For Women Only:
This page is dedicated strictly to the unique issues that female alcoholics encounter. Here you will find editorials and articles written by other women that cover health issues, emotional issues and support for mothers who want to control their drinking.
I want to welcome Sara Berelsman as a contributor to this page. Sara is in the process of Re-Inventing her own life. She has extended the offer to communicate other women if you feel you want another person to talk with. (You pervert guys just BACK OFF! She's married, so leave her alone.) Here is a sample of Sara's writing:
One size fits all... Right.
Alcoholism is not a one-size-fits-all experience. And it drives me crazy when people treat it as one. I drink N/A beer. I drink alcohol-removed wine. I swish with Listerine. I take Nyquil. Deal with it.
None of these things might seem outlandish to some, but I’ve been harangued at AA meetings for admitting in engaging in such insane activities. This is why I’m reluctant to attend these meetings. And that’s another thing. Not everyone needs AA to do this. But don’t tell that to some AA members. They’ll flog you. Then throw empty Nyquil bottles at your lifeless body. (I kid.)
But seriously, I have been criticized for the way I’m choosing to go about not drinking. N/A beer has worked for me. I haven’t gone back to regular beer because of it, the biggest fear of hardcore AAers. I can use mouthwash without being tempted to chug the whole bottle and catch a buzz. Nyquil helps with my cold symptoms if that’s the case, and it helps me sleep. It doesn’t get me drunk.
It really, really bothers me when others try to shove their own agenda down my throat, dismissing my own hard efforts, even though my efforts have proven successful for close to nine months now. Thank you, as I pat myself on the back.
I just want to scream at these people, “What about your coffee addiction? Or those Marlboro Reds you’re chain-smoking? But I can’t incorporate mouthwash into my nightly routine?”
It is my opinion that anyone who has a problem with the way I do things has his or her own deep-seeded insecurities with the way he or she has been dealing with his or her own shit. I am fine with the way I’ve chosen to begin and continue my sobriety. Now leave me alone.
I’m not saying all AA members are evil. I’ve met a few wonderful people. I’m just saying it doesn’t work for everyone, and not everyone needs it. More often than not, I left meetings wanting to drink, and I didn’t when I got there. I hesitate to go back because of how I’ve been treated. To me, that’s not a successful program. But that is just my experience. I’ve proven that I can do this on my own. Some people can.
It just irks me when people put others into these arbitrary boxes and expect them to function the way they want them to. It doesn’t work that way. I know some recovering alcoholics who still smoke pot. Guess what? Pot doesn’t cause them to act in the damaging ways alcohol did. They’re fine with it, and I’m fine with it. I don’t judge anyone else’s non-drinking lifestyle.
I’m sure I’ll get criticism for some of my beliefs. I’ve gotten it my whole life, for various reasons. This is just how I feel. You may feel differently. That’s the beauty of living in a society in which we are free to disagree. And life is beautiful.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run to the Dollar Store. We’re almost out of Listerine.
By: Sara Berelsman
Funny, I used to joke around by saying I didn’t trust anyone who didn’t drink. Now, for the first time in a long time, I finally trust myself – because I don’t drink.
It wasn’t that every time I drank I did something untrustworthy…but every time, before I took the first sip of the night (or afternoon…or day) I had butterflies in my stomach…and not the good kind. Not knowing what I’d do, what I’d say, how I’d react this time. It’s a horrible feeling not to trust yourself. Why it took me so long to realize how to remedy the situation, I don’t know. I just kept finding excuses to keep drinking. It wasn’t me, it was my medication. It wasn’t me, it was mixing vodka with Red Bull. It wasn’t me, it was Tuesday.
While I do sometimes reflect and wonder why it took so long to just finally quit, that’s really irrelevant. What matters is I finally did stop, and I can say I’ve never been happier. Sure, life can still suck. Problems are still there. They are much easier to tackle without a crippling hangover. Plus, I’m so much more confident now that I can trust myself…that alone affected every other area of my life, and I didn’t even realize it.
Sure, I still sometimes wish I could escape into a nice moscato at the end of the night, but the knowledge that I’ll awake without a headache and no memory of what I did the night before far outweighs that desire. My marriage has never been better and my friendships have never been stronger…maybe partly because I now trust non-drinkers. As it turns out, they can be some pretty cool people after all.
May is Mental Health Month.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder. Mood disorders include bipolar disorder. It is also estimated that 1 in 4 people will encounter a mental health issue in their lifetime.
I have talked to various individuals recently about mental illness — people of all ages and backgrounds — with personal experience with a disorder or disorders. The disorders ranged from anxiety to ADD to OCD to depression, but what they all have in common is the desire of each person afflicted to be like everybody else. It’s a daily struggle.
Everyone has ups and downs. I know a girl whose ups and downs are not “normal,” however. Being bipolar means that for stretches of time, she can be so depressed it is hard for her to get out of bed and function. Things she normally enjoys, like playing with her kids, are devoid of happiness and fulfillment. She feels empty, aching, and heavy. The simplest tasks are insurmountable. She is a writer, but during these times, she has no motivation and is mentally blank. She hurts all over. She doesn’t want to see or talk to anyone. She sometimes cries for no discernible reason. As strange as it may sound, it seems to help; she feels a little relief after a good cry. Music helps. Sometimes all she can do is listen to songs that seem to “get” her and how she’s feeling. She’s learned, oddly enough, it’s more helpful to “embrace” the depressive episode than try to combat it. Overall, she feels horrible – and she just wants to feel better again.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, when the “high” (mania) kicks in, her brain is bombarded with thoughts so fast and furious that she can’t write them down as quickly as they come. She feels an explosion of creativity, and the writing ideas are endless. She is compelled to constantly “do” in this state – clean, bake, exercise, shop; she can’t stop. She is euphorically happy; in the car, upbeat music is on the radio and she is singing at the top of her lungs with the windows down – everything seems perfect. She feels invincible, and therefore can act impulsively. In this state, she finds it unbelievable that she was ever depressed.
The lows are more frequent than the highs. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining or if everything is going right; she can plummet into a downward spiral. She thinks part of why she likes fall and winter and rainy or snowy days – weather everyone else seems to dislike - is because there’s no pressure to be happy when the weather’s “bad.” If she’s depressed on a rainy day, it feels somewhat justified. However, the weather can be wonderfully sunny, and the depression can roll in like a dark fog, and hang on. And hang on. And hang on. She just has to wait it out, let it subside, and even though it feels hopeless and never ending, she has to remind herself that she will feel good again – until the next depressive episode. Because of the way she is, she feels guilty. Like a burden. There are times that she just doesn’t want to be here. She wonders what’s wrong with her; why can’t she be “normal?” Everyone gets sad. But this is so much more than just “sadness.”
From the outside, this girl has the “picture perfect” life. When people find out about her reality, they seem shocked. They kindly tell her she’s pretty, she’s smart, she’s funny, she has a beautiful family; she has it all…so why is she depressed? I’ve also tried to convince her of these things, but…
The girl is me.
I’m not big on labels, and I am reluctant to open up about myself. I don’t want people to view me or treat me differently. I want the stigma associated with mental illness to go away, though, and I know that talking about it will be the only way in making steps toward that - one of the goals of Mental Health Month. There are many misconceptions, and the media’s portrayal doesn’t always help. (Hello, Britney Spears meltdown.) Bipolar disorder seems to carry with it a particular stigma and “deranged” reputation – unqualified people magically morph into psychiatrists and ignorantly and inaccurately throw the “bipolar” label around all the time, to simply write off anyone whom they perceive to be “crazy.” Unless people are doctors who’ve administered a thorough exam, just as people can’t necessarily spot the cancer patient in the room, they have no idea who is battling what psychological disorder.
I realize there are people with good intentions, but if people really want to mean well, they should research. Talking to someone who has been given a diagnosis and really listening is one way. Telling someone with depression to, “Smile!” or “Pray about it!” might come from the best place in one’s heart and doing those things might not hurt, but if only it were that simple. It also doesn’t help to say, “You just need to change your mindset.” Again, great in theory. When dealing with a chemical imbalance, however, (which has been discovered in the brains of depressed people) that can only go so far. Just as I’d never profess to know what it’s like to be in the mind and body of someone with cancer, if people don’t have clinical depression, they don’t know what it’s like to be someone who does. People seem to need physical evidence to believe someone really isn’t well. Depression is like being in a full body cast. Every part of the body is affected. Mental illnesses should be taken no less seriously than physical illnesses. The brain just happens to be different from that of a “normal” person.
It doesn’t help the clinically depressed when others assume they can guess what it’s like. They can’t. And that erroneous assumption makes those diagnosed feel worse in that there’s something fundamentally wrong. It can be frustrating, as well-meaning as people can be, to hear some of their cures, such as, “Count your blessings!” I’m extremely grateful for all my blessings and well aware of all the “real” problems in the world, and this adds another layer of guilt and distress – knowing that, logically, I should be happy. Logically I should. In reality, due to this chemical imbalance, I’m not. Many people with loving families and successful careers, such as Kurt Cobain and Sylvia Plath, have fallen into infinite pits of despair and taken their own lives. These disorders go beyond logic, beyond counting blessings. I don’t expect everyone to understand. I still don’t understand.
While there might not be one right thing to say to people you love who are depressed, simply loving them for who they are, the way they are, helps.
I know there are people who care about me and my happiness, and I sometimes exhaust myself trying to appear happy when I’m not. (It’s hard to feign excitement over a picture of someone’s puppy when you just don’t want to be there.) I think I get by this way, but a select few in my world can see right through me and know when I’m not “fine.” Though my husband still has a hard time understanding why I am the way I am, he has learned to just love and accept me. He’s stopped trying to “fix me,” because he can’t.
If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness, get help. MentalHealthAmerica.net is a website devoted to mental health issues. Their website states to call, “1-800-273-TALK begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-273-TALK end_of_the_skype_highlighting if you, a friend or a loved one is going through a tough time in your life and you need someone to talk to.” The site also offers other information such as how to find treatment or a support group. You are not alone. I know it can be scary to talk about it. I know this alone doesn’t define who I am - but it’s part of who I am. If I can help just one person, that’s enough for me. Maybe if more of us start talking, the less scary it will be.
*Note – while this piece is primarily about bipolar disorder, I want to add that one of the major factors that contributed to my decision to stop drinking was that I was diagnosed. Alcohol and a depressed person don’t mix. The hangovers had me pretty much suicidal at times…not to mention alcohol interfering with the medication, basically messing my whole body up. Bipolar people tend to self-medicate, though, which is what I did for a long time with alcohol. So while this is not specifically about drinking, it is very much related. I am now much better off knowing my diagnosis and staying away from alcohol.
By: Sara Berelsman
So I haven’t had a drink in six months. (Please hold your applause.) It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been impossible, either. It’s been, more than anything, “surreal.”
Sure, I miss it. I miss being able to lose myself in a bottle of wine every night, to simply forget about the obligations, the nagging thoughts I didn’t want to entertain, the screaming children in the next room. Who wouldn’t want to escape all that?
But the truth is, I was never escaping anything. I was creating more problems for myself (though at the time of inebriation, that reality was nowhere near my consciousness). It took a while, even after I’d stopped drinking, to fully absorb everything I had done while drinking…every poor decision I’d made…every unbelievable action I’d somehow justified at the time. The sober me couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.
I was asked by someone recently for any pointers on staying sober. God, I wish I knew. What I’ve done, it seems, is simply trade one addiction for another…and another…and another. I get bored easily. First I became obsessed with tea. I bought and tried all flavors, experimented with two bags of different flavors in one cup – I live dangerously like that. I still drink tea, but the novelty has sort of worn off.
I’ve gotten more into exercise. That comes and goes for me, somewhat dictated by my current level of depression and willingness/ability to leave the house and actually interact with real, live people.
The point is, nothing replaces alcohol. That’s what I’ve been seeking. I miss the buzz. I’ve been chasing it ever since. Nothing will ever replace alcohol or the effects of alcohol, however, so coming to this realization alone is at least a step in the right direction, I think.
For me, the best, most helpful “replacement” for my getting drunk in an attempt to forget my problems is to meet up with people who have many of the same feelings I do. We don’t just talk about our problems, although we might. And I’m not talking about an AA meeting, either. I mean a few close friends who know everything about me and still don’t judge me. Just forcing myself out of the house to meet with some people usually makes me feel better and reinforces that I’m doing the right thing. Knowing you can hang out with a few “soul-mate” friends and have a great time proves to me that I don’t need booze. I never did.
It’s still a struggle…a daily one. Wine, especially, was my crutch. I looked forward to it at night. My anxiety skyrocketed when I quit drinking, and I’m learning new ways to deal with problems sober. I’m learning how to fall asleep…how to have sex…without being buzzed first. It’s a new way of learning everything.
So what are my pointers? Take it not only day by day, but minute by minute. Second by second. Find new things you love. Read more. Enjoy baths. Music. You really have to constantly occupy yourself, and don’t be too hard on yourself. No one ever said this would be easy. Just focus on the beauty so many things really do have to offer. And now you can take them all in and see them all for what they really are– they’re not blurry anymore.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin
Today is the day. Tuesday, October 11, 2011. I want to remember this day forever. The day I decided to stop drinking.
The sunrise was beautiful this morning. Possibly the best one I’ve ever seen. Pink and blue hues in the sky sprayed with just the right amount of clouds, the brilliant orange sun barely peeking over the fall trees, as if uncertain of making its appearance.
There are knots in my stomach. I can’t breathe (allergies). I am on my period.
I am incredibly exhausted from being awake all night, tossing and turning and trying to banish the unwanted thoughts that kept racing through my head, taking up space where happy memories should be.
I look like absolute shit; my face is broken out, there are heavy purplish bags under my eyes, my hair is frizzy and disheveled. I am wearing an oversized Nike sweatshirt belonging to my husband, stained because of me, a constant reminder (as if I need one) of how I’ve continually let him down. But not again. Not again.
Not ever again.
I am terrified. I have never been in control of my own life, never been in the driver’s seat, always a passenger, always letting someone else or something else take the blame. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t.
I joke around a lot and talk about drinking more than I actually do it; I exaggerate when I’ve had a bad day and say things like, “I want to drink my body weight in alcohol,” and it’s funny. I’m being sarcastic and it’s funny, and everyone laughs. Except it stopped being funny. I can control myself some of the time, which is why it’s been so easy to rationalize why I continue to drink, not to mention that I live in a town where drinking is practically mandatory, and raging alcoholics are accepted with open arms. I blend in here. Alcohol is socially acceptable. It’s the times that I don’t stay in control that outweigh the times that I do – those are the times that, at this point, have accumulated to an incredible number that I don’t even want to think about. It’s killing my marriage. If this were reversed, I’d have left Andy by now.
I have used alcohol as a scapegoat, every time. I could do anything with it. I could be invincible whenever I wanted - do, say, or act however I pleased when the numbing liquid flowed through my body. If I offended someone, “I was drunk. That’s not the real me. It was alcohol.” If I did anything bad, it was the reason. I’ve relied on it. It has been a friend. A friend who’s always been there for me, no matter what. And breaking up is hard to do.
I am absolutely shaking with fear that I won’t be able to do this, that I’ll fail. I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. I’m hurting inside. Badly. I’m so very sorry for the things I have done to people I love, afraid that they won’t accept me even if I quit drinking, afraid to become who I really am instead of who I am with alcohol.
I have never been so scared in my life.
I’m afraid to face the truth and push denial out of the way, because to do that means I was wrong all these years, wrong for thinking I was okay, and wrong for thinking I could control myself. To admit that I was wrong means all those years, all those incidents shouldn’t have happened, and that means I have regrets. And I want no regrets. I feel guilty. I feel like a scumbag. I’m open about everything in my life, including my depression (which drinking exacerbates) but this, for some reason, ties my stomach in knots. I’m so afraid of what people will think. Maybe because bipolar disorder, though not fully understood by the general population, at least, I think, seems more like a disease to people; they view it as something beyond a person’s control. Alcoholism, I feel, is looked at by many as a weakness, a sign of making bad choices, not necessarily a disease, even though it’s been proven to have genetic predisposition involved, as is the case with me and my family.
Of course, depression runs in my family too, and I have obviously been self-medicating for a long time now. It’s the first thing I reach for, my go-to, my trusty friend. With a glass of wine I can feel good again. It’s a great feeling. It’s the nights that the glass turns into two glasses, then a bottle, then two bottles…the nights I’ve blacked out, remembering little, if nothing, about a majority of the evening, wondering what I said, what I did…who I did it with…the horrible dread of trying to recall the next day, what took place the night before, the hangovers lasting days – those are the reasons I want to quit drinking. At this point there are no benefits.
But mostly it’s my marriage I want to save. I have an incredible man and he does not deserve this. There are a couple of other reasons too, and it’s a knife through the heart to hear them ask why Mommy won’t get out of bed. No, it’s not every day. It’s not even too often at all in the minds of many, I’m sure. I know there are so many people who are in much more advanced stages of alcoholism than I am. But this is not their life. This is my life. And I know I have to do this if I want to keep it. I want to be a better wife. I want to be a better mom. I need to be a role model.
I know in my gut, with every fiber of my being and pound on my body, that this is the only solution left. I’ve tried limiting drinking to weekends, drinking only at home, drinking only a certain kind of alcohol, drinking only for a certain number of hours – I’ve tried everything. I’ve taken “breaks” from drinking before when I’ve been spiraling out of control; I’ve “slowed it down.” But once I started again, I ended up right where I had been. I know I can’t just “take a break” this time. I know my addictive, all-or-nothing personality, and telling myself I can stop for a while and then set limits once I start again does not work. I’ve tried that. It’s a slippery slope. I’ve exhausted the options, made the excuses, and fiercely embraced the denial with a warm, tight hug every single time. This is it. This. Is. It.
I am very scared. What do I do? Can I still have fun? Will I fit in? Will I always feel awkward now? Do I attend AA meetings? I’ve always thought of alcoholics as people who get up in the morning and have to drink. People on street corners with tattered clothing and bottles hidden in brown paper bags. People who in general seem much more “out of control” than I am. I’ve never thought of myself as “one of them.” As it turns out, there is no exact alcoholic profile. I am one of them.
I’m not sure where to go from here, how to go from here. My path has not been marked out yet. I know that I do need to go from here, though, and take the path I have never taken. In order to save my marriage, my family, my life, I can’t stay on this path. My therapist said just as much a few weeks ago, when I had, once again, vowed to be better. Yet somehow, some way, no matter what precautions I try to take, no matter how much I worry and think, and try, really, really try...I somehow always take a detour, and I’m back on the old path again. That path has now been blocked off, eradicated, and filled in with the grasses and weeds of yesterday. I know I have a problem.
So today, I am going down a new path. The path of sobriety. It’s surreal. Alcohol has been such a focal point in almost everything I do. It’s very hard to imagine my life without it. It might not look like to others that I even have a problem, but I know I do. I’m scared that people won’t be supportive, and I’m scared to be this honest and vulnerable. I don’t know exactly where I’m going yet, but I know where I’ve been, and if none of it had happened then I wouldn’t be where I am. And that is at a point of great change. Everything in my life has lead me to this point. Everything.
My name is Sara, and I'm an alcoholic.
Suggested Reading for Women:
Interview with Annee Delaware of Safe Passages. Very informative regarding the issues only women deal with as active drunks and has some ideas on where women can turn for help.
Here are links to some other websites that may be of interest to you:
Safe Passages: Safe Passages provides individual support and ongoing aftercare to individuals in transition from treatment to enhance relapse prevention. Our two founders, Annee Delaware and Connie Millimaki, have more than 50 years of experience in the field of chemical dependency.
We are dedicated to all aspects of insuring well being and integration into a life without substances. Safe Passages provides the following services:
Diane Dennis - Life Coach: Transition is a process that accompanies change in our lives. To receive assistance from a coach during the stages of transition helps assure a healthy outcome leading to rewarding personal transformation.
Diane Dennis, Life Transition Coach guides you gently through the journey of transition where you will discover:
Adopt or foster a dog or cat. There are many good pets waiting to find a home. Save an animal from death by getting one from your local Animal Shelter. These animals have a sense that you are the one that saved them. The love that you will share between you can't even be described with words. Please rescue a dog or cat.
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It happens to the best of us. Real stories from real people:
Living sober isn't always easy, even for someone who is trained in and works in Substance Abuse Education. Rebecca Mayers recently had a wrench thrown into the machinery of her life. Her own son just received his 2nd DUI in less than a two week span. She is willing to openly share her story and her own personal battles.
This sucks - By: Rebecca Mayers
My first child was my life saver. The most beautiful child ever born (at least I thought so). Smart, witty, intelligent, starting quarter back of his high-school football team for 3 years. As a mother I couldn't have been more proud of my kid. During his life, he has watched me mess up, get put into rehab and eventually graduate a course in Addiction Counselor training.
I get a call from my mother, while teaching my substance abuse education class, that he is in jail. His 2nd DUI in less than 2 weeks. OKAY!!! FUCKIN REALLY!?! That is my kid; I teach everyone else's kid who messes up!!!
Ok, Momma-mode kicks in and Momma panics... there is not one logical thought going through my head, except getting my kid. He is in so much (legal and emotional) trouble and doesn't even know it. I know him, I know where he is mentally and I am feeling every ounce of his pain, and I can't do a damn thing to fix it. But I am MOM, I have to fix it and I am overwhelmed myself. So I call friends to help calm my nerves and everything they say is very logical... but "Fuck them," they don't know how it feels.
All I could think was, "God I need this to be numb." I get home and for over an hour and a half hold in my hand what I need to numb it. I never put it in my system, not even close to my mouth... and it just disgusted me that feeling of wanting to numb it. This bullshit isn't about me, it is about the rest of my kids life, but I was willing to hide from reality. Hide from reality? Not me, so I got mad and took action.
How do you stop being a Mom and be an addiction counselor? How do you let your baby make the choice to kill himself or someone else, or get help? How do I get him to want it? He is 19 years old and has the rest of his life ahead of him. Breathe, Rebecca!!! You have been doing this for 4 years now, BREATHE!!!
I just did... I just gave him the choice... and had to accept whatever he decided to do.
Day One: Intake, AA meeting. DUI CLASS and twice a week outpatient meetings, with homework from the Big Book. He asked me after the AA meeting, "What the hell was that stupid crap? I hate that!!!"
I handed him Mark's book to read... he didn't even want to look at it (because Mom said it might help), so the Big Book it is for him. All I could tell him was that classes and outpatient meetings are better than having a cellmate named Bubba wanting to snuggle at night in your bunk with you.
This is the most crazy experience of emotions I have had to deal with since I have gotten sober. I am still on the ride of one second hurting so bad for him and the next second wanting to kill him, laugh and shove a Big Book down his throat.
This is gonna be an ADVENTURE. Here we go... let's see what happens.
I received a shorter email version of the following article. In it, Rebecca Mayers commented to me about how so many stories sound the same, "I drank, I was wild, I screwed up and now I'm free." She wanted to write something from her own view, but she felt that her way of presenting things didn't sound "feminine" enough. I disagreed. I felt it was good for her to come out honestly with a piece like this. Why polish a turd? Be genuine and say what you feel. I asked her to expand on it a bit. Here's a piece of writing from Rebecca Mayers. She has authorized public release of this and welcomes other women to contact her via email.
By: Rebecca Mayers
Mark, I have so wanted to write an article for your "For Women Only" section of your site, but find it verydifficult. I do not think I am as girly as some of the ladies on here are, even though I'm a mother of three children. Yes, I have chick moments and cry and get PMSy but, I am aware of my body and what my hormones do and recognize it and move on
Everything that has happened to me is because of the situations I put myself in. Yes I was taken advantage of when drinking/doing drugsand yes I did really stupid things and degraded myself and yes I neglected my family and that is why I don't do it anymore. But even while I was partying I didn't have time to be sick or hung over, I had to be a mother. Babies, my boss and bill collectors didn't care if I was hung over. The thing is, I was bartending at that time. My job was to party. I have awesome kids, but I wasn't the best mother I could have been because I was still feeling the effects of my night of work. I did neglect my children but was in denial about it the whole time
Like everyone else who has a story, I was "there," but I didn't hit the proverbial "bottom." To me bottom meant falling. I hit a wall face first. Because I had ran so long and so hard from my life, I had nowhere else to run... I had to turn around, put my back against that wall and face my demons. SoI went everywhere looking for help (church, group therapy, outpatient rehab, AA)and read every self help book I could get my hands on, until I found what worked for me. And what is it that works for me? A simple philosophy of: "Suck it up and deal with it. Here you are. Where do you wanna be? DO WHAT IT TAKES TO GET THERE. If you don't know what to do, then try everything." I still struggle with everyday things yet I keep moving forward.
I didn't stop there. I didn't like the way group was taught, I didn't like being told, "It will all work out for the best." I wanted real answers that I could use in my real life. I went to school to become a registered addiction counselor so I could answer the questions that no one was answering for me. I didn't wait for it all to work out, I took action. Now I teach at an outpatient clinic.
Here's what I pass along to my students:
I can do nothing about my past but I can change my present. I do not do warm fuzzy bunnies and unicorns and rainbows and think everything is gonna be perfect. I refuse to sit and feel like shit for things I can't change. I have made amends to the people who deserve it and continue to do what is right for me andmy family.
Sitting around and wallowing in how horrid I was, is not an option for me. I have fallen and I have been on the floor in the fetal position thinking, "Am I never gonna stop crying?" and I have noticed I don't like the view from the floor. So I get up, brush myself off and continue forward. The only looking back I do is to make sure I don't make the same mistakes again.
