Today I’m bringing you Patricia’s story of alcoholism. She is sharing bravely and submitted her story anonymously in hopes of support. I’m proud to share her words.
Sober doesn’t Suck! is a safe place for people to share their stories of drinking, addiction and recovery openly and honestly. There is no requirement of sobriety for posting if you’re concerned about your using I want to hear from you too.
Falling into Alcoholism
By Patricia English Schneider
My paternal grandparents were both alcoholic. My father was an alcoholic. My aunt was an alcoholic. My two brothers are both alcoholic. Alcoholism ran in my family. They all went sober and stayed that way. I suppose I was doomed from the start. I grew up with AA and hated all of the pithy quotes and the idea of going to Alateen was out of the question. I told myself and others, “I will never be an alcoholic.” Funny how things turn out. As a teenager and young adult, I worried constantly about anything and everything. When I discovered alcohol it was like the worry just disappeared. I felt smooth and at peace. Then it turned on me. I became sullen and melancholy. My story is full of sobriety and relapses but the one event that stands out to me is the first one when I realized that I was alcoholic.
After leaving graduate school without my degree I spent some time in Chicago working for a large insurance and financial planning firm. I was able to adapt to this new environment without having the right clothes or background in financial matters. I became the agency coordinator planning events and working directly with the General Agent, John. John was a big Irish guy with beautiful blue eyes and a massive stutter. I loved him immediately. He drank straight vodka with a beer for a chaser. I found my people in terms of drinking. Drinking was simply part of the culture. The motto was “work hard and play hard”. If you couldn’t cut it you didn’t last very long. I was a light -weight compared to many in the company. I was in heaven. I worked very hard and took advantage of every Happy Hour and party event that came around. The firm was reputable and the high rollers were people who were extremely groomed. I didn’t fit in this way, but people liked me and I did a good job. Usually, the drinks were free and the people fun and good looking. I was in the city and living what I knew to be a temporary stop on the dream train.
One event that I attended was a dinner in Greek Town. I arrived early and got a seat right next to John. I felt special and high even before the drinks arrived. I began drinking wine before dinner. Happy Hour was on. By the time the food arrived I was stoned out of my mind but still able to talk and act like I knew what was going on around me. After dinner, people hung around getting more drinks and the ouzo was brought out. I took a shot and remember knowing in my gut that this night wasn’t going to end well. I was still lucid enough to notice the people around me, but my body was not cooperating with me. Upon standing I felt as if I would fall flat on my face. After the ouzo, John left to go home to his wife and I was left with an administrative assistant and friend, Tina. Tina was from the south side of Chicago and very tough. This night she became my caretaker. I was able to make into a cab with Tina to get to the train to go home. When the cab arrived at the train station, I could barely get out of the car. Tina wanted me to go home with her but I insisted that I was okay to make the journey. As I was walking to the train, I couldn’t stand up straight. My legs were working and I was able to walk but the top half of my body was bent side-ways, my torso and head completely horizontal to the ground. People were looking at me in amazement that I was even walking. I kept screaming at myself to straighten up. I didn’t make it to a seat on the train like I had hoped. Instead, I fell sideways onto the train tracks. Two guys picked me up and carried me to the station lounge and called 911. As we waited for the ambulance the guys were saying, “She looks familiar. I think she looks like someone on TV.” They were talking as if I was not there. I suppose I really wasn’t. I could hear them but I was floating in and out of reality.
They took me to Cook County Hospital. Cook County is known for their dealings with homeless drug addicts and alcoholics. It was a scary place full of people with vacant eyes gazing into space. The intake woman was curt and unsympathetic. I thought to myself, “Uh oh, I am an alcoholic.” I called AA but hung up before anyone answered. It was 10 years later that I had another fall resulting in a concussion and lots of stiches in my forehead. This time, I had to find a way to sobriety. As is sat there in the hospital full of fear, the bottom slowly rose to greet me. This fear was the bridge that I needed to cross to get to happiness. I went back to AA.
Now, I am inching my way along as a sober person trying to enjoy the scenery and the love that lights my way. I have wonderful friends in AA and an excellent sponsor. They are cool women who are excellent role models of a how to enjoy life sober. I guess what I told myself as a child about alcoholism and AA came back to grab me by the hand. AA has been the tool to help me build up the desire to be sober. In the community of sober people, I find the ground note of hope. In AA, I find people of all types who are genuine and resourceful. I find a way of living in the moment instead of being constantly consumed by worry and regret. Without alcohol, I haven’t fallen again and my life just simply has fallen into place.
Patricia English-Schneider is a professor of Communication. She has presented her work on learning to play in recovery at a National Communication Conference. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and dog, Miley. She will celebrate 4 years of sobriety in April.