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Archive for November, 2012

DGDF: James’s Story

All I can say is, I love this guy and it’s about time we had a male voice again. Enjoy. And if you relate and want to discuss try the Booze Free Brigade where you will find other resources as well.

 

There was a time when I drank like normal people do; when drinking wasn’t an obsessive thought. It was something that may or may not have been a part of my day, or a part of an activity, and it didn’t matter whether it was or not. I didn’t dwell on it. Somewhere along the way, the activity became an excuse to drink, or the reason to do the activity was that it provided an opportunity to drink. This is where I can start to obsessively remember how much I had to drink; that I started to obsess about drinking, that drinking didn’t have a point usually except to be drunk.

I remember periods when I didn’t drink, situations that I didn’t drink in. But looking back, I can see that gradually alcohol began to claim more and more of my focus. There were times when my wife would comment on my drinking. And I resented it. Drinking too much, the feeling of being drunk was what I wanted. This was my escape. This was my reward, what I did to unwind and to enjoy myself. I didn’t want anyone taking that away from me. I never gave any thought at the time to how selfish this was. Never occurred to me.

My drinking moved into the phase of just drinking to drink sometime after we had our first child. I found fatherhood, which I wanted so badly for so long, to be as incredible and rewarding as everyone tells you, and simultaneously a million times more overwhelming than anyone ever tells you. I was all the clichés. Suddenly I worried obsessively about our money (a hobby that I’ve brought with me into sobriety). I worried that being a parent is a million games of high-stakes poker every day, where every decision sets off a lifetime’s worth of consequences.

Before, there didn’t need to be a work-life balance. (Of course, there should have been!). Now I had the competing needs of trying to satisfy my job (see: obsessing over our finances) and the demands of helping to take care of a child. Before I always enough time for things, and always time to catch up. Now there was suddenly never enough time for anything. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of every moment. I don’t feel like I was ever enjoying the moments with my child. And I was aware that I wasn’t, and put a lot of stress on myself that I was supposed to be able to. Nothing helps you to not be in the moment like obsessively worrying about how you’re not in the moment!

Looking back, this is when I realize that I stopped drinking because I enjoyed it and started to drink because I wanted to escape. Life became relentless. There wasn’t ever sleeping in on a Saturday to catch up. There was always something that was supposed to be done around the house or at work.

Just when things were setting down and our infant had become a toddler, we had another child. I desperately wanted another child. I wanted the benefit of hindsight and perspective to enjoy those first days, months, and years. And if I am honest, I wanted to enjoy the times that were fuzzy because I’d drank too much. The times I feel like I missed out on. Of course having another child isn’t as simple as getting to enjoy another child with the benefit of all your hard-earned wisdom. It’s exponentially more complicated! Now I think I’m getting a break if I or my wife is off doing something with just one of them and we’re one on one with just the other child. The money is tighter. With the addition of one more person, there is somehow three to five times as much laundry. Life became vastly more complicated so I would take what chances I could to just check out. To get a break from the pressure I created in my own head.

Shortly after our second child was born, I knew I was drinking too much, so I started trying to hide it. My wife caught and confronted me. Alcohol had become a pretty dependable release from life but, I was caught and I had to cop to it so I stopped drinking. I didn’t say I was quitting drinking. I wanted to keep that door open that I could moderate my drinking. I didn’t want to have to stop forever, because that would involve having to acknowledge that I had a problem, and also involve not getting to drink. I was seeing a therapist who said that I showed compulsive behaviors, which I do. And being compulsive certainly sounds better than being an alcoholic.

Around this time, by sheer coincidence, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor was on an episode of The Parent Experiment, a podcast that I referred to as “My Mommy Podcast”. She was a guest (before she went on to co-host the show, which is now called For Crying Out Loud). I loved the podcast because (a) it was funny (b) is about parenting, which at this point was roughly 900% of my world. She must have either mentioned the BFB Yahoo group, or I saw them on her website. After I got busted, I signed up. Sometimes I would read the stories. Other times I wouldn’t, because when I did they hit too close to home. I could identify too much. And I wasn’t ready to say that was me.

