alcoholic

Rosemary O'Connor - A Sober Mom's Shining Light

ROC.jpg

 

I'm super thrilled and honored to introduce you all to Rosemary O'Connor, founder of ROC Recovery Services and author of A Sober Mom's Guide to Recovery: Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids.  Rosemary has a clear and powerful voice, and if you don't believe me, let Ms. Anne Lamott convince you.

 

Rosemary O’Connor is such a warm and experienced companion for women trying to manage the difficult and exhilarating path of sober motherhood. She has such a good sense of humor, and a lot of both practical and spiritual wisdom.  I wish I’d had this book when I had my child in early recovery.

--Anne Lammott

CHAPTER ONE: HITTING BOTTOM

Recovery is not so bad. It’s kinda like walking backward through molasses up to your crotch with your legs tied together. 

--Anne Wilson Schaef

 

I promised myself I was only going out for two drinks. I told the eleven-year-old babysitter I’d be home in a couple of hours—no later than nine. I walked out the door on my way to a fancy charity event, the Fireman’s Ball at the San Francisco Yacht Club. I was all dressed up in a long, sequined gown, high heels, hair and makeup to the nines (for me it was all about looking good on the outside). At the event, with drink in hand, I started chatting up a guy. I was doing straight shots of tequila and quickly spent $200 buying drinks from the bar—what every classy lady does. Mr. Not-So-Prince-Charming invited me to continue the party at his place. I remember following in my car, gripping the steering wheel, trying to steer in a straight line. The next thing I remember is waking up in Mr. Not-So- Prince-Charming’s bed at ten the next morning, thirteen hours after I’d told the babysitter I’d be back.

I drove home overcome with dread, silently promising never to drink again. The scene that met me there was Dickensian: my three children were lined up on the sofa in their pajamas, eyes wide with horror, staring at me. On either side of them were my best friend, Lori, whose daughter had been babysitting, and my estranged husband. They didn’t look too friendly, either. And no wonder—I was still wearing the sequined gown from the night before, which I’d thrown up on, and my hair and makeup were in shambles.

Lori looked me straight in the eye. “You’d better get hold of yourself,” she said, and stormed out. My husband looked at me with utter disgust. I got the message in his glare: If you don’t get your act together, I’ll take these kids away.

As he gathered the kids to go upstairs for their stuff, my five-year-old son asked me, “Mommy, are you okay?”

I was not. For the first time in the twenty-one years I’d been drinking, I acknowledged there was something really wrong with me. I said, “No, Mommy is not okay.” He grabbed me and hugged me. Then he ran upstairs crying.

My soon-to-be ex-husband left with my children and went to his house. I was alone, an empty shell, physically, spiritually, and emotionally bankrupt. What I feared most was that I would continue to do the same thing over and over and lose my children. This was not the mother I intended to be. That was my bottom. And I knew in that moment that if I didn’t get help, five o’clock would roll around and I’d be drunk once again.

Since then, I have worked with countless women and I know this scene has played itself out both in multimillion- dollar homes and in tenements. Our social standing, education, and self-knowledge don’t matter. When the alcohol or drugs get hold of us, we are taken over. We do things when we’re drinking and using that make us weep bitter tears when the high wears off.

We are basically good women and mothers, and under normal circumstances we would take good care of ourselves and fiercely protect our children. We can’t imagine how we let this happen, how we could lose control. We feel disgust, shame, and hopelessness. We vow never to let this happen again.

I had made that promise more times than I could remember. But now, for the first time, I listened to a voice in my head. Ask for help, it said. I went to the phone book, found the num- ber for Alcoholics Anonymous, and called. The woman who answered the phone asked me to join her at an AA meeting. There I found women who used to feel the same way I did. At last I knew I was not alone. I stopped drinking one day at a time as other women taught me how to face life without a drink or a drug. In my recovery—fifteen years as of this writing—I have found peace, compassion, and forgiveness for myself. I respect myself and love the woman I am today. (Most of the time!) Best of all, I am present for my children, and they love me.

Getting clean and sober is like dropping a single rock into a still pond and sending healing ripples out to our family, friends, and all the people who share our journey of recovery.

 


SOBER MOM’S TOOLS FOR CLIMBING UP AFTER HITTING BOTTOM

1. Take the first step: in the recovery process, the first step is admitting that we have a problem. For me, the evidence that my life was unmanageable was right in front of me that morning I came home to face my children. Using my story as an example, write about your own “hitting bottom” experience. If you’re new to recovery, it might be painful to put it in writing, but it can help you take that first step to admitting you have a problem. Even after facing my children that morning, I still had my doubts as to whether I was a full-blown alcoholic. But it was suggested that I write down my last ten drinking episodes. In doing this it became quite evident that my drinking was nowhere near normal. It was clear that when I started with a glass of wine I never knew where I’d end up or what I’d do.

2. Ask for help: this is the single most important action we can take to liberate us from isolation and loneliness. For me, and for many other women, it’s easier and more helpful to reach out to another woman. We are not meant to do life alone. If you are still trying to deal with a drinking or using problem alone, pick up the phone and call for help. You can get immediate help by calling Alcoholics Anonymous, or if your drug of choice isn’t alcohol, you may want to try Narcotics Anonymous; both groups are free and available twenty-four hours a day. You don’t have to do this by yourself. (See the Recommended Resources at the back of this book for these and other Twelve Step programs.)

If you’re reluctant to get help for yourself, do it for the sake of your children. Addiction is a progressive, fatal disease. It’s not a matter of if this disease will get worse, it’s a matter of when. Many mothers have lost custody of their children due to their addiction.

If you are still questioning “if ” you have a problem with your drinking or using, go to www.aa.org, read the pamphlet A.A. for the Woman and take the fifteen-question test.

Thanks, 

Rosemary O'Connor

Guest Blogger: Marilyn Boehm Starts at Goodbye.

I'm so very honored to bring you The Sobriety Collective's latest and greatest guest blogger, Ms. Marilyn Boehm.  Without spilling the beans too much on her story, suffice it to say, I've found a kindred spirit!  Thank you for your patience, Marilyn!  xoxo, Laura


                                           

I was not an alcoholic, nor an addict, nor a substance abuser. I was not even a “problem” drinker.
 

After all, I was a college graduate, had stable employment, lived in a decent home, had a husband and two kids, and I was a Jew [Editor's note: me too!].  

Everyone knew that alcoholics lived under bridges or in shelters. Addicts stole and were incarcerated in the finest penal institutions. And, of course, both varieties came from dysfunctional families.

Well, okay, my family was pretty dysfunctional.

Not only wasn’t I an alkie or a druggie, but also, in my career as a probation officer, I supervised them. They were on the other side of the desk. They were my caseload, and I was paid to “fix” them or to lock them up. I didn’t get arrested when I drove drunk because I had a badge.

Alcohol and drugs were my solution, not my problem.

I used them to “take the edge off,” to cope with stress and unhappiness. I used them to help me feel at ease in uncomfortable settings—and anywhere was an uncomfortable setting. Mostly, I used them to feel attractive to the opposite sex.

Getting drunk and using drugs was cool—for a very, very long time. Most people would never have guessed I had a problem. I kept that secret behind closed doors. To the outside world, I was the life of the party:  I was funny and entertaining when I was loaded. My hijinks were the stuff of water cooler jokes at the office on Monday morning. My “outsides” looked just fine.

Towards the end, drugs and alcohol turned on me. My life got very dark. I drank daily and had blackouts in which I couldn’t recall what I’d done or with whom I’d done it.  I lived a double life: during the day, I was a professional in a job with incredible authority, but at night, I drank in the scummiest of dive bars with “lower companions.” From the time I got home from work and popped that first beer until the time I crashed at night with a wine glass by my bedside, I drank. After all, I had a stressful job and a difficult home life. I deserved to drink and to smoke pot!

I got sober on January 4, 1988. It was, and still is, a journey.

I’ve had a chance to take a good, hard look at my life as an alcoholic and addict in a memoir I recently had published:  Starting at Goodbye. I worked on it, off and on, for over ten years. In the first of this two part series, I will refer to a few excerpts to illustrate what my life looked like drunk and sober. The book is also an outrageous love story and testament to my late husband, Wayne. We shared thirty years of our lives together until his death from cancer. I picked up a hunky cowboy in a country western bar and took him home that night. Wayne was supposed to have been my last one night stand.

One of the main reasons I drank was to help me feel better about myself when it came to men. I had a horrible self-image based on my looks. I’d had horrible cystic acne as an adolescent. I was ridiculed by boys in both junior and senior high school because of my skin. I just wanted to be invisible if it meant they’d leave me alone.

When I drank, I felt pretty. I believed that if I went home with the cutest guy in the bar, I wasn’t so bad looking after all.

Here’s an excerpt from the book set early in my relationship with Wayne:

He flashed me his adorable smile and sexy wink, and I was toast. My anger melted like snow on a sunny day. I knew he was attracted to me for the security I offered, not to mention my cabinet filled with booze and a steady supply of pot. He needed my strength and stability. I needed him needing me. No matter what I did or said, he wouldn’t leave me. My weakness filled me with disgust, but I couldn’t really understand why I stayed. What was missing in me? Where was that empty space he filled? Why didn’t I believe I deserved someone who was my equal educationally, socially, and financially?

We shared a desire to avoid reality. Although I managed to go into work most days, I found myself calling in sick more often after suffering worse and worse hangovers. With Wayne, I was drinking more than ever, matching him shot for shot. On weekends especially, we’d spend hours sitting around the dinner table sharing intimate feelings while candles flickered.

“No one asked me to the prom,” I said. Tears plopped down my cheeks as I sipped sloppily on a glass of Gallo.

“I’da asked ya if I’d known ya then.” Wayne leaned over and patted me on the hand.

“No one wanted me. I was so ugly with my pock-marked skin. And all the boys in high school were so damn short. Some of the meaner ones teased me in front of everyone, called me a giraffe. I sucked it up and cried later, all alone, in my bed.” I took another sip, knocking over the glass accidentally.

“Ahh, baby. I think you’re beautiful.” He jumped up to get a sponge to wipe up the mess and got out the crystal decanter to pour me some more wine.

On nights like these, after I poured out my sob stories, we’d stagger upstairs and pass out on the bed. Often, with the room spinning, I’d puke my guts out first….

I hated feeling so desperate. I questioned my attractiveness. What’s wrong with me? Wasn’t I pretty enough? Passionate enough? Feminine enough?

The answers lay in the bottom of a liquor bottle. Once I was drunk enough, I could push down the pain, postpone the issues, and ignore what was happening in my life.

Because I was a functional drunk and Wayne wasn’t, it was easier to focus on him as the alcoholic. His father suggested that I attend Alanon with him. Here is an excerpt of my first Alanon meeting:

At 6:30 on the dot, Nathan arrived to drive me to the community center in Costa Mesa. A sign posted on a door declared “Alanon meeting here.” We entered a brightly lit large room with dozens of metal folding chairs arranged in straight lines. Slogans with trite sayings like “Let go and let God” had been posted on the walls. A woman dressed in a conservative, navy suit stood at a podium on stage. I surveyed the audience, composed mostly of middle-aged women in dowdy lounge wear with worn, beaten looks on their faces. This is going to be a laugh a minute.

 The leader read aloud some material from Alanon literature, which was followed by enthusiastic clapping. A parade of others stepped up to the podium, announcing their names, which were echoed by the audience—“Hi Loser!” Each told a tale of woe about husbands, boyfriends, or adult children who were out of control from alcohol. There was continuous mention of “the alcoholic,” as if he or she was an inanimate object.

 They had no sense of humor regarding “the alcoholic,” that’s for sure. I had to stifle a desire to laugh out loud on occasion hearing them describe some pretty riotous drunken antics. If they could’ve read my mind, they’d have booted me out of the joint. I didn’t want to humiliate Nathan, so I kept my feelings to myself.

 They ended the meeting by joining hands and reciting some stupid prayer with which I was unfamiliar. I think they said it was the Lord’s Prayer, which lent the whole shenanigans a clearly Christian slant, adding more icing to this unappetizing cake. I’ll give them a piece of my mind if they try to convert me, Nathan be damned.

 After the meeting, we were steered to a table which held Styrofoam cups, a big coffee urn, hot water and tea bags, and an assortment of pastries and cookies. Nathan nudged me in the direction of a group of women who had congregated in the area, and he suggested I talk to them about Wayne. One woman who appeared to be the head sob sister was surrounded by a group of fawning women. I approached the bunch timidly as they formed a spontaneous opening to allow me into the circle. I found myself tattling on Wayne, focusing on his sporadic work history, and recounting tales of outrageous bourbon-related incidents. The head sob sister swept me into her arms and hugged me tightly. Her cohorts made sympathetic tsk-tsk sounds while patting me on the back and muttering jargon.

 A tear slipped down my cheek as I grew more comfortable with this new role of victim. I began to embellish the stories, culminating with a synopsis of the SWAT blow-out.

 “How awful, you poor thing,” one grey-haired matron said, locking eyes with me. “Keep coming back!”

 I was beginning to relish being the center of attention. Hey, this isn’t so bad!...

Is this what the future holds in store for me? Sitting around with a bunch of pathetic losers talking about “the alcoholic”? Might as well shoot myself now and get it over with. Is being with Wayne worth it? I need a stiff drink.

Stay tuned for Part II, where Marilyn deals with her realization that she, too, might have a substance abuse problem....


From Marilyn's Amazon page

MARILYN BOEHM has previously been published in an anthology "Spiritual Journeys." She also won First Prize in a writing contest sponsored by Silhouettes eyewear. She retired from a thirty one year career as a deputy probation officer with L.A. County Probation Department, State of New Mexico Corrections Department and Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Orange County Probation Department. She is remarried, has two adult children and two adorable dogs, and she lives in Huntington Beach, California.

Visit Marilyn's blog and connect with her via email or Facebook.

David Greenspan: Drug Abuse Saved My Life

The man himself, surrounded by books. A fellow nerd :)

The man himself, surrounded by books. A fellow nerd :)

Super thrilled to bring you a story from David Greenspan.  Ch-ch-check his bio out after his magnificent tale of recovery.  - Laura

**

Sounds like a bold, not to mention nonsensical, claim, right? In many ways it is. On the surface, drug abuse saves no one’s life. On the surface, drug abuse, especially teenage drug abuse, is a public health problem second to none. This isn’t the surface though.

Teenage drug abuse saved my life. I stand by that statement. I even say it with pride. See, my name is David Greenspan and I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict. I’d like to share with you my story. It’s not much different from thousands of other teenagers’ stories. This one, though, is mine.

I’ve always felt “different.” I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like an outsider looking in. I can, however, remember being in second grade and getting in trouble because I wouldn’t sit in my assigned seat. That seat was in the middle of the classroom. I couldn’t sit there! People would be behind me, looking at me, judging.

This gut level discomfort, this ingrained anxiety, followed me through elementary and middle school. I could never be myself because, well, myself wasn’t good enough. That’s what my diseased thinking told me.

I was suffering from three diseases – depression, anxiety, and addiction. See, addiction isn’t all about the drugs. In truth, it’s hardly about the drugs at all. It has much more to do with my thinking, my emotions, my relationships (strained as they may have been), and my reactions to life. Addiction is, to me, a maladaptive way to exist, rather than live.

In eighth grade, at the age of twelve, I smoked pot. I immediately felt a release. I felt like a balloon with all the helium let out. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful that felt. I didn’t care what others thought of me. I didn’t care about not measuring up. I didn’t care about anything other than what was happening right then, right there.

To say I was addicted from the very start feels true. Remember, though, I believe I was born with the disease of addiction. If it hadn’t manifested in compulsively using drugs, it would have manifested elsewhere. Perhaps it would have popped up in overachieving at school or work. Perhaps I would have become a fitness junkie and run no less than ten miles each day. Perhaps I’d become codependent and a serial monogamist, always looking for relief through people.

I can’t be sure where addiction would have entered my life had it not been for drugs. I’m not sure if I’d have ended up a despondent middle-aged man. What I am sure of, one of the only things I’m sure of in this life, is that drug addiction brought me to recovery. And recovery, readers, has brought me to peace.

Returning to my story, I began drinking and taking pills not long after I first smoked pot. The progression only intensified from there. By fifteen I was doing cocaine and had tried opioids. By seventeen I was physically addicted, strung out as some say, to heroin and painkillers.

What followed was two years of pure hell. I bounced around the country, from New York to Florida and back. I bounced in and out of rehabs, detoxes, counseling groups, halfway houses, and the streets. I had periods of abstinence, but never of recovery, never of knowing freedom from the incessant feeling of inferiority in my mind.

I make the distinction between abstinence and recovery based on my understanding of addiction as a disease. It was explained to me as a three-part disease – physical, mental, and spiritual.

I have a mental obsession with anything that changes the way I feel.  Once I start thinking about something, be it drugs, alcohol, food, women, etc., I won’t stop until I have that something in my hands.

I have a physical allergy to drugs and alcohol that ensures I keep using them until I’m stopped. That can come in the form of going to treatment, going to jail, getting into a car crash, or having a loved one lock me in a room to detox. I’ve experienced it all. The bottom line is that, when in active addiction, I need something or someone to physically stop me from obtaining drugs.

Finally, I have a spiritual malady. This last part, this spiritual sickness, was the source of my gut level discomfort. It was comprised of all the turmoil that made drugs so appealing in the first place. Upon treating this void, this emptiness, I began to recover.

I began to recover in the rooms of a twelve-step fellowship. That’s my personal experience and I begrudge no one their choice of recovery methods. There are a million and one ways to kick drugs and alcohol. For me, though, a spiritual approach worked wonders.

And just what do these wonders look like? Well, for the first time in my life, I’m able to sit in the middle of a room, surrounded by people, and not worry about their thoughts or opinions about me. I’m able to proclaim, loudly and with dignity, that drug abuse moved me from existing to living, that drug abuse saved my life.

**

David Greenspan is a writer and media specialist at Lighthouse Recovery InstituteHe’s been sober since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping the still struggling addict or alcoholic.