Prairie Wife of the Week March 7, 2014 (Alcohol Addiction and Recovery)
Posted March 7, 2014 by Prairie Wife - 24 comments
If someone were to walk up to you and ask you to close your eyes and picture an alcoholic what do you see? Is it a dirty man, muttering and slumped outside your local bar at 6 am? Or perhaps the face of a family member or friend pops into your mind. Maybe you break into a cold sweat as you think about the bottle of wine you drank last night after the kids went to bed, just because it was another rough day? Alcoholism is a disease that affects anyone and everyone, it doesn’t discriminate against sex or race. And, for all that we claim to be an open society, one that shares everything (and we all know I mean everything), there is still a certain taboo around woman and alcoholism. I first came in contact with Amanda on FB as a follower of her now closed virtual newspaper The Glenrock Bird. I was officially introduced to her by a past Prairie Wife of the Week, Ginny Butcher, when she suggested that Amanda might be the perfect candidate for a future Prairie Wife of the Week. When I heard Amanda’s story I knew that it was one I just had to share with my readers. Her determination to take responsibility for her life and her addiction (no matter how overwhelming it was at times) as well as her strength to share her story with others, make her the perfect Prairie Wife of the Week.
Prairie Wife (PW): Can you tell us a little bit about you and your family?
Amanda (A): Hmmm, where to begin? I hail from the great state of Michigan, probably one of the most wonderful states in the United States, aside from (of course) Wyoming. I moved to Wyoming in 2005 and met my current husband, a cattle and sheep rancher, in 2010. I am a mother to four horses, a dozen assorted chickens and a rooster, three amazing dogs, one cat, several Koi and a turtle we call Jack.
PW: I know that you are a woman of many talents; can you tell us a little about what you do?
A: I am a Professional Photographer and Western Photographic Artist, I teach photography lessons part time to a plethora of students, from age 5 to 87. I love all of my students very much. I donate several classes a year to our area 4H kids who are a real hoot to work with and the very foundation that our Country is built is on.
I owned The Bird Central Wyoming News in Wyoming which eventually covered all of Wyoming for news and information including breaking news alerts and information. We branched our breaking news and alerts information nationwide before I retired The Bird in April of 2013. She ran fast and furious for 8 wonderful years! And made history as being the first small newspaper published on the iPad and the Kindle, and the first news entity in Wyoming to provide live updates, information and breaking news to the communities that make up our great state. I loved every single minute of it, and I miss it and my employees more than I have ever missed anything.
I work with my husband on our ranch and have become an absolute “City to Ranch” expert in moving cows through various terrains, branding, doctoring, weaning, pregnancy testing, etc., etc., etc. I’ve even got the scar on my head to prove my expertise! My husband and I raise our own food and practice sustainable living as much as possible, both of which have proven themselves to allow us the more even keeled life that we love.
I am currently writing a book called Hope.Still (©) which tells the story about my previous marriage. The very real physical and emotional abuse I endured (and allowed) for fifteen years, and how I survived it and learned to live again. I also share the story of my ridiculous and very real addiction to Alcohol. Something I at one time, considered to be my best friend and confidant.
PW: I know that you have had some struggles in the past. Could you share with us a little about your past, and what led you to your alcohol addiction?
A: In retrospect, it was me that led myself to my alcohol addiction. That my friends, is the cold hard truth that is most difficult to accept, but it’s true. Through the abuse that my previous husband reigned upon me, I turned to alcohol (a substance I have always loved, by the way… the Alcohol, not my previous husband, haha.). I was a connoisseur of wines and fine whiskey’s and I thought my shit didn’t stink when it came to that. I now know that it did. I slowly started to depend on the bliss that I mistakenly thought was real, of what having a drink or five could provide for me. Before long I was no longer just enjoying that wonderful sting that would creep down through my body after a long, hard day. I was depending on that feeling, and then no feeling at all, to overtake my mind and my body whenever the abuse from my husband (that I hid from almost everyone) would happen.
I was drinking when I woke up. I was drinking during the day. I was drinking until I passed out at night. I was hiding bottles of Smirnoff in my bedroom closet, under the mattress on my bed, in various places around the yard of my beautiful home, and in the cabinet in my kitchen that housed all my cooking oils. I drank to forget that my husband was disgusted by me, and hated every single thing I ever succeeded at, including breathing. In fact it felt so good to “Get Away” (as I called it) that I began to partake in that lovely, slippery, liquid sensation whenever I started to feel bad. Whenever anyone hurt my feelings (yes, even if a customer hurt my feelings, when my workday was over, I would drink for that reason too). I began to let everything around me take the backseat to my drinking and when my business and my world started to fall apart, I drank to forget about that. If my lawn was dying in my front yard, I drank.
Alcohol became the only “friend” I could really depend on, and the only “person” that if I caused any pain to, would still be there for me in the morning. In my mind Alcohol didn’t care if I was about to hit rock bottom, alcohol didn’t care if my life was a shambles, and alcohol didn’t care about all the mistakes I was making with people, my life and my business. Alcohol was still there for me no matter the aforementioned, and that seemed like a really good best friend to me.
To reiterate the answer to your question, it was me. I led myself straight into my addiction. Am I justified in the reasons I had for trying to run away and hide? Sure, I won’t deny myself that. But I’m not justified in the path I chose that eventually caused the demise of a lot of good things, and a handful of excellent relationships. Nobody else did that, nobody else put that bottle to my lips but little ol’ me!
PW: Can you walk us through a typical week when you were struggling with your alcoholism?
A: Hmm, a typical week. Maybe a typical week for me and my alcohol use would be a topic in itself for another time. It is quite interesting, to say the least. 😉
I can tell you this though, no one tried to help me, and I don’t blame anyone, one bit. Had somebody yelled to my face ” YOU HAVE A REAL PROBLEM, AMANDA” I wouldn’t have listened anyway. I’d of yelled even louder than them “GOOD, THEN LETS GO DROWN IT OUT WITH A BEAM AND WATER!” and they’d have happily gone with me. Having said that, no one really knew for sure if I had a problem or not. All the while my life was crumbling down around me, I was a happy drunk…. that’s why I drank. And that’s why people liked me, because I was happy. On the outside.
It wasn’t until I was no longer a happy drunk, but rather a drunk, drunk, and I hit rock bottom and lost my ass, that people started to NOT like me. And they dropped like flies. And rightfully so! When I hit rock bottom is when I started to hurt those people that I loved dearly. I refused, while I was wallowing around on rock bottom, to accept that it was I that caused a breakdown in friendships, and it was I that then started choosing new friends (and boy were they the wrong kind of friends). I hurt my family. I hurt my mother, and my father, and my brother.
I could continue to blame it all on my previous husband, and sometimes I really, really, really want to. But, the truth of the matter is that I chose my abusive husband over my life, and I chose alcohol over living. I tried for years to make both somehow fit into who I was, and now I know that doing so was simply not possible. You cannot live a normal life when someone is abusing you, and you cannot live a normal life when you are abusing alcohol.
PW: What led you to seek help?
A: My Dad. During a surprise visit to my parents after not seeing them for almost 10 years, we all went to dinner. I drank too much, had a fight in the restaurant parking lot, went home to their house, and went to bed. Around 2am I snuck downstairs to their pantry where a nicely hidden airplane sized bottle of liquor was tucked away behind the Morton’s Salt. It was within super duper easy reach for me. As I twisted off the cap, the light in the kitchen turned on behind me. I turned around just as my father fell to his knees and wrapped himself around my waist and through sobs told me I was a drunk. Just like this: “Manda, Manda, honey… please, Manda, you have a problem and I want you to stop, Manda… please.” I will never forget those words, they ring in my ears daily. When a father cries openly in front of his daughter, because of his daughter, while clinging to her body as though it would be the last time he would see her. Well, it’s enough to wake anybody up. That is when I began my road towards recovery. That was in November of 2010, but I didn’t take my very last drink until two months later on January 1, 2011. January 2nd, 2011 is when I started my recovery and I have been sober ever since.
PW: What was the recovery process like for you?
A: It was hard. Damn hard. I met a man in the local grocery store that chased me for weeks in December of 2010. I knew I wanted to quit drinking and I sure as hell didn’t want or need a man in my life. He caught up to me on December 20th and convinced me to begin going to AA with him. He was a recovering alcoholic and he became my husband in July of 2012.
My husband and God, became my joy. My husband re-introduced me to life by working my ass off on his ranch (and my God did I work, to the tune of a weight loss of 70lbs in three months). He re-introduced me to my relationship with God. I was miles from anywhere that I could easily access alcohol, and I rode with him to our AA meetings. Getting sober was the hardest thing I have ever done. Changing my life and removing myself from society was the hardest thing I have ever done. And running my newspaper sober, was the hardest thing I have ever done.
When I become sober I was tried to make amends with those I hurt, some accepted, and some understandably did not. In either case, it was a lot of pride to swallow and it was painful and embarrassing. But, I did it. Some people see that I have changed; some people would prefer to believe that I am still the same person I was when I was drinking. I am not.
My greatest struggle today is being alright with the reality, that those who refuse to see that I have changed, are no longer worth beating myself up over. Not turning to alcohol when I stumbled, or when something would hurt me, or when I would become afraid, was a huge struggle. Believe me when I say, the craving to numb oneself, when one is faced with having to face things, is still very much real. I switched my mouthwash to mouthwash that clearly stated on the bottle NO ALCOHOL because A: it didn’t have any alcohol in it and B: the label was a constant reminder for me that I could not drink. I not only stayed out of bars, but I also stayed out of restaurants except for a few special dinners. When I was newly sober, even the smell of a glass of wine at the table next to ours, would send me reeling. I can go to restaurants now.
I would switch check out lanes in the grocery store if I could smell alcohol on the person in front of or behind me. I stayed home A LOT. I still stay home A LOT because I have only now just turned three years sober, and I still fear the unknown. But, I am getting much better at this, and (just ask my husband) I successfully shopped at Wal-Mart, by myself, just a few short months ago.
PW: So much positive has come from your experience, can you share some with us?
A: Meeting my new husband, and rejuvenating my relationship with God and my family were my most positive experiences. Taking my newspaper to a level I never knew was possible, because I was sober, became a huge positive for me. Learning that I don’t have to allow or accept toxic people in my life was a huge positive. Re-entering myself back into the world of Western Art, and into my photography was and still is an amazing experience. One that I truly thought I would never be able to, or even want to, enter back into again.
My western art does very well now, and in some cases better than ever. I love creating now, more than I ever have in the past, because I am doing so sober. I can actually “remember taking that photo” now. Learning and accepting that I was an alcoholic before my move to Wyoming (I just wasn’t a raging alcoholic in my earlier years), was a positive because it allowed me to reflect and realize where I made my mistakes. I realized why I made my mistakes, and how to never, ever, make those mistakes again.
PW: What advice do you have for someone who thinks or even knows they have an addiction to alcohol?
A: It is hard for me as a recovering alcoholic, to give advice to those who may or may not have a problem, because I am still to this day, learning to live without alcohol. I can say this – don’t wait for someone to come along and “save” you… take it from me. When I was watering the lawn and at the same time digging through the dead bushes in my front yard for a bottle of vodka, I knew I had a problem. Waiting for someone to “save” me only allowed me enough time to completely destroy all that I had built in my life. I had ample opportunity to save myself, but I purposely ignored all the signs, and took great pompous joy in doing so.
Ask yourself if you think you drink too much. If the answer is “yes” then find a way to stop. Force yourself to go to an AA meeting. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses, just get up and go. Don’t wait for someone to invite you (remember by the time I was invited, I had already destroyed everything). Read and re-read my answers to Prairie Wife’s questions. Understand fully that I allowed alcohol to become my addiction. Understand fully that perhaps there isn’t a choice (some people can become alcoholics based off of genetics alone) to become addicted to alcohol, or any other substance for that matter, but there most certainly IS a choice to STOP.
Only you can tell yourself if you are addicted to alcohol, but those who are, know that they are. It is an argument that happens deep within, that you must battle and win and accept that you are an alcoholic. So that you can STOP, and realize that life can go on without alcohol. You can still have fun without alcohol. Your real friends and your family will still love the new and sober you, even if you were the life of the party when you were drinking.
