I went to AA for the first time about 4 years. I never had the courage to go, although I longed to go, and this time love for my family trumped my fear.
One Sunday I had just gotten back with my daughter from a quick whirlwind of visiting colleges where she was thinking about playing volleyball. It was a heated topic in my house. We had spent years and lots of money helping her to pursue her dream of playing in college, thinking about all the tuition breaks she would get, how she could continue pursuing her sport. But of course as most things in life it came time to make some decisions and she decided she wasn’t interested anymore. So we fought the whole weekend as I forced her to at least look at a couple of the schools. I begged her to consider the possibilities and to not say no without any experiences behind the no.
We finally got home that afternoon, and she went out with her friends. The house was empty. I can’t remember where my husband and son were, so there I was. Exhausted, emotional from all the arguing, and ready to just relax with a glass of wine. But there wasn’t any wine in the house, and since in Indiana at that time you couldn’t buy alcohol on Sundays I was in quite the dilemma. So I put on my big girl panties and made myself a rum and sprite, my husband’s drink of choice, because that was my only choice. One drink turned into two, and two turned into three, and the number grew as the day grew longer. It was cold outside, so instead of doing my usual deck sitting I was fireplace sitting. This was my naughty place to smoke when the weather was cold and nobody was home. I would light a scented candle in case all the smoke didn’t go up the chimney. I’d sit on the floor, and make an ashtray out of aluminum foil because it could be crinkled up quickly and thrown out the back door if I heard a key turn in the lock. My back would hurt from sitting on the floor, hunched over my computer as I looked at glimpses of the fantastic lives everybody was living out on facebook, and there I sat, drinking, smoking, and isolating.
My plan was to go to bed before anybody got home, but to my surprise my daughter came home early and saw the spectacle I was. I was drunk, not just buzzed, but drunk from the hard alcohol.She saw the aluminum foil ashtray, she saw me sitting on the floor, she saw my broken soul on full display. She cried out “What are you doing?” and I tried so hard to appear okay, to make this look like I was just taking a break in the afternoon. But she saw through me and through my soul and it shook and scared her little heart. The daughter I love so much, the daughter I longed to be a role model for, saw me at my worst. Alone, disheveled, broken, drunk, and shameful. She helped me get up, and I went to bed.
The next morning I had a hangover of all hangovers, and stayed home from work. I lied in my bed as I heard my family get ready for the day. Nobody came into my bedroom, nobody expected me to get up, make lunches, sign forms, ask about after school activities. They just left me alone which was another arrow to the heart. When they all left I knew what I had to do. I called my friend that has been sober for 15 years, and I told her I needed help. My friend listened to me when I told her what I had done, and then I told her more of my secrets. I confessed to her I drank at home, that I was desperate for help, and could I go to AA with her? She said she could hear the desperation and anguish in my voice, and it took her back to when she had those feelings so long ago when she would wake with so much shame and remorse. And that night she took me to her AA meeting.
My daughter called me on her lunch hour to check on me. She quietly sobbed into the phone, “Mom, are you okay? I had to help you get up. I think you have a problem, you need to get help.” And my heart shattered all over again, and I told her “I’m so sorry honey. I know I need help. I’m going with Kate to an AA meeting tonight.” It was common knowledge that Kate was in recovery, and attended AA. I think we both let out a sigh of relief.
I went to AA with Kate, and I was scared to death. I was scared somebody was going to know me, I was scared I wouldn’t fit in, I was scared that I wasn’t “bad” enough to be worthy of AA, and I was scared because my behavior was scaring myself, and I could not stop. But I had Kate by my side, and she told me everything was going to be okay and I believed her.
Kate had a really cool AA group that would meet at someone’s house, or at a church. There were hippies, women in early recovery, some like Kate that had years of sobriety that I noticed seemed to really have all their shit together, and I wanted to be just like all of them. The first few times I went I couldn’t say “Hi I’m Kelly and I’m an alcoholic.” Was I an alcoholic? I was frightened by the word, I was frightened by the label. So I always said, “Hi, I’m Kelly.” And then I’d pour out my feelings to these people I wanted more of. I didn’t drink for 19 days.
I felt great, in charge. I developed a solid routine, and I was getting so much done! It was around the holidays, and for the first time in a long time I decorated the house beautifully, I remember organizing all the kids’ old school papers and art work that I had saved over the years. Then one Sunday morning I was waiting for Kate to pick me up for AA and I received a phone call that rocked me to my knees. Out of respect for someone I love I won’t go into details, but I was needed desperately. So I called Kate and told her I had an emergency and I couldn’t go that day. I dived into this latest drama and put myself aside because, hey, I had this. I was sober for 19 days, I had my routine, and I didn’t really think I was an alcoholic. “Are you sure?” Kate asked. Yes, I’m sure. “I didn’t really think you were an alcoholic Kelly. I mean, if you can slow it down everything will be okay.” I know she meant well, I know she believed what she said, and I loved what she said. My mind grasped onto those words and I remember thinking, “See, I’m not an alcoholic after all.”
I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. I little glass of wine here and there, no big deal. A fun night out where I’d drink too much; hey, everybody else drank too much too. But old behaviors crept back into my life, slowly like a death march.
When I look at all of my failed attempts at sobriety they all seem to have the same pattern. They all end with somebody, no matter how well meaning, telling me they don’t think I really have a problem. I latch onto that, because it is exactly what I want to hear. My addict voice says “I told you so. You are fine. Just control your shit better! We can do this you and I. Self control Kelly, self discipline.” But I’m ready this time. No death march for this gal. If or when I hear any comments of the sort I’m not going to fall into the trap led by my addict voice. I’m simply going to tell it to just shut up already. Nobody can tell me if I have a problem or not, because nobody is inside my head, and nobody knows how I feel about my drinking and myself.
Happy Sober Wednesday!