I came upon this blog http://gotfleasaa.wordpress.com/ written from the perspective of a husband and father who’s married to an active alcoholic. He expertly recounts his days with a drunken wife and it touches me on many levels. I see what it’s like for the non-alcoholics in the family and I feel for the woman who is suffering from alcohol addiction. I’m especially sad for the children who are in the middle of it all. They didn’t chose this mom and the children can’t disown what is biologically a part of them, even though the kids do physically distance themselves from her. But the guy did choose this woman as his wife; he can leave her or stick around and help her. He has way more options than the kids.
My priorities have always been my children, not alcohol. I want to use this guy’s blog to selfishly justify that I’m not an alcoholic because “Look, I’m not as bad as this guy’s wife” which is undeniably true. But does that make me less of an alcoholic?
My mind plays tricks on me and is convincingly offering reasons I’m not an alcoholic. First and foremost, I don’t get smashed in public. I’ve never gotten a dui because I won’t drive if I’ve been drinking. My husband works 10 hour days so I drive my kids to all of their extra-curricular activities (soccer, trombone, umpiring, basketball, fishing, friend’s houses, etc.). Never have I gone to a school event or sports event for my kids having drank beforehand. If my kid is out late at a dance or with friends and I know I’m going to open a bottle of wine, I ask around for him to get a ride or my husband does it. I take care of my kids at all times of the day and night because my husband crashes in his recliner and wouldn’t know it if a hurricane hit. In fact, he rarely put them to bed because it was always my job. I don’t pass out on the floor, dead drunk. I don’t drink fifths of anything and I never will. I haven’t had a black out.
Does this make me less of an alcoholic? Or am I just earlier in the stages of alcoholism?
I view myself so differently than the drunks who have hit a hard bottom. My alcohol dependency is emotional-based and I’m not physically addicted.
REALITY CHECK –
- My blood pressure was getting moderately high and drinking was not helping.
- Mixing antidepressants, anxiety meds, and alcohol was dangerous.
- I couldn’t get my ass out of bed on weekends from the hangovers.
- Alcohol caused my migraines to be 10 times worse.
- My memory was worsening and some days I felt like I was faking my way through work.
- I didn’t want to go out at night so I could stay home and drink.
- I drank to push down my marital problems.
- The amount of wine I consumed in one sitting was increasing.
- The recycle bin was overflowing with wine bottles being the most abundant item.
- I drove to different wine shops so no one would think I had a drinking problem.
- I hid how much I drank from everyone.
- Before bed, I always put the empty wine bottle under the sink because I didn’t want to see it on the kitchen counter in the morning. Out of sight out of mind.
- My Best Self knows that drinking is not allowing me to grow to my full potential.
I made that list off the top of my head and I’m sure if I used a signs of alcoholism checklist there would be more. These are warning signs that alcohol is a problem. It’s undeniably true.
But, and I wish there wasn’t a “but,” I can’t see the way out at this moment in time. I’m stuck in thick shit and my mind is so overloaded with emotions that there’s no place for rational thought. The crap is bouncing from head to toe and ear to elbow – I really can’t rationalize my way out because the shit is too thick right now.
I’m trying. I went to meetings this week and expressed my emotional struggles. The members said, “Keep coming.” I talked to an AA girlfriend who wants to get coffee tomorrow. I spoke with my best girlfriend who offered to get together.
I’m not trying. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to feel judged by my weaknesses. I’m isolating way too much. I’m over thinking everything in the negative perspective.
I’m on a spiral downward.
I’m going over to my first blog because this post is beginning to sound more like depression. People who suffer from depression and anxiety will understand how hard it is to make lasting change when negativity invades from the inside. www.mydepressionchronicles.wordpress.com
I could tell it was going to be a bad day. All the signs pointed to it. She was going to be drunk, super drunk and it was going to last all day. She had been in a bad mood since I told her she couldn't drive the twin's home from their softball game and it was building. She called early in the morning to complain that the oldest hadn't cleaned her room, she called early afternoon and I could tell she was drunk, and when I got home the car was gone.
So, I relapsed on day 117 on my path to sobriety. I recognize that I fell back into an old way of life. Here’s the story of One Night; Too Many Glasses of Wine.
The day began with an early morning therapy session where I shared feelings of resentment I have toward my husband of 20 plus years. The therapist didn’t offer any concrete advice but did suggest my spouse and I act like we are siblings stuck in the latency period, whatever the fuck that means. My therapist is going away for 2 weeks and when she returns I have surgery scheduled. These events cause resentment, abandonment and defenselessness –– all feelings I’ve spent my life avoiding.
Later, the same day, I set an expectation to have a family dinner and went food shopping. Next, Husband tells me he is going fishing with one of our kids and kid’s friend and they will be out till dusk. Isolation, abandonment, and anger took over.
At this point, I recognized the feelings of being hungry, angry, lonely, and tired (HALT). I went to my backyard and started the grill to feed myself and other son. Gardens upon gardens of flowers and weeds surround me within an enclosed pool area. The furniture hasn’t been pulled out of storage, the pool is covered, and the garden needs a spring clean-up. There are 4 yards of mulch ready to be spread.
Cue the pity party. I was pulled down so fast into an overwhelming state of being that I turned the grill to low, left the hamburgers on and drove to the liquor store for a bottle of wine. The store is close by, a little more than a stone’s throw away and for the last 117 days I’ve been driving by it without stopping. This night I went in and the sales clerk talked to me like a long-lost friend. I made it back to the grill in time to flip the burgers but not before opening the bottle. I poured the wine into my neglected wine glass and took a few sips.
Any alcoholic knows the rest of the story. A sense of calm and tranquility overcame me. I had some guilt for drinking but the relief I got was so palpable I did not care. I had lost my footing and grabbed onto what I know, which is a glass of wine. I drank for a couple hours and when my husband arrived home I told him and then I went to bed alone. I basically had a selfish night with the attitude of fuck you.
But, it’s really okay. This is just one incident that’s a mere speed bump along the way.
I see my life in the bigger picture and it is so much more than just one slip-up. I drink to cope with difficult feelings and I want to change my behaviors so that I can be the best for myself and my family. If I want to make significant modifications in my habits there will be fallbacks. I have a long way to go — to discover new ways to cope when I’m overcome with anger, isolation, and resentments.
My journey to sobriety doesn’t end here.
My blog is called Emotional Drinking because I hate to feel anything and doing so is a trigger to drink. I want to drink when things are great but I have better self-control at those times; it’s when resentments build up and I’m left to my own resources that I feel the need to drink. This is the current state I’m in. The drinking didn’t fix my feelings or make them disappear forever. I’m still on emotional overload.
But, I’m not drinking. I went to an AA women’s step meeting last night and talked about my emotional roller coaster ride. I’m trying to acknowledge and understand.
A big can of worms was opened when I began to share my marital conflicts in therapy. The protectiveness I’ve kept over my marriage is very similar to how I dissociated throughout childhood. I don’t know what it is about me that I must protect an image of me living in a healthy marriage or having a happy childhood. I also don’t know why my perception of any of my close relationships is felt so deeply as to cause me to feel painfully wounded.
My life was not that bad! My life is actually good right now.
Why, oh why, do I feel such emotional pain and misery? While others can accept their lot in life, I constantly feel singled out as too sensitive and completely unable to handle emotional issues. For 30 years alcohol has helped by bringing relief from an ache inside.
I took a giant step and began to talk about my marriage with my therapist. She has no idea how exposed this makes me. I fear I’ll want to leave my husband because I can’t stand feeling like this. When things get tough I run or I drink. There’s no middle ground. How do I express myself and sit with the aftermath of feelings?
I want to close the can of worms and go back in time. It’s too damn hard to live without alcohol as a numbing agent for my emotions. Life was simpler when I could drink and stuff my feelings.
I thought I was making progress by immersing myself in meetings and readings and expressing my resentments. All of that was helpful; however I’ve learned some things.
I’ve learned that it isn’t enough to surround myself with people who no longer drink.
I learned reading memoirs on alcoholism isn’t going to keep me sober.
No amount of daily reflection will stop me when my emotions try to break through.
Having two guys I don’t know write about the seriously-diseased alcoholic is interesting but not effective. I don’t deny AA has many useful ideas but reading about them didn’t solve my drinking.
Nothing will change until I take the steps to make real change in my life.
There are things I can do next time:
Find a sponsor.
Call a number I’ve gotten in AA. (I actually did call two friends who know I’m in AA, one I met in a meeting but neither was available. I have other numbers but I was too proud or afraid to go down the list).
Watch for warning signs of feeling detached and disengaged. They were there a week or two before I drank. I wasn’t sharing at meetings but I kept going to hear other’s horror stories. I cannot tell you how many times I heard personal tales of driving while intoxicated, license suspension, loss of jobs, divorces, being kicked out of homes, living on the streets or in their cars, black outs, car accidents and even death.
It was too much for me. In the midst of exposing my own hard truths about my marriage I was hearing about horrible happenings to others. These were people that I related to. My empathy is strong and I felt their pain deeply. Combine my emotions with others stories and I was flooded with an intensity way beyond my coping capacity.
I will keep going to AA meetings and fight for God’s will and not my own. God wants me to be at my best and that means integrating my feelings into a mind that can cope with it. My mind will only learn these coping skills in sobriety.
That’s about as positive as I’m going to get tonight – offering myself acceptance and compassion for where I am this moment in life.
I’m back to day 1 after 117 days of sobriety. I was so close to 4 months! I saw the warning signs and went to 2 meetings a day this past week but after a particularly difficult therapy session on Saturday I broke down and bought a bottle of wine. I was feeling so tired, resentful and disengaged from everyone that my old ways took over.
I will go back to meetings and begin again, this time more humble and willing to admit I’m powerless over my drinking. I am trying not to beat myself up over this but my husband is so snippy and angry I can hardly stand him! He was out both nights this weekend (non-drinker) and I felt seriously angry and overly tired. Actually all of the HALT signs were at play — I was hungry, angry, lonely and tired.
This is a lesson learned but can I live differently and change my ways next time? I don’t feel too optimistic but I’m going to give it my best shot.
My husband is being so good to me and in sobriety I’m accepting his love considerably more than I have for the last decade I was drinking. I recognize I had a habit of self-sabotage and in doing so I justified and perpetuated my drinking. “My family doesn’t want to help me clean up the house so I’ll just drink this bottle of wine as I fold the laundry to help me get through it.” The other extreme is not allowing my family to love me because I was full of self-loathing and the regular hangovers caused me to think and say things like, “I don’t need anything special for Mother’s Day. Just let me stay in bed alone.”
This weekend was different. I allowed my husband to spoil me on Mother’s Day. I did feel guilty that I got things that I wanted and the children were pretty much forced to be with me all day for meals and a shopping spree at a bead store. I unnecessarily worried about the expense and time everyone was giving to me because accepting love and allowing others to show they value me is foreign. I tend to wallow in self-pity which I realize is selfish as well as harmful to myself. What a dichotomy!
This weekend I was sober and fully present. I pushed past the negative feelings and soaked up the good stuff like a sponge. I can tell my husband’s been waiting years for me to allow him to fully show his love. I kept thanking him for the wonderful Mother’s Day (flower’s, breakfast and dinner out, cards, gifts, etc.) and before bed I told him that it was the best Mother’s Day ever and he sincerely asked, “Was it really?”
His response is indicative of how few times I’ve said thanks and meant it. When I was drinking I did what I was supposed to do and said the appropriate words but I never felt grateful or thankful because I was too busy wallowing in my own self-pity and wasted life.
Sobriety is giving me the gift of accepting love from those who love me, which in turn allows me to fully feel and express that love in return.
My husband is so thrilled that I’m also enjoying extra kindness in the bedroom, too. Of course, I think that is more of a selfishly driven act but we both reap the benefits regardless of his motivation. J
This should go on the top of my gratitude list. Sobriety is opening me up to love.
I’m back on the AA bandwagon following a few close calls. They call it admitting I’m powerless. I am ready to acknowledge that I can’t manage my life with the way I’ve been thinking and I need help; I can’t do this sobriety thing on my own. The past few weeks were tough without having a back-up plan for when I was overcome with the desire to drink. I nearly broke my continuous string of sober days, but I didn’t. I am on day 111.
My husband and therapist got me through the recent doubts and urges although I realize that depending on people who don’t know what it’s like to have an addiction to alcohol is not as effective or reliable as surrounding myself with groups of people that all have some understanding of alcohol dependency.
I need to immerse myself in AA and here are some reasons why:
- Believing I don’t need a bunch of alcoholics separates me from them. Bad idea to think I’m different or better. It’s best to see the similarities and to be a part of a group that understands my thinking and my drinking.
- A big part of the reason I drank is a belief that I’m different. No one could ever understand my emotional pain. It’s too mixed-up crazy and if you knew just how badly, I’d be sent to an island to live by myself. My alcoholism thrives in self-centered thinking. I need to be in AA — to hear other’s stories and get it knocked into my head that I’m not as unique as I believe.
- Isolation is fertile ground for my thinking to take over. I hear so many in AA say I have a thinking problem and not a drinking problem. That sounded cliché until I allowed myself to really consider the phrase. My thinking does lead to my obsessive drinking so I found that phrase to be true. During the time I distanced myself from the AA rhetoric I also distanced myself from believing I was an alcoholic. My thinking took over and I almost fell back to drinking. Immersion in the program pulled me out of my diseased thinking.
- My own thoughts have got me where I am today. I have all of these selfish egos and the one that reigns supreme expects no less than perfection. It seems obvious that no one can attain such a standard except my other egos and that’s where my negative self and my inner critic come in to berate me.
- If I really want to stop drinking I’ve got to embrace some kind of higher power. This is the essence of AA, the special ingredient that makes it successful. I understand why people in AA say a god of my choosing because the point is not what I believe in but that I believe in something greater than myself. Back to the previous point here, my selfishness has caused my own insanity and I must open my mind and learn true humility to stay sober. That means losing the self-righteousness I bestow on myself and others.
- Who made me boss? Somehow I grew to think I needed to be perfect, without shortcomings and that kind of pressure has had a negative effect. I’m ready to give up. I’m not in the driver’s seat. There’s something bigger than myself. For me, on my personal journey, that means I can let up on the inner critic. Drinking helped dull the constant barrage of self-recrimination and if I can believe I’m not in charge I will rid myself of self-judgment and blame. Letting go will allow me to release the need I have to drink.
- Hearing other alcoholics work the AA program is part of my growth and healing. Never would I have thought this to be true. I believed I’m nothing like those men who hit a hard bottom and lost everything; but if I listen closely, it’s not the stories that are the same it’s the meaning behind the words. I watch big, strong men talk about getting on their knees, praying, and asking for help. This paradox is incredible to witness. My ego is as big as any muscular construction worker in AA. Each morning, after a night of drinking, I felt the same shame, regret, and hate for the person I had allowed myself to become. None of us want to inflict self-harm and live in condemnation. This is the glue that binds us.
I hit an AA meeting every day this week and the proof is in the pudding — I don’t feel isolated and in a frenzy like last weekend. I am deeply affected by AA and it’s not in the specifics; it is more in the commonalities. The words of other alcoholics reverberate in my head. The images of humility and self-effacement play in my mind. I hold in my heart tangible evidence of the camaraderie of those AA members who have been attending for years. I see that if I ask for help my diseased mind can be relieved of its suffering.
Much has changed. Most importantly, I have hope which comes in the shape of acknowledging a power greater than me and through a group of recovered drunks willing to share their stories. I am humbled and grateful.
My therapy session on Saturday morning left me feeling agitated and thrown off balance so, when evening rolled around, I desperately wanted a bottle of wine. I tried to settle my anxiety but my angst was all-encompassing. I ate dinner, hoping a full stomach would resolve tension but nothing changed. I took my nightly anxiety medication a bit earlier than usual. It’s prescribed for insomnia; however my therapist/psychiatric nurse approved taking it earlier in the evening to lessen anxiety and decrease my need for wine. That didn’t help either and by now it was 8:30 at night. Ninety days ago, at 8:30 on a Saturday night I would have been well on my way to drunkenness. With that thought, I could no longer shut off the convincing voice in my head saying, this is when you drink. I felt completely void of options and believed I had no other ways of coping at that moment.
Hey, no one can break a habit the first time they try.
I remembered when my son was 3 years old and he said he was ready to give up his nightly use of a pacifier, stating, “That’s for babies.” Subsequently we went to the town dump and he threw his pacifier into the giant dumpster. He was fine all through the day but that night he cried so much that I dug out a back-up pacifier, gave it to him reassuringly telling him how proud I was that he tried giving it up.
“Next time,” I said, “You’ll know how difficult it’s going to be to give up your pacifier and you’ll be more prepared.” Seven days later he went through the same motions and successfully gave up the habit of depending on his pacifier. He didn’t cry or ask for me to take out a hidden one.
My alcoholic mind tried to justify my need for a drink by thinking, If my son needed a couple tries to break a habit why can’t I give myself the same courtesy? This made perfect sense to me in that instant.
I stuffed $15 in my pocket, grabbed my keys, and contemplated whether to buy a 750 ml decent bottle of wine or a bigger 1.5 liter bottle of the cheaper stuff. My mind liked dancing with thoughts of wine, remembering names, vineyards, labels and flavors. Why not grab all my cash and splurge on an expensive bottle of white?
There was a tiny voice that knew I was breaking a promise I made to myself and I felt sneaky and guilty for just thinking about drinking. But addiction is fucked up and when it comes to over-powering rational thoughts it’s a sneaky bastard.
I walked into the room where my husband sat doing his usual — watching TV while playing Sudoku on his tablet.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
I could not lie. I carried a lot of anger and resentment from an earlier therapy session and I copped an attitude. “I need a bottle of wine right now.”
“What’s wrong? You said you aren’t going to drink.”
I answered, “I know, but I need to get out of my own head. I can’t calm down and shut off my thoughts.”
“You’ve been mad all day, avoiding me and acting like you hate me.”
I truthfully told him that I’m working things out in therapy and I’m not ready to share it.
He pushed me further and acted fearful that I was threatening or alluding to a separation or divorce. My anxiety rose to an all-time high and I held my head in my hands and fretted about. Husband had no idea what my issue was and demanded to know what was wrong. “Why are you acting this way?” He asked.
“Let’s go to [insert name of local restaurant with bar] and I’ll tell you about it over a glass of wine.”
My husband didn’t bite the bait. He answered, “If I want to do the right thing for you I won’t say yes.”
He went on to say he believes I don’t like or love him anymore. I reassured him that’s not true that it’s my own stuff. We talked for an hour or so and the exchange ended with him initiating an affectionate hug. He told me he loves me and he wants me to tell him what I need and be his wife.
My anxiety level dropped to zero. I had no desire for a glass of wine. I made myself a cup of tea and baked a cake for my two boys and my husband even though it was 9:30 pm. My 12 year old helped frost the cake and sprinkle it with candies. That’s what we did for fun on Saturday night!
It was a close call but I didn’t drink.
P.S. For more about my depression and what I’m working out in therapy you can visit my other blog at http://mydepressionchronicles.wordpress.com/