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Don’t Get Drunk Friday: Tara’s Story

Posted Jan 28 2011 10:18am

So here we are again. It’s Friday and you know what that means: Don’t Drink! The brave woman sharing her story this week is Tara who blogs at The Act of Returning to Normal . Please visit her blog or come see us at the Booze Free Brigade if you’re looking to talk to people who “get it.”

“When I first quit drinking, I wanted to figure out how much time I’d wasted in my addiction. By all calculations, I figured it had been about four years. And it was four years of serious, hard drinking…four years of not having an “off” switch… four years of always feeling the pull to drink. Now, from the vantage point of nearly five months of sobriety, I can see my own decent more clearly. The truth is I drank alcoholically from the first. I wasn’t always a daily, excessive drinker, but the roots of addiction were always present.

Because I grew up in an alcoholic home, I managed to avoid the pitfalls of teenage drinking, but by twenty, I felt like I was missing out on all the fun. My first forays into the adult world of alcohol were few and far between, limited by opportunity. As a student, I was too poor to buy wine and never thought to drink at home, but several times a month I would go out dancing with friends, drinking shots until I was unsteady on my feet and unable to speak coherently. At the time I thought this was the pinnacle of cool.

This pattern progressed over the next few years until I was not only drinking at home, but getting drunk whenever I went out. This led, inevitably, to regrettable couplings and embarrassing moments. One night stands out. After class, I went to the university pub with a few of my students, drank too much, and then was loud and obnoxious to a woman I’d never met before. My intent had been to shock my companions by showing them how “cool” I was outside of the constraints of the classroom. The next morning I recoiled in horror.

It was at this point I realized that every bad thing I’d done occurred “at the bottom of a bottle of gin”. I vowed to show more control.

I moved to San Francisco, sick of drinking. And for a few years alcoholism was held at bay. I did not drink at all when I was pregnant and rediscovered my “off switch”. It was after this, when I was home alone with two small children that the pull returned. I wasn’t all that bad…for a while. I would occasionally drink in the afternoon to mellow out, but not every day and not too much. I went back to work, relieved to be rescued from the temptation to drink during the day. But work got stressful and I began to unravel.

Evenings began to shape themselves around my drinking and over the course of a few months I went from almost never having a hangover, to nearly always having one. I began to drink at lunch to cover the tremors and dizziness. For a while I believed I functioned better with a few shots of vodka than without and thought my drinking went unnoticed. My life shrunk to a small point. In the final, desperate last months of my drinking, I awoke daily at 5am with intense panic attacks and an overwhelming sense of self-loathing. I no longer wanted to drink, but I simply could not imagine my life without it…without that rush of good feeling that came with the first few glasses. After all, it was the only time I ever felt good.

Daily promises to “take a day off” were revised by early afternoon to “take it easy and not get too drunk.” Whatever happened, I always found an excuse to have “just one” and felt increasingly out of control, hoping for something that would rescue me.

It came, and it didn’t. One night I came out of a blackout in our darkened kitchen with a knife in my hand. I cut myself twice because I was at a crossroad where I just couldn’t continue as I was, but I couldn’t stop either. When I saw the blood, I panicked and swore that I’d never drink again if only I didn’t die. Try as I might to keep the horror of that night at the forefront of my consciousness in order to stay sober, within a week or two I found a reason to start again. I was convinced that I’d learned my lesson and would be able to moderate. Within days I was back where I’d started.

A month into my relapse, I finally fell to my knees and admitted I was an alcoholic and couldn’t control my drinking. Instead of feeling guilt and shame about it, I felt peace for the first time in as long as I could remember. The compulsion to drink was lifted and I was out of excuses. The early days were hard. I slipped twice and it took forever to reach 30 days. But even in those early days I began to change, slowly, but markedly. I began to notice, really see, my children. I could look in the mirror without wincing. I learned that while I thought I “lived” for others, the truth was I couldn’t get out of my own head long enough to see the world from someone else’s perspective. I realized just how unmanageable my life truly was – that step one applies to so much more than our drinking. I had ups and downs. I learned that emotions are temporary. Now, I barely recognize the woman who lived within the small confines of the bottle.”

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