Ninety-one afternoons ago, I went to a happy hour that changed my life.
Leading up to it, it was clear that I wanted a change. Sick of the lonely bottles of wine, I switched to vodka so that I wouldn’t see my own empties in the recycle bin.
As we raised our girls, I never hid my drink or even tried to control it. But now, the situation had crossed into very sad. Despite my huge career, I was now a very buzzed drunk who would zone out every single evening.
Back at happy hour, I poured down vodka with abandon at an upscale bar with old friends and colleagues. We seemed smart, beautiful and funny with the friendly bartender attentively pouring booze out of backlit bottles anytime we held out our glass.
Within a while, a few of us transitioned into a booth. Alone in my drunken stupor, I vaguely recall trying not to eat too much to not ruin my buzz or my waistline. Far more interested in “drinking my calories,” I nibbled mindlessly at a piece of salmon.
When my husband said that it was time to go, I quietly lost it. I didn’t want to leave.
Dazed and entering a blackout, I managed to stumble out of the restaurant’s bar muttering to myself until November’s fall air slapped me and I let out a stream of obscenities aimed directly at him.
Later, my husband, lover and friend of 32 years would tell me that he thought of taping me with his iPhone. But despite his disgust, he could not bring himself to capture the sordid scene.
At home, I woke up at 2:00 a.m. in another room. I got up and staggered half-dressed until I found my husband asleep in a guest room. There I woke him up and promised that I’d check into Betty Ford or Sierra Tucson.
“Who do you think you are? Get over yourself,” he said, voice low and furious.
The next morning he hardly spoke to me. As he left to play tennis, he managed, “Get your fucking shit TOGETHER!” And then he was gone.
The dogs stared at me stunned that their usually happy dad could make so much noise.
Terrified, sick and alone, I managed to get to my computer and Google, “Alcohol help. Help for drunks. Drinking help.”
Every single time, Alcoholics Anonymous would be the top hit. Finally, after enough surfing and no real information, I called the main office of AA. A woman named Jackie talked to me for two hours and ultimately directed me to a meeting nearby that day.
Ninety days ago, I parked outside a rickety old building on the other side of town just hours after taking to Jackie. The low-cloud Midwestern day perfectly punctuated my somber mood as I entered into my first AA meeting.
“Wanna dive right in?” asked the group’s smiling leader as he handed me my first coin and beginner packet.
Anxiously, I did exactly as he suggested. I read from the Big Book, shared my first 12 hours of sobriety and how I came to look for my first-ever AA meeting. Deep down I knew that I was in the right place. This first meeting held 6 men and three other women all of whom shared the same dream: A desire not to take a drink that day.
Today, 90 days after that first meeting, I woke up this time next to my husband and in the early dawn, we dared to whisper words such as “beginnings, fresh starts and hope.”
I got out of bed and wrote my “morning pages” a writing exercise for the book, “An Artist’s Way.” I took a spin class and then drove through the snow to get to an AA meeting where I ran into a friend and picked up a green coin marking my 90th day of sobriety.
As a surprise, my husband created a comfy spot for me to watch TV and have a fire in the fireplace. We are closer now than we have been in years.
Tonight, we are going out for an early dinner with friends. Everyone drinks alcohol. But I know that I will not.
I have new tricks and tools to help me navigate the stressors and triggers of every day and in life. They include books, TV, tea, music, meditation, movies, candles, candy, sparkling pops, popcorn, peanut butter, pillows made of down, blankets, comfy slippers, exercise and of course penguins.
Today I am humbled, grateful and am very relived to be here. Today I am sober.