I awoke from a drunken stupor sharply at 5:02am the morning of New Years Eve, 2006 with a migraine, and a voice in my head, that said clearly (or firmly?), “that’s it – you’re done.” I stumbled to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I saw the face of a mother who did not remember how she had gotten home the night before, but I knew I had driven and I knew my family had been in the car.
They say every alcoholic has a bottom. This had to be mine. The woman in the mirror was not the woman I was supposed to be, not the mother I was supposed to be, (to 7 year old Luca, and 5 year old Isabella), and not the wife I was supposed to be to a wonderful and supportive husband of ten years.
I hadn’t always been this reckless. I grew up in a loving, nurturing family of complete non-drinkers, I didn’t begin drinking until my early twenties, and even then I so hated being out of control, I could count the number of times I got to the point of falling down or blacking out. I hated beer, I hated scotch, gin, and all that other nasty stinky stuff – but I loved my wine. In fact, my husband and I, (of course, an Italian!), loved our wine so much, we chose to marry in the Tuscan countryside.
So how did I end up 10 years later slumped on the bathroom floor, with bruises on my body from a liver not functioning properly, and a drinking habit that required at least a bottle or more of wine per night to avoid the shakes?
They now tell me in my 12 step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery, that this is a progressive disease, and the last year – after 20 years of controlled drinking – the disease began progressing. I went from calming social anxiety, and stress of the day each day with my 2 glasses of wine at dinner for many years, to having the occasional glass at lunch. That went to cocktails at lunch with the “girls”, to continuing drinking into the evening. Before I knew it I was drinking 4-5 glasses a day just to feel normal. Meanwhile, of course, continuing to manage the house, drive my kids to playdates , church functions, school, etc. It seemed like I was forever buzzed or hungover. There was no inbetween.
My husband likens it to “backing into a propeller”. Before I knew it, everything seemed to be centered around my drinking. From the moment I woke up in the morning it was the first thing on my mind as I planned my day. Did I have enough wine for dinner tonight? Were we going to someone’s house that didn’t drink? I would have to remember to bring enough to look like a good guest, but make sure I would get my allotment in… maybe I would have to have a couple before we leave…. It never seemed odd to me that I refused to go to restaurants that didn’t serve alcohol. Food doesn’t even taste good without wine! Everybody knows that!
It overtook my life – I used it as an excuse for everything. Crack that bottle! The kids are driving me crazy, I’m overwhelmed, I’m bored, I’m celebrating, I’m depressed. Forget happy hour, every mother with young children knows it as the “witching hour”, that god-forsaken time between 5-7pm when children’s blood sugar plummets and their voices rise – I couldn’t wait to open the bottle and close my mind to the chaos. I stumbled along like this day after day, month after month, perpetually numb – losing the desire to connect deeply with my family – and once I began drinking, losing the ability.
Finally, friends began to notice and comment on some of my stranger behavior – like the night I bolted out my birthday party while opening presents – the last thing I remember is a cake coming toward me – and then black. Try explaining that one to 25 friends and neighbors! I laughed it off, forever the joker, but the truth was, the thought of giving up alcohol was out of the question. I had tried stopping many times before , but except for an act of divine intervention in the form of extreme morning sickness during both my pregnancies, was never successful. As I sat at my kitchen counter late one morning with a coffee cup full of cabernet, and a plumber fixing a toilet, I thought “I wish my daughter would hurry up and go to kindergarten soon so I can start drinking earlier.” I realized then I was at a point of complete hopelessness and helplessness. This is what my life had come to. This was what my future held. This was no way to live. One month later I woke up with that voice in my head.
I picked myself up off the bathroom floor and made it to the computer. Was I an alcoholic? I now can smile at the depth of the denial. I googled that very question. I took an online test that said if you answer yes to 2 of the questions you probably should seek help – I answered yes to 11! So I took another test. And another. I took four tests and they all told me what I didn’t want to hear. I picked up the phone and called the 800 number for Alcoholics Anonymous. They found me a meeting that night in my town. I went and I listened. I even put my hand up and told them I had driven drunk with my kids in the car and I was there to see if I was an alcoholic. Someone said I was brave, but I felt I was desperate. A man two rows behind me raised his hand and said he wished he had been me. He had driven drunk with his kids in the car, and got a DUI, then he drove drunk again and killed 2 people and injured another for life. He was just released from 10 years in federal prison. I hung my head humbly and told God I got the message. I was where I was supposed to be.
Since that day I have not had a drink. That was 18 months ago. I attended 90 meetings in 90 days, got a sponsor, and did what I was told. My life has changed as they said it would. I now relish the time spent with “my peeps” in dimly lit church basements wherever I go around this country. I have come to see the truth in all the lies alcohol told me – like the chaos I thought I was managing with wine during the witching hour, I was actually causing my not being “present” to my family. I now am able to be emotionally, and physically available to my loved ones.
I know alcoholism is the club no one in their right mind wants to join, but being willing to admit and accept my brokenness has been the greatest gift I have ever received. God and sobriety have given me back my health, my family, and my hope – and now it’s my turn to return the favor.
I have always been a singer/songwriter, and in my twenties have had enough of a “peek behind the curtain” of success to tell a couple of good war stories – but at 3 months sober songs about my struggle to stay away from drinking began to flow. I wrote about every new emotion that appeared – and new they were – after numbing myself for twenty years I had the emotional IQ of an 19 year old. I wrote about the emptiness of driving drunk, I wrote about the anger of giving up the wine and having to spend endless hours in church basements with “those people”, waiting for the promises to come. I wrote about letting go and letting God, and about relapsing on painkillers for a neck injury. I wrote about feeling hopeful for the first time in years and not recognizing the emotion.
This collection of songs became my source of comfort and strength. I was unable to find music in stores or on the internet that I could relate to during this struggle - so I created my own. I call this genre, Recovery Music. I’ve now put them together on a CD entitled “The Gift of Brokenness”, and am hoping I will be able to share my journey with others during their process.