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Posts Tagged ‘alcoholism’

Between Breaths

I just finished reading a memoir titled Between Breaths A Memoir Of Panic And Addiction by Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News’ 20/20. I first heard of it when I saw her give an interview about a year ago. I finally found the novel, on sale, during Amazon’s Black Friday Kindle sale. I didn’t get a chance to read it until now.  I will start by saying that I recommend it highly to anyone that has an interest in alcoholism, panic disorders, or celebrity memoirs.

I was interested in it because she, Elizabeth Vargas, has long been a favorite of mine. She is intelligent, compassionate, professional, and genuine. I have also always had a fascination with literature about alcoholics and memoirs of alcoholics. I think my readers will remember that I have relatives that have suffered through this horrible, debilitating disease.  In this expertly written memoir, Vargas minces no words. The writing is beautiful and poetic at times, yet always genuine and always baffling. She goes through her childhood filled with bullying and anxiety which led to a lifetime of anxiety, panic, and a feeling of not being worthy. This is the background that led her to begin drinking and keep drinking until she lost everything and had to rebuild what she could. I won’t go into a lot of details about the book because I would hope that at least some of you would grab it and read it. It is enlightening for all of us, whether we have a history of addiction in ourselves or in our families. I urge you to read it.

I will also take this time to explain another link, one I haven’t previously written about. It’s kind of my secret.

It happened when I was a college student. It was in the early fall of my third year of college. I was at an elite private school on a full ride scholarship. I had always enjoyed being a top student and excelling at everything I did. Then when I got to this west coast ivy covered campus amid the tall trees of California, everything fell apart. I was away from home for the first time and for the first time, I wasn’t the smartest or the brightest. I was just so-so. There were people telling me that I didn’t belong there. I had only gotten into that school because of Affirmative Action, they told me. I was unhappy but should have been very happy. I was fighting to keep things from falling apart. I was fighting to keep being myself, the bubbly girl with the infectious laugh. But I was losing the battle. I found myself drinking a lot. First it was just to loosen up then it was to be able to face people. I had been having a lot of stomach problems ever since my freshman year. It seemed that my stomach would tighten up as soon as I got to the dining hall and I wouldn’t be able to eat. I was losing a lot of weight. I eventually discovered that if I had a swig of tequila (no chardonnay for me) before I walked out the door and headed for the dining hall, I would be able to enjoy dinner and be my bubbly self throughout the meal. The need for the booze was getting worse. I realize in retrospect that I was at the point of “needing” a swig from that bottle every time I left the room.

One Friday night, a friend was visiting from her out of state job. She had graduated the previous year and had been working in New Mexico but had come to town for a visit. We had a lot of mutual friends and we decided to have a party in the dorm. Not a party for everyone but one just up in one of the rooms. One of the people coming to the party was a young man I was trying to impress. I remember it being a little before seven o’clock and people were starting to arrive. I had bought some wine and had also brought in my bottle of tequila to share. And I drank. The music was on and the lights were low and this young man that I was trying to impress arrived from his fraternity with a girl hanging on to his hand. I danced and laughed and pretended not to care. I remember it being just after seven. Then the next thing I knew, I was waking up in a bed with white sheets and white curtains around my bed and I was wearing a hospital gown. There was a young man sitting at the foot of my bed reading. I asked where I was and he said I was at the health center and he buzzed for a nurse. After an examination, the nurse filled me in on some of my questions. I had been brought in by concerned friends on Friday evening. They had to carry me in. I had been put on medications to detox from the alcohol. I had slept Friday night, all day and night Saturday, and it was Sunday afternoon. So I had lost almost forty-eight hours! I couldn’t believe it. They gave me my clothes and sent in a student volunteer to help me get dressed as I was still very wobbly and they called my friends to come get me. They came to walk with me back to the dorm (which was literally the building across from my dorm but of course there were huge grassy areas between them. I walked home…barefoot. Apparently I had not had my shoes on when I was taken to the health center and none of my friends could answer where they were or where the clothes was that I had been wearing when that little party started. I never found those clothes or the shoes, either.

This was the wake up call I needed. I knew that with a history of alcoholism in my family and how the booze made me feel good and happy and brave enough to face anything, I couldn’t drink anymore. I couldn’t risk it. So I quit cold turkey. I had a friend go in my room and take out all the booze and get rid of it for me. And then I didn’t drink again. That lasted over a year and then I was very careful not to drink alone and not to drink when I was sad or when I felt like I “needed” to drink. It has been over forty years and I have not sank into those depths again. In fact, I have rarely drank to excess in those years. I’ve gone through marriage, a horrible divorce, single parenting of my three children, holding down three jobs at once, and some pretty horrible illnesses and rejections. I’ve managed to do it all without sinking into that bottle. I enjoy drinking. I drink beer and wine and I love Margaritas. I also love a dash of Kahlua in my coffee. But I don’t drink more than I should and I don’t wake up hung over.

I learned my lesson. It cost me humiliation. It cost me a lot of self-doubt but it also led me to examine my life and any future I hoped to have. And I came out of it. I was strong enough. Not everyone is. Many people have no support and many have one problem piled on top of another and another and another. Some people are just not as lucky as I have been.

So now you know my deep, dark secret.

One of them, anyway!

Cheers! 🙂

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This is a series about abuse. I have debated with myself about whether I will write any personal stories or details in this series. I’ve decided that I have to do so to keep the writing authentic. So, here goes.

I remember having a lot of fun with my dad when I was growing up. I remember him pushing me on the swings. I remember him dancing with me in his arms when I was so young I could barely walk.

I remember the fights. He would drink too much and the fights would begin. He would start yelling at everyone and cursing at my mother. And he would keep drinking even after he had had too much. I remember wanting to go help my mom because I could hear him hit her and I could hear her cry during the night when we were all supposed to be sleeping. In the morning I would wait for him to go to work and then run into my mom’s bedroom. I remember how her face looked. Her beautiful green eyes sad and filled with tears, swollen and purple. I remember that although her eyes cried, she would smile at us and say she was okay. No, it didn’t hurt. She was okay. But I knew different. I could tell when she tried to move that she was in pain. I could tell that there were probably bruises that we couldn’t see because she could hardly move without wincing in pain.

He hit our mom. He made her cry. He caused bruises. Bruises on my mom. Bruises left on our minds that colored our world.

Then, he would hit us. My mom would try to get between him and us and she would be hit and thrown out of the way so he could keep hitting us. We were little. My oldest brother was only about eight or nine at the time, yet he got punched as if he were a grown man.

There were many drunk days and nights. I remember that every year on my birthday (my birthday is on Christmas) he would get drunk and ruin the day. Sometimes it would be by passing out and other times by ruining our dinner like the time he was angry because it was taking too long to get everything on the dinner table so he pulled the tablecloth and with it all the food. And I remember one year when he was so drunk one Christmas that he went into the bathroom to wash up for lunch and ended up passing out and falling into the bathtub which was still filled with water from my youngest sister’s bath. My brothers had to help my mom get him out of the tub and into bed. That turned out to be a good Christmas because he slept for the rest of the day and the rest of us had a good day. Still, I wished that it hadn’t happened because I always believed that he would be able to share one Christmas, one birthday, without getting drunk or abusive.

I remember. I’m sixty years old now and I still remember. I have never been able to forget it. I remember.

My 2016 A to Z Challenge Posts

Abuse

Because

Child Abuse

Link:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/1201/p2052.html

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I should have done this before but I didn’t know I would need it.  While working on my NaNoWriMo project, I ended up with a character that I needed to give a back story to and what just came out as right for this character was to make her an alcoholic, a sober alcoholic in recovery for about 8 years.  So I ended up doing some research, not that I don’t know about alcoholics but I wanted the character’s back story to come through her own words at an AA meeting.  I’ve been streaming some movies and docuentaries about women alcoholics and reading blogs about them and by them.

It’s not pretty.  Alcoholism is not pretty for anyone but for women, it’s so much worse than for men.  Medically and scientifically speaking, women’s bodies cannot withstand the abuse that alcoholism leaves on the body as long as or as well as men can.  Then there is the stigma of alcoholism which is worse for women than for men, at least in our society.  It’s not ladylike to drink to excess.  It’s not motherly to drink to excess.  That’s what Society thinks and what makes Society react more strongly when they encounter a female alcholic.

In any case, I find the research riveting and the facts both enlightening and depressing.  I’ve sort of sunken into it and haven’t written but now that I am about three days behind in my writing, I guess I had better get moving on the writing and maybe come back to the research at a later point.

If you know anyone in recovery, point them to emilyism.com, a blog started by Emily, a recovering alcholic.  She has regularly scheduled posts and has kept her blog going since 2007.  Every entry is about some aspect of recovery.  If someone stops in to read it, there is no need to comment or identify themself.  Just be there and read.

Okay, back to the last documentary I will watch before I start writing on my Nano project!

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