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Don’t Get Drunk Fridays: Anna

Today’s guest post comes to us from Anna. She’s opinionated, smart, cute, accomplished and a big old alcoholic. I thought she’d be perfect for Don’t Get Drunk Friday and when I got her post, I was not disappointed. You can check out her cool blog which is here.

“My drinking career was hard and fast, applied to the point of obsession, like everything I do. I was never a daily drinker, but I never saw the point of drinking without getting drunk, either. I would rather have stayed home than to have tried to control my drinking, and this is why my early adulthood is best described as a long period of intense boredom interrupted by periodic episodes of insane and horrifying blackouts.

There came a time where I knew that I had to quit drinking. So I did it on my own, because that is the way I’ve always done things. Several times I did this, once for two years straight, white knuckling it through social events, dates, the dreaded New Year’s Eve, rather than admitting that I needed help. Years later I would say that I managed independent “sobriety” by watching a lot of TV and not leaving the house — sobriety via Ally McBeal. But it always failed. There was always some reason why I had to drink again, or an example of how it wasn’t socially acceptable to give up drinking altogether, for the rest of my life, because society expected it of me, and what was I supposed to do?

When I finally made it to AA for good, I would learn that there is a special name for alcoholics of my type — “periodics” — which was exactly the kind of thing that I needed: a special distinction for myself. I have spent most of my life feeling that I am different, and that the rules that apply to everyone else should not apply to me. And even if I knew that the periods in between my drunken rampages were getting shorter and shorter as time passed, I still needed something separating me from everyone else. Even in recovery I needed to be different.

It was galling to me to have to go to meetings where people were proud to string a few days of sobriety together as if it was some kind of massive accomplishment, gripping onto their 30 day chips as if they were life rafts in the open sea, or crying through a speech after they received their one-year-of-sobriety birthday cake.

I hated — hated — that I had to come to these people for help. I hated the thought of having something in common with the prematurely hard-faced drunks in my women’s meetings. I was insulted when former heroin addicts would lecture me on how I should be feeling at 20 days sober. Most of all, I hated introducing myself in meetings as a newcomer, because it suggested that there was something I did not already know, that there was something that these people could teach me, and that beneath all of these superficial demarcations of age, class, experience, and gender, we all had something in common.

But I am fortunate that I am so stubborn, because even if I hated everything about AA’s brand of sobriety, I knew that my own way was not working anymore. If there was anything in the world that I hated more than the idea of needing AA it was the thought of ever again feeling like I did on the morning of June 3, 2001, when I tried to kill myself after a particularly bad bout of drinking and insane behavior the night before. After that, I knew I was fresh out of ideas and that anything I did my own way was never going to work. And that’s the only reason, eight and a half years ago, I chose AA.

I did everything they said to do: I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, took phone numbers of people I had no intention of calling, found a sponsor, worked the steps, found another sponsor, worked the steps again, took commitments, became a sponsor myself. I did it, cursing “God” under my breath and shaking my fist at the sky the whole way. I would get into debates with people at meetings, separating myself from the “big book thumpers” and arguing about whether alcoholism could rightfully be called an “allergy” or a “disease.” I was difficult, annoying and snotty, but I was consistent.

And somewhere along the way, the hatred started to fade into the background. Along with it went the need to intellectualize all of the questions about God, and finally one day I decided that maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to have something in common with “these people.” Because here in this crazy motley crew of drunks was something more like family than I had ever known before. I could tell them anything, all of my most awful, embarrassing thoughts and feelings and exploits, and they would nod and tell me something they had done that was just as bad or embarrassing, and we would laugh about it. And through each other there was something kind of like healing.

Today my life gets so full of beautiful things that sometimes I forget that I’m not different. But I don’t ever want to go back, and my life today could never exist without sobriety. So if you’re out there reading this and thinking that maybe you’re different, don’t worry — I am too.”

Please join us here to get support from the Booze Free Brigade (our kick ass Yahoo Group!)

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 15, 2010 7:38 amDon't Get Drunk Friday,Drinking20 comments  

Don’t Get Drunk Fridays: Jennifer’s Story

My name is Jennifer and I am an alcoholic. And a drug addict. I have been in recovery for 15 years, since I was 20 years old. On January 29’th I will have 2 years sober.

Based on the above figures, it is obvious that my sobriety path has had some forks in the road. I was sober for ten solid years, during which time I got two master’s degrees, began a career as the clinical director of drug and alcohol treatment center, and got married. In my career, I helped create a nationally based drug and alcohol prevention program for Jewish teens. My entire identity was based on being sober. I had never even taken a legal drink, and my husband had no personal knowledge of my alcoholism. No matter how many stories I told him about the out of control girl running around New York City drunk and high as a kite, he had a hard time matching that image with the accomplished and seemingly well-balanced woman he had chosen to marry.

I spent my days working as a psychotherapist to low bottom alcoholics and drug addicts. People alternatively sentenced to treatment from prisons and jails. Young men and women who had lost everything and been forced by their families into rehab. Moms whose addiction had caused them to lose their children.

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were elated, and I felt deeply rooted in my sobriety, career and life.

At 8 months pregnant, my husband’s mom died suddenly, and it took much of his time and energy to process his shock and grief over this loss. After I had my son, my mom’s cancer (which had been in remission for several years) returned full force and she was given 2 years to live. I was flattened by postpartum depression and anxiety, which despite my clinical background, totally pulled the rug out from under me.

My return to alcoholism and addiction began slowly and insidiously. My anxiety was so severe that I found myself unable to eat or sleep for several days in a row. My OB prescribes a low dose of Ativan to help me. It worked beautifully.

I began to question whether I was ever really an alcoholic. After all, doesn’t every one party when they are in college? Granted, not everyone goes to Harlem in the middle of the night to score drugs off the street. Nor do normal college kids have take a medical leave from school because their drinking and drugging is so out of control. But I was convinced that as an adult and a mother, I could now handle drinking responsibly. I cleverly found a therapist to tell me that she didn’t think I was an alcoholic, and she even encouraged me to try drinking again. I hadn’t had a drink in so many years, I didn’t even know what to order. “What do you like to drink?” I asked her.

“White wine,” she replied, with a small smile, “I love to have a glass of cold white wine at the end of the day.” My husband and I went to Vegas and I ordered my first glass of white wine in over ten years.

I wish I could say my story ended here- that I had somehow grown out of my alcoholism and could enjoy that ubiquitous glass of wine at the end of the day without consequence. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well for me. I spent the next few years battling alcoholism and addiction. I stayed sober during my second pregnancy and controlled my drinking while nursing. At 7 months pregnant my mom’s cancer took a major turn for the worse. She died exactly two weeks before my daughter was born. After I brought my baby girl home from the hospital, the grief, pain, sadness and anxiety I felt was indescribable.

I had all the rationalizations. I believed I was a better mom when I was under the influence of pills and alcohol. I was more relaxed, more able to deal with the stress of raising young children, more present, more in the moment, generally happier and able to function. I prided myself on the fact that I was never abusive. I never screamed at my children or put my hands on them in anger. I took them to the park and made them organic, homemade baby food. I had the perfect image of peaceful “earth mama” down pat. I somehow believed that this persona mitigated my alcoholism and addiction, which was now spiraling out of control.

I knew I needed to get sober again. When I wasn’t under the influence, my anxiety was off the charts. I literally felt like I was jumping out of my skin. I kept breaking my own rules: no drinking until they were asleep was quickly replaced by holding out until 6pm, then 5pm, then 4pm. I needed more and more of those little pills to simply get me through the day. My husband was terrified, but didn’t quite know what to do because he had never dealt with an addict before and I was such a brilliant liar and rationalizer (as all alcoholics and addicts must be to justify their using.)

Things got really bad. Without going in to all the gratuitous details, my husband came home on a Friday afternoon and told me the jig was up. Unless I could immediately get sober, he was sending me to a detox treatment center for 28 days the following Monday Of course, I couldn’t stop drinking and using. I was in the middle of a run and my body was completely physically addicted. On Monday morning, he dropped me off kicking and screaming at a treatment facility. In that moment, I was a desperate, broken mother who had come within millimeters of losing my children because of my addiction. I knew that I had to get sober or I would lose everything.

I never thought my alcoholism would progress enough to warrant me having to go into treatment. Being separated from my children during that time was the most painful experience of my life. I was dripping in shame. I felt like the worst mother in the world. It took me a long time to realize that my addiction didn’t care about my children. It didn’t care about my family, my accomplishments, my master’s degrees, or my career. It only cared about getting me drunk and high, isolated and alone. That is the very essence of the malady.

The guilt and shame that alcoholic and drug-addicted moms feel is overwhelming. We really believe that we are worthless as mothers if we can’t even stay sober for our children. What I learned in recovery the first time (and had to relearn the second time around) is that it is not my fault that I am an alcoholic, but I am responsible for treating it. Sobriety is the foundation of my life now. I truly understand that without my sobriety, I cannot function as a wife, a mother, a friend, a therapist and a writer.

If you are reading this and finding yourself relating to parts of my story, please know that there is a way out of this destructive cycle. You are not alone.

stef’s note: Thank you so much Jennifer for sharing your story. Lives are being saved by not keeping this “in the closet” anymore! Jennifer’s website is http://www.jenniferginsberg.com/ (from there you can get to her fabulous blog and other site as well) Jennifer also offers groups and individual therapy if you live in the LA area.

For anyone who is struggling, please come share on our Yahoo group (which is already HUGE) or look in the front of the phone book. There is help.

For anyone who would like to turn this into a Lifetime movie, uh yeah!

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 8, 2010 7:19 amDon't Get Drunk Friday,Drinking32 comments  

The Yahoo Link

I promise I will be going back to my regularly scheduled hilarity (except on Fridays when I will be talking all about drinking – and really any other time I choose since last I checked it was my blog) but until then, some of you drinkers are having trouble finding the link to the Yahoo group that’s been created for us to lend support to each other.

So join us and let’s talk and talk and talk and talk about not drinking which we will find endlessly helpful and people who don’t drink too much will find awfully navel gazing.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on January 2, 2010 4:51 pmDrinking14 comments  

See Jane Not Drink Friday

So let me introduce you all to Jane. She’s a newish friend of mine. Lets just say I met her around the same time that I quit drinking. I absolutely love her because she’s warm, honest, loving and lovely -and she inspires me everyday. She’s here to share a little of her story with you so that you can see that we drinkers are EVERYONE. Please leave your Friday comments here so that we can continue to lend one another support and also, please please visit Sweet Jane’s blog at Lights! Camera! Diapers!

I get why people drink, I sure do. This life can be ass-kickin’ hard time filled with constant constantcy of the constant angst. Constant to-do. Constant brain-chatter. Constant noise. Expectations and desire and you know, the missing pieces that we just keep reaching, striving and wanting. And I found that a little drinkee-poo was a nice filler, take-the-edge-off-er and all around salve for what just ain’t right.

I didn’t drink all the time. I wasn’t an every day type of a gal. I was a once-in-a-while-but-you-better-be-ready-to-duck kinda drinker. Do you know this type? Yeah, a FUN drunk.

You know, the girl you want to get drunk with. The one who wouldn’t make you feel bad because she stops after two. And maybe you’re done after four but oops, she might not be. And then you watch her slide into that slippery too-much place and that makes you feel a bit superior as she stumbles around slowly disintegrating. Or maybe you don’t notice that she’s out of her mind because she’s carrying on a perfectly lovely conversation about world religions and why Top Chef is such great television or how Europe is generally a better place because they don’t pasteurize the crap out of their dairy, but that doesn’t mean she’ll remember it. Oh, no, probably not. So please don’t embarrass her by talking about last nights conversation in mixed company, she’ll blush and look around wildly while biting her lip.

Boy it’s nice talking about myself in the third person, it’s feels a little less threatening to share at this level.

But let me just say this: For me, continuing to drink meant I could not be authentic.

And it was dangerous. It was Russian roulette with a loaded bottle pointed at my existence and the possibility of oh you know, a drunken foot on a gas petal. Or a drunken, harmful monologue to my fantastic husband. Or a lost friend due to some random moment that she hates me for but gosh if I can’t remember. I was tired of the excuse that alcohol gave me, as nice as it was…I was missing the good by running from the bad.

And I wasn’t getting pregnant either. In fact, this was the pattern:
1) Drink ‘normally’ for two weeks. (And by normal I mean sometimes one drink, sometimes eight…who knew?)
2) Then try to make the baby. Not drink for two weeks.
3) Find out not-so-much pregnant, drink heavily.
4) Rinse and repeat.

Then there was the pregnancy that lasted eight weeks. When that sweet feeling ended at the OB’s office with an empty womb a few days before Christmas three years ago, I thought it was an excellent reason to drink. Kinda was. Trouble is, you can drink your feelings away and even have some cool professional success and really alot of goodness can go down along with the champagne and excellent wine that you got at that fancy wine shop. But. Then you become Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways all talking about the strawberry and asparagus in the wine but ultimately you are totally full of shit and like Miles in the movie. Because the escape hatch of wine was keeping you from your truth and your own personal brand of magic.

