Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wishing and Hoping and Drinking and Stopping

Why can’t you stop someone from drinking? Intellectually I know this is impossible and I can hear the echoes of “You can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to” but I still harbor this hope that it is possible.

I don’t drink anymore. I stopped a while back. August 28th, 2002 to be exact; an anniversary I celebrate every year. I stopped after years of trying. I tried all those crazy things, like drinking only every other day or drinking only on the weekends or drinking only once a week or drinking only at social occasions or drinking only wine. I did those things to prove to myself that I didn’t have a problem, that I could schedule my drinking; that I had power over it and I could stop when I wanted. Ha. All those experiments ended spectacularly bad, usually with me drinking six glasses of scotch at some bar and waking up the next day wondering how I got home.

But I didn’t black out all the time. I was not a fall down, passed-out drunk. That caricature of the alcoholic is so outdated and dangerous, because it makes it easier for others to think if you don’t look like the drunk on the street than you don’t really have a problem. Similarly, that old adage about “if you can’t stop drinking, then you have a problem” is flawed as well. I stopped drinking AND I had a problem. But that sort of logic tricks me into thinking trick “Wait…I don’t really have a problem because I stopped for years! Pass the scotch, I can drink again!”

I could drink all night and go to work the next day. I was fuzzy but I was there. I paid my bills and kept my promises and went to the gym and stayed healthy and fulfilled my obligations. I might have been able to keep it up for the rest of my life. But I probably would be alone.

I stopped on my own. Well, not on my own, with Nicole. I couldn’t have done it without her support and guidance and bright-and-shining example. It was the beginning of our relationship so there was a lot at stake. Nicole had quit drinking a year and a half before and deep down I knew it wouldn’t work with us if I continued to drink. I didn’t want to lose her because I couldn’t say not to a wheat beer with a slice of lemon. But Nicole wasn’t the only motivating factor: I wanted to stop for myself too. I didn’t want to feel fuzzy anymore; I didn’t want to dull my emotions and reactions anymore and schedule my evening or weekend around what bar I was going to.

So it was hard and after years of stops and starts I finally quit for good. And it felt so much better, for me. The best way I can describe it (cliché as it is) is that when I was drinking I was in this fog and when I stopped that fog lifted. I became addicted to the this new clarity. It is addicting as well.

Now I see all these celebrities in rehab and I am almost jealous. I had to battle my own drinking demons from the confines of my own home, in the very living room where I once got drunk, and through the very city streets packed with bars and liquor stores on every corner. All of my bad habits and patterns were right in front of me. Celebrities get to kick their addiction in spa-like havens with pools, saunas, gourmet meals, round-the-clock attention and daily mountain hikes. They can check out of their lives for months on end if they want. Me, like most people, had to deal with drinks out with friends and coworkers and dinners with wines and all the triggers from the get go. In the end we are all battling the same thing, no matter where you are, and it is ridiculous to feel jealous of how someone else battles their disease. But I still hear about these celebrities going through rehab and think how lucky they are to have that opportunity.

I am at the point where I know I will never drink again. I can go to bars and be around others drinking and sit at a backyard BBQ and not feel like I am missing something. Sometimes in my dreams I drink, and that is disturbing. I wake up in a panic, because it feels so very real. It isn’t hard most of the time, not drinking. But there are days (and nights) when I think how much would love to sit at a bar with Nicole and just drink till I get the buzzed feeling. Or on a cold winter night to be able to have a glass of scotch, straight up. I love the way it felt going down. It was like drinking a burning fire at first. By the third sip or so, that fire became a became a hazy liquid gold. It was like drinking sunshine.

The whole point of this is that I feel so helpless sometimes because there is someone in my life who drinks and I want desperately for her to stop. I don’t want to name names but those who have read my blog in the past probably know of whom I speak. It makes me feel helpless. It sometimes makes me feel bitter. It’s not that MY way of life is the only way to live, and I get that people should be allowed to live their own lives, in ways I may not approve of, and it may work for them just fine, but when it directly affects me (as it has in the past) I get upset. The question is, how do I watch the destructive patterns play out and not do anything? How do I pretend like it doesn’t exist when I see her or talk to her, especially when she is drunk? Ignoring it is dangerously close to denial for me, and that is repeating bad patterns of my own.

