Archive for May, 2010
This is another great entry from the excellent site for sober broads Crying Out Now. Next week I’ll be done with my book and back to updating more frequently.
Here I am, a big fat alcoholic, done with the alcohol and its rule over my dominion. I’m not literally big and fat, but when I consider my alcohol use, I sure feel that way. So, I was sober from 1993 to 2000. I was active in AA for at least 5 of the 7 years, but once I got married in 1997 (happily sober), and we moved out of state, I fell away from the program. My husband had no experience with alcoholism, or me when I was actively drinking. Since I quit when I was 23, and we moved to a fairly hard drinking state, it was easy to rationalize “just one”. Eleven years later, I’m quietly downing 2 bottles of
wine a night.
For awhile I told myself that just because I was drinking didn’t mean I forgot everything I learned in AA. I didn’t, but I just wasn’t ready to quit, mainly because my marriage has disintegrated during the past several years. It was going bad in 2001, and nothing has really changed. Two nights ago, while drunk of course, I told my husband that I knew I needed to quit drinking, but I didn’t know if I could tolerate our marriage without it. For the record, he has never objected to my drinking as long as I don’t hide it. But, of course, I still do.
When I woke up the morning after my confession, I had the usual internal scramble to remember what had happened the night before. I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve watched with my husband that I can’t remember anything about.
Luckily, today, I could remember. My first reaction was to apologize, blame stress from work, etc. But I realized I didn’t want to take it back.
It was true. I didn’t want this marriage as it was. I wanted the man back that I married. One of the AA phrases I learned, when you’re pointing at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at you. To do my part I have to go back to being the woman my husband married. I have to stop drinking. I’m ready.
I’m concerned about withdrawal after the past 8 years or so of drinking every night until I fall asleep (details). My tolerance is obviously high, I haven’t been hung over for years. God only knows what my liver thinks of all this. I don’t want to do rehab. I know how to do this, but the last time I quit I hadn’t been drinking that long, though the pattern was very similar. I didn’t have withdrawal then, I’m concerned I will now. My palms are sweating as I write. I know now that back then I was probably abusing alcohol, now, I am physically addicted.
Today I attended my first AA meeting in 13 years. How could I have forgotten so much? I didn’t have a day yet, only the desire to stop drinking. But I went to a Closed Women’s meeting. What I heard:
The steps. I am powerless over alcohol. I AM. Without a doubt, I am. God, had I forgotten the power of the steps.
God, or the god of my understanding, as I called him (for lack of a better pronoun). I have lost my spirituality and I miss it.
Yes, I said it: I’m Susan and I’m an alcoholic.
Someone said: “I’m an alcoholic, I will create chaos around me.” Shit, I’d forgotten that. No wonder my family life is chaos. Then I felt hope: if I stopped I could repair the chaos or at least deal with it SOBER instead of drunk.
The meeting topic? Acceptance.
Can I accept that I may have withdrawal problems? Yes, but I am committed to this path. I have an appointment with my therapist (of 8 years ago for marriage, not alcohol counseling, though I knew she specialized in that–REALLY???) and will call my Dr. to get some help and make sure I don’t have a seizure and scare the shit out of myself and my family. I promise this is not an excuse to drink. I have broken my silence.
As for my husband, I am asking him for time, and plan to get my own house in order before making any decisions there. I asked him the other night, drunk, why we have everything but we aren’t happy. Well, if both of us are creating chaos…what the hell else is going to happen?
Not yet free, but hopeful.
P.S. Mine is a cautionary tale. Folks who relapse move away from remembering they are alcoholics, and start hoping/thinking they can drink normally. We can’t. Not even one. If we could drink one, we wouldn’t be here. Even when I took my first relapse drink, I knew I was making bullshit excuses. Please. Don’t go there. Find a way to not drink: reach out to people who understand (Booze Free Brigade), go to a meeting, anything. I’m still in the jail. You do not want to be here. Don’t drink.
(Note from Stef: Susan* is now sober and doing pretty great – you can find her on the Booze Free Brigade)
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on May 28, 2010 4:28 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
So I have been sober for an entire year. All the cliches are true, it feels like I just quit yesterday and yet, it feels like this year has taken two years. I had no idea how much work was involved in extricating myself from my self spun web of drinking. I didn’t know how important alcohol had become to my coping skills. So I’ve had to learn new ones. And now, much like Ramona from RHNY -I’m renewed. Wait, except that Ramona is a big old Pinot Grigio guzzling alchie so maybe that’s a bad example.
Anyway, I thought in honor of my quitting drinking anniversary, I’d reprint my blog entry from a year ago entitled Secrets.
