an actual problem.

today i have been sober for 1400 days. or 46 months and a day. or 3 years, 10 months + 1 day. perhaps someone you know and love is currently or has battled in the past with the disease of alcoholism. i’m sorry. it sucks. i grew up in it, i was it – it sucks for you and it sucks for the alcoholic in your life. the disease makes us selfish. we drink because we are angry and/or depressed; in short, we drink because we want to escape something. we may only be bingers; some may be living under a bridge. as the big book says, it’s a cunning, baffling and powerful disease that affects the whole family and i’m just sorry if you’re going through it. there is help, there is hope.

i am going to try and veer away from telling you about the disease of alcoholism itself and simply want to offer you experience, strength & hope through my own story, as we say in aa. i also don’t want to talk about my experience as an adult child of an alcoholic because, like any good acoa, i still want to protect my dad, even though -and perhaps especially because- i don’t have him anymore. sadly, his disease compromised the rest of his health and, therefore, i would venture to say the disease of alcoholism was mostly responsible for his death when it comes right down to it. i do not judge him for this, even though it would be easy to if i didn’t have an understanding of the disease. instead, it makes me mad at the disease for robbing him, and me, of his life. i inherited his disease. we are fellow members of the same club.

here is my story:

i woke up on a cot in a hotel room on sunday, november 5, 2006, still wearing my dress from the night before, covered in my own vomit. my friend laura and her husband chris, who truly are saints of god because i could have ended up anywhere or with anyone and would not have known it, brought me up to their room after our friends heba and ed’s wedding the night before. an open bar at her wedding was the best gift anyone could have ever given me.

when i woke up, still drunk and hungover, laura helped me into the shower. she hadn’t slept very much because she wanted to make sure i was still breathing, that i hadn’t choked on my vomit. she told me later she just thought it was ‘one of those nights’ for me that everyone has once in a while. she didn’t realize i had an actual problem. she didn’t know that, while this was among the worst of ‘one of those nights’ for me, i was prone to drinking too much and often and that i was actually strategic about how many times a month i would go out with which friends so that no one really knew i had an actual problem. she certainly hadn’t set out to do an intervention, but that’s exactly what was about to happen.

laura stood outside the shower and lovingly told me story after story about what an ass i had made of myself the night before. i have no memory after a certain point because i blacked out. {‘black-outs’ aren’t the same as ‘passing out’. you are still ‘awake’, so to speak, in a black-out but it is likely you have no control over yourself and will have no memory of your actions later. there are otherwise good people in jail, for example, for killing people during a black-out.} by the way, that ‘certain point’? the last thing i remember was talking to my friend kelly’s husband seth while we were eating -i think- either peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chicken biscuits and the reason i can’t recall is because i passed out in the middle of our conversation. i don’t remember very much before that and definitely not one thing after that. the next sort of ‘memory’ i have of the evening was watching myself (i know, weird) throw up everywhere in the hotel lobby in front of the bride, the groom and all of their guests. and then that’s all i can tell you about that.

as laura was filling in the blanks, i could only cry. in fact, i sat down in the shower and sobbed. i had huge dark bruises up and down one side of my body and a big scratch across the opposite side of my face and have no idea how i achieved either, except that laura said they had to carry me out and because i kept falling over. i. was. miserable. – literally, i felt miserable. but i was miserable inside, too. just…unhappy. and i knew i really did have an actual problem. i repented to jesus like i had done the morning after every other drunken night, and then i heard so sweetly in my spirit…

mary kathryn, it’s okay! i LOVE you! let’s just get a hold of this before it gets worse.

if i had never known the tenderness of my sweet jesus before that moment, i knew it then. he was not condemning or even upset with me. at all. he did not judge me or give me the silent treatment. he simply loved me. i didn’t feel his disappointment in me; instead, i knew his delight over me. and that night i responded.

{an aside: this is sort of funny. not really, but sort of. so, the wedding had been out-of-town, about an hour away from where we all lived. i drove home that morning and i really don’t think i realized then that i was still a little bit drunk. (please, please don’t judge me for this. i know there is no excuse for this. i did this often; i was very selfish.) i called every alcoholic i could think of, save for members of my immediately family. i called brennan manning’s office and at home and left messages for him at both, bawling my eyes out the entire time. (i got an email the next day from his assistant who said she could not understand a word of what i said, she just knew something was really wrong.) i called friends who knew and loved me and left messages everywhere i could, weeping and wanting to talk about my ‘problem’. god bless those sweet people.}

i walked into my first aa meeting that night. i will always remember big ed*, a santa claus of a man, being out in front of the clubhouse as if he was waiting there just for me. (really, he was just out there smoking with everyone else.)

it was a speaker meeting and, even though i was a little familiar with the program due to my experience with my dad, i really thought the speaker and the leader of the meeting were professionals. (‘professional drunks‘, i can hear them say.) i would, of course, come to find out that they were drunks just like me and might have been there a few months or a few years before me, but together we all only had that day by the grace of god.

i cried through the entire meeting. and then proceeded to cry at every meeting after that for the next month, maybe longer. i was definitely, definitely a newcomer. and i was definitely, definitely in the right place. i felt relieved and overwhelmed, but i knew i was safe and that i never had to drink again.

after i took my first (and only) white chip at the end of that meeting, a sweet friend, who i would learn later had only gotten sober a few days earlier, told me it had been suggested to him to do a ’90 in 90′. i had no idea what that meant but i agreed (it means 90 meetings in 90 days). the women swarmed over me that night, each one saying ‘get a sponsor…here’s my phone number…here’s a list of meetings…’ i felt like i was in a psychedelic, slow-motion swirl of love, from these people who did not know me but they definitely knew me.

i went to bed that night both exhausted and relieved and had the best night’s sleep i had had in a really long time. and for the first time in a long time, i had hope.

tomorrow, i’ll tell you what it was like before i got sober and then later this week, what my life is like now.

in the meantime, if you think you might have a problem with alcohol or another addiction, there is help available. you are not alone.

*names have been changed to protect anonymity.

30 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sharon O
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 01:45:34

    thank you for sharing this. Awesome story of ‘a wakening up’ of your spirit. I understand your words.

  2. Flamingo Dancer
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 04:48:55

    Thank you for such honesty

  3. Steph (a.k.a. QSB)
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 09:34:55

    You are one the bravest people I know. I admire you for that.

    I salute your success in remaining sober! Huzzah!

    Steph *smooch, hug*

  4. Leigh
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 22:34:35

    Thank you again for your honesty. I haven’t been down this road but I know people who have. I’m so glad that your wake up call brought you closer to God and on the road to recovery.

  5. Lynde Ross
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 13:45:32

    Awww. This makes my heart sad, then it makes my heart sing. You, my friend, are courageous.

  6. bishopswife
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 18:32:33

    You have to write a book. Really, truly your stories are amazing!

  7. Julie
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 08:59:19

    MK, Your words really hit a spot in my heart. While I have never said ” I am a alcoholic”, I think there have been times in my life that I could have become one. Of course, at the time, I thought I was just having “fun”. Really, like you, escaping something I didnt want to deal with. Luckily, something pulled me back…I think it was God. He always put obstacles in my path that made me know I had to be sober to make it thru…I think He was just protecting me. And making me draw closer to Him.

    I too, am a acoa-my dad was a functioning alcoholic, he never admitted it.
    And like your dad, lost his life too soon. I miss him every day.

    I am so glad our paths crossed! One never knows what really goes on in someone else’s life…I say a prayer of thanksgiving for your 1400 days….bless you and I wish you many more!

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Sep 09, 2010 @ 09:29:10

      i’m so sorry you lost your dad too soon. i don’t know how long you’ve been following, but i have some posts on that if it would help in your healing. (go to my actual beauty for ashes page and they are listed there.) i’m definitely still in the healing process and it hits me at the most random times. october 27 will be a year. it devastates my heart over and over again.

      tomorrow (yes, really, since i promised it on monday and haven’t delivered…) i’ll tell the story of how i got started drinking, which is mostly innocent, but i’ll follow it with another post about my real drinking days. it’s a slippery slope, especially since we have it in our family. it’s definitely genetic, though not always.

      anyway, i’m really happy that our paths have crossed as well, my friend. if i can encourage you in any way, i’m glad to do it. i’m sure i have a lot to learn from you as well.


      p.s. did we grow up together? i obviously don’t want to expose you, but i just want to make sure i’m not ‘talking’ to someone i know in real life. :)

  8. Kelly
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 08:40:53

    I cried like a baby…my cousins grew up with both parents being alcoholics and for the most part, all 5 kids either lived at our house or tried to raise themselves. What memories you stirred up, and how real and “sobering” that literally was… thank you… Kelly

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  12. melodramamma
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 05:46:10

    What a great post. So brave of you to share. Will touch many, I know. love you!

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