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Elizabeth D.’s Story

Elizabeth D.’s Story

Ninety-one afternoons ago, I went to a happy hour that changed my life.

Leading up to it, it was clear that I wanted a change. Sick of the lonely bottles of wine, I switched to vodka so that I wouldn’t see my own empties in the recycle bin.

As we raised our girls, I never hid my drink or even tried to control it. But now, the situation had crossed into very sad. Despite my huge career, I was now a very buzzed drunk who would zone out every single evening.

Back at happy hour, I poured down vodka with abandon at an upscale bar with old friends and colleagues. We seemed smart, beautiful and funny with the friendly bartender attentively pouring booze out of backlit bottles anytime we held out our glass.

Within a while, a few of us transitioned into a booth. Alone in my drunken stupor, I vaguely recall trying not to eat too much to not ruin my buzz or my waistline. Far more interested in “drinking my calories,” I nibbled mindlessly at a piece of salmon.

When my husband said that it was time to go, I quietly lost it. I didn’t want to leave.

Dazed and entering a blackout, I managed to stumble out of the restaurant’s bar muttering to myself until November’s fall air slapped me and I let out a stream of obscenities aimed directly at him.

Later, my husband, lover and friend of 32 years would tell me that he thought of taping me with his iPhone. But despite his disgust, he could not bring himself to capture the sordid scene.

At home, I woke up at 2:00 a.m. in another room. I got up and staggered half-dressed until I found my husband asleep in a guest room. There I woke him up and promised that I’d check into Betty Ford or Sierra Tucson.

“Who do you think you are? Get over yourself,” he said, voice low and furious.

The next morning he hardly spoke to me. As he left to play tennis, he managed, “Get your fucking shit TOGETHER!” And then he was gone.

The dogs stared at me stunned that their usually happy dad could make so much noise.

Terrified, sick and alone, I managed to get to my computer and Google, “Alcohol help. Help for drunks. Drinking help.”

Every single time, Alcoholics Anonymous would be the top hit. Finally, after enough surfing and no real information, I called the main office of AA. A woman named Jackie talked to me for two hours and ultimately directed me to a meeting nearby that day.

Ninety days ago, I parked outside a rickety old building on the other side of town just hours after taking to Jackie. The low-cloud Midwestern day perfectly punctuated my somber mood as I entered into my first AA meeting.

“Wanna dive right in?” asked the group’s smiling leader as he handed me my first coin and beginner packet.

Anxiously, I did exactly as he suggested. I read from the Big Book, shared my first 12 hours of sobriety and how I came to look for my first-ever AA meeting. Deep down I knew that I was in the right place. This first meeting held 6 men and three other women all of whom shared the same dream: A desire not to take a drink that day.

Today, 90 days after that first meeting, I woke up this time next to my husband and in the early dawn, we dared to whisper words such as “beginnings, fresh starts and hope.”

I got out of bed and wrote my “morning pages” a writing exercise for the book, “An Artist’s Way.” I took a spin class and then drove through the snow to get to an AA meeting where I ran into a friend and picked up a green coin marking my 90th day of sobriety.

As a surprise, my husband created a comfy spot for me to watch TV and have a fire in the fireplace. We are closer now than we have been in years.

Tonight, we are going out for an early dinner with friends. Everyone drinks alcohol. But I know that I will not.

I have new tricks and tools to help me navigate the stressors and triggers of every day and in life. They include books, TV, tea, music, meditation, movies, candles, candy, sparkling pops, popcorn, peanut butter, pillows made of down, blankets, comfy slippers, exercise and of course penguins.

Today I am humbled, grateful and am very relived to be here. Today I am sober.

Submitted with love,

Elizabeth D.

If you are investigating your own drinking and would like online support you can go to the Booze Free Brigade or Crying Out Now There is help!

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 3, 2014 9:12 amDon't Get Drunk Friday3 comments  

DGDF: Megan’s Story

Megan’s story:

I started trying to quit drinking right after Christmas 2012. Well, I guess I tried to start a year earlier, when I quit drinking for the month of November 2011. I did it just to prove that I could, to prove to myself I didn’t have a problem. And the day I made it, I poured a huge goblet of wine and toasted myself. A whole year later I was so far past where I had been, I felt hopeless. I spent 2012 trying to “discover” myself. I went to therapy. I quit my soul sucking corporate job to pursue my freelance writing and photography career, a life’s dream! My schedule finally wasn’t full to the brim with work, so I could actually spend quality time with my kids. After months of preparation and practice, I had everything I ever wanted. And I was miserable.

That’s when I realized I had a problem. Until then I kept making excuses. “My job is so stressful, I deserve a glass of wine.” “My kids are insane, I need that bottle.” “My husband is never home, might as well drink.” But then everything was better, but I couldn’t stop drinking. I basically drank a bottle of wine every single day of the month of December. And then in January, on a work trip, I decided to stop. I woke up covered in cold sweat and had horrible insomnia. After a week, I gave in, and was back to the booze. I figured I had to drink to sleep, so I drank. That’s about when I finally joined an online community for women in recovery (the Booze Free Brigade) and infamously Googled “symptoms of an alcohol addiction.” I introduced myself to the online community and quit for two weeks, but I didn’t stay with it. I faded away, feeling shame as I read posts from people who were able to make it through. I watched as people who started posting around the same time as I did hit milestones like 30 days or three months and I was so jealous. Why couldn’t I do this?

After many stops and starts, I finally took my last drink on April 15th, 2013. I had just returned home from my dear uncle’s funeral and saw the news of the horrible bombings in Boston. There was a bottle of wine on the counter and I had two glasses before I felt sick. I knew I could not do it anymore. I finished the bottle and went to bed. When I woke up, I felt horrible as always, in a hungover fog complete with pounding headache. I made it through the day white knuckling it, and then went back online to figure out how to join the private Facebook group that was associated with my sober community online. The minute I was added to that Facebook group, I received tons of notifications from other sober people welcoming me and telling me how glad they were that I was there. That was my turning point.

Since then I have done lots of things to stay sober. The first thing was really, REALLY recognizing the fact that I cannot drink alcohol safely. I am not a one drink kind of girl, so I must be a no drink kind of girl. I check my online community daily, and post as often as I can. With encouragement of my sober community, I have started attending AA meetings, which at the very least are free therapy and at very best are saving my life. I came out to my husband and two friends about being in recovery. I text sober people when I’m feeling vulnerable and I try and provide support to others who need someone to talk to. I drink lots of sparkling water and allow myself nightly treats, like ice cream or candy. For the first week or so, I stayed tightly in my bubble, spending a lot of time sleeping and watching TV on Netflix. My kids have watched more TV in the last month than in their entire lives! I order out for dinner more often to avoid the stress and triggers of cooking. I listen to the Bubble Hour podcast, a podcast that covers topics for women in recovery, while I’m cooking or cleaning, or even mowing the lawn. I have almost completely forgone the gym, as I had no energy early on in my sobriety and I didn’t want to try too many things at once. Hopefully I can get back in to that soon.

What has changed? Well, there’s the physical stuff. I’m 10 pounds of bloat lighter. My skin has cleared up and brightened. My fingernails, which had started pealing off, are growing back. My eyes are clear and the dark circles underneath them are fading. I still get headaches, but not nearly as often, and I hear these will fade over time. I’m finally not tired anymore, but that only kicked in during this past week.

And of course, the emotional growth has been magnificent. I actually enjoy spending time with my kids. I am present in their lives, not just in the room. My husband and I are working hard, but it’s not easy. He does not think I have a problem with alcohol, but he does admit I’ve been more fun to be around lately. We’ve been out at several events and I always get to drive his nice car home. My work, which was severely neglected during the end of my drinking and beginning of my sobriety (due to shear exhaustion) is finally back on track. I am creating again, and it feels incredible. But best of all, I am seeing things again. I remember when I first got eye-glasses as a kid, and I walked outside and saw all the individual leaves on the trees. I was amazed! My whole life I’d only seen a green blur from afar, and now I could see each leaf. It was astonishing and awe-inspiring. That’s how I feel in sobriety. I see each leaf. I see each flower petal and every inch of the blue sky. I smell the raindrops on the wet ground. It’s like I’m seeing everything in my life for the first time. What a gift! It’s like being reborn.

So, that’s where I am. Day 30, with many more sober days in my future.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on May 17, 2013 8:34 amDon't Get Drunk Friday3 comments  

DGDF: Elizabeth’s Story

It has been nearly 5 years since I had a drink. The day before I stopped drinking my life revolved around parties, dinners out and that private stash of wine always rotating through the refrigerator and the empty parade out the the curb on recycling day. And for about the first year of sobriety it felt like my life was over. Okay, who am I kidding, I don’t even remember the first year of not drinking. I pretty much just survived it the way you survive a blackout…you have vague recollections when you wake up and you are glad to hell it’s over and you promise never to do it again. Ever.

Looking back I vaguely remember three things about that year:

  • A pot of coffee: I brewed a full pot of coffee every day at 3pm so I could have a drink in my hand all afternoon.
  • A 12 step program: I believed I had a chance at a different life…the kind of life I saw those people living so I listened and did what they told me to do.
  • The mirror in the bathroom: I could finally look at myself in it again.

My grandmother died one year–to the day– after my last drink. And I had a choice. I had always promised myself that when my grandmother–my absolute favorite person on earth–passed, I would throw the biggest party of my life. The choice I was faced with seemed really important as the funeral approached. I could drink to celebrate her life and lose the inertia of sobriety or I could show up at the ‘after party’ stone-cold sober and face death and life on it’s terms.

So the day of the funeral arrived. And let me just say, you can’t conjure up the kind of stuff that happens to you when you are stone-cold sober. I ended up writing the eulogy the night before and one of my heavy-drinking-buddy-cousins, Brett, who I hadn’t seen in years, read it. At the ‘after-after-party’ (yep, my brothers know how to keep the party going) Brett, sat down next to me and when I asked him what I could bring him to drink, he said he’d given up drinking. I didn’t have the guts to say I had too, but silently I felt supported when I poured myself a glass of lemonade instead of a gin and tonic–my grandmother’s favorite cocktail. What are the chances two recovering drunks made a beautiful contribution at my grandmother’s funeral service?

When my life orbited a bottle of wine, I could not conceive of the life I have now. I never imagined that when I was pouring those cups of coffee and surviving my first year of sobriety, I was amassing character that would pay dividends later. Today, I am doing things I never imagined: taking risks in my career, in my writing, in my relationships. I live with tremendous intention. And it is because I put down the liquid-courage.

Does my husband still have cancer? Does my mother still drive me absolutely crazy? Do I still struggle to get the laundry folded? Do I still loath the school projects that require poster board and glue sticks? Yes on all accounts. Some things in life didn’t change when I quick drinking. But the really, really important thing did. I changed. I have a second shot to live a courageous and beautiful life.

That’s the ‘AFTER-after-after party.’

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 8, 2013 9:05 amDon't Get Drunk Friday1 comment  

DGDF: Rhonda’s Story

 

I have no reason to have a problem with alcohol, but I do. I was raised by both parents in a fairly well-adjusted environment, even though I think that my mom did a little psychological abusing…but hey, who doesn’t think their mom abused them psychologically from time to time?

My parents drank a little; that is,  my dad enjoyed a beer or two after he cut the grass. My mom drank half a glass of wine or a quarter of a White Russian once or twice a year. Alcohol made her sleepy. Alcohol was not a big deal in our house. They gave me the occasional sip, I pretended to not like it, and that was pretty much it. I had a great group of friends all through high school, and we were the “smart” cool clique. We didn’t attend (nor were we invited to) the “cool” kids’ parties, where parents were out of town, or better yet, HOSTING the parties, and providing the alcohol. We were all church going, straight A, band nerds–although pretty popular band nerds; we were happy with ourselves and one another, and we had enough fun doing various other stupid things to have any need to drink. In fact, we thought we were “better” than those who drank. And we wondered why teenagers felt the need to drink, when there was so much more to life and friendship.

I went to college, and guess what? I didn’t drink there, either. Of course, I wasn’t in a sorority, so there wasn’t the never ending party scene in my social set. I spent summers working as a counselor at a Christian camp.

During my second summer, I fell in love. My boyfriend was planning to go to seminary to become a pastor. We got serious in a big hurry. And on New Year’s Eve, my senior year of college, he proposed. I said yes. And I blissfully set about preparing myself to be a pastor’s wife. Until, less than two weeks later, he decided he’d made a mistake, and not only was he not sure I was “the one”, he also wasn’t sure he wanted to get married, ever. Period. There followed weeks of clinical depression for me. And then an older guy, the friend of a friend, was always comforting me. With flowers. And wine. And I discovered that it was FUN to get rip roaring drunk. That didn’t last long, though–only a month or two.

Then I started dating a guy who had serious alcohol and marijuana issues. But I didn’t sink to his level…no, I tried to SAVE him from his evils. When I graduated, though, we went our separate ways. I went to camp for one last summer and dated another “I’m going to be a pastor” who turned out to be a huge jerk. But I can’t complain too much, because it was through him that I met my now-husband.

Then camp was over, and I was off to the big city. And hey, now I was a grown up, and there was nothing wrong with having a few beers at night, right?

A lot of crazy stuff happened over the next couple of years, most of which is inconsequential, but one important thing DID happen. Eventually I started dating my ex-boyfriend’s friend. Three guesses what his occupation was? Another pastor. I joked that it must be my destiny to marry a pastor. And at that time, my drinking was basically non existent. Champagne on NYE, that was about the extent of it.

When he and I got engaged, and then married, all of my dreams came true. Except that suddenly I wasn’t joking about being a pastor’s wife; I WAS one. And we were serving a most difficult church. And I had a rotten, crappy, difficult job. I would come home, and my husband would fix me a bubble bath and a glass of white Zin. Only later did he say that he worried I was a little TOO excited about my glass (or two) of wine every night. But again, there was an ebb and flow…I drank a glass of wine every night for a few months, and then I didn’t. I would have beer, and then I wouldn’t. He did the same. And then I got pregnant, and not only did the thought of alcohol make me sick, but so did everything else. I threw up for nine months. (And people ask why I don’t have another child!)

But then I breastfed for a year, so I didn’t drink for 21 months, right there. Then we both sort of eased back into it. We had some good friends who drank, and it was nice to hang out with people and NOT be “the preacher” and “the preacher’s wife”…to be “normal”. To have a couple glasses or wine or a few beers. And then we weren’t just drinking with them, we were drinking more at home, too. Basically, every night. Beer or wine for me, vodka for him.

At the time, my husband was very busy with church things. He was gone almost every night during the week, and all day on Sundays. And I was just really getting into Facebook. Well, he wasn’t there, so I was getting started with my drinking earlier than he was… and he wasn’t there, did I mention that? And I found that a couple of old flames were on Facebook. I did not actually have an affair, at least, not in the Old Testament sense. But in the New Testament, Jesus says that THINKING is the same as DOING. So in that sense, yes, I had an affair. Two, in fact. Several months apart. And my husband found out about both of them. I am fortunate that he didn’t divorce me then and there.

We were working through things, but we were both still drinking.

And then we were moving to a new church, and we had the opportunity to start over, we said. A new church, a new town, a new beginning. And for him, it mostly worked. He stopped drinking. I started drinking more. He caught me. I cried. He stopped trusting me, but what else was new? I bought beer and hid it. He would confront me, and I would deny. And then cry. Our son worried himself to death because I was “acting weird” or because Daddy was “going to be mad at you.”

One weekend, something happened that made my husband stop drinking once and for all (but that is his story to share, not mine), and suddenly I was smug. Well, I rationalized, at least I’ve never done THAT. Until, less than a month later, I nearly burned down our house because I passed out while I was cooking something. But *I* had forgiven him, so he HAD to forgive me, right? Well, I thought so, anyway. But he continued to harp and nag (I thought), and I continued to hide alcohol.

He threatened to throw me out, to divorce me, to take full custody of our son… and so I finally stopped. But when he would go out of town, I would have more. Just to *show* him that he couldn’t tell me what to do. It was all HIS problem, you see. Not mine. I could handle it. And then came a few months where I actually did stop. It was a relief to not have to hide anything anymore. It was a relief to not worry if you could smell it on my breath. But one day I was in the supermarket, and I reached out, like I used to, and put a 6 pack in my cart. And I drank it, in between work and coming home. But that was it. No more. I was no longer drinking daily, look how good I was doing!

And then this morning, for some reason…I really and truly don’t even KNOW why, instead of going straight to work, I went to the store instead. And I never even drank it, because my husband saw it before I had the chance. And finally, FINALLY, I realized that the problem was ME. The problem was MINE.

It is not my husband’s fault that I have become addicted to alcohol. It is not my son’s fault. It is not being in the fishbowl that is a pastor family’s life that “made” me drink. It was, and is, choices that *I* have made. Destructive choices that have nearly cost me my marriage more than once. Dangerous choices that could’ve cost my life, or the lives of others. Stupid choices, that might’ve meant that I never got to see my son again. Because for me, it isn’t about the “alcohol”–I just really, truly like the TASTE of beer. (Good beer. Or red wine.)

Honestly, I don’t like the way the alcohol itself makes me feel. And yet I drank it anyway. Because it TASTED good. That is the absurdity of it all. That for years now, I have been putting my desire for a TASTE of something that is, for me, a dangerous substance, above my family. Above my husband, who has stood by my side in spite of my many and frequent shortcomings. (Oh yes, I left out the part about going to church drunk one Sunday…) Above my son, who is the reason that God put me on this Earth: to be his mommy. Above my God, who should be the center of all that I am, anyway. Because where would I be without mercy, and grace, and forgiveness? It has been many days since I actually had a drink, but today I gave into temptation and WOULD have had a drink, had I not gotten caught.

All I can do now is make the choice, daily, to NOT give into the temptation. My family is worth it. And so am I.

Note from Stef: If you’re looking for support the Booze Free Brigade can help.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 31, 2013 9:20 pmDon't Get Drunk Friday1 comment  

DGDF: Lance’s Story

My name is Lance, I don’t drink but I used to. I don’t drink because I am an alcoholic.

I did not start drinking early, only a handful of non-eventful times in high school. I really discovered the benefits of the magic elixir in college. The feeling of freedom from moving away from a strict USMC Drill Instructor father was my E-ticket to the ethanol ride and I jumped on without a second thought. That ride was fun, a whole lot of fun. I was accepted, funny, sexy, mostly stayed out of trouble, and people wanted to hang out with me. But something was always wrong, I didn’t see it at the time but I do now. I never drank solely to achieve those results. The drink was never enough, and those results were never enough – I always wanted MORE. More acceptance, more funny, more sexy, and more alcohol. There was a dark side too. There is a pool of anger in me that I still struggle with today. Sometimes my quest for more would tap into that pool. Fights, and not just with assholes in bars or parties, fights with friends, punching college buddies in a drunken rage, anytime I felt wronged, sometimes even when sober. Despite my bad behavior at times, I was still never aware of any consequences.

I graduated and started a successful career. I feel now like my life was running on two different threads. There was the responsible Lance who did everything he needed to do, and the party Lance who sought out fun and drinking. It was not a problem, “this is what people do, everybody does it.” I didn’t know that I was different. This went on for years, I thought with no ill returns. Had I been able to see “The Picture of Dorian Gray” that was my soul, eroding in the background, I would have known differently.

I believe the tempest began somewhere in my mid to late 30’s, but I would not address it for almost a decade. Things had always seemed very easy to me and for the first time I think I started to struggle with life – unprepared with any tools or emotional control to deal with things. I wasn’t always the young golden boy whiz kid at work anymore. I struggled with marriage and children, I believe mostly because these beings had come into my life that I could not control. I always needed to control. I turned to that other part of my life for relief, and the two threads began to mix. It was a slow and insidious mixing. Drinking more alone at home, creating parties with neighbors so I could drink, starting to hide things, but still avoiding any serious consequences. This cancer slowly spread through me for the better part of a decade. I spent tremendous amounts of mental and emotional energy being a chameleon – keeping up the facade of responsible Lance, trying to keep a separation of those two threads of my life while they slowly merged into one. Energy I could have well used elsewhere.

As they say it will, it got worse – much worse, and it happened fast. One day, the slow cancerous spread stopped and I dropped off a cliff. Beer turned to vodka, night turned to day, parties turned to a dark corner of the garage, glasses turned to bottles, and bars turned to cars. I still didn’t have a problem, but I can remember very brief times of clarity where it was like I left my body and would look down on that guy holding the Budweiser and say “Lance, are you going to do this fucking forever?” – but then it was gone.

I don’t really know what happened. Still no major consequences (I thought), sure there were troubles at home, but that was nothing new – nothing I couldn’t forget with a few drinks. I have no doubt those consequences were guaranteed to come had I not gotten off the ride. Something did happen, and I cannot really explain it. One day I discovered that picture of my soul in the basement, it had fully bore the burden of my behavior and there was absolutely nothing left. I sought help.

Sobriety is tough, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is well worth it, I have discovered that I can change, even some of my personality traits – which I never thought possible. I don’t believe you just stop drinking and all is well. It was a struggle to stop the drink in the beginning, and after that it is even harder to seek “emotional sobriety”, which is the thing that really takes me from “not drinking” to “not feeling like I have to drink.” I view my sobriety the same as trying to become a top athlete. I must practice – every single day. I practice my sobriety with a 12 Step program, and finding other people like me – participating in things like the Booze Free Brigade.

If you want off the ride, you can get off, there is nothing stopping you. You are worth it.

Practice starts today.

To join the Yahoo group the Booze Free Brigade go here.

 

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 18, 2013 9:19 amDon't Get Drunk Friday1 comment  


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