SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
Secret alcoholism is on the rise, causing more than 24,000 deaths per year.
This is my story
My Normal Routine
I went to the gym after I dropped my children off at school. After my workout, like always, I got dressed and ready for the day. I tried to apply my make-up and brush my hair, but my hands were shaking. They were trembling.
This was the first sign that something was terribly wrong, but I continued on with my day. The problem got worse.
People could see it as I tried to sign for my credit card purchases or get my mail from the post office. Later on that night, I cooked dinner, put the kids to bed and poured myself a glass of wine. That led to another and another after that.
Nothing new, I did this every night. It was my usual to calm down after a busy day. My hands stopped shaking, and I felt relaxed and happy. After all, I deserved it -- my husband was on his third deployment, and I was new to a foreign country with no friends. Life was not fun, so I deserved this wine.
This carried on for months and months. Soon, people knew. I would buy my usual at the Shoppette of two bottles of wine a day. It got embarrassing, so I would go off base. Soon, they knew me there, too. In every store, I would buy vodka or wine.
The shaking got worse in the mornings. So I decided to try to have a glass of wine during the day, and it worked. I was calm. It must be all the stress I'm under, I told myself. No one understands what I'm going through, and this wine is my best friend. It calms me, it soothes me, I laugh and everything is fun. The wine was my best friend, it went everywhere with me.
I began to fight with my spouse, who was deployed. Every time we spoke, I lashed out at how unfair this life is and asked why can't things be better? Why can't we be together as a family? It was everyone else's fault for the way I felt. Nothing was wrong with me; after all, I deserved more wine, because it caught me every time I fell.
I began to withdraw from society, my spouse, and any type of friends or family, because they did not understand why I felt this way.
My New (not so good) Normal
I began screaming at the children every night and was barely able to get up in the morning to get them off to school. My life began to spin out of control, but even if I tried to stop, I couldn't. I could not put that drink down. It was too hard and too painful, and life was way too boring without it.
I told myself, "I'll just have to get through this time in my life, things will get better, some day." So I drank and drank during both day and night.
Once, I fell down the steps, but just brushed it off as an accident. Another time, I fell on my face in my back yard in the dark and couldn't get up. I told myself, "It's OK, I won't drink so much tomorrow."
After months of this going on, my spouse came home. I'd hide my bottles all over the house. After all, no one would understand. I knew I needed help, but I told myself I couldn't. My spouse knew something was wrong, but didn't know exactly what.
I began getting violent and screaming at my spouse for working late and being gone so much. I said things I don't even remember. One night, I broke a picture frame and glass shattered all over the floor right in front of my spouse.
On the last night of my drinking career, my spouse came home to me passed out on my bed, children watching TV and dinner burning on the stove.
How did I get this bad? This is not like me! Something bad is going to happen if this continues. So, I reached out for help.
I called the chaplain late at night, crying uncontrollably. We prayed, and then the next day, I called the Tricare nurse line. I had to come clean about my drinking. The nurse on the phone was very supportive and my walls were broken down for the first time.
I was sent to Level III treatment, also known as rehab. My drinking had manifested to the point that if I tried to stop on my own, the withdrawal from the alcohol could have killed me.
So, you can see, when someone suffers in silence, they can die from drinking alcohol or from when they stop. It is a disease, and when someone gets wrapped up in it, it is a trap. A downward spiral.
I received help and counseling and I was able to stop and stay clean. I attended a 28-day program in Texas, then followed up with the staff of the Air Force's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment and Prevention office, who was very helpful and supportive. In my 28 days, I was able to connect and talk openly with others who suffered in the same way, if not worse, and I was able for the first time to be honest with myself.
I never knew this kind of help was available, but I was so grateful I did not have to stay hidden in the dark any longer. I was able to change with the help that was offered to me. It was time to make a choice, a good one.
The consequences of this kind of life affects others around us greatly and ourselves. I was fooling myself to think I had it under control. I'm so thankful I woke up before it was too late.
If you need help, there are avenues available for you. There is an Alcohol Anonymous meeting every Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Spangdahlem chapel, Bldg. 136. It is open to all. The ADAPT clinic also offers comprehensive evaluations to help you if you think you have a problem.
Please -- if you suffer, come get help before it is too late.
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