10 May 2009

On being an ex-drunk lady

It occurred to me to share this part of my life today. I don't want to make this a sappy confessional or AA 8th step thing (warning: I detest AA as much as I detest astrology, but will try to keep disdain level to a minimum; lots of alternatives out there.) In a few weeks, I'm traveling to Pennsyvlania for an Ex-Drunk Lady conference, my first one, so the topic is on my mind.

I started getting drunk when I was 14, binge-drinking, which habit I maintained through high school with little consequence beyond one 3-day suspension from school, frequently getting grounded or put on restriction, and lots of sloppy making out and sex. In my early 20s, I started gaining weight and having hangover-related attendance problems at work. Coincident with the last year of my first marriage, I quit drinking cold turkey. I did attend a few AA meetings at first, read the "Big Book," etc. but found it too depressing and full of people who liked to rehash/relive their mistakes and problems - they couldn't move past their past. Oh, and they liked to tell other people how to get sober - their way, the AA way, the only way. Yeah, well, I got out of there pretty quick. I abstained easily for about four years but eventually started drinking socially. Which eventually turned into regular binging. I was what is known as a highly functioning... drunk lady. I'm averse to using "alcoholic" not because I don't think I am one, but it's such a loaded word, along with "victim" "disease", "suffering," etc. My take on it is that the drinking started as something I did to be social, relieve stress, or escape, whatever; routine reliance on it as self medication (i.e. for numbing) gave me high-capacity tolerance, which turned into a physical addiction. I never lost my job - I was stressed but appeared to be thriving - nor did I ever get a DUI or go to work drunk, but for sure my work suffered, and so did my ever-lovin' Sweetie.

I was open with my doctor about how much I was drinking, partly 'cause of the side effects - my weight went up every year, as did my blood pressure, blood sugar, etc., I had to start taking prescriptions, blah blah blah. Two or three times a year, over the next three (or four or five?) years, we would have the same discussion: she would tell me to knock it off, and I would say I was trying; she would thank me for being honest, and I would be proud of myself for not lying about it. Like that was my rationalization - I may have a problem, but at least I'm not hiding it from my doctor!! I would back off or try to moderate, and had more than a bit of that fabled Augustine attitude - I wanted sobriety, just "not yet". Without going into sad-sack, gory details, let's just say I reached a point where I transitioned from Augustine to Popeye: I'd had all I could stands and couldn't stands no more. I made (and kept) another doctor appointment, and asked her what she recommended for treatment. She told me "outpatient rehab." Cue jaw hitting floor, anguish, embarrassment, disbelief, and other not-so-nice feelings. No, shit?! Rehab - f'realz?! Wow. That really scared me. Not enough to go actually go to outpatient rehab, because the only one available was AA-based (I did have an intake meeting w/a counselor, who gave me the old "AA's the only way..." speech, which I knew then & now is not true - people who use it successfully can have it, but it's not me.)

I really was scared for my health, and my marriage, and wanted to make the sincere effort to change. What I didn't want was to have the same conversation with her in another three-to-six months. I just decided that was it, and I wanted to change enough that I would go cold turkey again while doing whatever it took to stay out of AA. I Googled AA alternatives and found Women for Sobriety. I vaguely recalled having seen their site somewhere before. Hm, oh yea, it was during one of those late nights up by myself, when I was drunk and seeking the self-help site that would tell me how to cut back so I could get to work everyday, but not where I had to quit so I could still get drunk on weekends, holidays, and most Thursdays, and Sundays. Really, I drank a lot, and frequently. Yikes.

Ah, the beauty of Women for Sobriety, aka WFS. Founded by a woman, it's an organization of women, for women, with a woman-centered philosophy, with autonomoous self-help groups in (mostly) North America. It seemed the opposite of AA to me - taking personal responsibility for the problems caused by drinking, extending that to everyday life's problems, recognizing strengths along with the weaknesses, and growing from it all. Acknowledging the past, but not living in it - learning from it and moving on. Wow, could I relate to that, I wanted that. I didn't go to any actual meetings for about nine months - was afraid I'd meet people I knew - but I devoured everything from their newsletters and online community (message boards, chat rooms, links to medical opinions/articles, etc.). I read the autobiographical writings of the founder, Jean Kirkpatrick. Learned about post acute withdrawal (PAW), which explained why I suddenly wanted sweets all the time (before then, I'd always preferred cheese to chocolate, being more of a savoury girl). Eventually I worked up the nerve to attend a F2F (face-to-face, or friend-to-friend) meeting. There, I made friends with some other ex-drunk ladies. And wow, all the talking about life's issues, problems, joys and sadness with other chicks who had also coped (poorly) with life for a while, but who were focused NOW on GROWTH and TOMORROW'S OPPORTUNITIES, not beating themselves up over past behavior - it was really helpful! I don't have a "sober birthday" or count the days/months/years, because I refuse to any "magic power" to a unit of time. I just don't drink anymore, and I won't, no matter what. I don't want to go back to that preoccupation with whether or not I'm going to "get to" drink on a particular day; I just abstain. And between the WFS stuff, a little personal counseling, lots of naps & cake & cookies & Prozac & self love, I worked out a whole mess of baggage. With the in-progress result of being totally fucking happy with my life a good deal of the time, satisfied nearly all the time the time, and accepting of whatever happens 100% of the time, it's crap. It's my crap, and I can handle it. *Big sigh* What a relief, especially the getting over trying to be perfect, a typical feature of overachieving drunk ladies.

So that's where I came from. Back to where I am now. Uh, still an ex-drunk lady. :) And I love my little euphemism. (Aren't euphemisms great? My favorite euphemism for a whatchamacallit is "package." *tee hee*)

I missed out on last year's conference for of lack of travel funds, even tho' I got a scholarship for the registration. This year they couldn't offer scholarships, but two of my WFS friends are sponsoring me - so cool!! I'm excited and a little nervous to be going. The nerves come from uncertainty - it's just me and a couple hundred other ex-drunk ladies, at de Sales University, for 2-1/2 days. I know from the boards that there are (or were) a few atheists among us, but don't think we're in the majority by any means. (The online group has a thread just for invisible sky-fairy thank-you notes, as well as plenty of woo scattered among general topics. Yeah, I don't go there too much since meeting F2F.) The official WFS position is non-religious, non-higher power - it's focus is woman-centered, (but not necessarily hetero-centric) self empowerment and building self esteem, so I just hope the talks and events reflect that. My goal is to meet some more people like me - not just ex-drunks, but free-thinking, well-coping, generally positive chicks. Especially if they have a blasphemous sense of humor and know how to use the f-word. And please, FSM, let there be some childless ones, too! No offense to breeders or wanna-breeders - just need the company of my own kind, ya know?

p.s. Almost forgot - speaking of breeding - Happy Mother's Day. In our house, the one I share with Sweetie & Otto, we've declared it Happy Motherfuckers' Day, and celebrated with a beef-based lunch with onion rings and mud pie for dessert. For the people; Otto gets his own kitty treat. Fuckin-A :)

No comments:

Post a Comment