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Hello, I am a recovering alcoholic. I am one of the fortunate alcoholics who has lived to tell my story. But for the grace of God and the program of AA, I would have died.
I started drinking at a very early age and was very popular with my high school crowd as “the life of the party”. I could always out drink everyone who I was with. What started out as fun ended in living hell. My drinking continued through high school and into business college and then into the first law office in which I worked.
At that time, my drinking was fairly well under control; I was young, I had the stamina to get drunk every night and work every day and the vicious cycle went on and on. I really don’t like “drunkalogs,” so I will try to be brief and say: I was married several times, held very prestigious jobs, i.e.,working in various law firms, for a state Senator and a Probate Judge and the Lt. Governor’s office. I had a beautiful home and a husband who I thought I loved at the time; and most of all, my beautiful children.
The Blackouts Started
Well, this husband didn’t love me as much as I thought; he did the right thing; he took my children, he booted me out of my beautiful home, and he divorced me. I STILL had not bottomed out. I could still out drink anyone around; and by then, of course, the blackouts had started.
Believe me, I tried to blame everyone and everything I knew for my drinking; the death of my child, the ex-husbands, etc. Everyone was responsible for my drinking except me. The blackouts were, in a way, a blessing. I don’t want to remember some of those times.
Finally, of course, the time came when I could no longer work; I had to have my daily fix of alcohol every few hours or so. My life was a total living hell. There were so many days when all I could do was look out my window to see if it was daylight or dark.
Hitting Alcoholic Bottom
That, my friends, is something that no living human being would ever want to go through. Of course, eventually, the time came when there was no money for apartment rent, or for anything, except for the few dollars I kept back for my booze. Thank God for the final blackout — I came to in a room with a quarter on the dresser in the room.
Thank God my family practiced “Tough Love”. None of my family would allow me in their homes; this was bottom out time. I looked in the yellow pages of the phone book and found the number for AA.
The Liquor Had Stopped Working
Within minutes, a lady and gentleman from Alcoholics Anonymous were there. Neither of them seemed shocked by the few things I told them. I was so sure my story was unique from anyone else’s story. I was so sure I was unique. Little did I know but I was simply an alcoholic, one who was ready to do anything in the world to change my life.
These people took me in, carried me to my first AA meeting, and lots of other people started working with me and detoxing me. I have never been so sick, mentally and physically. But I learned after that, that even my worst day sober was better than my best day drunk. The liquor had stopped working for me. There was no more “high,” or good feeling.
I would like to tell you that I stopped there, but after one year of sobriety, I decided I possibly could still be a social drinker. God, what a disaster. What I was always told in the AA program was that this disease is so very progressive, even when you are sober, and sure enough, I lived to find that out. After my first or second drink, I went straight into a blackout. So my insane bout of drinking had started all over again.
I am so grateful to my Higher Power and to those that still believed in me, that I was one of the lucky ones who “made it back”. It was so hard to walk back into that door of AA and start over and pick up a new chip.
But I did. To hell with false pride – I was ready to quit drinking. Otherwise, I was doomed for an insane asylum or death. I am happy to tell you that I have just picked up my 17-year sobriety chip. Never could I have made it alone. I have to have all of you, my brothers and sisters, to remind me of who I am, and that is, Jean, a recovering alcoholic who must take life one day at a time in order to stay sober.
There have been many setbacks in my life but thank God I have not had to take a drink. Seems that this past year has been my hardest; I broke my back, lost a husband I truly loved and had a complete nervous breakdown. But I STILL DID NOT DRINK.
Every day is like a new day to me now; sometimes I feel as if I don’t quite know which direction I am going, but I know as long as I stay sober, the direction will sooner or later become clear. I have the privilege of being able to do some work in a detox unit, and its such a great feeling to share my experience, strength, and hope with another suffering human being.
I hope, in doing so that somewhere down the line, I may help just one person to find their way to the only program in the world that has worked for me; the program for the living, Alcoholics Anonymous. Thank God for Bill W. and Dr. Bob, our co-founders. Whatever would we have done had their paths not crossed.
I don’t have everything in the world I want right now, but I do have everything that I need, and it has been proven to me by my Higher Power and the Steps and Traditions of this program and all the great people in this program, that this thing does work. There are many things I would like to change in my life, but I feel if it is meant for them to change, it will happen.
I do have my children back, with the exception of one child who is out there and is a practicing “addict”. There is nothing I can do for him, except pray. I have carried him to many meetings with me, so he has been exposed, and it is up to him as to whether he chooses to live or die. It is that simple. There is no in between.
I want to end by telling each of you, those of you who I don’t know, that I love you. We share the same disease and we know what we have to do in life. We have a choice today. And isn’t that wonderful? Some people with diseases don’t have a choice. I have been given the gift of sobriety; I love life without alcohol; I enjoy so much drinking my coffee on my back steps and watching the birds in the morning; simple things that nobody else would think is that important.
I find that I can make clear decisions, even though they don’t always have the outcome I would like. What more can I say? I am a grateful alcoholic whose name is Jean L. and every day is a new awakening because I have been given another chance; and I must not let alcohol destroy my life.
That is the reason I have to stay active in this program and always remind myself of who I am, where I have been, and where I never want and don’t have to, go again. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.
I’m an Alcoholic.
My first drink led to my first blackout. Alcohol took away the shyness, peralysing self-consciousness. It gave me a warm and happy new feeling that freed me up to do anything. I danced at parties, yelled in the street, sang on buses, hitch-hiked across London, talked to strangers, no fear of anything. I loved it. I thought it helped me to be the real me. I didn’t want to do anything that didn’t involve drinking: cinema – boring, walks – you must be joking! I learned early to have a few drinks from my mum’s cupboard before I went out, filling miniature bottles to take with me. I thought everybody did it! I look back at my teens and see that I have no idea what my family were doing, no memory of spending any time with them.
I went to Spain for 6 months – my university days are still a black hole full of twinkly lights – and was hospitalised with alcohol poisoning. Came back and got married to a heavy drinker, workaholic, who took care of the boring stuff – bills, housework etc. I was a charming wife – he never knew what he was coming home to. We had two beautiful children and drinking to party was no longer an option – my secret drinking started. Hiding bottles, trying to hide the fact that I’d had a drink, sneaking extra drinks whenever we had company, stealing money for drink, making any excuse to buy a bottle. And it got worse. I started to feel ashamed – a quick burn that another drink would fix. My daughter’s diary at school on open day – every weekend we went to this pub or that pub…the rows that would flare up and the way I turned from happy smiley to hell-cat with a couple of drinks.
I managed to divorce my husband for HIS unreasonable behavior and found somebody else who drank like me. I was in big trouble now. Desperately unhappy, life in chaos, coming to on the kitchen floor in the morning, trying to get kids to school, house being repossessed. I saw counselors, psychologists – blaming my childhood, my mother, my husband – anybody and everything. I was in trouble. But if only I could sort out the money (I borrowed and begged from anybody who stood still long enough). If I could only find the right man. If only I had a different upbringing. If only I got the right job. I’d be OK then. I kept trying to manage all this – with the same outcome – drunk and in a worse mess. I wore an old wax jacket – bottle up each sleeve and a half in the inside pocket, hadn’t cut my hair for years. One day a group of kids sitting on the wall at the end of my street shouted ‘ALKIE’ at me. I was furious, burning with shame – if only they knew what sort of life I had!
I had one ‘friend’ left. A neighbor who brought food for the kids, gave me money. She told me one Sunday morning that I had to do something or she’d have to walk away. She just couldn’t watch it any more. I don’t know what it was that pushed me to make the phone call to AA. Thank God for those AA members in service, people at the end of the phone 24/7 to handle calls from people like me, with nowhere left to go, no more excuses.
Within a couple of hours, two members of Alcoholics Anonymous were in my living room, curtains drawn, vodka tears and snot running. They were not interested in my problems. They told me about the way they drank and I knew they were like me. I’d never admitted it to anybody. They told me about alcoholism, the physical allergy which meant that once I had one drink I was unable to stop. The mental obsession which meant that I couldn’t leave it alone, no matter how bad it got. The spiritual malady which led to the terrible dark loneliness and terror. These people told me that they had found a way to stop drinking in AA and that their lives had changed for the better and they were happy. I don’t know why but I believed them. I did as they suggested. I went to a meeting near me, started going to others, started working the Steps. After a short time, the desire to drink left me and has not returned. My life has changed in ways that are beyond belief. I have faith in the future and I’m no longer ashamed of my past. I’m so grateful for the chance to live free from the obsession with alcohol.
This week we ran a feature about how some women with drinking problems are turning to moderation, not sobriety. The piece generated a lot of conversation on our site and social media about alcoholism, recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous. Here is one response to that piece.
I know there are people who can control their alcohol intake. I’ve been to dinner with them. I’ve watched as they drank one glass of wine, maybe two, and then switched to water.
I am not this type of drinker. I don’t even understand this type of drinker. If I have one drink, I will always follow it with a second. In fact, why have one glass of wine when the whole bottle is right there?
I am 44 and I am powerless over alcohol. I am a strong, independent, well-educated woman, and I have no problem admitting that I have a drinking problem. At least I don’t now, 12 years after Alcoholics Anonymous saved me from myself.
I struggled with alcohol off and on for seven years before deciding to go to AA. Some days, I was so hungover at work after drinking a bottle or two of wine the night before that I’d vomit in the bathroom. When a good friend got married, hungover from the rehearsal dinner, I could barely get my act together to be there for her while the bridal party gathered pre-wedding. (Another bridesmaid had to call to remind me that I had agreed to be there early. I didn’t even remember.)
I went on dates when I had two or three glasses of wine … before the date began. One night I was walking up the back stairs of my apartment building, wineglass in hand, and I tripped and fell. I remember being so embarrassed that someone could see me while I was sprawled on the steps, covered in wine.
I did not wake up one day and say, “Boy I sure am tired of being hungover, I think I’ll give AA a try!” I tried to quit on my own, many times, over a three-year period. I’d tell myself I was going to quit or cut down and then find myself at the liquor store on my way home from work. I’d visit with friends or family and tell myself that I should only have one or two drinks but I failed every time.
I didn’t want to be an alcoholic. I wanted to find a way to avoid the stigma, to somehow learn to control my drinking. But, when I found myself on my knees, crying and praying — begging really — for someone to help me, I knew it was time to admit that my drinking had become unmanageable. I could no longer pretend that it was something I could “figure out” on my own.
The struggle I describe was a private one. Sure, I drank with friends and family from time to time. But no one knew how much, or how often, I was drinking at home, by myself.
On the outside, it seemed like I had it together: I had a full-time job, never had a DUI, and never drank during work hours. I didn’t drink the hard stuff and was quite content with beer and wine. I was what people refer to as a functioning alcoholic.
Not a single friend or family member ever expressed concern about my drinking. This is partly because drinking was normalized in my environment but also because I was hiding my problem. And the trouble with hiding any addiction is that you’re the only one who can force help on yourself.
When I first started to think that I really might have a problem, I didn’t know what to do. I was growing increasingly embarrassed by my behavior, which quite frankly, had become life-threatening. I actually woke up one morning to find that candles I had lit the night before, to create ambience while I was drinking by myself, were still going the next morning. That scared me.
I began testing the waters by telling other people about my drinking problem. My ex-boyfriend told me I was crazy and immediately dismissed my self-diagnosis. Another friend tried to talk me out of it. But I knew.
I walked into Barnes & Noble and plopped down in the self-help/alcoholism section and flipped through a few books before finding one that a quiz to tell whether or not I was drinking too much. I wanted further “proof” that would confirm yes, you are definitively an alcoholic and should seek treatment immediately, and this book had something that was close enough for me. (I wish I could remember the title to share here, but I have since given it away.)
The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence has this type of assessment online and I have since referred other people to it.
After taking the quiz, which confirmed my instincts about my drinking, I went to a drug and alcohol treatment center to get a free evaluation. They recommended treatment, which was not a viable or an affordable option for me at the time. So I continued drinking.
I finally told a former boss, my mentor at the time, that I had a problem. She was in recovery and had well over 10 years of sobriety. She took me to my first AA meeting that night. I wasn’t ready. I was still resistant to the idea of being an alcoholic and I didn’t want to be in their group.
But within six months, I was back. My dumb actions were starting to hurt people I cared about and I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to apologize to friends or let them down anymore. I felt terrible about myself and as much as I couldn’t imagine living without alcohol, I couldn’t imagine living with it anymore either. I was done. I had reached bottom, and I wanted no more of it.
I walked into a meeting and sat there scared, tired, lost, and ready to do whatever they told me to do. I had selected this particular meeting because it was nonsmoking and I remember being surrounded by people who reminded me of my grandfather, the parents of my friends, young guys I would’ve gone to school with, and professional women I could’ve seen in my own office building. These were really normal, everyday people.
I cried the whole time. Afterward, I was given books from Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book for example, schedules of future meetings, phone numbers, and handwritten notes of encouragement. I’d never felt that immediately accepted by a group of people in my life, and these were total strangers. They saved my life. I went back immediately and attended regularly (several times a week) for almost two years.
That was 12 years ago. I have attended meetings from time to time over the years, and when I was in town, went back to thank my “home group” around my 10-year anniversary.
Sobriety is not always an easy way of life, particularly early sobriety. It’s tough to say no every time someone offers you something to drink. I felt like I didn’t fit in, when all I wanted was to fly beneath the radar. It takes a tremendous amount of courage, willpower, support, and sometimes sheer stubbornness to stay on the path you’ve chosen.
It’s a whole new way of life. But it’s so worth it. I’ve never regretted getting sober. Once it stuck, I’ve never looked back. But this is not to say that from time to time I don’t have a fleeting thought that it would be nice to have just one margarita.
But the great thing about AA — and a common misconception about the program — is that I don’t have to give up alcohol forever. AA just asks that you take it one day at a time. Just don’t drink today, and then tomorrow you can decide again. And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve never said forever, and I don’t think I ever will. But for the past 12 years, any time it crosses my mind, I always say “nah, not today.”
I love jail–the kind where I bring an AA meeting and then get to leave afterward. Last night I went to the small county jail where a few of us bring a meeting. I was the only one able to attend from the outside. The officer said I could expect at least one woman. Well, five showed up and that, my friend, was a record. The women ranged in age from 18 to 49, some with no children, some with as many as seven children, and expressed various degrees of willingness. Listening to their stories, I was reminded of where I had been and where I will go if I drink again.
Recently, my sponsor was reminding me that my job as a sponsor (and I can generalize this to Twelfth Step work) is to share my experience, period. The end result is that I stay sober, no matter what happens to the other person. I do hope all five women stay sober but the one thing I knew for sure, leaving that jail last night, was that I had some more insurance against a drink.