Last but not least, don’t expect everyone to pay for your addiction. If my husband and I are out somewhere together or alone, at a restaurant or a group gathering and someone, or a waitress/waiter asks us if we’d like a cocktail, we don’t respond with “No thanks, I don’t drink” we respond with “Sure, I’ll take an Iced Tea.” If an unsuspecting person offers you a cocktail, don’t say “I don’t drink” … I have learned that it puts people on the defense. As though I think anyone drinking is a monster (not true). I have found that doing so makes the unsuspecting person feel as though they’ve committed a cardinal sin by asking. Don’t expect people to not drink around you because you have a problem. It isn’t their problem, it is yours. If you can’t be around it, then don’t. You can always politely bow out. But don’t make people feel uncomfortable in their surroundings because you can’t drink.
And last but not least again (there are so many last but not leasts!) DON’T under any circumstances, use your alcoholism or addiction as a crutch to allow yourself excuses for certain areas of your life. I do not allow myself to say to me (or anyone else) “I’m sorry I acted that way, I’m a recovering alcoholic” or “I have an addiction, and it’s a disease and therefore I don’t have to take giant leaps to change my life” … you are NOT allowed to use your addiction as a crutch to get through life, you are NOT allowed to use your addiction or your recovery to make people feel sorry for you. If you are a recovering addict, like I am, allowing yourself excuses for not moving forward in your life, or making excuses to those around you, will only turn into another addiction. I call it the “Crutch Addiction” and it will do you no good, at all. You have a choice to begin your recovery, and pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and live. I did it, it was hard (it was INCREDIBLY hard) but I did it, and so can you.
PW: Many of us have family members and close friends who may be addicts, what can we say or do to help them to get help, or support them during the recovery process?
A: You could try dropping to your knees in a fit of utter despair and quietly, through sobs, tell them that they are an addict and that you are willing to help them begin their recovery when they are ready. It worked for me. But I don’t think that will work for everyone. I can’t really tell you how to approach someone that might be an addict, but I do know that criticism and name calling “you’re an alcoholic!”, and fighting do not help the addict see that they are an addict. Instead it may very well put some on the defense, and pull the ol’ “I’ll show them I’m not an addict” as they take a good long gulp. That’s what I did many times.
PW: Is there anything that friends and family of addicts should NOT do or say?
A: I can’t answer what they should or shouldn’t say… I can suggest that friends and family of addicts definitely seek some guidance. Especially in the area that many people have experienced, of picking up the pieces for an addict. I’m sure I will get backlash for this but in my experience, if you pick up the pieces for an addict, they will always be an addict.
PW: As you look back at your journey from alcoholism to recovery is there anything that you wish you could have done differently?
A: Absolutely, I wish I would have paid attention to all the red flags that were waved in front of my face. Starting with my previous husband. I also wish that I would have taken more responsibility for my own actions that caused my demise. I wish I would have been smarter in my choices, and not tried so tirelessly to please everyone, including my previous husband. I wish I would have learned much, much sooner, that it is perfectly fine to live life for me. To say no, and to stand up for myself even if it means upsetting the applecart. And I wish beyond all wishes, that the first time my previous husband cold cocked me, that I would have had enough of my wits about me to make the choice to leave. No matter how much I thought I loved him, not matter how hard it might have been to start over, and no matter how much he apologized.
PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of wisdom?
A: Don’t blame your demise on anyone else. We all have choices. We just need to realize that no matter how hard a choice might seem, we still have the ability to make a different choice. Take responsibility for your own actions. Don’t use bad things that happened to you in your life as a crutch. Be alright with yourself when you feel pain, or sadness. But don’t let it consume you. And if it does consume you, promise yourself (and me) that you will go seek help from a professional.
Bake, garden, tinker, putz, get up out of bed and go ride your horse, or your ATV. Take your dogs, or other assorted animals for a walk. Finish each task you set your mind to. Be honest even if it hurts. Pray, constantly. Love yourself, be proud of your own accomplishments. Love those who truly love you back. And remember when you feel like you are so low that you couldn’t swing your legs over the side of a book of matches, get up and put one foot in front of the other. In fact, start singing that song: “Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking on your way…”
Amanda will be stopping by throughout the week to answer any comments or questions you
Categories: Prairie Wife of the Week