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- July 24, 2016 at 4:18 pm#39836AnonymousInactive
Actually, I usually go by “Lexie” (not my real name) but it was already taken. Ah, “life on life’s terms.”
After a few registration problems, I’m finally here (*pause to check for all limbs, feeling head*). Well, mostly here. I lost a few marbles along the way.
I wrote out my “story” for another forum where I post. It’s kinda long, because there are a couple of other people’s stories intertwined with my own. Anyway, if you happened to be at a speaker’s meeting where I was sharing, this is pretty much what you’d hear:
I grew up in a military household. Strangely, we were stationed in the same place from the time I was five until my dad retired from the Air Force when I was in junior high, and we stayed in Colorado after that. My dad enjoyed a cold beer if he was working in the yard, occasionally had a beer after work or with his poker buddies. My mom’s idea of “drinking” was serving Mogen David concord wine with a holiday dinner. To my knowledge nobody in my family–even extended family–has ever had a drinking problem. I once begged for a sip of my father’s (rare) martini, and it was disgusting.
I went to high school ON the U.S. Air Force Academy, and at the time there were no women admitted. It was GREAT for my social life–four thousand young, single guys, all clean-cut and in uniform. In Colorado they had at the time something called “3.2 beer,” which you could legally buy at 18–anything else you had to be 21 to buy. They served 3.2 beer at cadet functions, and there were clubs for 18-year-olds that served only 3.2 beer. I got myself a fake ID, and immediately liked the buzz I got from drinking. There were squadron parties every weekend, and my girlfriends and I (if we didn’t have a date) would call around to find out where they were. The parties were where the REAL booze was, and I took to that immediately. Rum and coke, seven-and-seven, Southern Comfort–all the sweet stuff that would give you a good buzz fast. I always overdid it when I drank–and I would often drink myself sick–nothing like getting known as the girl who would wind up with her head in the toilet by the end of the night to make you popular. And I DID want to be popular–I’d spent most of my life up until high school being one of the “outsiders”–I always had friends, but we were definitely on the lower rungs of the social ladder. Nerds who were in the school band. But once I was partying and drinking, I felt comfortable and seemed to fit in with other people who were in the same drunk, silly condition I was. I could pick up guys when I was drinking. I LOVED to party.
After a broken engagement that broke my heart while I was still living at home and going to college, I went away to school for my last year and a half. I met my first husband when he was 18 and I was 20 and we lived in the same dorm. I think the attraction for him was that I still had my good fake ID and could buy booze. He was like the most utterly INSANE drinkers you read about in the Big Book. He could be incredibly self-destructive when he was drunk, which was almost all the time. I couldn’t compete with the way this guy drank, though I certainly tried. When I graduated, he dropped out of school and got a job working for the university, while I moved back to my home town. We still saw each other every weekend–I would drive up there or he would ride the bus down. I got a good job and settled down and stopped drinking so much. It was starting to upset and worry me that he didn’t seem able to make the bus ride down to see me without downing a pint of brandy on the bus ride.
One day I was telling someone at work about how worried I was about my boyfriend’s crazy drinking, and she reached into a bookshelf and said, “Why don’t you show him this book?” I’d heard of AA but knew nothing about it, and I took it home and read it cover to cover. When he came down for the weekend I told him I was worried about his seeming inability to stop drinking, and gave him the book to read. He read some of it and thought it was interesting, but he wasn’t interested in a meeting. He said he thought he could do it on his own, but promised that if it didn’t work out he would go to a meeting. After a few unsuccessful attempts at quitting, he finally agreed to go to a meeting with me at a rehab. He thought the people seemed nice enough, but had no interest in going back. Eventually, I had enough of the craziness, and told him I needed to take a break from our relationship for awhile. While we were apart, he finally went on his own to a meeting. That was thirty years ago, and he hasn’t had a drink since.
We got married after he was sober for a year, moved across the country because I was going to law school on the east coast (which I now appreciate was a huge sacrifice and risk on his part), and he got involved in AA here. I didn’t stick with Al-Anon because I was in my own little world with school. For years, I rarely drank, mostly out of support for him. We didn’t keep it in the house, and I would go out for a drink now and then with my friends, but I didn’t have the money to buy more than an occasional drink. I graduated, got a job, we had a couple of kids, and eventually the marriage disintegrated. I started going out drinking with my friends after work at least a couple of nights a week, and I was feeling very “trapped” in my marriage. I started to think all my problems would be solved by getting out of the marriage. I still cared about him, but didn’t want to be married to him. (I still need to examine how much of that was the self-centeredness that is at the root of my problems.) He was very hurt by my leaving, but he turned to people in the program (as well as a good counselor) to help him through it. We managed to handle the divorce in an amicable way–the boys stayed with him during the weekdays, and I was able have the “freedom” I thought I wanted.
A few months later, I got involved with another alcoholic (big surprise), and we started drinking together on a daily basis. I wasn’t the worst mother in the world, but I certainly was far from the best–my new relationships–with the man and the renewed one with alcohol–took priority over my involvement with my kids. I rationalized it that they were better off with their dad–which was true, no doubt, but I underestimated how much they needed me. Eventually, my new partner became ill with pneumonia and went into acute withdrawal in the hospital. He literally hung at death’s door for a couple of weeks. His liver and kidneys shut down. He called me from the hospital, hallucinating that there were cameras and microphones in the wall. He had to be put into restraints because he became violent in the hospital, and slipped into a coma. The doctors told me IF he lived, he would need a liver transplant. When he woke from the coma he was yellow from head to toe. His eyes looked like they had been colored with yellow food coloring. He developed ascites (distended abdomen filled with fluid). After a few days in the hospital’s detox unit, where we went to a few meetings, he was discharged. I had called my first husband in a panic when all this started, and he located my old Al-Anon book for me, and got one of his friends to make a twelfth-step call at the hospital. I clung to Al-Anon as I desperately tried to maintain my own sanity through this terrifying experience. Gradually, my new partner got better, and when they were finally able to do a liver biopsy, he was found to have EARLY cirrhosis–as long as he didn’t drink he should make a full recovery. We both went to meetings. There were a couple of slips, but he seemed to be committed to recovery.
When my first husband had an opportunity for a company move back to Colorado (which he desperately missed), we all (me, the ex, my new partner, the ex’s new partner) decided to move back west. In a burst of unwarranted optimism, I married the new partner, figuring he was solidly on the path of recovery. Back in Colorado, though, my second husband soon lost his job and went back to drinking, while I desperately tried to hold things together. Eventually, I decided I couldn’t stand the prospect of another deathbed vigil, and I left the second husband. I hated my new job, I hated my life, and when I got the chance to move back to New Jersey and go back to my old job, I jumped at it. My kids were at the age where being with their friends on the weekends was more important to them than spending time with mom (I lived an hour and a half away in Colorado), and we decided that they or I could travel for holidays together. I’m very fortunate that my first husband and I have remained such good friends–I stay with him and his wife when I go out to be with the kids. I don’t think that would have happened without AA.
When I came back, I started buying booze and drinking at home, by myself, for the first time. That was the beginning of my “pickle-ization.” I met someone and we moved in together. He was a winemaker by profession, but seldom drank. He is a naturally moderate drinker. There were a lot of stressful aspects to the relationship. I continued to drink on a daily basis, and soon started hiding my drinking. I hid bottles around the house, lied about what I was drinking, and basically began to drink in the hallmark ways that alcoholics do. When he finally got disgusted enough to insist that I “do something” about my drinking, I joined a support group to achieve moderate drinking habits. Even though I was grateful for the miracles I had seen in AA, including my first husband and many of his friends, I thought that AA was the absolute last resort. I was sure that I wasn’t as “bad” as people in AA, and that I was smart enough to get a handle on my drinking through my own efforts.
I spent four and a half years telling myself I was “working” on my drinking problem. Even though I could reduce the number of drinks for periods of time, I was still drinking on a daily basis, and not making any real progress. When my relationship with the winemaker ended (for reasons unrelated to drinking), I was completely on my own and unable to blame other people for my continued drinking. Eventually I had to face the fact that what I was doing wasn’t working. I could not seem to get a handle on my compulsion to drink, no matter what I did. I was physically addicted–I would binge-drink on weekends, go through withdrawals on a daily basis until I got home and could get my “dose” of alcohol, rinse and repeat. I was starting to get some other scary physical and mental symptoms, and I was beginning to suspect I had passed the point of no return so far as drinking went. My “moment of clarity” came after a weekend binge, following which I had shakes, dizziness, and nausea so bad that I had to have someone drive me home from work. I no longer had classic hangovers, and this scared me.
Having seen what my second husband had gone through when he stopped drinking abruptly, I decided to carefully attempt to detox at home. I allowed myself one drink every several hours for three days. I planned to have my last drink on Thursday night. Wednesday I poured out every bottle in the house (I had accumulated a lot of bottles of wine from my years with the winemaker–even though it wasn’t my drink of choice, I didn’t think it was smart to keep them in the house). The day after my last drink, I went to my first AA meeting for MYSELF. I remember I said something like, “My name is Lexie and I think I’m probably finally ready to admit I’m an alcoholic.” On my fourth day sober, I had a sewer back up into my basement, completely flooding it. At 10:30 that night, four days almost to the minute from my last drink, a neighbor knocked at my door, and put a cold beer into my hand, saying, “I figured you could use this.” After a three-second panic, I politely refused it. Something told me it wouldn’t be a good idea to take it, even if I poured it down the sink the way I did the wine. My obsession to drink was lifted, and I haven’t had a serious urge to drink, since.
I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, joined two home groups, in which I remain active with service. I got a sponsor, and am finally working the steps with her. Even though I don’t struggle with not-drinking, I know I have a lot of work to do for my life to look the way I want it to look. I’m grateful that I am no longer enslaved by my addiction to alcohol. I’m grateful that my life holds possibilities again. I’ve been sober for close to two years now, and I love going to meetings. Life is not all peaches and cream. I have some big problems (unrelated to alcohol) that I am currently facing. I know I can deal with them much more effectively sober than I would have if I had continued to drink away the pain of facing them.
I just want to remind everyone that sometimes you carry the message when you don’t even know it, simply by living your recovery. When I was breaking through my final mental barriers to coming into AA, what I kept coming back to was the miracles I have seen AA work in the lives of people I’ve met. I’ve also known many people who have recovered outside of AA. I don’t think it’s the only path to recovery, though it works wonderfully for me and for many others.
As you may have gathered, from my avatar, I’m interested in Buddhist recovery as well. The image in my avatar is from The 12-Step Buddhist, and One Breath at a Time is one of my all-time favorite recovery books.
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