Watching Out For Me
When I was around the age of ten or slightly younger I had my first drink. It was at my parent’s yearly Christmas party. My dad always made a Swedish punch for the occasion. It was very potent stuff made with brandy and all kinds of things. One year my dad decided to let my sister and I each have a small glass. I loved it!!! I asked and even begged for more, but no one would give me any more. So I waited up until everyone was in bed and snuck down to the refrigerator and drank all I could. Now at that time, no one had ever explained to me anything about drugs or alcohol and I did not understand why the punch made me feel different; I just knew I wanted more. In the following year I often thought about that punch and really looked forward to Christmas, so I could have more of it.
I started drinking with friends at the age of thirteen. And although I had a kind and loving family, I had these insane thoughts that running away and finding my own way in life, even if it was on the street, was somehow a great idea. I tried once and my Dad dragged me back to the house. The direction of my life then changed dramatically when I met a girl that was to become my best friend. She just glowed, she was confident and happy and I wanted what she had; and what she had was a religion that did not allow drinking. So I joined her church and became really fanatical about it. That kept me sober and out of trouble for the next eight years.
The church was not a good fit for me and I became increasingly depressed. In my freshman year of college I suffered a nervous breakdown. I was put on anti-depressants and anxiety medication. The medicine kept my head above water but I was discontent and restless.
So I dealt with that by running away to study in France when I was twenty-one years old. I did not actually intend to drink and had not truly given up on the church when I went to France. But one night I went to a disco with a bunch of friends and it was very crowded and hot, and I was thirsty. So I started sipping off of my friend’s drinks. I have no idea how much I consumed but I was very drunk by morning at which time they were closing up the bar and I was dancing on the tables. After that, I made no pretense about not drinking and I drank very heavily both when I went out and alone. I never went back to church and from that time on, held a strong cynicism about God.
A couple of years later, when I came back to New Orleans to live with my parents, I had a university degree that prepared me to be a diplomat. And to their ‘great joy’, I took a job as a bank teller and worked nights as a bartender. For a year I drove forty-five minutes (often drunk) in and out of the city to work while I lived with my parents. When I finally moved out, and into the city, my drinking increased; now, I did not actually have to get home.
During the six years in New Orleans, I drank very heavily. I often blacked out but just assumed it to be normal. I was very lucky or blessed that I came out of it all okay. I was very naive and pretty much went along with anybody’s crackpot plan. I did some really stupid things and ended up in some very scary places. And the whole time I drove so drunk that I could barely focus or I didn’t even remember the drive home. I was not a slow careful drunk driver either. I never felt like I was drunk so I proceeded on the highways at the normal speed even if I was barely able to hold the wheel and keep my eyes open. I am very grateful that I never killed anyone.
At this point I was thirty years old, I had moved up fairly quickly in the bank and despite hangovers, did a really good job. I always received the bonuses and was respected in my work. Even though everything seemed to be going fine, I had been considering the idea of drinking during work hours. I thought it might make me more productive.
But life once again changed my direction. I met a nice guy, a really nice guy, and I was not use to being with nice men. We were engaged within a week of meeting. I was happy, and grateful to have the chance of starting a new life – in Germany. We were happy the first few years. However, when we married he did not realize how much I drank. After a year of getting the idea, he made the rule no hard liquor in the house but said I should be okay with wine. I did not really keep to the no hard liquor rule but drank it mostly when he was traveling or hid what I was drinking.
Then I got pregnant. Well, I had so much respect for the life that was inside me I quit drinking immediately. My pregnancy was a very difficult time because of that, I really suffered not being able to drink and I could not be around anyone drinking. But because of the effort, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy boy. I did not breast-feed; I bottle fed him so that I could also have a bottle. When he was six weeks old I fell down the stairs and broke my foot. I felt grateful that I had not been carrying him when I fell.
My husband traveled a lot, for weeks or sometimes months at a time. I used the time he was absent to do my heaviest drinking. When my son was two years old, my drinking started to scare me. I was alone and often passed out with a little child that was able to get out of his bed and into things. So I confessed everything to my husband and begged him to stop drinking with me so that I had someone to rely on. I essentially made him my Higher Power. I do remember that at this time I searched an AA website, but I just couldn’t bring myself to the idea that I was really an alcoholic, so I did not ask for help. I stayed sober for four months.
Then a tragedy happened in my family. My mother had been very depressed and we tried to get her to go to a doctor for help, but she wouldn’t go. We knew she needed help but did not really understand how much pain she was in. One night in what must have been some type of psychotic episode, she shot my Dad, my grandmother, and my aunt in the back of the neck while they were sleeping. The next day after leaving
a bunch of notes. She shot her self between the eyes.
The first week after their deaths I did not drink anything; but my sister started giving me prescription pills for sedation. Then I did start drinking again, not because the trauma from my parent’s deaths was too much for me, but rather because I am an alcoholic and it was the perfect excuse.
About six months later I got pregnant again but I didn’t stop my drinking and I miscarried. It was a real wake up call, and I did slow down a bit with my drinking and pills. A year later I was again pregnant. I stopped the drugs and alcohol completely and once again suffered through the pregnancy and then chose to bottle feed.