Ah I did it again, did you see that? Snuck it back out of first person. Sneaky little drunk. But, here’s the thing. Since I come from a long line of boozehounds, I happen to know that my body is seriously allergic to the stuff. If you’re like me you’ll know you’re allergic too because you black the eff out after as little as one drink. If you’re like me you know you can’t drink because you can’t trust yourself with booze. And if you are trying to control it, chances are, you might be like me.

I was lucky. No DUI, no jail, didn’t lose my husband or my house but I was losing little bits of my soul with every drink. Was it luck? Or smarts? I dunno. I just feel lucky to have chosen a different path. And I didn’t need a court order to realize that help would be um, helpful. So I got it. And despite all of my previous thinking, it’s been pretty fawking great. I’ve met extraordinary women who inspire and amaze me. I’ve learned so much about myself and how to safely unravel the darkness in search of some gems. Life is getting better all the time. Sure it sounds kinda cheesy but it is cheesy and true. My best, brightest hope for anyone struggling with this crappy, frustrating, physical addiction is that you too find some help. Get help and kick this hell and noise called booze to the curb.

Oh and by the way, I did finally get pregnant. Three months after I stopped drinking. He’s now eight months old and a little blessing that life gifted me when I got brave and dove back into said life. And it’s pretty magical.

Thanks to Stefanie for letting me bend your ear up here, it’s a privilege and an honor. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Blessings.
Jane

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on December 25, 2009 3:45 pmDrinking91 comments  

Let’s Clean Up Our Act FRIDAY

So here we are. It’s Friday. I invite all of you lushes out there who are trying to make a change to come to my blog for support. It’s only on Friday because seriously, we can’t talk about it every minute right? Well, I can but I’m very OCD and that’s a whole nother issue. And seriously, if you aren’t someone who is needing to, considering or already has quit drinking, I’m not fucking judging you. Drink away! Or don’t drink away!

Listen, contrary to what you may think, I have not changed my stance on believing that booze can equal a good time. In fact, I encourage my husband to drink as much as he wants. But, here’s why: my husband does not have a problem. I have not one time in the history of our relationship ever seen him have a drink and thought, “Uh oh, here we go.” Never. You know why? Because Jon is 100% predictable when he has a few drinks. Even when he drinks every night, he doesn’t need to drink every night. But I bet you there has come a time when Jon has seen me with an open bottle of wine and wondered if I’d be fast asleep by 8:00 p.m. and if he’d once again be responsible for getting up in the middle of the night if the kids needed attention. I’m sure he’s cringed a little bit at a party when I’ve gotten a little (a lot) extra “outgoing.”

Some people, myself included, struggle with calling what they have a drinking problem. Most people especially have a hard time identifying themselves as an alcoholic. I totally get that. Once you use the word alcoholic to describe yourself, it’s pretty hard to change your mind, right? I mean, saying you are an alcoholic is like announcing to the world that you cannot care for your children, you are one step away from drinking Boone’s Farm Tickle Pink next to a dumpster, hoping someone will give you a dollar. That is just not the case.

To me, alcoholic means that I should not be drinking ever because alcohol in my body can lead to unpredictable (or actually fairly predictable) bad behavior or at least behavior that I don’t like. Alcoholic means that I don’t want to drink and yet sometimes (all the time) I do it anyway.

So once you say you’re an alcoholic there’s no turning back right? Well, that’s kind of ridiculous isn’t it? Have you met Robert Downey Jr.? He’s changed his mind about 8000 times.

I think that I am an alcoholic but if I died and went to heaven (because I’m a super awesome person -and that’s where our kind goes right?) and God said, “Oh, that’s so funny that you thought you were an alcoholic! Sorry if I implied that. Actually, you just drank a lot when you were stressed out but you probably could’ve drank a little now and then without horrible consequences. My bad!” would I be really pissed that I missed these years of alcohol? No, I wouldn’t.

There’s no blood test to determine whether or not you OFFICIALLY have a problem. There’s just the voice in your head that is nagging at you that you need to quit.

So, if you want to do this, every Friday, starting today, let’s share a little something about our experience and if we’re struggling or not and then if you want to leave your email, do it. If not, that’s cool too. Let’s encourage each other. We’re not alone.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on December 18, 2009 6:32 pmDrinking108 comments  


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