In a previous post, “A Fateful Night” posted 02-03-2013 http://bit.ly/12leBsy, I wrote of the night that my parents surrendered to their alcoholism. I write now of my own surrender to the disease on August 11, 1980. By the Grace of God, I have not had a drink since.
Yes, I too am an alcoholic. I must surrender to this fact every day. It is more than just a label. It carries with it the importance I must place on the value of having and maintaining a life worth living. Until I admitted the truth, surrendered to this disease, and turned my life over to the care of God, my life was being destroyed. Admitting the problem was the first step of many to come. I had to get into action, to do something about it and keep doing so! I have spent the last 33 years doing just that, for myself and others.
I am not going to do what is called a “Drunk-alogue” here; none of the blow by blow accounts of my alcoholism. I may share you with some of those stories another time. For the purpose of this accounting, I do need to sum up at least the basics and tell you of my moment of surrender.
I hid my alcoholism for years, refusing to admit it even to myself. Having been literally raised in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I knew all of the steps, the principles and slogans, and had lived first hand through the recovery process in my family and home. I also closely observed how it affected others. I was active in Alateens, as a child of recovering alcoholic parents, and in Al-Anon, since I went on to marry an alcoholic. This would not be surprising to those who know the disease. Most children of alcoholics grow up to be one, marry one, or both; as I did. By my mid-twenties, the facts I knew about this disease were screaming at me, “You are an alcoholic!” I blamed that on my being ‘brainwashed’ by the program, seeing problems when there weren’t any – Denial. I turned a deaf ear to the warnings. As problems continued to progress, I turned a blind eye as well and placed the blame for these problems elsewhere. Both by the way are some of the typical signs of alcoholic thinking and behavior. I hid my drinking from my parents (Duh!) and rarely drank at any family functions. Once I had married, I thought it would be all right to ‘come out,’ at least with him. My husband banned it however, saying, “I don’t want you drinking much. I can’t keep up with you when you do!” That’s one hell of an admission from a big Marine! So, I went totally underground with it, or so I thought, and hid my drinking behind his developing alcoholism. I wouldn’t drink until he first got drunk and then he wouldn’t know that I was. In the latter days of my drinking, when I “needed” a bit extra, I began to keep a stash of alcohol hidden from all others – another classic sign of alcoholism. One example of this, I tied a bottle of my favorite to a stout string and lowered it down into the laundry chute. With that available and unknown to others, I could ‘sneak’ a drink when I was working in the kitchen or when I was in the basement doing laundry. Because of my efforts of hiding it from self and others, the disease continued to progress unchecked. Up until the last year of my drinking, I was a ‘periodic’ drunk, which means I did my best to ‘control it’ and not be ‘controlled by it’- another sign of alcoholism. I could and did go years without a drink. Then this became months and – well, in the last year I was lucky if I made it weeks, which then became only days without my having to have it. Alcoholism is progressive and aggressive! As I’ve said, I had all of the warning signs but I ignored the greatest fact – that it’s not how much or how often you drink, it is about what happens when you do! My ‘happenings’ were getting more frequent and more impacting on my life and the lives of those I loved. It all finally came to the point where I could no longer deny or hide from the monster in my closet. I was forced to see myself, literally face to face, and admit, “I am an alcoholic!”
The last time I drank, I cried out, “God, please let me die!” He didn’t . . .
My husband and I went to a party next door to our home. Our children, ages 5 and 7, knew where we were and could reach us if needed. I even went home at their bedtime and tucked them into bed before going back to the party. After all, I was being the responsible one, or so I thought. It took me a few years to put together the truths of that night. I had thought that I had only nursed a half glass of beer during that evening while I enjoyed the friends and music. I wondered later how that half a glass could do what happened to me. The pieces of memory came with time and I realized the facts. I was the one in charge of the keg, drawing drinks for others. Of course my glass was always half full, no matter how much of it I was drinking! Then there were the ones playing quarters and tagging me to drink the shots, since it was funny to them to hit the “non-drinker” of the group. Hah! I also wandered into the front room often to see my husband and to bring him another drink. The air in there was thick with smoke from pot, hash, and opium; enough for a pretty big contact high, but I didn’t do that stuff! After several hours of this, I was getting sleepy and I didn’t feel right. I wanted to go home but my husband didn’t. I staggered home across the lawns without him.
I was surprised to find my 7 year old daughter there beside me when I fell on our fronts steps and was struggling to get into the house. She helped me to my room and onto the bed. I started vomiting and shaking. I began having seizures and my temperature rocketed. I felt my heart slamming, bringing crushing pain to my chest and shoulder. My breathing grew heavy and difficult, strangled. Dawn got a cool cloth for my head and held my hand. She bowed her head in prayer and looked up at me with tears every time I groaned. She didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to leave my side! (We didn’t have 911 then or portable phones.)
Our eyes met and my vision cleared. I saw my own eyes at that age and felt my own fear and helplessness; the hopelessness that I had had years ago when watching my own parents. My wall of denial broke and shattered, cutting me deeply with its painful shards. I realized then that I had become what they had been and that I was doing to my children what had been done to me. I screamed within, “I am an alcoholic!” It was in that moment of realization, filled with such deep shame and pain, that I begged God to let me die!
He didn’t . . .
I felt warmth, a loving touch wrapping all around and within me. My terrible shakes and chest pain subsided, my breathing grew easier. A voice, felt more than heard, said, “You will live and you will give of this life to others.”
Was this a warning, a promise, or a directive? I have taken it at times to be any and all of those. But in my heart I know that it was meant as reassurance, an affirmation, one that I must hold dear and keep true to on my journey through the life given to me that night when I could have, should have, died.
I keep this memory alive to keep me ever going forward. I can still see it and feel it almost as well as I did when it happened. I look closer at it about this time every year, to remember what was and to celebrate what has been since; a new life, a new beginning, a new way of being and becoming, every day. I think of this date as my “birthday,” not an anniversary (though it is that) because on this date, I truly began to live a life worth living! I thank God that He doesn’t always give us what we wish for but He will always give us what we need! Through the Amazing Grace and Mercy of His Intervention and continuing Presence in my life, I have learned to enjoy the journey! What an adventure this has been!