Archive for October, 2010
This is a post from a reader of DGDF. She was kind enough to offer to tell her story and I was thrilled when she sent it to me. If you aren’t sure telling your story would help anyone else, you are very wrong. There are tons of us out here, including me, who live to here you tell the truth.
“On the evening of July 10th, 2010, I did a lot of things for the last time.
I had my last feelings of angst as I counted up how many drinks I had per hour. I had my last feelings of shame as I drove home to pay the babysitter. I lied to my husband for the last time about how much I had actually drank at the party I went to. And I took my very last drink.
My husband is the most wonderful and patient man on earth not because of what he did for me to get me sober, but for what he didn’t do. He never told me to stop drinking. A martyr like me, I would have used that so well in any argument: “I stopped drinking for YOU!” But he didn’t. He told me he knew I would figure it out and do it my own way. This was the scariest thing I had ever heard at the time. I could face something if I was being made to do it, but do it on my own? What would I tell my friends?
When I admitted these feelings of weakness, fear and utter humiliation to my husband, he only said this. “I know you can be better than this. I would not have married you if you couldn’t.” And that was what I needed. He knew I could be better, do better and drink less (or not at all). But now I was starting to believe it too.
In a moment of clarity the next day, surprisingly, I made the following comment to a close friend (the one who gets me through my worst days), “I will never regret not drinking. But I might have regrets if I drink again.” And that was it.
Well, okay, it was not that easy.
I don’t have the best genes when it comes to this. My father was an alcoholic. It contributed greatly to my parents’ divorce. He entered AA when I was eight and never took another drink. I attended open meetings with him, became familiar with the families he met through AA and he gave me all of the gold chips that he received for his own sobriety. I was well aware what drinking could do to a person and a family. I knew the signs in myself even back in college when I sought counseling for my blackouts. Apparently, it took ten more years for me to really get serious about facing it head on.
Months before I actually became sober, I did the sobriety test that all alcoholics do at some point before they stop. I stopped for two months and said that I really had “evaluated my relationship with alcohol and learned a lot.” Well, that’s a crock. I learned that I liked alcohol and I liked a lot of it. I just had really forgotten about all the guilt and shame that comes with it for a while, so it was like giving myself a clean slate again. I began to drink again with much less reserve. In fact, it was almost like I was making up for lost time.
But, there came a morning when I realized I was simultaneously hiding a hangover from my husband and child. When I looked at them, I saw the woman I wished I was but wasn’t and the things I thought I could do but couldn’t. Alcohol gave me a lot of things, but clarity was never one of them. It only made me feel less and less in touch with who I was to the people who loved me.
Months before we conceived my son, I had promised my husband I would never drink like I did then after we had kids. I thought my motherly instinct alone would propel me into more adult-like behavior. You know, things cleaning the toilet, folding the laundry when it first comes out of the dryer, darning socks and sewing buttons.
But the truth was, motherhood gave me more license than ever to drink. It was the release, the celebration, the focus of the evenings. And after all that hard work (he is the best baby, I really have nothing to complain about!), didn’t I DESERVE it?
Even after I stopped, it took me a while to see that what I really deserved was to stop drinking. The fear and mourning I felt toward sobriety were the hardest things for me to get through at first. My romantic-emotional self sees drinking as this clink-clink-congratulations-let’s-celebrate-all-is-well-in-our-world act. But for me, it was never just that.
Sobriety made me see that not only do I not drink for the same reasons as other people do, I also enjoy it a hell of a lot more than other people do. In my first weeks of sobriety, I was dumbfounded by how I would “release” all of my stress without drinking. In the Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick describes the release as a “click” that happens in your head once the alcohol kicks in. The click that makes the rest of the world fall away. Alcoholics love that click.
I was tortured by thoughts like: What will I look forward to at the end of a long day? How will I blow off steam? This is why the rooms of AA are what they are. When we start to question what we will do and when we will do it, there is a place to go to stop questioning.
But, once I was sober and truly honest with myself, I realized drinking never released anything positive for me. It did not blow off steam. With the amount of shame, regret, guilt, worry and angst I would wake up with after a night of drinking, nothing was being released to begin with.