This “not drinking” lasted several months, and I eventually began to drink casually. I remember vividly the first time I had a drink after having stopped. I purposefully left half the beer I was having (in fairness, maybe a third to a quarter of it) on the table. I left it so that my wife (if she noticed) would see that drinking wasn’t a big deal to me. Because that’s what you do when drinking isn’t a big deal. I was aware of what a completely artificial gesture this was at the time. People leave half finished drinks because it isn’t a big deal that they didn’t finish it, not because they want it to appear like it isn’t. I would moderate in public and for my wife’s benefit so that I got to drink. Because I still wanted to.

I fell into patterns of drinking more, and drinking more frequently, and my wife confronted me again. And I lied about my drinking. And we both knew I was lying about it. And I have no idea why this time she got through, but she did.

It saved my life.

I went to an AA meeting the next day -mainly as another symbolic gesture but I knew that this time if I didn’t stop drinking, that I was going to lose my wife and my kids. As much as I liked drinking, I always liked them more. They may be relentless (they are) and they may overwhelm me (they do) but they matter so much more to me than drinking.

So, this time, I had to stop. I started out stopping not for me. I didn’t quit drinking. I was made to quit. But somewhere in quitting, I really did quit for me. I fully and completely accepted that I have no interest in being a moderate drinker. I don’t know if I could be, but I know it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to have a reasonable amount to drink. I prefer to have a lot. And I know once I have that first one, that I’ll have the next several. So I don’t have the first.

I was hugely embarrassed to have to acknowledge that I have a drinking problem. I mostly still am. I don’t like to acknowledge weakness and I don’t like to have other people know my business. I never said anything about quitting. I just didn’t drink. For whatever reason, I finally accepted that I can’t drink. So I don’t and I won’t. Because I can’t.

I started reading the BFB again. It was always sitting there in my inbox. Only this time, instead of not wanting to see that it was my story, and my anxieties, and my issues as a parent, I took strength that it was me. That being a parent was hard for other people too. And what’s neat about the Internet is that while the BFB is mainly a group of women, we’re all behind our computers so we’re just our ideas. It’s people’s fears, failures, successes, challenges. And they are my fears and challenges. I’m just a dad and they are moms. And then they helped save my life.

I’ve only realized recently that I’ve spent years of my life waiting for life to happen. I spent years just getting though the day. I’m a tremendous over-thinker and worrier. I looked for whatever would give me a break, whatever would be an escape from myself. I didn’t put much effort into my marriage. I avoided having difficult conversations. I kept waiting for life to start. I looked to parenthood to make it all mean something, and I got caught up in being worried about what had to get done next, and how much had to get done, that I missed all the small moments. I missed the point of it all. I don’t do a great job now of being in the moment. But I’m trying. And I’m present.

The people (women) on the BFB are trying to figure out life too. And that’s great. That’s great that they’re me. They’ve been through it too, or they’re going through it. They’ve helped me to not be so embarrassed about yesterday and instead celebrate today.

There are a lot of yesterdays that I would like to have back. Times that my wife would ask me to do something with her, and what I wanted to do was have a break, have a drink, and get to tomorrow. I can’t have them back of course, but I’m trying to be here in today. Some days, the best I can do is to say to myself that if nothing else, I’m not making today any worse. And some days that’s all I have. But other days, I’m starting, just starting, to see that I can make today better. I certainly have a better chance if my goal for the day isn’t to drink as a way to avoid life and avoid moments with the people in my life.

I was someone who, not so much couldn’t imagine not drinking, but couldn’t imagine why you would ever want to not drink. Now I see how much of life I was missing out on. How much I hid from and ran away from. And I see how much that neglect has hurt the people that I love. Some of life is truly great, and some of it sucks, but it’s all real. And I’m present for all of it.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on November 29, 2012 9:47 pmDon't Get Drunk Friday4 comments  

DGDF: Rachel’s Story

My story begins as a 6 year old child.  The day the life I think I might have had ended.  I’m building my new life now and telling this story is a start.

I grew up in an affluent neighborhood filled with doctors, judges, college professors, and politicians.  On the outside it was picture perfect. Nice homes, nice families, nice kids.

