Wife, Mother, Catholic, Alcoholic

fall in north georgiaI submitted this to another Catholic forum and wanted to post it here too. Click here to read this article on Catholic Mom.

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I’m a Catholic mother who loves my Faith, my husband and my children more than anything else in the world. I pray the Rosary every day. I visit Christ in Adoration. My children attend a wonderful Catholic school. I volunteer, play tennis, help with school parties, and drive carpool.

Oh, and by the way, I’m an alcoholic.

I never would have admitted that when I was still drinking. But now that I have been sober for a while and am in recovery I have found that admitting I’m an alcoholic helps me hit back at the shame that can cripple me if I let it.

And if I’m lucky, being somewhat public about my problem might help another woman face hers.

Shame goes hand-in-hand with being an alcoholic mother. Shame is awful, sneaky. And it’s not of God.

The stigma of being an alcoholic can keep some moms from getting help earlier, says Ann-Marie Loose, LSW, a clinical supervisor at Caron Treatment Centers based in Wernersville, PA.  “You try to have the perfect home, be the perfect mom and wife,” said Loose. “And you look completely under control to the outside world, but alcohol is slowing destroying your life.”

And, Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C. author of, Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, said “It is as though the image of the “mother” and that of the “alcoholic” seem contradictory.” However, alcoholism does not discriminate and there are definitely good mothers who are also alcoholic.

My “problem” affected my marriage and my children, and it separated me from God. It wasn’t just about me anymore. As a Catholic mom it was imperative I tackle this truthfully, and in light of my Faith—without saddling myself with shame.

To be honest, I always knew there was something different about my drinking. I seemed to really love it. Everyone else could take it or leave it. Where other people had a couple of drinks to loosen up or wind down, I had a couple of drinks to “get going.” I eventually crossed the line from being a social drinker to being an alcoholic.

How did I know?  For me, I came to accept that I had a problem because of two things: God and my children. I came to recognize my dependence on alcohol was affecting my relationship as a daughter of Christ and as a mother to my children. So I became committed to seeking help.

The desire to mature in my relationship with God and the desire to be the mother I knew I could be were finally enough to get me to admit my problem and seek help. This was a very humbling endeavor, one I am so grateful to God for walking me through.

I think for each of us facing the facts about our drinking is a process, sometimes a long process. Sometimes that process is helped along a little bit by a DUI or an embarrassing episode. But for the most part, it’s something we come to accept through our relationship with God and with our families.

Experts offer these signs that our drinking might be out of control:

  • We start making mistakes, forgetting our child’s sporting event, missing appointments.
  • We start drinking before a social activity.
  • We begin to avoid situations where alcohol will be present because we have difficulty controlling how much we drink—we wanted to protect our reputations.
  • Once we start drinking we have trouble stopping.
  • The time between drinking binges gets less and less.
  • We might experience “blackouts,” which are simply periods of time we are unable to remember what took place when we were drinking.
  • We behave in ways that are uncharacteristic of our sober selves. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

If you think you might have a drinking problem, or you love someone who does, I encourage you to talk it over with your Confessor. I found great strength and courage from admitting my problem first in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A few Lents ago, in the homily at Mass Father Frank challenged us to determine that “one thing” in our lives that was separating us from having a more intimate relationship with God.  For me, I knew right away what that one thing was.  I thought about this a lot. And then, finally, I gave up the alcohol.  And in doing so, my whole family benefited.

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Prayer for the Addicted

prayer guyPRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministered to all who come to Him. Give your strength to (name of the one I am praying for), who is bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold him/her in your love and restore him/her to freedom through your grace.

Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and have broken relationships because of their attachment to the object of their addiction. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres.

Lord, in your servant, Venerable Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give (name of the one I am praying for) courage to take up his/her cross and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Have You Had “The Talk” With Your Middle-Schooler?

“Look Mom, I’m Jack Sparrow!”

A few years back, when my oldest was seven, he was enthralled with Captain Jack Sparrow and Pirates of the Caribbean. He dressed up in a black cape (does Jack Sparrow even wear a cape?) and brandished a sword left over from the previous Halloween.  He then grabbed an empty milk jug, lifted it to his lips and slurred his words, “I am Captain Jack Sparrow!”

jack rumAnd that sword figuratively pieced my heart for a moment. No, no, no.

Not only was he modeling Captain Jack’s pirate skills, he had taken in the plot-line that glorified rum, that rum was a wonderful drink Jack had to have; and it made him act funny.

