Words cannot describe how scared I was after hitting "publish" on last week's blog post. I wrote it just before leaving for work and when I checked in four hours later the dozens of comments, tweets, emails, and direct messages brought tears to my eyes.
That being said not everyone was happy with what I chose to share. Ironically enough someone I once considered a friend posted the following on my Facebook page,
disorders are mental health conditions in which an individual pretends
as though he or she has a physical or mental illness. Individuals with
these disorders have a strong desire to be seen as injured or ill. They
deliberately create a set of symptoms to gain attention and sympathy
from others. Individuals with factitious disorders might create symptoms
that do not exist or lie about their experiences. They may also seek
out diagnoses or insist that they have an illness. A common factitous disorder is the characterization of being “addicted” to gain attention and sympathy."
My initial response to this comment was anger. I was furious that anyone would dare to doubt my sobriety and the years of addiction that lead up to it. However, after the shock wore off I realized why some might doubt my story. They doubt because like so many alcoholics before me I hid it well.
When I drank I did it at home away from my friends and my extended family. I would hide my boxes of wine in the kitchen cabinets when I knew people were coming over. I poured it into opaque plastic cups and refilled them quickly while in the kitchen cooking, preparing snacks for the kids, or otherwise appearing to be the perfect host to our guests.
Perfection, my ass. The only thing I was perfect at was getting sloshed.
When I did drink in public I was very mindful of how much I drank because of my need to drive home afterwards. I had a very good reason for being careful.
My grandmother was killed by a drunk driver.
That being said, I cannot lie and say I never drove under the influence of alcohol.
Three years ago I lost track of time at a social event and drove home drunk with my boys in the car with me. It scared me so badly that I stopped drinking and went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. My brief stint with sobriety lasted all of eighteen days.
My fear of killing myself, my children or someone else because of my drinking was only powerful enough to keep me sober for eighteen fucking days. You cannot imagine how disgusted I feel writing that. Admitting my defects of character which were so blatant and yet so well hidden that as I passed from sober back to drunk no one was the wiser.
No one except me.
The point I am trying to make is that just because I never got caught doesn't mean I didn't have a serious problem with alcohol. The common denominator of alcoholism is not getting a DUI, doing jail time, or developing cirrhosis of the liver. Each person in recovery has their reasons and their evidence to support it and the only one who knows enough is enough is the person tipping back the bottle. This can easily be seen in the alcoholic who has had three or more DUIs and continues to put themselves and others at risk. It is not the fines, prison time, or random drug tests that teach them they have a problem. They only see it when they reach their lowest point and surrender to it.
I am thankful I reached rock bottom when I did and how I did. I thank God I didn't end up on the evening news in handcuffs or in a courtroom losing custody of my children. I am grateful my end came gently and quietly as if someone was ministering to me.
I share my experience and my sobriety as a cautionary tale. For the past four years it has been customary for me to write about my life, both the good and the bad, on my blog, via Twitter and Facebook and when Instagram came along I gave you a firsthand view. I have made you laugh, cry, and got you riled up when an injustice has been done in our community. But for all that time the one thing I didn't know how to write about was my addiction to alcohol.
I didn't want to talk about it because at the time I didn't want to stop. Then I reached a point where I wanted to but didn't know how. It was a scary tipping point for a long while and until I reached my rock bottom I withdrew from those I loved and cared about. Both those in my computer and those outside of it. Once I knew I had the strength to stop and get help I knew I had to come clean to all of you.
Each of you are so much more to me than just readers. You've become both my sounding board and my cheerleaders. I realized that if I had a problem with alcohol maybe there were others reading who did too. I have spent the past four years making jokes about my drinking to deal with stress and in doing so I failed to give you the punchline as well. I have to let you know that so much of the drinking I did was not funny at all and in the end the joke was on me.
If you think you might have a problem with alcohol I urge you to talk to someone honestly about it. There are many roads through recovery and in my case Alcoholics Anonymous has been very helpful. In addition, I have also found reading blogs written by those in recovery very eye-opening and therapeutic. It helps me to hear others stories and nod in our similarities and celebrate sober milestones.
Which reminds me....I've earned my three month chip. It is a token I can carry in my pocket along side the serenity prayer coin given to me by my friend Amanda. Each time I feel the urge to drink or I forget exactly why I stopped I touch it and thank God for its reminder that He is in control and I am not alone.
Acceptance. Courage. Wisdom.