It’s a Progressive Illness

I was a weekend beer drinker. Until that is, a few beers suddenly became a became a six-pack at every instance. Then a six-pack became a 12 pack, which in turn became an excuse to get home later and then…when I chose.

Somewhere along the way I found Ketel One vodka. What a relief that was. No more beer for the burgeoning beer gut! In no time I was off and running with Ketel One. Yep, one martini became two martini’s, and two martini’s soon became tee martini’s and, on and on. Then I would hop in the car and drive home!

I remember the first time I drank a whole bottle of Ketel One. I proceeded to throw it up. Without missing a beat, I was struck with thought – “hey, I can drink again”. And so I did!! About that time I self-diagnosed myself as a “functional alcoholic”. That worked! My new label had a certain ring of self-control and dignity to it. Order was restored. Truth be told, my self-respect was beginning to wane. I was aware of it and by giving myself the “functional alcoholic” label, I seemingly could better cope with this awareness.

I know things were starting to look a bit out of control, but I still had a few basic rules that I was abiding by! For one, I never started drinking before 7:30am. But as soon as the family pulled out of the driveway for work and school (always at about 7:30) I was mixing a drink. Toward the end of my drinking, I would put away one bottle before noon, take about a two-hour break and then start in on another bottle. Of that bottle, I would leave about an inch so that I could have enough for an “eye opener” the following morning. After my “eye opener” I would wait around to about 9am and then hit the store for more booze.

My prodigious drinking had crossed that “invisible line” and I was completely unaware. I was physically and mentally addicted to alcohol. I had lost the power of choice. I was no longer in control. It didn’t matter how much feeling and belief that I put into my thousands of pledges to stop drinking, I would always break that pledge no matter what. Despite adverse consequences, which were occurring on a more frequent basis, I would always return to the bottle. I could no longer take it or leave it, for “it” had taken me!

Alcoholism is a slippery slope. It is a progressive illness. And it’s damn sneaky too!

About Me

“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.”

– Alice Miller (from her book The Drama of the Gifted Child)

For many years, I worked hard to build a charmed life. I had been living that life to the fullest until I took a precipitous fall into the abyss of alcoholism. Unwittingly, I claimed my family as hostages and took them right along with me.

I survived addiction and have been in recovery since February 9, 2007. Since that time, I have been working courageously, and sometimes not, to face the trauma/emotional pain that caused my addiction and ripples through my life today.

Writing My Story has been revealing and cathartic.  Glad that you stopped by!

 

Finding the Right Therapist

 I’m sure that you are aware that sobriety is a lot more than quitting alcohol or drugs.  Newly sober, it seems our human nature wants to make everything right as quickly as possible.  From my experience and from observing many others, I don’t believe that it is humanly possible to fast track recovery.  I tried to carry that out with all the strength I could muster and, in hindsight, I might have been better off by going down to the beach to try to stop a few waves from breaking.  This takes time!  And for me, it also took a village!

 And of course, as someone who is prone to addiction, it is completely foreign to seek help or to allow others to step in and row the oars for a bit.  But taking “contrary action” is critical.

 I have had good and bad experiences with therapy.  While chemically dependent, my experiences were mostly ineffective – go figure!  As I gained strength in sobriety, through time and effort, my experiences with therapy became more rewarding.

Here is what I learned.  Your therapist is critical.  I would focus less on one that has addiction counseling experience and focus more on finding one that has a good understanding of their own self.  Of course, if they have both, then you’re probably in good hands.  The best way that I know how to describe what I am referring to is to direct you to the website of Alice Miller, a wonderful psychologist and author.  The website address is www.alice-miller.com

I have found Alice Miller an incredible source.  Enter a search on her home page for “enlightened witness”.   That description would be my recommendation of how to find the right counselor.  Her book “The Drama of the Gifted Child” has changed my life.

 If you’re newly sober, my one caution would be that getting too deep into this material (with so much going on already in early sobriety) would be putting the cart WAY, WAY before the horse!    It has been my experience that tackling the subject that Alice Miller addresses is something that is better received when you have had some sobriety under your belt.  I was well into my third year of sobriety before I was able to fully absorb her material.  Before that, I was just too broken and too mentally weak. 

Strength in sobriety comes the old-fashioned way – by putting in the time.  And sometimes that’s just being sober and letting time heal you.

Goodbye Blue Sky

“Look mummy, there’s an airplane up in the sky”

Pink Floyd, The Wall

 Have you ever listened to the lyrics of this song and wondered what they meant.  The melody is so soothing but the lyrics are anything but that.  The confliction reminds me of my childhood in a lot of ways.

 For most of my adult life I suppressed all notion of having anything but a happy childhood.  When certain unpleasant childhood memories did breakthrough the phalanx of my suppression, I played my own little game of “trump that”.  I just reached into my memory bank of abuse stories that I had collected, all ranked as being worse than any abuse that I suffered and I sought solace in knowing that others suffered worse abuse.  Like the woman who told me that eleven broken bones as a child is her badge of courage.  Or the man who told me how he, as a child, endured blows from a ball-peen hammer when he failed to memorize math formulas that his father had given him as an exercise.  In my mind, those were all worse cases of abuse.

 Today, I know that no rating scale for abuse exists.  If your soul was pierced as a child, you most likely have a deep wound that, unless addressed at some point in your life, will never properly heal.  A soul sickness will remain.  That has been my experience. Continue reading “Goodbye Blue Sky”

Alcoholism’s Gift

I experience internal conflict when I state that quitting alcohol was the easy part.  There is nothing easy about putting down the bottle and getting sober.  It is the journey that awaits you that is also very difficult; in fact, I found it a lot more difficult.  I believe it is that way because we are now going forward in life sober and not numbed out to the world around us!  I wish someone would have given me a heads up about this because it was a rude awakening that I did not find inviting when I started to make this connection. Continue reading “Alcoholism’s Gift”

Three Years!

1,096 days, 42 minutes and 94694685 heart beats, so says the sobriety calculator.  I say that it’s good to be alive and celebrating 3 years of being alcohol free – today!

Graced!  That is how I feel today.  I don’t think of myself as being any sort of deeply religious person, but no better word describes how I feel.  I now realize that taking alcohol out of my body placed me at the starting line of life.  Not a new life, but one that has given me the opportunity to learn who I am.  It has given me the opportunity to put my “false self” behind me and to bring my true and authentic self to the forefront.  At three years into this journey, I am overwhelmed with elation and I look forward to every day in front of me.

Reflecting back three years, for a moment, I have found this journey to be the most difficult thing that I have ever met in my life.  At year one, I was “happy” for the most part.  I was on a ski trip with my daughter for that anniversary and I knew that our trip would not have been if I was still drinking.  What I didn’t realize at the first year mark was that I was still in an unconscious state!  The full impact of the guilt, shame and remorse for the lives that I had affected, while drinking, had yet to wash over me.

 On my second anniversary I was completely paralyzed with fear.  I was definitely conscious and I was hurting.  My critical thinking skills had returned to me and I was seriously questioning the ideology of AA.  I wanted to move in another direction but found myself conflicted with the AA slogan that “this (AA) is the last house on the block.  Only jail, institutions or death await you if you leave AA” brainwashing!  Above all else, I didn’t want to run my life into the ground again.

Full of fear, I struck out on this journey of “self discovery”.  With the help of a great counselor and the love and closeness of my family and friends, I made that journey out of darkness.  I learned to forgive myself (that was tough) and I have found a wonderful life that makes me want to stay sober each and everyday.  I also discovered that all that fear I felt in my second year – it was really courage!  So that was an added bonus.  I now know that courage does not mean that you are walking forward without fear.

If this post apply’s to you in any way, it my sincere wish that you will be able to find your place as a sober person and that you will be able to, or are already taking, an amazing journey of your own!

The Time Element

1,084 days, 6 hours and 42 minutes and…93,667,839 heartbeats!  I have a sober anniversary fast approaching and decided to plug my sobriety date into one of those online sobriety calculators. 

So what does 1,084 days feel like and what does it mean to me?  I am suddenly flooded with clichés related to time.  Such as “time heals all wounds”, “time marches on”, “hindsight is 20/20” and “time takes time” etc.

What does it feel like?  It feels incredibly great.  And by “great” I definitely do not mean all good.  But great in the sense that I now have an awareness, an understanding and acceptance that life is an on-going series of “good” things and “bad” things.  Events that will bring you great joy and happiness and events that will bring you much disappointment and sorrow.  That, I believe is called the Balance of Life!  Knowing and accepting this balance has been gut wrenching at times, confusing, curious and joyful.   Overall, it has been 3 years of real maturing development for me.

One of the best messages that I could pass along to someone who is just joining the ranks of the “ex-drinker” is that Time Takes Time!  That’s a bit redundant and easy to remember.  From my experience, the first thing that I wanted to do newly sober, was fix things as quickly as possible and put back all the time that I thought I had lost.  No doubt there was a ton of wreckage behind me.  I needed to mend relationships, get a job, lose 40 lbs, get my brown lawn looking green again and go out and proclaim what good fortune had come upon me.  In hindsight, I would have been better off going down to the ocean and trying to stop the waves from breaking.  That’s a good visual of what I was trying to do with my life.

If it feels like you are trying to swim against the rapids, chances are good that is exactly what you are doing!  With hindsight and the passage of time, my advice to anyone today would be to recognize what you “want to do post-haste”, put it aside and focus squarely on taking care of yourself.  There is no need for proclamation either.  People are happy that you are showing a want to bring yourself out of a nose dive and they will be supportive of you.  Keep the proclamations in your support circle as a constant need for that and that is the proper place. 

Surround yourself with others who have been there before you and heed their advice.  Learn how to a sober person – that takes time!  Take walks instead of runs.  It took a long time to put on those extra 40 lbs. and it will take time for them to come off.  Water your lawn which will slow you down.  The lawn will eventually turn green again but it will not be over night.  And it will not be restored by flooding it once or twice.  It will come back to life through nurturing and daily care.  Your life will come back to you in this same way.  Turning your face into the sunlight will help too!