As the desire to quit drinking quietly grew and gain strength within me, I found myself half-heartedly searching for books and material that would give me the final “big push” to change. I can’t say that any one thing made the difference, but little by little things clicked into place like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. The final piece was no more or less significant than the others, but as it “clicked” everything shifted.
At first it was little snips that caught my attention. In “Memoirs of a Geisha” there was a description of an opium-addicted madam that struck fear into my heart. The whites of her eyes had turned yellow from drug use, yet she was unaware that she’d destroyed her own beauty. It was the first time I wondered if my own vices would ruin my looks.
Oh well. (Glug. Glug. Glug.)
Another image from literature that bothered me came from the ridiculously enjoyable “Colors Insulting to Nature” by Cintra Wilson. The character of Barbette Champlain is an “aging former ballerina – a regal, imperious, chain-smoking spider of a woman with long, emaciated limbs”. That part didn’t bother me so much. In fact, I can see myself as a sinewy old lady one day, minus the smoking. It was two pages on that I hit upon further description of Barbette that I re-read repeatedly and never forgot: a reference to her bony body being interrupted by “an abdomen loosening into a gelatinous, vodka bulb.”
Ewwww. I immediately ran to the mirror and lifted my shirt to inspect my belly. I know it sounds vain but the fear of morphing into Barbette bothered me immensely and kept me mindful of my drinking. I’d shoot a quick sideways glance into the mirror daily as I stepped into the shower and pray nothing gelatinous nor bulb-like would have appeared overnight.
Nope! All good. (GLUG. GLUG.)
“Lucky Man” by Michael J. Fox was primarily about Parkinson’s disease and I’d picked up the book mostly because I had always admired the fellow and maybe had nursed a lingering crush since the 80s. However, a brief portion of the book deals with alcohol addiction and hints at a quiet celebrity network of recovered addicts that I found fascinating. Fox admits to sneaking back to the kitchen during dinners to finish bottles of wine, and I thought of him so very often over the years as I performed a similar routine. I wanted to quit like he did, but I didn’t have a secret network of celebrities to encourage me, so the habit persisted.
Kathy Griffin’s “Official Book Club Selection” (which I enjoyed in audio format – hilariously delivered by the author herself and I suspect yonks better than reading as a book) had a big impact on me because Griffin reveals that she does not drink or use drugs at all. Can you believe that anyone could be that ballsy and funny and STONE COLD SOBER? Whether you are a “Kath-eter” (as she calls her fans) or not, you must admit the woman is gutsy. Whenever I worried that I would be boring as hell if I quit drinking, I reminded myself that Griffin is anything but.
I read a review of Mary Carr’s “Lit” and drove straight over town to purchase it. I thought for sure it would be the book to show me the way. It wasn’t, in all honesty. Poor Mary was just such as damn mess. I wasn’t there; I wasn’t so far gone. If anything it left me thinking I was doing just fine and maybe didn’t need to quit at all. Perhaps I should read it again, as I am now more open to absorbing the lessons others have to offer. It may not have been the miracle book I was looking for, but it was another piece of the puzzle at the very least.
“Unbearable Lightness” by Portia Di Rossi reflects on the star’s battle with anorexia and I listened to the audiobook during my daily elliptical workouts. Those of you with eating disorders will recognize the irony of this, but it was the only quiet time I could find for Portia. I identified with her misguided drive towards perfectionism and her self-disillusionment. This book left me raw and emotional, and looking at myself honestly. It helped me to excavate some childhood wounds and recognize their impact on my current behaviour.
There was a 20/20 episode last year about moms and alcohol – I only recall seeing the commercial for it and that alone was enough to “click” into place yet another realization that I was battling a common problem. You can read a synopsis of the story here: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/moms-secret-habit-coffee-mug-full-wine/story?id=10511256
A simple paragraph in a magazine referenced Rethinking Drinking http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/ and suggested for the first time that one didn’t need to be a full-fledged alcoholic in order to have a drinking problem. I bookmarked that website and visited it many many times to take the same quiz, always getting the same results.
Glug glug gluggity glug. Everything pointed to the same answer and yet I kept drinking. Why on God’s green earth did I keep drinking if I wanted so badly to quit? What was wrong with me? What did I need to find to make the difference?
It was a simple question by a motivational speaker that finally brought it all home: “What is your dream for your life?”
A question so generic it’s almost cheesy, and I was surprised when the answer pressed itself on my heart like a lead balloon: I NEED TO QUIT DRINKING.
It was in realizing how badly I wanted to redefine my life that I was able to sweep together all of the lessons and examples I’d gathered and put them to use. It was then that I began to search others like me on the Internet and found them in great abundance. I took off the blinders and got down to work.
There is no shortage of literature, links, blogs, groups, meetings, and even people already in your life to help. You know it’s all there, right? Thousands, millions have walked this walk before – of course you are smarter, more special and completely different from all of them, but perhaps you could learn from them just a little bit.
Once I swallowed my own pride and accepted that my situation was not special, different, or unique, everything began to change because that is the very shift that offered strength in numbers.
Still, I am walking this path alone in many ways. I did not join AA and yet I respect the program very much (I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest AA’s “Big Book” as recommended reading. I own a copy but have not read it myself, though everyday I read the Twitter feed of others in recovery who share lessons from it and find daily encouragement there). I often listen to AA podcasts as I run or walk my dogs, and I have applied many of the 12 steps to my own recovery. Going it alone is not for everyone, but so far it is working for me. I know if I stumble, there are other ways.
There are many other podcasts and audiobooks that are enjoyable, entertaining, and inspiring for recovering addicts. I was pleasantly surprised by Rob Lowe’s memoire “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” – I enjoyed it as an audiobook read by Lowe and listened to the chapter on rehab repeatedly. “Bossypants” by Tina Fey has nothing to do with addiction or recovery and yet it reminded me yet again that one can be funny and brilliant without being snockered.
Of all the things one needs to listen to in order to get over the hump, it’s that small voice in your own heart. It might be hard to hear because of the committee of voices hollering “never mind” or “you’re fine – leave it alone” or “you loser, you’re a drunk and you’ll always be one” or “you don’t deserve to be happy so let’s have another one”. Ignore them and hear the voice that they are all shouting to cover up. The little voice in your heart that’s whispering over and over again:
“I need to quit.”
“Of all the things one needs to listen to in order to get over the hump, it’s that small voice in your own heart.”
This. One thousands times, this. I’ve read plenty of quit lit, I’ve listened to countless hours of recovery-centric podcasts, I’ve even had stretches as long as 60+ days sober–but there was this nagging “you don’t have to be truly done QUITE yet” through all of that.
Similar to your seemingly inconsequential (but actually, life-changing) moment listening to the speaker ask a question about dreams, I had my moment waking up two days ago with awful acid reflux (funny how drinking too much wine does that, huh…) and a foggy brain that weren’t different from plenty of other prior days–but this time, I just felt so DONE.
Then I listened to an episode of Seltzer Squad where someone on there talked about how he when he finally was able to utter *aloud* to himself the words, “I am done,” he quite simply was.
So I spoke the words aloud to myself yesterday morning & here I am on Day 2, and I want more than anything for it to stick this time. I need to trust in myself that it will.
So so happy for you as you arrive at this moment and move boldly ahead. Day 2 is a triumph and each day gets better and better—even when it’s hard. Thank you for sharing your insights.
Thank you for the speedy response of support & kindness. I am screenshotting my comment and your reply to look back to for accountability if I need to later on; I know how well my brain can do the convincing act of “hey, just a glass is fine now…” after completing a short stint of sobriety, and I cannot listen to that voice anymore.
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thank you for this. sharing your experience. I really appreciated it today, as I too know the madness has to stop. I’m new to this blogging thing and twitter. Hopefully a clear head will help me figure all this techie stuff out.
Day 3 and still going. I have now read all of your blogs and many of the links suggested by your followers. It is amazingly helpful! I feel stronger through out the day just knowing there are others like me out there.
I have been “in my head” a lot today because I have been making excuses for why I should put off telling my friend (also housemate). I released while I journaling tonight that I am afraid that she will have an “I knew it!” response when I tell her I have a drinking problem. My pride is so puffed up that I want to show her I can stop drinking and not admit my brokenness.
I realize this is not going to get me anywhere it starting a more transparent, less lonely life (read dry) life. I need to tell her. She is a great friend and I know she will support me. It is my own messed up thinking that is getting in the way.
Thanks for the twitter suggestion. I have never been on twitter, but will give it a try.
I have been reading your blog for about 2 weeks now. I really related to this post. I am at the being of my sobriety journey. Day 2 in fact. I have been looking for that final push for 3 years now, but I am ready to start now.
I must confess that I am uncertain how to begin. I know I need support but AA meetings would be very difficult for me to attend because my husband works out of town every week and we have a 9 year old daughter.
I also know that I need to tell my close friend of my struggles and my decision to quit drinking. I dread this conversation but planning on having it with her today.
Advice is welcome!
WAY TO GO!!! Here it is 9 pm and all day I have been wanting to get to a computer and respond to your comment! How was Day 2??! I hope you are feeling strong and determined. If you are anything like I was, you might also be a little fearful. How did you do with telling your friend? Did she hear you, support you? If yes, you have your first cheerleader. If not, give it some thought and choose another confidant. You need a go-to person. Or a team of go-to people! I don’t know how you feel about this — and readers, if I am off-base let me know — but I found it helpful that I told my kids I’d quit drinking. I knew they would notice and care if I slipped up, and feeling obliged to make them proud helped me continue. Your daughter doesn’t need to know the details of why you quit, only that you no longer drink. I am almost certain this would make her feel proud because I think most kids are a little afraid of alcohol, of being around adults who may not be in full control. Are you on Twitter? I found that really helpful – sharing my weak and strong moments and learning from others. Consider Twitter – and add me @unpickledblog! I’ll cheer you on!!
This is a wonderful post – for me, the urge to quit had been present for a long time before I finally stopped drinking. It was that “voice” and finally enough evidence that I just couldn’t continue on my current path. I also found SOOO much support online. Thank you for sharing.
Love and hugs…I love your posts! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!
Hugs back! Reader support means the world and has carried me through the dark days. Even now that things are getting easier, I feel accountable and supported through feedback and connections made here.
How wonderful that you are doing this blog for yourself and it will help others as well. Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife, by Brenda Wihelmson is another book that came out recently about drinking.
I recently read a post about influencing your child to stop using drugs, but the questions can be asked of yourself. Examples are: Why might you decide to get help with your drinking? Have you ever done something you regret while drinking? Why was it? “How ready are you to take a next step on getting help (e.g., looking up local specialists with you), on a scale from 1-10, where 1 means not at all and 10 means totally ready?” When you pick your number ask yourself why you didn’t pick a lower number. So even if you number is very low, there are reasons why it is as high as it is. There is more, but the author has a book with this technique which I find interesting. Haven’t read his book yet, but plan to. Here is the author’s website: http://www.michaelpantalon.com.
Good luck to you and know that you are not alone.
Thanks so much for this, Cathy. I will add those books to my list and keep learning.
How did you start this site? Your story is sooooo similar to mine, drinking wine everynight but not stupid drunk, highly successful, very fit except for the wine shit. I would love to start a site similar to this to keep me accountable. I am not comfortable with AA think its not a disease a choice. but I need accountability even through the web that would make me more successful I know cause I know me, and me sounds alot like you…………..
Starting a blog is easy – sign up and start writing! Getting traffic to your log is the tricky bit, especially if you are trying to remain anonymous. I joined Twitter to connect with others and help generate awareness for my blog. Of course, Twitter has become an incredible tool in my recovery as I learn so much from the good folks there. WordPress has a wonderful tutorial on driving traffic to your blog.
Stay in touch – we can learn from each other! Let me know when you get your blog up and I will add it to the links on my page.
Unpickled, thanks for bringing up the Kathy Griffin “boring” issue. I have a fear of being Mr. Boring now that I am clean and sober. Not enough of a fear to trip me up, but a fear nontheless.
I truly find I am more relaxed, laugh more freely, have a sharper wit (although I thought I was hi-LAR-ious after a drink or two). It’s so nice to have nothing to hide. Stay well, and please stay in touch. Don’t worry if things don’t go as you’d planned – just keep coming back to it.
I drank for 10 years after realizing I was an alcoholic. I read Drinking by CarolineKnapp and cried the whole way because I could not see how little me in northern Canada could ever stop.
I am now 8 months totally sober . Took me 2 years after I realized this was a one way to losing my life. No AA. – can be lonely at times but my life is so much better
Reading blogs like this a tool for me
Recommend books by Chris Kennedy Lawford. Moment of clarity
Keep up this blog…thank you!,
Thank you for sharing your story. Tell me, how did you do it? Did you meet with resistance or support?
Thanks also for sharing these book suggestions – I will be looking for them!
anon from May 12 here – one month sober. Thank you.
THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY!!! Congratulations!!! How did you do it?
I had a stretch of time where I was on call for work, so instead of still having one drink (like many of my co-workers), I decided I’d try to go without. One night at a time. I started doing needlepoint to keep my hands busy. I’m still going one day at a time and am celebrating every morning that I wake up clear-headed and focused.
I, like you, read and researched for many years glugging the wine and drowning out my “little voice.” Somehow my little voice became a roar and I was ready to listen.” Drinking a love story” and “Smashed (a tale of a drunken girlhood)” were 2 books I loved because I could SO relate to them!!
I will definitely track those titles down. Oh, and I also read Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” – love her.