So today my family & I fly to Australia for a month. A hard earned & saved for treat for over 1000 days sober (1043 today to be exact!) I can’t quite believe we’ve achieved this many days or this extended holiday. As with my other breaks it will also be a cyber holiday so I’m leaving this post up until I return and linking a copy of my e-book here for you to download while I’m away should you want to:
My online course is self-directed so remains available during this time but can I direct you to Udemy if you have any technical issues. Equally any comments on the blog or emails sent to me during this time will not be responded to until my return at the end of August.
Plus I’d like to thank a member of the BFB Yahoo for this blog post they called Surrender and if you’d like to read more of their writing you can do so here (she’s on day 145 now!) Over to them and see you in a month 🙂
Good morning BFBers
Today is day 30 for me. It’s been a ride and a half and I am so grateful for the support of this group. The longest I have ever gone without alcohol with the exception of three pregnancies and a few military deployments was 11 days out of the last 20 some years. Ridiculously, I used to congratulate myself on going more than 24 hours without a drink and never could have fathomed a whole month. Yet, here I am. And I feel deep down that I will never drink again. I made myself a promise that if I could make it this first month that I would come clean and share my story here. There are obviously years leading up to all of this, but this is how I came to SURRENDER.
Thirty days ago I drank an entire bottle of whiskey in an attempt to “feel better” after I had a series of unsettling events. I see it all now as what it was: a painful wake up call from God. The day before my last drink, I had worked a twelve hour shift in the ER, 10 of which were spent taking care of a patient who was an alcohol overdose who was found unresponsive by her family. She had aspirated (inhaled her vomit into her lungs), then had an anoxic (lack of oxygen) brain injury and a stroke as a result. She was 4 years older than me and will probably never wake up again. She left three kids.
Instead of coming home and recognizing that situation as a cautionary tale and using it to examine my own drinking, I did what I always did after a rough shift: I drank. I drank about 5 shots of whiskey and then restlessly went to bed at 0300. My sweet son who has a lot of sensory issues and learning disability had a giant meltdown about his socks the following morning which, in my probably still intoxicated state I did not handle well. I yelled at him which made it all worse and he went to school feeling misunderstood and sniffly. I sat down after taking the kids to the bus feeling like an utter failure, trying to shake the images of my patient the night before. Her kids crying at the bedside, her slack jaw, the medications I was using to keep her alive, the rhythmic hiss and whoosh of the ventilator that was breathing for her. So… I drank some more. A lot more.
I fell asleep, and was awakened by my phone ringing; the school calling to tell me that I had forgotten to get my 5 year old off the bus. I stumbled to my car, looking like God knows what and went into the office. I could hear my words slurring, burst into tears when she came out of the nurses’ office and made some probably unintelligible statement to all of the office ladies that I wasn’t feeling well and had laid down and not heard my alarm. I have no idea why they didn’t call the police or why they let me take my daughter. Unless the idea that I, a mom with three kids at that school who is active and “together” could have possible been severely intoxicated at NOON was just too difficult to imagine. Maybe they truly believed that I did have the flu or something.. I drove home the 0.8 miles to our house (yes, I’ve measured just how far I drove drunk with my precious daughter in the car), remember trying to make her a PB and J. I took another shot to manage the guilt I felt when I realized that instead of jelly, I had dumped out a jar of olives onto the sandwich and had to start over. That was the last shot in the bottle, so of course I opened the second. I made her a sandwich and then I don’t remember anything after that. Apparently, my subconscious knew that I was in trouble because I called my husband (I don’t remember) and told him he needed to come home right away because I was messed up.
The next thing I remember was lying in the tub vomiting up my guts, with my husband trying to get me up and out of the shower. Me crying that I just wanted to die and finally saying out loud to him over and over “I’m an alcoholic.” Then passing out again.
I finally woke up at 11 pm that night in my bed, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I had bruises on my entire body; my face was throbbing. I looked down and realized that my left knee was completely dislocated. It was like looking at someone else’s knee. I literally felt nothing; just thought, “huh, pretty sure my knee cap shouldn’t be sticking out the side of my leg.” I stood up shakily and it popped back in. I hobbled to the bathroom to see my face. My lip was swollen, my right front tooth was broken and the whole side of my face was purple.. I have no idea how I sustained those injuries. My first thought was of my kids. I asked my husband where they were and he told me “you made R lunch, called me and set her up with a movie. She was watching Strawberry Shortcake when I got home an hour after your call. The other two are fine. I was here when they got home.”
I see all of those things now as Divine providence. The school staff should have called the police. I was in a grey-out when I drove my daughter home and didn’t crash or hurt anyone. I could have killed both of us driving like that. I gave myself a concussion smashing my face into something because I was too intoxicated to stand. I knocked out my front tooth and tore a ligament in my knee. I could have been more severely injured, passed out, aspirated and been just like my patient the day before. It had been building for a while and my husband had never seen me like that. And though the signs were probably there if he had been looking, he never noticed. What a spectacular reveal! Like whipping that curtain away from Oz, everything was out in the open, warts and all and now this is the new reality.
My thoughts during that first night were so full of shame that I just wanted to die. I was in severe physical and emotional pain. I didn’t want to see my kids in the morning, knowing that I had failed them so utterly. Whatever any one tells you or what you want to believe, this disease is PROGRESSIVE… over the last two months that I drank I had reached the point that I had become the clichéd slurring, falling down mother who endangered her child, and endangered other people on the road with me. I never would have imagined that a few ” You deserve it/ Mommy’s time out” glasses of wine (which became bottles which became day time drinking which became binge drinking vodka or whiskey because I had so much tolerance) after my children were in bed would swallow me whole; destroy my self-respect, make me a caricature, a failure and shatter every illusion of perfection or control I had ever clung to. And all of that happened in the span of two years. To anyone on the outside, I looked like a “together” mom of three adorable kids who is a damn good nurse, a tough lady with a great sense of humor who has survived a lot of tough times in life, the tall redhead with the quick wit who has a reputation for being able to handle anything. Except I couldn’t handle alcohol anymore. And I felt like a fraud. If anyone knew….
If you are struggling with moderation, thinking you can control it, I am here to tell you that if you are truly an alcoholic, this disease will not allow you to do that indefinitely. At some point, down the road, and I can’t tell you when it will be for you…Something will happen. That feeling of dread you have, that worry about being a news story, or being the next Diane Shuler… That is the voice of God telling you to STOP NOW.
That first morning, hurting and hungover, it was clear that I could either choose death or choose to accept the idea that I could never, ever drink again. I was living on grace and borrowed time. Because I should have been in jail or dead. So I chose SURRENDER. If you are reading this and haven’t gotten to that place yet, I beg you to accept that you may not be given the choice later. So pick life.
Ironically, the last two days have been the hardest of these 30. I’m struggling with sleep again, feeling down and lacking energy. My anxiety is flaring and I had two panic attacks in the last few days where I honestly thought I was having a heart attack… But fortunately I’m able to recognize all of this as symptoms of PAWS. So, I’m pushing through, trying to rest when I need it, giving myself slack and working on doing a LOT of breathing and pausing. The biggest thing I’ve learned in this last month is that just because I’m feeling something uncomfortable, I don’t have to fix it immediately. I’m a person who hates unresolved things… always had to fix everything the very second that it cropped up. And if I couldn’t fix it, then I would just drink to feel better about it. Now, I’m finding that I don’t have to have knee-jerk reactions, don’t have to sacrifice my own well-being to make others feel better, or manage their emotions to the detriment of myself. I don’t have to “fix” it all right away. It can just BE for a while.
This of course makes me very uncomfortable and uneasy. But I have that little voice in the back of my head that says ” This sucks, but did you DIE?” Nope. Still alive and ticking. This month has been rough. Lots of firsts, some easy, some very difficult. But I’m still here, taking it a day at a time. Knowing that drinking just isn’t an option has freed me to get to the real work of unraveling myself. Which is scary and some days like today I just don’t want to go there. The same stresses exist. I’m still suffering career burn out. I still have three kids and no local family support. My son still has very very bad days that throw everything into disequilibrium. My husband still has PTSD and is too proud to get help. My marriage is still very rocky and probably even more so now that my husband who is a normie can’t understand what the big deal is and why I’m not just magically all better now I’m not drinking. If anything, all of this hurts a thousand times more because I’m not anesthetizing myself anymore. But I’m not drinking.
I know I can’t control and fix all of that so for THIS DAY, in this moment I will pause and just be grateful that I’m sober. I’m finding that though painful, this coming back to life is indescribably worth it. I know that all of this hard work, these tough (often invisible) moments will be worth it. Because I am also open to the good things: laughter, joy; the million small details you can’t see when your edges are blurred. I’m not sure I will ever come to a place where I can be “grateful” for being an alcoholic. I still struggle with a lot of shame and regrets. But perhaps as this journey progresses I will eventually see it as a gift.
In the mean time, thanks for listening. Thanks for “getting” what it means to have the courage to unflinchingly take stock and face this disease. And I hope you can be encouraged by reading my story. Because if anyone as stubborn as me can finally learn to let go, there is hope for you.