Archive for July, 2010
So here we are again. I swear that starting Monday I will start giving updates about babies, jobs, candy junk food, Jessica Simpson and all things frivilous. But today, Friday, here’s a friend from the circle with a tale to tell. You can find her blog here. And feel free to join the Brigade here.
“My story is evolving. I’m aiming for acceptance. I’ll take you back to my first drink. I’m 13 and sitting around a campfire. My best friend and I shared a love of cheesy food. This was not sexy then and it isn’t sexy now. I brought along a can of cheese balls. Cheese balls were fairly new on the market when I was 13. The marketing was fantastic. A big blue can with the Planter’s Peanut Guy on there and orange cheese powdered goodness on the inside. Needless to say, this camping trip was not my first experience with cheese balls, but it was with wine coolers. My friend had some of hers. I had all of mine (one). I also polished off the cheese balls. Somewhere in the middle of the night I began to vomit. I knew. I knew right away. There was no way in hell, if I survived until the morning, there was no way in hell, I would EVER eat cheese balls again. Those things will make you throw up! Thus, the mind of an alcoholic is revealed.
My point is my alcoholic behavior was always with me. To me that is someone who can safely say there is no off button, most of the time; talking too much, eating too much, or drinking too much. I believe I’ve always had no off button and a deep need to not be alone with myself. Food and alcohol quickly became a way for me to focus, calm down. Lastly, I always knew it is a better life when you find things that are easy for you and do them well than try to work at something that doesn’t come easy. Fortunately, or not, I found paths in my life that were both easy (for me) and rewarding in terms of how the world looked at me. I walked into a scholarship to law school and drank most of the way through, until I became pregnant. Then I stopped. No problem. I gained 75 pounds, but didn’t drink a thing. Didn’t drink much in my kids early years either. When I did drink, I was pretty much the life of the party. One of my friends once said that my husband trying to get me to go home was like putting a wet towel on the campfire. I took it as a compliment.
I built a career. That was when I really got into trouble. I had enough money to have weight loss surgery. Until 2 years ago, weight was the real battle. It was the most outward sign of my inward loneliness and “issues”. There is nothing pretty about a really fat drunk either, let me tell you. So, I exercised like crazy and went on a diet, many diets. I didn’t count the calories in the bottles of wine on Friday and Saturday but hey, it was the weekend. When the weight didn’t come off, I did my easy thing and had weight loss surgery. 2 weeks of eating right and not drinking anything or else I could bleed out in surgery. Okay, done! What an awful two weeks. I should have known then that I relied on my 2 crutches (food and alcohol) like a legless person. Why in the hell did I then take one away!! I guess because I didn’t know I was legless with crutches. I thought I liked food and wine, and maybe had a slow metabolism.
Fast forward to life happening and I only have one crutch and still no idea I’m legless. Life was getting very hard. I was getting smaller and feeling pretty good about that. My previously sweet child was turning into a teenager. My father was very ill. My business was doing well (wait, why is that a problem)….because I had enough money to design my life so I could really press down on that one crutch and swing about my merry way. I had no idea I was failing to cope with any and all feelings. There were no big signs like, you drank the paycheck (I had enough money) or the house didn’t get clean (because I had a housekeeper) or the kids were neglected (I did put them first until I didn’t) or I could get fired (I own the business). The problem is that alcohol has this little way of being a toxic depressant. When I started using it as a crutch, it started making me depressed, tired, and stupid. Because of my weight loss surgery, I didn’t really get hung over or throw up anymore. I just felt wiped the next day. I needed a glass of wine at 5pm for energy – get through the evenings. And wine, if you have enough, kills your brain cells and makes you happy. And then I’d want more – more happy!! Then I’m falling asleep at a dinner out with friends. Then I’m slurring in front of my kids at home during family movie night. Then I don’t want to go to a kid’s movie on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong. I went to the kid’s movie. But somewhere inside I knew it wasn’t normal to be happy when it is over so I can have that glass of wine. I was beginning to realize I didn’t have any legs. And let’s carry this analogy to its logical conclusion: as the legless person, it is usually pretty obvious to other people that you” don’t have any”, whether you notice or not, or try to act as if you’re normal.
