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Don’t Get Drunk Friday: Elizabeth’s Story

Posted Mar 25 2011 10:21am

If you are new to my blog, Don’t Get Drunk Friday is a feature I do where other women and men tell their stories in the hopes that it will help others identify and see that they are not alone. As always, if you want to stop but don’t know where to start you can try online support here .

“The real you is shy and awkward, but when you are drinking, your humor, sense of fun and confidence shines, so how ‘bout we say that Drinking You is the Real You, the You that you are supposed to be. And will leave it at that, ‘kay?” That was the conversation I had with myself early on in my drinking career.

They say that when you start drinking, you stop growing emotionally. I started drinking at 15 and although I changed on the outside, I stayed that same teenager on the inside. Give me a few beers and I was fearless, outgoing, fun. I hung around other people who liked to drink a lot and I found it easy to meet people while out socializing. This drinking thing was really working out very well. I mainly dated guys who liked to drink, guys who didn’t mind a girl who loved to party, guys who could tolerate a black out drunk prone to nodding off at the bar, passing out on toilets and walking into sliding glass doors. A girl who wasn’t afraid to drink several beers, fall off a dock into a freezing lake, get out and crack open another one.

From my teens to my early thirties, I had a lot of fun with friends and often daydreamed of all of life’s possibilities. I would have pangs of guilt at times and question my drinking, but I would always be able to find someone who was so much worse than I was and would then repress my suspicions. I looked like a normal, all American girl on the outside but I always felt like I was tainted, knowing I loved drinking more than others around me seemed to. It was like the stink cloud which hovered over Pepe Le Pew, except mine was invisible and only I smelled it. I had feelings of being “Less than.” Those feelings battled the opposing belief that I was fabulous when drinking.

In my mid 20’s, I met a guy who was a recovering alcoholic. At that point, my drinking was still more of a binge-drinking pattern, not daily, but over the top, once or twice a week. We went out for a year and, during that time, I suppressed my drinking. I didn’t want him to know how much of a drinker I was, and there was something else: I wanted what he had. Where I was anxious and chaotic, he was serene and reflective. He would take me to AA meetings with him and I would get so much from them. I loved listening to the people in those rooms. It was a combination of philosophy and barroom camaraderie, a mix of raw emotional confession and comical humility.

The relationship didn’t last because I really needed to get back to my friends and my party life and I knew I couldn’t straddle both worlds. But I never could get the recovery community out of my mind. During my darkest hangovers, I pictured the people in those rooms. I remember the peace. Someday, I would assure myself, when I’m ready…

In my early thirties, I met a great guy and got married and had a reception at an ocean side club with beautiful weather. It was a perfect day.

Then I had a reversal of fortune. Soon after the wedding, I started trying to get pregnant and quickly found out it wasn’t going to be quite that simple. I went through all the fertility testing, and in the end, my infertility was unexplained. Anyone who has been down the road of infertility knows what the process does to a woman’s self esteem and psyche. Someone along the way mentioned heavy drinking can lead to difficulties in conceiving. Rubbish, I thought. They blame alcohol for everything! Lily-livers.

In the meantime my husband broke his neck surfing and after we lived through the initial terror of the accident and learned he would eventually recover, I decided to do the hyper-stimulation route where my husband injects me with hormones until my ovaries are big pulsating egg nests. What a pair we were: him bending over me with his neck brace and jabbing a needle into my ass. Just precious.

I was over the moon when the treatment worked and I became pregnant with multiples. I guarded the pregnancy with my life. No unpasteurized food, no heavy lifting, no alcohol. The babies came early and I spent the next few weeks mothering them in the Ninth Ring of Hell, otherwise known at the NICU. When they finally came home, I had nurses watching them. I slowly resumed drinking but I was so busy, it was maybe a beer a day when a nurse was watching the babies. Just a beer in one day! I thought I was cured! The babies grew and started to get stronger and healthier and I allowed myself to dream of what they would one day become.

Then came the diagnosis: autism. The person I had been for 39 years was now dead. I now had no hope, no dreams, no direction. I was angry. I hated my life. My world shrunk down to my children, their therapists, teachers, paraprofessionals and any friend or family member who embraced my children and their diagnosis. I hated everyone else. At 5 o’clock, then 4 o’clock, I popped the cork on my Shiraz and started my nightly ritual of numbing myself. My shame of drinking alone was gone because I had decided that I deserved every precious drop of alcohol I put in my body. Why? Because I had been royally screwed, that’s why! I stopped yearning to go out with friends and have girl’s nights like the old days. Instead, I looked forward to late afternoon when I could start drinking. Alone. I would power my way through making dinner and the kids’ bedtime ritual and then I’d top off my wine and go down to my burrow, in the basement and get on the computer, drinking wine until 12:30-1 am. I’d stumble back up the stairs and go to bed, only to wake up for what I call the 3am mental beat-down, where I would lie in bed and panic about what I was doing to my body and how I was going to die and leave my young children motherless. And then I would promise myself no alcohol tomorrow. But I always did. And earlier and earlier in the day.

I decided to stop in October of 2009. My prior experience going to AA meetings made it easier for me than most to walk into my first meeting in 15 years. I loved the meeting. Hearing people telling bits of my story here and there and expressing feelings I have had all of my life made me feel I had finally come home to my people. The stink on me slowly lifted as I immersed myself in recovery and learned more and more about myself and the disease of alcoholism. Today, I have hope, I feel love, and I feel compassion. I can now feel gratitude. Sobriety has given me my life back and although I’m a little more mellow, I feel that at age 44, it’s time to pass the party baton onto someone else and to give it a rest.

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