The Courage to Speak

Courage means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. To me, courage means doing what you know is right despite the fear or repercussions. Most of the time that applies to me sharing my truth about recovery – what my life used to look like and what it looks like today – despite worrying about what people are going to think or do with that information.

For the most part, I’m pretty open about my recovery, but there are times when I’d rather side-step the truth and just omit that part of my life. You know, take an eraser and make it nice and clean.

Recently, my husband and I were asked to speak to our church on tithing – time, talent and treasure. Basically, they wanted us to each share how the church has impacted us individually, as a family and in what ways we give back. When Tyler first mentioned it to me, I think I said something like “Ugh, why us?” I mean, we’re involved, but we’re not THAT involved. Surely, there is someone more qualified than me. Heck, I just became Catholic less than two years ago and there’s people who have been in the church their entire lives!

So, we ho hummed about it and finally decided that it was something we needed (not necessarily wanted) to do. I guess you could say, us not wanting to do it was a sign that we probably should do it. Definitely a “God-thing.”

Tyler wrote his part and I wrote mine. As I read over mine, looking for corrections, I kept feeling this nagging inside of me. I had been pretty honest, but not really. I had referred to a “difficult” time in my life three and a half years ago that had greatly impacted my relationship with the Church and God, but that’s as far as I went. Something kept telling me if I was going to stand up there in front of hundreds of my fellow parishioners and give my testimony, that I might as well let it all hang out – the good, the bad and the ugly. But, holy cow! What would they think? What would they say? Very few people at church knew my story. To most of them, I was just that mom who sat on the right-hand side of the church a few rows back from the front.

One evening, I told Tyler “I need to share my whole truth. I need to share about the alcoholism.” At first, he had the same fears I initially had. Did I really need to share ALL of it? Yes, I did. I knew without a doubt that I had to share MY truth. And, with that I re-wrote my portion of our talk, which goes as follows:

As Tyler mentioned, I come from a very different background. I wasn’t raised in any particular church, in fact, I was never baptized. It wasn’t until I met Tyler that I attended my first Catholic Mass. In all honestly, I was expecting an old, stodgy Priest with a totally irrelevant message. You can imagine my surprise when Fr. George, who many of you will remember from Queen of Peace, stood up and started talking. He was young (well, younger), dynamic and engaging. Not only was I surprised by his relevancy; I was surprised by how comfortable I felt in those pews. But, most of all, I was surprised by the peace I felt. It was the first time I had felt completely at home in a church setting.

Years went by and I continued to attend weekly Mass with Tyler, eventually baptizing both of our children in the Church. However, it wasn’t until three and a half years ago when I experienced the lowest point in my life, the reality that I was an alcoholic and my marriage was in shambles, that I was faced with a choice: open my heart to God and answer His knock, or continue down the same path that had led me to that point in my life.

Fortunately, I chose God’s path, and at my lowest moments, when I could barely drag myself out of bed or get through a single day, it was the strength of God and the peace of this Church that held me up – the same peace I experienced during that first Mass I attended years ago.

How can I repay a God and a Church that has provided me with so much? The reality is, I can’t, but I can live my life trying to the best of my ability. Two years ago I had the privilege of going through Brad’s first RCIA class, where I was baptized and confirmed into the Church. Over the years, I have given my time and talents in many ways, including participating in Catholic Bible studies and book groups, pro-life organizations and just this past year taught Vacation Bible School here at St. Ed’s.

As Tyler mentioned, there is no wrong on right way when it comes to tithing. While money and time are always appreciated, often the most important thing we can do as members of the Church is to be active participants in daily or weekly Mass; praying, singing, praising God and staying after Communion to hear uplifting talks like this!

Thank you for your time and God bless.

I didn’t share my truth about being an alcoholic for shock value or for attention. Like I mentioned before, I never wanted to be up there in the first place – with sweaty hands and a quivering voice – all while hundreds of eyes stared up at me. Yikes! No thanks.

No, I stood up there, feeling totally vulnerable, because I made a promise to God a long time ago when I first got sober. I promised that if I ever had the opportunity to share my story and maybe, just maybe, help someone else in the process, I would do it. I knew the nagging feeling I had felt was God saying, “Do it. Share it all.”

And, that my friends, took every ounce of courage I had.

I know God doesn’t want me to feel ashamed of my past and who I am, because the truth is, my story is His story. It is He who made me; and He who saved me. And, it is Him who continues to guide and direct me – but, only if I will listen.

Back To Basics

Finally, the media is actually presenting some real truth about moms and alcohol! If you haven’t seen Maria Shriver’s segment featured on the Today Show this morning, click here. And, coming from one of the morning shows that basically promotes daily drinking, it meant even more (I’m talking about you Kathie Lee and Hoda!).

Many of us in recovery are familiar with the author Stefanie Wilder-Taylor who was interviewed for the segment. Oh, how I can relate to her story! She pretty much sums it up when she says,“All of a sudden I was like, I don’t have an off switch.” But, as a mom who looked the part, she didn’t feel like she could be an alcoholic.

I talk a lot about my life living sober and what that’s like, but I think once in a while it’s important to go back to the beginning when I finally realized I was an alcoholic and the fear that consumed me then. I’ve been contacted by a number of women in my community who have read my blog and know my story and I’m constantly reminded of the intense fear in admitting you have a problem. Most of these women are like me. They’re moms and wives who on the outside look like they have it all together, but inside they are suffering and questioning their dependence on alcohol.

I cannot begin to express the fear I felt in admitting I was an alcoholic. I was fearful of what others would think, how they would react to the news and how they would respond to me personally. I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol, mainly wine because that was my “thing.” It had become such an ingrained part of my everyday life, that really (as horrible as it sounds now), I couldn’t imagine life without it. Date nights, happy hours, weddings, parties, girls’ night outs, work events, conferences, and yes, even play dates – you name it. The thought of not having a drink at any of these was incomprehensible. I even briefly thought about becoming Mormon because they didn’t drink anyway, right? Yes, these are the thoughts that went through my head.

Most of the women who have contacted me haven’t followed through with getting help. And, believe me, I get it. It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. It takes major desperation, defeat and humility to walk through the doors of treatment or your first recovery meeting. You’re afraid of giving up what has become your comfort, your best friend; you’re afraid of what people will think and say; you’re afraid of who you will see and who will see you. We all have our bottoms; our lowest point when we realize we can no longer go on with the way we’ve been living. As much as I want to tell them how amazing and gratifying sobriety is, they have to truly want it. It’s one of the hardest parts of being sober – seeing yourself in others and knowing what is possible for them as well.

I know there are people who aren’t crazy about me sharing my story. And, I know there are people out there who think, “Just shut up already about your drinking and sobriety.” Or, those who think it’s a personal matter that I should keep to myself. And, to all of those people I say, “Hell, no.” Hell no I won’t shut up. Hell no I won’t shut up because if I can share my story and save one life – just one life – I will have accomplished everything I ever set out to do in sharing my story.

I know we have all seen the “Are You An Alcoholic?” quizzes, but I think it’s important to go back to some of those basic questions. Our society still has this image in their minds of what an alcoholic looks like, but the reality is we are all over the place. Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Do you drink alone?
  • Do you look forward to drinking?
  • Do you drink to relieve boredom or loneliness?
  • Do you drive after drinking?
  • Do you drink to maintain a “buzz”?
  • Do you have memory loss after drinking?
  • Do you drink before leaving the house for an event?
  • Are you uncertain about going to events where there will not be alcohol?
  • Do you drink to feel more relaxed or less anxious?
  • Do you create situations (outings, parties, etc.) so you can drink?
  • Do you become defensive when someone questions you about your drinking?
  • Are you concerned about your drinking?
  • Do you drink while angry, upset, depressed or under stress?
  • Have you switched types of alcohol to prevent becoming too intoxicated?
  • Do you limit the amount of food you eat so you can get a better “buzz?”
  • Have you tried not to drink, but find yourself drinking anyway?

Just because you answer yes to some of these questions doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. However, if you see yourself relating to many of them, there’s a good chance you have a problem. Believe me, I’ve been there. I knew way before I ever admitted it that I had a problem.

I know it’s scary to think about opening yourself up to the possibility that you might have a drinking problem. But, there are SO many people out there who have been where you are and are willing and able to help you take the next step. If nothing else, check out some of the other recovery blogs on my site. Or, read some of the books listed. It’s easy to feel like you’re alone and the only person in your situation, but know that you are not alone. And, of course, I’m always available to answer questions or just talk with. Please feel free to e-mail me at chenoaawoods@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Reflections on a Wine Obsessed Culture

Wine

This morning I read an article in the Boston Globe that really resonated with me. In her article, “Women, drinking, and wine-as-reward culture,” Kara Baskin discusses the paradox of wine being celebrated and pushed with wine labels like “MommyJuice” and “Mommy’s Time Out” while “The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention reports that 2.7 million American women abuse alcohol.” She goes on to explain that defining alcoholism among women is often challenging because “not everyone who grapples with alcohol use is a stereotypical in-the-gutter alcoholic. Many are outwardly functional and successful.” If we’re still getting up in the morning, making breakfast, taking the kids to school, going to work, we must be okay.

At least that’s what I thought. How could I possibly be an alcoholic? Most of the women I know drink. It’s our way of letting go after a stressful day or like Baskin says, “It’s a legal mode of escapism, and the camaraderie over talking about drinking is as intoxicating as the buzz itself — especially among mothers.”

But, how much are we really drinking? I was a wino – I loved my wine! Okay, I also liked vodka and gin, but my drink of choice was always wine. And, it was acceptable. Who doesn’t have a glass of wine at dinner? Who doesn’t have a glass of wine while visiting with girlfriends? It was just what people in my world did – and still do. But, I was completely ignorant of how much I was really drinking. According to Baskin’s article, “a ‘standard drink’ is 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol, 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.” When did I ever pour 5 oz. of wine? The answer would be NEVER. Do you? If you still drink, I challenge you to pour your regular glass of wine and measure it. I’m guessing it’s more like 8-10 oz. And, the same goes with liquor. My shots were more like 3-4 oz. in a typical cocktail, but then again, I’m just guessing because I never actually measured it.

The point is, I was lying to myself in order to justify how much I was drinking. If I filled my large wine glass to the top, well, it was still just one glass of wine, right? Towards the end of my drinking, I would have a “couple” cocktails before my husband got home and then a “couple” or a “few” glasses of wine in the evening. Realistically, I was having four cocktails and 4-5 glasses of wine – each day. Seeing that number written, astonishes me. Can you imagine what that was doing to my body? Ugh.

We tell ourselves what we want to hear. In no way, did I want to hear or even acknowledge I had a drinking problem. What kind of person would I be if I was an alcoholic? I sure wouldn’t be the high-functioning-have-it-altogether-type I was known for. The stigma was too much.

People have asked me, and I’m sure others often wonder why I choose to speak out or write about my alcoholism. And, I’m sure there are those who wish I would just shut up already about it. It’s simple. I share my story to help remind myself of where I came from and what I used to be like and to help other women like me who are still there.