you don’t even know. xoxo/dera
by the way, my hub, terry, read this too. he never pays attention to blogs. especially the ones i read. but he was so moved by this, he wanted me to tell you that (and i quote) “you are awesome”. that is all.
.-= Dera´s last blog ..A Beagle In Boots… =-.
You are a very brave woman. Thank you for your perspective on working the steps and AA in general. I have been going to a regular meeting but haven’t gone beyond step 1. I know I have work to do, to cleanse and honor my spirit, not sure what I am waiting for…
Thanks again, much appreciated.
.-= seekingclarav´s last blog ..March 2007 =-.
Lisa R. said,
With help from others, I have found that working the steps is SO much easier than not working them. You may find that too.
Lisa, thank you for sharing a part of your story, your experience, strength, and courage, for carrying the message to at least one alcoholic who really needed the message this morning.
.-= Caroline´s last blog ..Dear 10-Month Old Bitlet =-.
well..i read most of your blog posts cos you are funny and make me laugh. This blog post was incredible. I loved it. Im not an alcoholic I drink once a year maybe..i like the honesty.
No matter who you are or what you have going on in your life, that one day at a time stuff is pretty powerful. I think i need to get it tattooed to my forehead.
Thanks for the post, Lisa.
.-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Kill the Critic! =-.
What a strong, brave woman you are! My hat is off to you and I am cheering my lungs out.
My 5-year anniversary without a drink fell this past November 27th. So much of what you wrote is ME, and the more alcoholics in recovery that I talk to, the more I see how much we – especially women who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse – have in common. It all starts from the deepest, darkest core of self-loathing, doesn’t it? A fear of living, a fear of failing, a fear of just existing.
Lisa–Such a powerful story. How you tell it shows how much you’ve created meaning and empowerment out of hard hard experiences. You are a testament to how powerful awareness is and how possible not just change is, but restoration and healing. Thank you.