Archive for April, 2010
This story is from a friend of mine and I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty damn inspirational. She is lovely, hilarious and a great example of a life being lived well without booze.
At lunch the other day, I overheard two women lamenting over how one of their old college friends was ruining his life with alcohol. It was the classic tale; he had lost the beautiful family, the high paying job, the house in the hills and now a third DUI had landed him in jail. After twenty minutes of describing his wreckage one sighed and said, “He’ll never stop drinking. He loves it.”
I almost choked on my couscous. There are many reasons I gave up drinking thirteen years ago but “lack of interest” was not one of them.
I didn’t fall out of love with alcohol. Nor did I lose the life I had built, partly because at the age of 19, I scarcely had had the chance to build one. I got sober because one summer night I went out for one drink and ended up having one drink in every bar on St. Mark’s Place. The result was terrible alcohol poisoning, the kind that led me to a bathroom floor shivering under a hand towel with toilet seat marks on my forehead. My cell phone was screaming at me from my purse so I answered because it was the only way I could think of to make the noise stop. It was my father calling to invite me to lunch. For some reason I agreed on the condition that lunch was a plain bagel he would bring to my apartment. I had the special humility one gets after throwing up for seven hours, so when he asked me how I was, I told him the truth.
My sweet father listened patiently as I confessed to my obsession with alcohol, my despair over the lines in the sand I kept leaping over, and the possibility that I might marry a bus boy from Morocco for a couple thousand dollars. And then I said it, the three magic words, “I need help.” That is something I would not have said if he had come by even one hour later when I was feeling less desperate. I didn’t realize it then, but I gave my father a tiny, and I mean teensy tiny, window of opportunity, and he reached out and was able to pull me through to the other side. The next day I decided I had been dramatic. I called my father to tell him to forget what I’d said, but I was too late, I had asked for help and it was already on the way in countless different ways.
There I was, 19 and sober. I had stopped drinking a full two years before it was legal for me to start drinking. I was thoroughly disappointed. I had planned on being a nasty drunk when I grew up. I had been daydreaming about my 21st birthday party since I was 8. I was convinced that my life was over because I could only truly be myself when I was drunk. I understood sobriety was a gift, but I wondered if I could return it and get it again later when I was 35, you know, when I was “old.”
To date, I have the “highest bottom” of any story I have ever heard. Sometimes I hate to tell it because I wonder who wants to hear about the nightlife of a middle schooler. But when I want my bottom to seem lower, I compare my life then to my life today. I am a loving and faithful wife and have a solid and delightful marriage. I am somebody’s mom, which is an endless source of joy. I show up for work on-time and when I leave for the night I don’t have anything that doesn’t belong to me in my pockets. My parents can sleep at night. I am comfortable in my skin. I show up for life with dignity and grace and I never have toilet seat marks on my forehead. I love my life today and if I had waited for the day I stopped loving alcohol I would have missed all of it.
(From Stef: Gemma has a very cool website that sells greeting cards for sobriety milestones www.greetingsanonymous.com go check them out and send me one on May 22nd)
Booze Free Brigade is here.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on April 30, 2010 7:10 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
I have a bad habit of being way too honest. Well, I like to call it honesty, some may call it having no filter. At times this has been a good thing: writing about the trainwreck that was my attempt at breastfeeding had to have helped other women feel less alone. But did I have to tell every stranger who would listen to me for more than ten seconds about my flat nipple situation or that I had a breast reduction when I was twenty and it severely compromised my milk ducts? Maybe not. It seemed like good information to share at the time but perhaps I was being defensive or perhaps I just reeeaally like to (over)share. I mean, did you need to know that yesterday I ate an entire bag containing six huge naturally sweetened Peanut Butter Apricot cookies? I’m only eating healthy food you see. And when you eat healthy food it’s okay to eat said foods in extremely large quantities. Did you know that? Maybe you didn’t know so hopefully that should better explain why I opened a second bag of them this morning and ate two more. Perhaps knowing that I started my period this morning would help explain my eating so you don’t judge too harshly. Wait, did I mention that I may be perimenopausal and my periods have been sort of irregular so I didn’t even know I was going to get my period so suddenly? Hold on. You didn’t need to know that? Oh, okay.
I’m still learning what is appropriate sharing and what is too much. Especially when it comes to all this drinking nonsense. So I go on TV and tell the world that I quit drinking and then there’s this ripple effect where a bunch of people email me to say that they may possibly want to stop drinking too and then I feel like all this drinkin’ talk is a good thing. And then every once in awhile someone brings to my attention that I may be overdoing it. I call those people WASPS. My husband’s parents don’t allow socks at the dinner table so you can imagine how appropriate they think talking about hangovers on TV is. Actually, they may be fine with it. But when I’m doing the imagining, I imagine they’re not. We Jews on the other hand, love to let it all hang out. Have you seen Real Housewives of New York? Jill spills her guts all over the place while Luanne looks like she would hold a fart in for three days. She is a Countess though so there are probably separate rules.