I talk about drinking a lot on my blog. I’ve talked about it a lot in my books. I really like to drink. I like the way wine softens the edges, smooths out the line between “their time” and “my time,” helps me to feel relaxed, helps me tune out. But I drink too much. I drink seven nights a week. Sometimes just a glass of wine but usually two or even three. I always seem to have some sort of excuse like “today was an exceptionally stressful day so I deserve an extra glass now that it’s all done.”
I drank often when Elby was a baby to help deal with the stress of a new infant. I found myself drinking more than I had before I became a parent and I drank with other moms to bond and unwind (yes, I’m the cocktail playdate mom and I stand by that being a healthy thing to do in moderation, in walking distance). Before I got pregnant with the twins I had pretty much stopped drinking because I felt it was becoming a habit so when I was pregnant, it was extremely easy not to drink. But when the twins were born and I was home and my milk was dried up and postpartum was setting in, the simplest thing to do seemed to be have a glass of wine.
It was only too darn easy to fall back into the pattern (especially once the babies started having a regular bedtime) of having my wine every night. For some people I’m sure this is a nice thing, a tribunal thing ( a drink at the end of the day with their spouse or friends). For others it might be a once in awhile treat to go out and have a couple of cocktails. For me, it’s become a nightly compulsion and I’m outing myself to you; all of you: I have a problem.
I quit on Friday.
I’ve wavered before on this issue thinking, “But lots of times I have one glass of wine.” Well, unfortunately, especially lately, most times I don’t just have one -sometimes I have four. And being compulsive, I can’t be trusted to “just cut down.”
I’m scared, of course, to put this out there. I’m also scared of not having alcohol as a crutch to relax at night. I’m scared I’ll just have to sit in anxiety, hearing every little noise the babies make, wondering if they’ll wake up, wondering if Sadie’s puked or if Mattie’s too cold or if I was a good enough, loving enough mommy to Elby today. I’m scared to have nothing to numb that ever present worry and my circular thinking. I’m afraid of always having to listen to myself think.
But I’m more scared that my consumption of alcohol will consume my life and I can’t afford that. I need to be present for my husband in the evening; I need to be fully reliable for all three of my children at all times and, for me, if I’m 100% honest with myself, I can’t do that if I drink.
I’m a little worried that parties will never be as much fun or that people will think I’m boring or or a little tense. But since I still plan to use the word cocksucker with wild abandon how boring could I be? Plus, the only person who is usually around me when I’ve had a few glasses is my husband and he says he likes me better sober (or “awake” as he so gently put it).
I’ve had a lifetime of hurt and some good reasons to drink but those days are long gone and the yet the alcohol is still here. And so, although it’s never gotten me into trouble, why wait for that?
So here you go. I’m nothing if not honest with you guys right? So here’s to one weekend down with no drinking and the rest of my life to go. If nothing else, I hope this helps someone else who is feeling like I do.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on May 24, 2010 6:16 pm
Robin is someone I met online at the Booze Free Brigade. She’s a sister, a soldier, a trudger and one hell of a writer. Read her story and if you relate, just know, we’re all right there with you. She can be found at her blog Life On Its Own Terms.
And by the way, Saturday? I will have one year of sobriety. If you don’t know by now from how much I fucking blab on and on about it, it’s a huge deal to me. Boom.
And now, here’s Robin:
“I have a PhD and a boob job, so I suppose it’s redundant to tell you that I’ve always felt like a misfit. I’m one of those alcoholics for whom booze is only the tip of the iceberg: I was born to be addicted. Far from accepting life on its own terms, I attacked reality with a sledgehammer and a scalpel. In the end, though, life won, as it always does, and I wasn’t undone by anything extreme but by the simplest of nature’s blessings: motherhood.
I grew up in New England, and my parents were Republicans who drank prodigiously but never sloppily and made too much money. My sisters and I spent summers in the islands, skied at Vail for Christmas, and sulked when our parents left us with nannies while they vacationed in Europe. I had just designed my debutante dress – a knockoff of Princess Diana’s wedding dress, I was nuts for her – when it all disappeared in a cloud of divorce, bankruptcy, and suicide. I finished high school while working full time to help pay the bills and then, figuring I’d done my time, disappeared into the first ivory tower that would have me.
My first addiction wasn’t sex or even love but romance, in the purest medieval sense. My boyfriends always lived somewhere else. I felt like a fraud when I tried to do what I thought I was supposed to do, dating and waiting for phone calls and wondering if I could keep a toothbrush in his bathroom. I relaxed only when off-script, meeting a boyfriend for a long weekend in London or Key West; I had the run-through-the-airport-into-his-arms routine down cold.
My husband’s and my first date began and ended in an airport; hell, I tried to have a long-distance marriage. It suffered, of course, but I thought that was the way life went (remember I was raised in a John Cheever novel) so I concentrated on important things like making sure we used cloth napkins and forcing him to go to the opera with me. I got a job as a university professor, bought the boobs I’d always wanted, Botoxed my forehead and launched my own prodigious-but-never-sloppy drinking career.
Then I discovered I wanted a child, a desire my body denied, but adopting from Russia felt comfortably exotic so we went about that. I worked at becoming a mother as hard as I’d worked at anything, ever, but as with most of my goals I had no idea what to do once I achieved it. As had happened when I woke up and found a husband in bed next to me, soon after my daughter came home I found that I was more terrified of her than of anything that had thus far kept me on the right side of drink, so drink I did.
The end came fast for me, but not fast enough to avoid damage. My marriage was drowning, the promise we felt in discovering we liked each other as parents – who knew? – evaporating like alcohol on a stovetop. Finally grounded, my passport filed and my favorite carry-on serving as a diaper bag, I chafed and bled and rattled the bars of my gilded cage, which in no time was completely soaked in alcohol. It was everywhere. Stashed in the top of my closet, the trunk of my car, pockets of my coats. One day in a blackout I apparently started a new email account under an alias and wrote dozens of emails, perfectly spelled and correct in their grammar but nonsensical. To this day I don’t know who all I wrote or why or what I said. I’ve been assured by someone who saw one that I don’t want to know.
So I went to rehab. It was as simple and as catastrophic as that. I learned that separation from my daughter felt like my heart washed up on the beach, parched and scraped and sunburned, plucked at by seagulls. In short: worse than any misery I’d ever known or imagined, particularly sharp because I didn’t expect to feel that way. Still needing to chase some semblance of success I earned my stripes with half-my-age heroin addicts – you took how many Xanax? You rock! – and I danced and fenced with every rule, gained 20 pounds, let my wrinkles come back. It’s a very odd thing to disappear for four solid months, leaving my child in my sister’s care and my husband to foot some outrageously high bills and colleagues scratching their collective heads. It’s just as odd to return to life, sober but dependent as a newborn, realizing that all of my careful machinations had left me at the mercy of nature and people to a much greater extent than if I had just bothered to learn the rules of the game in the first place.”
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on May 21, 2010 4:23 am
Today’s post comes from Corinne at Trains, Tutus and Tea Time. I absolutely love her writing and her message speaks to every woman with a problem. She is you. You are us. But we can do this together.
“For years I felt the eyes. Everywhere.
I felt them questioning how much and how many. I felt them watch as I picked drunken fights with my husband. I felt them stare as I bought gigantic bottles of wine for one. I felt them linger as I slept away weekends in booze induced comas. I felt them on me as I chose the bottle over being present at night for my kids. I felt them burn into me as I took an escape route. I always felt eyes on me while I drank. Or thought about drinking. As I poured my glass that never became empty. As I became sneaky and defiant. I felt eyes on me through my addiction.
My addiction told me it was enough. That I was not, and it was everything I had. It told me I was weak and needed an escape, that my life was crap and I couldn’t handle it. So I took the escape, I took the glass as many nights as I could, using any excuse that I could. Red wine helped my migraines, the kids were driving me insane, I’d had a long day. I deserved my wine. It was all that I had.
So I’d sit with my third glass of wine as my husband came out of the kids bedroom from putting them down for the night. Many nights. We made a point of him being the bedtime guy, so that I could have a break.
So that I could drink.
So that I could check out from my family. My life.
I would hear the click of the kids bedroom door, and wait for him to come out. I’d listen to the sound of our living room clock, and try to squeeze myself into the silence that was between the tick and the tock. I tried to disappear, and then maybe – just maybe – he wouldn’t see my glass. He wouldn’t see how far gone the wine bottle was, or that there was a second waiting to be opened. I avoided my husbands eyes as he would walk through the living room. Otherwise, I might owe him an explanation.
I always felt I owed everyone when I drank. I was a yes drinker. Yes to more, yes to crazy plans, yes to favors and yes to people walking over me. Yes to guilt ridden hungover mornings and days with no patience for my children. Yes to the addiction and isolation.
No to me.
By the end I couldn’t decipher myself from my addiction. We were one, close knit and the best of friends. But those eyes kept coming back, and I could never feel total peace, could never be alone with myself without feeling like I needed something more than me. And I was lonely when I was playing with my kids or having a quiet night with my husband. Whenever that glass was empty, I was lonely.
And then I was lonely with the glass. Because I’d be the last one drinking. The only one drinking, or the only one pouring. It was me and the bottle, and those eyes of shame.
