Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Other Side of the Story - A Tandem Post with Damomma

DaMomma and One Crafty Mother are writing a tandem post. It is a story about alcoholism and denial, about the protection of children and the meaning of friendship. The story begins here, with Liz, Part One, then continues with my perspective, below.  


Karin surprised me with her call.   I didn't remember the conversation we had the night before.   If I had, I wouldn't have picked up the phone.   I knew she was testing the waters, trying to figure out how much, if anything, I remembered of our conversation the previous night.

I tried to make light of it, laugh my way through.   She didn’t buy it. "You were pretty drunk last night," she said.

I mumbled some responses - mini-apologies, loose explanations: things are just hard right now, I'm adjusting to the new job, I'm not sleeping, I haven't been feeling well, I'm going to go to meetings.  She was silent, and before she could respond I concocted an excuse and hung up.

I remember that I felt unburdened.   The worst had happened - my good friend called me on my drinking - and I got through it. I admitted drinking is a problem and that I'm doing something about it.   I could no longer distinguish truth from lies, because I believed what I told myself: I just need to do this my way.   I know drinking is a problem, and I'll get a handle on it. I will control my drinking so I don't have to stop completely.   I believed that I would be okay, that I would learn to drink like a normal person.   I had to believe this, because the thought of life without drinking was too terrifying to contemplate.   I thought I just needed more time.

I resolved to be more careful. No more phone calls after I've been drinking, I told myself.   I came up with a plan to admit a little bit, feed people just enough information to get them off my back.

I tried not to answer the phone.  On the odd occasion I would connect with someone, I pretended I was busy, when in fact I was alternating trips to the liquor store with naps. Steve was doing the drop-offs and pick-ups for the kids each day, part of my new work from home schedule. I spent my days scrabbling to hold things together - getting the kids up and ready for school, doing just enough to squeak by on my job, and then tucking the kids into bed at night. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I was never exactly sober, but I tried not to get too drunk. I was pleased to be left to my own resources during the day - no kids to look after - so I could maintain my drinking.

Then things start to change, slip.   I realized that once I had one drink I couldn't predict what would happen. Some nights I would only have a few drinks and I would get drunk.   Other nights I drank and drank and couldn't get to the point of sweet oblivion I so craved. I broke my promise and called people at night, embarrassed myself. More and more I couldn't remember things from the night before.  I started scrawling down reminders to myself: remember Michelle called, you talked for an hour. Just chatted, nothing serious. Sometimes I couldn't read my drunken handwriting the next day.  

I felt a vague sense of panic, but not about my drinking.   I was terrified that I wasn't hiding it well enough.

There are lots of conversations I don't remember well, or at all.    But one conversation stands out in my mind. It was after a particularly bad fight with Steve.   He had found yet another hidden bottle, knew I had been drinking, and left with the kids. I called Liz, sobbing, my hands shaking.   

I was desperate for friendship, sympathy, a human connection.   I told her I thought Steve and I weren't going to make it. I told her we were fighting more and more.   "You have some tough choices to make," she said.   I remember thinking: tell her. Just tell her. Tell her Steve left because you can't stop drinking.  

I was too afraid.   I knew she would tell me I had to stop, so instead I told little bits of the truth, enough to feel validation, love.   It was one of those rare moments when I saw myself as I really was: drunk, addicted and scared. But not scared enough to tell the truth.

The fear of life without alcohol trumped everything.

For Part Two of the Tandem Posts, click here.


  1. The phone was my enemy when I was drinking too. And the fights I didn't remember. I really don't remember going to sleep the whole of the last year that I drank. So much detective work and so much denial - it is exhausting to think about.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It helps me remember and strengthens my resolve.

  2. You are so courageous...thank you.

  3. Hugs to you today. Especially today. Thanks for being so honest about the reality of the journey.

  4. You're just so freaking brave, El.

  5. How interesting to read both sides of the same circumstances. Yes, you are very very brave.

    One time I called the woman I had dinner with the night before to see how drunk I seemed when I left. I had driven my 4 yr old home with absolutely no memory of the trip and I needed some clues. I also needed someone to help me and she didn't. I drank for another year after that night.

    This is such a journey. I am grateful to be sharing it via blogland with others.

  6. Ellie, it's tough to tell the truth...but in my opinion it's even harder to write it, to read it, to understand it in black and white. Félicitations to you for doing it, and I can only begin to imagine the countless unknown numbers of people you are helping out there....looking forward to the next two parts. I love the tandem posts, so much clearer to understand what all of you went through and to truly see both sides of the story. Bonne Courage!

  7. I wish you strength and courage Ellie.

  8. Been there - done that. Thank God it is a thing of my past and I am today sober in AA.


  9. I see so much of myself in this post. On June 6 I'll have one year of sobriety, and I still find myself haunted by what I've done. I don't know if I'll ever really be able to let go of all of the guilt and the shame, but I'm working on it - one day at a time. Thank you for sharing - you are so brave.

  10. Sharing this is so important, lady. I see myself in it, even though it's not exactly the same. It makes me feel that connection, that empathy, and that love that I need. The recognition. Thank you for telling your stories (and thank you to DaMomma too) the way that you do.

  11. Clearly the bonds of friendship can withstand anything. How brave you are,how loved you are.

  12. You are so brave Ellie, and your writing is so powerful.

  13. I am married to an alcoholic*). I found the lying even harder than the drinking.

    Someone stated: its tough to tell the truth. But its also very good. From previous blogs of Liz I know you are coming back to living without C2H5OH. GOOD!

    *)He is sober now, he read the book from Olivier Ameisen and he takes Baclofen and its working.

  14. Very wonderful relation of the dis-ease in you and in others. Wonderful truths told here!

  15. Thank you, everyone, for your supportive comments. It means so much to me, truly.


  16. I think the lovely part of your story is the redeeming, unconditional love of true friendship. My aunt has struggled with alcoholism and it has ruined her life. So glad you were able to find your way out. Thank you for your bravery.


  17. I found your blog at Hope's suggestion. Thank you for this amazing, honest post. I'm a member of Al-Anon, and appreciate what you've written here. I look forward to reading a continuation of your story. It sounds like you have found help and are living a different life today. Telling your story is so important for others who struggle in the same way, and also for people like me who love alcoholics. Blessings and hugs to you.

  18. Thanks for this post, Ellie (and thanks to Damomma for her perspective, too). I've avoided the phone like the plague, but the computer is what really raised my awareness. Waking up with that sinking "What did I post?" or "I commented on so-and-so's blog, what the hell did I say?" feeling was terrible. Even if it was something I'd post or a comment I'd make totally sober, not being able to remember exactly what it was killed me.

    There's so much hiding in alcoholism. I don't want a spotlight shined on me in the most sober of circumstances, much less when I feel weak, but sometimes that is exactly what's needed.

    It sounds like you and your friends share a lot of love for each other.

  19. I found your blog at Hope's suggestion. Thank you for this amazing, honest post. I'm a member of Al-Anon, and appreciate what you've written here. I look forward to reading a continuation of your story. It sounds like you have found help and are living a different life today. Telling your story is so important for others who struggle in the same way, and also for people like me who love alcoholics. Blessings and hugs to you.