Sorry I’m a week late – so many things going on, and to be honest, while I know what I want to tell you all about, sometimes thinking about how to organize them doesn’t always work. But today, I was reminded of an anniversary and this post just kinda came to me. It’s about one coping mechanism I found that did not work, in fact, it made things a lot worse.
Hi, I’m Karin, and I’m an alcoholic.
There, I said it. As publicly as I can. The journey to this admission has been a long one, but now that I am here, I know it’s the honest truth. Today marks 7 months since I have had a drink, and while it’s getting easier, it’s still not easy.
So…let’s start at the beginning- alcohol has always been a part of my life. Always. As long as I can remember there has been alcohol involved. I remember at carrying one grandpas glass to the other grandpa who was pouring drinks and drinking the watered down liquid in the bottom of the glass from as early as 4 or 5. By around age 8, I could pour you a beer from the bottle into the glass with a perfect head on it. None of this was wrong or bad, and I’m not being critical of anyone, it’s just the way it was.
I did the normal drinking in high school and adulthood, and had I not turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism after the fires, I may have never developed a full blown problem. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t an alcoholic, just means alcoholism wasn’t problematic for me at that point. So, we will start the story there.
My best friend at the time greeted me with 2 bottles of wine, a wine glass and a corkscrew and said “You’re gonna need this” when she met me at Target the day after the fires. We proceeded to get necessities at Target and then I drove to the hotel my husband and I were staying at, and drank a whole bottle. That became a nightly habit – drinking at least a bottle of wine, if not more, every day, in an effort to numb all the bullshit I didn’t want to deal with.
Side note – just to be clear, this friend was in no way saying drink a bottle of wine everyday, and I am not blaming her – don’t want anything to be misconstrued.
Most days it was fine, others I was a mess. Unfortunately, the messy days were usually when I was out – parties, weddings, nights out with friends…it wasn’t pretty. There are nights I wish I remembered more of, and some I wish I could take back. But such is life.
October of 2018 was when it all came crashing down around me…I had made it through the one year anniversary of the fires by escaping with friends to Disneyland, so that was not the catalyst- however a week or so later, the crazy winds were back, and PG&E shut off our power due to high fire danger… that was it. I snapped. And I mean snapped.
My husband came out of the bedroom to find me screaming incoherently at a poor customer service rep at PG&E who just happened to have the misfortune of working that night and answering the phone. I was screaming and crying and asking them why they hadn’t turned off the power the night we lost everything, telling this poor person that it was too little too late and I was not going to be happy until I had the president and CEO of PG&E on the phone or my power back on. For the record, we have a backup generator system at our house because the power goes off a lot where we live, so I had power…yes, I was a crazy drunk lady that night. (Background for those of you who may not be familiar with the Tubbs Fire – PG&E was believed to be responsible for the fire at the time of my meltdown)
My husband hung up my phone and I collapsed on my kitchen floor. I was hysterical. He picked me up plopped me on the couch and turned on The Godfather (my favorite movie) for me, and told me to stay there and try to sleep and that the wine wasn’t helping. I let him go back to bed, then got up and finished the bottle of wine I had opened.
I finally slept, after multiple texts with friends and trying to text my therapist, but woke up the next day knowing something had to change. I couldn’t keep going on like this. Friends had been asking me for months if I had a problem with alcohol and I always said no, my therapist would ask the same question and I would always say no. Well looking in the recycling bin that Monday morning and finding an empty cider bottle and 3 (yes, 3 not a typo) empty bottles of wine said otherwise.
I reached out to my therapist Monday and asked what he thought about me going to an AA meeting. He said he thought it was an appropriate response.
I downloaded the AA Meeting finder app, and decided to go to a meeting on Tuesday night instead of working out. I didn’t tell my husband, I was ashamed of myself and worried I wouldn’t be able to maintain not drinking and didn’t want to disappoint him. I told my best friend, and called her from the parking lot before the meeting for the courage I needed to walk in. That meeting was awful. I mean I am sure they are all nice people but it just wasn’t for me. I went home and drank a bottle of wine and decided to try again Thursday.
