April is Alcohol Awareness Month per the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) . In an effort to increase awareness, I’m finally getting my ass in gear with this blog!
I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, piss-poor decision-making, relationship dysfunction, liver disease, and some types of cancer. I’d like to think that alcoholics aren’t discriminated against, but that’s not always the case – even within families. Clearly, the risks of drinking too much aren’t enough to deter a lot of us. Life’s short, so party on, right?! It’s five o’clock somewhere (I LOATHE this saying!). Do you know someone who might have a problem? Do you consider yourself a “partier”? It’s time to take a look at what’s “normal” in our society. It’s time to learn. It’s time to talk.
79,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use.
Alcoholism is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation.
Up to 40% of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption.
BRING IT ON
This April during Alcohol Awareness Month, I urge you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the dangers of drinking too much. My intention is to blog all month about whatever needs to be said. I have a specific ask of my readers – please send me your questions, curiosities, or concerns. Maybe we can learn a few things together. Maybe we can help somebody.
If I don’t get any feedback, I’ll be forced to bitch and moan about my pet peeves and annoying daily dramas, so please spare us all!
If you’re looking for more information on alcoholism, visit my favorite site dedicated to recovery, where they offer a ton of information, tools, and resources: http://treatmentandrecoverysystems.com/.
How many people can say that recovery runs in their family? Better yet, how many people can say it and be proud of it? I can! Let me introduce the three of us who are keeping it real every damn day: Me, my dad and my brother. We have a bond that is quite unique.
No matter how long we’ve each been sober, we make conscious decisions to not drink EVERY DAY. And just as many others in recovery have learned, it doesn’t get any easier, we just get a little bit better. What helps me be better is the connection I have with my dad and bro. I used to think I was a badass when I was wasted, but nothing compares to how powerful and awesome I feel having these two on my side and in my little “club.” Recovery posse up!
Today we celebrate my dad’s second year in recovery! Two years of sobriety is his longest stretch in over 40 years! That’s pretty amazing. I’ve never been more proud to be his daughter.
As I reflect upon my family in recovery, today especially, I bask in that powerful light that we’ve created together – healing ourselves, healing our family, and making our moments real. One day at a time, one panic attack at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time – we rock!
Today I bask in the shock, awe and glory of having lived SEVEN years in sobriety. SEVEN??? Yes, I said SEVEN!!!
I don’t have much time (Newborn alert! Shit kid, give me a friggin minute!!!), but I will say this – I’m damn proud of myself for continuing to learn, heal, inspire and nurture the girl in me that deserves universal love. I will go forward with renewed dedication and focus, always aware that I’m just a drink away from losing it all. Shitty perspective, but it’s the truth and I feel even more powerful with every day that I chose not to have that drink.
Thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me. I’ve never been more convinced that I really CAN do ANYTHING.
I dropped my dad off at rehab this weekend, hopefully marking the end of his 42 yearlong rollercoaster ride with alcohol. This is his fourth time going into treatment and will most likely be his last. No, I’m not over-optimistic or delusional. I say this because he’ll either remain sober, or relapse and die. Those are the two options we are all faced with at this point with the progression of his disease. The health of his body has been one of the most important factors in his seeking sobriety, which is why this time around things are different – his motives to get sober are much more meaningful and essential.
As a sober alcoholic and the child of an alcoholic, I’ve gained a wealth of experience and knowledge on alcoholism. No matter the known facts or what I tell myself, I still feel things deep inside that I know are not true. I admit that the following story is an everyday element of my life: If he really loved me, he’d stay sober.
So, with THAT nagging at the core of my existence, it was an interesting drive toward his house to pick him up. The following cycle of emotions seemed to play in my head on repeat:
Fear – What if he decides to quit rehab halfway through? What if he dies in detox? What if he gets out and loses his job? What if they find out he has cirrhosis of the liver? What if he has a mental breakdown? Is he going to bullshit another recovery plan, or actually make some realistic goals? What if he doesn’t follow through with his recovery plan? What if he falls off the wagon?
Hurt – He’s ruined his life up until now. What a waste of such a unique and special human being. He must be in so much pain and so broken inside, so isolated and alone. He’s lost so much; so have I, for that matter. I sure have missed out on having a dad who has been present and involved in my life. I have experienced how awesome he is when he’s living sober and I want my dad back. I want my son to know his wonderful Grandpa. Aren’t we important enough? Why hasn’t he made more of an effort to see us? We’ve lost so much time.
