Grapevine Online Exclusive
You and Me and the DTs
Twenty years after seeing her mom die of the DTs, this woman got sober after experiencing her own alcoholic seizures and DTs
"I then ran downstairs and saw another vision. This one was of my mother."
"Where the heck am I and how did I get here?"
Questions like these were a frequent part of my life during my alcoholic journey. It was a journey on which I never knew where'd I'd wind up.
I grew up in an alcohol-friendly home. Wine was an everyday staple like food and water in our Italian-American household. I was 9 years old when I remember sneaking a drink of my father's homemade wine. It tasted like vinegar and I didn't like it but when the warm feeling of calmness came over me, I overlooked the flavor. My drinking career had begun.
My father was a hard-working man. He was an executive for a worldwide appliance manufacturer and my three younger sisters and I did not want or need anything. My mother stayed at home to look after us. Most of my early recollections of her were good, but as I grew up, I recognized that she drank more than my friends' moms. I watched her transform from a loving, caring mom to one that I hardly knew.
By this time, I was sneaking the odd alcoholic beverage at home. My mom eventually bought it for us because she believed that if we wanted to drink, we should do it in the home. My sisters never took to it like I did.
When I was in my early 20s, my mom's health deteriorated due to her excessive use of alcohol. I watched a once-beautiful woman end up in intensive care, strapped down, swollen and yellow. She had the DTs. She often didn't know her own daughters, and she kept begging us to get her a drink. In the end, her liver shut down and she hemmoraged to death. She was 46 years old—2 years younger than I am now.
During this time, I had begun working in the automotive industry, which was mostly a male dominated field at that time. I strived to be accepted and worked very hard at being a respected force in my field.
Drinking became mostly a weekend event. I had married my first husband and he liked to drink like I did. Unfortunately, my drinking progressed and I found myself in situations that any normal person would have been embarassed by. I became sexually promiscious. Needless to the say, my marriage ended and I found myself alone.
When I wasn't working I would isolate and drink. I continued to be a success at work and soon, I met my second husband Patrick. He was a social drinker. I couldn't understand how or why he could stop after just having one or two drinks. My drinking worsened and I began having blackouts, driving drunk, and going into to work still drunk. I started drinking in the morning. I couldn't put my makeup on unless I had a couple of shots of whisky because my hands shook terribly. My husband went to work earlier than I did so I didn't have to hide the "eye opener." Then later at lunchtime I would go to the nearest bar and have three to four more beers. When I returned home in the evening I drank until I passed out, only to begin the merry-go-round again the next day. Weekends were a blur.
My husband worked rotating weekends and when he arrived home he usually found me passed out on the couch, no dinner ready, the house a mess, or worse. I'll never know how he stood it, day after day -- bills not getting paid, meals not made, the house a disaster area, and me not caring one bit.
My employer began to watch me. He said "Lee, I think you are drinking way too much." I told him, "I am fine." I found it hard to hear this from a man who was not only my employer, but also a drinking buddy. He would often bring beer in the morning and we'd have it with cold pizza. At the end of the work day we have a scotch to toast the day.
My health was in serious jeopardy, but I never realized how much until I began to have alcoholic seizures. I woke up one morning in the emergency department of the local hospital. I asked a nurse what had happened and why was I in the ER. She said that I had suffered a seizure and tests were being done to determine the cause. I had a battery of tests and was told by the doctors that a letter was being sent to the ministry of transportation to have my driver's license suspended until the results of the tests were known. After the results came in, I was referred to a neurologist. The first question he asked me was how much I drank. I told him the truth. He told me that the seizures were due to my alcoholic intake and that if I continued on in this manner, I would likely die of seizure-induced coma or heart failure.
I continued drinking and the seizures became more frequent. My husband was scared, having witnessed my seizures, and he became sure that I would die from one. Three years after my intial consultation with the neurologist, I decided enough was enough, I finished the last drop of alcohol in the house and went to bed. During the night I woke up in what I now know was delerium tremens. I saw the most incredible things that I thought were real. I saw someone sitting on my armoire trying to tell me something. The person was faceless and motioned for me to come near. I went closer. It motioned for me to put my hands up to it and catch imaginary tears and put them on my face and head.
Afterwards, I went into the washroom and saw something red like blood where I had anointed myself. This terrified me and I tried to wake my husband. I then ran downstairs and saw another vision. This one was of my mother. She looked beautiful sitting on a brilliantly colored throne, shaped like a sea shell. She smiled at me and beckoned to me. In terror, I got down on my knees and cried, "Please God help me, I am afraid and don't want to die."
The next week was and still is a blur. I suffered another seizure that my husband says was different than all the others. He said it took me longer to come out of it and when I did, I seemed different. He took me to the emergency department and the staff there recommended to him that I go to a detox unit. I don't remember a whole lot of my stay in detox. After some medication and decent food, I began to come around. The neurologist had been right, I had suffered a near death seizure. After five days, I returned home to a new way of learning to live without alcohol. My journey had begun. I found Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and began attending as many as possible. I went to at least one a day and often more.
In the 1990s I had tried AA, but I didn't listen or do the work required to stay sober. This time, I surrendered my will and my life over to God, as I understand him. My counselor suggested that a rehabilitation program would be in order so in September 2010 I was accepted at a facility in Milton that offered a 24-day treatment program that was geared only to women. This program was best thing I have ever done. I learned so much about why I drank and how to live life on life's terms. Alcoholic Anonymous has given me the spiritual tools that I needed to recover.
Today, I have a sponsor who gives me the push when I need it, a great home group, and the love and support of my husband. I just celebrated 9 months of sobriety and although I am still unemployed, I am busy helping out where I can with new comers. God did perform a miracle that night in June when he removed from me the craving and desire to drink. Life is much better today. I still have days when I am on an emotional roller coaster ride and bouts of the "poor me's," but slowly but surely, I am getting better. I have gotten caught up in my financial obligations and with the grace of God, I may be able to go to college and take a course in addiction counseling. I feel the need to give back what has been so freely given to me. Thank God for the rooms of AA and publications like the Grapevine.
—Lee B., Guelph, Ontario
- Twelve Traditions
AA's guiding principles
Behind the Scenes
- Personal Stories
AA's tales of recovery
Tragedy in the Night
- Twelve Steps
AA's blueprint for sobriety
The Road from Reno
New to AA? Find sober support
Like a Duckling
Get a dose of Higher Power here
A River Runs Through It
They've experienced it all ... sober
What's My Secret?