Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It's time to Ask The Band!
I quit drinking seven months ago.
Actually, it was 217 days ago if you want to get specific.
I wasn't a fall down drunk all the time. I reserved my drinking for the evenings and the weekends. I usually waited until my child was in bed. I usually drank with other people.
I graduated both high school and college with honors, all while drinking. People knew I attended classes hungover but no one ever said I had a problem. I have successfully held down jobs all while drinking. I had more than my fair share of liquid lunches and still managed to not get fired. My happy hours after work went on too long and by sheer luck I never hurt myself or someone else or had a run in with the law.
I stopped drinking when I found out I was pregnant. As soon as I was done nursing I started drinking again. I was sober for about a year. Aside of that year, I hadn't been sober that long since I was 14 years old.
Last summer, I made a complete ass of myself with my drinking.
I took risks I shouldn't have. I drank alone often. Most mornings I'd think about how long it would be until I could drink again. I'd wonder if I could drink during the day and be okay to pick my son up from day care. I came dangerously close to drinking at lunch. I arranged sitters so that I could drink to excess and not have to worry about parenting getting in the way.
I started to scare myself.
I thought about drinking and wanted to be drunk all the time. The only thing that stopped me is the shame of everyone finding out that I'm an alcoholic. I can barely type those words; I have yet to say them out loud to anyone. But it is who I am and it was getting really hard to keep hiding it.
So I quit drinking. Cold turkey. Just like that.
But I miss it.
I miss being drunk. I don't know if I can do this for the rest of my life. I want to drink so badly tonight it hurts.
I don't know how to live sober.
I'm afraid to tell people just how bad my drinking was because they will think I'm a bad mother, a bad person. Or they won't believe me because I seem put together. Or I'll be held accountable and be judged if I slip.
And I really, really feel like I'm going to slip.
I thought I'd be less scared of myself if I got sober.
Why am I still so scared?
When is this going to get easier?
Alcoholism can completely change a loved one's personality and put stress on the entire family as a result.
This is her story.
Life's not fair, I know that. I don't expect fairness from the world at large. But I feel like - and maybe this is me being a spoiled only child - we should try to be fair to those we supposedly love.
He's an alcoholic, I know that too. He tells me so all the time, whenever I complain about his behavior or his attitude. Or whenever he feels bad. He's trying to fight his demons, he says.
But I'm angry. I'm supposed to be the bigger person and I am so fucking angry.
We made a decision about today's schedule last night. Last night when he was perfectly sober, I must add. Today I followed that schedule and it turns out he is mad that I did. He feels like I left him out, even though that's what we decided last night.
But I'm the bitch. I'm starting the fight, because I wanted to know why he'd called me so angry. He is mad that his family wasn't there when he woke up.
The decision wasn't even 12 hours old, but he changed his mind and is resentful that I didn't know that, that I didn't follow his new wishes.
I fucking hate that. I hate not being able to make plans, not even 12 hours in advance, because he doesn't know what kind of mood he'll be in. He might change his mind and he will be a resentful fucking child if he's committed to something and then changed his mind about it. Or he'll be mad at us if we've gone somewhere without him, because he told me he wanted to sleep late.
I don't feel like I have a partner, I feel like I'm being bossed around by a petulant child.
I know that he is hurting. I know that he is trying to get better. I know that in a few hours, he will be my real husband for a while - the one who doesn't act like a petulant child. But then nighttime will come, he will have his five drinks after the kids go to bed - and he will be perfectly nice at that time too - and then in the morning he will be an asshole.
It's like I live with two people and one of them is a total dick. We can't afford counseling, rehab, or to live apart, really. I don't even know what's actually wrong with us. Are other men so resentful if they don't get to wake up whenever they choose? I know he has insomnia, which is his reason for drinking, but it just seems weird for someone in his thirties.
He gets resentful if I'm not available for sex whenever he wakes up, but he's also resentful if I wake him up early to have sex before I have stuff to do. He's resentful whenever I'm on the computer, but that's a big source of our income right now.
It's like he doesn't know how to be a grownup anymore.
I've been on the path toward recovery most of my adult life. Of course, it wasn't always defined as recovery. I just knew I had problems that were considered "secrets."
When I was younger, if you mentioned you were "in recovery," the person you were talking to would've stopped and said, "Recovering from what?" No one understood the aspects of alcoholism, love addiction or recovery from the torture of a narcissist or an abusive spouse.
"Recovering from what?" That's one heck of a loaded question. I'd already read every self-help book on the market.
At nineteen years old, I first sought spiritual counseling. I'd come to the enlightened conclusion that I was in a horribly abusive marriage and was now pregnant with our first child that He Did Not Want!
I'd been married less than one year.
In desperation, I called my Narcissistic mother, not knowing that she was a major part of my problem. She advised me to meet with a local Pastor at a very conservative church for spiritual counseling.
This is part of the mind fuck a NPD Parent causes their adult child. She, my NPD Mother, seemed very empathetic, loving and helpful.
Now I know that she hated having someone else controlling me. We all know how she LOATHED my NPD misogynistic husband.
So there I sat, across from a judgmental, older man still married to his only wife. She appeared so beaten down that when she opened the door to their home, I seemed able to see right through her.
My instinctive antennae, threw up a huge red flag. It screamed: DANGER AHEAD! DANGER AHEAD!
Of course, being a good adult child of an alcoholic as well as being trained for marriage by my mother, who had narcissistic personality disorder and Munchhausen Syndrome, I ignored my instincts and plowed ahead.
I can never forget how translucent the preacher's wife had become under his abuse. He'd turned her into a non-person.
She was me in twelve years.
In walks a willing victim - I'd asked to see him, after all. Boy, did he slam me.
After I told him about my marriage of 14 months, he said, "Either you are a terrific liar or you're in a hopeless situation." Huh.
But what does that mean?
Well, according to the good preacher, I needed to become "a better wife.
"Read this portion of the Bible EVERY day for 30 days - model what a good wife is and he will be a changed man.
No. That definitely did not work. My husband LOVED my new attitude. How submissive I'd become, how I subjugated myself to his every whim, completely under his control.
I tried harder to be a better wife for a man who'd never, ever appreciate my efforts. He'd simply find new, more creative ways to abuse me.
It took ten more years, two more babies, a dear friend dying way too young, before I fell apart again.
I started with cigarettes, with the intention of pissing off my husband. He smoked, so I smoked.
There's a saying in one recovery group, "Eating poison and waiting for him to die." Starting to smoke cigarettes in my thirties is pretty close. He didn't give a shit.
Next, I took a handful of Vicodin and washed it down with a Budweiser. Yeah. Now THAT helped me.
I was able to make a lovely dinner, care for my delightful children and thought I may even be able to endure sex with my abusive husband at bedtime.
Thus began my love affair with alcohol and prescription drugs. My children were destroyed, confused by the radical change in their mother.
My husband, however, never said a word.
Alcoholism is a genetic disease that may be successfully managed by total and complete abstinence. This is a medical diagnosis, a fact, and not up for personal debate. Like diabetes, if you got alcoholism, you have it.
If you want to live a long life as an alcoholic or diabetic, you have to follow a plan to stop the advance of all the devastating problems that arise as the result of improper management of the disease.
I researched alcoholism until I came to believe that I would die if I didn't cease drinking. My body could only take so much abuse. I couldn't hold my liquor, but I could take enough pills to kill a horse. Aahhhhh.
Plus? You can't SMELL PILLS! Yay! I'd thought I was tricking everybody. Turns out, I was only bullshitting myself.
My path to recovery was long and hard for those who loved me. I'd had no idea how much hurt I'd caused the people in my life.
I'd begun to abuse my prescriptions to avoid feeling the pain; the anguish of what my life had become. I was dangerous, desperate to escape the pain.
As my children got older, I was stoned for every event in their lives. I'd be wasted by the time we got to each planned event.
They'd become more ashamed of me, while I obliviously believed I was acting normally. My children began to give me a "field sobriety" test before we left the house.
Of course I'd pass...then. But by the time we got to our destination, I'd be an inelegant, clearly-altered, nicely dressed, stoned mess.
My children were mortified, angry and powerless is protect themselves.
Back To School Night was forbidden to me by the kids.
My kids tried humor, tears, anger, recriminations, reenactments and shame. The only thing that made a dent was when my youngest daughter asked for prayer at our church.
I tried the good codependent guilt trip by telling her,"Don't EVER tell anyone what's going on in this house!"
At a sage fifteen, she told me, "Mom, you're the alcoholic, YOU NEED PRAYER."
I entered treatment after my oldest daughter got married - I have little-to-no memory of her wedding. She knew better than to ask me to help her with the preparations since I was as dependable as a cool wind in August. More shame.
We finally discovered a herd of pink elephants in our living room. We've only just begun cleaning up the enormous piles of elephant shit. Thank God it's pink - easier to find.
Who knows how long it will take to finish up the recovery? Every time I believe I've run off the last one, a rogue elephant stampedes through the house.
I never do know what it'll look like, smell like, or the damage it'll do. I just know that I have to deal with it, no matter what.
I earned it.
The good old fashioned way.
Substance abuse claims the lives of thousands of people every year.
This is her story.
Happy Belated Birthday, Mom.
You used to laugh about how we were all February women in our family. You, your younger sister, me, and two of my cousins were all born in the same month. You said it made us special. When I was small, I thought it was true. When I was small, there were still times I wanted to be just like you.
I remember making you birthday cards with clumsy hearts and sunshine drawn on them, folding them so carefully and neatly that my teachers were impressed. I remember handing them to you with excitement, waiting to see your smile and hear your praise. I remember you putting down your bottle of beer, just for a second.
After you died, I found most of the cards I made for you and, later, bought for you. Even in the depths of my numbness, I teared up a little thinking that it meant you were proud of me.
You loved me. I know you did.
No matter how you treated me, no matter how many times you told me I was getting fat, no matter how drunk or high you were, there was a part of me that loved you and wished your love for me took a different shape.
I told you once, after you'd laid the guilt on particularly thick, that when I hugged you I felt nothing. You got mad at me and said I was just lying because I was upset with you, that no one feels that way about their mother.
Still, it was your birthday. You would have been 54 if you just could have kept yourself away from the bottle. Away from the drugs. The little girl inside me wants to know why you couldn't love her enough to even try to overcome your addictions, even if the adult me knows it's not that simple.
It's never that simple.
Neither is love.
Indifference, though, that's a different story.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Do you have life lessons that would have helped you through a difficult time?
Share those with The Band as you write a letter to your younger self.
Put down that beer right now. It's caused you enough grief already and if you stop drinking now, it will save you a lot of grief in the future. You do not need it. It just makes you seem silly and makes you a target for abuse.
Now, call your Mom back and tell her you'll be changing your major even though she thinks you won';t be able to succeed. Dancing is her dream, not yours. You want to be seen AND heard.
Unfortunately, your life has been based on how you appear to others and it has made you very insecure. You will never measure up to the incredible standards you have created for yourself. So, just do it. Change your major from dance to psychology.
Here comes the difficult part.
You are not crazy.
You are right.
The drinking, the eating disorder and the incredibly low self-esteem are connected. I know you have been searching with all of your might, trying to find the missing piece, trying to make it make sense. I know you do not want to drink or count potato chips. You want to walk into a room and confidently say "Hello."
The missing piece is a lost memory. You suppressed it because it was too much for your developing brain to handle. I'm not sure your brain can handle it now, but I do know you'll waste less time if you know now.
If you need to leave school, do it.
If you need to stop talking to your mom and sister, do it.
If you need to join the Peace Corps, do it.
Whatever it takes to begin your journey of healing, do it now.
All else will take care of itself.
No need to worry about getting too old to dance. You won't be a famous dancer. Dance for fun.
If you want to be famous, head towards that little room in the basement of the university next to the sports equipment storage - the computer lab. That's where the money is. And yes, you are smart enough to do it.
Work on your voice. Write. Laugh. Go for a walk and write some more.
No, I'm not kidding.
That journal writing you have been doing is good stuff. It really, really is. And don't throw away any of them. You'll want all of your writing, even the stuff you wrote when you were eight.
People will hear you.
You will be heard.
It will get very lonely sometimes. But it will pass. It all does. Everything does. Darkness turns to light, sadness to joy, and vice versa.
Yes, there will be darkness.
When it is especially difficult, look in the mirror and say, "I love you."
Look at me, right now, saying "It wasn't your fault.
You will get through this.
You have survived the worst of it.
There will be light.
And I will be here with you always.
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