I was 16 years old and I knew that I was an alcoholic

“I was 16 years old and I knew that I was an alcoholic. I saw my father drink and I knew I drank like him.  Somehow, I always knew he was an alcoholic. I was a watcher of life.  I observed the good and bad in people and their choices.  My father was highly functional.  He was smart.  He would go to work every day.  In fact, he worked up until the last 6 months of his life.  He would come home and drink heavily. In the morning he would wake up and repeat his day. He never drank during the day.   My mom and I rarely talked about his drinking.   I thought my mom knew that he was an alcoholic but one day she asked me if I thought he was and I said, no. She said she didn’t think so either.  Our denial was as great as the Oklahoma river that divided our town. But I knew the truth and I always did. The truth was that my father drank heavily every day, my mother denied that his drinking was a problem, and they fought every day.   My parents were always fighting.  I hated their fights.

One time when I was 8 years old, my father gave me a sip of beer just for me to try it. I may have asked him for a sip. I don’t remember.   We came from good German stock and Germans liked their beer.  I do remember that I loved the taste of that beer. I found it to be delicious.  I couldn’t wait till I could drink.

I lived on the wrong side of the tracks growing up in Oklahoma. I lived where the poor people and blacks lived.  We literally lived across the river and it was known as the bad side of town.  The river was a great divide between the haves and the have nots.   My mom wanted me to go to a good school, so she drove me across town to a good high school.  I had wonderful teachers.   It was a good high school and I did well. I was smart.   I had no problem making good grades.  In those days, schools had sororities.  I think I still hold the record for getting blacked balled the most times from every sorority.  I guess that was because I lived on the wrong side of the tracks, the wrong side of the river.  Years later when I went back to my school for reunions the sorority girls would ask me where I was.  Every single one of them forgot that they black balled me from the sororities.

I found my place with boys and beer.  We drank on the weekends and it was fun. I comforted myself in saying that I could connect to boys better. But it stung.

Somewhere in high school my father began to do well.  So, we moved to the other side of the tracks. I still didn’t have the friends that I thought I wanted but now I had money and the satisfactions that derive from financial security. It still didn’t stop my drinking. My mother was able to take me to Europe when I was 16. Despite the privilege of seeing Europe my mother was depressed.  She verbalized it to me and I recognized a sense of depression in me as well. We weren’t able to really talk about it though.

I graduated with excellent grades from high school and was accepted into a good College.  I learned that I could drink others under the table and keep good grades.  While I was in College and watched my family and I learned who would be good to marry and who to stay away from.  I learned from my paternal aunts not to marry an alcoholic as they all did. I knew I didn’t want my life to be like theirs.

I graduated from college and then started my Master’s degree in teaching.  I always had my eye on the boy in high school who was “Most Likely to Succeed.” He had his eye on me.  We knew each other from the 8th grade.  Imagine that!

We married, and I started to have children. We were in our 20’s. My husband was an attorney.  We dreamed big.  We were part of the civil rights movement.  I had been sensitive to rights of blacks from being exposed to how blacks were treated.  I was outraged by the inequality of blacks.  I was out to make a difference and I believe we did.  I had 2 beautiful children while still advocating for black rights. I was a part of my husband’s business. We drank on weekends and I looked forward to the parties.  We didn’t drink at home.

My father died when I was 30 years old. I moved close to my mother to take care of her. She lived about 3 years and then died.  2 months after she died, my husband announces that he is running for Congress. My drinking became more regular at this point and I was drinking daily. It was a stressful time. My husband quit his law firm and we moved to Washington D.C. I was happy to get out of Oklahoma.

At this point I had 2 kids. My second child had numerous health problems. He had a femur operation when he was 6 years old. He couldn’t walk for 3 months. Actually for 2 years, I didn’t do anything but be a mom.  My husband and I didn’t talk about anything.  I thought his family was the best family ever! They never argued. My family always argued.  I wanted a family that didn’t argue.  I learned that not talking period is just as bad if not worse than arguing. But in those days, we didn’t know those things.

In those days you entertained your customers at lunch time over drinks.  There was always drinks at the back of the business. There were  drinks at lunches too to be sociable. My life was crammed full of things to do, so I didn’t have to think.

In the meantime, my husband became a lobbyist. He also became extremely depressed and slept during the day a lot. It was clear that he was depressed and we were not going to talk about anything. My Husband’s mother died and we took care of his father. Eventually he needed a nursing home. I had my 3rdchild.

I drank and my tongue should have been declared a legal weapon. There were lots of blackouts. But my bottom was in 1979. I drank a bottle of vodka and took Vicodin.  Everyday I would work and go home and drink beer or wine. I was drinking so much and knew it was going to kill me.  I was ready for help. One day at work, one of my husband’s clients called and said he was doing some things for AA.  I took the opportunity to ask him how I could be in touch with AA. He referred me to the AA intergroup.

I mentioned it to a friend and we went to an AA meeting. I started asking a lot of questions on how to stay sober. I learned to live by going to AA meetings. I truly stayed sober one day at a time. Next year in November 2019 will be 40 years.

You would have thought that getting sober would have improved my marriage.  In my recovery, I had to get honest about my marriage.  I had to face up that we got married for the wrong reasons. I was sober 5 years before we divorced.

Using the tools of the AA program have helped me stay sober all these years.  The tools are the Big Book, daily reflections, going to meetings, working with a sponsor, and eventually being a sponsor. 39 years of sobriety and I still go to meetings.  In fact, I go to AA meetings 3 times per week.

My creativity emerged when I became sober.  I write poetry.

The most painful thing I have been through during sobriety was the death of my daughter.  She had brain cancer.  The same type that Joe Biden’s son had. I used the 12 Steps daily to help me get through her illness and death.

What I’ve learned is that I don’t run the world and don’t have to. I used to think that I had to run everything. I’ve turned that control over to God. I am currently 80 years old.  I still drive, write poetry, I’ve written several books, and I sing in my church choir. I am truly grateful to be sober.

I went to AA to stop drinking and found much more than that. I found a spiritual path to maturity and serenity.  The fellowship gave me a nonjudgmental group of friends.  Wherever I go, AA is there.



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