Once Upon An Alcoholic

On October 5, God willing, I will have been sober for 31 years.  That’s just about half of my lifetime.  And what a journey it has been.

People get sober for various reasons.  I remember going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and standing near an open window sipping a cup of coffee.  There was a commotion at the window and in tumbled a man.  As I happened to be the closest person, he staggered a couple of feet to me, grabbed my arm for stability and said “my wife told me to get in here or I can’t come home.”  At least that’s what I thought he said. It was garbled. I in turn signaled a man near me and said “he’s yours.”  It’s encouraged to have a man help a man and a woman help a woman from the get-go.  omg-i-need-help-gif

I should mention that the window was about 4 feet from the door and had bushes in front of it, so it’s a statement about how drunk he was that he missed the door.  He has been sober ever since.

A lot of people have horrible, yet funny from an insider’s point of view, stories about how they knew, or were pushed, to get help.

One of the first lessons one learns is that no one is unique.  Our stories might have different twists and turns, but our lives have spun out of control from alcohol, drugs, or a combination.

But how many people get sober when their family is against that?  I had the opposite experience from the man who fell in the window.  I felt like the first person in the history of mankind whose family tried to stop them from getting sober.  For real.dont-get-sober

I didn’t think I knew anyone who didn’t drink a lot. In my family, people were categorized as drinkers (normal people) and non-drinkers (odd people). “They seem nice enough, but they aren’t drinkers.”

When I started going to AA meetings, I hid it from my family.  So that my ex-husband didn’t catch on, I went during the day when my kids were in school and/or got a babysitter.  I told my children I was going shopping so their father wouldn’t know.  Can you imagine?  The craziness of the disease.

My first Thanksgiving in sobriety was at my father’s house.  By then everyone knew and I had to listen to comments like “you don’t drink that much, everyone drinks” and “what if people find out.”  At my place setting, instead of the glass of wine I would have had in the past, there were two glasses of wine.  I threw them out and my father was mad that I wasted the wine. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

twilightzone-portal-banner

But back to what brought me to AA.  The signs were there.  I started drinking in 7th or 8th grade, by sneaking whiskey into my coca-cola.  I’m writing that out so as not to confuse people by saying coke. That should have been clue #1, but it was so normal in my house that I thought it was normal behavior in everyone’s home.

Then drinking “for real” in high school.  Then almost out of control in college.

Funny story that shouldn’t have been funny but I still think it is: I went out drinking with a friend of mine from my sorority the night before a midterm.  College midterms are a very big deal.  We got an hour or two of sleep and went to take the midterm.  I can’t remember how many students were there, but it was a fair number and my friend and I sat on opposite sides of the room.  Each question seemed funny and it was one of those times where you know you can’t laugh, your shoulders start to shake, and then laughter explodes from your mouth.  Which made her laugh on the other side of the room.  

I was still drunk.  Clue # 2.

I went to Ohio Wesleyan University which was at the time, and maybe still is, in a “dry” county.  Appalling.  My parents felt sorry for me.  About the second week of school, my roommate and I got each got a care package from home.  Yay!!  She excitedly opened her large tin of homemade cookies.  I excitedly opened my case of pint-size bottles of Seagrams 7.seagrams-7-pint

Clue #3.  On my 21st birthday, a bunch of us went into New York City to celebrate.  At the time, the drinking age in NY was 18, but 21 is a banner year.  My maiden name is Harvey, so even though I was only used to drinking whiskey straight (ice cubes are for sissies), I had a bunch of harvey wallbangers.  Little girl drinks.  I remember standing up from the table, and getting about half-way up and then nothing.  I “came to” the next day in Rockland County with no idea how we got there.  Lots of people that night must have had angels looking out for them.  I know that I did.

Side note: I had blacked out before.  I didn’t know at the time that is due to alcohol poisoning.  Tell your friends.

Clue #4.  When I married and was blessed with my first daughter, I wanted to be the best mother I could be.  So I planned my day and her day around my drinking.  Baths in the morning, not at night.  Waaaaay less drinking (and none during pregnancy).  I thought that made me a good mother.

Clue #5.  My second daughter died on Christmas Eve, 1981.  I had not drunk during the pregnancy at all.  She was one day old and died of cardiac arrest during open heart surgery.  My addiction exploded.  Heavy morphine in the hospital and whiskey that my ex-husband brought into the hospital.  No drugs upon release, nor again, but my drinking certainly increased but did not stop the pain.

Clue #6.  I’m skipping a lot here but want to lighten it up.  Not all of my story is icky.

One Sunday morning, all of the above and all that I’ve left out brought me to the point where I realized that I needed help.  1985 was back in the day.  I had to look up the AA Hotline number.  The deal was that you called, and the hotline people had someone call you right back.  im-scared

For whatever reason, I opened my wallet and the AA Hotline number fell out.  In my handwriting.  I must have looked it up and written it down in a blackout.  With my heart racing I harnessed every ounce of courage I had and called the number.  A man answered and said he would have a woman call me right back.  He sounded kind, happy and serene.

When the woman called me back, she asked me if I had any liquor in the house.  Duh. She told me to put the phone down and empty it all down the sink.  Was she crazy? I screamed at her I’M NOT A DRUNK.  And then realized that I was the one who was acting crazy.

She told me that it was just for today.  That the next day I could buy as much as I wanted.  Just not that day.  So I did.  I couldn’t do it for myself; I did it for my children. And that was the last time I had to pour liquor down the drain and the first day that I didn’t drink.

one-day-at-a-time

When I was sober for 8 years, my son was 6 years old.  At the dinner table I said to my kids that I hadn’t had a drink in 8 years.  He turned to me and said “Aren’t you thirsty???”

October 5, 1985.  Thank you, God.

About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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292 Responses to Once Upon An Alcoholic

  1. dimphokay says:

    Amazing story

    Liked by 3 people

  2. kertsen says:

    A moving story with humour and sorrow ; I’m so glad you came through the trials.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. gcinasheg says:

    I enjoyed your story having been an odd one all my life 😂. Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thank you for this – very well written and brings back some memories (I haven’t drunk in 7 years, but it was a bit of a ride to get there!) – I’m glad you found the key to get you through 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  5. gkagz says:

    Very inspiring.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Hi Barb. I too quit six years ago. When I was young I was the happy drunk. As I got older and drank it made me mean and ugly. It was a slow/bad transition over the years. I truly believe the alcohol poisoned me mentally over time with hard and constant drinking. Like, it changed my genetic makeup. I couldn’t tolerate the Dr. Jeckle / Mr. Hyde persona anymore. I was hurting people around me, and I decided one day to stop the madness and I haven’t looked back. I’m no longer in a constant fog. It has changed my life for the better in so many ways! I wish now that I would of took action much sooner, but at least I have today, and so that is a blessing. Congrats to you for making a change as well!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. fatimaisme says:

    The story is really nice, I come from a religious family so the experience you’ve described is very novel to me.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you very much. I have been interested in Our Lady of Fatima since I was a little girl. The rosary is very important to me. I hope that you read my blog post about Fátima. Thank you for your comments.

      Like

  8. 4 1/2 years for me. Definitely only a small fraction of my life…

    Liked by 3 people

  9. winlinand2013 says:

    A drunk I can understand, thank you ma’am and congratulations.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Thank you for sharing this- please give mine a read.
    http://Www.junkboxdiaries.com

    Liked by 4 people

  11. printhie says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post! You’re story one of courage and hope. Alcoholism was a normal thing in my family due to my dad being a drunk and buying as alcohol starting at the age of 15 years old. I actually began drinking and smoking at 13 years old. Alcohol had always been a part of my life until February 15th, 2015, the day the Horseshoe Lounge closed its doors for good and I decided that I too would be closing the doors for good on my days of debauchery and carousing. I’m 20 months sober and grateful to the grace of God for helping me to make the choice for my freedom and end my slavery to the spirits in alcohol. It’s a journey of healing and freedom for the rest of my life until I meet my Lord and Savior in heaven and live forever, eternally praising Him in His glory and love.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I tried to start drinking, so my mother and my sisters would like me. It didn’t work too well. I couldn’t get over the way they encouraged my father to drink until he died so he too would fit in with their addictions. Beautiful testimony.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. coexist009 says:

    The ugly truth. A part of our society is drowning in alchohok it seems.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. juantetcts says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have been a proud Al-Anon for eight years now. One of the best things THAT program did for me was to have me attend AA meetings. I am the only one of my three siblings that did not have an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Which meant the only thing left was food, so that was where I drowned my own sorrows. What an AWESOME accomplishment, congrats!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Wow this is a great story and very inspiring. Listening to your words in my mind, rang true about many of my drinking habits, although much more controlled now than they were, after 6 months of sobriety I went back to drinking and didn’t learn any lessons. Now I am learning and reading your story motivates me more to do right by me and by god.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Only you can make the decision to change if you want to do so. I would go out sometimes and say ok I’ll have one drink then one glass of water and then another drink. But I can’t do anything in moderation so that didn’t work for me. Making the decision that I was worth it and my children needed a mom who was “there” not just physically, 100% of the time was my motivation. Thank you for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. goldiepauper says:

    A great read. Enjoy your sobriety.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Loved reading your story, as I search for perspective in an uncertain world your words resonated with me. Congratulations on your 31+ years of sobriety.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Especially given your comment above we need to take things a day at a time. Obviously I don’t mean don’t be responsible and make plans. But deal with things as best as we can, one day at a time. Thank you for your comment!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. j2w7 says:

    That was a very touching story; My own mother was an alcoholic, and she had been trying to give up before, but kept going back to the bottle, until she finally gave up. She passed away in October, 2004, and although she had many struggles throughout her life, I forgave her; I knew in my heart that she had done the very best that she could, and I am grateful for her.-JW ♡

    Liked by 4 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      It’s astounding for me to read this comment. My mother never tried to give it up. She ended up with strokes associated with her alcoholism. I also was able to forgive her for almost everything (a few things I just can’t get rid of yet). I know that she was the best mother that she was capable of being. Reading what you wrote was like looking in a mirror. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Amazing 😍good job.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Kathryn deVillers says:

    Twilight Zone, indeed! Eight years into my career as a bartender, I realized that my drinking was headed towards a dark place, and I gave it up. My friends and coworkers were baffled!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I bet they were! Everyone sees the world through their own perspective. When someone or something changes, the world seems to tilt on its axis and then all goes to a new normal. I hope that your new normal is a happy one!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. grannie33 says:

    Congratulations! It’s easy to crawl into the bottle, even harder to crawl out and stay out! Thanks for sharing your life… Again Congratulations on your sobriety!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you! It’s so nice of you not only to read this article but comment as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • grannie33 says:

        You are welcome! I admire those who can be honest and share about their addiction. I’m sure you have helped many along your path in life. Some you may know you helped. Then there are the ones you don’t even know you helped just by sharing your life. Nearly 20 years ago I spoke at a ladies luncheon and my words encouraged a young lady to seek help. I never knew until years later she and I worked in the same building. She stopped me, thanked me for saving her life. She then proceeded to show me why she loved her life and sobriety, two beautiful children had a sober mother that they never knew she had an addiction or thought about taking her own life. May you continue to enjoy your sobriety and happiness. 😘

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Wow that’s a powerful story. I hope that someone who reads this post and your comment is also helped. That’s a wonderful ripple in the pond that comes from making a personal change like getting sober.

        Liked by 1 person

      • grannie33 says:

        Yes, indeed it is. You just never know whose life may be touched in a positive way.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Julie Reeser says:

    As the child of alcoholic parents, this kid (now adult) says thank you. Congratulations on your sobriety and surviving the difficult journey. Thanks for sharing this post.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. I wrote my first blog on addiction. Any advice would help.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. No words…congratulations!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Awww man. I wanted the post to keep going!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. young Faith says:

    You left a truly life changing story that takes alot of courage and support from those who love you, congratulations keep standing strong… Pls take a look at it
    Your Music – http://wp.me/p81wBC-4

    Liked by 2 people

  27. young Faith says:

    Congratulations barb…pls take a look at mine and hope it inspires you
    Your Music – http://wp.me/p81wBC-4

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Ron says:

    Great read my friend !

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I learned about being odd when I married an alcoholic. I was young and naive and thought drinking was sort of a college phase. I should have realized when he started saying my family (and anyone who didn’t drink) was so boring. Didn’t we know how to have fun? I sat on the fence for a long while. Staying with an alcoholic slowly pushed me off kilter until I had to be convinced by a counselor that my life had become unmanageable. Luckily I was never addicted to drink, and did eventually take sides with the odd balls. This lead to divorce and much sadness but peace too.

    My poor ex still believes that when he smashes his head in the tub it was a good time. Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      It’s definitely a different mindset. If you’re at peace now, it sounds like you made a good decision for yourself. It must have been terribly difficult. Thank you for reading and commenting . You have an interesting story, too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I had a similar situation and needed the help of Al-Anon and a dear friend and counsellor to help me have the courage to leave a very sad marriage. It was hell for both of us, and my ex nearly died of alcololic poisoning. I can now report he is sober and has married again; and I have a new life, busy with two businesses, and a much stronger person for having the experience. I would not recommend it, and thank God for finding a way out, but I am a much better person now.
      Well done, for your honest post and keeping up with being sober for over 30 years!
      Many you have at least another 30 to enjoy!
      Susanne

      Liked by 2 people

  30. Pingback: Reblog: Once Upon An Alcoholic « Mirrorgirl

  31. Cacey Taylor says:

    A very inspiring story. I have had family members who suffered from this horrible disease. I am glad you were able to fight through and win the battle of sobriety.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      It is very prevalent in our society, I think, but my purpose here is just to tell my story. Thank you so much for reading this article and commenting. And thank you for your kind words.

      Like

  32. Praggati says:

    Ah, it must have had been hard, way too hard at every situation. Things dont happen over night. You fight courageously. Bless you and your family 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you. I love my family dearly. It was just how we were raised, and how my parents were as well. My story is about my decision to be alive and healthy for my children. I appreciate your reading this, and especially your comments 😃

      Like

  33. CabRene´ says:

    Great story. Very inspiring. I grew up in a household of drinkers. Polish and catholic. My family drank at births, deaths, weddings, funerals, jobs found, jobs lost. My Mom gave it up for Lent one year. She was lit by 10:30 am on Easter Sunday. My Mom thought I should marry my fiance’s brother because he drank and smoke and was a lot more fun.
    Your story made me remember all of that.
    Congrats on your sobriety. Its a huge cultural adjustment, I think.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      What a wonderful story! You’re right about the cultural adjustment, although in my family the adjustment was familial culture not ethnic or religious culture. My parents were from 2 religions and 2 different ethnicities. Thank you for sharing your story and for your kind words. 😃

      Like

  34. Beautiful beautiful beautiful
    My father was a HEAVY beer drinker most of my life (which ironically made him a really funny and down to earth parent.) In 2012 he was hungover and missed my sister’s swim meet. He checked himself into rehab and never looked back. Children will often motivate us to have courage we didn’t need for ourselves. Bless you! Continue your journey

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you! One thing that hurt me greatly as a child was my parents not attending my activities, some of them milestones. I’ve mostly forgiven everything, but that stuff has been harder to let go off. What I have come to terms with is that they were doing the best that they could. I wanted to give my kids a different life. However, I’m sure they have many complaints about things I’ve done, too, lol. Isn’t that the way in families? Thank you so much for reading my blog. What a gift your father gave you!

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Really inspiring 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Congratulations on achieving sobriety.I really liked you post. 🙂
    Do check out my blog.
    http://www.penningexpressions.wordpress.com
    Here is a link to one of my blog posts.Hope you will like it.
    https://penningexpressions.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/forever/

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Ingoodcompany says:

    Although I can’t say I’ve ever dealt with alcoholism or anything like it, it takes great courage and confidence to accomplish what you have.

    Liked by 4 people

  38. sruthimadhu says:

    You’re really brave! A motivation to everyone out there!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. uvpoetry says:

    Wow Barb thank you for sharing your experiences with us. This is such a great piece. The title forced me to continue reading immediately.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. Congrats. You worked through your false guilt and shame for NOT drinking to liberation through self-understanding, self-awareness, and co-dependency. Inspiring testimony. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. jermiah.luther2 says:

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! I love reading about the struggles of others, how they overcame, and continue to persevere. I’m young and new to the blogging world. I have a lot of ideas I want to share but have trouble getting the word out. Consider reading my post on my blog about moving on? I worked very hard on it and have every intention to keep up the great content and stories. Thanks and awesome blog! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Nice story. Anyway a couple of wine glasses having lunch never killed anyone. People are not able to keep themselves in the middle… Always too much or too little ☺

    Liked by 2 people

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