I don't feel sorry for myself. I have mourned my missing out on my family because I was so busy getting wasted. I have mourned the fact that my life has to change and I can't hide from it anymore. It wasn't easy, it was HARD, it still is HARD.
It sounds too mean and harsh when I tell other women,"Suck it up and deal with it. Here you are. Where do you wanna be? DO WHAT IT TAKES TO GET THERE. If you don't know what to do, then try everything."
Maybe I have this attitude because I am used to dealing with the people who have been in jail. I don't pat their hand and paste on a big ole smiley face and tell them it will be alright.
So I don't know how much advice I have for the feminine side of women. It might take me awhile to find my "inner chick."
Heres an email from a young woman who lives in Indonesia. Her name is Natsja. I have not edited or changed any of her words. I have omitted some of her personal information for privacy purposes. I find it interesting that no matter what country you live in, we drunks have very similar dilemmas.
Again, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas, and experiences with me. They have helped me make a huge step forward in this whole getting sober process.I read your book and loved it!
Although I have been working to this decisive moment most part of my adult life (ever since I got clean from heroine and started to replace it with alcohol), it was finding your website and recognizing most of the things youve written, that gave me the courage to ban alcohol from my life. The no nonsense approach, clear and direct language speaks to a lot of people I imagine.
I am not scared anymore for the never again a buzz, or missing out on the fun moments and joys that alcohol also brought to my life (because it did, on numerous occasions). I am not scared anymore to acknowledge myself and express thoughts and ideas that I thought would be received as not socially excepted.
I was drilled into the idea that something was wrong with me, and needed to be fixed. There was no room for my real feelings, or so I thought. I know I am going to be fine. I know that, because my life was already fine, except for the intoxicated interludes of course. I do understand that difficult moments will come, but I will embrace them.
I am not being naive here, that would be an insult to myself. I am equipped now with all the tools and strength it will take to be sober, but most of all, I am equipped with all the tools to have the courage to be ME.
Over the last years I have worked very hard on my spiritual wellbeing. But what I lacked was the practical no nonsense voice that told me: You can meditate and OHM and chant as much as you like, but if you dont actually apply it to your life and you keep making excuses for yourself for every time you drink and end up screwing things up, what good will it do to you ?
It is not that I screwed things up so much for other people, it was I that I was sabotaging; and I have known that all along, all those years. I just didnt consider myself important enough to be nurtured and well treated by myself. I didnt feel that I deserved to reach for the stars.
And of course there are reasons for that. We can go back to my youth and traumatic experiences, but that wouldnt change anything. Things are the way they are, and I have the power to choose how to build my life around it. So all it took was to feel deep down, that I am ok the way I am. And that it is good enough to reach for those stars. easy right ?
Must sound all sobby and girlie, but thats what I am, a girl (or a woman if you prefer) We women are emotional creatures. Well many of us any way.
Thats probably why you made a special women only page on your website.
Not because we are emotional or sentimental, but because we are a bit different from you guys. And we have different needs and ways of healing and progressing.
Again, I am not an expert in any field; I only have my own experiences and ideas. I have been working on myself for numerous years, trying to find peace with myself, be content and happy with myself. I found a lot of good and valuable things in Buddhism.
Like you, I cannot believe in 1 great power, outside ourselves, who can save you, keep you from harm, or make your life miserable. And I think you do too, because many of your ideas and suggestions coincide with Buddhist philosophy. E.g. YOU have the power and YOU make the decisions in your life, Do something for others (volunteer), compassion (most of all to yourself), respect etc
Buddhism and its ideas and techniques have done me tremendous good. I have grown, matured and learned that the greatest power is right here, in you. It is up to us to make use of it.
And I think a lot of these philosophies and working techniques are helpful to get things into perspective on the road of sobriety, especially for women. I love your book and website and is a huge data bank of resources, mind setters etc.
Hell, it gave me the last push to make the only right decision for me! Very practical, no nonsense and male orientated, which makes sense since you are a man! I do not criticize your work here, Mark, really, however for me personally there is something missing.
Now again, I am not an expert in any field, and I dont pretend to speak for ALL women, I just share some of my thoughts with you. Not all, but many women have the need to nurture their spiritual side, lets say their soul, besides the mind altering and practical sides of a sober life. Probably more than men do.
Here are some the things that help me.
And I also add a short list of suggestions for your ex-drunkards to do list. Love the list, but I dont think a lot of women will get all excited about go-karting, test drives or paintball. So I added some special girlie ideas.
Jeez, look at me, being all pro active and involved!!!
I found a lot of clear ideas, power and perspective in the following:
Meditation. Clearing your mind, easing your thoughts, calm your body, strengthen your spirit.
Some practical information can be found on www.meditationinmadison.org but there are numerous websites, so browse and find something that speaks to you.
Read about Buddhism or other alternative spiritual things. Stay open minded and critical. Same as with religion or groups, it is important to keep a critical mind and dont get over involved or lose yourself. They can be guides on your path, they are not life savers! But most of all, they often offer practical exercises and ideas to make you feel at peace and more relaxed. And in that state of mind, we are better equipped to deal with all the shit in our lives
Read about anything that interests you ! And more importantly, make time to read !!!!!!
