I will never forget the day I walked into the Brown Bag Bunch. It was July 15, 2013. My husband had found the wine in the trunk of my car and told me I had two weeks to decide if I wanted to stay with him or leave. My first thought was that he was crazy. What did he mean I had to decide between him and alcohol? I wasn’t ready to give up liquor. I didn’t want to! That’s when I knew I had to call my neighbor who was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
She asked if I could be ready by 11:30, said that we were going to a noon meeting. I had no idea what I was going to walk into. All I knew was that I had to show my husband I was finding help and going to my first AA meeting. That should have meant something, right?
I wasn’t even close. A year prior I had come home drunk after work and walked into the walls, while my kids wondered what was wrong with me. I remembered my husband being upset and asking if I was drunk. Of course I lied and said, “No.” Puking in the toilet while he was confronting me must have been very reassuring.
I had woken up around 2:30 a.m. with my face in the toilet bowl. I got myself up, cleaned my face and crawled into bed. I wondered if my car had hit anything or anyone on the way home. I couldn’t remember. I was scared to look outside the window. Thank goodness all I saw was the terrible job I had done parking.
My kids asked me lots of questions. I even promised my husband that I would not take another drink. When he asked if I had a drinking problem I said, “Yes.” He also asked if I needed help. Of course I didn’t; I was going to do this on my own. I even ordered two books: one about why women drink, and one about how to quit drinking without going to AA (I would never recommend these books to anyone now). I read the first book and learned that women become alcoholics more quickly than men do. But I wasn’t that bad—yet! I also took an online test to see if I had a drinking problem. The results told me I didn’t have a problem. What a relief.
I owned my own business, so I started to use my office as a bar. In the beginning, it started out as a two-glasses-of-wine thing. Before long, it had become a bottle of wine and a couple of shots. I thought that if I kept my secret at work no one would know—especially my husband and kids.
As time went on, I started to find myself needing alcohol more and more. Between clients I would have a quick glass of wine. On the way home I would stop at the store to buy a few mini bottles of wine, which I would hide in my work bag. The guilt and shame of trying to hide my secret was becoming too much for me.
One night when my husband was at work, I messed up. I poured my wine in a plastic cup and my son took a gulp thinking it was water. He was shocked and yelled that it tasted like wine. I reassured him it was coconut water and even showed him an empty container of coconut water. He believed me, but I experienced more guilt and shame.
Toward the end, I found myself doing things I would have never dreamt of, like buying two large beers, chugging them down in the car and then driving my children home from school. After I got home, I’d finish my wine but still wanted more. With the kids back in the car, I’d drive to the liquor store to buy mini boxes of wine. They were the same size and shape as the coconut water containers. Alcohol had become my master. I was a puppet on a string.
A year had gone by since I had come home drunk, but my husband still had a funny feeling that something wasn’t right with me. He looked in the trunk of the car and found two bottles of wine. He told me I was a drunk and an alcoholic. I had become the one thing I never wanted to be.
When I attended my first meeting I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear, shame and guilt, and thought for sure the people in the room could see right through me. I had completely lost myself and was raw with grief and saddened by shame. During that first week of going to meetings, I started to feel like I’d found my home. I was able to relate to and understand what other people were sharing in the room. And the hugs and love I received were so amazing—I was nowhere close to loving myself. I even told my uncle that I went to AA to feel normal. He laughed and was very happy for me.
It took me six months to actually share anything in a meeting. Because my self-esteem had gotten so low, I thought everyone talked, or even laughed, behind my back about what I had just shared. I didn’t trust anyone. Hell, I didn’t even trust myself anymore. I was a scared little girl who was about to finally grow up.
Something amazing I learned was that we have to go through a great amount of pain in order to grow. It’s like the kind of pain children feel when their teeth start coming in. However, I believe our growth begins in our souls. We have lived in darkness for so long that when the light shines in, it hurts. I like to think it’s the light of love and warmth of my Higher Power trying to heal the brokenness I have within me.
Another thing I learned was to keep low my expectations of myself and other people. As it says in the story “Acceptance is the Answer” in the Big Book, “the higher my expectations … the lower is my serenity.” How true. And did I ever learn to trust in that. Some lessons are quite valuable. I notice when my expectations get high that I’m so focused on that one thing, person or place that I lose complete focus on my recovery, serenity and listening to my Higher Power. It’s at times like these when I go to my sponsor and bounce my thinking off her. She suggests that I ask myself a simple question: Is it worth my sobriety and/or my serenity? That gets me grounded again. Ninety percent of the time, my thought wasn’t a good one. Having a sponsor is huge. She can relate to me.
It also helps when my toolbox is with me. That’s something I’ve gained by going to meetings, reading literature, working the Steps and talking with other members. As John C. always says, “How’s that working for you?” And the late Don M. used to always tell me, “Instead of driving the bus, try to be the passenger.”
I realize now that my Higher Power guided me to that neighborhood we live in so I could meet the women who walked me through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve found an amazing, rewarding life through AA. I came close to losing my husband and my two beautiful children. I’m so grateful for everything I have. I never want to forget about the “yets.” Next time I pick up a drink, the consequences may be much different.
—Amanda L., Palm Bay, Fla.