Maybe if I buy Luanne’s book about manners I can work out this bad habit of mine and find a way to keep more things underwraps but until then, I’m just going to keep saying whatever crazy shit comes to mind.
Tomorrow (Friday) I’m going to be on an hour of ABC’s 20/20 talking about women and alcoholism. If you click on that link there’s a bunch more stuff about it on their website.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on April 29, 2010 8:20 pm
The night of my last drink, I come to in my empty house. I walk out in the living room, looking for my husband. He is not there. I run upstairs to the kids’ rooms. They are not there. I drop to my knees in my daughter’s room, not to pray, but to look for the vodka bottle that I had hidden in the closet earlier that day. Panic sets in. Not because I can’t find my husband or my children. I know they are ok. He would keep them safe. Safe away from me. Panic because I can’t find any alcohol. I don’t feel safe without some alcohol.
I begin looking frantically around the rest of the house. My husband has taken the car and the keys to the other car. He has taken my pocket book and the change jar. I feel desperate. I search some more for the vodka. I remember putting it in the closet but maybe I moved it since then. My heart is pounding. I need something to drink. I begin searching the house for money. I look in jacket pockets, old purses, dresser drawers. Relief! I find a crisp five dollar bill in the piggy bank Mallory was given when she was born. A silly pig wearing a frilly pink tutu. A gift from a family friend. The perfect gift for a perfect girl born into a seemingly perfect family. I push down the guilt and shame and run down the stairs and out the door.
I walk a mile and a half to the gas station. Through our perfect, family-friendly neighborhood. Down the main road. Quiet because it is 12:30 in the morning. Across the bridge. As I sober up, the irony is not lost on me that this is the proverbial bridge. The one I should be sleeping under because down deep I know that I am just a worthless drunk. I plod on. My destination and reward in mind. What can I get for five dollars? Maybe a six pack of tall boys. Maybe three 45 ounce bottles. Maybe a cheap bottle of wine. Which would have the most alcohol? My mind starts doing the math. I walk through the gas station door, determined to not be ashamed. Everyone stops in the gas station at night, I tell myself. That’s why they are open after all. I start looking over my choices in the cooler. The cashier tells me he can’t sell me alcohol. It’s too late. Panic. I think about arguing with him but decide against it. I can’t come up with any words. Instead, I select two travel size bottles of Listerine, the only alcohol I can buy. I pay for my purchases, pretending that’s what I stopped in there for all along. I walk out the door, open one bottle, and tip it back. Relief. I savor the burn as it goes down my throat to my stomach. I save the second one for home. I think, dear God, this has to be my bottom. Please help me!
I had promised my husband during the relapse before, two months earlier, that if I relapsed again, I would get help. So, I called him the next morning (they were at his aunt’s house), and I told him I was ready to check in somewhere. I told him I was done. I needed help. I wanted to die. Later that morning, he dropped me off at the curb of a detox facility. Alone.
While there, I slowly began to surrender. I told my husband and the doctors that I realized my own decisions were no longer working for me, and I would leave everything up to them. A family friend recommended a treatment program, and he contacted them. The day before I was to be discharged he told me he thought I needed a long term treatment program. I was crushed. Ninety days away from my children seemed unbearable. Away from home over Christmas? I was convinced he hated me three times as much as I thought he had because he wouldn’t just put me in a 28 day program. But I was defeated, and now I realize I was also a little willing. A small, feeble, quiet, desperate voice in my gut said, “Go, you need this.” An even smaller voice said, “You deserve this.” So I went.
Two years, four months, twenty days later
Today I am a sober woman. I am a mother and a wife. I am a teacher again.
I entered treatment convinced that I would stay for two weeks, get the three-ring binder full of activities to help me get sober, go home, throw all my “rehab clothes” away, and never take a drink again. I thought that fear, shame, and remorse would keep me sober.
Fortunately, I waited until the miracle happened. I lived with a 23 year old IV drug addict, a nurse who stole meds from the hospital, a girl who had served time in jail for a multitude of charges and, at one point, had a bail bondsman after her. Those women, who are all still sober, and countless others who walked in and out of the treatment program, some successfully, others not, were with me on my journey to sobriety. Through them and the brutally honest and loving counselors, I finally found the woman I was meant to be. Not just a mother, or a wife, or a pony-tailed, turtleneck wearing English teacher. Now I can sit on the floor and put a puzzle together with my children. What other people think is no longer any of my business. I can share my experience, strength and hope with a community of women and show them that life is better without alcohol. For today.
