Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Awakening: Coming Out

…as an alcoholic; the person who maintained an illusion of sobriety while being three sheets to the wind. I was the one who proudly admitted I was an alcoholic. I had no problem drinking—I had two hands for each drink.

“Come over for a beer!’
“Let’s go out for a drink!”
“Let’s go wine tasting!”

My life was surrounded by the good ol’ grape and potato juice. As a former bartender and one who makes drinks at everyone's parties, I knew what people liked. Drinks made to perfection and sometimes, an extra dose to loosen up the crowd.

Oddly enough, although alcohol is a depressant, when I was completely down or upset, alcohol would make me “happy” and turn my grim mood around….temporarily. I never knew that the long-term effects were depression and anxiety. I just thought alcohol cured it. I masked my anxiety and depression by drinking through it; self-medicating so to speak. I could always quit…if I wanted to. Sure, no problem, right?

One evening while walking over to throw away a beer in the recycler, I noticed that 11 bottles were stacked up. The twelfth one was about to fall into the bin—my last beer. Before the twelfth one, I had a couple of martinis. The beer was there to “weaken” my alcohol level. I then thought to myself: “Wow.” That’s all. Just, “wow”. I stared into the bin and thought about how much I had consumed. Oddly enough, I wasn’t “drunk”---the staggering, slurring type of drunk. That was the scary part. 1, 2, 3, 4 drinks didn’t do it for me any longer. I found myself switching to scotch on the rocks. It was then I knew I was falling into a pit of darkness.

It was then I knew, I was a really bad alcoholic.

Some mornings, I woke up not knowing how I got home the night before. I was the “designated driver”. Not only did I put my loved ones at risk, but I put many people out on the road at risk too. About 14 years ago, while driving through a heavily populated area trying to get from one bar to another, I made a left hand turn on a major highway onto the wrong lane while a cop was waiting for the light to turn green. I passed the cop on the LEFT side. I raced down the highway on the wrong side, hopped the medium and raced over to a Dunkin' Donuts, parked in the back and turned the lights off.

I never got caught, sadly.

Back in 2003, while at a club in New York, my best friend was trying to tell me I shouldn’t drive. I was a control freak and I was not about to leave my car to be “inconvenienced” and have to pick it up the next morning. I had to nurse a possible hangover. She insisted by pushing me up against my SUV and I took that as an attack. In my deepest regret, I punched her in the face because I was in a drunken stupor. But I do hold myself 100% accountable. I thought she was attacking me for no reason. She was laid out on the ground and we had to pick her up and let her rest in the back seat of the truck. It was awful. She was trying to save me. I’ve apologized to her and still regret that evening to this day. She still remains my closest friend…so I am grateful for that.

I’ve been drinking since the age of twelve. I was a “weekend warrior”, if you will. I was drinking my way through school and through some pretty traumatic times always self-medicating. As I grew into a young adult, it became pretty moderate: a glass of wine or two with dinner on the weekends or if I went out dancing, a few beers with a shot. I was pretty much like anybody else. I could go a week or so without drinking and maintain a level of calmness, but it became increasingly worse two years ago.

Right before throwing the twelfth bottle of beer into the recycler, a thought came into my mind.

I need help.

November 18th is my sobriety date. I’m in AA and have a sponsor who I relate to on many levels. Being in the group has given me so much hope. I have learned so many things with all the various people who attend these meetings. These people range from old vets (VFW guys), Catholic priests, housewives, grandmothers and people who I recognized back from my party days. I even saw my old childhood friends. We’re all in there for the same reason. I go twice a day sometimes. We pray together and help one another by personal techniques or sharing stories. This was the group I had always poked fun of. This was a group that I called “a cult”. And...this is a group where I belong. For the first couple of days of being sober, I was home in bed shaking. I was so close to picking up a drink. After day 4, it got better. I started leveling out.

“My Awakening”

I feel alive. The things I am experiencing now are indescribable. My days of insomnia are over. I sleep 8-10 hours per day. I’ve lost weight and oddly enough, haven’t changed my eating habits. The alcohol literally blew me up. I’m back into my old jeans and I feel wonderful. Other than that, I’m not obsessive like I used to be. I don’t get upset easily and I try to find logic in things I used to call “irrational”. I’ve been writing music again and started an outline for a new book I want to write and publish. I’ve been cooking up a storm in the kitchen, trying new things. I found out how much I love bookstores and coffee. Yes, coffee being my new addiction. I'm evening looking into going back to school for a couple of courses.

And, I found out that I no longer suffer from agoraphobia as I used to. I do all the grocery shopping and I’m not afraid to drive long distances to go to a mall by myself. I have never been able to do this ever----even with cognitive behavior therapy. This is a new world---a new life for me.

I have clarity.

During dinner at home, I drink sparkling cider. It acts like a sweet wine to me. I love it. When I am out sitting at the bar with friends, I order a club soda with lots of limes in it or hot cider with cinnamon. A friend said to the bartender, “Get her the usual—it’s on me!” And I just said, "No thanks, really---I’m on antibiotics.” It was the beginning for me so I didn’t want to just say, “I’m in AA!” She would think I was nuts. I still go to bars and restaurants, but luckily, I don't crave alcohol and can mingle with friends at different places as well as parties. I’m advised not to do these things, but I have different and stubborn views on this.

I’m not ashamed of being in AA, in fact, it has really enriched my life on many levels. Not only have my senses come alive, but also I have learned so many moral foundations about maintaining sobriety. They challenged me 90 days. I do believe moderation is key, however lately with my drinking habits, it wasn’t considered “moderation”—it was over indulgent, self-medicating and masking any problems that I ever had. I still believe a drink a day is good for the heart, but for someone like me, at this time, I can’t just stick to the one drink. So, I’m trying it for 90 days.

On another note: I do want to apologize for anyone who has come across my path who has either been offended by my words or actions. I want to truly say, I’m sorry. And no, this is not one of my 12 steppin’ “to do” lists; it’s my genuine feelings because I missed out on a whole lot in life due to alcohol.

I also want to mention to my friends and family members: please don’t act differently around me just because I have a problem with alcohol. If I’m at a party, I’ll still be making you drinks. I’ll still bring the wine and cordials. I can still go out to a bar and hang out. I’m no different—I’m just sober. I don’t crave alcohol anymore—in fact I’m scared of it because I know if I do drink, I won’t be able to sleep that night. Not sleeping for me is the worst feeling in the world. That alone is motivation for me.

I’m finally awake now. Today’s a good day.