Recovering From Alcoholism
THE numbers on the telephone seemed to melt together as I struggled to dial my own number. The five pills I had taken earlier were now reaching their peak. As I held onto the public telephone to keep myself from falling, I heard mom’s voice: “Hello. Who’s this?”
“It’s me,” I slurred, using whatever concentration I could muster up. “I won’t be coming home tonight; I’ll be staying with a friend.” Every word was a struggle. My tongue felt as if it weighed fifty pounds.
“Oh, no!” mom gasped. “You’ve taken pills again! You’re stoned!”
I hung up the phone and staggered to my car. I wasn’t spending the night with a friend. Instead, I was going to drive to the beach. As I drove I found myself on the wrong side of the road—on a major highway. The oncoming traffic just missed me as I drove over the divider and onto the road leading to the beach. I parked the car and fell asleep until the next day.
That is just one incident showing how alcoholism almost cost me my life. ‘But what does taking pills have to do with being an alcoholic?’ you ask. Well, at the time I didn’t understand the connection either. But I was to find out—the hard way.
First, let me give you a little background: I had started taking pills when I was a teenager. I began by sneaking tranquilizers—mom always had plenty of them around. A couple of years later, a friend at work introduced me to secobarbital, a very strong sedative. Now I could take fewer pills to get the same effect. Oh, mom and dad had warned me about heroin and marijuana. But the pills I was taking weren’t that dangerous—or so I thought.
Within a year I was severely addicted, taking thirty pills a day.
It wasn’t that I wanted to be high all the time.* I needed the pills just to function. If I didn’t take them, I would become extremely nervous and anxious, shaking uncontrollably.
After I had smashed up several cars and been arrested, my parents sent me to a hospital for treatment. There I was slowly detoxified. The suffering I went through was indescribable. There were hallucinations, shaking, extreme and unreasonable fears. For instance, since my girl friend didn’t have a phone and I couldn’t receive calls, at a prearranged time I would call her at a public telephone. But I was always afraid she wouldn’t be there—I mean extremely afraid.
Well, after about three weeks I was released from the hospital, ready to start anew. ‘My troubles are over now,’ I thought to myself. Actually, my troubles were far from over.
I began drinking. To my surprise, right from the start I was able to consume large amounts of alcohol without getting drunk. But it wasn’t long before I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into depression. I would have horrible attacks of anxiety in which I was afraid to drive or even speak to others. My hands would shake and I would break out in a cold sweat. Many days I would just barely make it to work, trembling and scared. Other days I didn’t make it at all. I was confused and paranoid—a physical and mental wreck. Finally, one day I called my boss to tell him I couldn’t come to work. “You know this means you’re fired,” he warned.
“I know, but there’s nothing I can do. I think I’m having a nervous breakdown.” I hung up the phone and a few minutes later it rang.
“I don’t care how you do it,” said my boss, “but get yourself down to the company medical department—right now!”
That’s what I did. I explained to the doctors my background with sedatives and that I thought I was having a breakdown.
“Fred, you’re not having a nervous breakdown,” explained one of the doctors. “You’re an alcoholic.”
“But that’s impossible,” I shot back. “I drink only three or four beers a night.”
“It’s not the amount you drink, but how the alcohol affects you as an individual. Your whole problem is that you have an addictive physiology. You must learn to live your life without any kind of drug—be it alcohol or pills. You must learn to be happy without drugs.”
He then sent me away to an alcoholism rehabilitation center for several months. There I learned a lot about alcoholism. For example, I learned that as an alcoholic I should avoid all sedatives. It doesn’t matter whether they come in liquid form (alcohol) or pill form (such as tranquilizers). The effect upon the alcoholic’s body is almost identical. At the center I also learned the value of nutrition, vitamins and living an organized, structured life with self-discipline.
However, the real key to my recovery was found in the doctor’s words, “You must learn to be happy without drugs.” You see, an alcoholic is extremely anxious; he worries about everything. But through my study of the Bible I have learned to be “happy without drugs.” Oh, I had had some knowledge of the Bible before. But as a result of a more serious study, I have come to know Jehovah God, to get close to him in a Father-child relationship. I am able to cast my anxieties upon him so that I don’t unduly worry about life. (Matthew 6:34) I have also come into association with fellow Christians who treat me as a family member. I deeply appreciate their ongoing love and support.
Of course, I have come to realize that for me total abstinence from alcohol and mood-altering drugs is essential. It has been several years now. But I am truly content, happy. I have my God, Jehovah, my family and loving Christian brothers and sisters. What more could anyone want?—Contributed.
I had been a social drinker. As I recall, my husband and I rarely had alcoholic beverages in our home except on special occasions. But little did I realize then that as I continued drinking my body was building up a tolerance and eventually would depend on it to function.
My drinking gradually caused a drastic change in my personality. I found myself becoming aggressive and violent. I would beat my children, actually thinking I was fully justified in doing so. As I look back, I can see that I was really angry at myself. I became paranoid and suspicious. Upon entering a room, if I saw two people talking, I was convinced that they were talking about me because they didn’t like me. My children would try to reassure me, saying, “Mama, we love you.” But I was sure they couldn’t love me.
The horrible war that took place within me is more than I can describe. After each drinking episode the guilt and shame were unbearable. I would promise myself, “I’ll never do it again.” But I did—over and over again.
Trusted and respected friends advised me to cut down, to be moderate. I tried everything imaginable to control my drinking. I moved to another location, thinking this would help. Then I was sure that switching drinks would be the answer. So I started drinking wine. Yet, no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t cut down or control my drinking.
As the years passed, I continued to drink secretly and more heavily than anyone knew. You see, I functioned adequately under the influence of alcohol. I could still hold down a job and take care of my family and home—as long as I had my alcohol. To hide it from my family, I became a master at deception. The bottles in the liquor cabinet in the living room were just a front. My family would pour the liquor down the drain or water it down. But I had other bottles hidden. In fact, at one point, I had twenty-five bottles hidden in various places around our home—the bathroom, the garage, the car, the linen closet, my purse and my dresser drawers.
By this time I was having trouble sleeping at night. The alcohol wasn’t enough to put me to sleep. So I went to the doctor and got a prescription for sleeping pills. (I didn’t tell him about my drinking.) I would take the pills along with the alcohol to put me to sleep each night.
Through all of this, my family couldn’t convince me that I was an alcoholic. “Look at me!” I would say in defense. “I’m not some skid-row bum! I’ve raised you children while holding down a job. How can you even think that I could be such a terrible person?”
Then one night I discovered that I had failed to replenish my supply of alcohol. For some eight years I had relied on it along with my pills to put me to sleep. That proved to be the most frightening night of my entire life. I hallucinated and heard strange things. I imagined, in fact convinced myself, that someone would kill me. As the night progressed it got worse and worse. I felt sure that I would die before the morning.
Nevertheless, promptly the next morning I was at the liquor store. And when I gulped down that liquor, what a change came over me! Suddenly I felt back in control. But later that day I really lost all control of myself. I beat my daughter very badly. At that point, I realized that I needed professional help and agreed to enter an alcoholism rehabilitation center. Oh, I still didn’t think alcohol was my problem! I was convinced I was losing my mind and that’s why I needed to drink.
“Do you drink?” asked the counselor at the center.
“Yes, but I don’t drink that much,” I said defensively. Then he showed me a chart outlining the various symptoms of alcoholism and asked me to check the ones that applied to me. By the time I finished, I began to think, ‘Maybe I am an alcoholic.’ I was frightened.
During my three-month stay at the center, I learned much about alcoholism and how it affected me as an individual, how it changed me. As I met with other recovering alcoholics and heard them talk I realized that they were just like me.
However, my ongoing program of recovery includes something else that has greatly aided me. In fact, in a letter about me the rehabilitation center said: “Her religion has given her more of a balance in her recovery program.” You see, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I regularly attend meetings each week where I learn how to apply Bible principles. This has enabled me to be happy without drinking. And my happiness is increased as I share with others the wonderful things I learn from the Scriptures.
As I have drawn closer to Jehovah God, I have experienced firsthand the truthfulness of Philippians 4:6, 7: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” Yes, the “peace of God that excels all thought” enables me to progress in my recovery ONE DAY AT A TIME.—Contributed.
Sedative drugs are depressants; they can make one “high” in that they diminish the anxiety level, making one feel relaxed, less anxious than before.
[Blurb on page 10]
“If I didn’t take them, I would become extremely nervous and anxious”
[Blurb on page 10]
“You must learn to be happy without drugs,” the doctor explained
[Blurb on page 12]
“I would promise myself, ‘I’ll never do it again.’ But I did—over and over again!”