Shame – I’m sure he has enough of this for the both of us, but I still feel pangs of shame here and there. This is the emotion I could really go without and in fact, I hate it. As fleeting as these feelings may be, they’re just absurd enough to bother me. My husband doesn’t “get it” (he’s learning!), so I’m certain his family isn’t educated about alcoholism either, so naturally I assume they a bit judgmental as a result. They all tend to lead with their hearts, so I really don’t think they would react negatively toward me or him, but who knows? What about my mom’s friends? They are real shit-talkers, I wonder what they think? The realization that I have no control over how someone else views me or my family and that it actually doesn’t need to have any effect on my life in the slightest, is what keeps these shameful thoughts at bay, or quickly launches them back there. Then I feel guilty for feeling the shame…
Anger – children should NEVER have to escort their parents to rehab. Children certainly shouldn’t have to PAY for part of it, nor should they have to clean up shit hole apartments (for a fresh start) that are better off ablaze. Because of how withdrawn my dad has been at times growing up, I ended up dating a bunch of losers (bad boys) who were also withdrawn – ultimately breaking down my self-worth by my feeling like I had to fight for attention and love. Say what?! He has absolutely no idea how much he’s affected me, or anyone else. My husband has been around for almost 8 years and has had little interaction with him, so they really don’t have a relationship to speak of and that pisses me right off. Nutt up, Dad! It’s time to kick some ass, laugh and enjoy life! What’s the point, otherwise?! I want to slap the sad right out of him.
Hope– he’ll instantly have more self-esteem once he’s been sobered up for a few weeks. His desire to talk to a counselor is a great sign. With his unresolved issues no longer covered up with alcohol, dulling the pain, he needs to learn how to overcome them. I can’t wait to have neat conversations with him again about nature and animals; he knows so much and is so passionate about that stuff. Maybe he’ll find a hot little number in an AA meeting, gaining a sober partner to offer support and love. Maybe his social phobia will dwindle away and his confidence and dreams will soar high above with the eagles.
It was a tearful goodbye as we parted ways, but as I drove away I noticed only one resounding emotion. It was a new one and it was GOOD:
Relief – There’s nothing but positive stuff going on now. He’s safe, he’s detoxing, he’s in a supportive environment and he chose to go. I no longer have to fear that phone call telling me he’s either in jail or dead. I’m actually glad I had the opportunity and could help him one last time, as it symbolizes the end of this chapter of this co-dependent reality for me. I can now be at peace with the fact that I have done everything I could do to help him.
I fully expect my dad to work his ass off to recreate a life for himself in sobriety. I’ll do my part to learn what I can about how best to support him – by going to some of the lectures and family meetings – but the rest is up to him. If I can do it, I know he can do it. There’s a little gift sobriety has brought me and it’s a strong sense of PRIDE. It’s an amazing feeling and even more amazing to welcome others into this circle. Go Dad!
Triggers threaten my sobriety.
There will always be moments in my life where I will just want to get shit-faced drunk. I fantasize about it more often than I’d like to officially admit. I’m pretty sure I won’t ever actually do it, but in my wise old age of 34 I’ve learned that you can’t ever be too sure about anything and besides, cockiness is dangerous. My intention and mission in life is to stay sober, but if I want to maintain this I know I can’t just sit around and wish on it, I have to work hard at it.
Triggers are threats to anyone’s sobriety; they are whatever makes you think about and/or crave alcohol. Triggers ultimately lead to relapse if you’re not careful and paying attention. Every day I experience a number of triggers, even at 5 1/2 years of sobriety. I am happy to say that it has gotten a bit easier, though. In early sobriety the triggers were much more frequent and difficult to deal with, as almost anything posed a potential threat:
a sunny day
a rainy day
getting off of work
going out in public
eating a steak
…you name it.
There’s a good reason that most AA meetings celebrate short increments of sobriety like 30, 60, and 90 days with coins; the first stretch of abstinence is often the hardest. You’ve finally given up the booze, but you haven’t had the time to replace it with healthy tools and habits. Learning to approach life in new ways with a sober mind takes a shift in perspective and approach on just about everything, which takes a lot of time, energy and persistence.
Repression is a normal human defense mechanism that softens the bad stuff in our lives so we can handle it. Traumatic events from a few years ago don’t seem as big of deals anymore. There is also something called euphoric recall, which exaggerates the good times. Lots of people in sobriety say things like, “I messed up, got a few DUIs and lost the love of my life, but I had tons of fun when I was drinking and I think I’ve learned my lesson. I think I can enjoy the good times again and control my drinking. If it gets like it was before, I’ll get some help, but I think I can do it again.” This “disease” is insane and I wish the medical profession could get more of a handle on it, as there are just too many unknowns. So, if you’re experiencing triggers similar to those above, relapse is almost inevitable unless you are consciously at work, in my humble opinion.
Handling My Worst Triggers
I am finding that being further into sobriety the triggers are quite tricky. The most troubling triggers I am experiencing lately are my vivid day dreams about boozing, hearing certain songs or the temptation I feel when I am less than an arm’s length away from an open container. I’ve very recently realized (today, actually) just how dangerous my thoughts have become. They’ve snuck up behind me and have completely wrapped around my world. I’m so aware of it at this very moment, my heart is heavy and the pain of this is almost overwhelming. How could I not recognize this happening? If sobriety is my mission in life, why did it feel okay to consistently daydream about getting wasted? Why did it feel right to be so sneaky, transporting my mind back to that secret world? Why didn’t the strong part of me stop it? Why didn’t I stop myself from listening to those songs that instantly transport me back to that place?
I’m just really glad I’m aware now, so I’ve made a plan:
Redirect my drunken day dreams – I’ll start with visualizing replacing every drink with water and feeling it flow through my body, making me feel fresh and alive. I’ll have to ponder this one some more, though.
Turn off the music – The songs are easy, I can just turn them off. There’s only one type of music that is “trigger free” for me, so I’ll be listening to a lot more Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. Get ready, hubby.
Redirect my thoughts around open containers – this is the one I’m worried about, but if I focus on the steps above, maybe it’ll be easier. I have already cut back on my exposure to alcohol substantially, but it’s still everywhere. More often than not, I think about how close it is to me and how easily I could just put my lips on it and chug it down. I never tell anyone when I think these thoughts because they are all too often, and what’s the point, really? Plus, it scares the hell out of me. With one swift movement all of my hard work could go to the shitter along with my amazing life as I now know it. I do believe I’ll be making a counseling appointment a.s.a.p.
In my twisted little alcoholic brain, I’m now imagining the thoughts of my readers, as I had similar thoughts about my dad when I was younger:
“Why can’t she just stop and be done with it?”
“Doesn’t she have enough willpower?”
“Is she really that weak?”
“Why would she doubt herself? Is she looking for an excuse?”
“Does she not love her son enough?”
“Isn’t her husband’s threat to leave her enough?”
Here’s a shocking revelation: what you or anyone else thinks of me is NONE of my business, but I am aware that what I’m actually afraid of is what I think of me. I will say this, my husband DID help to spark my initial sobriety, but willpower and ultimatums certainly won’t keep me that way. I’m not weak or pessimistic, I’m honest and realistic. That’s what I’m counting on to get me through this. The only thing that will keep me sober is to continuously focus on how I can get better. How I can better think, act, react and love.
Prevention and Growth
Until I can see a counselor, I’m also putting the following plan into action:
Put ME first – this is not selfish, it’s absolutely necessary to be a loving, caring, productive person, friend, wife, mom and daughter. The quality of my relationships are directly related to my relationship with me. I must do what’s right for ME more often. I’ve been practicing lately, but I’m really going to kick it up a notch now.
Simplify – My closet (among other closets and drawers) is a pit, overflowing with clothes I don’t wear and it has been at the back of my mind for some time now – not a source of stress I need, no matter how small. Quite frankly, I don’t need to see or talk to anyone for my happiness either (except for my husband, son, brother and mom). I am perfectly content with just BEING at home most of the time. A happy marriage requires compromise however, so I do take part in many things to appease my husband and his relentless socialite craziness. He has been good for me in that respect, as I would likely be a fairly lazy gal, with a tendency to get a little depressed. We’ve actually slowed down lately, which has nurtured the homebody in me, so I’ll just keep it up.
Connect with other sober alcoholics – this may seem like a contradiction to my earlier plan to simplify my social calendar, but it’s not. I need to do this on my own terms. It’s really important to me that I feel like I belong in some sense and learn to distinguish between healthy boundaries and emotional walls; I can’t think of a better way to practice and learn than with new people going through similar experiences. This step will probably the toughest one, due to my social anxiety. This is where my dad gets hung up…it has led to his relapse time and time again.
Get rid of toxic people – Right now there isn’t anyone I necessarily need to break-up with, but there are people who are in unhealthy relationships or unhealthy lifestyles that I don’t want to spend time with. There will be instances where I must, however because that’s just how life is, but I am going to more diligently keep them out of my home (my safe place) and limiting my exposure to them.
Relax – I don’t consider this a luxury, nor does it fall into the “put ME first” category. Regular relaxation is essential for a healthy life. Why the hell is it so hard to do, then? If I could get a weekly massage, I would. If I ever have disposable income I will do exactly that. So, in the meantime I’ll take more naps whether or not the house falls apart, or my husband bitches at me. Yes dear, I just said that.