Don’t Get Drunk Fridays: Gemma’s Story

This story is from a friend of mine and I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty damn inspirational. She is lovely, hilarious and a great example of a life being lived well without booze.


At lunch the other day, I overheard two women lamenting over how one of their old college friends was ruining his life with alcohol. It was the classic tale; he had lost the beautiful family, the high paying job, the house in the hills and now a third DUI had landed him in jail. After twenty minutes of describing his wreckage one sighed and said, “He’ll never stop drinking. He loves it.”

I almost choked on my couscous. There are many reasons I gave up drinking thirteen years ago but “lack of interest” was not one of them.

I didn’t fall out of love with alcohol. Nor did I lose the life I had built, partly because at the age of 19, I scarcely had had the chance to build one. I got sober because one summer night I went out for one drink and ended up having one drink in every bar on St. Mark’s Place. The result was terrible alcohol poisoning, the kind that led me to a bathroom floor shivering under a hand towel with toilet seat marks on my forehead. My cell phone was screaming at me from my purse so I answered because it was the only way I could think of to make the noise stop. It was my father calling to invite me to lunch. For some reason I agreed on the condition that lunch was a plain bagel he would bring to my apartment. I had the special humility one gets after throwing up for seven hours, so when he asked me how I was, I told him the truth.

My sweet father listened patiently as I confessed to my obsession with alcohol, my despair over the lines in the sand I kept leaping over, and the possibility that I might marry a bus boy from Morocco for a couple thousand dollars. And then I said it, the three magic words, “I need help.” That is something I would not have said if he had come by even one hour later when I was feeling less desperate. I didn’t realize it then, but I gave my father a tiny, and I mean teensy tiny, window of opportunity, and he reached out and was able to pull me through to the other side. The next day I decided I had been dramatic. I called my father to tell him to forget what I’d said, but I was too late, I had asked for help and it was already on the way in countless different ways.

There I was, 19 and sober. I had stopped drinking a full two years before it was legal for me to start drinking. I was thoroughly disappointed. I had planned on being a nasty drunk when I grew up. I had been daydreaming about my 21st birthday party since I was 8. I was convinced that my life was over because I could only truly be myself when I was drunk. I understood sobriety was a gift, but I wondered if I could return it and get it again later when I was 35, you know, when I was “old.”

To date, I have the “highest bottom” of any story I have ever heard. Sometimes I hate to tell it because I wonder who wants to hear about the nightlife of a middle schooler. But when I want my bottom to seem lower, I compare my life then to my life today. I am a loving and faithful wife and have a solid and delightful marriage. I am somebody’s mom, which is an endless source of joy. I show up for work on-time and when I leave for the night I don’t have anything that doesn’t belong to me in my pockets. My parents can sleep at night. I am comfortable in my skin. I show up for life with dignity and grace and I never have toilet seat marks on my forehead. I love my life today and if I had waited for the day I stopped loving alcohol I would have missed all of it.

(From Stef: Gemma has a very cool website that sells greeting cards for sobriety milestones www.greetingsanonymous.com go check them out and send me one on May 22nd)

Booze Free Brigade is here.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on April 30, 2010 7:10 pmDon't Get Drunk Friday9 comments  


  1. Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said,

    Thanks for sharing your story, Gemma. I think it is important that people hear about your “high bottom.” Having an issue with alcohol runs a vast vast range and the more stories out there that help show that range, the better.

    I’m so glad you love your life. That is the point, right? =)
    .-= Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist´s last blog ..What’s really preventing me from writing? =-.

    | April 30, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  2. seekingclarav said,

    I’m so happy for you. I often worry over the fact that my bottom wasn’t low enough. I could have continued without harm for a lot longer I imagine. Deep down I knew the end was coming so why not just face the fears.

    Thank you for telling your story. It is a good reminder to us “high bottom-ers.”
    .-= seekingclarav´s last blog ..Lazy one twenty =-.

    | April 30, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

  3. Jane said,

    Wow, that was so cool – I love your writing and your high bottom. I almost had a high bottom story but then wanted to continue exploring it well until I was old (38), and guess what? Not worth it. I’m impressed with your powerful choice, your dad taking the opportunity and your continued amazing sobriety. You’re a gift to so many women.
    .-= Jane´s last blog ..Poppy =-.

    | April 30, 2010 @ 8:47 pm

  4. Erica said,

    bravo to your Dad. I think so many parents see the drinking and feel like it’s part of “growing up” and not the beginning of a destructive lifestyle. You were so brave. Thank you for sharing.

    | May 1, 2010 @ 2:38 am

  5. Mommy Fabulous said,

    Your story is sure to help someone. Keep telling it. It is inspiring.
    .-= Mommy Fabulous´s last blog ..Happy Birthday to My 8 year old!!! =-.

    | May 1, 2010 @ 2:50 am

  6. Mommy Fabulous said,

    Oh and Stef, I also know that your story on 20/20 will open the eyes of many moms like you!
    .-= Mommy Fabulous´s last blog ..Happy Birthday to My 8 year old!!! =-.

    | May 1, 2010 @ 2:52 am

  7. Ellie said,

    Thank you for sharing your story – it is SO important to let young people know that you are never too young to get sober. I wish I had known what to look for, way back when. It would have saved me years of pain.

    And I love this: “I never have toilet seat marks on my forehead”. Perfection.

    .-= Ellie´s last blog ..The Other Side of the Story – A Tandem Post, The Conclusion =-.

    | May 1, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  8. Kir said,

    thank you for sharing, what a way to start your 2nd decade huh? and what a wonderful way for your dad to come and help.

    You sound amazing, and I am sure you are. You are a inspiration to young women everywhere.

    | May 3, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

  9. Ann said,

    Somehow I got there, got help and then forgot. Advocated for women with addictions, and I forgot. Now I’ve lost my husband, my way of life and my 18 year old daughter actually told me she hates me..and she means it. A piece of my heart is missing. I cannot believe it snuck back into my life so easily. Life will never be the same, but thank you for the powerful reminder that it is time to start over. The mask comes off today of all days…Mothers day. It has to, I can’t do this anymore. Thanks for this blog.

    | May 9, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

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