Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Don't Be Like Me

This post is one that I have wanted to write for a long time. I wanted to write it for myself, but mostly for others whom it might help. I know I am not the only mother who has had this struggle. But the fear of what people would think has kept the words locked up in my mind until now. This will be the most difficult post I have ever and probably will ever write. And perhaps it will be the most difficult post for many to read, as very few of my family and friends know the battle I worked so hard to hide, and overcame 5 years ago. 


This last Christmas I celebrated 5 years of sobriety. I am an alcoholic. I haven't had a drop of alcohol in 5 years, but I still carry that title because I know with every fiber of my being that I have no control when it comes to the bottle. I will always be an alcoholic because of the way I used it to medicate my pain. The tears are spilling onto the keyboard as I write these words and read them out loud to myself. But there is a freedom that comes from shining the light on something so ugly.
 

I used to say that I would never ever be a drinker. I wasn't one of "those" people. I had too much self control. My Christian upbringing would keep me on the straight and narrow. I didn't touch the stuff until after I was 21, unlike most of my friends who had dabbled in it much sooner. I was a waitress when I tried it the first time and it was no big deal. It did not take control over my life right away. I did the usual college drinking after work with friends. Looking back, I probably enjoyed it more than I should have, but I was able to not drink for years at a time with no problem at all. I got married and started a family without giving alcohol a thought to be quite honest.  

Alcohol did not touch my lips again until a friends wedding. I was under a tremendous amount of stress. Andrew had just been diagnosed 2 months prior, and we were in the midst of trying to figure out what Autism was and how to help him. I was at a loss. He was beating up on me daily. Literally. Therapies were not working. They seemed to be making him more angry. I would come home from sessions with bruises and scratch marks on my arms, and bloodied lips from him headbutting me as I tried to keep him from throwing himself on the ground and getting hurt. I was so weak. So when I was offered a glass of wine during the rehearsal dinner, I gladly took it. I had no idea then what that one action would start.
 

Now let me make one thing clear. I do not think that people who enjoy having a drink or 2 are alcoholics. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you drink because you love trying different wines, or you order drinks when you go out to dinner, or you like a cold beer with your nachos....that is not what I am talking about. I have friends who are part of wine clubs, or will have a drink with dinner nightly. No problem. The problem doesn't come in the type of drink, or the amount even. It comes in the "why". I drank as a coping mechanism. I drank because I was in so much pain, and I didn't know how to deal with it.
 

The fall into relying on alcohol to give me relief was slow at first. A glass of wine here and there. But it manifested quickly into a problem that I was not willing to look at. I would look forward in desperation to the end of the day when I could have that shot of vodka....or 3. I didn't drink because I liked the taste. I liked the warm burn down my throat. The tingly feeling in my fingers. The fact that the pain and grief in my mind would slowly disappear and I wouldn't have to think about what I was dealing with on a daily basis. And I stupidly justified it by telling myself that I was a more relaxed wife and mother with a drink or 2 in me. That was the biggest lie ever. My drinking went from one or 2 drinks at the end of the day after Andrew was asleep, to a shot here and there after 4pm when I knew I was home for the rest of the day. The bottle moved from the kitchen in sight of my husband, to the closet in our room. I didn't want him to know how much I was drinking of course, and this was the easiest way to hide it.
 

My time of medicating myself with alcohol only lasted about a year, but by the end of it I was completely out of control. It culminated in me drinking too much on Christmas Eve and finding myself coming to in the ER with my husband by my side and a doctor asking me stern questions about how much alcohol I had drank. I denied having more than a couple drinks of course and my wonderful husband was so worried about me and had no idea at this point how deep my addiction had gone. He thought I had perhaps accidentally doubled up on my anti-depressant or something of the like. He was completely blindsided and to this day I feel so sorry for what I put him through that night.
 

I sobered up enough by the time I got home and continued to deny the reality of the situation. We went to sleep. I woke up with a terrible hangover and was sick all day. Bryan waited until I was feeling better and then proceeded to try to talk to me about what was going on. He also presented me with evidence of why he had even taken me to the ER in the first place. A fleece sleeper that had been worn by my son the night before. It had my vomit all over it from me throwing up on him as I tried to rock him to sleep. That was rock bottom. Oh the pain! The shame! The reality of how far I had slipped while trying to do it all and be everything for everyone while not taking care of myself. My heart broke in a way that it had never before. That was the first day of my new life.


Immediately after the new year began, I went to my first Celebrate Recovery meeting. It is a Christian 12 step program. Bryan was adamant about me going and I had no room or reason to argue with him. I was so nervous. Luckily there were so many people there, I was able to slip in pretty much unnoticed. But it didn't last long. They talked about their intense step classes that were starting a couple weeks later and I knew that I needed to make a commitment to attend every single Wednesday of the 9.5 month course. The class started out with 33 ladies and by the time graduation came and the 12 steps were completed, there were only 11 ladies left. Recovery is a terribly hard road. The not drinking was only part of the struggle. Facing the reasons behind the addiction are much more difficult. The first 3 months of sobriety were the most unbearable by far. The physical need for alcohol was gone pretty quickly but the mental addiction had a death grip on my self-control. Every single time I went to the store to get groceries, I had to call my sponsor, or my husband. Someone needed to talk me through the store so that I wouldn't go down the liquor aisle and loose all of my willpower. Vodka was my coping mechanism, and I hadn't figured out a new one yet. I needed to ask for help from others to get past those desperate moments. Those who know me know how hard it is for me to ask for help. Getting clean was a humbling experience indeed.

I remember the moment that the desire to drink went away for at least a short time. It was about 3-4 months into the program. We were at Step 4. By now over half of the women in my group had dropped out. This is the time where most people who are going to quit, do. Step 4 calls for us to take a moral inventory of ourselves. The hardest step by far. It is critical in the healing process. I remember filling out the chapter for the week and it was time to go around the circle and share our answers. We were to talk about guilt. About the What Ifs we say to ourselves. It was my turn, and what came out of my mouth surprised even me. It wasn't what I had written. I said," I feel like it is my fault my son has Autism.What if I hadn't had to get that root canal when I was pregnant? What if I hadn't eaten so much tuna? What if I hadn't vaccinated him? I was supposed to protect him and I didn't. What if I caused my son to regress into Autism?" In that moment, I felt 1000lbs lighter. It was the first moment since Christmas that I did not want a drink. I admitted out loud what had been eating away at my soul for years. And it felt good. I still struggle with those thoughts a lot, especially with having 2 kids on the spectrum now. But they don't control me anymore. I can push those thoughts away by giving myself grace, instead of reaching for the bottle. 

I have a special place in my heart for those suffering from addiction. Most of the time it comes from a place of terrible pain and suffering. Loss, abuse, abandonment, etc. Addiction is usually just a way people deal with pain that they believe they cannot handle any other way. My heart aches for them. I know from my own experience how easy it is to slip into a pattern that you never ever would have imagined you would had you not experienced such pain. 

Why am I writing this to a bunch of strangers? Because I don't want you to me like me. Don't be full of pride. Don't be so strong that you aren't willing to ask for help when you need to. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness (I am still learning this). Accept help when it is offered, even if you didn't ask. 

Don't be like me. Realize that no one is perfect and everyone has their weaknesses. You don't have to be Super Mom, Super Dad, Super Spouse, or Super Person. You are doing yourself a disservice by putting that much pressure on yourself. 

Don't be like me. You can't control everything that happens around you. You do the best you can, and then you have to let go and realize that life will take the turns it will. 

And this last one is especially for parents of special needs kiddos. Some deal with it well, some do not. Make sure you get time to yourself, or with friends, or your spouse to refill your emotional tank. Our job is tough. It is life long. If you don't take care of yourself, you leave yourself open to unhealthy ways of stress management. I can obviously say this from personal experience. You deserve breaks. Your child will survive without you for a few hours. You're health is as important as meeting their needs. You can't help them, if you don't help yourself. 

Don't ignore that voice in your head telling you that you are reaching your breaking point.

Don't make the same mistakes I made.

Don't be like me. 



23 comments:

  1. Just wanted to let you know that I think you are amazing. And your story will help others. Congratulations on 5 years, that is a huge achievement!

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  2. Thank you Sara! :) I really appreciate that.

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  3. Amazing grace, my chains are gone, I've been set free!!! Wow Wen had absolutely no idea but so appreciate your transparency sweet girl! I love you so much and so proud if the beautifuk woman youve become! YOU ARE AMAZING!!!

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  4. Thank u for sharing your story so openly. Really opened my eyes to my own pain and how I have chosen to deal with it. Thank you. :)

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    1. You're welcome. :) Hugs to you.

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  5. Thank you for your brutal honesty. Knowing your upbringing (and ours) I can imagine how hard this is to talk about. THANK YOU for allowing us to see your weakness because it helps to know that everyone has a weakness. I am certain that any of us could imagine being tempted to ease our pain with alcohol or any other drug when facing the things you faced. You are BRAVE.

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    1. You're welcome Sis. Thank you for your words.

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  6. Oh, Wen. I am just finally reading this. I know so many people struggling with alcohol, and with the stress of parenting - especially special needs kids - it is such an easy way to dull the ache. I'm proud of you for sharing with the world and I know you'll help others with this post. (And congrats on 5 years!!)

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  7. you dont know me...but im ridiculously proud of you!! addiction is a bitch!! and an ongoing struggle...but one day at a time YOU CAN DO THIS!!!from one addict to another...there are healthier alternative ways to help numb your pain without alcohol.
    your blog here is a constant inspiration to me...the openness...the reality of it all....we all live with our own private hell's....but i appreciate your ability to put it all into words....it helps A LOT with my own personal struggles...really helps put it all into perspective.....you've got to be one of the strongest women ive ever known of....wow....brians one helluva lucky guy to have you....and you to have him.....much love to you all... UC13

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    1. Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to encourage me! You're words make me feel great and I sure need the boost of confidence every now and then. :) You're right. One day at a time. This blog has definitely been one of those healthy things I do that help me through the daily struggles. Thank you again for your awesome comment! <3!

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  8. keep fighting the good fight wen....you truely outshine all of us....there isnt a trophy big enuff in the world....to be worthy of all you do....i'll be honest...i dont think i could do it....you're a hero to me...and to your boys :)

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    1. :) You're so sweet. Thank you!

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  9. Thanks for sharing Wendy, your honesty and authenticity is refreshing. I know I haven't seen you in years, but you are a regular on my FB feed, so I think of you and Snoop often. I am inspired by you and will try to keep your lessons in mind. Thanks for sharing.

    Pooh Bear

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    1. Aww thank you Pooh! So good to hear from you on here. :) Thank you for your words! And your thoughts!

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  10. Hi Wendy, I'm new to the blogging community and I found you by clicking on your awesome tattoo pic! I just want to say you are incredibly brave, and so selfless to publish this piece that is so personal and so painful. I have dealt with addiction to alcohol and marijuana more than once. It was indeed my coping mechanism and I also used the same addict's manipulation that it made me a better person. I really believed that!

    My pain was deep. I was coerced into having an abortion my senior year of high school. I spent 16 years feeling like a murderer who deserved nothing more than to rot in hell. I suffered from tremendous guilt and severe anxiety, under constant fear of being "found out." I felt unlikeable and unlovable. The abortion made me feel like I was good for nothing but sex, and I allowed myself to be sexually abused by men over and over again. I finally got pregnant again and had my first child alone at age 21. I struggled with the pain and feeling like I didn't deserve to have children, and returned to my addictions.

    When she was 4 I met my currant husband, and soon after we started a family. This pregnancy was my hardest emotionally, I was so depressed that I wanted to kill myself after he was born because I felt like I didn't deserve to be his mother. I went on to have 2 more children with my husband after him. They are ages 12, 6, 4, and 2 now. Shortly after my youngest was born I gained the courage to seek help for my pain. I gave a testimony at my church, and just waited for everyone to run away but they didn't. They all came running up and hugged me. Even the next day I still wasn't convinced that they still liked me, and I had severe anxiety wishing I could take back the day before. But everything was ok. I kept talking about it and telling my story, and with each time I got stronger and stronger and completely broke the chains that bound me to that painful experience.

    This past February, my only son was diagnosed with mild ASD and ADHD. I too have struggled with guilt. I had to have surgery when I was 19 weeks pregnant with him to remove my left fallopian tube that had a grapefruit size cyst in it. I wondered, was it this surgery that caused his condition? Was it the aspartame in the sweetener I was using trying to avoid diabetes? Was it the alcohol and drug abuse from my past that possibly damaged the egg that became him? Was it the fact that he was born a little early, couldn't regulate his body temperature and was left alone under a radiant heat lamp in the nursery for 4 hours after birth? SO many questions!

    It's tough, I want to know exactly what happened to him, but I can't let that debilitate me like the pain from my abortion once did. I have to live for him and my other children now. Looking at our family histories, we definitely feel our son was genetically predisposed. Which makes me extremely scared for my kids to have kids. I'm no longer haunted by my past, but by my kid's future. As parents we have to be strong and stick together. I'm so relieved to be apart of the autism community. Thanks for being open and honest, and I look forward to staying connected...http://nosocialgracesnation.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story with me. And your blog. You are so brave and I am in awe of all you have overcome. I am so glad that you have broken free from the chains of addiction. God Bless you and your family who are so blessed to have you.

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    2. Thanks Wendy, that really means a lot. Don't feel any less about yourself because of your weaknesses either. We all have them, but we can come together and use our individual strengths to help each other to stand strong.

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  11. That was such a touching, and brave post. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

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    1. :) You're welcome. Thank you for reading it.

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  12. Sounds a lot like me...I'm an alcoholic and unfortunately I don't have the support from anyone around to be strong so downward spiral I go and been on it for 8 years....hard to admit but true

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    1. Admitting it is the first step. I really hope you can find the support you need in a group or meeting. They are everywhere, and that is where I found my help. No one in my life knew I was an addict until I got clean. I didn't look to my husband for support....I looked to those like me who have been through it. They were my strength. Perfect strangers until I reached out to them. I will be thinking of you and praying that the right path to healing will be revealed to you.

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