As good as it gets.
Sixteen years ago, on March 22, 2005, I got sober. And what an amazing journey it has been for me! Today I have my own coaching business helping people navigate their purpose. I am married to a great guy. We have a blended family with three fantastic daughters, two loving sons-in-law, and two healthy and fun grandsons. And we just built our dream home in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. I never dreamed that my life could be this good. You see, I had lost the ability to dream of a better life. Actually, when I finally admitted to being an alcoholic, I figured that my fun was over, and the rest of my life would be primarily boring and glum." The only excitement that I could see in my future was family drama and work stress. And I had plenty of both. Yep, the fun was over for me. My bad. I'd had a lot of fun partying and living it up in the eight short years of my drinking career. I didn't deserve any more good stuff because of the bad things I had done. So, the rest of my life would just end up being annoyingly blah. I was doomed to hanging out with
alcoholics that had no life, no job, and no fun. It was time to do what grownups do; grow up and be serious and boring and responsible. After all, I was forty-four, so, yeah, it was time to grow up.
Alcohol is bad. No, it's good!
My Dad was a preacher and a Naval Chaplain. So, yes, I was a preacher's kid. My four siblings and I were expected to be "seen and not heard," as the old saying goes. We probably thought our purpose in life was to just behave and try to be perfect. Mom and Dad had each been raised by an alcoholic parent, so they taught us all about alcohol. My training about alcohol was this; "Alcohol is bad. Don't drink because you'll get drunk and become a terrible alcoholic like your grandmother and grandfather. And… you might get pregnant and be sent away to a home for unwed mothers." And that was the totality of our alcohol training.
As a child, I was sick a lot. And very shy. When I became a teenager, I came out of my shell and was super social and outgoing. You may think it strange for me to say that alcohol was not an essential part of my teenage years since I was very involved socially. Cheap beer and marijuana were social norms at teen parties. I was surrounded by opportunities to drink and use. I wanted to fit in, so I went to parties where the cool kids were. Since cheap beer repulsed me, I was just a sipper at these parties, so I never got drunk. And I "passed on grass" because I didn't want to become a 'druggie.' Thanks to cheap beer and threats of being sent away to a 'home,' my alcohol problem was thwarted in my teens, except for that one unforgettable episode.
The first time I learned that alcohol was, in fact, bad for me was at sixteen at my best friend's party. It was just a few good friends, and drinking wine seemed like a good idea. Except it was cheap and disgusting wine. I barely made it home, throwing up on the way, which was just next door. That well-worn path between my best friend and me never smelled so bad. As a result, I swore off alcohol: "alcohol is bad for me," I decided.
The second time I knew that alcohol was bad for me was ten years after the cheap wine episode. I was twenty-six, and this time it was expensive wine, tequila, and a Cuban cigar at my company's big sales convention in Austin, Texas, in 1987. Companies held big and elaborate annual conventions back then, sparing no expense on hotels, food, drink, and entertainment. One year, in Vegas, our CEO literally made his grand entrance into the convention hall riding an elephant. Yes, he did. But let's get back to Austin in 1987. That first night of the event, I got so drunk and sick by mixing liquors and inhaling a cigar that I missed all but the last day of our conference. It wasn't intentional. I was just inexperienced on how to drink and smoke cigars. EEK! And then came the swearing off of alcohol for the second time in my life; "alcohol is bad for me," I decided again.
Fast forward another ten years, to thirty-six. This time around, I had many drunk episodes. And this time, I made a different decision. In my early thirties, I would have a drink maybe once a year. My first husband and I were busily involved in our church in Plano, Texas, and I worked a lot. I had worked my way up the sales ladder to become the youngest national account executive in my company. It was quite an honor. I was traveling and wining and dining with Fortune 500 CEOs and CFOs regularly. It was glamorous, and it was game-on. I was "living the dream." I had made it, and I should have been happy, right? But I wasn't. I was lonely, confused, and angry. Drinking made me feel happy, likable, loveable, and less stressed. It eased me. By this time, it was my solution. I figured I was old enough to drink as much as I wanted. I had earned it. Even if I got sick, it was worth it. It was time for me to have fun. After all, my childhood had been intensely stressful, and my married life had sucked. The marriage was ending, and I was free to celebrate however and whenever I chose. Plus, I knew better than to become an alcoholic. I had been aptly warned by all-knowing well-meaning, experienced people that loved me. So this time around, I decided: "No! Alcohol is good for me! They've been lying all this time."
Helping someone that has the "bad/good" dilemma.
My excessive drinking continued for about eight years. So, the way I saw it, I did have a slight problem with alcohol. And I just needed to learn how to control it better. But, I had yet to understand this: my problem was that my solution was also my problem. Let that sink in for a minute; my solution was also my problem. This is the power of addiction. Understanding this powerful anomaly will give you the resolve and compassion you need to help someone with an issue with alcohol or other addictive substances.
What happened to me doesn't happen to everyone that drinks. But it did happen to me. You see, once I had made drinking a regular part of my life, it became my solution. My only solution. Even though I started having alcohol-related problems, I still couldn't see that what was once my medicine had turned on me and became my poison. I was drinking and driving and hurting my daughter by saying hurtful things to her in a blackout. I would be deeply regretful later. But I still couldn't see that my medicine, which was alcohol, had turned on me and had become my poison. And the pain and despair had become so great that my only relief was to drink again. Whenever I did sober up, I felt worse. So, clearly, alcohol was the answer. Until my second DWI in March 2005, when my problems became "astonishingly difficult to solve," as described in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
If you are trying to get someone to stop drinking, please stop! Please stop pleading with them to just simply give up their only known solution for daily living. This technique doesn't work. In fact, it may prevent a future opportunity for you to help this person. Instead, they've got to find a viable replacement for their only solution. And that replacement had better be more powerful for them than drinking, or they will return to drinking. In a well-known recovery program, it's described this way: "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity."
If you want to help someone with an alcohol problem, please gather a team of people that can support you and put a plan together that gives your loved one an offer they can't refuse. If you need to reach out for support, you can start with a therapist, an Interventionist, or someone you know that has been through this kind of thing before.
Feel free to contact me for resources. So many recovered people out like me feel so blessed that they want to help others who still suffer. It helps us stay sober. Truly it does. I can connect you with resources to help you, and your loved one live life more blessed than ever before. It's possible!