I read a sentence in Mary Karr’s book Lit that where she quotes someone as saying “Wear a mask long enough, and your face will grow to fit.”. That truth is my profound regret concerning my experience with alcoholism. I either regret that I can’t drink like a normal person or I regret what I failed to do or feel when I was preoccupied with drink. There are so many situations I’ve experienced in the last 20 years or so that I have only experienced with even a little something to drink: New Years’ Eve, the Superbowl, Christmas Eve, Halloween, Weddings, Funerals, Friday nights, Saturday nights, Tropical Vacations, (eventually, Sunday through Thursday nights) that I can hardly think of a situation I can face where not pouring a glass of wine at some point isn’t a departure from the norm. I have been drinking or drunk on Friday nights, week after week. I need to practice sobriety. I need to reclaim those Friday nights until they become the norm, the muscle memory I don’t yet have. I need to wear this sobriety mask long enough that my face grows to fit. I’m inching toward that acceptance that brings willingness and ultimately, freedom.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on July 30, 2010 6:41 am
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
This is the story of a friend of mine. She’s a woman who reached out to me when I first blogged about quitting drinking. This is the thing about us “quitters,” we are shamed, yes. We are sad, sure. But when we find the strength to fight, we also realize we have the strength to help other people fight as well. I truly believe that part of the lesson I’ve learned since admitting fully to myself and to others that I am an alcoholic is that I’m not alone. It’s a highly treatable condition. All I have to do is not take the first drink. Some people may think that I’ve lost myself or that I’m not funny anymore. That’s fine with me. If you read my next book you’ll see that it’s not true overall but maybe yes. Maybe I have let this topic overrun my blog because IT’S IMPORTANT. You have no clue how much mail I receive from women who are suffering and embarrassed and don’t want to admit how much they are drinking or that they need help. So if me posting a lot about drinking bothers you? There are a million other blogs to read. Now back to my friend. She emailed me a letter she wrote to her daughter after she stopped drinking and I posted it on DGDF. But she just sent me this which is more of her story. It rings true to me, I hope you too. If you want to talk to others you can join our Yahoo Group.
–At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, she passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected.
Pg 24 of the Big Book
But what about the real alcoholic? She might start off as a moderate drinker; she may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of her drinking career she begins to lose all control of her liquor consumption, once she starts to drink.
Pg 21 of the Big Book
These two passages in the Big Book are underlined, stared and re-underlined because for the last part of my drinking days, my “bottom” and into my sobriety I have struggled with the question: “how did this happen to me? How or when did I become an alcoholic?” At what point in my drinking days did things go wrong? Where and when did I tip over from the social drinker to becoming an alcoholic.
Was it when I had to have a drink while I was pregnant? Was is when I started drinking alone? Or was it before that even…the first time I got a real buzz and knew I wanted to feel that way again? YES. Like EVERY alcoholic, I reached a point sometime when drinking became more important than my relationships and I gave this obsession (disease, allergy or whatever we want to call) my whole self. And it couldn’t be
I had an “alcoholic mind.”
I like to think of the “wine cube” as my ultimate downfall. Knock if you want to…but I stumbled on it at Target…it was much easier to hide than bottle and containing four bottles of wine per box…I never really knew where I was in terms of a line on the bottle anymore. And with multiple cube going…white wine and two types of red…I could hide how much I was drinking from my husband. In the end I was drunk every afternoon and evening. The hand on the clock was a slave-driver as I refused to drink before noon.
My bottom came at 11:30 in the morning when I had fixed myself a juice glass of red wine and I was eating “lunch” with my daughter. She looked at me and said “Mommy why do you drink so much wine all the time.” At that point I knew the game was up. My husband might have been oblivious, ignoring or avoiding the issue, by my five-year-old had the courage to innocently take it on. It wasn’t so much that I felt caught as I felt like a mirror was being held up to me and I was being forced to look at it. I knew that if I continued to drink I would be a drunk mom…and I wasn’t willing to “fuck up my kids lives.” There are many reasons people stop drinking. In the beginning I did it because I didn’t want to be a drunk mom. Now I know that alcohol will consume ME…every bit of me if I let it…or I can have the life the Big Book talks about…the promises can come true for me.
I will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
The first and only call I made was to my therapist at the time…who I had been lying to about how much I drank. I was finally honest with her. And this is what she said… “Well kiddo, your game is up. You can call a friend of mine and go to an AA meeting. Or I think we are going to have to send you to treatment.” And with that, I made a phone call. I think at my first meeting that amazing thing happened that happens in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I knew I wasn’t alone.
I did not hesitate for a second when they offered the white chip. I was so relieved to start a new life with a group of people who had hope. I got up immediately when it was offered. I didn’t even know what I was agreeing to…I just knew I wanted to do it. Another major moment for me in my sober life was the first time I called myself an alcoholic. I was at a the meeting at St. John Episcopal. They went around at the end of the meeting and people could introduce themselves. As people who had not “shared” at the meeting spoke their name and those…..WORDS. I knew they were coming for me. I had picked up a white chip, but I had not said the words myself. I knew I would have to say it. “My name is R and I am an alcoholic.” Again, there was a huge relief when I said those words. I spoke them to a room full of perfect strangers…but I was again released to be “part of”…and it was like an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders…I was anonymous…but I had admitted to being “part of” the fellowship. It was a huge moment.