For more stories of women dealing with drinking visit Val, Ellie and Robin’s site Crying Out Now
And as always, you can come to the Booze Free Brigade for support from other women who have been there and are there.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on April 16, 2010 2:40 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
My girls are finally starting to appreciate that there is another person who is extremely close in age and usually proximity who shares in their desire to throw expensive watches in the toilet, climb into the pantry and break into the cookies, squish hotdogs into the rug, spin around in the office chairs until someone gets nauseaus, read Dora Star Mountain forty times in a row, and insist on putting on her own pants. Sisters! (insert a little Liz Lemon-esque wink here)
I wondered if they’d ever appreciate each other. I’d heard rumors of twins who don’t spend most of their time biting, pinching and pushing but I’d never seen it with mine. It’s definitely a nice change of pace.
Twin toddler is a bitch. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s really impossible to even make a phone call when I’m alone with them. You’d think that they could busy themselves with an activity like coloring or playing with an overpriced toy that makes noise or even with a tv show. But they have very short attention spans, these two-year-olds. Forgive me for only doing a post so that I could show off those pictures. I’m in a fog of book deadline, childcare and husband abuse.
Also? My adorable brother (I need to post a picture of him at some point soon) and my sister-in-law are expecting their first baby. She is 20 weeks along and having a boy which is a relief because we’re up to our neck in vaginas around here.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on April 13, 2010 8:12 pm
If I’m being honest, which I always am, I’m struggling a bit with my sobriety. Today, I’m going to check in with you for Don’t Get Drunk Fridays because while you’ve been hearing a lot of people’s stories, I haven’t been sharing mine.
As I approach a year, I have dealt with more and more firsts without the calming balm of wine or a Vicodin or even one little blue Xanax. I may be getting further and further away from my last drink, but there are times when I feel it all right behind me nipping at my heels trying to pull me back. This is to be expected. But as an addict, I’m always surprised at the ferocity of those cravings. And, as an addict, I’m convinced that whatever I’m feeling is going to last forever. The addict voice kicks in like this: “God, I’m so anxious. Why am I so anxious? I don’t know why I’m anxious so maybe this is just my new state of being. Great, I’m now a person who has heart palpitations, a clenched jaw and a generally nervous disposition. This is horrible! It will never change no matter what I do and I cannot live this way right? No wonder I had a prescription for Xanax – I have an anxiety disorder. It’s a medical condition dammit. Am I really supposed to just sit here in this crazy anxiety and not just take one little fucking Xanax to make it all better? God invented Xanax for people like me! I am special and I need a Xanax to function!” And that’s when I call someone close to me who understands my problem and they intervene with some words of wisdom like, “Xanax is for people who aren’t alcoholics. People who are alcoholics will take a Xanax and then take one more for good measure. Then, the next time they feel anxious, they will say, ‘Hmm, I took a Xanax last time I was feeling this way so I should take one now’ and pretty soon they will be crushing up Xanax, putting it in a gel cap and using it as a suppository.” Okay, so that person’s advice may be a little hard core but you get the point.
I can’t take Xanax. I can’t have a drink. But there have been times I want one so badly it scares me. I guess I thought that once I got over the hump, I wouldn’t deal with this anymore. This seems like Sobriety 101 this whole white knuckling it through an hour of I WANT A GLASS OF WINE RIGHT FUCKING NOW feeling. I feel like I should be past this.
What I’m figuring out is, I’ve never had to do it before. I’ve never had to tell myself no. And I’m a big baby. I want what I want and I want it now. I don’t want to feel better a week from Tuesday, I want to feel better as fast as possible. In those moments the thought of sobriety being a long term solution sure sounds like bad news to me.
But, the more times I go through this feeling and come out the other side, the more confidence I have that this thing can be done. If I can be on a deadline, have three kids, two of whom are usually crying and manage to not give in to a craving, anyone can do it.
I do this not drinking thing one day at a time and with a lot of help. But I don’t have any fancy slogans to make it all better for anyone else who’s doing it too. All I have is the truth. And the truth is that I am an alcoholic and I need to keep reminding myself of that.
When I wrote that post last May that I had to stop drinking, I described a pattern in my drinking that had emerged in the last couple of years since my twins were born. My drinking did step up with the stress of having preemies. It had crossed a line into daily drinking and a feeling that after a glass or three I really didn’t want to stop until I was completely out of it. But as the months have passed without mama’s feel better juice, I’ve come to realize that that line had been moved back inch by inch long before I ever even crossed it. I’ve gotten a prescription for pain killers and plowed through them like a bag of chips on more than one occasion. I’d be pretty darn dangerous with my own prescription pad, let’s put it that way.
I’ve driven drunk. I’ve gotten so drunk I puked repeatedly –on a first date. I’ve done things I don’t remember and don’t care to remember. I’ve embarrassed myself and other people. I fell down the stairs at my in-laws house after coming home literally stumbling drunk. So don’t let me paint a prettier picture of myself for you. Don’t let me make you think that I just quit drinking because I had “a couple of glasses” of wine at night. Because that may be true, but it’s not the whole story.
My name is Stefanie and I’m an alcoholic.
You can get help from the Booze Free Brigade here.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on April 9, 2010 4:59 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday