The only thing alcohol has served me well in is numbing my grief. I came from a family teeming with alcoholics and grew up constantly surrounded by people who enjoyed getting hammered on a regular basis. For them, booze was a welcome—albeit temporary—balm for the soul. When I wasn’t engaging in alcohol for the same reasons, it was a source of total embarrassment for me and those I loved.
I still remember the time I got loaded at a family Thanksgiving party and asked some family members over to my house for brunch the next day. I didn't suffer a blackout, but I was very surprised when some of them called for directions to my house the next day. I was so hungover and so totally unprepared for brunch guests that I had to beg off.
Then there was the time I had way too much to drink at a celebration at my place of business, went to my daughter's open house that night, and kissed her math teacher in front of God and everybody. I don't know which one of us was more embarrassed, the teacher, me or my daughter.
I not only experienced the brunt of drinking’s effects on my life, but also saw firsthand how it damaged the lives of other alcoholics. My dear friend and favorite college drinking buddy died at age 28. He got a new DJ job at a radio station in Santa Rosa, California. He lost his life driving drunkenly in the rain on a mountain road to get to his coveted new gig. My brother also died of alcohol poisoning at age 32 and my sister nine years later at age 41. We were very close all our lives, and I was devastated.
After seeing so much tragedy that came from alcohol, I started to drink much less. I finally understood the extreme health risks of heavy drinking and it frightened me. This hiatus lasted a few years until the next emotional upheaval presented itself.
I was a "functioning alcoholic" because I had no choice. I was the only breadwinner for our family of three. No matter how hungover I was, or how much sleep I lost partying the night before, I had to get up and go to work. On the positive side, the mandatory work requirement curbed my drinking somewhat. The negative effect was that I was becoming severely stressed and felt it was unfair that I was the sole breadwinner, cook and maid in the family. I began to resent my husband even though I loved him very much. After 17 years of marriage, I walked out.
I had no idea how much inner turbulence this would cause. I went completely haywire, lost my job and drank more than I ever had. One Father's Day after consuming martinis and wine at my parents' house, I rolled my VW Beetle, broke some ribs and terrified my daughter who was in the car with me. Thankfully, she was physically unhurt. I got hauled off to a holding cell and my ex bailed me out about 5 hours later. This was the worst mistake I have ever made.
In California, a first DUI conviction without injuries to another requires the perpetrator to attend group therapy sessions and a number of AA meetings. Of course, while all this was going on, I was to abstain from alcohol and my driving license was restricted to travel to and from work and to the mandatory sessions.
The group therapy sessions suited me well. It was helpful to learn from my fellow violators as we shared stories and understandings about what brought us together. The AA meetings, on the other hand, didn't go so well. The membership did not welcome newcomers who were there due to an arrest rather than their own volition. I and others were completely ignored at every session we attended. On the other hand, my drinking shrank to almost nothing and the DUI took place 30 years ago.
I make my life sound very bleak, but that is hardly the case. I did not always drink to excess when I drank and I have accomplished a lot in my life and have loved and laughed much. I have nothing against alcohol. I applaud the ancients who discovered fermentation and were able to create a pleasurable potable, but it should have come with the warning that it's not for everyone. Drinking can be very pleasant as long as the drinker is able to keep it under control.
I am now happily married to husband number two. My daughter is happily single and a teetotaler.