For nearly 40 years, I had a deep love affair with wine. And virtually no one knew. Including me. And it nearly killed me.
I managed to have a career as a nurse, then later as a nursery school teacher. I gave birth to four healthy daughters. I survived three major surgeries. I was an active PTA member, a girl scout leader, and a soccer mom. Yet I drank wine, every day. And sometimes, most of the day.
It was my way coping with the everyday stresses of life. The stress of trying to be the perfect Mom. The stress of trying to be a nursery school teacher. The stress of dealing with social situations. The stress of dealing with the same issues of of self-doubt and uncertainty that everyone else in the world faces.
I convinced myself that numbing myself with wine was not a problem. It was just my way of getting through the day. Even though my mother had warned me to 'watch the wine.' Even though I knew, somehow, that my children began to notice. And even though I began to realize I couldn't imagine getting through a day without medicating myself with wine.
I thought no one knew. Until I managed to lose my nursery school teaching job, because a co-worker smelled wine on my breath at school. I was humiliated and embarrassed and devastated in front of my friends, and my daughters.
That was the first time I admitted the problem to myself, and sought help. Over the next few years, I worked with two different psychiatrists. I tried in-patient, and out-patient therapy. Nothing worked for long.
I eventually ended up in a nearby AA group, where I found friendship and support and sobriety for two full years. I am not naturally a joiner, and I don't easily speak and reveal myself in front of groups. But I did find a 'home' in that AA group. I found friends there. And I was diligent and sober for two full years. I was actually happy, and confident for the first time in ages.
But then, a major life event happened. A move. Financial issues. An uprooting. And I was -- sadly -- back drinking my wine again
And this time, it wasn't merely a matter of embarrassing myself, or disappointing my children. This time, I was drinking so heavily that I ended up in liver failure. My abdomen was swelling with fluid. I was having difficulty with everyday tasks.
I ended up being hospitalized for nearly two months with 'hepatic encephalopathy'. Luckily, one of my daughters recognized my symptoms, and intervened with the doctors to literally save my life. I was virtually in a coma, unable to walk or talk or even recognize where I was. I had a 7% chance of recovering and returning to normal.
Almost miraculously, I regained consciousness. I was given another chance.
Today, I am sober for more than 2 years now. Because it is the only way I can remain alive and enjoy my grandchildren. I am on the liver transplant list at New York Presbyterian hospital.
I spend an hour each week with an exceptional therapist well trained in recovery. I depend on a fabulous group that I meet with every week. And I visit AA occasionally.
With the help of my nuclear family, my therapist, and my group 'family' I am sober, blessedly sober, and optimistic and confident for the future.
Because I reached out for help. And because I didn't give up.