One of my fears is that one of my children will become alcoholic.  I worry about this because of heredity. I meet women in meetings who have been sober 20 years yet their grown child still gets become an alcoholic or addict.  These women modeled sobriety for their kids and yet, it wasn’t enough.

Isn’t that a mother’s fear—that what we do won’t be enough? That our children will makes our mistakes no matter how much we try to shield them?

jack rum 3There is no way to know whether my child will become alcoholic or not. And most of us don’t have to worry about alcoholism because only about 10% of Americans suffer from it. But aside from the disease, there are plenty of negative consequences when teens and alcohol mix. There has got to be something I can do to stack the odds in his favor in case he does carry the predisposition.

I remember drinking for the first time at 14. This was pretty typical for a middle class high school teenager in the 80’s.  I over-drank on every occasion, never having the ability to pace myself or moderate. High school is when our children will be introduced to alcohol outside the home. Have we prepared them?

The strategy my husband and I have taken with him focuses on the negative implications of drunkenness. We want to instill in him a disdain for excessive drinking. Here I list the five things we incorporate into developing our children’s attitudes about alcohol. I see this “Talk” as more important than the sex talk, because alcohol kills.

The Talk:

1.       Use real life examples.

Remember, son, when Uncle Bobby was asleep during Michelle’s wedding, and Dad had to help carry him out to the car? Remember you had to sit in the hatchback because he took up the whole back seat? You’re old enough now to know the truth. He wasn’t “asleep.”  He was drunk.  And his body couldn’t take any more alcohol so it shut down on him, causing him to fall asleep at the table even before Michelle and Tom cut the cake.

2.   Use “humiliation” or “shame”.

Shame definitely has its purpose. In my opinion the purpose of shame is to establish social norms in order that deviating from them causes one to feel shame, which in a healthy heart sparks a desire to change.

Sweetheart, when you’re out in the world without me or your Dad, I know you understand that you’re supposed to behave with good manners and conduct yourself in ways worthy of our family name.  When people drink too much, they’re unable to control what they say or do. Alcohol affects the limbic system of the brain, the part of the brain that controls speech and actions. We would really be disappointed to hear you had embarrassed our family by getting drunk or drinking so much you behaved badly.  What you do is a direct reflection on our whole family. You know this, right?

3.       Use facts, the law, and statistics.

In 2008, 11,773 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (32%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. The scariest part of drinking, for me and your Dad is the fear that either you or your brother will get in the car with somebody who has been drinking. Under no circumstances are you ever to get in a car with somebody who has had even one alcoholic drink. If we find that you did, then you will face severe punishment and loss of privileges.

Alcohol is a powerful depressant drug that slows down thinking and reaction time, as well as other activity of the brain and spinal cord. It rapidly enters the bloodstream and circulates to all parts of the body within a few minutes. When it reaches the brain it knocks out control centers, causing intoxication. Even small amounts of alcohol can reduce coordination and slow reflexes.

Regardless of age, driving while intoxicated is illegal. You will be arrested, lose your driver license and be sent to jail.

4.       Use Scripture.

Grab the iPad and google “Catholic Bible verses about drunkenness.”

Honey, look at what God says about alcohol. Of course, drinking alcohol itself is not a sin. But like with a lot of things, when we use alcohol illegally (before age 21) or recklessly (by drinking too much) we break God’s laws.

I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one (1 Cor. 5:11).

Neither . . . thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

. . . envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21).

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

Our Catholic faith doesn’t condemn alcohol, wine, or drinking in moderation, but the Church does caution against excessive drinking. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air” (CCC 2290).

5.       Use reverse-psychology.

What is the one thing teens want? To be treated as adults.

I know, son that you are very mature for your age and you’re growing into such a fine young man. But some kids are not as responsible as you.  It may be up to you to take care of a friend who is drunk. You may have to be the responsible one to protect your classmates, the girls from doing things they will regret. If Madeline or Catherine drank excessively and you noticed a strange boy leading them into a dangerous situation, you may have to be the adult who stands up and protects them? Being a grown up means you are responsible. It is impossible to act responsibly when drunk. So be sure never to drink to excess.

So, moms, let’s be sure to have “The Talk” with our children. We can’t leave their understanding of alcohol to their friends or Hollywood.

A wonderful resource for us comes from Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD). I typically like student initiated advice because it is more on target when discussing important matters with my children.  Click on this link for the “Opening Lifesaving Lines” brochure.

Cheers!

You Might Be a Grateful Alcoholic if..?

gratitude rockI recently started participating in a “super secret” online recovery group. One of the members suggested every one comment one thing quickly about why we’re grateful to be recovering alcoholics.

These were the responses posted within a couple of hours…  Each one is by a different recovering woman. This list is so helpful for me. I didn’t want to lose it, so I copied and pasted it here (with names omitted of course).

Please ADD TO THIS list in the comments section if you are a grateful recovering alcoholic, too.

You Know You’re Loving Sobriety When… 

  • the colors are vivid!
  • you wake up and you know where you are and your biggest issue that morning is not having enough milk for your coffee
  • You wake up guilt free
  • My children can’t wait to tell me something and I actually stop what I’m doing and listen to them!
  • annoying things and people don’t really get to you anymore.
  • Your grocery bill is lower at checkout and you can afford the calories in chocolate.
  • i actually like hanging out with women!  recovering alcoholic women, that is
  • You realize you’re way more social and connected sober than when you were drinking.
  • I actually get a kick out of kids! I use to think I hated kids, except for mine, of course. Now, they entertain me, they’re fun!
  • You see a group of people laughing and drinking coffee outside a church, and you’re like “ooo a meeting!”
  • Hearts of Gratitude (logo) greenYou can actually face your problems instead of drinking them numb. And the world doesn’t end when you do.
  • i start wishing my husband was an alcoholic so he could work the 12 steps too
  • You actually notice and pay attention to people
  • I remember what I did last night
  • i make promises and keep them!
  • You get a great night sleep. You don’t wake up in the middle of it to guzzle water
  • no hiding!
  • getting sober has brought me back to my childhood faith
  • Living in honesty. No guilt and no hiding.
  • Stop finding empty bottles you were hiding to dispose of later…
  • thinking about someone other than myself
  • my kids get to school on time!
  • You get super-excited when you discover a delicious new flavor of tea.
  • I’m told I’m a great mom and believe it most of the time. I have an amazing spiritual life and relationship with God. I could keep going and going, but I’ll stop for now!
  • You forget something but don’t have to feel ashamed —because you weren’t drunk, just forgetful!
  • So true! That never would have happened if I was drunk!
  • I don’t save my water bottles anymore because I don’t need them to hide my vodka.
  • You look forward to talking/seeing/texting/being with other men and women just like you..
  • you finally know what it feels like to look in the mirror and like the person staring back at you!
  • calming anxiety actually works better without booze
  • you feel relief
  • i would add: i don’t wake up in the morning with that feeling of dread “i have to just do this all over again?”” feeling… each day unfolds with purpose and life and sometimes, even whimsy. i never had whimsy when i was drinking.
  • I have always preferred the company of alcoholics and I still do but now they are all sober

grateful_heart-300x277

  • When I’m with “my people” and I just feel so much like I belong and I feel that strong bond in my heart that I am “home”. I LOVE my sober community. They make my life so rich.
  • you can finally say “I’m a grateful alcoholic.”
  • You can see what a difference it is to grow rather than to whither.
  • seeing a cop driving behind you and not worrying about it!
  • Driving after 5 pm is no longer an issue.
  • When I am laying in bed with my son talking and laughing. Really being present and there for him.
  • You can handle your pain, still laugh, still be happy, still be grateful and graciously embrace all feelings and you no longer label feelings as “bad” or not allowed to feel etc.
  • Going to a meeting and all your friends are there!
  • you find your self grateful to be feeling everything, even the crappy things.
  • You feel as excited about other people’s sobriety milestones as you do your own.
  • You are madly in love with your sobriety community and would do anything for people you have never met face to face. You reach out and there is always someone there to take hold of your hand.
  • You realize that what you can’t do alone, you can do together.
  • You’re more happy and exuberant for others triumphs over your own because you can see how far they’ve come! You KNOW their struggle.
  • You can stand in front of a room of 100+ people and share one of your most horrifying drunk stories and not despair
  • It’s amazingly freeing!!!
  • When you can say (and mean it!) I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to be an alcoholic as long as I’m an alcoholic that is in recovery and doesn’t drink anymore!
  • OMG — So grateful I don’t have to live in shame and secrecy. What a relief!
  • I finally quit smoking!  I could never quit smoking when I was still drinking.
  • I am not ashamed to say i am an alcoholic
  • I LOVE being excited for others, knowing as they start this journey the possibilities are endless.
  • I am so proud to be an alcoholic, and grateful for this disease. It has taught me so much, and I have so much to give.
  • You can go to a social gathering and focus on the people instead of drinking
  • You can remember how the movie ended!
  • Grateful that this shitty disease has brought me to my knees, literally. I realize I had to choose to live a spiritual life or die an alcoholic death.
  • I can talk to another parent at an evening kid event and not worry if that person can detect alcohol on my breath.
  • my children trust me
  • i don’t have to lie all the time to sneak drinking
  • i can be proud of myself instead of down on myself

Massage and Dopamine

Excerpt from an article from the Integrative Institute for Healthcare Studies, 2005

Comprehensive treatment for the addicted individual is the key…The Magazine for Addiction Professionals, Joni Kosakoski, BSN, RN, CARN gives us the fuel to propel massage therapists into the realm of drug and alcohol treatment. In her article “Massage: Hands Down, a Treatment for Addiction”, Kosakoski gives us a clear and concise analysis of massage’s benefits for this population and its place in addiction treatment.

Incorporating massage into a substance abuse program is advantageous in all of the stages of quitting an addiction: withdrawal, detoxification and abstinence. The physical, emotional and spiritual components of recovery all can be directly benefited by the healing power of therapeutic touch. The nurturing contact of massage utilizes skin as the translator of the therapist’s intent. Skin, the largest sensory organ in our body, is our primary sense for connecting information from our external surroundings to our internal environment.

The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida has performed scientific research documenting the physiological effects of massage on the body. Kosakoski reminds us of some of their findings on massage such as decreased pain, diminished autoimmune response, enhanced immune response, and increased alertness and performance. These effects appear to be related to massage’s ability to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, as reported by the Touch Research Institute in 2003. Several of the Touch Research Institute’s studies positively document the ability of massage to decrease anxiety, depression, agitation, and cravings.

order to understand the connection between massage therapy and its benefit in addiction treatment, Kosakoski explains the neurological biochemistry of addiction: “Much attention has been directed to the mesolimbic reward system, the so-called ‘pleasure pathway’ of the brain. The area is activated in part by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the chemical messenger responsible for making us feel good when we engage in any pleasurable activity. It is well known that dopamine is significantly involved in addiction and that dopamine levels are lower than average during the withdrawal process and into early recovery until brain chemistry normalizes.”

In 1998, the Touch Research Institute published the findings that a regular massage regimen produced long-term results of increasing dopamine levels. The fact that massage naturally increases dopamine levels, and decreases cortisol levels makes it a perfect addition to a standard detoxification program.

The neurochemistry of an addict takes time to get back into balance, so massage treatments after the initial detoxification phase is crucial. When a person uses a substance to feel good, his/her body stops manufacturing its own “feel good” chemicals, (endorphins), and the substance takes over that task. Therefore, when a person quits using an abused substance, they lose their source of feeling good. Since it takes time for the body to start manufacturing its own endorphins again, this is a challenging interim to endure. This interim is the recovering addict’s most vulnerable time to relapse.

In the 1989 edition of General Pharmacology, Kaada and Torsteinbo of Norway reported on study results that massage therapy increased the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood by 16 percent. The release of endorphins during a massage allows the recipient to feel normal, even fantastic, without the aid of a drug. This can be a powerful, even life-changing experience for the client.

Alcohol Dependence Hits Women Earlier

This is interesting–not sure if this is from the Huffington Post or from Scientific Americanl but Dirk Hanson writes this article about how women are hit harder by the physiological and biological effects of alcohol dependence more quickly than men.  This article advocates partially for women-only research and women-only treatment tracts.

I agree whole-heartedly with that.  I would vote for women only treatment centers.  The treatment center I went to was mixed and there was always the undercurrent of sex in the air.  There were patients having sex.  There were sexual comments from some of the men.  One man got kicked out for this.  Then there were all the hot little twenty-something female drug addicts that spent so much energy on dressing the part and little energy on their actual recovery.  There were cat-fights over men.  There was gossip and jealousy in this group.  Cliques.  I think if it were all women, then a lot of those sexual overtones would completely disappear.

Anyways, here is the link to this fabulous article and also a great video by HuffPo at the end of the piece.