August 24, 2006

First: a can of Budweiser, stolen from my grandparents’ refrigerator and consumed while hidden among sand dunes on the Lake Michigan shore. Maybe twenty years ago or more. It was metallic, cold, bitter, delicious.

In high school, forty-ounce bottles of cheap high-octane beer. Old English 800. “Old E”, we called it. Swilled and passed from hand to hand, the bottom of the bottle always warm and flat and tasting of someone else’s saliva. Bottles of wino wine: Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill.

Early twenties: six-packs of Henry Weinhard, the green bottles. Microbrews. In the winter, Snow Cap Ale (“Go to jail ale”). Sweet Riesling. Chardonnay. Red wine. A progression of the palate, of the minimum requirements.

Crown Royal and 7-UP. Beam and Coke. Bacardi Limon and Diet Coke. Absolut Mandarin and ginger ale. Beer. Beer. Pitchers. Pints. Imperial pints. Grey Goose. Dirty martinis. Shots. Tequila, lime, salt. Margaritas. On the rocks. Blended. Tanq-and-tonics. Double, please. Better make it a double.

Then: vodka, vodka, vodka. Because it’s easier to mask on your breath, because I could tolerate it straight. Blue Skyy bottles, clear Absolut bottles; later, plastic pint bottles of the cheapest gut-burning garbage. Hidden in drawers, in purse pockets, under cabinets, poured into unsuspicious containers.

At my worst I would get up in the morning and feel sickened through and through, I felt like I had an internal rot like a dying tree. Everything was dirty, everything was black and hateful, and I knew exactly what had caused it all and yet I would check the bottle levels, look and look again, because if there wasn’t enough I would have to get more, more, more. Get through the worst of the day by thinking of the bottle. Take the first drink and for the first time in hours the mental shouting quiets, the self-hatred is dialed down, the pounding headache starts to retreat.

Over and over. Get up and do it again. Drinking at work, while driving a car.

Sometimes I would get drunk and cry and try to write down why it wasn’t working and why I should remember, the next day, that it wasn’t worth the pain and the lying and the endless life-fuckery. I’d read my blurry scrawl the next day, take three Excedrin, drive to the liquor store.

It was like being with someone who beats you senseless every night, leaves you bloody and gasping, and waking up every day to kiss him hello. I wanted to stop. I wanted to drink until I disappeared. I wanted to physically gouge out the sickness from my body.

I saw no end. No possible end.

Antabuse. Therapy. Drugs. Threats. Nothing worked.

Then: a DUI. A horrible, expensive, shameful, life-altering legal mess. A night in jail. Fines. Court appearances. I can’t bear to describe it in detail.

Then: a pregnancy. The best thing that’s ever happened in my life.

I never drank when I was pregnant with Riley. That is probably not something to be particularly proud of, but I am.

I don’t drink today. I am only able to write about this now because it is at bay, it is a safe distance away. I feel strong. I feel I am on top of it. I don’t want to numb myself, I don’t want to re-visit that hell, I have so much to live for now. I want to remember every moment, I want to be clear and present.

There are long periods of time when I do not think about drinking at all. I spent years of my life chasing the next drink in my head, being eaten alive from hour to hour by something I could not control. I can’t begin to explain the freedom of not thinking about drinking.

I am scared to post this.

But I am telling you this because to tell the story is to accept its truth. To lay it out where it can be seen, to admit to this part of myself, and help diminish its power over me.

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Melissa
Melissa
15 years ago

It may be odd that a stranger is proud of you, but I am. I wish that my brother could be at the same point as you.

Sara
Sara
15 years ago

You Rock! Thank you for sharing.

Mary
Mary
15 years ago

Your entry today is simple and exquisite and sublime. Well spoken, and it absolutely rings with truth.

robin j.
15 years ago

brava.

K
K
15 years ago

Linda, I want to tell you that your posts about the subject have made me think about my own relationship with alcohol, and realize that it’s not entirely healthy. My father, grandfather, uncles on both side, and sister are all alcoholics, and while I don’t think I’m there yet, I was starting to look forward to the next drink a little too much, even though I hated the way I felt the next day. I didn’t drink that often, but once I got started, I had no ability to stop until I was passed out.

You made me realize that a person is never too young, too female, or too “together” to have a problem with drinking, and I’ve quit while I’m still ahead. So thank you for sharing… You’ve obviously made a difference in a lot of lives, and that’s something you should be proud of, in addition to your own sobriety.

Amie
15 years ago

I know I don’t really know you, but I think I understand more than you’ll ever know. I was 20 years old when I got a DUI. I’d been drinking for years, but only driving for two weeks. I kept going for about six months after that and, somehow, instead of ending up dead in a ditch like I sometimes wonder if I should have, I wound up pregnant (and alone and scared) with my daughter. It was terrifying. It was amazing. It was life altering. I’ve never looked back.

It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. And all the more credit goes out to you for actually being able to voice what once made you weak, yet helped you reach some of your greatest strengths.

Beth
15 years ago

Hey, have I ever mentioned that I have a huge internet girl-crush on you?

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

Thanks for posting that, you are an inspiration. Your post will no doubt help others and makes me like you all the more :)

Sarah
15 years ago

I am *proud* of you for posting this; I can’t even imagine how hard it has got to be. Your battle has been harder than most and it’s a privilege to see where you are now: a beautiful son, a stable home and happiness. Watching my dad go through the progression you described (it is alarmingly similar) and knowing that you have had the courage and strength to turn it all around, well, it leaves me speechless (and very sniffly). You’ve given a priceless gift to yourself and your family.

Mieke
15 years ago

Hello! I found your blog a few weeks ago and today’s posting was so incredible. I grew up in a bad situation with my own mother, who was an alcoholic, and I have felt much anger at her over the years. I never,until reading your post, thought about how she possibly felt, and struggled, through all of this. Thanks for giving me a new perspective. You are awesome and entertaining, and it is so great that you are where you are. Keep it up for your amazing son. You can do it!

MommyMaki
15 years ago

Phenomenal post. I’ve always been an observer in my life and have watched many people go thru various addictions in their lives. Thank you for letting me in on just a little of what is running thru their heads.

Jem
Jem
15 years ago

Oh wow thanks Sundry for being so honest. It really rang a bell with me because a lot of that behaviour rings true in my own life. Thankyou, I’m sure you are helping a lot of people by posting that.

MB
MB
15 years ago

Thank you. I wish I wasn’t drunk right now. I wish I was as strong as you are. I wish.

Lesley
Lesley
15 years ago

My mother was a lifelong alcoholic…well almost. She quit drinking in her last years because to do so meant being able to see her grandson. In the end, the years of drinking and smoking created one of the worst and most perilous cancers one can get: oral. If flowered in her mouth and wouldn’t go away. Skilled surgeons removed her teeth, her tongue and part of her throat because she insisted she wanted to live and this surgery would mean a few more months at most. Only 3% of all oral cancer patients agree to this surgery, most choose an earlier death. In the end the surgery didn’t save her. The cancer came back, grew, and prospered. The time I spent nursing her, I’m sad to say, is the closest my mother and I ever got to really loving each other in our entire lives.

Each one of us kids is a virtual teetotaler. We despise drink and avoid it, for the most part because we saw, from early childhood, what it did to the most important person in our lives.

I never understood the drive, the addiction, what made it so hard to give up. I want to thank you for giving me a glimpse of that, because my mom was once your age with babies in the house. Us.

I love my mother. She’s one of the most courageous people I’ve ever known. For years I couldn’t forgive her for choosing the bottle over me. So thanks for this.

And I hope you know how precious and strong and courageous you are for the choice you’ve made. The choice is always there. It is a choice, but it’s not an easy one.

Shannon
15 years ago

Thank you for this. I also recall vividly the entry you wrote over a year ago and seeing myself in that entry, knowing already that I was on my way to having a problem, and feeling so relieved that I was not alone. You’d think the red wine blackouts would’ve been the wake-up call but no, it was your blog entry. I have been with no alcohol for 5 weeks now, after a long and slow tapering off of the drinking and am completely and utterly in love with waking up sober, reading sober, driving sober, attending parties sober. I go for days on end forgetting that alcohol is even a drink option. This is what being a kid was like–I’d forgotten! On my honeymoon in Japan in one month’s time , I do plan on drinking some sake here and there but it doesn’t scare me. I know that I can return home and continue sobriety with an amazing ease that I have never possessed before. I know I have the control and don’t plan on letting it go any time soon. As I said, I’m in love!

stormy
15 years ago

I was an addict for many years, not of alcohol. But it really doesn’t matter what it is. When you concquer it. It’s big. My daughter is 19, she is an alcoholic. I don’t know how or when that happened.

I’m so very proud of you Linda. And so very happy for J.B. and Riley. They are the lucky ones.

Sonia (DDM)
15 years ago

I heart you Linda. I know it was hard to post. I’m so glad you did.

frances lindsay
frances lindsay
15 years ago

all i can say is “thank you”. thank you for honesty and truth. my ex-husband had 2 DUI’s before our divorce. i can’t say i was a saint either. i’m 25 and i’ve been reading your journal for a while. while it’s full of humor, it is also full of life. i know you will look back and read all of it one day and it has inspired me to write or record important things in my life, to be happy and inspired! : )

Gentry
15 years ago

Wow. I had no idea. Keep that toxin out of your happy life. And keep it away from Riley too.

Dina
Dina
15 years ago

Long time reader, but I lurk alot. First standing o on not drinking especially during pregnancy (and he is so cute). I do know you were clean and sober before you convieved but still nice job aways . second I have to say your writing has become so honest lately and so sharing very wonderful to read. Weather you want to see this or not you are a role model to other people who wish they could find a way to say No more to booze.

I think it takes alot to stirp the onion layers in life and be able to share experiences so alot of us can say hey I am not alone. Thank you for sharing. Dina in michigan

Kaire
Kaire
15 years ago

I’m so proud of what you have fought with and continue to fight with AND your ability to share it. As I read this I realized my own addiction is just as bleak and dark, only mine is completely legal (food.) Believe it or not, you just opened my eyes to what I myself need to admit and work on. Thank you for sharing and being honest. Thank you for also showing that you can hit bottom and work your way back up if you are willing to do the work ~

wealhtheow
wealhtheow
15 years ago

You should be proud of yourself. Riley is lucky to have such a strong and courageous mother, and you are such a wonderful role model for him. It’s amazing to read these comments and see how many people you’ve helped by posting about this. You are incredibly brave.

Dara
Dara
15 years ago

For someone who has experienced such pain, it shows how far you have come by having such an amazing gratitude for where you are at now and what you have, its not that I don’t love my kids or appreciate them but you seem to have your eyes opened so wide and your mind is recording all of this in a deeper passion than mine ever could–don’t know if that’s because I never experienced something so life-altering but it makes me happy for you to have the joy you do from Riley and the life you have now. Someday Riley will know what an amazing mom you are…good luck!!

Taylor
15 years ago

You’re very brave. Thank you for sharing this. I agree with everyone else – Riley has an awesome mom, for sure.

Jenn
15 years ago

I think you’re very brave to have written this. Not drinking is one of the hardest things to do. Keep doing it, though. You have a lot of folks out here rooting for you. Best of luck to you. -J

Jen
Jen
15 years ago

brave is what you are. acknowleding and changing your behavior was truly courageous. i come from a family of addicts, both recovered and still active and i know how hard it can be. congratulations. :)

Sabine
15 years ago

Alcoholism is a cunning and powerful disease, and anyone who comes out of it free and strong is a HERO. I grew up with an alchoholic father (sober now for fifteen years, bless his heart) and I fought my own addiction and came out the other side. I know the despair of being in the grip of the addiction, and I know the joy of being free of it’s chains. Words can’t really express how awesome it is to see you free, because I remember when shared a little with us quite some time ago from a completely different place. To see you happy and with such a beautiful family really expands my heart Sundry. You are an inspiration in many ways and you truly deserve every happiness that life has to offer. Thank you for sharing that.

megan
megan
15 years ago

Linda you are an amazing awesome woman. This was an incredible entry to read, and I am sure many people are inspired by you. You should be proud. Being able to stop, no matter what the reason, is always an accomplishment.

JB and Riley are so lucky to have you. :)

Becky
15 years ago

You are an awesome writer and a very strong and interesting woman.
Everything you do, you do BALLS OUT HONEST. Best to you.

Colleen
Colleen
15 years ago

I am so happy for you. thank you for sharing this with us. you are not alone. give that little boy of yours a big hug!

Cbrks12
Cbrks12
15 years ago

When people open themselves up and honestly tell what their struggles are, it helps others. I know that it is not easy to do that, so I applaud you. Your open and honest entries are what I come here for (well, and the Riley pictures….) You should be proud of yourself! You have looked your demons in the eye and dragged them into the light which will make them powerless. It is the guilt and shame of a secret that gives it power.

Anon
Anon
15 years ago

I’ve commented before but dont want passerbys to recognize who this is from, so I’m “anonymous.” I wanted to tell you I spent several years going to AlaTeen meetings due to an alcoholic mother. I drove her home several times before I was the legal age to drive. We were raised by my dad but spent every other weekend with her, at a bar.

So, for Riley? I thank you and wish my mother had been as strong and brave. This is an amazing piece and I respect you and wish you constant strength because I know it’s not easy.

sweetney
15 years ago

brave lady, we love you.

Lisa
Lisa
15 years ago

Beautiful entry. I am glad you’ve been able to stay strong. Everyone has their demons- it’s just a question of whether we’ve got the strength to overcome them. Sounds like you’re doing a good job!

Sherri R
Sherri R
15 years ago

“I never drank when I was pregnant with Riley. That is probably not something to be particularly proud of, but I am.”

That IS the part to be proud of, that you loved your son enough to do the most difficult thing – give up something that controls people’s lives.

I have so much respect for everyone who has kicked the habit – whichever habit it was. I was never a drinker. I chose to do drugs, and in the end I was shooting meth into my arms. I got lucky, got busted, and had an aunt offer me a sanctuary, a place where I could get away from all of those temptations.

So congratulations, we’re proud of you too.

Sarah
Sarah
15 years ago

Thank you for sharing – I could relate to so much of what you said. I stopped drinking in 1999 and it has been the best decision. Reading your post took me back to a number of times in my life. It kinda almost sounds like fun when you think of it, but then you have to be reminded that for some people, we can’t just leave it at ‘fun’ – it goes beyond, and that ain’t cool. So congratulations to you for recognizing that and changing, all for the better….you and your family must be so proud!

HollowSquirrel
15 years ago

You are an amazing person. I’m so proud of you. You’ve been through a personal hell and lived to tell about it. I think your determination to not drink while pregnant is admirable and courageous, because I’m sure there were excuses gnawing at you to just have a little. Stand tall, beautiful woman.

melly
melly
15 years ago

Good for you. Be proud of your accomplishments!

Thursday
15 years ago

Thank you ma’am. Thank you.

Niki P
Niki P
15 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Widya
15 years ago

Thank you for sharing that with us. You write with such humanity, and I am always grateful and humbled by your honesty.

Sally
Sally
15 years ago

As the child of an alcoholic mother who negated the whole of my childhood with her actions – all I can possibly do is to say an enormous “Thank You” on behalf of Riley for your actions.

AmyW
AmyW
15 years ago

You should be proud of yourself! So very, very proud!

My dad quit drinking 15 some years ago. He says the urge is still there. He can talk about it to anyone. (His talking about alcoholism to us, his children, has persuaded us to not take “a drink” as just “a drink.” I think it’s helped us a lot. It would be easy for me to get carried away, but he’s instilled that bad taste about it-so to speak.) I think it’s wonderful he can remind himself what it was doing to him and what it could have done to our family. I think it keeps him in check.

I admire both of you for being able to openly talk about this and remain strong enough to fight it everyday.

Mandy
Mandy
15 years ago

The gift you have given Riley of a life free of a mother consumed by alcohol is immeasurable. You’ve given the same gift to yourself. I wish I knew what it takes to make the decision not to drink again–I know it’s not simply that you choose to stop, since addiction is a stranglehold one doesn’t choose in the first place. It chooses you. You are a strong and courageous woman.

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

I don’t know you, but I’m proud of you. Thanks for posting this.

K
K
15 years ago

We’re all so proud of you. What you did takes a lot of courage, and I admire you immensely.

victoria
victoria
15 years ago

Thank you for this wonderful entry.

Cris
Cris
15 years ago

You are so awesome.

LeAnne
15 years ago

One of the best things I’ve read in a while. You are amazing and courageous.

sarah
sarah
15 years ago

What an honest, real and beautiful post. You should be so incredibly proud of yourself.