Create a silent place for you to retreat for an hour. Install a moment in your week that will be your time to spend on your own, away from the stress of sober and daily life. Time to recharge the battery. It can be in the bathroom, pampering yourself with a hot bath, a facial mask a manicure. Or a walk in the forest to reconnect with nature. In bed with a good book and some soothing music. Anything, as long as the other family members respect your time off and leave you to yourself. Women being most of the time, the manager of the household as well as holding a job, it is more difficult for them to claim some me-time. They often dont have the possibility to walk out of the house for a couple of hours, like men tend to do whenever they feel the need.
Engage your partner in the chores and running of the house and children. It will take pressure of the woman and it will make her feel more respected and appreciated. Having more time to herself will give her the opportunity to rediscover her femininity, which will definitely
Connect with other women to discuss, talk, and experience other things than being and staying sober. Paint each others nails, dye each others hair, etc Reconnect with your femininity.
Special women ex-drunkard to-do list:
Watch old movies! Whenever I am in one of those sentimental moods, (like once a month or whenever sober life is too boring to bear), I love settling in front of the tv, with tea and M&Ms and a stack of old romantic movies. Nothing beats a good old sob in front of the TV! My personal favorites:
Terms of Endearment
Youve got mail
Sleepless in Seattle
Sound of Music
When a man loves a woman (with the bonus of Meg Ryan getting sober !!)
An affair to remember
Sing love songs to yourself. When you are feeling down and lonely, take out the love song CDs and instead of picturing a loved one (lost or still present) sing all these lovely things to yourself. Sounds really bizarre and maybe even pathetic, but I found myself doing that the other day and it really helps me to come to terms with myself. I enjoy being me a little more every time!!!
Back to nature: Go for walks on the beach, in the forest. Breathe in the fresh air. Notice the squirrels going about their business, the birds, the awesomeness of nature, large trees, standing there for decades.The calming effects are great. It creates time to be alone with your thoughts and feelings. Plus you get your exercise.
Thats about it Mark. These are things that work for me; I dont pretend that any of them are beneficial for others. I just wanted to share them with you.
By: Anonymous Woman in NY. Hi, I felt compelled to email... your tone is actually comforting to me. I love an ass hole with a heart. This is what my boyfriend of 11yrs is too; its not an insult. He opened my eyes (and gave me access) to all of the substances I've ever tried. We met when I was 17. I'm 29. Last week he pulled the plug. Too much money and it was "about time to give it up anyway." No more running, no more calls. Time to sober up. scared!! I knew it would hurt. Jitters, irritability, boredom, headaches, did I mention headaches? Sleepy, weepy, stomach pains. I am (I mean I WAS) one of those "functioning" addicts. Job, man, kids, house, dog, paid the bills etc.
Aside from the physical pain, finding self-worth through this process is hard. I always frowned upon people who feel sorry for themselves. I have no self-pity, its more like self-loathing. I like being hazy, and lifting my comfort fog really sucks the big one. Luckily, I look pretty good; there was never a need for beer goggles, haha. I'm afraid of what life is going to be like... what the man I chose to be with will be like... I mean damn, I don't even know who I am! I had been a happy hippy my entire adult life! I never thought I'd be the one crying myself to sleep, for "no reason". I have no tolerance for that type of weakness, and here it is, coming from me. Its embarrassing, but liberating to share this with you... a complete stranger somewhere in cyberspace. I like to think that you're nodding your head in agreement as you read this, but I don't expect you to care either. It just helps to type it out and not have to worry about what you're going to say. If I like it, great. If not, tough shit.
I will not be seeing a doctor, as this is nothing medical, its just life. I'll find new ways to cope. That's part of the problem, you know? People go to a doctor, spill their guts, and get prescriptions. They give up one drug for another. Life doesn't get better by any substance. I'll do my best to live by those words.
My resolution: to not set myself up for failure. I'll never make another promise I can't keep. Its still too soon for me to say I'll never use anything again. Before I do though, I'll remind myself that on 1/25/11, I spilled my guts to Mark. He knows sobriety sucks, but if he can stay sober, I can too.
My Grandma (who adopted me, so she's my Mom too) told me from a very early age, that "A day at a time isn't just for alcoholics, and nothing gets solved in one night." So true. (R.I.P. Gram '09)
Anyway, tears are making their way out of my eyes. Damn it. This email is like therapy. Good luck on your continued sobriety, and I hope you can find pleasure in the fact that you brought me some comfort today.
PS: I don't expect you to post this, but if you'd like to, its cool. Misery loves and deserves company. I know that this sobriety process will get (somewhat) easier with time. Peace fellow former fiend.
Scared, Trembling, Ashamed, Hot, Sick, Desperate.
Im 48 years old, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and I was addicted to booze, absolutely could not stop myself from drinking, and I was terrified.
But wait!!! Keep reading, after the Gloomy Gus part I really really am 100% better!!!! Its kinda like a Pantene commercial - it wont happen overnight - but it will happen.
Day after day went by and I knew, I mean I knew that if I didnt change what I was doing to myself and my family that something catastrophic would happen.
It did. My husband put my sorry, but skinny butt (a nice residual effect from consuming nothing but Woodbridge Cabernet for months) into Rehab.
This was my nightmare of all nightmares. Now, looking back I realize I knew it was coming. Under the hazy flood of inebriation my brain still functioned enough to know that I couldnt continue putting alcohol into my body all day, every day. I had become completely incompetent. Thats what my 16 year old daughter told me, and it was true. I could barely function.
If you are reading this I need go no further. You are having trouble with alcohol, or pot or sleeping pills or some other chemical.
You can change if you really want to. You can get better, feel better and become a competent vital person. And dont get hung up on the whole - If I admit I have a problem or say I am an alcoholic I can Never have a drink again! Not True. You can always pick up a drink again if thats what you want. Its a free country. The general consensus is that folks like us with booze issues should not drink. Which makes sense because Duh-if you dont drink liquor you absolutely cannot get drunk right? Right. But-I think the idea that by admitting I was in trouble meant that I could never drink again stopped me from getting help earlier. So remember, you can always decide to go back to boozing. I think once you experience not being drunk or hung-over most of the time, you wont want to.
It aint easy. But please believe me it is possible. It can be a difficult and painful road- sobering up and facing all your problems in the cold harsh light of reality. Getting drunk and fantasizing that you are happy is just thata fantasy. You wake up hung-over and so sick that you have to have a drink just to get going. That was so not what I dreamed of when I was young. I bet you didnt either.
Folks like Mark and myself know what its like to feel alone and scared. Dont be afraid to reach out. Nothing bad can happen from getting some advice or gaining knowledge about any problem. And nothing bad will happen by you stopping to drink - you can always start again.
I wasnt using alcohol as a crutch - I was using it as a full body cast!
Dont wait for someone to force you to quit or throw you into rehab and label you an alcoholic. Get help and get better. Corrina.
(Women are invited toemail Corrina directly with questions or to have an open discussion on female alcoholism. Your privacy is GUARANTEED.)
Life Transition Coach
In the beginning of our relationship, we had a blast. Laughing over cocktails, dinners out, road trips and shopping sprees. He was a happy guy who liked to laugh. Slowly his laughter was replaced with scrutiny, criticism, and resentment. At the onset I assigned his attitude shift to the settling in of our marriage, work stress, and a letting down of his guard.
He spent a lot of time in the garage, cleaning, fussing with tools, and buffing the cars. The garage held a refrigerator stocked with cases of beer. There are many things that can erode a marriage. Any sort of a wedge distances partners, and chokes the fragile eco system of emotional intimacy. For my marriage the wedge was Bud Lite. My husband cracked open cans of beer as he did his chores, read the paper, mowed the lawn, and played with the kids. The insidious nature of this type of drink is that you cant tell the difference between beer #1 and beer #15. He didnt fall down drunk or slur his words. However, tell tale signs showed up in behavior and attitudes, along with an intimidating swagger. I eventually began to jump when I would hear him pop open a can, as if it were a shotgun blast.
I began to blame myself for his criticism, careful not to say things he might react to, and finally withdrawing into myself. My coping strategy was to tiptoe carefully around him, as if he were a sleeping Lion I didnt want to wake. Curiously this made him more volatile and he began calling me stoic, and backing me into corners with tight fists.
One day I mentioned that his unhappiness (moody and broody) at home might be to his beer consumption, and maybe he could try an experimenttry drinking at work and not at home and see if his happiness would transfer from his job to his family. Of course this was said tongue in cheek, and off the cuff. Silence ensued, and I braced myself for an outburst for my unguarded expressions.
Finally he said: I have a drinking problem. I mentioned that he might want to slow down. No, he said he had to quit. Instead of celebrating, I went into a panic. Why did I intuitively know that the train was about to come off the rails? He replaced drinking with raging. I begged him to drink a little, or get on medication, or seek help. I hated him sober. He was either mean or dull, and always judgmental. Now the shift of what was wrong with him switched to wondering about my sanity. What normal person would want an alcoholic to drink? Maybe I was going crazy, I thought.
Divorce was his answer; after all I was the problem. Years of therapy, introspection and reflection, helped me understand. Drinking is a symptom of a myriad of issues. Just like you cant paint a wall to fix decaying wood, the foundational issues of alcoholism must be addressed and dealt with. He believed that to stop drinking was the end of his journey into sobriety. The rest of the fixing was on me. I was helpless, hopeless, and clueless.
My underlying attitude of alcoholism was formed from my family of origin. My father was an alcoholic. He left my mother when I was three, after cheating and beating. My stepfather (whos father was an alcoholic) didnt drink, but was an angry, sullen and volatile man. This was the story I had in my head of drinkers and abstainers, so when my husband said he was an alcoholic and was going to abstain, all I could think of was to run.
Recovery is a journey for the drinker and their partner. On the path towards enlightenment, there are always lessons to be learned, nuggets of gifts received, revelations revealed, and strengths developed. I now teach others that adversity is an opportunity for growth. By living with an alcoholic I became more intuitive and insightful. I now offer my insights to help others. My new career sprung from learning and developing skills through university level education, certification programs, reading books, attending therapyas well as attending the hard knocks school.
I now work as a certified Life Transition Coach assisting individuals and couples through difficult life transitions. Visit my website and drop me a line at www.coachdianed.com
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