So, what is my release? This blog. AA and its teachings. My son. My husband’s face when we are at a party and he is not looking worried and feeling completely relaxed. Learning that there are more sober people out there than you ever thought. And most of all, the amazing feelings I have about myself. I have gotten in touch with a new part of me that has been really nice to find. I am not the impulsive, reckless soul that I once thought. I can make this work. I can make myself better. And I can feel like I am not losing anything, but gaining a better relationship with every person close to me, and most importantly, myself.
So, my new favorite thing to say? “I don’t drink.” I remember being in awe of self assured women who could make this statement without reserve. Inside, I secretly longed to say those words someday with the same aplomb and matter of fact-ness that they did. Now, I can. I know that my son will never see me take a drink; he will never see his father’s worried face when I drink and I will never wake up to those feelings of anguish again.
I can do better, be better and drink less (not at all). And I feel more like myself than I ever have.”
If you see yourself in these words, please join the over 500 others who are trying to help each other here.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on October 29, 2010 6:17 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
So why didn’t anyone with school age children warn me that the one thing you must never ever do if you want to retain your sanity is chair a committee at an upstart elementary school? Here I’ve had this blog since Elby was a few months old and I’ve been given The problem is, “helping” brings out some of my worst qualities. When I feel overwhelmed (or sometimes just in general) I can tend towards being controlling, bossy and a know-it-all, pretty charming character traits am I right? I bet I’m a joy to work with.
I wish I could keep my mouth shut when I disagree, you know pick your battles and all that stuff. I wish I could at the very least, state my opinion in a softer, reasonable, accepting of the fact that other people have different and equally legitimate opinions way. But oftentimes it comes out as My Way Is The Correct Way And You Are A Dumbass For Thinking It Should Be Your Way. I swear I am working on this little defect of character but I can’t change overnight! And also, I can’t help it that people are annoying! Maybe the world should think about adjusting itself to me for once. Can the world at least meet me halfway?
So volunteering. Here’s the thing, people expect you to stay interested in the project 24/7 day after day all the way up through the actual event. Whose got that kind of attention span? The other night, I couldn’t even get through an entire episode of Teen Mom that Jon and I downloaded from On Demand before I lost interest and went to bed. “Is this the episode where Amber is going to whack the crap out of Gary and call him a fat shit?” I asked, half way to my bedroom, “because right now I’m only hearing a bunch of bitching and I’m tired.”
“I have no idea. I’ve never seen this show either. I only know she hits him from my gossip sites and US Weekly.”
Do you find it suspect that my husband pores over gossip sites and reads US Weekly religiously? Me too but that’s why I married him. Well that and he has a good eye for when I’ve left a light on or a faucet dripping a teeny tiny drop an hour. And he’s super foxy.
“Well, Amber needs to get to the slapping already because I’ve been up since six.” And by the way, is she really in any position to be picking on her husband’s weight? She looks like she might be eating a few feelings herself. I’m on team Gary.”
I never did find out if it was the right episode because I’d had such a long day volunteering. Fifty emails a day sounds reasonable for a committee that part of a bigger event right? No? Good because I’ve been complaining about it non-stop to whomever will listen. Why do people get so crazed? Don’t they have lives? Are they being paid for this and I am the dumb one who’s volunteering? Are other schools like this? Why did I sign up? Starting before six am and ending around 11 at night I get emails asking if certain things have been done, are going to get done, why haven’t they been done and could I please give more more more time?
The reason I did sign up is I wanted to be involved and also, we have to volunteer fifty hours a year at our school. Luckily, this should do it. I’m done for the year after Saturday. End of rant.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on October 26, 2010 8:47 pm
This story is from a woman who emailed me and made me laugh. I think that some people assume if they quit drinking it will be required that they can no longer be sarcastic, edgy or even interesting because all they will be doing is drinking chamomile tea, reading uplifting literature and knitting while dreaming about the good old days that they could have a glass of Merlot when they fucking felt like it. Oh, they probably don’t swear anymore either. Luckily, I have found that to not be true and Amanda is a perfect example of sober doesn’t equal boring.
“My story is not unique; although while still in my addiction I thought I was completely alone. I had a privileged childhood, yes, I had alcoholic parents, but not the type wearing a bathrobe and screaming at me as I fled the trailer park. No, I really wanted for no love and affection at all. The fact that my parents were “night blind” and couldn’t drive me much after sundown, however, didn’t click until much, much later.
I always displayed alcoholic tendencies. From the very first time I drank, I drank excessively. Bad things would happen. Very bad. I remember combining a friend’s diet pills with some liquor at a pool party at 17 and falling flat on my face, breaking my two front teeth…nullifying thousands of dollars of orthodontia. I told my mother I was thrown against the side of the pool while “playing chicken” with the football players. “And, no, mom, you can’t call the parents about filing it on their homeowners’ insurance. They rent.” (And that was the beginning of the lies that so entwine with alcoholism.)
Fast forward to age thirty one. Newly divorced with a four year old and a one year old, I planned to prove to the world that my life was not over. I would NOT be the mom in the Laura Ashley floral print, running the PTA. I was going to be BALANCED and FUN. I would NOT lose my identity as a woman. My plan? Hire a fabulous nanny, hit happy hour a couple of times a week, and live it up when the boys were with their father on the weekend. That seemed to work for awhile.
From the outside, my life looked great. Beautiful home, precocious, catalog-cute children, great jobs. (I say “jobs” because I switched jobs quite frequently. I realize now that I thought that would “fix” me; make me happy. But now I know wherever I go, there I am.) I had it good for a single mom. My mother picked up the slack financially for while my ex-husband failed to pay child support. I was as secure as they come. And miserable. With a huge, gaping hole inside me that I continued to try to fill up with Chardonnay.
My father called me during this time and said he was checking into rehab. That he had been drinking excessively…hiding drinks during the day, and just couldn’t take it anymore. I remember being very upset, thinking, “Oh, God, are we going to have to start ACKNOWLEDGING this in our family? Shit.” I called my best friend, crying and told him about my father. He asked what I was doing and I said, “Having some wine.” I’ll NEVER forget him saying, “That shit’s hereditary, Amanda, I’m coming to get you for dinner.” Well, here we go.
But nobody thought I was an alcoholic, really. I would quit drinking for while, and restart. At the end of my alcoholic journey, my life consisted of work and snuggling up at home with some Chardonnay at home. Especially when my children were gone. Then I would talk on the phone. I had gained forty pounds.(I don’t understand people who lose weight drinking). What a social life.
I went to happy hour after a work event and ended up totaling my new car AND a police car on the way home. Nobody was hurt, thank God. Wearing my Tiffany blue suit and brown patent stilettos…I’ll never forget. But here’s the funny thing…even the policeman, the people at the jail, were extra nice to me, separating me. Saying, “You don’t belong here.” I don’t know what it is about my face that tells people, “She’s not an alcoholic; go ahead an enable her.” But I am. I am what alcoholism can look like. It’s a stealth disease.
It took me six months after that wreck to finally decide to do something about my problem. I checked into rehab on April 28th, 2009. I absolutely surrendered and said, “I can’t DO this anymore. I don’t care whether you think I’m an alcoholic or not, something’s gotta give here.”
The rewards? Happy children. Self esteem. A social life. Wine weight gone. Sober friends. And friends that drink….hey, I’m not the alcohol police. Please don’t label me as such. My mother got sober a few months after me. THIS is a life worth living. A NEW life…with NOTHING to prove.”
Please come meet more sober women here at the Booze Free Brigade -we want to help. And we are out there! Over 500 members strong just since we started in January! YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on October 22, 2010 2:18 pm
• Don't Get Drunk Friday
So this was a letter I received from “Kate” who wanted to update me on how she was doing with the whole no drinking thing. Her letter was so cool and inspiring that I asked if I could use it and if she’d back track into a bit of her story. So she did. And here it is. God, people are awesome.
Dear Stefanie –
I’m back and I’m still sober. September 30th marked six months since I decided I meant more to my family and myself than crisp delicious Sauvignon Blanks and Vine Verdes in bulk. It’s seemed like an eternity and yet a flash in the pan. Thanks for indulging my need to vent once again. It’s cleansing –this time with a bonus like an exfoliant taking off another layer of the ugly skin I’d been hiding under.
For your readers who don’t know me I’m Kim, and I am a mother of three, wife of one super patient man, and yes, OUCH, I’m going to say it – an alcoholic. My last post I was “Kate” in June. This go-round, I’m going to be me and for the first time admit the “A Word” is another adjective for who I am. My story may be like yours in some ways (we all read and nod our heads in cyber-unison at Stef’s healing postings) and so different in others.
The loves of my life and sometimes my lame excuses for drinking are my husband, two sons, and a lovely, bright, almost 12 year-old daughter who is confident she could solve all of the world’s problems. She inherited the OCD, ADHD, and anxiety from me I know she’d love to pummel me for it. Thankfully, she’s in a good place and cruises through school and friendships with great confidence. She’s worked hard and I’m so proud of her.
