This contributor’s name is Stephanie and when I read her story I saw that we had a lot more in common than just a name. P.S. you can find me as a guest on the Comedy Film Nerds podcast this week. It was really fun, the guys are hilarious and we talked all about Oscar picks. Okay, back to Stephanie.
“My father is a recovering alcoholic and joined AA when I was young, so I have been familiar with it for a long time. I didn’t drink in high school as I was aware of his disease and the risks to me. I was also a “good girl”, good student, etc. and I also was afraid of the calories as I was a chronic dieter and obsessed with weight. The addictive behavior was directed there – towards food.
During high school I went to a weight loss camp. Rather than take away the food/weight obsession it worsened. I went to an Ivy League college and was over my head academically and socially. I spent college struggling with binging and went to OA, but never got a sponsor or worked the steps. I did drink in college, but not often. However, when I did drink I would get drunk.
I believe the alcoholism has always been there, waiting for the right circumstances to be activated. It manifested as food addiction earlier because food was accessible to me. The regular drinking started after I met my husband, who is a social drinker. When we visited his family at their lakeside cottages we were drinking every day. I had never done that before. I read a journal from that trip – it said “I could get used to this drinking every day!”
After that trip we started drinking more regularly at home – usually 1-2 beers a night for me, probably one for my DH. We would buy cases, and I would be very aware of when we were running low. I started looking forward to parties where I could drink more.
My daughter was born in 2003, my son in 2007. I drank more than I should have a couple times during the second pregnancy. Once he was born I started drinking again right away – something about Guinness beer helping the milk come in? It wouldn’t have mattered what kind of alcohol it was, really.
By 2009 I was drinking a bottle of wine 4-5 nights a week, in secret. My husband works at night, so I was able to keep it from him. I got into a really bad nightly routine. I would buy bottles of wine with caps that twist off so I wouldn’t have to worry about a corkscrew. I would sneak the bottle and a mug into my bedroom and pour a coffee mug full, and start drinking while I cooked dinner. Most nights I started out promising myself I would NOT get drunk, not drink more than one glass (mug!). But it ALWAYS ended with me finishing or almost finishing the bottle. I was nursing my son, I would nurse him to sleep and then watch videos and drink. I knew it was terrible to be nursing him after drinking that much. I also slept in the same bed with him, which is only supposed to be dangerous if a person is intoxicated. I am so lucky nothing happened.
I would wake up with horrible hangovers and swear that I wouldn’t let it happen again. And then 9 times out of 10, I would repeat the same thing that very night. As night approached I just couldn’t envision getting through the night without wine. I regularly took 16 advil in the course of a day to deal with the headaches. And then there were the bottles – I would hide them in the back of my closet in a black garbage bag and then bring it to a dumpster at my office every couple of weeks. The shame every time I threw one of those bags out is indescribable.
Around that time I was often in a bad mood and losing my temper very easily with my kids and husband. I called a therapist I had seen before about my eating disorder and started seeing her again. I told her everything that was going on. But I was not ready to say that I was an alcoholic. I was not ready to say I would never drink again. I tried not drinking but generally couldn’t go more than a few weeks. The first time, I would have just a glass of wine at a restaurant, and I would be fine. I would say to myself “See, I’m not an alcoholic, I just need to moderate!” But within a couple a weeks I would be back to sneaking bottles.
Then a few things came together to help me know that I am an alcoholic and cannot drink in a moderate way. My therapist is AMAZING – I would not be where I am today without her. The main thing is the acceptance. She does not judge me. I have told her so many things I think are so awful and she is right there. She never looks away. I started reading more about the science of addiction – the genetic aspect, the brain changes, other stuff that convinced me I truly am powerless over alcohol. For some reason a more scientific approach helped take the shame away for me, because this is a condition my brain and my genetics created. But I have the ability to do something about it if I choose to. I was also lucky enough to read about Stefanie’s blog in the New York Times, and found Booze Free Brigade. I started reading BFB everyday. I felt part of a group of women just like me, who had decided we would stop drinking way before hitting rock bottom, because we could see where we were heading and we love our children more than anything and want to do better by them.
When I first started back with the therapist I told my husband that I thought I drank too much. But I was too ashamed to tell him about the secret drinking. I hid the real problem drinking from him so he didn’t know how bad it was. But when I accepted that I am an alcoholic, I told my him the full truth. He was shocked. He likes beer and wine, but I have definitely never seen him have more than 3 drinks in one night. And three would be a lot for him. He really couldn’t believe I could consume a bottle of wine in a night.
He is very supportive and helps me find time to go to yoga, go on walks, and now go to AA. (Because I am a royal bitch when I don’t do those things!) The more days I go without a drink the better it gets. I have been in social situations with friends where everyone else is drinking, and I know I am having a much better time than I would if I were drinking. When I drink I get loud and I get paranoid, worried that no one likes me. I worry about that enough without alcohol. The best part is NO HANGOVERS. I fucking hate hangovers.
Whenever I get an inkling of a thought about drinking I just remember hauling all those empty wine bottles from the back of my closet to that dumpster. I never want to be in that place again. I also remind myself that I already tried the moderation experiment, it failed, I don’t need to try it again!
I am interested in all the different forms addiction can take – food, alcohol, cigarettes, work, exercise – and it is all the same. It is turning to these things to avoid life, to avoid what is. What is can be painful. It becomes easier to put ones energy into this thing – this drink, this cigarette, this binge – but it never gets anywhere. I end up where I started, only with more shame. Today, I am trying to face my addictive behaviors and lead a conscious life.”