I’ve known Jane for a lot of years. She’s a talented, hilarious, very giving woman and mom. I didn’t know she also used to drink too much but when I found out I asked her to share her story. It’s so powerful when we are open about having this problem because slowly we can take the stigma out of it and more and more people can feel free to just say, “Yeah, that sounds like me. I must be alcoholic.” And we can say, “Great! Join the club.”
“No one looked more forward to getting wasted than I did. I grew up in central Iowa, where secret parties with kegs of beer (and the occasional grain alcohol punch made in a big trash-can) were a rite of passage. But my parents were extremely strict and good at laying on the guilt, telling me if I were to get drunk rather than keeping my wits about me, I might end up driving drunk and killing myself or someone else. And God forbid I let my friends get drunk and drive themselves home! No, a good friend abstains and makes sure everyone gets home safe and sound. This idea appealed to the deeply co-dependent side of me, so like a good little soldier, I was a designated driver way before it was cool to be one. I know, I know- it’s still probably not very cool.
When I turned 18 I ran as fast as I could- straight out of Iowa to the bustling, cocktailing island of Manhattan. The very first night I was in the city, I found a posse of acting-school newbies to run around and get loaded with me. About three drinks in, it hit me like a brick- this getting drunk was maybe the greatest thing I’d ever done in my life and it probably also meant I was going to have a problem with it. It’s so sad to be stuck for a dozen years in that limbo of crippling denial and nagging self-awareness. I was a highly functioning drunk. I held down several jobs while I ran a small theatre company and began writing my own plays.
But, because the disease is progressive, the area of my life that began to pay more and more was always my personal life. Eventually, I only dated men who were just as into getting wasted as I was. My last serious boyfriend, upon asking me out on a first date, paused and said, “Hey, I really like drinking. Do you like drinking?” My face lit up with happiness and relief and I said back, “Oh yeah, I love drinking.” That relationship then proceeded to play itself out like a 1980’s version on Ironweed.
It was a deceptively lucky stroke that laid the groundwork for my getting sober. I had started performing sketches with a small group in comedy clubs all over NYC. My manager decided he wanted me to fly to LA to showcase for the industry. A quick February trip turned into a suggestion that I stay through pilot season. As I approached the possibility of getting a license and driving a car again, my anxiety grew. I began to ask people around me- at parties, on the bus, at the grocery store… just how much booze I could drink and not get too drunk to drive. This wasn’t New York and these people weren’t the cast of enabling alcoholics that I was used to having around me. Most people got this look in their eye when I asked them about drinking and driving that was such a sad mixture of pity and fear, it froze my blood.
One morning, a few weeks into my LA odyssey I woke up hung-over after a late night of bar-hopping with one of my oldest NYC pals that had relocated years previous. As usual, I was trying to piece together what I had said and done the evening before. Recovering from these drunks was getting harder and harder, I was throwing up blood occasionally, the skin under my eyes had red, mottled little blood-vessel bursts. I was breaking down. I looked in the mirror at this mess and said, out loud, “Well, maybe today is a good day to stop drinking.”
But, I’m a prideful thing and I decided if I was really going to make this move, declare it to be so and live day to day with the consequences, I had to really think this through. I was living with a friend of my brother’s in Silverlake. She was long gone to work and I was alone to sort through my thoughts and feelings. I made a pot of coffee and sat down on the stylish, green retro sofa at around 10am. For the next eight hours I barely moved a muscle, except to sip coffee refills, as I sat there and thought about making this move in my life. Around 6pm I’d made up my mind.
I got out the phone book and called AA to find out where the nearest meeting was. The next day I went to the first of about 50 meetings where I sat in the back and said absolutely nothing, then slinked out.
When I was six months sober I finally spoke my first words at a meeting. I went up to get my chip at a huge meeting in Hollywood and whispered “Jane, alcoholic, thank you,” into the mic. I very highly recommend NOT getting sober like I did. I wished I’d reached out and made friends those first few months. I wished I’d had a sponsor sooner. I was just so plain terrified. This program has given me my life. Every single thing I have that I cherish (my husband, my son, my friendships, the artistic endeavors that bring me joy) starts with my sobriety and my relationship with God. I’m not saying that either of those things came super easily. I was lucky the obsession lifted for me very quickly, but I struggle on a day to day basis with living that serenity prayer. The struggle is worth it. On February 25th of this year I celebrated 16 years of sobriety.”
If you want what Jane has come and talk about it here.