Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Other Side of the Story - A Tandem Post, The Conclusion

This is the conclusion of a tandem post written by DaMomma at Motherhood Is Not For Wimps, and Ellie at One Crafty Mother. The events described here occured in the summer of 2007. The entire post begins here and continues back and forth between us over three days.

This is the last chapter of that story.

Liz's conclusion begins here, with my perspective following below.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I spent the first two weeks of rehab in denial. I said all the right things, spoke at group meetings, pretended I wanted to change. I told my counselor that even if I lost everything, I was ready to be sober. As I spoke those words, in my head I was thinking: Liar. I listened to the other patients, all the while thinking I wasn’t as bad as them, that after thirty days of not drinking I would be able to control it.   I wouldn’t have to stop.

And then came the day Steve and Liz took all the children to the fair. Across the bay at the rehab center, it was visitor’s day. Of the forty patients there, I was one of four who had no family or friends coming to see me.

Steve had told me the about the fair, and said that even if he hadn’t had plans with Liz, he wouldn’t be coming to see me. He said he was very angry, and he felt it would be too frightening for the kids. I opened my mouth to protest, but I had no words. I was crushed, but I wasn't going to beg him to come. And I didn't want the kids to see me like this. I felt they were better off without me. I felt everyone was better off without me.

One counselor was designated to take the four of us, the ones without visitors, to a local trail that leads to the ocean. I remember walking along a rocky path, gravel crunching under my shoes, smelling the salt air, feeling the warm breeze on my neck. It had been a long time since I had noticed these things.

We reached the water's edge and I wandered down the shore, craving some time alone.

I squinted into the sun and looked out across the bay. Somewhere, over there, are my kids, I thought. I imagined them squealing with delight on the ferris wheel, grinning sticky faces covered with cotton candy. I pictured Liz and Steve coming together to give them one normal day, and I felt grateful.

And then, like a stone falling out of the sky and landing at my feet, I realized: I am the problem.

The ugly truth of it took my breath away, and I fell to my knees. I felt sharp stones poking into my skin, and I pressed harder. I deserved the pain. I wanted to feel the pain.

I am here because I am very, very sick. I knew this with a sudden, startling clarity. I am here because I am not safe for my children. I said it over and over, like a mantra. I forced myself to stare at the truth, and for once I didn't look away.

My kids are going to be okay, I thought. Steve will be okay. Everyone is moving on without me.

I was relieved. My kids were surrounded by loving, capable people, and I was out of the way.

I didn't know if I would get better, because I didn't know if I cared enough to try. But I knew my children were safe, and at that moment, that was enough.

########

Author's Note: In the throes of active alcoholism, in the end game, I was not present. Even when I wasn't drinking, I was thinking about drinking. It was a singular obsession of mind and body.

One the hardest parts about getting sober, for me, was admitting this cold hard truth: once I crossed the line into addiction nothing was more important to me than alcohol. Not my friends, not my family, not my kids. This fact is so ugly, so hard to process, so hurtful, that it is very difficult for people who love addicts to face it. The addict is powerless over alcohol or drugs, and loved ones are powerless over the addict. But they aren't powerless over themselves.

I was floundering, sick, obsessed and addicted, and the energy, time and love other people poured my direction were lost on me. I'm not sure I will ever find words to adequately describe what late stage addiction feels like. Here is what matters: I would not have gotten sober if the people in my life hadn’t drawn a hard line and stuck to it.

In the end, what got me to stop was that I was forced to go to rehab, where I finally got some clarity. I realized, sober, that I didn't want to lose my family or my friends. That was my bottom. When I finally I poked my head up out of my dark, addicted, hole and realized that nobody was left, that I was going to get sober or I was going to die alone, that was the moment I started to heal. If I had been able to find anyone – any family member or friend – who would still love me as an active addict, I wouldn’t have been able to stop.

It isn't pretty, but it is the truth.

32 comments:

  1. What an incredibly moving accounting of your journey - from both of you. I can only imagine that it must be hard to put it out there for the world to see, but thank you for sharing it with me.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  3. Really powerful. Thank you. You are chipping away at those stereotypes of addiction. It reminds me today that no human power could have relieved my alcoholism. That is important for me to remember. Thank you again.

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  4. Found you through Liz, and I just have to say how much I admire you. I have three older siblings who are addicts; one is in recovery, one shot himself three years ago, and one left her five children and is a hooker in Vegas. I'm amazed, heartened, and proud to see a mother get her life and her family back. I watched my sister hit what should have been bottom over and over and over, but she never saw it that way. I'm so grateful that you and Liz are making this topic a public conversation, because keeping things secret that ought never to have been a secret played a huge role in the destruction of my siblings' lives. Congratulations on your sobriety, and thank you for sharing.

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  5. What an amazing job you have both done in this collaboration. I cringed at the thought of another woman taking my children to the fair with my husband. I worried about all of those things while I was in treatment, until I lost some of my selfishness. My children deserved to feel safe and be cared for. But the beauty of your story and all of ours is that we are the problem, and since we are the problem, there is a solution. Getting my mind around the paradoxes of recovery took awhile for this fairly intelligent,college educated professional woman. But once I did, I refuse to let go of my knowledge. I review that material in some way shape of form every day. What a beautiful journey you are having Ellie. Your pain is truly serving others who are there now. Thank you, Liz, for saying what we all need to hear.

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  6. This series has been beautiful and heart wrenching to read. Thank you for being so honest.

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  7. I read this whole series. It was painful and breathtaking and amazing. Thank you for sharing these different sides to your story.

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  8. Truly two of the most moving, inspirational, gut-wrenchingly honest perspectives on addiction, recovery, and true friendship. Thank you both for sharing such personal pieces of your lives. Bless both of you.

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  9. Very moving, thanks v much for sharing.
    Made me remember accident that happened in US last summer, when a drunk-driving woman killed 4 kids that were in her car, plus 3 men in another car (and herself). She took a highway the wrong way.
    The press reported that people close to her said she hid her addiction so well, they had no idea...
    Laura

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  10. Thank you everyone, so very much, for your comments and support. It means a lot to me.

    And Laura - that woman was Diane Schuler, and I was really struck by how much denial people had (in her family and in the world at large) about the fact that she could have been drinking, or struggling with addiction. Her tragedy was, to me, a poignant example about how hard it is for people to talk about addicted mothers - especially high functioning addicted mothers.

    Until we can talk openly about this problem, we can't begin to heal. Collective denial surrounding mothers who drink or do drugs is a BIG problem.

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  11. New-York Times report after that accident.
    Comments are interesting, about alcoholism and denial.
    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/drivers-husband-denies-she-had-drinking-problem/

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  12. Laura - I remember reading that article last August - thanks for sharing it here! There were many others similar to it at the time, too. It prompted me to wrtie this post: http://www.onecraftymother.com/2009/08/dragging-truth-into-light.html

    It is SO important to have a dialogue around this issue, and I appreciate you sharing abou it here.

    -Ellie

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  13. Great post, too.
    It is darkly fascinating to think how a mother can deceive herself, and her loved ones, to that extent. There must be some very powerful chemical connections between human brain and alcohol, to allow it to take control of a human being in that way.
    My deeply felt congratulations for having gotten out of your ordeal, and many thanks for sharing it.

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  14. Thank you, Ellie. These are some words I needed to read tonight. I've gone to a few AA meetings and while they help and add to my resolve, I'm still drinking. I've thought myself a liar or a fraud more than once these last couple of weeks because of it, but it's made me focus on denial and lying to myself and minimizing to others.

    It gives me hope (a lot of hope) to read how you came through the other side. Thanks again and all the best to you.

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  15. What a wonderful series, thank you both for opening your hearts and spilling the words that don't always come easily.
    Really, thank you :)

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  16. As much as I've loved + appreciate this series of posts, I also love + appreciate what hasn't been said. That you two have found a new healthy friendship. That you found a way to continue on in life together. That's no less an achievement.

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  17. I cried. I couldn't help it. I've seen it repeated over and over in others in my family.

    Thank you both for being open and honest about just how difficult it is to battle this disease. To Ellie -- Much luck on your continuing journey. To Liz -- thank you for having the strength to admit that you didn't have the strength to confront the demon that you knew Ellie was battling with.

    To Mel -- I don't know you. But, I know many people like you. You can do this. I am personally here to support you. I feel like such a dork doing this, but please email me if you need someone - anyone - to talk to. ladykatya at gmail dot com.

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  18. I am all to rapidly approaching my 30th year without a drink. The path has been fascinating and I am ever so glad that I have been sober to watch what is happening. I didn't get as deeply into addiction as you did, and that caused some trouble with the 1st Step. Many thought I didn't drink enough to be a real alcoholic. HAH! Eventually I realized that in any case, my life was unmanageable when I drank, by me or anyone else, even God. After that it got easier.

    One thing I would emphasize for the alcoholic: AA works if you work it. An occasional meeting doesn't hack it, you need to become part of the group and listen, listen, listen. Those Turkeys at the AA meetings are hard nosed and honest, though to fake them out.

    One think I would emphasize for anyone that has a loved one that alcoholic: Al-anon works if you work it. You greatly increase the alcoholics chance of recovering, and you get your own life straightened out. I spent a year attending an Al-anon meeting, and listening to those people really shamed me for what damage I had done to others with my drinking. As an aside, I was also surprised at how many of them eventually started going to AA meetings. Maybe I did some good? I hope so!

    I know that there is nothing so bad that can happen to me that won't get worse if I take a drink. Some things have been pretty bad, but I could make them a lot worse.

    Congrats on your sobriety, enjoy it!

    Hugs,

    Mike L

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  19. I just finally got to reading the whole series. It's an amazing story, of addiction, pain, friendship and love. Absolutely amazing. And you are so brave to share the whole truth. Thank you.

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  20. Thanks Ellie and Liz, powerful stuff. Hope the book is coming along well. xoxo

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  21. I'm blown away by your writing as always Ellie. Thank you for sharing that part of your life with us. I'm glad the Posse is still together!

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  23. You can rest assured that you will get the best price for all the gold you end in, and that your transaction is handled in a safe and secure manner.





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  24. mm. thank you for telling your story. being willing to say the ugly stuff takes something. and it's powerful when there's a realization that the ugly thing isn't the real you after all, but just an easy cover up. what a wonderful example of going through the tough stuff of life with friends who care about you.

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  25. This series between the two of you is a gift to anyone who reads it, Ellie. Once again, thank you for being YOU. I heart you to pieces.

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  26. How powerful. So proud of you.

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  27. wow Ellie....you could have written my story, my sick, my sad , my pain, and finally my despair....i was just that far away too. it is almost nice to see myself in your words; great reminder of where i come from, being almost 6 yrs sober....i remember a period of time that i was so sick and weak from drinking, rotating bet the bottle and the bed was all i could manage, getting to the living room couch was a victory, i was jealous of the old woman would lived across the street- she could walk her dog every morning past our house and i- well i just couldnt do anything. i was lucky enough to not have yet been a mommy, my son will never see me drink, by the grace of God! i will send my story to crying out loud soon....it is a long, scary tale that has a happy ending, but it almost didnt- thanks for the public face!

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  28. You can rest assured that you will get the best price for all the gold you end in, and that your transaction is handled in a safe and secure manner.





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  29. I just finally got to reading the whole series. It's an amazing story, of addiction, pain, friendship and love. Absolutely amazing. And you are so brave to share the whole truth. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete