All is Grace, Part One: the Story of Sober Me

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Have I turned any other direction but to sit with my pain?

No saint here, bound and praying. I couldn’t quit

all the vices, they were many,

without God’s quiet stillness

ushered in.

A moment of need and prostrate

humbled, obviously being a fallen down drunk,

I opened.

In later years, when life wasn’t still, was in fact full of shit and heartache and disappointment

then, I found myself mostly still

hating Me. Still, considering fondly the

afternoon Gin & Tonic, sipped slow.  Then,

watching the languorous pouring of a glass of wine, everywhere.

I feel the accustomed

pang, insidious and stealthy pocketing my sober reassurance.

Still, open but with stone hard veins, I’m pulsing envy

hating them.

Then scribbled in the margins of a long forgotten book

I had asked –Do I have a death wish?

Of course I did.

The difference between the happy and the depressed is desire

to be alive,

or else every day wanting out.

Back up a year, no make that five years this summer to that fractured moment

when God spoke finally into my bleary drunken

Impasse.

Desire, to be Holy, ever holy or just a bit, less Me. That day becoming

an ex-drinker,

changed by my choice.

Grief and self-absorbed fear, growing like mold on bread left too long

I stank, rancid.

Longing for, but unable to will the power

within,

for peace, love, pardon, faith, hope, joy and light.

All was dark, even sober

unable to pray, not

believing the modulation of my own voice

to be heard by God—with much more important things to concern wtih—I clung

to misery,

hatred,

conflict,

doubt,

despair,

sadness

even as darkness was constant—

All the reasons I drank

stayed on in sobriety.

I thought I was dying to self but I was merely dying

stone sober, amidst my stench, self-loathing and judgment.

At that time sober wasn’t working

for me.

{Ten Thousand Tears}

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My tears are welcome.

I see them splattered, dried on my glasses as I peer out the window into the wintry, cold, gray, foggy morning;

tiny specks on the panes of my eyeglasses.

I wipe hard at these dried salty witnesses.

They are a record of my sodden heart.

Ten thousand tears come raining down.

The soil of my soul is softened.
Broken apart by tears, which took forever to reappear.  Though I fear

that I cannot stop them, deep down I know that they are what keeps my heart growing.

Soil ready for love, open

to the community of believers,
to grace,
to healing, forgiveness and new life,
to hope.

My tears, such an old and forgotten notion

for me.

When I was a child I pinched my eyes closed to reject my weakness, my torment as I was hollered at by a daddy that

didn’t know

better.

I closed down my heart;

it hurt too much to feel bad all the time.  So I told them, you aren’t welcome here.

And my heart and soul slowly turned

hard as stone.

Today my tears rain down though I fear them, they make no sense

their intensity, they make me vulnerable,

they make me feel weak, even when I know this

is

wrong thinking. But it is true now, I cannot protect my soft heart, sodden and murky, saturated

still,

My tears, they are here to stay I hope, welcome.

MHH

I’ve lived with depression, at some points melancholy as a part of my “personality” for much of my life, but it only became clinical major depression about ten years ago.  A variety of things came into play and I fell into a dark, frightening place. (I tell a little of my story in Not Alone.  I tell parts and pieces here on the blog — under My Story.)

But I have worked hard to face my mistakes and demons,as I did I began to heal and then had the strength to do the personal care that one must do who lives with this sort of mental illness.  

Though I am in a similar place today, depressed I know that I am a different person. I am different  “Spiritual Soil.”  I thank God for that picture that came recently from a friend’s teaching in Luke 8. I know God as I never knew God then.  I sense the Holy Spirit’s whispered truth of healing and hope. I have enough hope to believe the truth that I will heal, I will heal again even as ten thousand tears rain down.  

Much of my blog has been about my depression, beginning in 2001 which worsened through a series of personal and family adversities over the next several years (including the death of my father from brain cancer, during which time my sister and I cared for him in our homes). In 2005, when I became even more severely depressed, I was nearly non-functional, attempted suicide, and I was hospitalized for a while.  

In later years, I became a quiet, desperate drunk attempting to self-medicate and forget..  My drinking addiction grew worse and worse over the period of my depression, becoming debilitating by 2006 or so. This was very difficult for my husband and the children at a quite impressionable age saw me frequently out of control. They are now to the age when these things do impact them, though I got sober in July, four and a half years ago.  

These are not easy things to admit.  They make me feel damaged, weak, and if ever there was a stigma related to being broken I feel it like never before.  But it came to me recently, that I have to write my story.  I have to tell it, and let it go.  So that’s where I will go, to that place of heartache, depression, my experience with being a hard-core fallen down drunken mother and my cavernous personal grief about that, and interlaced in-between is Hope that I have found.  

So as much as I fear my own tears, I fear more the depth of my sorrow and grief when it I shove it back inside.  That’s what makes one depressed.  That’s what made me drink.

I know this is the next step for me, to sort it out  and live hard days, weeks and months of therapy, sleeplessness, and depression ahead.  

I am thankful for the everyday, tangible and incredible voices of love and encouragement I find foremost from my husband, but also from friends and family.

Thanks for all those that read and live this story alongside.  I know there are fellow sufferers.  I know there are others who have family or friends who descend into this murky, sinkhole of a hell and you cannot imagine how to help.  I hope that whatever I find in my story that’s redemptive will one day help others understand, find help, and live through it as you walk beside a fellow sufferer.

This isn’t over for me, my story isn’t written.  

Grace & Peace,

Melody Harrison Hanson

January 29, 2013

{Fly Away From Me: On Children}

I woke up this morning, the sun creeping in earlier than I wanted.  Coming out of my dreams, I felt grief wash over my body, sore from running daily; I felt the years wash over me physically.  And fear.

I am afraid for all the time—lost.  Gone.

My children are almost grownup into people, yet not ready to face the challenges of being adult.  But more and more they are absent from me and I feel their absence, the loss, physically — These babies I fed from my breast, nurtured if feebly the best I knew how.  Babies I brought in to the world through the tearing of my flesh and blood.  They are young adults and the time is gone.

I’m running out of time and as I woke I felt the years,

Weighty, heavy, lost.

Lost to the days of over working; long workaholic driven years of loving work more than I loved being at home.  I have forgotten those toddler years, unable to recall the first word, first steps, first book, I simply cannot remember.  Write everything down they said, but I thought I’d remember.

I was wrong.

Lost, because of so many days of a drunken cloud, a constant buzz from self-medicating.

I was trying to forget the sadness, the feelings of inadequacy. Feeling doubt in a world of devoted, sure people. Feeling the loss of losing the faith of my parents and not being courageous enough (yet) to find my own.

I lost many years of my children’s lives to being a drunk.

I woke this morning feeling the weight of it, a grief that is carved deeply within.  It is a heart ache, and with a cry  I wanted to start fresh.  A second chance; to rewind back fifteen years to hearing that I was pregnant for the first time.  I was surprised that my body, which I had loathed all my life, was capable of giving life.  And then I felt annoyed at the interruption to my career.  And then it came eventually; the felt joy and disbelief.

Now that baby girl, my little bird, is a young woman.  She is gone more than she is here and each interaction feels like our last.  I know we have just a few more years.  I think: hang on to love and do what you can to keep things open and safe.  I want to have a home, a heart that welcomes; A home of second chances, and third and fourth.  Arms open wide.

The days are slipping away, the chances are running out.

Even as I know this I know that I cannot clutch at her.  I must open my hands, joyfully and watch her fly. I will pray that she will want to return.

As I get up and face another day, it is to keep the nest warm and welcoming.    Yes, I woke up this morning already grieving. I knew.

My little bird is practicing her flight away from me.

{A Cautionary Tale of Sobriety}

When I first began this blog in 2008, it was (in many ways) a place to process my alcoholism and recent sobriety.  I felt very alone and thought, why the hell not?  One of the first things I wrote was a poem (of sorts) titled It’s Lonely Here on The Wagon.

That poem chronicled the lonely place of being an alcoholic and a Christian who had lost her faith.

At that time, I knew that I had to stop hanging out with my “drinking friends” and even had one tell me she couldn’t help me with my sobriety.  She had enough problems of her own.

I know she didn’t mean to reject me, but that’s what it felt like.

And I began to tell myself that my friends with whom I had sat around late at night smoking and laughing with, drinking to a buzz, then way past a buzz, didn’t like me anymore and that I was unlikable.  I told myself that the only reason they hung out with me was because I’d drink with them.  I convinced myself that they didn’t like me, sober Melody.  To be quite honest I don’t even have answers to speculation like that, but I know this.

In the light of day I was a manipulative bitch sometimes.  I was petty.  I could be petulant.  I constantly needed affirmation that they liked me.  I even did things to prove to them that I was “cool.” If it sounds like the emotional needs of a high school aged kid, it’s because that is what it was.

I was emotionally stunted and didn’t know how to be a good friend.  In fact, sometimes I don’t think I really know how to be one now.  Perhaps I’m a little better at boundaries. 

I tell myself that I’ve come a long way from those days of drunken insecurity, but something hit me just this week.

I pretty much live my life expecting pain

I expect rejection and so I keep people at arm’s length.  I assume others won’t like me and so I stay aloof thus proving I’m unlikeable.  I assume that I am uninteresting, so I don’t engage in conversation.  I believe that I’m incapable of deep intimacy and so I stay standoffish, even remote.  This is what I do.  Now that I see it, perhaps I can begin to change.  Why assume people are going to hurt you by rejecting you?

Today I have to go to a school picnic and see a few of those same friends that I pulled away from four years ago.  My head and heart are telling me that they rejected me, but I know it isn’t true.  I’m feeling afraid.  Later I have to go to a graduation and see more of those old friends.  I’m sick to my stomach, afraid.  My shyness, aloofness, insecurities are flaring and for just a moment I think that it would be easier if I could just have a drink.

Yes, four years in July I’ve been sober and those thoughts return just like that.  Even though I know it’s a lie, the weight of social, emotional, and historic pressures are great.

I won’t drink.  But I want to and that is a cautionary tale for me.

MELODY

This is a part of a series titled: A Different Kind of Real, where I just write what’s on my heart without a lot of self editing or worrying about what you’ll think.

Some of the things I have written about my alcoholism:

I am not Ashamed
The Slow Crawl Of Healing
What Can I Say About Two Years of Sobriety?
Choose Joy
For Everything There is A Season.
Eulogy to Life.
Letting Go.  Thoughts on Being An Alcoholic
ReThink Everything
My First AA Meeting
My Crooked Heart
It’s Lonely Here on the Wagon
The Place of Nowhere
A New Way to be Human
Eulogy to Life
Winter Comes
Splintered Truth
This Epic Grief
No Dignity
I Need a Filling
Addict

I Never Wanted to be Like My Mother

I never wanted to be like my mother.

My mother stayed for more than 40 years in a marriage that broke her heart.  She admits now that she was afraid.

She married in the late fifties, when women couldn’t even have a bank account in their name.  She was a teacher and worked to put my father through college.  In the first year of their marriage, in a rage my father put her head through the wall.  He promised to never do it again.  And to my knowledge he kept that promise.  But  that was the beginning of being manipulated.  He threatened and he yelled.

The man could rage.

The smallest thing would set him off.

I never wanted to be like my mother, because all those years, I thought she was weak.  Weak for staying.

Or so I thought, for many years, until I became a mother.  And when that happened I began over time to see that she did it all for us. 

My mother is strong.  She stayed for us.  She was the buffer all those years between us and my father’s angry raging.  She took it more than we did. (And we took it a lot.)

And in later years as the weight of it became more than she could bear, she began to find comfort in the bottle.  I never wanted to be like my mother, but I became an alcoholic too.  I buried my fears for years in the numbing relief of alcohol.  As is often the case in a family with addiction, I carried it on.  And in the end I realized, I am very like my mother. I hide my pain even now, though I have been sober for almost five years.

I am strong and would do anything for my kids, just like my mother.

I never wanted to be like my mother, but I am.

I am strong, loyal and sober.

Happy Mother’s Day, 2012

Melody

I’ve written about my alcoholism here.

I’ve written about my Dad here

I was in Love…with Vodka, Wine and Gin

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Image by isante_magazine via Flickr

On the eve of my birth week, I want to take a moment to remember where I have come from, now that I am three plus years sober.   

While purging and organizing books this week I came across a little orange index card that I wrote to myself while I was working hard at accepting my need for sobriety.  I thought I had lost the card and that would have been tragic because the thoughts written on it are very important to me.

About five years ago, I spent more than a year — at two different stages — seeing counselors specifically about my drinking.  At that time, I wrote what I thought of my life without alcohol so far.  I said:

I value my recovery because …..

  • I have an improved mood.
  • I feel strong.
  • I am more present and self-aware.
  • I am more willing to face my feelings.
  • I am more hopeful about the future.
  • I am more in control of my world, actions, responses to life.
  • My relationships are more honest.
  • I am a good role model for my kids.
  • I am a cultural enigma.
  • I am more relaxed socially (less No worry about embarrassing myself.)
  • I have a higher quality of mental engagement.

All this is true.  And more.  Today when I look back another thing I am so grateful for is that my life partner, family and close friends never judged me. At least I never felt judged. Especially Tom could have. Boy, oh boy, I made some bad choices.  Tom lived with my addiction for many, many years, continuing to love and support me.  At my worst, he wiped up my vomit and put me to bed.  He pulled me out of parties before I could do something stupid.  All those years he was simply loving.  I never felt that I was a bad person because of my dependency to alcohol.  Not from him, but I did judge myself!

In my head, I was constantly accusing myself.

I cannot count, because it happened so many times, the number of Sundays I spent sitting in church nursing the world’s worst hangover, full of shame and self-loathing.   I am not sure which felt worse, the physical symptoms of being hung over or the emotional beating I gave myself.  I just knew I was living the life of a hypocrite.  I didn’t have the courage to give up on churchgoing all together, but I was miserable being there.

For a long time my drinking made family life feel disjointed and a mess, because it was!

I started in on the wine too early in the evening, so I was too “tired” to do anything else in the evenings, except veg in front of the television.  When it was time to put the kids to bed, I was too tired to read to them, something I had always loved.  That memory makes me deeply sad still, but I will forgive myself some day.  Some things are harder to forgive yourself for like driving drunk with my children in the car, even if it was just a few neighborhood streets.  I did that.  I am utterly horrified to think of it now but it happened.  Why do I admit that today?  Why do I force myself to recall the shameful choices I made?

Because I do have fleeting thoughts that perhaps I could drink again.  And those are lies, but it is all too easy to forget.

Back to Tom, he was unhappy with our choices and (very) willingly quit drinking many times with me, for me.  He encouraged me to quit many times and we did quit a few times.  But it was such a part of our lifestyle that we soon were drinking again.

It grew more difficult as the years went by for me to even consider quitting, as I was afraid that I couldn’t live without it.  And, suffering as I was from major depression all those years, I was self-medicating with the very drug that furthered my depression.  (Alcohol is a depressant but I either didn’t know it or didn’t want to know.)

The first time I went to counselling for my alcohol addiction it was an intellectual exercise.

My mother was in a recovery program and addiction is all over my family tree.  I was drinking too much, but I was not yet the sloppy, falling down drunk that I became.  I was “abusing” alcohol.  I was addicted.  But I had convinced myself that I was managing.  I learned a lot from those counselling sessions, most important of which was that I should quit for lots of reasons.

In order to have that type of counselling you must agree to not be drinking as you go through it.  And I did that, but I was just a dry drunk.  All of my behaviors were still of an addict who wasn’t using.  I didn’t yet believe the things I wrote on that index card.  I had not lived long enough as a sober person.

I asked my counselor at my last session, after five months of sobriety,  “What if I just drink socially?  Don’t keep it in the house.  Don’t drink every day.  Just have a drink from time to time (like normal people)?  Maybe I won’t have to quit completely.”  I was desperate to not have to quit.

At that point I could not imagine being happy without alcohol in my life. 

“Then I’ll see you back here in about three years.”  And I literally thought “At least I’ll enjoy the next three years.”   That is how far I was into the lie.  Well, I’ve said it before, but it didn’t even take three years.

About a year and a half later I was back and that time I was serious about quitting.  I knew that alcohol had control of me and my life.  I had no power to fight it.  I thought about alcohol all the time.  I was so in love with wine — and vodka — and gin!  I had spent that summer drinking heavily every day and spent most evenings drunk.  I just did it in such a way that I thought I was hiding it from others.

But enough about that.  (Perhaps the rest will go in the memoir.)  Today, I am so grateful for my sobriety.   It isn’t that complicated to figure out if alcohol has power over you.  How much do you think about alcohol? How often do you choose not to drink, because you wonder if you have a problem?  Do you drink every day?  Do you squirm answering those questions honestly?   Although it is certainly not true that every person who drinks too much from time to time is an alcoholic, rather what I think about is, what is the main focus of your life?  Can you live without alcohol?  If you’re not sure , … I would seriously consider talking to someone.

Those are the questions that haunted me and it wasn’t until I quit that I realized without any doubt that I was out of control.

Melody

P.S. Other things I have written about my life  drunk and addicted.

Being Broken by Addiction

My dog Comet is being groomed for the first time today and as I was dropping him off I glanced over at the magazines. I was drawn like a bee to pollen by the cover of  Brava Magazine.  It had an article about the secret addictions of women in Wisconsin, aptly titled The Silent Treatment.

While I am not quiet about my alcoholism here on my blog and person to person I will freely tell you my story, I have never talked about it publicly — as I think that I am ashamed. 

No-one talks about addiction in my circles. And here is what I imagine others are thinking.  Perhaps they perceive that addiction is simply a weakness or a character flaw.  And in some Christian circles a place where you haven’t allowed God victory or healing or aren’t trusting.   How in the world did she “allow herself” to get addicted?  What a mess she must be.  Addicts are just bad people trying to be good.

That’s all bullshit. (Forgive me, but it is.)

And in my clearer moments I remind myself that I am broken like every other person in the world.  We all have some “thing” or more than one, that we have trouble overcoming. Most people’s “thing” can be a secret–food addiction, money problems, compulsive shopping, secret cutting, or pornography.   I won’t pretend to know what your “thing” is.

This article talked about how so many women in Wisconsin have a problem with alcohol addiction.   More importantly, that addiction to alcohol is in some part NOT a “thing” to struggle with, but an illness to work against.  I can tell you gratefully that I am “in remission.”

“[There is a] stigma that surrounds substance abuse in a culture that loves the sound of clinking glasses.” (Brava)

One of my favorite people is Henri Nouwen. 

I would have loved to have known him and even been his friend, as we share a common lifelong struggle with melancholy and depression and need for affirmation and community.  He wrote this:

Jesus was broken on the cross.  He lived his suffering and death not as an evil to avoid at all costs, but as a mission to embrace.   We too are broken.  We live with  broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds or broken spirits.  We suffer from broken relationships.  How can we live our brokenness?  Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission.  He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification.  Thus our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.

Few understand that addiction is an illness like cancer.

There is a perception that somehow addicts cause their illness.  It is both an illness and an opportunity for self-control and inner strengthening.  As we grow in our understanding of our broken hearts and lives, we can become stronger.  How can we embrace our brokenness of addiction when the Church and (some) Christians make one feel as if you are cursed with a mental illness or lack self-control.

Yes, my alcoholism reminds me (almost daily) that I am a broken person.  The days and weeks when I try to avoid thinking about it, and (almost) pretend that I’ve got it all together, those are the times when I feel the farthest away from who I really am. I become lost in the idea of wellness that denies that I am and will be until the day I die an alcoholic in remission.

For whatever reason, I am an addict.

My deeply thoughtful thirteen year old daughter asked me recently why I can’t just drink socially?  We had been to party where there was a lot of drinking and I was having a hard time having fun.  I have been completely honest with her about my addiction and so I value her questions.  I believe she needs to understand my alcoholism, because it is a family illness and because one in four children of alcoholics become one themselves.

So why can’t I now drink socially?  “There is something in my brain that switches off after the first drink,” I told her.  “After that point, I have no ability to stop.”  I learned from my D&A counselor that every time I drank, my brain sends the signal to have more.  The well-worn pathway in my brain needed more, each time, to have the same impact as the last time I drank. I’m three years sober July 17th, 2011 and if I had a drink to celebrate I would need the same amount of alcohol as my last drink — about two bottles of wine, if I remember correctly — to feel any high.

As a Christ follower, it is even more complicated.

Or perhaps more simple depending on how you look at it. My addiction humbles me daily.  Drives me to my knees.  I go to church in a bar and I laugh, joyfully with the irony!  I don’t mind the reminders of my addiction because then I am drawn to the truth that my life is so improved — clearer, better, more meaningful sober. 

But three years of sobriety brings me to a place of acknowledging that I am still full of pride.  I have not been willing to help others who struggle with this addiction.  I have not been willing to speak out locally.  I have hidden my secrets and tried to live in a drinking world as a secret alcoholic.

The article in Brava was a challenge to me.

No, I am not at risk to drink, because I have created enough awareness of those around me of my illness, that the accountability keeps me sober.

But why am I so silent, so secretly ashamed? More importantly what can I do to give back?  I want others to know that this is not a shameful secret in my life, it is a disease of addiction that has harmful effects on people, families and communities and that recovery is possible with support.  It is not only possible but it is transformational!

You Are Not Alone – Thoughts on Sobriety.

A glass of red wine. Photo taken in Montreal C...
Image via Wikipedia

At times I detest that I am an alcoholic. It’s damn inconvenient.  Those are the days that it seems the whole world drinks – except me and perhaps James Frey.

I dreamt of drinking last night. That scares me a little, because in my dreams I seem to “forget” that I can’t drink.  Now that’s a nightmare – an alcoholic that draws a blank on their past.  Even if it is only in their dreams.  I recall now that I just wanted a small glass of red wine. No we don’t need to order the bottle. A red, to accompany whatever I was eating.  Harmless.

I have never actually taken a sip in my dreams, thus far.  The dreams come unbidden, which may make you think that drinking is on my mind a lot.  Most of the time, these days, I never think about being an alcoholic. But when I do, sometimes I resent that I cannot drink.

Lest you begin to feel sorry for me and think that I am an innocent former drinker, I must set you straight. In the end I was a falling-down drunk. I had to quit. I would have lost my life eventually. I never hit “the bottom” which some say you need to do to recover. But I got close enough that my conscience, and my husband, and God finally said enough is enough. Some people will need to hit the bottom to change. But most of us feel it building in our lives for a long time and finally one day we know.  We are ready.

For more than five years I had wrestled with the knowledge that I might be addicted. I didn’t know enough about the disease to make a good call on it.  But in my experience your gut is usually right. If you are wondering whether you just might be addicted to alcohol, listen to your soul. Hear the voices that talk to you late at night after drinking too much. Or the ones that pop up with the morning hangover.

Recognizing that we have a problem is a drawn-out and bit-by-bit process, at least it was for me. No one wants to think of themselves as an addict or alcoholic. Unfortunately our culture says getting addicted to it makes you weak. It is shameful and definitely not for Christ-followers! Christians do not become alcoholics, because they “trust in God.” Ironically, addiction is no respecter of race or religion or status. And all that stuff about just trust in God is bullshit.

Once I finally quit, July 17th, 2008, I have never relapsed.  I’m fairly certain that is because I have a family. They are my accountability. My kids are my Program. I am intentional about talking to them about my addiction to drinking and I think it is important that they know and understand the nature of the illness is hereditary.  And I am not shy about reminding them of the ugly side of drinking.  When I passed out in front of them. Or threw up all over myself in the car. Those memories return for a reason and that is to help them see the unglamorous side of addiction. And remembering keeps me sober.

Seeing others who clearly struggle with drinking is a good reminder for me, but it is not a reason to stay sober. I feel pity and empathy and hope they’ll figure it out soon. Because life is beautiful sober – in full color in a way that being a drunk is living in sepia tones compared to full color, 3D. It is loneliness vs. living in community. It’s living in starvation when you can live with a full stomach. You get the idea. Living in your addiction is like living in an ugly broken-down smog filled factory.   Sobriety is living in the glorious Grand Canyon!

But people do relapse and I hope you know this too is a part of the journey. A few years before I quit for good, I decided to go to counseling to “learn about addiction.” (That’s what I told myself.) I settled into about seven or eight months of not drinking, because that is what they require of you to receive alcohol counseling.  I learned all I could about the issue.

Near the end of my time I asked my counselor if she thought I could be a social drinker.  You know, if I wasn’t “up for” quitting.  I could still not imagine my life without alcohol.  I loved alcohol.  I didn’t go through a day without thinking about it or craving it. I wasn’t giving in to it right then, but after seven months of sobriety I thought I was “strong” and got the notion in my head that I would simply be “a social drinker.” I would just stick with one or two drinks in any given setting and definitely not drink at home.  I would be okay.  My counselor answered the question like this: “If you continue to drink socially, I predict I’ll see you back here in three or four years.” Yeah right, I was thinking, not me.  She does not know me.

She may not have known me, but she knew an addict when she saw one.  It took about one year – Yes, that was all it took for me to fall on my face literally and figuratively. I remember walking out of there, thinking “At least I’ll enjoy the next three years.”  That was how seductive alcohol was for me at the time. I did not believe AT ALL that I could be happy or have joy without alcohol in my life.

I walked out of that building full of the idea that I hadn’t been drunk for a good long time, so it would be easy to limit. Or at least it would take a while for the problem to present itself.  Honestly, I didn’t really care either way.  I was just glad that I could still drink.

Oh, it presented itself alright! More strongly than ever. With a vengeance.

I do wish that I could drink.  It still lures me. It teases and ultimately lies to me that it is a simple thing to drink. But those lies I can overcome and made my peace with in time. I stop them as soon as they pop in my head.  And remind myself that I and my life are worthy of my sobriety.

Sober people are some of the most brave people I know.  And that includes me.

If you or someone you love ever wants to talk confidentially with me about this, I am glad to do it.  I can only share my experience.  The answer is different for each person.  But knowing that you are not alone is important.

MHH

Here’s something I wrote two years ago about being an addict.

I Thirst [a poem]

I THIRST

by M.H. Hanson (originally posted December 7, 2010, updated December 7, 2011)

I do not know where the
words come from. They are like
water that gushes from a spigot.
I don’t question their existence.  Only quickly place the
bucket of my heart underneath praying my confession.

Come.

And as I try to catch  it I Hope that the drops will fall where they should.

In or outside the cup of my heart, dependent on a fate I do not control.

I have a thirst that lives within me, always with me.

And I must live with it every day.  And with my commitment to be authentic.
This is an adventure that began with my cavernous need.
If it is true that God suffers with us in our grief, then I am grateful for the  comfort of his companionship.
Even for this longing, a thirst that lives ever within.

Always thirsty. I don’t question the
Water’s existence.  Only quickly place the
Bucket of my heart underneath praying.

Come.

It’s Lonely Here on the Wagon

So I quit drinking a while ago.
It was the right decision, for me.
I am addicted. I am
an alcoholic.
I never expected it to be easy; or for life to remain static.
As I see it, I am more present; I am more awake
than I have been in years.
Don’t get me wrong
I — have — hard — days;
Days when stress makes my brain, heart, and thirst buds scream.
I have days when I want to make it all go away!
This is sometimes why
I drank in the first place.
But the more difficult thing, surprisingly,
has been — from — time –  to –  time
I am lonely. And I face,
my old friends are gone
because I drank too much.
And my new friends are gone
because I don’t.
I wasn’t a happy drunk
nor was I particularly sad.
I was sometimes quiet.
I know people who got really loud,
and others overtly friendly, even one
who used to cry.
But now I see drinking, apparently,
didn’t make me ‘fun’ (enough.)
Those people that I gathered with, who seemed
to accept me as one of them;
It must have been that I just didn’t get
in the way.
I was accepted,
because I was a hard drinker, amongst
h a r d  d r i n k e r s.  And now,
I am s o b e r and I feel alone.

Nothing rings louder than a s i l e n t phone;
an empty email box or when one remembers an annual party, uninvited.
We could throw the party, I could make the call, but I’ve tried over time,
and now I’m thinking, they wouldn’t come.

Today it’s an aching heart I deal with;
A feeling which once, ironically,
I would have drowned out with a friendly glass

(or two, or five) of Merlot; anything to forget
this
f e e l i n g.
I have to face it, I am alone in my choices. Alone,
with my memories,
of people I thought were friends.
I am a lot more interesting sober; but I guess not
more fun.

My drinking friendships seemed to have disappeared.
Though I would never have said they were
d r i n k i n g friends.
I thought they were …
Well,
to be honest I thought they were
just f r i e n d s.
You know that phrase that is said when an alcoholic starts drinking again?
She’s “fallen off the wagon.”
Well, all I can say is it’s awfully lonely,
here

on the wagon.

Melody Harrison Hanson
October 31, 2008

This is incomplete as a poem, but full of real issues and emotions.