Ending my relationship with alcohol has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The first week I felt ill, not from withdrawal symptoms, but from the feelings of guilt, shame, and fear that overwhelmed me. Sick from flashbacks and memories of every time I picked up a drink. Sick from realizations of where drinking took me, the dark places that could have been avoided, the pain that I inflicted on myself and others.
The hardest part has been figuring out how to listen to myself and not the addiction. Because the voice of addiction still lies within me. Today I’m on day 44 of my sobriety, but without constant vigilance I could slip. Sobriety is not something I will ever take for granted. Now I pray a lot. I read a lot. I drink a lot more water and hot tea than I used to. But I can also be alone with my thoughts. I can look at my kids and get teary not because I miss my wine, but because I’m here to witness their beauty. To be in the moment with them.
Now, I know I’m enough. And the eyes?
The eyes smile down on me with love and patience.”
You can find a lot of us at the Booze Free Brigade offering support.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on May 14, 2010 3:57 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
This was originally posted on Crying Out Now a site run by three sober women. You should definitely check it out and submit your story if you have one. When I read this post the first time, the tears rolled. I understand.
“Cinderella dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss a fella…” the girls are chanting this little ditty I’ve taught them in anticipation of our big movie night. Janet* is five and Janie* is two. My husband is gone for the evening, where I don’t remember, and we are planning a girl’s night. I’m excited, I’m making popcorn, a rare treat in our home, and I’ve purchased Cinderella 3 on DVD. We’ve been waiting for this movie to come out for months, maybe a year, and it’s finally available. I of course am celebrating with some wine. There’s a half bottle of red in the kitchen, more than enough for an evening alone with my two small children. I have a quick glass while making the popcorn, and then pour another and we settle in for the movie.
Somehow, the movie night is not going according to my expectations. Janie is bored, she wanders off to play. Or maybe she is nagging me to play with her, again, the memories are hazy. To settle my nerves I have another glass of wine. The bottle is empty now, and I want more. I don’t think I have a problem. I am not a drunk. I just want one more glass. But if I open another bottle, my husband will know and despite justifying to myself that one more glass is no big deal there is clearly a part of myself that knows that it IS because I don’t want him to know.
So I get the idea to open another bottle and drink it down to the same line that the first bottle was at. I’ll hide the first, empty bottle and my husband will think that I didn’t have anything to drink at all. Brilliant! But something goes wrong. As the level in the bottle gets lower I start to feel sick. I’m stumbling around, slurring my words. I’ve completely forgotten about my kids, the movie, everything except the level in that bottle. I have to force the last glass down, I’m that drunk. I don’t want any more, but I have to get the bottle to half full and it never, ever would occur to me to dump it out. That would be wasteful!
I don’t remember the ending of the movie, or if we even watched the end. Somehow I manage to get my kids upstairs and into my bed. I don’t know if we put on pajamas, or if we brushed teeth. We probably did, since I do remember trying to read a book to them, and if I was coherent enough to read a book I probably had them brush teeth, right? Except I wasn’t coherent, I was slurring my words like mad. The pages were fading in and out, the print just a blur. I was fighting unconsciousness. The room was going black. I think it was only 8pm. I quit reading and told my kids mommy was ‘sick.’ Then I passed out.
I don’t know if my kids went straight to sleep, or if they stayed awake, talking over their drunken, unconscious mother. I don’t know if they felt afraid, all alone in that big house with no one to take care of them. I doubt they knew the danger they would have been in if something had happened, a fire, a burglary, a medical emergency.
I don’t remember my husband coming home, but I can only imagine how it looked to him. His wife, sprawled on the bed, passed out, reeking of wine. His two innocent children beside her, sleeping (or perhaps not). Did he try to wake me, to talk to me? Did I slur my words? Did I try to justify myself? Or did he just shake his head and go, wondering why I keep doing this?
At some point I did wake, that point where I was sober enough to face the full horror of what I had done, and sick enough to want to die. Red wine was hard on my stomach (which is why I later switched to white) and I spent several hours not able to sleep from the waves of nausea and repeated runs to the bathroom to puke my guts out. What excuse did I give? Food poisoning? The flu? Did anyone ever believe that I was ‘sick’ that often?
Somehow, I made it to morning. Somehow, I always seemed to finally sleep around 6am or so, and woke up feeling better albeit totally hungover. I looked around at the devastation I had caused, and swore to myself ‘never again’. But it was just one of the million times I had said that, and there would be another million before I finally quit for good three years later.
If you see yourself in these words and want to explore more you can join the Booze Free Brigade for added support.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on May 7, 2010 6:44 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday