Getting off the train…

I recall a counselor once telling me, in her experience if a person questions if they are drinking too much then they likely are. But are you an alcoholic? Only you can answer that, she said.

The problem, as I see it, with the disease of alcoholism is there is no medical test that proves you are an alcoholic. Scientists have created tests that show the impact of alcohol on your body but there is no blood draw or pee on a stick test that says “You are an Alcoholic and Can Not Drink”.

It remained for me to wonder, “Am I or am I not?”, as I played games with myself to control my drinking over the years.  Alcohol is a sly thief stealing our ability to think clearly and objectively, and it depresses us and becomes the loudest voice in our head drowning out the voices of reason, and faith.

I’ve reflected on my journey with alcohol and my drink of choice, white wine. I can still remember the first time I had too much wine; the first time the wine worked its spell on my brain and stole my ability to think clearly. I was a sophomore in college and had been legal to drink anything for about 18 months. My friends and I went to a Friday afternoon Wine and Cheese hosted by a fraternity in their clubroom before dinner. In the course of the hour I started playing quarters with wine. I will FOREVER be grateful to the guardian angels who protected me that night. Once it was time for dinner, people started to leave, including my roommate and girlfriends. I told them I’d be along – I was flirting with a boy who I wanted to ask to take me to my sorority dance. Finally it was only the two of us. I don’t remember much, but do remember this, he walked me back to my dorm room and went to find my friends. I spent the next few hours throwing up in the shower with my girlfriends looking on. I wish I’d known then.

Over the next 25 years, I had a fairly typical, drink some, but not all the time, take it or leave it relationship with alcohol. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I drank enough to make myself sick, until 9 years ago when my mother suddenly died, and I was plunged into grief.

About 6 weeks after her funeral, when I’d been drinking wine every night to shut out the voices in my head I gave it up for Lent – I lasted about two weeks and started drinking again.  I wish I’d known then.

A few years later I knew I was depressed and a Dr gave me some medicine after I broke down in tears – I stopped drinking, took it for a while, began to feel better – and then started drinking again while on the meds. I wish I’d known then.

I hid the bottles from my husband and would drink alone after he’d gone to bed. I wish I’d known then.

Even though I was drinking every night until I passed out in bed, I had my life, I had my family and a lovely home. I ran events at school and at church. By any outward measure my life was perfect, but I was broken inside and turned to wine every night to silence the voices in my head and help me escape from the day. I wish I’d known then.

I stopped last year, drew the line in the sand, did great for a couple months, thinking, ok this is good, I can do this. Then a big wedding anniversary arrived and my husband and I went away to celebrate in NYC for 4 days of fun! Everywhere we turned people put champagne or wine in front of us. So I drank, telling myself – I will stop when I get home. I did not. I wish I’d known then.

I kept drinking all winter until March 6, 2018 and then I knew.

I attended an AA meeting the next day and I know now, without any hesitation that I am an alcoholic and I cannot drink. The last 43 days have been some of the happiest and most spirit lifting I can remember in a very, very long time. My journey of sobriety might look easy from the outside, but the nights have been tough. Admitting only God can heal me from my alcoholism, leaning on His strength and not my own, takes the pressure off of me and makes it possible for me to stay sober each night.

As someone who reached a “bottom” that looks different from the stories I’ve read or the stories I’ve heard in the meetings of AA, I sometimes wonder if I belong. I then realize that is the disease talking, and I do belong. I am a person who boarded the same train as everyone else, I just managed to get off a few stops earlier.

In the clarity of my sobriety I realize that my story has value to the young mother who is drinking wine with her friends at play dates because “she deserves a treat”.

My story has value to the woman whose teen now has their driver’s license so she can start drinking before the teen is home for the night because they won’t need to be picked up.

My story has value to the woman whose nest is empty and can now start drinking at 2, or at lunch, because her child is off at college and does not need her attention or dinner on the table.

My story has value to the woman whose life has just been turned upside down and is now seeking peace and silence from the pain with the numbing prescription of alcohol.

My story has value and I’m learning to tell it. I hope it helps others get off the train even earlier than I did.

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