By Martha Carucci – What does an alcoholic look like? For many, the word alcoholic conjures up images of a person on the street drinking from a brown-bagged bottle. Someone completely destitute and disheveled. But what about the mom sitting next to you at a PTA meeting or soccer game? She may be just as miserable. And just as much of an alcoholic.
I don’t have a string of letters of titles after my name. There’s no MD, PhD, JD, LCSW. So what makes me the least bit qualified to talk about alcoholism? Because I can add RA to my name. Recovering Alcoholic, and I’m proud to have that title. I also have the distinct honor of being a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, sponsee and sponsor. I have over 1500 days of sobriety under my belt and the number keeps growing. I have lived through and survived the lowest lows of alcoholism and came close to losing everything I had, but now I am winning the battles in the daily Alcoholism War and reaping the benefits of sobriety in a much better life.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism, out of an estimated 15.1 million alcohol dependent or alcohol abusers in the United States, approximately 4.6 million (about one-third) are women. Many are “soccer moms” just like me. I drank to numb. I drank to escape. I drank to celebrate, mourn, relax and to feel better. Name an occasion and I drank to it. It was a way of everyday life. I knew no other way. But the stakes are really quite high in the game of “Let’s Take a Drink”—my marriage, family, friendships, health and ultimately, my life are on the line. My ability to alter my perception of reality and find liquid courage to play the social game worked great… or so I thought, for many, many years. But there was no way that I was an alcoholic. Not me—an Ivy League-educated, upper-middle class, former lobbyist and suburban mother of three. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was one morning when my daughter, who was 10 at the time, said “Mommy don’t you remember we talked about all of this last night?” I don’t remember ever feeling more ashamed. I knew things had to change… and they did.
I drank to numb. I drank to escape. I drank to celebrate, mourn, relax and to feel better. Name an occasion and I drank to it. It was a way of everyday life. I knew no other way.
Although it is far from easy, I share my struggles and my story openly on my blog and in my book, Sobrietease™, hoping that doing so will help others. Before I “came out” and went public about my alcoholism, I asked my daughter what she would say if someone said something to her about her mother being an alcoholic. She said she would tell them “my mom used to drink a lot and she doesn’t anymore and I’m very proud of her.”
My goal is to offer insight to both those who struggle with alcoholism or addiction of any kind and those who care about them, love them and want to help them. By sharing my journey into recovery and through sobriety openly, honestly and humorously, others can seize the opportunity to benefit from my experiences. Alcoholics and addicts can see that it is possible to dig themselves out of that big, dark hole. Family members, friends and loved ones can learn where to find the shovel and other necessary tools and how to support the digging in the most efficient, understanding, and beneficial way.
We all have our struggles and crosses to bear—depression, anxiety, addictions of all kinds, abusive relationships, unhappy marriages—but it’s never too late to turn things around. As one of my favorite authors Brene Brown says, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do. If we own the story then we can write the ending.” Working on owning my story is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
You can follow Martha’s journey on her blog. Her book Sobrietease™, which was the #1 New Release on Amazon for Alcoholism and Recovery, is a humorous but heartfelt journey about a suburban mom through recovery and sobriety into a better life. Read it and weep, and hopefully laugh.