Pictured above, if I didn’t stop drinking (and if 10,000 fertility planets didn’t align) I would never have these babies. Not a bad trade-off.


Anonymous said...

That is so awesome that you quit drinking so long ago and have kept off the sauce. In some ways, your non-celebrity path may have been more effective, since it seems to me that it must be hard for celebrities to stay sober after rehab if they're back in their old stomping grounds - like, rehab is too removed from their normal lives for the lessons to stick. Or something.

I think that I, too, will stop drinking at some point. I can't really knock 'em back like I used to, but I do feel as if it is too much of a habit. The main impetus, though, is my parents. Shit, they booze it up! And not in a partying way, more in an old-school, 1950s way. Totally functional but also completely addicted. And there are sometimes tense scenes when they're drunk. Again, nothing melodramatic, but weird. I think it stems from exactly what you say about the falling-down-drunk stereotype. They each had people in their families who were old-school, Malcolm Lowry type alcoholics, so they think that since they're not like that, no problem.

I just don't want to end up like that. I hope I haven't doomed my kids to bad boozy genes, either.

Maybe this has turned into another Secrets post. :)


Hey-Congrats for stopping. That's an amazing accomplishment.

I don't think anyone can stop anyone from over-boozing, over indulging in food, drugs, whatever the vice. I had a brother that was a drug addict- that story did not end well. But, we all tried to help him and to show him he had reasons for living. The addiction also kills the people around the troubled soul. My thought about it now- is that in the end- you tell the person you love them and that you will support them. The rest- you try to let go. Because it will eventually eat you alive too(okay- maybe I am referring to myself). Best of luck with it.

Kathy said...

My g/f and I don't drink. Neither of us ever had a problem, but we both have a family history of alcoholism so we are super aware of what "could" happen. Keep strong.

calliope said...

I used to consider myself a social drinker. But with all of the shit of infertility I was leaning on the wine to dull the pain. Since going on the Z my urge to numb has sort of evaporated. It is weird, b/c I was just having this internal awareness last night how NICE it was to not go to bed in a haze. It is an awareness that makes me wonder if I may have been in denial about how much I was leaning on the stuff.

Thank you for this post.

K J and the kids said...

Congratulations !
That is a big step. putting it out on this blog is like standing before a group and saying Hi, my name is Jennifer and I'm an alcoholic.


Anonymous said...

I come from a long line of alcoholics so I know what you mean. I myself am a closet alcoholic. I agree about the sterotypical alcoholic. I maintain, hold a job, never drink and drive, never pass out,only drink at night at home. The only time that I haven't drank is when I was pregnant of breast feeding. I dont know how I got this way. It happened gradually. Truthfully I know that I should stop, but I dont really want to. I am getting older and worry about my health.
a long time lurker.... Your children are beautiful, and congrats for posting this. It took courage and I am proud of you.

nailgirl said...

What a kick ass post. I wish that my two sisters would quit drinking. I worry that they will end up killing themselves. One has a seizure disorder and shouldn't drink at all, and the other one just got out of a detox center. It's in the genes. I worry about my kids. Good for you for being brave enough to post about this subject.

tbean said...

Thanks for being brave enough to write about this. What you have done to get healthy and sober is a miracle and few are able to accomplish it. Just a note about celebrity rehab though...having watched my sister go to a very nice and fancy rehab in the southwest twice, I can say that no matter how posh and spa like it is, rehab is still hell and very very hard work. No matter what resources you have, it's still very very difficult and painful, for the person in treatment, and all the loved ones around them.

Shelli said...

