Archive for February, 2010

Don’t Get Drunk Fridays: Amanda’s Story

A brave and powerful story from Amanda who blogs at Sober Mommy. Amanda, thank you for sharing your story.

“My name is Amanda.

My sobriety date is February 28, 2007.

I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.

My story starts as so many do. I never felt “right” like it seemed the other girls did. I participated in every sport available to us and became quite good at them. I tried to be a good friend. But I still had that feeling inside of panic – that my life wasn’t good enough – that I wasn’t good enough. Without going into too much detail – my life wasn’t perfect. There were reasons why I had panic attacks as a child. I was consumed with trying to be perfect at home, not make an issue of anything, be quiet, be good.

My father was, during those days, an alcoholic and my mother was terrified of losing me after having two children pass away. Now as I parent I can only imagine how difficult their lives were but at the time I had nothing to relate it to. The reality was this: I couldn’t be perfect. My life was a mess – the amount of dysfunction in it was enormous. In truth I had all kinds of reasons to be panicked.

I found my way out of my house at twenty when I married. I tried so hard to marry someone that wasn’t my father. My first husband wasn’t necessarily a bad man – just someone who couldn’t fill the emptiness I felt inside. I had two daughters.

Finally when I was thirty-three I just fell apart.

When I was young I told myself I would never become an alcoholic. It was easy just not drink and it worked for many years. Unfortunately, once I started to drink I found that I was very good at it. I know that sometimes it’s a slippery slope but for me it was a downhill slide. I found that drinking took away the pain, took away the anxiety, and took away the last of what made me that was left. Let’s just get to the point. Drinking ruined my marriage.

I chose to not to go after custody of my daughters when I divorced. I didn’t want them to grow up like I had. I felt a tremendous shame in not pursuing custody of the girls. In society there is such a stigma to not have your children after divorce regardless of whether or not it was the best thing to do. After all no one wants to admit that they chose drinking over their children. Today I have my girls more but I still feel like I did the right thing – regardless of who thinks otherwise.

I struggled with getting sober. Just saying that “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who will not completely give them to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.” This simple message was my struggle. I couldn’t be honest with myself.

It was because of this inability I couldn’t get past the compulsion. It was just too great – I still needed something to drown out the pain, take away the anxiety, I was in every way a walking zombie – going through the motions without truly feeling anything. I went on this way for a long time this feeling nothing and faking it around my children. In reality though they realized what was wrong – the big bottle of Chardonnay or the vodka in the freezer. I remember with pain my oldest daughter asking me to stop drinking and I regret not putting the girls before my compulsion to drink.

It was during this time that somehow I met my second husband. He was good man who could see through the walls I’d built up. But he needed me to stop drinking.

I went to rehab three times. The first time I went to frankly make my husband shut up. I didn’t want sobriety for me, I wanted it go get him off my back. The second time I went because I was scared of the paranoia that was beginning to take over my life and somewhere deep inside I knew this as a sign that my drinking was out of control. Unfortunately during both visits the underlying issues of why this was happening wasn’t addressed. Even though I saw the diagnosis of manic depression no one discussed it, no one took the time to help.

The third time, ah, the third time I went to rehab was for me. My was on the verge of leaving – he was sick of my drinking, sick of being alone when I passed out, sick of having to worry about what he would come home to at night. I realized that he and my girls had stood behind me the entire time but I knew that I had to want it.

During that third stint I was placed into a group that was more psychologically based and less drug/alcohol knowledge related. I was lucky that the staff moved me into that group – that they saw the pain, they saw my depression and mania. Working with an addiction doctor helped in ways I can’t explain – he finally looked at the total picture and explained why I wouldn’t be able to continue to be sober until I rewired my brain – that it had been taken hostage from the alcohol and explained that I needed medicine to help moderate my mood until my brain rewired itself. He believed that I had anxiety and knew that I needed the emotional tools to work through the past and how to work towards tomorrow.

With these tools I work through what life brings. I am no longer ashamed of the past. I am no longer in denial. And I am happy. Finally. For the first time in my life.

Like I said, my name is Amanda and I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.”

If you want what we have there is support at the Booze Free Brigade.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 26, 2010 5:57 pmDon't Get Drunk Friday,Drinking14 comments  

9 Months

Having twins is not getting easier as everyone has promised me a million times. Do these Pollyannas have twelve nannies or have they shipped their toddlers off to boarding school?  Because I can’t right now imagine how anyone can think that two-year-old twins are so much easier than eight month-old twins. Looking back that was the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned. At eight months my girls couldn’t do a whole lot and they were perfectly happy about it. Now they seem to have a lot of thoughts and opinions about things and they insist on sharing them with me every moment of every day. Plus, there isn’t a piece of furniture in the house that they won’t scale to the top and fall right off of.  I’m about one cup of Sanka away from covering my couches in plastic like they did in the 70’s.

Last weekend was incredibly stressful. For some reason it just felt more relentless than usual. I think, perhaps, it had to do with the fact that Sadie had decided that food had been a passing fancy that she was completely over. Eating is so five minutes ago and tubby is right now. I would offer her avocado –my go-to food because, seriously, have you ever met a thin person who eats guacamole every single day –and she’d look at me like I was offering her Michael Bolton tickets instead of a delicious snack. When you have a kid who barely weighs twenty-one pounds, every single day they don’t want to eat makes a difference and when you see a pattern you start to worry. When I worry, I eat. The thing I eat is candy. And I was on like day three or something ridiculous of no sugar so I was a bit out of sorts.

For whatever reason, by Friday night, I’d just reached my patience limit and spent a good deal of time in tears. Then I made the decision to put Sadie back on Periactin –the medication that increases her appetite. The next day she ate a little better but I was still edgy and the Sudafed I took for my sinus headache seemed to work against me. Little red bastard.

So Sunday night came and on Monday I was to wake up and know that I’d made it to nine whole months sober. Nine months of taking better care of myself. Nine months of hard earned clarity. Nine months of not blotting at myself with booze until I dissolved into numbness. Nine months of life.

Sunday night, in the middle of the night, I decided that I probably wasn’t an alcoholic.

A glass of wine wasn’t going to make a huge difference either way.

I’d been waaay too hard on myself. Really? An alcoholic? That’s so harsh! I believe that I may have overreached and made the whole issue too black and white. One glass of white wine is completely innocent. Who are these people who decide to quit drinking and then spend the rest of their lives droning on and on about it right?

So screw it, I had a glass. And then since I was having one I figured I should have one more. And that felt pretty good so I poured myself another itty bitty half a glass. And then I woke up the next day and thought “What the hell have I done? Why, oh why, would I lose my sobriety over a couple of damn glasses of wine? I didn’t even get buzzed or drunk. What was the point?” My heart was clenched up and my chest weighted down by such an incredible waste. I was sick with disappointment in myself and immediately tried to figure out what I had to do. Did I have to start over? I’d have to. Absolutely defeated I lay back down. But hold on, where would I have gotten a bottle of wine? I don’t even keep any in the house. I didn’t go buy any and Jon would never bring any home even if I begged and pleaded.

It was a drinking dream. And I was officially nine months sober.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 24, 2010 6:07 pmDrinking55 comments  

Don’t Get Drunk Fridays: Cynthia’s Story

Today’s blog post is from my friend Cynthia. I met her in Los Angeles on the comedy club circuit. She’s funny, smart and complex in the best way. Let me tell you something else about Cynthia. She gets it. Go check out her blog when you’re done with her story to hear more about her bipolar disorder and possible attempt at becoming a yoga goddess.

“As far back as I can remember, I never felt comfortable in my own skin.

I started drinking when I was about 12 years old. Alcohol soothed all of my insecure thoughts, and feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t worry about my weight, my attractiveness or approaching people with a little buzz on. After graduation, my high school sweetheart broke up with me and soon became involved with crystal meth. I did too, as a way to keep close to him and hang out with the same people. At that time, I also became friends with a dealer who hooked me up on the cheap. I began losing lots of weight and getting a lot of positive feedback on how thin I was.

During a close call involving the police, I decided to quit cold turkey. Although I had stopped doing drugs, I was drinking up a storm. And because I hadn’t dealt with any of the feelings that I had been numbing with alcohol or speed, I soon began using food to cope and began gaining weight. People began to comment again, but with very negative responses. All of my doubts, fears and insecurities came rushing back. I panicked and became bulimic.

Bulimia was a cycle of binging to stuff the feelings, extreme self-loathing and then the release of all of those feelings by purging them. But for anyone who’s experienced it, after each purge is the promise never to do it again, then the inevitable cycle repeats itself. Much like my drinking.

I moved to LA to try and make it as a comic. I went to OA meetings and managed to stop the bulimia without committing to the program. My career started to prosper and I went from a struggling stand-up comic to an employed professional writer, something I never would have dreamed possible. My drinking at that point was somewhat controllable. I always drank with people who drank as much as I did, so my drinking didn’t standout. My outer world had changed, but I hadn’t. My emotional life was a mess. My drinking patterns stayed the same, and I knew I was an alcoholic.

I got married, had a daughter and I thought that motherhood would automatically tame my drinking problem. But the anxiety and fear of motherhood, and the loneliness of moving to a small town made it worse. I had severe bouts of depression and drinking more and more.

When Stefanie ‘came out” I had the courage to accept my alcoholism. I think because back in the day, not only was she a good friend, she was one of my drinking buddies. I attempted sobriety in June, but I felt awkward in AA. I hadn’t truly surrendered to the fact I was powerless over alcohol. I accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic, but I felt I could “outsmart’ it. I didn’t want to give it up entirely, my life was too stressful. My plan was to have 30 days of sobriety and then I could have a “day off,” as long as I was by myself.

I had about 45 days and then I decided to get drunk. I was by myself at a conference and I thought that I could drink alone. My daughter called and knew that I was drunk.

After that, the thirty days off, turned to two weeks, turned to weekends, turned to every other day. I had so much guilt, shame and self-loathing over my drinking, yet I felt powerless to stop it. And the moment that I truly realized that I was powerless to stop it, I gained strength. I knew I could not control my drinking, but I could control my path of recovery.

As scared as I was, I drug myself to another AA meeting. I broke down and cried and a woman talked to me after the meeting. I called her during the week and forced myself to talk, even though I felt awkward and needy. I had isolated myself for so long, and I was so lonely, but I was terrified to reach out for help. I had to give up my ego, which had always told me that I was smarter than alcoholism and the people that filled those rooms.

A few weeks ago, we had a huge snowfall but I braved the snow to get to my Saturday morning meeting. I parked at the side of the road, but I wasn’t sure how to find my footing across the parking lot. I looked for the footsteps of those that had gone before me and walked where their shoes had made an imprint, knowing that if I followed in their footsteps, I would make it inside.

That’s what AA means to me now. It’s a path I can take, where others have walked safely before me and I know that I am not alone.”

*Check out the Booze Free Brigade if you need support*

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 19, 2010 7:09 amDon't Get Drunk Friday18 comments  

Another Foe

I can’t stop eating. Well, I can – you know to breathe and sleep and run errands and…okay, so I can stop eating. But it’s really hard. The worst for me is sweets. When I start I just can’t stop.  Before I got pregnant with Elby I was sugar-free for almost two years; two happy and free years. But early on in my pregnancy, I couldn’t stop thinking about candy -specifically banana Laffy Taffy. At the time I worked in an office where there was an unlimited supply of old skool candy and it was all I could do to keep away from it. Every night I went to bed and every morning I woke up sweaty from dreams of  Hot Tamales, Lemonheads and Tootsie Rolls. Eventually I caved and went to town on the candy stash. I was ruthless. I’d grab handfuls and tear into them like a savage not letting anyone else eat them. “Get your own,” I’d practically yell, “I’m pregnant over here!”

No one could believe that I ate that way because I was very thin -like, I just got married thin -and so I got a lot of bemused looks and friendly teasing because I guess it’s sort of cute to see a thin, pregnant woman eat like a pig. But inside I felt bad because although it didn’t show on the outside, on the inside I was out of control.  I gained 60 pounds by the time I had Elby and only 7 pounds 2 oz. was baby. Eventually I lost the weight by working out and getting back off the sugar but it took a year and a half. Lately, because of the lack of booze in my life, the sugar has been making a strong come-back.

This problem started long ago. When I was five I distinctly remember being obsessed with the Halloween candy my parents had purchased for the upcoming holiday and stored up on a top shelf in our pantry. One night I climbed up, brought the bag down and knowing what I was doing was wrong yet unable to stop myself, I tore it open and scarfed it down like I hadn’t eaten in weeks.  My mother discovered what I’d done shortly after and she was furious. I distinctly remember feeling burning shame and yet, I did similar things again and again. My mother thought I lacked self control.

As I got older things did not get better. My parents always kept ice cream in the house and every night after dinner I was allowed a half a coffee cup full, a very appropriate sized serving for a child, a serving that I as an adult would feel is more than enough to give my daughter after a healthy meal. But it was not enough for me. I would hear the ice cream calling to me from the freezer after my parents had gone upstairs. Try as I might to ignore it and knowing full well how angry my mother would be if she found me out, I’d sneak into that box of neopolitan and eat an even amount of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry hoping that keeping the three layers even would disguise what I’d done. I was called selfish, piggy and untrustworthy for eating it but I couldn’t help myself.

By the time I was thirteen, food had become a good friend, a buffer to the world. While the rest of the junior high school population giggled on the phone and hung out at the mall, I hung out in the family rec room with slices of dried salami and column after column of Ritz crackers eating myself numb. When I was sixteen I discovered throwing up which enabled me to wear my lack of control on the inside, something I believed to be a major coup at the time.   As anyone who’s been bulimic knows, the behavior is highly addictive. There came a point in my late teens that I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. Every day I desperately promised myself never again. Sometimes I made that promise several times in a single day. That’s how strong a hold it had on me. It was like there were two people in my head at all times bickering -one that only wanted relief at any cost and one that knew she was dying inside and would have to put up a strong fight to dig her way out of the deep hole she’d dug.

The relief finally came when I gave up fighting. It was in the surrender. I stopped puking for good at 22 but just like with alcohol, I’m not cured. What I’m realizing is that I’m just a big old addict -an addict who will look for any way to distance myself from myself. I’ve heard secondary addictions referred to as a game of Whack-a-Mole; alcohol gets hit with a mallet and sugar pops up, sugar gets whacked down and suddenly out of nowhere it seems like a great idea to take a Tylenol PM. Do you see how insane that is? Who the hell could get high off of Tylenol PM?

I remember when I’d just started getting help for bulimia and I revealed to my mother I’d had this problem.I cried when I told her, sobbed really. But I was so proud of myself for dealing with it, for being brave enough to sit in rooms and tell strangers I did this shameful thing. My mother’s reaction wasn’t what I’d hoped for. She got angry with me and let me know in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t her fault. At that time I was pissed and I remained pissed for a long time because truthfully I had blamed a lot of my problems on my childhood. But looking back, she was right.

I’m an addict and it’s no one’s fault. When I drink alcohol, I can’t predict where it will lead me. When I eat candy, I can’t predict with any certainty whether or not it will end in a peaceful night watching the Bachelor or whether it will set off an obsession for more which will last for days or weeks.

I’m not making any big proclamations here. I’m just letting the secrets out. I know that eating candy is a lot better than drinking. You can’t get pulled over for driving while under the influence of fattening snack food. But it is damaging to my clarity and I have to acknowlege that.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 17, 2010 11:01 pmDrinking,navel gazing44 comments  

Don’t Get Drunk Fridays: Lisa’s Story

Thank you Stefanie for asking me to share my story. You are an inspiration and I know that you are helping change the lives of so many with your honesty and humor as you share your sober journey. And you are also foxy. Obviously.

My name is Lisa R. and I’m an alcoholic. I was 23 years old when I got sober. My sobriety date is October 10, 1987. That makes me 45 years old. This is astonishing since I never expected to live past the age of 26.

From early on I can remember feeling like I lacked the buffer that everyone else seemed to have between themselves and the world. I knew I was being left out of the secret meetings that were going on where everyone else was learning how be a person. I was wearing the wrong brand of jeans with the wrong haircut and wrong brand of lip-gloss all the way down to my soul. I had a lot of big feelings that I didn’t know what to do with and the thought of just feeling them was terrifying, and not an option.

In elementary school, I was a bookworm. With my nose in a book, I could escape into another world and not deal with the present. In high school I became an overachiever and stayed incredibly busy. I slept very little and ran as fast as I could to keep ahead of the tornado churning inside.

When I was 15 my dad was killed in a car accident. My innocent understanding of the religion I was raised with lead me to believe that God was a sort of all-powerful Santa Claus: if you were good, good things would happen to you, if you were bad, the bad things would rain down. I knew that I was a good kid and when my father died, I saw that God was not holding up his end of the bargain. I decided at that moment that the whole God thing was a sham.

I was accepted at the university of my choice. Filled with hope and potential, I moved 350 miles away from home to go to college. Very quickly the bottom fell out. My old ways of coping weren’t working anymore. The pain and fear were excruciating. I tried to kill myself. That didn’t go so well. I found drugs and alcohol and they saved my life.

Drinking was sweet relief from the feelings of grief, and despair, and shame, and boredom and I couldn’t get enough of it. I often took speed or did cocaine as a way to keep drinking longer. I was drinking to feel pretty and fun and I was drinking to forget and to not feel. Classes started getting in the way of my all-night partying schedule. I quit school.

I was spiraling. I would only hang out with people who drank more than I did to make myself feel like I was normal. I worked downtown as a taxi dancer because, as I explained it, I did not have the self-esteem to be a prostitute. I was a regular at the emergency room because I often felt like I was dying and everything in my life was an emergency. I started most mornings with a cup of black coffee, and a wine cooler (It was the eighties.) and then I would throw up blood and switch to whiskey. (Crown Royal because I was fancy.) I stole a car.

In five years, I went from being the new girl in the dorm to being the girl with alcoholic hepatitis living downtown in a ’65 Volvo. I did not connect my drinking to how crappy my life was; I just knew I was a loser. I was hiding my life from everyone who loved me. The drinking wasn’t working to keep the feelings away anymore and my body was giving out.

One afternoon, I took a “Do You Drink Too Much?” quiz in Mademoiselle magazine. I didn’t know then that this was a version of the 20 Questions found in Alcoholics Anonymous Literature.

When I finished I read my results. The crazy magazine actually thought I had a problem with alcohol. Maybe I did? There was now a crack in my denial armor and a little light started peeking through.

I called the number in the phone book for Alcoholics Anonymous and they directed me to a nearby meeting at a small rec room at a park. I had walked into what is known in the program as a Gay Men’s Stag. This was a meeting designated for gay men only. The guys let me stay. I listened to them talk and realized that we had more in common than I could have ever imagined. Their feelings and problems sounded just like mine and they were alcoholics. The guys also shared that they had found an answer.

I worried that AA was probably a cult and that it was just a matter of time before they demanded my money and my soul. Of course, I had no money and just shreds of a soul left so the joke would be on them. What I didn’t know was that all they wanted was to help me. In order for these AA’s to stay sober themselves they needed to help other alcoholics. I stayed because I had run out of options and there was free coffee in the meetings.

I learned that I have an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. To treat the allergy, I needed to put down the alcohol and drugs. I also realized that simply “cutting down” was not an option for me. Regular people didn’t think about trying to manage their alcohol, this was generally the domain of the alcoholic.

Then there was the whole “God” issue that I knew would be a problem for me. I found out that AA was about spirituality, not religion. We had all done things while we were drinking that we knew were wrong, lying, stealing, hurting ourselves and others. These were things that went against our spirit. By working the steps we would be finding a way back to working with our spirit.

And so, I go to meetings, I work the steps. I share my secrets. I apologize for the things I do that hurt other people. I help other alcoholics. I work on replacing my despair with hope, my false pride with humility, and my fear with faith. I would never have come up with this stuff on my own. This is what they taught me in AA. And I have stayed sober, 24 hours at a time for 22 years.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on February 12, 2010 5:08 pmDon't Get Drunk Friday42 comments  


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