My identical twin sons have Asperger’s Syndrome. They are nine. Aspergers is a high functioning form of autism where there is great intellect and yet devastating social skills deficits. One son has OCD, depression, anxiety, and other issues that make being his health care advocate a puzzle worthy of a Bill Gates level challenge. Loving these boys is painful and mama bear invoking like nothing I ever imagined. My boys continue to challenge me….with the new addition of migraines for the more troubled of the two. They break and heal my heart every day and I will never give up on them.
I started drinking when I was 15 and right from the start, I never could have just one. As an adult, I don’t think many folks around me know I was a “functional alcoholic”. I got all my work done and then some. Kept my girlish figure and ran 5 miles with a hangover on many a morning. My kids never were late for anything and I somehow mustered the energy to advocate for them quite effectively despite deceiving myself and those around me.
My first foray into sobriety came after the twins came home and had recovered from a crisis at birth. I resumed my almost bottle a day of white wine habit until my steel magnolia mother held a bottle of wine in one hand and a photo of my daughter’s cherubic face in the other and told me to pick which was more important. Her ploy worked and in fact lasted several years but then I lost my stepfather in Jan. ’08. He was a ray of sunshine in my life and I tumbled off the wagon.
I started an experimental journey in the “only one”, “only when we have a sitter”, “only weekends”, and finally “only when things are tough” method of drinking. Been on that trip? Are you there now? Excuses to drink are abundant. Traffic, kids, my husband didn’t notice that the house was spotless, but that I forgot to get a white onion instead of the pre-packaged yellow!
My experiment was as my daughter likes to say “an epic fail”. I quit again for good six months ago when I realized after seeing my son had self-injured himself while at school as a result of a med that was helping his ADHD. I wanted/needed a drink that minute and I didn’t know how I would ever make it until 5:00. I can never drink again and I know it.
Since that day I have survived some real moments that I thought would take me back to my misery. I made it through a wine tasting business event with my husband at about one month. The only food that appealed to me was dark chocolate that unbeknownst to me had been crusted with sea salt and black pepper on the bottom. I then endured weaning from and replacement of depression and ADHD meds that mad me feel like my skin was going to peel away and my heart would surely burst. My dog (the only living creature I thought unconditionally loved me) has decided he prefers the company of my husband who has fed him nary a morsel — except a steak he left out which gave the dog colitis for 3 months. I have selectively dodged situations where I could or couldn’t reveal my inability to imbibe without seeming boring. Recently, I attended a women’s happy hour where the wine was flowing freely and somehow managed through the first few awkward moments. On Columbus Day I slipped and landed on my jar of handy salon quality manicure tools and impaled my hand with a cuticle pusher. My, my how great a few glasses of wine would have been to ease the throbbing after the irrigation and tetanus shot.
But, the truth is, the urge comes and it goes away.
I confess my shoe collection has increased during times of extreme stress….. something about those really lifts my spirits and my 5’4 frame…again, a patient husband is helpful in this regard. My make up drawer is also overflowing…..who knew that a variety of concealers and lipsticks/glosses could make me feel so convivial and loquacious??!! I am an unpaid guinea pig for the cosmetics industry and I am hear to say officially that shoes, facial serums and elixirs can be healing too. Great news! I can remember buying them and putting them all on!
Along with your blog, I’ve read a few books in what I like to call the “Misery Loves Company List” that make me feel less alone since I can’t get to AA meetings. Ironically, I started watching “Rachel Getting Married” and low and behold the main character is “Kim”. I haven’t finished the movie. I hope she stays sober and feels loved like I do. I have opened my heart to a few poor souls in my life and have been sustained by them and faith in a loving and forgiving Lord. I wish this for anyone who feels alone and isolated by alcohol or substances. It sucks and at the same time it’s great to be me.
Stef – I will never forget how your story and site was the final push that opening my eyes. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Without you I don’t think I would be celebrating this milestone.
Kim (AKA Kate)
Kim –You’re welcome but really thank you. You are the one who is “giving it back” and that in turn inspires me to keep on going no matter what.
As always JOIN US HERE if you want to try to live without the booze. It can be done!
Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on October 15, 2010 4:18 am
• Don't Get Drunk Friday