When my healthy daughter was about six weeks old, I fell with her in my arms. We spent a night in the hospital for observation but were very lucky to walk out with only a little red spot on her head where she hit the floor.
Around this time also, it should be noted that I received an injury to the face and was prescribed medicine to help with the painful nerve damage. I did pain pills for a time but then I started hoarding large quantities and pretending that my injury was not better when it actually was. I stored up well over five hundred pills by the time I was cut off.
At sometime in early 2005, I started combining the pills with alcohol for the effect because I just wasn’t feeling anything anymore from the alcohol alone. Also with the pills I could take them during the day and feel good enough to get a few things done.
When my daughter was two years old my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the two years that followed the diagnoses, I watched him suffer operations, radiation and pain. When treatment was over he was left with five of the seven vertebrae in his neck fused together and nerve damage that left the left side of his face limp.
During all of this I was alone a lot. I was prescribed antidepressants, anxiety medicine, and valium. I took all of that with alcohol and the pain pills that I had hoarded.
The last year of my drinking, I stopped caring about things, not too much seemed important anymore. I was drinking over two bottles of wine each night. Blacking out and passing out each night, I was taking different combinations of my pills and sometimes I wasn’t sure what I had taken. I had moved happy hour from 5 p.m. to 3 p.m., stopped eating dinner and was considering buying a bottle of vodka to hide and supplement what I was already doing. I also had pot that I smoked on occasion. I was pretty much numb and in a fog all the time. I missed appointments, had car accidents, yelled a lot and was generally a terrible person to be around.
So, why would my two best friends not want to be around me? Actually it came as a total surprise to me. Though, I had been rude, selfish, uncaring to them for a long time, the camels back finally broke and I got an e-mail from each of them saying that they did not know what was wrong with me but they no longer wanted anything to do with me. They had had enough. This is what changed everything; I lost something truly important to me.
But I still did not see what was really happening. So I started writing them an email trying to explain myself, trying to come up with yet one more excuse so that they would take me back. The only way I could think of to get them to forgive me was to tell them that I had a drinking problem. When I conceived this plan, I did not actually believe that this was the problem, it was just an excuse (a lie) to get their friendship back. Then I wrote the words, “I am an alcoholic.” And when I did that, I realized it was true, it was the honest to god truth.
Then I fell to my knees in desperation. I was crying and not knowing what to do, I had tried many times in the last seven years to quit and it only got worse. I started begging and then bargaining. “If you will help me I will open up spiritually.” After that I got up, found the AA site and sent out a request for help. I really did not know anything about AA and the twelve steps, and I am not sure that I would have stayed after I found out if I had not made the promise to open up spiritually.
Many alcoholics answered my request for help. I got emails from around the world all day long. One lady in Sweden in particular touched me, and I wrote her back. We wrote back and forth that whole day and she gave me the support I needed to make the phone calls and get through (what seemed) the many dead ends before I finally made contact with the Munich English Speaking group. I wanted to go to a meeting that night but I live about two hours away, so it wasn’t possible for anyone to pick me up and I was in no physical condition at that point to make the trip by myself. But this special AA lady in Sweden invited me to her online group. I went to my first online meeting that night. She also sent me a digital twenty-four hour chip the next day. After a few days of corresponding we agreed that she should be my sponsor.
I used e-AA as my home group for the first three months because of the distance to a face-to-face group and because of my unwillingness to get to know the people in the group I was attending. I lived online at e-AA the first two months, afraid really, to be away from the connection that was keeping me sober. In the third month, as the fog lifted, it was easier for me to return to a normal semblance of life. It was then also that I started feeling more comfortable in the Munich English Speaking group.
I have recently celebrated 1 year sober. I go to Munich twice a week. I am active in the Women’s email group here at e-AA and occasionally still go to a meeting online. I worked the first four steps with my online sponsor. Then I found someone in Munich to help me work through the rest of them. I kept my online sponsor, and so now I have two sponsors. It works for me. I touch base with both of them every week or so.
My higher power is not something I can define, but I understand that it works. I am not sure if it can actually “hear” a prayer, but I pray anyways; it helps me stay honest with myself and I do feel that a power greater than myself has always had a hand in watching out for me.
My son, who is now nine years old, is grateful that I am sober. He is the one that I think was most affected by my drunken life. I am grateful that both my kids are still young enough that they don’t hate me and I have time to make amends to them while they are still little. My husband is supportive of my activity in AA but denies that he saw a problem when I was drinking. I have encouraged him to go to Al-anon but he has no interest.
My two friends that I was trying to get back, were not persuaded by the email and still wanted nothing to do with me for another nine months. But cautiously they did reconnect with me. I was able to make amends to one of them before she moved back to the States. And the other one, who had been the more unresponsive and hurtful one, went with me to Munich to celebrate my 1st year of Sobriety and watch me get my chip.
I am grateful for all that I have been given so far in my sobriety. And I am optimistic about my future. I have hope that if I stay connected to my Higher Power, I will stay sober and continue to grow as a person and be useful to others.