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Don’t Get Drunk Friday: Tara’s Story

So here we are again. It’s Friday and you know what that means: Don’t Drink! The brave woman sharing her story this week is Tara who blogs at The Act of Returning to Normal. Please visit her blog or come see us at the Booze Free Brigade if you’re looking to talk to people who “get it.”

“When I first quit drinking, I wanted to figure out how much time I’d wasted in my addiction. By all calculations, I figured it had been about four years. And it was four years of serious, hard drinking…four years of not having an “off” switch… four years of always feeling the pull to drink. Now, from the vantage point of nearly five months of sobriety, I can see my own decent more clearly. The truth is I drank alcoholically from the first. I wasn’t always a daily, excessive drinker, but the roots of addiction were always present.

Because I grew up in an alcoholic home, I managed to avoid the pitfalls of teenage drinking, but by twenty, I felt like I was missing out on all the fun. My first forays into the adult world of alcohol were few and far between, limited by opportunity. As a student, I was too poor to buy wine and never thought to drink at home, but several times a month I would go out dancing with friends, drinking shots until I was unsteady on my feet and unable to speak coherently. At the time I thought this was the pinnacle of cool.

This pattern progressed over the next few years until I was not only drinking at home, but getting drunk whenever I went out. This led, inevitably, to regrettable couplings and embarrassing moments. One night stands out. After class, I went to the university pub with a few of my students, drank too much, and then was loud and obnoxious to a woman I’d never met before. My intent had been to shock my companions by showing them how “cool” I was outside of the constraints of the classroom. The next morning I recoiled in horror.

It was at this point I realized that every bad thing I’d done occurred “at the bottom of a bottle of gin”. I vowed to show more control.

I moved to San Francisco, sick of drinking. And for a few years alcoholism was held at bay. I did not drink at all when I was pregnant and rediscovered my “off switch”. It was after this, when I was home alone with two small children that the pull returned. I wasn’t all that bad…for a while. I would occasionally drink in the afternoon to mellow out, but not every day and not too much. I went back to work, relieved to be rescued from the temptation to drink during the day. But work got stressful and I began to unravel.

Evenings began to shape themselves around my drinking and over the course of a few months I went from almost never having a hangover, to nearly always having one. I began to drink at lunch to cover the tremors and dizziness. For a while I believed I functioned better with a few shots of vodka than without and thought my drinking went unnoticed. My life shrunk to a small point. In the final, desperate last months of my drinking, I awoke daily at 5am with intense panic attacks and an overwhelming sense of self-loathing. I no longer wanted to drink, but I simply could not imagine my life without it…without that rush of good feeling that came with the first few glasses. After all, it was the only time I ever felt good.

Daily promises to “take a day off” were revised by early afternoon to “take it easy and not get too drunk.” Whatever happened, I always found an excuse to have “just one” and felt increasingly out of control, hoping for something that would rescue me.

It came, and it didn’t. One night I came out of a blackout in our darkened kitchen with a knife in my hand. I cut myself twice because I was at a crossroad where I just couldn’t continue as I was, but I couldn’t stop either. When I saw the blood, I panicked and swore that I’d never drink again if only I didn’t die. Try as I might to keep the horror of that night at the forefront of my consciousness in order to stay sober, within a week or two I found a reason to start again. I was convinced that I’d learned my lesson and would be able to moderate. Within days I was back where I’d started.

A month into my relapse, I finally fell to my knees and admitted I was an alcoholic and couldn’t control my drinking. Instead of feeling guilt and shame about it, I felt peace for the first time in as long as I could remember. The compulsion to drink was lifted and I was out of excuses. The early days were hard. I slipped twice and it took forever to reach 30 days. But even in those early days I began to change, slowly, but markedly. I began to notice, really see, my children. I could look in the mirror without wincing. I learned that while I thought I “lived” for others, the truth was I couldn’t get out of my own head long enough to see the world from someone else’s perspective. I realized just how unmanageable my life truly was – that step one applies to so much more than our drinking. I had ups and downs. I learned that emotions are temporary. Now, I barely recognize the woman who lived within the small confines of the bottle.”

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 28, 2011 3:18 pmDon't Get Drunk Friday,Uncategorized14 comments  

14 Comments

  1. rebecca said,

    You can do it. Keep up the good work of keeping your switch off.
    rebecca´s last blog post ..My Uncle

    | January 28, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

  2. Panic attacks said,

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    | January 28, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

  3. elizabethsober said,

    OMG, what a powerful story! I also ran out of excuses and also didn’t like drinking towards the end but couldn’t imagine life without it. Once I finally gave up, only then did I start to feel liberated. Too bad I didn’t realize it earlier, but I’m glad I didn’t realize it much much later! Thanks for your story.

    | January 28, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

  4. mia said,

    hi tara, congratulations on five months! you’re doing great! keep going, more miracles will be revealed.
    mia´s last blog post ..My Journey To Alcoholics Anonymous

    | January 28, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  5. Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) said,

    Wow…congratulations on your journey. I didn’t suffer from alcoholism but I did have an eating disorder. It’s so difficult to admit that you aren’t in control over your own behavior. My rock bottom moment was a mandatory stepping stone towards wellness. Thanks for sharing!
    Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up)´s last blog post ..In which my desk is a mess

    | January 28, 2011 @ 8:27 pm

    • Tara said,

      Hi Lynn,
      I had an eating disorder throughout my teen years as well – I was just thinking that maybe if I’d truly recovered from that instead of just addressing the symptoms I wouldn’t have become an alcoholic. Thanks for your words of support.
      Tara´s last blog post ..Dont Get Drunk Fridays

      | January 30, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

  6. Anne Marie said,

    thanks so much for sharing your story. very powerful.
    Anne Marie´s last blog post ..Filler Friday- First 4 Feats I Find in My Head

    | January 29, 2011 @ 5:09 am

  7. Melissa said,

    “I learned that while I thought I “lived” for others, the truth was I couldn’t get out of my own head long enough to see the world from someone else’s perspective.”

    Truer words…

    This post is stellar. And, as with all your writing, ever so helpful to me. Thank you so much for sharing Tara. So much. :)

    | January 29, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  8. Chelsea said,

    Thanks for sharing this on your site. I love that she is so human and not afraid to say what other people are thinking. I love that in an author, and in a person.

    Great post, very moving!

    | January 30, 2011 @ 12:30 am

  9. Jill said,

    Thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope.

    I just recognized 2 months of sobriety and it’s the bravery of others who were willing to share their story that helped to get me to a place where I could commit to my sobriety once and for all.

    Stay strong – we can DO this!
    Jill´s last blog post ..One Thought on Attitude

    | January 30, 2011 @ 4:10 am

    • Tara said,

      Hi Jill –
      Keep on keeping on! We can totally do this. It does get easier.

      When I first stopped drinking I went through this site and read every single “Don’t Get Drunk Friday” post. The openness and honesty I found “in the pages” helped me to get sober too.
      Tara´s last blog post ..Dont Get Drunk Fridays

      | January 30, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  10. Erica said,

    bravo to you!

    | January 30, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  11. Tara said,

    Thank you all for your comments and support! It’s a powerful reminder that we’re not alone.
    Tara´s last blog post ..Dont Get Drunk Fridays

    | January 30, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

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