I knew from that moment on I had an alcoholic mind.I saw that “will power” and “self knowledge” would not help in those mental blank spots. –quote from The Big Book
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on July 23, 2010 6:22 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
Hi Everyone. I realize that I’ve barely updated my blog for awhile now. I’ve been on a deadline and I’ve had sick children and and and…I still have a few chapters due for my new book but at the same time, I know how important it is to stay current especially when it comes to the drinking stuff. I have been sober for 13 1/2 months now. My year birthday was May 22nd and it was hard earned. Some days I think that it’s all no big deal and other days it’s a huge deal, the only deal. Some days I don’t think about being a non-drinker, not even as a passing thought and then, out of nowhere, I am super pissed that I can’t drink like other people and I find myself spending quality time obsessing about “what it all means” this “being an alcoholic” thing. Like, am I really an alcoholic? That just sounds so harsh. It’s a term I would’ve made fun of before I had to apply it to myself. Am I really a sober person? Do people look at me differently or is it all in my head? When I think like this, I have to start at the beginning: the place where I quit.
Where I was: More unhappy than I would’ve allowed you to believe. To deal with the stressors in my life, I’d turned to the evening drinking, allowing myself to sink into a bottle of wine when circumstances didn’t allow me any other way I could see to relax. I found myself looking so forward to my wine that I began a bit earlier and then even earlier at night. I loved to cook because my pasta sauces were about 80 proof and before I was done cooking I had a nice buzz going too -a splash for the sauce, a splash in my glass, little more for the sauce, lot more for me. Eventually, like a stream of water rolling down a rock, my behavior wore a groove. Drinking wine felt like home to me. It was my comfort, the only way I knew to feel good. I slowly started arguing with myself that perhaps what I was doing wasn’t good for my liver. Maybe it wasn’t good for my body. But I reasoned with myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone else so what was the big deal? I might’ve gone on that way for longer but the real problem was that the wine stopped working. Isn’t that a bitch? Instead of feeling good, slightly tipsy and more loving; I just felt out of it. No amount of adjusting my dosage really got me where I needed to be and then one day in a horrible moment of clarity, I knew without any doubt whatsoever that it needed to stop. Today. I had so much to lose.
What happened: I asked for help. I called a friend, a sober friend, and asked her what to do. I didn’t feel like I had a choice but when I look back, I realize that I did have a choice, I always had a choice, and I chose wisely. I do give myself a lot of credit for that because, fuck, it was hard! I had to concede to my innermost self that I did indeed have a problem with alcohol. As much as I love the stuff, I can not safely drink it. That is huge, people! The admission! It’s big, powerful stuff. It’s not for the whiny or the wishy washy although I’ve been both. It takes a smashing of your own ego, and a lot of willingness and dare I say, desperation. I had to talk about it constantly, remind myself every day of why I was doing this and I had to do something I didn’t know I’d have to do: grieve the loss. Not drinking at night was like having a break-up with a boyfriend. I knew it was the absolute right thing to do, I knew the relationship was toxic, but damn if there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t think I could live without it. I thought about calling booze during weak moments, I wanted alcohol to comfort me through my break-up with alcohol. I wanted one last screw. But just like with a break up, one can’t get over it that way. I had to go cold turkey and eventually, eventually, slowly, slowly, as I built up more and more time between myself and my last drink, I felt better.
I had to realize that my relationship with needing to relieve my anxiety predates my drinking. The drive to unwind goes all the back to compulsively eating Halloween candy at five or even just eating thirds of macaroni and cheese at twelve. I’ve never been into meditation or long hot baths or anything that involves patience when waiting to feel better. I’m still not. Each to her own.
How it is now: Slowly I have worn a new groove in that rock. For a long time I had to sit with clenched teeth and watch TV at night wondering if anything would ever feel fun or easy again. But, like I said, I don’t notice it as much now. When I hang on the couch at night with Jon, I don’t automatically think about drinking. I wonder why So You Think You Can Dance is a big hit and I obsess over the Bachelorette and wonder how any guy could be attracted to a woman who is so completely devoid of personality but I don’t feel like something’s missing anymore. I will tell you that I still have to ask for the willingness everyday to continue on this path. I have to be willing to go through days that are hard without having an easy out. But I do it. One day at a time.
And you can too.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on July 2, 2010 6:08 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday