High/Low of an Alcoholic – A Reader Shares Her Story

Sober doesn’t Suck! is a safe place for people to share their stories of being an alcoholic, 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.Sober

I recently received the following article from one of my readers, Dana.  I’m honored to share her words, hoping someone will find comfort and hope in them.

If you’d like to tell your story, your feelings about your own addiction or that of someone else in your life please head over to the Sober doesn’t Suck! page. Addiction affects the people around us, I’m interested in sharing all sides.

Please show your support to Dana who has submitted the story below.


“Ok people!” I rapped my hand on the desk for attention.  “Let’s play High/Low.”  It was 7th period on a Friday and my students were ready for freedom and their weekend. High/Low was their favorite way to end the day.  Hands shot for the ceiling, fluttering like weeds in the wind, and we shared our little tragedies and our small wins.  One girl mused, “My low?  Biology test. And an entire chapter I forgot to study.”  Groans followed.  One student, after much prodding, announced with quiet pride, “I got my driver’s license.”  We applauded, and I poked fun about the safety of our roads.  The hour finished quickly, and as the bell rang and the students flooded out, I smiled.  “Someday…” I mused, “I will play this with MY children.”  What I didn’t realize was that High/Low was already my life.  My upcoming weekend with its trip to the liquor store down my street would witness this.   The game was finally over for me on August 3, 2012 when I finally got sober.  I had been playing for 23 years.  The game gets old after a while.
I had been raised by a recovered alcoholic, in a Christian home, and I knew that picking up a drink would be playing with matches… next to a large pile of brush… on a windy day in Kansas… after a drought.  You get the idea.  But yet, I pretty much doused all those warnings with what I called My Amazing Intellect.  I would never, ever find myself addicted to the stuff.  I was too smart for that!  And for years my drinking was social and fun and fairly innocuous; my Intellect stayed intact, and I soldiered on.

My drinking was an accessory

alcoholic woman
Image courtesy of Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was a single girl with a glass of wine in my hand, and I was HAVING FUN.  This was NOT a “big, serious” thing as my father had warned.  I was warm and alive with the stuff. I was not standing on tables, swaying and slurring.  I wasn’t fighting or getting arrested or finding myself wondering what had occurred the night before.  I was sophisticated, for cripes sakes.  My drinking was an accessory, like the bright red lipstick I wore on such nights.  “Look at me,” purred the lipstick.  And the wine?  It encouraged red lipstick.  “Oh wear it!”  said my wine and my games.  “You own this.  You are lovely.   And, you are loved.”

Some nights, after the makeup had been wiped off, and I stared at the disheveled girl in the mirror, I allowed myself to wonder, just for a minute, “Who am I fooling, really?”  My heart would ache with loneliness, and I would lean in, staring into brown eyes.  I had absolutely no idea who I was.  The eyes were empty.  I would brush my teeth, try not to gag into the sink, and go to bed.

I wanted, simply, to FEEL GOOD, all the time.

If I couldn’t feel good, crazy good, high with savior faire and the stuff of vanilla vodka commercials, then I wanted, it seemed, to feel low.  As low as possible.  To go for depths unplumbed and all that.  Because those lows could purge me of my sad little questions at 3 am, and I could say “I am just a melancholy soul.  A thinker.  I feel the pain of the world…”

I actually cared very little for the world and all its turmoil.  I was the world, a polluted little universe unable to commune or relate to anyone. I remember one night, after an especially harrowing first date that didn’t end well (he was simply not the perfection that I had anticipated)  I came home, poured myself yet another glass of wine, and started scrubbing my kitchen floor.  It was 4 a.m. before I fell into bed.  My world was not controllable but my floors were pristine.  I was slowly building, brick by brick, a tomb around myself, and each year the tomb’s walls would circle higher. Occasionally, some event or person would come along and haul me out of my prison for a bit, and I would be flying, happy, alive.  High.  I dipped into the memories of these escapes with conviction and fervor; I needed them more and more often, and their illusiveness only added to the barricade around me.  Alcohol kept playing a very large part in all of this.  Of course.
Fast forward twenty some years.

I am now married with two toddlers.  And now my bricks, however carefully stacked and placed, are ready to topple in on me. My attempt at highs are always tethered to others.  My husband, my children, even my students are all given the colossal task of helping me feel at peace.  Even my home had the responsibility of providing me with a constant hum of Martha Stewart perfection.  My children and husband had no idea the pressure I was putting on them to make me feel better.  It was simply time to start drinking a whole lot more to make myself feel better. If my happy little home and family could not keep me glued together, then the wine would.  And perhaps it did, for a while.

Until it didn’t.

Wine Couldn’t Keep This Alcoholic Glued Together Anymore

One night my husband found me at 3 a.m. scrabbling desperately at the bedroom windows.  He woke me from my sleepwalking, but I continued my desperate sobbing.  “We have to board the windows.  We have to!  We have to keep the babies safe! I must keep them alive.”  My anxiety and half drunk state had me seeing zombies slouching down our quiet, moonlit streets.  Fear tore at me and I tore at the curtains in complete panic.  We were doomed.  When I finally stumbled back to bed, heart racing, I lay there for hours, hot tears falling down my cheeks.  I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t stop seeing death.

It sounds dramatic, but what I realize now was that I was the one who was the walking dead.  I had found a new Low that night but would continue on my slouching path for over two more years.  Daily bottles of wine and now hard liquor oiled the hinges on my trap.  “Drink more,” the game lied.  “And then you will sleep.”

I’m done with this game.  August 3 was my last day to play.  The game had become skewed; the rules had changed.  My life leaned precariously towards raw and horrible Lows that were suffocating me.  The game told me, “You will never know happiness.”  I would take a drink to ice that thought, but then, “You are trapped like this, forever.”  I would sigh while helping my toddler stack blocks, wearily mumbling encouragement while checking the clock obsessively for 4 p.m., or 3 p.m., when I could uncork something to cork the feelings.  “You are a failure and a terrible, terrible mother.”  Well, there’s not enough wine to answer that voice, but I would reach for the glass, all the same.

And then, the game whispers, “You are going to die soon.  It would be for the best.”  I have no answer.

It is a hot Friday afternoon.  I look blearily at my glass in front of me, and then over at my two small ones playing trains.  They are chortling with glee, and I can’t even walk across the room to them without stumbling.  I am done. I call my husband.  I lean against the door leading to our back yard and wait for him, sobbing.  I lean into my weariness and pain.  I lean into the cold fact that I am going to have to say goodbye to my dearest friend.

And then I lean into God and cry, “I can’t do this anymore.”  And my God and Savior said, “I know.  But I can.”

The game is over.  It had once seemed so much fun to play, so full of excitement and drama.  And now, my days can seem a bit faded or frayed at the edges.   I wrangle toddlers to playgroups and church.  I teach my students, go to bed early, and sip seltzer with lime every night at 5 o’clock sharp.  I wipe and clean and fold and cook and mend.  I mend my heart.  And sometimes I sigh and long heavily for that glass of lift.  But then I remember that it rudely changed the rules of life for me, and how I allowed that to happen, and how I would never, never wish to go back to those nights of terror, standing at windows, staring out into black night, wishing I was dead. Or alive.

Not stuck somewhere in between.

I can’t do alcohol anymore.  But I can do life.  But life is messy.

When I feel I just cannot see the way without a glass in my hand to light my way, I turn to the Light and tell him, “I can’t.  I just can’t. “ And He says, always and again and again and again,      “Yes my sweet girl.  You can’t.  But I can.”

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10 Responses

  1. Your story has me in tears. Especially when you heard His voice telling you that He can carry you through this. I am the daughter of an alcoholic and I pray every day that Jesus finds my dad. Sadly my dad is estranged from my family, has taken residence with a girl he met in rehab (stint #2), and it seems impossible that he will ever have that “light bulb” moment like you did. BUT nothing is impossible with God through prayer, as you have shown by sharing your story – so thank you.

    1. Message to any alcoholic, or close to an alcoholic. Never give up. Book of Lamentations 3 v22 “His compassions fail not, they are new every morning”. For any of us it’s only one day at a time, and the only way through is a heartfelt dependence on the Lord.
      I’ve just started my own site. It’s not anything like as good as yours as it’s very small and needs content, but be free to take a look or contribute!

  2. I appreciate you posting your story as it may serve as great inspiration for others. I must admit that I am an occasional drinker too and there were times when I almost took myself into danger for being so drunk. However, there is one thing that I keep in mind and I believe that this thing is what keeps me in the right track as far as alcohol is concerned. That is the image of a broken bottle. Once it was broken, it can still be fixed back but certainly it will no longer be the same as what it was because many of its tiny pieces has scattered and lost in the ground. Sorry for being to symbolic.

  3. Dana your candor is truly a gift to others. In our criminal law office we see so many people who tell of how it all started and how they can’t imagine that it has come to this – the DUI charges, the drug arrests, the family seeking legal intervention to stop the insanity. No one has to experience that kind of bottom – thank you for the courage to share your story that others might be helped.

  4. What a beautiful and inspirational story to others who are suffering from alcohol. Thank you so much for sharing your heartwarming story.

  5. Oh how I feel for you! I, too, was a “cleaner” (I thought I was the only one! Surprise!). And now I have been sober almost two years. Not much to pat myself on the back for (my husband quit smoking 12 years ago after 30 years of 2 packs a day – THAT is something), but progress. Good for you for resisting the temptation.

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