October 1, 2007

At some point I realized that I go days on end without thinking about alcohol at all. I mean, the subject just doesn’t cross my mind, it’s not on my radar, if I had a personal tag cloud representing the contents of my brain “Drinking” would be one of the itty-bitty words faded into the background while things like “Maternity Waistbands” and “The Facial Expressions of Michael C. Hall” would be in the forefront.

I remember how drinking used to consume me, how I’d spend my entire day obsessing about it, from the moment I woke up and started battling the hours-long hangover that gripped me every single morning. Every minute that led up to the first swallow was nothing more than an impatient foot-tap. I remember feeling trapped on a painfully stupid hamster wheel: wake up, hate self, drink, repeat.

It was so hard, in those first months, to deal with the fact that I had to stop, and that I had to stop not just for a few weeks or months but I had to stop forever, I could never have a drink again. My head filled with a thousand images of things I couldn’t do: toast with champagne, order port with dessert, have a cold beer on a hot summer day (funny how none of these images included any disgusting realities like drinking cheap vodka straight from the bottle and holding my nose so I could swallow it without gagging).

I couldn’t have guessed at how unbelievably freeing it would be. How a thousand and one burdens would be lifted. I didn’t know what it would be like to live with clarity, without the endless cycle, the endless drown. I felt like it was going to be impossible to make it through without the crutch I had grown to depend on, the stick I used to beat myself bloody before going back for more, day after day.

I wish I could go back and tell myself: hang in there, because it is worth it. God, it is so worth it. But I guess it doesn’t matter, I made it here anyway. Here in this fan-fucking-tastic place where I don’t think about drinking for days on end.

It will never go away, not entirely. It lurks, a dark and shameful thing that I gave so many years to. But it’s more than I could have ever hoped for, to be able to forget about it at all.

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angelos mom
angelos mom
14 years ago

Linda, that post brought tears to my eyes. I don’t comment a lot but just had to say that I love reading your blog, and I always look forward to your posts, both for your humor and for your refreshing honesty and candor.

Jacquelyn
14 years ago

I love, love, love that you talk about things like this.

Deanna
Deanna
14 years ago

As always, thank you for being so blunt, so honest. I wish I had the balls to be as honest with myself…

“…in this fan-fucking-tastic place…” I want to find my own place. :)

Amnesia
14 years ago

I never thought of myself as an alcoholic, but I think in hindsight I was there. A recent very serious illness brought all drinking to an end for me. Forever. I know that I cannot drink and yet it still occupies my mind a GREAT deal. I admire you, how you were able to quit. And – I understand a bit of how hard it was for you. I say “a bit” because I know you went through so much trying to quit – so many internal and external battles, and I would never for a moment think I know what that was really like. I do know that it sucks ass for me though. And when I have a very rough day, I think about how you were able to quit and have not caved. That helps. Thanks for sharing your story.

Pete
Pete
14 years ago

Really, really good post.

Donna
Donna
14 years ago

We are all so proud of you, even though we don’t know you in real life, we know little bits of your mind here on the web, and the person you are, is a person we all feel like we could hang out with, laugh with, cry with, and call a friend, even if it is only online.
You are a badass.

lara
14 years ago

totally ditto’ing Donna.

jonniker
14 years ago

Everything always casts that golden glow in hindsight. We remember the good times, the things we’ll miss, the freeing moments of wonder when everything seemed just right, even though what we loved was bad for us and we were, actually, a slave to it.

It’s wonderful that you can come out on the other side of it with a realistic view and be happy with what you have. We all should be so lucky.

WCD
WCD
14 years ago

Hey Linda — Did you ever discover why you drank? After all these years of me not drinking (20) I still am not sure why I drank the way I did. Like you, I put it down, along with cigarettes and never touched them again. All I know is that while I didn’t like how it tasted I liked how it made me feel sometimes.

Thank you for being so honest — I have been reading you for what seems like years — and you still manage to cause my eyes to mist.

Aunt Linda
14 years ago

I’ve loved you always and always will. But now, it’s a lot more fun! AL

Erica
14 years ago

You certainly don’t need MY approval, but I am proud of you.

jenna
14 years ago

As someone with alcoholism in my family, I just wanted to say that I’m so glad you are free. Because you freed the great person, wife, mother and writer within (yep, I don’t know you but I feel like I do a bit, sorry!) but I’m sure you also freed everyone who loves you.

For your strength, bravery and honesty, I salute you (*raising glass of seltzer with lime*).

Ashley
14 years ago

I have nothing but the utmost respect for you Linda, on so many levels.

Jo
Jo
14 years ago

I’m ditto’ing Donna too, well said :)

Josh
Josh
14 years ago

Hmmmm. Yes that does sound nice. Also kind of crappy, but in a releiving, redeeming sort of way the sucks and brings hope at the same time. Maybe one day I’ll be able to forget. And not the temporary amnesia that leaves you permeated with pain and whiskey mouth, feeling like the dirt crusted boots on a bum that died without anyone noticing. Not the short escape found at the blurry bottom of a long tall bottle, but a real escape. A freedom.

I think I’m stumbling in the right direction. And hopefully this time I won’t vomit up what little lessons I’ve learned along with the obligatory pointless breakfast I enjoy twice a morning. With a little luck I will look back in five or ten years and reminisce on my own journey. Maybe I’ll even turn out to be a great mother like you. You know, except with a penis. And I won’t live in Seatlle, but instead in my space ship orbiting a planet full of lonely buxom school girls. (What? It’s my fantasy)

Marie Green
14 years ago

Linda,
Wow. You are amazing. Honesty is so hard, and on topics like this, very hard to come by. What a difference you are making!

Stand tall. You rule.

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

I read your words and all I feel is ENVY for your freedom. I’m 20 years in, and I would love to be free, but my life revolves around that 5:30 beer, and the twelve that follow.

I’m happy for you, honestly. I just don’t know if I will ever get there.

Serror
Serror
14 years ago

Thank you for sharing your writing with us, it touches many more people than you even think.

And YOU ROCK!

heather
14 years ago

thanks, linda. i’m glad you’re able to share this stuff with us. it’s an honor, really.

Jem
Jem
14 years ago

Really proud of you, Sundry!

Lesley
Lesley
14 years ago

Here’s something you can have that is wicked good but probably requires a 12-step program to get over if I’m any example: Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked ice cream (contains brownies and cookie dough). Only 14 grams of fat per 125 mls (half a cup) which beats HD all to hell (their ice cream is all 23+ grams of fat).

It’s the first of all the flavours to disappear off the shelf at the grocers.

I know you went through a hard time but you’re an outstanding role model, super talented and a great mom. You’ve mentioned your shyness and a lack of self esteem and perhaps alcohol helped with these, but seriously you are so gifted and such a great person… the best people never realize they are. I hope you do by now.

diane
diane
14 years ago

This post will inspire so many people who are struggling. It’s such an honor to share your life. You so much deserve the happiness you have now.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
14 years ago

Great post Linda.
You have made it through a lot, I really admire you for all that you have gone through.

Kaire
Kaire
14 years ago

I think what is most awesome about this post is that you never know who you are helping. Many people have demons, but few win the fight! Thanks for sharing Linda!

Niki P.
Niki P.
14 years ago

Wow.

I was getting to that place a little over a year ago- too much binge drinking and a cocktail or 2 or 3 every night. It didn’t help that the guy I was seeing owned a bar and we were always the life of the party! I went to a peewee football game with vomit on my sweatshirt from the night before. I don’t think anyone but me noticed it but it was the “moment” for me. I ended the messed up relationship and stopped drinking for a long time.

Thanks for sharing so much of your life with total strangers. I know it’s therapy for you and it makes others feel like they are not alone. Really a win-win!

Jean
Jean
14 years ago

I truly believe we have to work through some bad shit in order to get to a good place. I went through my own horrid times in my early twenties that I would give anything to erase, but the truth is that it made me who I am, and without my life following an awful path, I would have never found the clearing where I am now, and never found my husband, and never had my daughter. Life is so strange.

JennyM
14 years ago

I know it’s cheesy, but: {{hugs}} and high five!

You wrote a post a while back that made me step back and reevaluate my own status as a drinker. Though I don’t believe it was a true chemical addiction on my part, it had become a crutch that on some level I believed I needed, and I was drinking pretty heavily, to make a vast understatement. But just this past weekend I had an epiphany moment where I realized that I had gone days without even thinking about drinking. I feel like now I’ve got a handle on that part of my life and I’ve learned to cope with things without seeking that escape. And I firmly believe it was your post that was the wake-up call.

So, thanks, and congratulations on your achievement, and rock on with your bad ass self.

Christina
14 years ago

You are so lucky… just know that. As a the child of an alcoholic , it is painful and horrible to experience to live with and have no control over someone you love so much – to know he will die the way he lived… That he is a great person even drinking but he is so much better sober. To know what he is like sober (for years) and then to learn that somewhere back there lurked that darkness and that the darkness had the power to take back over his life leaving me with the alcoholic again…

SO you (and Riley and baby boy and your husband) are so very lucky. Keep up the good work!

McWriter
14 years ago

Good for YOU! What a strong person you are.

I’ve had similar tough times and I also find myself in a very good place now. I am thankful to be where I am and so grateful to have made it through the storm, but I wonder … would I be the same person today if I had not lived through such emotionally trying times? I remember telling a friend once how proud I am of the person I am and how, more than anything, through my struggles I have earned a solid sense of self and an unyielding sense of empathy for others. “So,” I said, through tears, “I think I’m dang cool person now … ” – more tears – “But I think I still would have been pretty cool if none of this had happened.” That part is still healing.

Keep up the good work, Linda. It IS so worth it!

Amy M.
Amy M.
14 years ago

I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to overcome this disease. Thanks for sharing your struggle. It’s touched many people, looking at these comments. My body doesn’t process alcohol well (after 2 drinks, I get very nauseated & throw up, so I usually don’t drink at all), so I’ll never have this addiction, but I can see how hard it is to quit, especially when drinking is such a large part of many a social scene. One of my best friends has avoided reunions & some other parties because alcohol will be there.

Hang in there & I hope those stretches of not thinking about a drink get longer & longer! (( hug ))

diane
diane
14 years ago

wow, you touch so many of us with your honesty and willingness to share.
Thank you. Maybe there is a light at the end of my current dark tunnel.

Leticia Sembera
Leticia Sembera
14 years ago

I never thought I could be so proud of a perfect stranger. You rock :o)

Jess
14 years ago

You are so honest, and it’s so inspiring. Alcohol has never been a factor in my life, so I can’t relate on that level, but just seeing the honesty, and seeing how happy you are now, is so motivational in making other people confront their own issues. You inspired me to take charge of my health when you went on Weight Watchers, and I thank you so much for that, and for your honesty in every arena.

Kristina
14 years ago

I didn’t cry until I read your aunt linda’s response, then it hit me, how awful it must have been for my family to deal with me being consumed with alcohol. It’s been about 7-8 years of being sober, but my mind filled with thoughts of drinking, just the other day I was thinking, I had not thought of alcohol for a while {being home with a broken foot may have something to do with that} and how refreshing that sounded. But as soon as I get frustrated, the dark and shameful thing jumps right back in my head. You are right, it will never go away, but savor the days you don’t think about it, focus on the wonderful things in your life, your guys!

Operation Pink Herring
14 years ago

That’s exactly how I feel about my anorexia. When I was in the throes of it, I just wanted to make it through each day. I never even dared to hope it would cease to be a part of my life entirely. When I do think about it, I just feel so, so lucky to have reached the point where my disease actually made me a better, stronger person.

Leigh
Leigh
14 years ago

Yup, me too. You describe my experience when I was still drinking perfectly.

I know why I drank, I drank because I’m an alcoholic.

I remember someone at a meeting years ago saying

“When I first quit I was panicky; what would I do without drinking? Answer: Everything else.”

life is good sober.

emily
emily
14 years ago

Thank you.

Kendra
14 years ago

This post left me feeling so triumphant. And not because I’ve overcome a substance addiction, but because I know what it’s like to have changed my lifestyle in such a way that the new way is so much more fulfilling and, actually, probably, even a little more fun. My husband and I gave up drinking about three years ago, and while it’s still hard to always have to explain it to the ignorant and nosey and reluctant to accept, it was a lifestyle choice and one that has left me with a bit more money in my pockets, and all the more rich in so many other ways.

Blessings as you continue to maintain that radar screen so full of wonderful things (and the occasional belly band frivolities) :)

Hey Meg
Hey Meg
14 years ago

Reading this post just gave me the chills. You are an awesome mom, an awesome person and an incredibly gifted writer. I don’t even know you (though of course feel like I do!) but am proud of you and want to give you a hug and a pat on the back. Way to go! :)

Maura
Maura
14 years ago

Linda,

I want you to know how much you have helped me. It has been 5 ½ months since I last picked up a drink. Alcohol was consuming my mind and slowly ruining my family and marriage. I sent my husband a link to your blog a few months back when I was so newly sober and struggling to ward off the daily thoughts of drinking. He read your story about your DWI experience and then the poignant tribute to your husband. He stopped drinking that day in support of me…I can not thank you enough for sharing what your husband did and then for my husband to be the kind of man who would turn around and do the exact same thing in support of me.

I was in Chicago last weekend on vacation and was experiencing a case of the “poor me” syndrome. I wanted to drink, to party, to belong. Instead I remembered your recent post on “Milk & Cookies” about Garrett popcorn. I found not one but 3 Garrett popcorns in walking distance to our hotel and instead of doing the “pub crawl” I did the “popcorn crawl” and consumed and embarrassing amount of Carmel Crisp popcorn.

All I can say is your strength, honestly and candor on this subject has helped me more than you could ever know. Thank you!! These days I think about drinking less and less. My marriage is stronger and I’m a much better mother to my two sons who deserve only the best from me. Thank you for helping me in ways you don’t even know and I’m sure many countless others.

You are an inspiration

Maura

Sally
Sally
14 years ago

Nothing else to say other than – “Well done for the sake of you and your family”.

McCashew
14 years ago

We ALL have our own personal demons that lurk in the dark hidden spaces in our lives. Some of us just aren’t brave enough to share them with the world. Thank you.

KUDOS!

Also, McWriter ~ I heart you~ and you ARE a dang cool person my dear.

Susie
14 years ago

What an amazing fortitude you’ve found in yourself — you’re a badass! Keep up the good work and be grateful always.

Katie
14 years ago

I don’t even know you and yet I’m so proud of you….for realizing what you had to do and doing it…and then writing honestly about it. Good for you! Thank you.

Jen
Jen
14 years ago

This is the first time I actually think I have read this particular blog by you, and what a good one for me to stumble across!

I was a hard-core alcoholic for years and just recently quit (recently being about 6 months ago) because I found out I was pregnant. During the beginning of my pregnancy I thought I was going to die, not only from the morning sickness but because I went through such a violent detox. I always thought I would quit drinking when I had kids, but this particular pregnancy was not planned and therefore I basically had to quit cold turkey without much time to mentally prepare myself. I feel better than ever now, but I STILL struggle with wanting a drink. I fear what the future holds once I am no longer pregnant. I still find myself trying to rationalize a drink now and again even though I am 32 weeks pregnant. I haven’t had one, thank goodness.. but the desire is there. I just hope that once my child is born he gives me the strength to never go back to how it was. Reading about someone else who has been successful in quitting helps so much. I know it’s possible, and someday the desire to drink will fade into the background.

Thanks for your post!

Jess
14 years ago

I have a family member in jail right now for his fifth dui. I’m copying this post and mailing it to him. Thanks so much for putting it all out there.

McWriter
14 years ago

Linda – I’ve been thinking about you (and checking comments) all day!

One more thing:

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience, that shall explain and overlook the old.”

It’s a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, from my Mary Engelbreit day calendar. I tore it off months ago and cube-clipped it at my eyeline (sounds dangerous!). I don’t necessarily read it every day, but it’s there. And it helps. :o)

Linda, you are one of my all-time favorite fish.

Kristen
Kristen
14 years ago

Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. You are an inspiration to us all!

Mary
Mary
14 years ago

Amazing post. Although I am lucky enough to be able say that I couldn’t understand what you went through, as the daughter of a recently recovering alcoholic, I thoroughly understand what Riley will be lucky enough to miss out on. And that in itself is incredible