Sober at a Wedding

A few weeks ago I attended my cousin’s wedding.  I am from an Irish Catholic family, so weddings always include lots of drinking.  I’ve been to quite a few weddings sober now, but I always make sure I’m in the right head space before I go.  This involves making sure I have an easy exit plan for when I want to leave, as well as just recognizing if I am uncomfortable at any point.

This has become much easier for me over the past four years.   Much of the socialization that takes place at weddings happens at the bar, and the dance floor.   Luckily I love to dance, so I am still able to enjoy myself at weddings.  If I didn’t enjoy dancing, and if my friends and family weren’t dancers, I would hate going to weddings.

Now that I’m comfortable in my sobriety, I actually enjoy watching the interactions of drunk people.  There always comes a point at weddings where I become very aware of the drunk people around me, and I am ready to get the hell out of there.  This usually involves people making out on the dance floor, dirty dancing with someone’s elderly aunt, and broken glasses causing people to slip and fall.

The best advice I can give to someone who is newly sober and planning on attending a wedding is to have a plan, and to bring someone with you who knows your plan and supports you.  If you are in a situation where you have to attend a wedding alone, and aren’t comfortable doing so, politely decline.  If the person who invited you is someone close enough to you that cares about your health, they will understand why you’re not attending.  If you do decide to attend, don’t feel bad about leaving early.  Honestly, no one will notice.  People are more likely to remember the person who gets hammered and falls all over the dance floor, than the person who left after dinner.  Drunk Lisa loved weddings, and always made a scene, and believe me that sticks in peoples’ memory.  I still hear the story of how I smashed my head into the pool table at the after party of my sister’s wedding 7 years later.  I’m now happy not to be that girl.

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Dealing With Stress

Last week was extremely stressful.  I had a very busy week at work, and had to be out of the house and on the road by 5 am 2 days in a row.  I also felt guilty about leaving my new dog-Francois aka Frankie at home for an extended period of time, even though I had a dog walker take him out during the day.  The kicker was when I got home Friday after a long day and there was a note under my door from my neighbor complaining about Frankie’s barking.

I thought Frankie wasn’t barking as much, but apparently that wasn’t the case.  I honestly felt horrible, as I would be very annoyed if I was hearing a dog bark at 6 in the morning.  The difference in how I dealt with this now, as opposed to how Drunk Lisa would have dealt with this situation was not lost on me.  I went to yoga Friday night, which helped take away much of the work stress I was feeling and also helped calm my nerves over my dog’s issues.  I then ran into my neighbor and spoke with him and his girlfriend about the situation.  I told them how sorry I was, and they were very understanding about it since they also have a dog.  I also explained that I was enrolling Frankie in an obedience program, and was also going to purchase a anti-barking collar.

Drunk Lisa would have just been mad, and drank over her annoyance with the work situation, and also the fact that she was unlucky enough to have a dog that barks.  It is so interesting to be able to take a step back from situations now and realize, yes this might be stressful, but it can be dealt with, and hopefully resolved.

I’m still dealing with the stress of Frankie’s barking as the collar I bought is not working, but I’m taking other steps to try to resolve the situation.  I also addressed the work issue with my counterpart and explained to him my issue with not being included on the updates of an account we are both working on.  He understood, and I also spoke candidly with my supervisor about the issue, and she shared my complaint  with her supervisor who is working on resolving the issue.

It’s somewhat freeing to know I did everything I could in both situations instead of just shutting down and feeling sorry for myself and turning to alcohol as an outlet.  I think that’s one of the most gratifying things about recovery-knowing that I’ve done my part to resolve problems, and being able to move on from them.

Ghosts of St. Paddy’s Days Past

As St. Paddy’s day approaches tomorrow, it reminds me of many drunken ones I celebrated in the past.  One that stand out to me in particular is St. Patrick’s Day 2003.

It was my junior year of college, and I lived off campus with 3 of my best friends in a large house where we would throw raging parties on a regular basis.  As I’m sure is the case at any college, St. Paddy’s Day is an excuse to get absolutely wasted especially if you’re of Irish decent, which I proudly am.  My friends and I decided to throw a party which I believe started in the afternoon, but my memory is a little fuzzy, so don’t hold me accountable to when it actually started.

Per usual we had drinks flowing including beer, liquor, and whatever else we could get our hands on.  This was the time before everyone had cell phones, so we still had a landline and an answering machine.  At some point during the party, the phone rang and my roommate picked it up.  It was our good friend Jerry* who lived down the street calling from the police station.  Apparently he had had a few drinks before heading down to our house.  We’d had a bad snow storm earlier that week so the snow banks were the equivalent of small mountains on the side of the road.  Jerry parked in front of our house, and as luck would have it, the cops drove by and noticed his creative parking job, which was literally perpendicular to the street, up the snowbank.  They asked him to move it, and when he was walking back to his car they realized he seemed drunk.  They gave him a sobriety test which he failed, and even thought they didn’t witness him driving the car-it was clear he had just parked it since the engine was still warm.  They arrested him and took him down to the station.

All of this took place right outside of our house, but no one seemed to notice.  As to why the cops didn’t seem to care that there was a raging party going on inside, I’m not sure.  You could call it the luck of the Irish, or it might have been more of a headache for them to deal with than it was worth. Either way, we didn’t notice our friend being arrested and taken away right outside.

As I mentioned earlier, our friend eventually called our landline with the phone call he was given at the police station.  No one at the party heard the phone, but then my roommate heard the answering machine pick up, so she answered the phone.   The beauty of this was that the whole conversation was recorded on our answering machine.  The exchange included Jerry putting the police officer on the phone to ask my roommate who she was, in which she replied very seriously with her first, middle, and last name, and then the cop asked if there was someone there who could pick up Jerry.  She replied yes, even though we were all hammered by this point.

We were able to find a friend to go pick up Jerry, and then they both came from the police station directly to our party.  Everyone was laughing at the fact that Jerry had actually parked his car on a snow bank, and was caught by the cops.  We also played the answering machine recording over and over again then next day laughing hysterically as we listened.

Although this was a very funny situation at the time, it was not so funny for my friend who received the DWI.  He was actually going to school to be a teacher, and he was supposed to start his student teaching assignment the next semester.  The DWI ended up costing him lots of money in legal fees, and the next semester he was without a licence and had to rely on other people, including me, for rides to and from his student teaching job.

As I look back on this now, it is still a funny story to me, but I also realize how much worse the situation could have been.  My friend could have killed himself or someone else driving, and we could have been arrested for serving minors if the cops had decided to come into our house during the party.  Although I do believe many college kids behave in the way my friends and I did, I’m still amazed that I graduated college without getting arrested as this was a somewhat normal night for me an my friends.

Drunk Lisa survives another St. Paddy’s Day unscathed!

*The names of the people in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

 

My Best Friend is Getting Married, and I’m Sober…WOW!

I’ve known my best friend since I was 5 years old.  Our dads worked together, and we met by chance at a McDonald’s playground when our mothers happened to bring us there for lunch one day.  Little did we know then that almost 30 years later we’d still be in one another’s life.

I am fortunate enough to have many great friends who have been supportive of my sobriety.  I know there are many people who can’t say that, but my friends saw me at my worst and stuck by me through it all.

Although my best friend an I didn’t plan on attending the same college, we ended up at not only the same school, but also in the same dorm.  Obviously we were meant to be in one another’s life for the long term because we really haven’t missed a beat since that day we met 29 years ago.

My best friend knows literally everything about me.  She has been there with me when I have been drunk, embarrassing, and down right stupid-but she has never once judged me.  Even when I’ve felt horribly ashamed about my drinking, she’s always been able to make me feel better.  We also had some great times together while drinking, but in the end it all comes down to the fact that we were friends a long time before my addiction was in full force.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting her bridal shower and bachelorette party.   I would have never imagined that I would be hosting her bachelorette party sober 4 years ago.  This just never seemed like a possibility.  I’m sure there are some of you wondering, how can you enjoy a bachelorette party sober?  I’m here to tell you it can be done.

I will tell you that I would not have been able to do this 4 years ago, or even 3 years ago.  I have personally come a long way in my sobriety, so I was able to enjoy myself this weekend without feeling the need to drink.  It also helps that I am 34 years old and not in my 20’s.  I partied very hard in my 20’s, and so did my friends.  Now many of them have settled down so they aren’t getting rip roaring drunk like we used to, which works out well for me.  I’ve also come to realize that many people weren’t getting as drunk as I did in my 20’s like I thought they were.  It’s amazing how once you stop drinking, you notice that non-alcoholic people don’t pound their drinks like I used.  Yeah, they might have a few too many over the course of the night but no one at this party including the 20 somethings who were there, was FDD (Falling Down Drunk) like I would have been.

Needless to say, a lot has changed in the past 4 years.  I was able to enjoy my time with my friends last weekend, without craving a drink.  This seemed unfathomable to me until the past year or so, but one thing that I’ve learned in my sobriety is never to test myself.

Even though I was able to go out and dance at a bar, I always knew I could leave at any point.  We were staying right across the street from where we were, and I was just about ready to go when someone else suggested it.  I’ve put myself in uncomfortable situations in the past where I’ve pretended I wasn’t bothered by other people drinking, and it’s just not worth it.  Now I know to leave or tell whomever I’m with that I’m uncomfortable, and get the hell out!

This may sound very easy if you’re not and alcoholic, but for those of us who are, it’s not extremely difficult.  Alcoholics are people pleasers, so we don’t want to upset anyone by leaving or not going to a social event, especially when it’s hosted by a close friend or family member.  My best advice is never commit to something 100%, and always have an exit strategy.  I still attend parties, but I always say that I might stop by, and I often arrive late and leave early.  I’ve also come to realize that if you’re really friends with someone and they’re supportive of your sobriety, they would rather you be honest about not feeling comfortable in a situation, than put your safety at risk.

It’s okay to say no to things, and set boundaries. This was one of the hardest things for me to do in early sobriety especially with my family.  I wanted everyone to stop worrying about me, so I pretended I was fine in certain situations when I was really in a private hell.  Always remember that your sobriety is more important than other peoples comfort.  Your friends and family will be much more upset if you have a relapse than if you don’t attend an event because you feel uncomfortable.  I will also say that as an alcoholic, I always thought I had to have an explanation of why I was or wasn’t doing something.  I now realize that it’s no one’s business in the end, so if I don’t feel like explaining my reasoning I don’t.

One more thing, no one misses having to take care of Drunk Lisa.  She might be fun for a little while, but then she’s falling down, slurring her words, and being obnoxious. I’m now doing everyone a huge favor by not attending a party or just stopping in quickly.

 

 

Rock Bottom

If you’re new to sobriety or thinking about becoming sober, you’ll often hear people talk about their rock bottom.  This is usually the turning point in an individual’s life when he or she realizes that they can no longer continue to drink the way they have been.  For some people it may not take much for them to realize that they need to stop drinking, for others it can take something major like an arrest, hospitalization, injury, or even a near death experience, before the person realizes that there are only two choices-stop drinking or die.

Oh how I wish my rock bottom was as simple as an injury.  I had been falling and hurting myself for years.  I had staples put in my head twice, and was hospitalized on many other occasions where I have no recollection of how I ended up in the hospital.  Although embarrassing, I still couldn’t stop drinking.

Like many alcoholics, my rock bottom was as extreme as my drinking.  There were many times over the years where I tried controlling my drinking which always failed.  I knew it was a problem, so I would often hide my drinking from others, and drink before I went to social events.  I know now that it was due to anxiety, but at the time I just thought it was my way of loosening up before parties.  I would also try to control my drinking in front of people, but then go home and binge.  It truly was a case of once I had one drink in my system, I couldn’t stop drinking until I passed out. On some mornings I would wake up hung over and start drinking again.  I was so ashamed and embarrassed, it was truly a horrible time in my life that I’m glad is over.

I finally admitted that I was an alcoholic after a boyfriend, who had friends in recovery, made me realize it.  I was not happy about this, because although I admitted it, I was not ready to accept it.  I felt pressure not to let him and my family down, so after detoxing in a hospital, I had my first go at sobriety.  This lasted for three months.

I attended AA meetings, and saw a therapist, but I still couldn’t relate to other alcoholics.  I thought I had nothing in common with them, and didn’t actually listen to their stories.  Looking back now, I know that I wasn’t ready to accept all of my issues and really work on myself.  I was trying to remain sober for everyone else, which ultimately led to a relapse that lasted for seven long months.

I was in a very bad place during those seven months.  My boyfriend and I broke up, I was still grieving over the death of my father, I was unemployed, and I had to move back in with my Mom.  I would go weeks without drinking, and then break down and go on a binge that would last days.  This cycle continued, and I continued to hurt my family and friends.

What I initially thought was my rock bottom took place in April of 2013.  My friends and I were hosting a wine tasting for a charity we had started, and I still wanted to be involved.  My friends even said, they were fine with me drinking at the event as long as I didn’t go overboard.  Being in the throws of my addiction,  I actually thought I could handle this, but of course I was wrong.

I took the bus down on a Friday night and drank vodka during the four hour trip.  I arrived at Port Authority happy as a clam, and decided to quickly stop at a bar for another drink before heading to my sisters.  This is literally the last thing I fully remember.

I vaguely remember being told not to attend the event on Saturday.  On Sunday when I was supposed to leave, I checked into a hotel and decided that was it-I was done with life and going to kill myself.

I was drunk this whole time, and I should also note, that I had stopped taking my antidepressants about a month before because I didn’t think they were helping me.  As I’m sure you’re aware, drunk people do not make the best decisions. My plan was to take a whole bottle of Tylenol PM and hopefully die in my sleep.  Please, never, ever try this.  It made me horribly sick, and also led to me losing control of my extremities.  I remember lying on the bathroom floor, and trying to get back to the bed but I couldn’t actually move my legs properly.  When I was able to get up, my legs were like jello and would come out from under me.  It was truly scary.

While all this was going on, I didn’t arrive on my bus back and my my called my sisters searching for me.  My sister called me and finally figured out where I was-I kept telling her I was in different places, partly because I didn’t want her to find me like this, and partly because at one point I was so disoriented, I truly couldn’t remember. She showed up to the hotel, found a suicide note I wrote, and called an ambulance.  She told me later that she honestly thought I might have brain damage because of how out of it I was acting.

I was taken to the hospital and put in the psych ward.  At one point I thought there were bed bugs crawling on me, and insisted they let me leave.  I was eventually released without having to stay for 72 hours which is usually the protocol.

My whole family was very upset and my mom and aunt who picked me up and drove me home, made me agree to attend an outpatient program.  I agreed, but still was not in acceptance.

The weeks following that incident I attended the out patient group only once, and then lied and said I went another time but really drank instead.  On May 1, 2013, I woke up hung over from a night of drinking.  My mother was very upset with me, but I got ready for work (somehow I was able to land a decent job during this time) and ran out of the house.  I went to work, and decided I was done with life.  I bought a plane ticket to Fort Lauderdale, grabbed my things, and told my boss I had to take my dog to the vet.   I rushed out of the office, stopped at the liquor store, bought a bottle of vodka, and drove to the airport.  I chugged the vodka in the airport parking lot, and rushed to make the flight.  I ended up missing the flight to Fort Lauderdale,  and a kind woman who could see I was drunk, arranged for me to get on another flight to Jacksonville later that afternoon.  I really didn’t care where I was going just as long as I could leave.

I had time to kill before the flight so I went to the airport hotel, got a room, and took a nap.  Then I ordered a pizza (Drunk Lisa loved her pizza), and eventually went to the hotel bar and had a few drinks before heading back to the airport.  I boarded the flight, although I don’t remember it at all.

The next thing I remember is being in a cab and asking the driver to take me to a hotel by the beach.  He took me to a hotel and I continued my drinking.  The hotel didn’t have a bar, but they did have bottles of wine you could purchase so of course I did that.  I holed myself up in my room and continued to drink through May 2nd and 3rd.   My phone was ringing off the hook, but eventually it died.

Meanwhile, my family was doing everything they could to figure out where I had gone.  They called the police who weren’t much of a help, although they eventually did find my car at the airport.  My sister was able to get a hold of my credit card company to see the last place I used it, and that’s how they tracked me down at the hotel.

At this point, I was trying to get the courage to kill myself, but once again drunk people aren’t good at completing tasks, so this proved to be another failed attempt at taking my life.  I tried the plastic bag over the head trick, but I couldn’t do that.  I then broke a glass and tried to slit my wrists but the glass was too dull and didn’t do much.  The hotel phone was now ringing off the hook, and finally I answered it.  My brother was on the other end, and when I heard how upset he was, I knew the charade was over.  He said that he thought I was dead.  I was so ashamed for putting my family through everything that I had, and I knew I couldn’t end my life in this way.  He eventually called the cops, and I was escorted to the hospital.

Given all that had happened you think I would have been in a bad mood, but at the hospital I was hitting on a nurse and cracking jokes.  My brother in law who was in Florida for business, came to the hospital to meet me.  It was good to see someone I knew, and I really appreciated him coming to see me.  Apparently my blood alcohol content was around 0.3, which results in death for many people.  The doctor said he was shocked I was coherent and speaking.

I was once again placed in the psych ward, but this time they were holding me for 72 hours.  My mom and aunt flew down to the hospital, and seeing them was one of the worst days of my life.  My mother was so upset she probably should have been hospitalized herself.  My aunt is in recovery, so thankfully she understood the troubles of being an alcoholic, and was able to comfort my mom.

I met with a psychiatrist and explained that I had gone off my anti-depressants and was drunk when I wanted to take my own life.  He put me back on my medication, but also said that I clearly had an addiction and needed to seek treatment.  I was also visited by a social worker, Les, who was a savior for my mom.  He was able to help her cope with everything she’d just gone through, and said that as long as I sought treatment for my addiction, I would be very successful.  He also said that I was from a “superior gene pool” which we still laugh about today.

I had to agree to enter some sort of treatment program before the hospital would release me, which I did.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there, since the floor they were holding me on was filled with severely mentally ill people.  Although it was scary at the time, it made me realize how lucky I was to have a disease that could be treated by not drinking, and dealing with my issues.

I left the hospital and entered a rehab facility 10 days later.  There were no beds available until then, so this was a real test of my commitment to myself and my sobriety.  Because my bottom was so bad, I actually didn’t want to drink at all during those 10 days.  I didn’t want to go to rehab, but I knew I had to, so two days after my 31st birthday, I entered a rehab facility in Pennsylvania.

Oh what a long road I still had ahead of me….