The Thursday meeting was much better, the people were friendly and welcoming, and it felt much better. I still went home and drank a bottle of wine. But I left there thinking I could do it. I decided that if I could quit smoking cold turkey I could do the same with drinking. I just had to pick a day and stick with it. I told my husband and my best friend as I knew I was going to need their support, and picked the next Monday as the day I was going to start.
There was a wedding for a friend that weekend, and once again, I don’t remember the drive home (I wasn’t driving just to be clear). I think I drank 2 bottles of wine on Sunday, but Monday came and I was determined.
So here we are, 7 months later and so far so good. I was going to AA meetings for the first few months, and while it is an amazing program, it just wasn’t for me. I will never criticize it, it just wasn’t my scene. I met some wonderful people who I know are there if I need them, but overall it just wasn’t for me. If I feel myself slipping, I will go back, and don’t get me wrong, I find myself mentally chanting the serenity prayer on a regular basis when I want a glass of wine or to rip someone a new one.
Not drinking has changed a lot of things in my life. I have lost friends, which tells me they weren’t really friends in the first place, which really sucks and really hurts. Another change is that I have to deal with shit when I feel something and that is both a blessing and a curse. I remember fun times now. The flip side of that is that I have to deal with bad times, like the sudden passing of both of my grandmothers in a 3 month period of time. I can’t just get drunk and pass out when it’s windy now or when I am internally freaking out, which is a lot.
So how do I cope now? My therapist recommended CBD to help with the anxiety, so I have oil at home and keep gummies with me at all times and it does help with the anxiety. I drink a lot of herbal tea too, it helps me sleep. And no, this doesn’t mean that I get stoned now instead of drunk, I use pure CBD with no THC, so I am not getting stoned. I mean I could, it is California after all and it is more widely accepted than cigarettes here 😉
I also have been using a lot of distraction to cope too. Meditation apps, classical music, games on my phone – they all help calm me down and/or keep me focused.
I’ve also instituted a new personal policy, and yeah, kiss my ass if you don’t like it 😉 if someone says or does something, intentional or not, that upsets me, I will wait 24 hours. If I am still upset then, I am going to say something. Too old and too tired of the bs to do anything else. You figure out quickly who cares and who doesn’t with this method it really helps to narrow things down.
This method isn’t just for negative things either. I am making a point of telling people how much I appreciate their words and actions too, I don’t think enough people do that. And it’s important to let people know when the little things they do touch your heart.
Writing again is also helping. It has always been a way for me to get my feelings out, putting them into words somehow gets part of it off of my chest so to speak. I have always written, and even now will write letters or emails to people when I want to tell them how I feel. This space is another arena for me to do that in, albeit to the whole world (yikes!). But for whatever reason, I do find it therapeutic.
Another side effect of not drinking is that I cry. A lot. Over anything, guess I was overly sensitive this whole time – who knew? When I say I cry all the time, I am trying not to cry as I type this while getting a pedicure…I cry all the time.
My take away from this is this – alcohol does not solve problems, it just masks them and hides them. It is not a long term solution to any problem. For me, it’s down right dangerous, both physically and mentally. Dealing with shit sucks sometimes, I’m not going to lie or sugar coat it – every day is still a struggle. I am still depressed, I still have PTSD induced recurring nightmares and still want to go home and have a glass of wine with dinner at night. But I’m not drinking and that’s what’s important.
I have to tell you all, if it weren’t for my amazingly supportive husband, daughters and parents, I would have in no way, shape or form made it through not only these last 7 months but the last 19 months. I love that when I asked my girls and husband if it was ok for me to publish this, I got a resounding yes. My youngest even said she’s proud of me, damn now I’m crying again…
So I guess if I were still in AA, I would call this my public amends, to everyone in my life – sorry for being a stupid, drunk, crazy mess. I know it, I own and I am moving forward. Now I am a crazy, sober, crying person searching for new friends (they have to be out there) to compliment the old ones who are amazing and who have stuck around and supported me, buying stock in Kleenex for all the crying, and putting one foot in front of the other every day, just trying to get through.
Until next time…