She had gray frizzy hair pulled into pigtails on either side of her head and a slightly twitchy demeanor, and she glommed onto me the minute I walked through the doors. The room had a sad little shelf of beat-up books—mostly romances and self help tomes—on one wall, a few pieces of exercise equipment on the other, a buzzing Coke machine in the corner. No windows. A TV boomed from a rickety-looking metal mount on the ceiling, and the floor was dominated by a large ping pong table.

Picking up a worn wooden paddle, the nubbly plastic peeling away in sections, she pointed it at me. “Want to play?”

“I haven’t played in years,” I said, feeling awkward. The other women in the room were mostly clustered together chatting, one plugging change into a vending machine, another lying on the floor doing quick, grunting pushups.

She shrugged, and tossed me another paddle. I assumed the position at the other side of the table and we played for a bit, before I knocked one too many balls into the corner of the room and waved my hands, laughing. “Thanks,” I told her, “that was fun.”

I rifled through the books for a while, then gave up and sat in a hard plastic chair and waited. The gray-haired woman came over and sat nearby, putting both of her hands on her knees and leaning towards me. She talked and talked and soon I realized something was more than a little wrong with her, evidenced not only by the “there are people in Cuba listening to everything I say because they put some metal wires in my head” topic of her conversation but also the tall stony-faced woman standing behind her catching my gaze and twirling her index finger against her temple, shaking her head slowly and meaningfully.

A blonde-haired woman learned she was going to be moved to a facility in Spokane, and she began weeping in great hitching sobs. The lady on the floor completed her pushups and began curling hand weights. The woman across from me kept talking but stopped making sense altogether and soon she appeared to forget I was there and trailed off into silence, staring blankly.

The TV blared on and on.

Eventually the door opened and we were ushered out, the women to their shared quarters and me to a tiny gray-green cement room with a metal door and a stainless steel toilet. They put me on my own because, as one of the cops said, “I don’t want to stick you with those dirty women”. I would have given anything to be with other people, and no one seemed dirty to me, but I had surrendered all choices when they admitted me and dressed me in the tattered cotton scrubs.

There was a cubby-like area on one side of the room that served as a bed, with a thin itchy blanket and a flattened pillow. I lay down but the cement hurt my hips, thanks in part to my swollen pregnant belly, so I alternated: on my back, on one side, on the other, sitting up. The fluorescent overhead lights never went off. There was, at one point, a tray of food that included a small paper carton of milk that so reminded me of childhood it was the only time I cried.

It may not have been the absolute worst night of my life—so many moments of regret in my past—but it was surely the longest. I didn’t sleep. Once I pressed the buzzer to ask what time it was, and the answer was so discouraging I never asked again.

The next day, I went home. The sentence was only for 24 hours, after all. I sat for a brief time in a waiting room with another girl who was going in for the same amount of time. “Was it bad?” she asked nervously, her foot jittering up and down. “Was it bad?”

I considered my answer. Had I been hurt? Treated poorly? No. Was it bad? “Yes,” I said.

I have written about drinking before and the fallout I caused myself and others. The DUI and its long-reaching effects—the months of legal fees, court appearances, the night in jail, the classes, the community service—was probably my rock bottom, and the fact that I become pregnant so soon after that selfish, shitty night was surely the catalyst for the changes I had to make, once and for all.

I have no new perspective on those old scabs, except this: lately, I have been so grateful my parenthood experience does not include alcohol. For all the reasons you might expect, of course, for my kids and my health and my marriage and our future, but also because if I had spent any time self-medicating the myriad stresses of parenting with drinking, it would have been even harder to stop. It would have been a no-brakes car hurtling down a hill with no end in sight, and the collateral damage would have been unspeakable.

If you’ve ever had a glass of wine after a grueling day of kid-wrangling and felt your body unwind and your mind finally start to be at rest, imagine multiplying that feeling into an all-consuming need. Imagine not being able to stop at one glass. Imagine coming to rely on it, craving it more than oxygen, while bit by bit, everything else falls by the wayside.

I know that’s what it would have been like for me. It would have been a thousand times worse than one night in jail. A million. If every mistake I made led me to here, I am glad for it. I am ashamed and sorry for the things that happened, but I am so grateful to be where I am now: glancing at the smoking ruins of what might have been, while still standing in the light.

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Nancy
Nancy
13 years ago

Thank you for sharing your beautifully written words. After almost 22 sober years, reading your post brought me instantly back to what it felt like, not being able to stop at one, or ten, drinks. My children were the catalyst for the change in my life as well (aren’t they always, for all of us? One way or another?) and I am so glad to have made the decision I did. You are an amazing woman – please keep writing for us all.

abdpbt
13 years ago

My story has many similar plot points. Glad to know there’s another sober person out there enjoying family and marriage without the monkey on their back. I just turned 8 myself.

Donna
Donna
13 years ago

Good for you for doing it, good for JB for staying with you, and REALLY good for Dylan and Riley who will never know that lady. You know, the crazy drunk one that they’d be ashamed of, versus you, the one they can all be proud of, as well as you should be proud of yourself. You know what I mean……I didn’t say it well.

Caroline
13 years ago

This? Right here? Is why you are my favorite blogger. Hands down, your honesty, your ability to inject humor into the most humorless of situations, and your gripping writing bring me back every day. Thanks for sharing your life with us… halfway through my first pregnancy, and you’re an inspiration to me.

Wiffany
Wiffany
13 years ago

This was really tough for me to read. (In a good way.) My mom struggled with addiction my whole life, and has been to jail more than a few times. I had to tell my best friend in High School that I needed to stay at her house because my mom got a DUI, and was in jail. The next time I didn’t bother, I just stayed at home alone with my younger sister, and missed a few days of school. (I actually failed out of HS, due to my excessive days of absence) Unlike you, she never remained sober for long, and my life has been peppered with some fucking terrible memories. I really don’t have much of a childhood. I just want you to know how amazing it is that you are able to resist the temptation to fall back on alcohol. It’s amazing that your kids mean so much to you, that they are able to keep you sober. I have two of my own now, and I can’t imagine putting them through what I went though. Sometimes I wonder what was going through my mom’s head that made her keep relapsing and forgetting about her kids. Keep sober, Sundry. Your kids will thank you. Trust me.

NancyJ
13 years ago

That was powerful. I don’t think I’ve read any other posts referring to your drinking, only mentioned in passing.
I thank God that my son came along when he did because his birth (well pregnancy too), set me on the straight and narrow. My sister told me early on, “no matter how much fun you have the night before, it’s YOU you’re son is going to want early in the morning”. I knew I had to be there for him 100% no matter what time of the day or night it was.

ElizabethZ
ElizabethZ
13 years ago

You are so brave. Thank you for being so open and honest about your life, you are truly an inspiration. Please don’t ever stop letting us be a small part of your world. I would be so sad. If I was stranded on a desert island and could read just one blog it would be yours. No question.

mom101
13 years ago

Oh Linda, you’ve absolutely left me with the uncomfortable catch in my throat. This is beautiful and brave and terrifying and inspiring and incredible. I have some newly sober folks in the family and you help me put myself in their shoes as well as anything I’ve ever seen. Thank you for that. And for being able to let us in on your world not only honestly, but spectacularly well.

Motherhood Uncensored
13 years ago

Something’s in the air.

A child of a man who couldn’t ever stop at just one thanks you.

Suebob
13 years ago

Now THAT is some damned fine writing. A rare post like this is why I sift through 100 blogs a day.

Miss Grace
13 years ago

I come from a family rife with addiction. The truth of your words is beautiful.

Ashley
Ashley
13 years ago

Linda,

That was an amazing, inspiring story. When I first started reading it I thought it was about you perhaps visiting an elderly relative until I read about you being escorted to a cell. How frightening that must have been. I wonder if all the “cliches” are true, i.e. “one day at a time”. Guess one reason I wonder is you dont behave like an addict, especially an alcoholic (they run in my family, and my fiance’s family, so I think I have a pretty significant point of reference).

You need to see “Rachael Getting Married”.

Thank you so much for this!

Kate
13 years ago

I have no words.

But just know that if a tall brunette woman should suddenly walk up to you in public and hug you fiercely? Well, that’d be me.

You’re the best Linda. Truly.

Redneck Mommy
13 years ago

Alcoholism is prevalent in my family.

Thank you for writing this.

You have a gift. I want to learn to write like you when I grow up. Wink.

babelbabe
13 years ago

beautifully written.

Maria
13 years ago

Linda, you were the second “parenting” blogger I ever read. You’ve consistently been an inspiration to be, both as a mother and as a writer.

Most of the time you make me giggle. Today you moved me.

You’re pretty awesome.

RookieMom Heather
RookieMom Heather
13 years ago

Thank you for sharing. And for giving me more empathy for the stepfather who has been sober since before I met him. I’ll be back.

Keri
13 years ago

beautiful post! this should be in the book that you are writing!

Rachael
13 years ago

As the partner of a man who has just made 320 days sober after 30 years drinking and the stepdaughter of a man who will never stop drinking your post hauled out a stack of emotions about addiction for me. Pride for those like you and my partner who CHOOSE a better life, sadness for those who don’t believe they can and empathy for the shame, guilt and disappointment both must feel on reflection.

I feel so blessed for me and my step son of 4 that my partner has stepped up to the plate and taken his life back. I know your boys will feel so blessed when they stop and take a look at the amazing strong women they have for a Mom.

You put one foot in front of the other, took one step at a time and look how far you have come.

Terri
Terri
13 years ago

I absolutely from the bottom of my heart want to applaud you and thank you for your choice to lead a sober life.

I am the daughter of an alcoholic, a man who destroyed his own health, ripped our family apart, and scarred my brother and I for life. I AM a survivor, but the hurt will probably never fade.

I wish my father had been strong enough to make the choice you have. You are truly a super-mom, and your sons are blessed to have you :)

Kathy
13 years ago

My children’s biological father has been unable, so far, to take the path you have chosen. I wish so much that he could.

Thank you for sharing this with all of us, today.

trackback

[…] think that Linda is my hero, especially after this post.  I wish I lived in her neighborhood so I could stalk her […]

JenniferB
JenniferB
13 years ago

You are so brave to continue each day knowing that you must be stronger than the memories. Your husband and children are blessed by your courage and choice to live life in a healthy, positive way. Good for you!

Kristin
13 years ago

Effing A. Hairs on back of neck, standing at attention. This is why you continue to be my favourite blogger.

MichelleRenee
13 years ago

That was beautiful.

I have family that chooses the ruins and not the light.

Every freaking time.

PS. Good Luck with the book, I can’t wait.

Amanda
Amanda
13 years ago

I’m just 24. I’m also pregnant. 15 wks, 4 days- but who’s counting? I used to go out a lot. I mean, not every night. But sometimes close to it, I guess… When a few of my friends found out I was pregnant, they said things like, “You’re still you. Your life isn’t over. You’ll have fun again soon.” and, “You can pre-pump before going out when the baby comes.” Was I so drunk so often that people feel the need to comfort me about my pregnancy, this gift, saying that soon it will be over and I can hit the bar again? I didn’t think so but now I guess I don’t know. What I do know is that the scene I was a part of will not be a part of this baby’s life. It can’t be. I want to be in the light like you are- I don’t want any spots of darkness to cloud up our lives. You truly do inspire, Linda.

Jana
13 years ago

I know a mom or two who could use a role model like you. Congratulations, and never ever give up.

Leticia
Leticia
13 years ago

I know I’m nothing and nobody, but girl – I am so freakin’ proud of you and I love you. I can’t wait till you give us the opportunity to BUY your book. :o)

Shannon
Shannon
13 years ago

Beautiful. And poignant. And just fucking amazing. As the daughter of a (recovering) alcoholic monther, you have no idea what you have done for your kids. Although she is recovering now, after a stroke mostly brought on by drinking, and although our relationship is better than it has been for the past 20 years or so, I can’t forget the missed events (like my college graduation), the nights of worry (when she was passed out and unresponsive), and the anger I and my family felt when she landed herself in the hospital (again).
I’m so proud of you and happy for you that you made the decision to quit drinking on your own based on the circumstances, rather than the decision being made FOR you based on circumstances. There is a huge difference between the two. *HUGS*

Michelle Whitehurst
Michelle Whitehurst
13 years ago

Wow. I am impressed and humbled that you shared that with us. Thank you so much for that incredibly moving story. Once again I am honored to be able to read what you write.

Kristin
13 years ago

I don’t have addiction issues myself, but many members of my immediate family do, so this post meant a lot to me. You are a very strong person; for living through this, for choosing to stop living like this, and for posting this.

I think we are getting closer and closer to understanding how addiction works. I hope that a “cure” can be found soon. It just doesn’t make sense to me how I can easily stop drinking after one or two drinks (or have none at all even if everyone else is drinking), yet that is an impossible feat for my closest relatives once they start. It isn’t lack of willpower–they can be the most determined people I know. It’s having different reactions in your brain. I would love for them to be able to occasionally enjoy alcohol like I can, but that is impossible. If they don’t abstain, they will over-induldge.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

daranaco
daranaco
13 years ago

Have you considered reading a biography? Because you really should. It would be so helpful to show those of us who are not addicted how truly amazing it is to be recovered. It may also provide some comfort for those who are dealing with addictin within their own families. I sadly admit that I can be judgemental and unsympathetic when it comes to people who are trapped by their addiction (particularly drugs). I tend to think that if they didn’t want to be addicted, they shouldn’t have tried it in the first place. Sadly, I never think about those who don’t want to be prisioners but are not strong enough to escape. Thank you for your insight.

robin
13 years ago

I remember when you wrote about yur DUI the first time and being amazed that while you were going through all of that, you never let it show in your writing. I’ve wondered ever since then about that story. I’m glad you felt safe and brave enough to share with us.

From someone who has been reading your blog since before the boys came into your life, I can say that not only are you an excellent writer, but you are an excellent mother and wife as well for acknowledging that you’d hit rock bottom. Kudos to JB for sticking in there too.

Thanks for sharing this.

beach
beach
13 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly with daranaco….your memoir would be a wonderful book. You have had and continue to have a very interesting life…..and the way you put it into words….chills. Think about it!

Stacy
13 years ago

I had hoped to read this story one day. Thanks for sharing it. Very brave of you.

You really have turned your life around more than anyone I’ve ever known. You took a huge negative part of life and made many positive changes for the long haul. You have a great story and a lot to be proud of.

Deb
Deb
13 years ago

Thank you for this. I’m an alcoholic who has been sober for three years. I’ve been struggling a lot lately with thoughts that I know are absolutely crazy…things like, “Just one drink won’t hurt anything. No one will ever know. Maybe I’m “ok” now.” My life is good now. Really, really good. It was good before, I just couldn’t see it through the fog. Now I do and I’m so thankful. To think that I would even contemplate throwing it all away again just shows how crazy this disease is.

So again, thank you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all you wrote in this post.

Kellylynn
Kellylynn
13 years ago

I wish my mom could finally come out of the other side. But no such luck. And now my boy turned six and it just makes it harder and harder to visit. I applaud you in coming through and surviving.

kristin
kristin
13 years ago

And now I’m crying. At work. Thanks a lot!

(But really, thanks a lot.)

Kristen
13 years ago

I’m a recovering alcoholic with six years of sobriety and an almost one-year-old son. My question for you: How are you (or are you) planning on talking to your boys about drinking? Alcoholism is prevalent in both my family and my husband’s (though he’s not an alcoholic), so I want my son to be aware of the genetic tendency he may have inherited, but I don’t know how to do that, or what I want to say. Have you thought about that?

T
T
13 years ago

Beautiful Linda! Like others, I first thought you were sharing the first chapter of your book with us and then realized you were writing about a personal experience. Powerful!!!

As a daughter of an alcoholic (he is 17 years sober now), and a parent of 3 small children, I can honestly say that your sobriety is the BEST gift you can give to not only yourself but also your children.

I no longer drink, although many nights a glass of anything alcoholic seems like a good idea. It’s a very slippery slope and one I can’t chance taking. Good for you to have the strength to maintain your sobriety. I know its not always easy but the rewards are worth the effort!

Leah
Leah
13 years ago

I, too, thought I was reading a preview of your 1st book. Publish soon, eh? You have quite a lot of followers who would appreciate your work already…

Keep up the good work, Linda…

Shelly
13 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing! My best friend and roommate is an alcoholic. She drinks everyday. It’s so hard living with an alcoholic and I feel hopeless in helping her. I have tried to be blunt and tell her like it is, tried being supportive, tried to listen, and even ignored it. I find the biggest thing in her situation is her constant pessimistic attitude. I am CONSTANTLY cheering her up or trying to get her out of the house and its draining. Completely exhausting. But I am going to keep doing it. One day that girl will smarten up and I will have a huge mother effing smile on my face. Congratulations on staying sober and living an amazing, happy life with your family. :)

Yet Another Jenny
13 years ago

*anticipates opening a Christmas gift containing your memoir in hardback* *grins*

Jessie
Jessie
13 years ago

This is a very powerful and beautiful post. Thank you.

lorna
lorna
13 years ago

And you’re not a published author because???? You have a talent, Linda. Keep reminding yourself every day.

Thank you for sharing.

RubiaLala
13 years ago

Good for you.

Love.

Allie
Allie
13 years ago

Beautiful.

Tia
Tia
13 years ago

I thought it was a short story too until the mention of the pregnant belly. Then I realized what I was reading.
You truly have dug yourself out of a big ass hole in really a very short time.

I really do love the happy ending in this story! :)
Thanks Linda!

Joy @ Big Time Fancy
13 years ago

A very brave post.

Joy
Joy
13 years ago

Thank you for the wonderfully written post. It reminds me of how easily that could have been my story. So glad you were able to have a new beginning to your life.