Tag Archives: hangover

Black(out) Friday

25 Nov

 

The looney time of year has arrived. The holidays are upon us. For many, they bring up all kinds of memories—good and bad. For some, there is a struggle to search back into the recesses of our minds to see if we can even find the memories or if they are still as dark as the blackouts that may have enveloped them. For me, Thanksgiving reminds me of few times I’d rather forget.

Thanksgiving was always a huge drinking day for me. I would start quite early with champagne or mimosas as family arrived and I cooked. I had a full glass of something for the rest of the day and night. Wine flowed throughout the Thanksgiving meal. Most people stopped drinking and had coffee with dessert, watched football, or took a walk or a nap, but I continued to drink. Didn’t want to lose the buzz. We used to go to close friends’ for dessert where I welcomed the opportunity to have a plethora of new wines to “sample”. But often by this point in the day or evening, I was slurring, stumbling or literally falling down drunk. How embarrassing to look back upon. What’s even worse is to have to just imagine and wonder what I did when I passed that point and maybe even blacked out. I always laugh at meetings when people say they don’t think they were blackout drinkers. How the hell would you know if you were—you certainly wouldn’t remember?!

There were those totally inebriated Thanksgivings. One where I cried before I got up the courage to talk to my brother on the phone when he was in jail. One where I had a total meltdown in front of my friends about my unhappiness in my life and my marriage and said a bunch of things I still regret to my mom. Ones where I passed out in my wine-stained clothes, most likely leaving it to my husband to tell the kids that mommy is just really tired from all the cooking. Again, alcohol is a depressant. Adding that to an already depressed person is a recipe for disaster.

In just three more days, I’ll have 3 1/2 years of sobriety (God willing). One important thing that I have learned in that time is that I have a choice as to how I look back and how I move forward. Looking back, I can wallow in the miserable, drunken episodes, beat myself up and struggle to remember and relive the embarrassment. Or I can look back and use them to remind myself of a place I never want to return. Use them to “keep it green” as they say. And I can dig deep to remember the good times instead. The Thanksgivings where my grandparents were with us and inadvertently had us all cracking up. The Thanksgivings where we were all together. The Thanksgiving where my kids made little turkeys out of their hands and wrote the things that they were thankful for.

Going forward, instead of focusing all my attention on where my next drink is coming from, I can focus on the things for which I am truly grateful. That I’m not in that deep, dark depression but in a much better, happier, healthier place. That I am sober and present for my family. That I can wake up the day after Thanksgiving and not be completely hungover with a pounding headache or even still drunk. And that I am blessed with amazing friends who have been with me through thick and thin.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” —Dr. Seuss

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If I Can Make It There……I’ll Make It Anywhere

24 Nov

This weekend, I sat in a beautiful apartment in NYC and looked out at an incredible view of the Statue of Liberty. The sun was shining and the sky was a slightly lighter shade of blue than the calm water. The serenity was such a sharp contrast to the feelings and energy surrounding my visit to this same city 2 1/2 years ago. New York is the last place I had a drink of alcohol. Well, not just “A” drink but dozens of drinks. And the irony of the crisp, clear, cold, sunny day I took in with great clarity did not escape me. I don’t remember what the weather was like when I woke up here in May of 2012, but I do remember that it wouldn’t have mattered or had any effect on the foggy, grey and dark cloud that enveloped me.

I think it is safe to say that I have grown more and learned more in the past two and a half years than I have in all my other years prior. It’s amazing what sobriety gives you. The gifts are too many to even list, but one of the biggest is time. Instead of your life passing you by in one big blur, you get to actually LIVE every day and be a part of your own life. Yes, there are days that are hard. Everyone has those. But to be able to feel those and actively participate in them is a gift as well.

Before one of my first sober solo-adventures, a trip to meet a friend and go skiing in Colorado, I remember worrying about what I would do on a trip if I didn’t drink. My travels always involved cocktails at whatever restaurants and bars we explored, cocktails while getting dressed to go out, cocktails after skiing, cocktails on the golf course, cocktails while dancing or listening to music, well, you get the idea. Going to a different city, state, country, whatever, always entailed researching what local culture we should experience. As I looked up restaurant reviews for the places I would be visiting, I noticed how many of them boasted about their specialty cocktails or extensive wine lists. And I started to sweat.

It turned out that I didn’t have to waste one droplet of perspiration. There was plenty to do that didn’t involve drinking. And guess what? It IS possible to enjoy great restaurants and bars—coffee bars maybe—and other places without cocktails. And even more enjoyable to wake up in the morning without a massive hangover.  It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t feel like total crap.

On that 2012 trip to NYC, I almost didn’t make it to the Broadway show we had tickets to because I was so miserably hungover  I thought I was going to throw up. I don’t remember any of the food we ate those few days because it was drowned out by all the cocktails and wine. I felt like crap, looked like crap and was probably pretty crappy company when I was hungover and shaking in need of a drink.

On this trip to NYC, I enjoyed every minute of the three Broadway shows we saw. I savored every single morsel of food at great restaurants. I slept like a rock and woke up clear-headed and able to appreciate the beautiful view of the river and Lady Liberty. Conversations with my friend actually made sense (for the most part) and will be remembered. And, hopefully, I wasn’t crappy company.

Sure, there were a few times I looked longingly at the cocktails that people at nearby tables were enjoying. And yes, I’d be lying if I said the bottle of vodka in the freezer and wine in the kitchen of the friend’s apartment we stayed at didn’t slightly temp me. But, as Ol’ Blue Eyes sang, I wanted to be a part of it, AND make a brand new start of it. I think I did just that.

War of My Worlds

22 Oct

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles narrated the famous Halloween episode of The Mercury Theater on the Air radio drama anthology series that would go down in history. That episode’s broadcast featured an adaptation of H.G. Wells’  “The War of the Worlds”, creating widespread panic due to the radio reports of an alien invasion by Martians. In 1997, director Barry Levinson played on this theme in the film “Wag the Dog”, in which a fictitious war is created by a political campaign spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer in order to divert attention from a presidential sex scandal.

Now take that down about a million notches….here’s my own little War of the Worlds. A purely selfish piece for me to turn to whenever I may get that strong urge to drink. What has helped me the most when I have a really overpowering craving is when someone tells me to “think it all the way through”. In other words, don’t just stop at the thought of how much you want a drink, and how good it would taste and feel, but continue the thought process all the way through to what happens AFTER.

Hopefully you won’t skip this introduction and think this is real post about me picking up again……or I’ll have a lot of ‘splainin to do! The Walking Dead,  Friday the 13th, even the Exorcist do nothing to me compared to this—this scares the crap out of me. It doesn’t have to be drinking or alcohol addiction—it can be whatever temptation you face that you know you have to fight. When your defenses get down and that little devil (temptation) on one shoulder is beating the crap out of the angel (conscience) on the other shoulder, think it through to the end.

Thanks for tuning in and letting me “think it through” with my blog:

I guess it was a matter of time. I could only fight for so long. Salivating at the sight, or even thought, of a tall, smooth glass of wine. I picked up the drink, put the glass to my lips, closed my eyes and tilted it back. It was like a long lost friend giving me a huge hug It warmed my entire body as it went down my throat, into my stomach and sent little sparks up to my brain. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in such a long time. Almost two and a half years. A huge wave of thoughts came rushing back. First sip—check. Second sip here we go. This one was a little bigger, and faster. More warmth. More thoughts. And we’re off to the races.

The glass was empty before I knew it. And I was feeling good again. That happy, euphoric feeling was coming back, pushing reality back down deep inside. The depression and anxiety were dissipating. The bottle wasn’t far away—it was almost like a reflex that I always kept it close to my glass. I refilled my glass and put the bottle down, close again. As I sat and drank more, cares were rapidly thrown to the wind. This is totally fine, I thought. I got this. I can drink now and stop when I should, when I’ve had enough. It will be a one-time thing. Perhaps I could just return to my current path of sobriety and no one would know. I don’t want to throw away all the time, days and chips I have accumulated. I don’t want to have to change my sobriety date. No one will know. Fill ‘er up again. And on it went, until the bottle was empty.

I felt great. More alive, carefree, and happy. Since I’m already drinking, just this one time, I may as well keep going. All in if I’m going to be in at all. I look for another bottle. Not my preference, but it will do. It’s got alcohol in it, which is really the only requirement at this point. I put on some music and sing along. Oh, how I missed this feeling. Better get something to eat. That’s a smart plan. That will keep the alcohol from affecting me too much. Look, I’m even making sound decisions and using good judgement. That and the fact that I have the munchies.

But just then I hear the garage door. Crap. I can’t let my family see that I’ve been drinking. I hide the empty bottle at the bottom of the trash can. I hide the open bottle, still half-full, behind a cabinet in the living room. As usual, I can’t conceive of letting any of that precious liquid go to waste. A swift cleanup of the crime scene— a skill I had nearly perfected over the years. I quickly opened the peanut butter jar, swirled my finger in it and then rubbed it on my tongue. That should do the trick to hide the smell of the wine. I look in the mirror and rub the redness from the wine off my lips. Turn the music down. Grab my laptop. Just a normal night.

I listen to my children’s updates from the day – school, sports, activities etc. I listen but I don’t hear anything because the entire time my brain is preoccupied with trying to make sure I didn’t leave out any incriminating evidence and that I don’t appear at all tipsy. I go overboard trying to seem like super mom who is engaged and listening. Yet I have no idea what they are talking about.

My husband kisses me and I’m praying that all he can smell/taste is the peanut butter. He looks at me and I start to panic, wondering if he can tell. Or am I just being paranoid? He heads to our room to change, not appearing to suspect anything. But I turn around and see my daughter. She’s looking at me with her beautiful blue eyes and seems to be looking right through me. Nah, she can’t tell anything. She’s only thirteen. I ask her a few questions about her day, being careful to enunciate every word and not slur. I’m confident that I sound totally fine. I guess just as confident as I was all those other times. She heads off quietly to get ready for bed.

I think about staying up and finishing the open bottle when they are all asleep. I hate to waste it. And I would have to get rid of it somehow anyway. But I’m starting to feel pretty lightheaded. And tired. And drunk. It was just because I didn’t eat, I’m sure. Brush my teeth and hit my pillow and I’m guessing I was out cold in a matter of seconds.

I woke up to the sound of one of my boys slamming the toilet seat down in the bathroom down the hall. I open one eye and quickly close it after it is attacked by beams of light breaking through the wood shutters. My head is pounding. Why? My mouth is dry and feels like a cat crawled in during the night and camped out on my tongue. Oh. Shit. I have that horrible feeling I haven’t and in quite a while—the confusion and fear over trying to remember why I felt the way I did. Hungover. No, it can’t be. Let me think…ouch that hurts. Think more gently. Grab some water on my nightstand. As I guzzle it down, memories of gulping down wine last night start to emerge. Holy crap. There’s no way I did that. Why? How am I going to face my family? I tell myself that they don’t know. How could they? And how could I feel so hungover after only a bottle and a half of wine? It used to take much more than that.

I get up to go to the bathroom and my head pounds with each step. I’m feeling pretty nauseous now too, thinking that a tall glass of Coke on ice would hit the spot. When I make it to the bathroom, I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It’s not pretty. A glimpse is all I can handle because I realize that there’s no way I can look myself in the eyes. No one else may know. But I do. And no one else could possibly make me feel worse than I feel about myself right now.

I should get some coffee but I don’t think I could stomach that. I need a Coke. But we never have any in our house. And that would be a dead giveaway as it was always my hangover drink of choice. Maybe a few crackers. Or a banana. Or stick my head in the freezer for a few seconds. All those things rushed into my brain, like instinct from the old days. I start to realize the significance of what I had done. All those battles I fought and won, only to lose the war by picking up a drink this one time.

How am I going to face anyone? My family? My friends from the program? My friends who have supported me? My friend who hasn’t missed a day of checking in on me? My therapist? My blog readers? Myself? Shit. All that hard work just went down the toilet, along with the spit that was building up in my mouth as I got more nauseous. Almost 900 days. Ruined by one. Actually a few hours. Now my confusion started making its way to anger, then to guilt and on to shame. What have I done?

I have activated that ever-present, cunning, baffling and powerful disease inside. It is strong. It is clever. It is victorious. Game over. I lose. The dead guy in the hockey mask has caught me. The zombies have me cornered. My head is still spinning around in a complete circle despite the attempted exorcism. And I have become just another one of the high percentage of alcoholics who have relapsed. One publication, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcholism states that approximately 90 percent of alcoholics will experience one or more relapses during the four years after treatment. Other studies have relapse rates that range between 50-80%, and some say only one alcoholic out of three will be able to maintain sobriety. These are not very good odds. And they are very, very scary. I always believed I was special. An exception. That I could beat the odds.

And now, I can either hang my head in shame and continue down a path that will eventually kill me, or I can pray for forgiveness and strength and get back on the right track to sobriety and what, I know for a fact, is a much better life.

I DID NOT DRINK.   Above was all fictitious, and about me “thinking it through”, perhaps a bit too realistically, since many people thought this was me talking about actually picking up.  Real fear for me is not of Martians invading or the zombie apocalypse.  It is fear of failing, i.e. going back to drinking.

Bill Cosby said something that rings true to me: “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” My desire to succeed in staying sober IS greater than my fear of failure right now.  I will NOT pick up a drink.  I don’t want to feel like I imagined I would and described above.  So Drink Devil on my shoulder, take a hike.

 

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”—Confucius

Take a Drink, I Used to Think

31 Jan

 

It would solve it all, I used to think

To simply pour and pick up a drink

A tall glass, a short glass, I really didn’t care

As long as enough booze was floating in there

The first little taste that touched on my lips

Was followed by many, many more sips

Vodka and soda, tonic and gin

As much and as many as I could fit in

What’s the big deal, I was totally fine

I’d move from the hard stuff right over to wine

Before very long, one glass became four

Another bottle opened to continue the pour

Things seemed so much brighter and lighter and free

I could step far away and not have to be me

An escape, what a treat, what a break from it all

Higher and higher I would build up the fall

My bed was my haven, my solace from life

No pressure, no let downs, no more of the strife

No trying to please, no worry, no cares

No fighting, no fearing or threatening stares

The haven would spin, more often than not

Wishing, again, I hadn’t had that last shot

I’d wake up and wonder what I did, where I was

I had no idea since my brain was just fuzz

My mouth really dry, head pounding and dull

As if someone threw a big brick at my skull

The day would be long, I knew right away

But all who would see me would think I’m okay

All chipper and smiley, no hangover for me

Is what those who saw me would usually see

But those who knew better were used to my game

Though they still couldn’t see through to the guilt and the shame

How long can I go living life in this way

Drinking and wasting every single damn day

You can numb and ignore it for only so long

Then the true test will come to see if you’re strong

Strong enough to be humble, to admit that you know

That the path that you’re on isn’t the right way to go

You’ve finally come to that fork in the road

Struggling and trying to hold on to your load

You throw down your pride at last to the ground

Finally listening to the absence of sound

If you can only be silent, and open your ears

You can now finally start to face all your fears

It’s really quite simple, its hard to believe

That life is no more than a daily reprieve

Admit you are powerless, you’ve lost your control

Of every last bit that remained of your soul

If you’re willing to do this and choose the right path

Someday you might find you’ll be able to laugh

And smile again, in a genuine grin,

Not like in the stupor you used to be in

Many of those who have struggled before

Are right there to help you, they’re holding the door

And the one thing I leave you, my wisdom to share

If you open your heart, your God will be there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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