Vulnerability

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and the topic of vulnerability has come up a few times.  It made me really think of my own vulnerability during my active addiction, as well as my vulnerability in recovery.

When we as addicts finally make the decision to seek help for our disease, we are extremely vulnerable.   For people who don’t understand alcoholism, we are deciding to stop using the only thing that has ever made us feel comfortable or normal.  It has become a part of who we are, and we can’t imagine living without it.

For me, admitting I was an alcoholic was admitting that I was uncomfortable in my own skin.  My anxiety was the reason I drank, so before I was diagnosed, I was self medicating with alcohol.  I was untreated for years due to the fact that I didn’t want to admit I was anxious, especially in social situations, because I saw this as a flaw.  Although I was eventually prescribed anxiety medicine about a year before I truly accepted my disease, I took the medicine without seeking therapy, and I continued to drink.

Clearly this was a not the path to wellness.  I also knew that just taking the medication and not drinking was not helping me feel less anxious about everything that was going on in my life.  I wanted to pretend things were fine to everyone in the outside world, even thought that wasn’t the case.

Looking back, I find it funny that I actually thought I was fooling anyone.  I was  ashamed of my drinking, but too scared to be honest with my family and friends about my complete and utter reliance on it.  It is still hard for me to be completely open with some people about the amount I was drinking when I was heaving in my addiction.  Since people who are not alcoholics or addicts don’t understand the reliance a person has on their drug of choice, they’re usually shocked and sometimes disgusted by how much a person drinks or uses when he or she is entrenched in their addiction.

The shamefulness I felt over my alcoholism was what kept me from being honest with myself.  When I first attempted to stop drinking, my obsession with alcohol was still there.  I wanted everyone to think I was fine, so of course, I didn’t admit to anyone or myself how I was really feeling.  Amazingly, I was able to abstain from drinking for three months before I finally gave into my obsession.

This led to over 6 months of on and off drinking, and many bad decisions.  Although going through that was my personal hell, it forced me to understand that I needed to go to rehab, become educated about the disease, and continue to talk to other alcoholics.

Overall the hardest step for me to take in my recovery was to let myself be vulnerable.  This is still tough, but I now force myself to do it in order to stay well.  For those readers who are not alcoholics, I would like to make a simple request-if someone you love has a problem and shares this with you, try your hardest not to judge him or her.  Our society makes it hard enough for addicts to seek help, so if someone feels comfortable enough sharing their person hell with you, just remember that this might be the first time he or she is allowing them-self to be vulnerable.  They’re most likely not looking for advice, they just need a person to listen without judgement.

 

 

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Drunk & Bloated

As I mentioned in my last post, I was at bachelorette party last weekend, and my good friend Katie brought photo albums from college.  Although they were very entertaining, they were also a shocking reminder of how bloated I was during my Drunk Lisa days.

I am tall and slim, and although my wait has fluctuated by a few pounds here and there, I’ve always looked pretty much the same-or so I thought.  The thing that was most noticeable in the pictures from college was how bloated my face was from drinking.  I always thought I looked pretty damn good in college, and never had a problem meeting guys, but looking back it was shocking.

In almost all of the pictures, my Drunk Lisa eyes were in full effect.  Drunk Lisa eyes were one of the first signs of my inebriation.  Basically my eyes would become glassy, and wonder.  Next was usually the slurring of words, which I always tried to impossibly control.  And then, there were be the growing of my extremities.  I’m tall – about 5’9″ and my friends used to always say that once I was drunk my arms and legs would grow even longer and I would flail them around.  This made it extremely hard for people to help me walk as I never could do so on my own once I was drunk.  My ex-boyfriend actually compared me to one of the inflatable air dancers you see outside of car dealerships.  Although this did annoy me, he was spot on.

It was fun reminiscing and looking through the photos last weekend, but it was also a great reminder of what an ass I made of myself in college, and how much better I not only look,  but also feel being sober.

 

Rehab’s for Quitters

I entered rehab on May 13, 2013.  I’m just realizing now that this might be looked as a very unlucky date as it has the number 13 in it twice, but for me it was one of the luckiest days of my life.  It gave me a second chance at life.

Entering rehab was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I didn’t want to go, but at that point in my life, it was the only choice I had if I wanted to continue to live.  I was home for over a week between leaving the hospital in Florida, and entering rehab in Pennsylvania.  In all honesty, I was hoping that I could somehow find a way to get out of going, but in the end I knew there was no other choice but to confront my issue with alcohol.

Before entering, I spoke with a close friend who had completed a rehab program about a year prior, and she made me feel much better about going.  She said it was tough, but she came to like it and by the end she was sad to being saying goodbye to the friends she’d made.

When I checked into the facility, an old mansion with beautiful grounds, I was scared but ready to move forward with my life.  My mom and I met with the intake counselor who asked me some questions, and then my mom went on her way.  I didn’t cry, but I was sad to see my mom go as I wasn’t sure what was next.

After my luggage was searched, I was introduced to my buddy, a 19 year old named Meghan.  She immediately asked me what my DOC was.  My DOC?  I replied.  She said yes, your drug of choice.  I answered alcohol, and she then went on to tell me that she’d been in and out of rehab multiple times since she was 14.  Her DOC was anything and everything she could get her hands on, most recently crack.  I was shocked!  Where was I?  Was I supposed to be in with people who used hardcore drugs like crack?  I tried to play it cool, but wondered if I’d made a huge mistake.

I was placed in the detox unit even though I’d  been sober for ten days.  Apparently it was protocol, which I actually didn’t mind since I had a room to myself.  I attended the sessions and was overwhelmed by the different people in the program.  There were men and women of all ages and backgrounds.  This facility had nationally recognized programs for doctors and pharmacists with addictions, as well as a specialized program for law enforcement workers.  The men and women were kept in separate wings because fraternizing was forbidden.  We did come together for morning and afternoon meetings as well as recess where we could play games and go outside -weather permitting.  All of the women I met were friendly, and many of them had been in rehab programs multiple times, which seemed like hell to me.

I was still questioning whether or not I would survive a full month in this place since I really didn’t feel like I could relate to many of the people there.  On my second night, another woman was placed in my room with me in the detox unit.  Her name was Kate, and she ended up being my saving grace.

Kate was 37 and pregnant, but we were very much alike.  Her family had pressured her to enter a program because she was pregnant, but besides that she didn’t think she really had a problem.   I had more in common with Kate then any of the other woman in the facility.  We had similar senses of humor, and were able to laugh about being in there with all these crazy addicts.  The main difference was that Kate didn’t consider herself an alcoholic and I did.  My rock bottom was so bad, that I knew I literally would die if I drank again.  Kate on the other hand, had not hit her bottom quite yet, but she would in time.

I am a big believer in the fact that people come in and out of your life for certain reasons, and Kate came into my life to help me get through rehab.  We became very good friends and were lucky enough to be placed in a room together when we were done with detox.  We talked late into the night about our lives and how we ended up here.  We also laughed about the situation we were currently in, and wondered how the hell things got so bad that we were sleeping in twin beds as grown women.

If you go to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, you’ll hear many people say that AA is the only thing an alcoholic needs to become and stay sober.  I do not agree with this.  I think AA is one avenue that works for some people,  but for me this was not the case.  I tried AA when I first attempted getting sober, but I needed to go to rehab to really learn about my addiction.  Before rehab, I didn’t understand that alcoholism is a disease.  It is a mental health illness that cannot be controlled by sheer will power.  I cannot speak for others, but for me personally I had to really understand that alcoholism was in my make up, and that I have no control over the effects it has on my body.  Coming to this realization was my biggest takeaway from rehab.

I do believe that AA is a great option for maintaining sobriety, as I still attend AA meetings occasionally.  I have recently found podcasts to be a very helpful tool in maintaining my sobriety as well.  I personally enjoy the Bubble Hour: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bubblehour – a webcast where women share their personal stories of alcoholism and becoming sober.  I’ve also found yoga to be an important part of my recovery.  I started taking a pilates/yoga class when I got out of rehab and then continued my yoga practice which has helped me learn to meditate, as well as take time for myself to heal.

I believe that recovery is a very personal thing, so there is not a one size fits all solution.  If you think you might have an addiction, I encourage you to really think about yourself and research what options might work best for you.  There are so many resources on the internet that can be helpful, but i will say the first step is at least seeing what is out there, and then maybe reaching out to someone.  I wish I had done that a lot sooner than I did, so please contact me as I’m very open to helping others.

 

 

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….