I lived with both of my parents and although they drank socially they are not alcoholics.   My relationship with my mother did not match the ideal neighborhood.  Outside of the home we were the Cleavers, inside the home she was difficult, and both physically and verbally abusive.  I was afraid of her moods and my sister and I did our best to keep her happy.  My dad was mostly absent or oblivious as he worked on a graduate degree in addition to working full-time.   In the battle to keep my mom happy and to stay safe, my sister, older by 4 years, was my biggest ally.  I often went to her for comfort when things were particularly bad at home or at night when I was afraid of the dark and storms.

I spent many summer days and evenings traveling our perfect neighborhood with my best friends while my parents enjoyed cocktails and games with theirs.  Winters were spent in a similar fashion inside and the kids ruled/policed themselves in a rotation of basements.

Our favorite game was Capture the Flag.  In addition, the older kids on the block built a fort in the woods that was the pride of those granted entry and the envy of those that were not.  Access to the “club” was invite only and the clear leaders were 2 older brothers whose father was a judge.

I was invited to join the “club” by my older sister along with my 2 best friends when I was six.  Initiation into the club was performed in a dark basement and involved acts of sexual abuse performed by the older kids. I was the last to be initiated and by the time it was my turn the oldest boys were amped up by their experience and were increasingly violent.  All participated, including my sister.  I left that basement bleeding and in tears.

Threats from the older kids, as well as fear of my mom and her reaction, cemented my decision to never tell anyone what had happened that night and I convinced my friends to do the same.  I wish I could say that it stopped there, that the one evening was the end of my pain.  It was the beginning.  Following that incident my sister began to sexually abuse me in our home.  The person that was my biggest comfort became a source of tremendous pain.  The abuse stopped when I turned 12 and finally stood my ground and was willing to accept any threats and consequences of that decision.  I never spoke of any of these experiences to anyone.

In that basement I lost my innocence and I believe to this day that what occurred there, along with the circumstances within my own home, set off a chain of events that forever altered the path of my life.   I was left with both physical and emotional damage.  I felt a hole inside of me that felt dirty.  I experienced a deep level of shame that over the years has grown like a cancer.  I felt a constant need for approval and an unquenchable thirst for success as a way to erase my pain.   I experienced nightmares and was terrified of sex.

My coping skill was to attempt to be as perfect as possible.  I had to be the best at everything I did and I always thought that the next big thing I accomplished would be the thing that would erase my pain and fill that hole. On the outside I looked like a superstar, on the inside I was slowly falling apart.   I developed an eating disorder while trying to find something I could control in my life.  I spent 10 years thinking that starving myself was the answer.  I was not a drinker yet, it was too many calories and it did not fit with my perfectionism.  Instead, I was the designated driver and the “responsible one” that everyone else teased but called when they needed a ride home.

I met my husband during this time and I hid the seriousness of my problems from him.  We dated long distance and I managed to look totally together on the weekends and would then fall apart during the week.  When he asked me to marry him I was both thrilled and terrified.  I knew he fell in love with the woman I portrayed on the outside and did not know the awfulness on my insides.  He had no idea how much I dreaded and hated sex.  I felt like a fraud.  I married him anyway because I loved him and he took care of me, he took me away.

Our first year of marriage was a disaster but was the impetus for me getting treatment for my eating disorder.  I spent time hospitalized and in intensive outpatient.  I still did NOT talk about my abuse, but I did find meaningful recovery from my food obsessions and the next several years of my life were pretty good.   I discovered that with a glass or 2 of wine I could manage a sex life.   My career was skyrocketing and I loved the professional success, my marriage was stable, and I had 2 beautiful children.  I battled periods of depression, but I managed with medication and therapy.

I found a therapist that I loved and trusted.  For the first time, at the age of 33, I began to talk about the abuse from my childhood.  It has been a slow and painstaking process.  I have spent many years pretending that it didn’t happen and then convincing myself that I was a willing participant and therefore at fault.  It is not easy to rewire that thought process and for every step forward I feel like I follow it with 2 steps back.  Drinking became a wonderful way to escape the shame/guilt spiral.  My life felt overwhelming, 2 kids, a high pressure career, a desire to be the perfect employee, wife, mother, friend, neighbor.  I needed a level of perfection that was impossible to achieve to even feel worthwhile. Perfection was no longer enough.  Hard painful work at therapy was stirring up painful emotions that I didn’t want to feel and a glass of wine or two at the end of the day seemed like the perfect answer.

From there the downward spiral was fast.   Fast forward a year and a half and a glass or 2 of wine had become a bottle or more a day.  I began to hide my drinking from my husband, I had blackouts.   I was and continue to be obsessed with alcohol.  How much did I have on hand, is it enough?  How can I drink more without people noticing?  I was full of shame, guilt, and hatred towards myself.  My life felt worthless and unlivable.  I found myself in a hotel room with 2 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of sleeping pills, letters to my dear sweet children and husband, and the intention to end my life.  I’m still not sure what stopped me from acting on my plan that night, but I will feel forever grateful that I did not.

I found the Booze Free Brigade through an article in a magazine.  I found a group of women and a few men, with successful careers, mothers who also struggled with balancing it all, women who are not afraid to be real even when it is ugly. Women that may or may not also have experiences like mine, but   offer support in a way that I never dreamed possible.  I know that I was drawn to the group for a reason.  I still struggle with the idea that I am an alcoholic, but what I do know right here, right now, is that alcohol is running my life in a way that I am not ok with.  It is ruining my life.  My children deserve more, my husband deserves more, I DESERVE MORE.

I am working hard at building a life I can be proud of.  I am giving that six year old girl a second chance at the life she should have had.  It’s not easy and I have many bumps on the road ahead of me.  I am going to take this journey SOBER with the help of my therapist and BFB.  This is where my story begins…

 

Note from Stef: Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. I know the holidays are tough for many of us. Don’t be shy to join the Booze Free Brigade and ask for help!

 

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on November 23, 2012 9:06 amDon't Get Drunk Friday5 comments  

DGDF: Michele’s Story

This post is from a woman I now call my friend. I get to see her on a regular basis. I think a lot of you will relate to her. If you have a story to share on this Don’t Get Drunk Friday portion of my blog, please contact me! And now, here’s Michele.
There are a lot of people who do not understand the internet. Frankly, I could be lumped into that category myself. While I have improved in my skills the last few years,  on Thanksgiving Day 2010, drunk at 10 am in the morning, sobbing and knowing, KNOWING  finally that this could not possibly be good, I did know enough to google.
I  knew about blogs and so I  started  my search typing in “drunk blogs”. This blog, Baby on Bored, was the first I read. And it led me to Crying Out Now. And that led me to continue. because in those first few blogs I read I saw myself, heard my story and didn’t have to leave my house where I felt safe and protected and alone. Reading these blogs made me feel NOT alone, which was scary but also a revelation. I thought I was the only person like me, the only person who could not get a handle on her drinking who  drank every single day, a shit-ton, who thought about it day and night, planned for it, obsessed about it and finally, who would rather sit in her house alone, drinking, than participate in life at all. I KNEW I wasn’t an alcoholic, because those people got DUIs and lived under bridges and had hopeless lives and tons of tattoos (I only have one!).
My next stop was the BFB…Booze Free Brigade. An online community of people, mostly women, who wanted to stop drinking. The women on that board told their stories and I identified down to my bones. On the board I learned the first rule of recovery, which is  to look for the similarities vs. the differences. I am a widow, and when my husband died I searched the internet and found on-line support, so it was not such an odd concept for me. I felt safe on the BFB, first to lurk and read, and then to start, tentatively, talking. I was still drinking, but I was there and slowly learning. A lot of people on there were in AA and one day, March 1, 2011  to be exact,without my knowing it (maybe I was drunk?), I asked if there was anyone in my area of the country who knew of a good meeting. I got an immediate response from sweet Jane, the co-founder of the BFB along with Stefanie, and the next Saturday I found myself, arms crossed, mind closed,angry as a hornet and sitting in the back row of a meeting filled with women. Seriously, FILLED, must have been a 80 or so. It was freaky. It was scary. It was home.
Over the next few weeks I went to several different meetings armed with the only sane