Can my struggle help someone you love?
|I am an alcoholic.
When I was a teenager my mother, who rarely drank, thought it would be better for me to have alcohol at home so it wouldn’t be a big deal to drink outside the home. Grape soda and brandy. It was awful stuff but it was alcohol and I was a big shot when I had a drink, which I rarely finished.
I married my first husband two weeks before I graduated from high school, and I married him for all the wrong reasons. I thought I loved him, but I loved the idea of the security he would give me as a college graduate with a bright future as a mechanical engineer. Oh, and I was pregnant.
Our marriage ended when I left him because of emotional and physical abuse. That’s a story for another time. By the time I left we had two daughters under the age of six and we were in hiding at my brother’s home. The drinking, to mask the pain, had begun.
I found and married my soulmate a year after my first husband was killed.
Over the next thirty years, my drinking increased. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder. I drank through bouts of depression and pain, desperately seeking relief and sleep. I started drinking at lunchtime and was drunk by the time my husband came home. He didn’t say much, but I knew my drinking was getting out of hand.
My choice of libation was white wine. After a large bottle of wine wouldn’t be enough to fill the void, I took to taking slugs of hubby’s bourbon, thinking (wrongly) that it would help me sleep. I moved to buying and hiding a bottle of bourbon. I was now drinking a large bottle of wine and half a fifth of bourbon every day. Sometimes I would switch it up with tequila or vodka.
I thought I was hiding the extent of my drinking but hubby knew from my slurred words and unbalanced walk (and falls). I fell in the bathtub and gave myself a black eye and a concussion. Still, I drank. Every thought in my head revolved around booze; did I have enough? Should I buy more today or tomorrow? Did I have money enough to buy it? I absolutely couldn’t run out of money or booze. I was pathetic and I knew it, but chose to keep on drinking.
I fell into a deep depression and spent a whole week crying. My husband mentioned that I had been drinking heavily; could it be related? Alcohol is a depressant, he reminded me. I had an upcoming appointment with my doctor of thirty years and I decided I needed him to know of my alcohol dependency. I had tried to cut back but the cravings were horrible and in my weakened state I couldn’t stop.
He prescribed a drug called Acamprosate Calcium and, as I found out at the pharmacy, is quite expensive. It was still cheaper than the copious quantities of booze I had come to depend on. It was the magic cure I needed. After so many years of the pull of alcohol, I was no longer thinking about it around the clock; as a matter of fact, I wasn’t thinking of it at all!
After five months I cut down the dose and eventually didn’t need to take it at all. Life went on and I went to gatherings with a family who all drink, lunches with girlfriends when they had a drink and I ordered lemonade and being home alone when hubby went for fishing trips with his guy friends. I had no cravings at all until…
We winter in West Palm Beach and Covid-19 put the brakes on everything we usually did. No beach, no gym, no shopping, no leisurely lunches, no pool time. I still didn’t want to go back to Maine early until I heard that my neighbor was being tested and I had come up in the elevator with her the previous day. What hadn’t seemed real suddenly was scary as hell. It had been almost two years since my last drink, but Jim’s bottle of Jack Daniels was staring at me and I was alone in the house. I took a swig, then another.
I texted Jim that I wanted to go back to Maine, which I deemed safer than Florida. When he came in from golfing I confessed that I had been drinking. I could see the disappointment in his eyes. I was quite disappointed in myself, but that didn’t keep me from picking up a bottle of bourbon at the next opportunity since he had hidden his. Every chance I got I drank from my own hidden bottle.
I drank for two and a half months, knowing I had a choice to make: either I quit drinking or I would be divorced. We even talked about me living in Florida and he would live in Maine. I called my doctor and got a new prescription for Acamprosate. At first, it didn’t seem to do the job and I still drank when I could get away with it. I hadn’t been truly ready to quit. There is certainly an element of wanting to quit for the drug to work and eventually, I got there.
I’m sober, again. It’s only been six weeks and I find myself thinking about booze once in a while, but it is not a constant craving. My plan is to stick to taking the full dose of Acamprosate for at least six months. I pray the AA prayer but I choose not to go to meetings because I find it’s easier to not think about drinking than having it put in my face on a weekly basis. I pray to God frequently to keep the demons away and I have great faith that He is behind my ability to stay sober.
If you know of someone who is struggling with alcohol, here are some tips to help you help them:
-Talk about the white elephant in the room. Don’t skirt around it and don’t be judgmental. “I’m worried about you and your relationship with alcohol.” is enough to get a conversation going.
-If they are newly sober, ask how they are doing. “You seem to be struggling to stay sober. Have you talked to your doctor? There are prescriptions that can help you stay sober.”
-Don’t think that you will be making a person think about their sobriety if you talk about it. We need to be held accountable and know that someone cares enough to ask about it.
-When someone is newly sober, don’t drink around them and don’t talk about your new favorite martini. After some weeks, ask them if it bothers them if you have a drink.
-Check in on them with a phone call or text.
-Try to keep track of how many weeks or months it has been and congratulate them on various anniversaries.
If I can save one life or one marriage, it is worth sharing my struggle.