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

My family is full of 'two pot screamers,' and so I don't drink.
My dad was an alcoholic who gave up drinking, and later gave up smoking too. He said one was just a substitute for the other.

p.s. In Aussie slang a 'two pot screamer' is someone who gets drunk after a couple of drinks.

psapph0 said...

Hey- you know that I can sympathize on that last bit 110%, should you ever want to vent. I've come up with my own host of strategies for coping over the years (primarily, only meeting up with the said party for breakfast... ahhh.... breakfast... the most sober time of the day... ). I'm sure you have your own as well. To what point is silence denial or enabling? Excellent questions. Tell me if you ever figure it out.

To the closet alcoholics out there with kids-- If you ever would like a first hand look into how your drinking is impacting your kids, please feel free to reach out to me, stranger that I am. You are passing on A LOT more than DNA. And causing more harm in subtle ways than you can imagine.

Anonymous said...

The fiance' is a drinker. And as much as I wish I could stop him, I also resent that I can't go out for drinks once or twice a month and ask him not to drink at all. It would make me a hypocrite. Thanks for sharing this part of your story. Glad you both signed on to the wagon.

judy said...

I have posted openly about my mother's alcoholism. I have also questioned if it is responsible for me to drink even the occasional glass of wine.
Have you read "Drinking A Love Affair" by Caroline Knapp?
Sheer brilliance and must read.

Anonymous said...

anonymous lurker here...but regular reader, pregnant after many failed attempts, with a natural pregnancy. Also an alcoholic. Recovered. for 3 years. you mentioned that you did it on your own. I did it on my own for a while, and went back out years ago, but this time (3 years and damn proud of it ) i am a member of AA. As alcoholics the drink is only a symptom. Having a program for living is what gets me through the day. It gives me the tools to accept life on life's terms. I know you sometimes struggle with things that you share so openly about, and i may even suggest that you consider attending meetings and going through the steps just once. It may help with those bound up, anxious, feelings, all the fear, uncertainty and doubt, the restlessness, and irritability. I have found, for me that using the steps in my own life, i live pretty happily, joyous and free most days. with 6 weeks to delivery of my own baby at 40, i am surprisingly peaceful. I guess that sounded like an advice post, but really just sharing that meetings and the steps helped me with my life problems.

Anonymous said...

No offense to the previous poster, and if it works for you, that's fine, but, Jennifer, DON'T DO IT! You are fine, dealing with things as you are. Don't get caught in the cult that is AA. You merely replace one addiction with another. Do you really want to sit back and say that you have no control over your life and that it is all in the hands of "God," even if you deem "God" to be nothing but a lampshade? Really now, what's the last thing your lampshade did for you?

Bound up, anxious feelings; fear; uncertainty and doubt; restlessness and irritability are facts of life that EVERYONE has to deal with, former, reformed, moderate/ unrepentant alcoholic or not!

-A friend and frequent reader, posting anonymously in order to minimize controversy (who, me? Avoid controversy... crazy talk... just ask NYCTF)

Anonymous said...

well you know me and I;ve been pretty open about my alcoholism. I was lucky to find meetings i did jive with at the beginning until i could get used to it all and find the commonality in any meeting. I tend to gravitate towards the glbt rooms (which are chelsea/clinton gay boy dominated) now. But in a [inch I've been to meetings with the ex-cons right out of detox, meetings near universitys that attract studnets and faculty and meetings that are so formal that the speaker has to wear a SUIT!

Anonymous said...

Hi this is the first time that I've ever commented on anyone's blog. My partner is an avid reader/bloger and I am sure that many of you know our baby story (Little Miss Riley') This is hard for me to say but I am a wine-O, and what I have left is the end of my drinking. I have decided to quite drinking for myself and my fabulous girls (MaMa and Baby Girl) they mean more to me than anything. Reading this blog really meant a lot to me, it makes me feel like I'm not the only one dealing with this demon.

I also quilt drinking while I was pregnant and breast-feeding, but once I quite it just snuck up on me.

Well congratulation to you. And I want you to know that ready your story really helps me with what is coming up for me.