28 Days More

by Jo Sullivan
(Annapolis, MD)

My name is Jo and I am an alcoholic. I a 44 years old, married for almost 20 years. No kids. My life has been a huge swing of ups and downs all of which have led me here....just over 5 months sober and starting over. While I am so grateful I am not completely starting from scratch - I have a home, my husband and my dogs - I have blown up my career and pushed away any family or friends who seemed the least bit interested in me or my well being.


To briefly frame up my life: I'm adopted. I was 5 days old and my birth name was Ann Marie. I don't know my birth parents, although I'd like to at least see their faces sometime. Just to see if I look like them....my Mom and Dad loved me so much and for the most part I had a wonderful and normal childhood. There were a passel of cousins and never a shortage of a bbq or beach trip as we all lived very close in my small southern VA corner of the world. A cousin of mine close in age began to "sexualize" me when I was about 5 and he was 9. I just can't use the word abuse or victim because we were both in it. He suggested it - suggested he'd play with me and include me more if I did the things he suggested and I went along. There was no violence, no REAL arm twisting. Just two kids. But it went on for years and eventually became the defining factor of my self value as well as the value I placed on belonging to my family. How could I really belong to them, really be a part of them if this was happening? Even I knew 1st cousins - REAL 1st cousins didn't "kiss". So it left me as one would imagine - and sex became the core of my self destructive nature WAY before booze.

I married at 25, moved to Warsaw, Poland soon after but was home again almost as quickly as I landed because my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. I didn't realize at the time but my Mom was already exhibiting signs of dementia and while I couldn't name it - my husband and I just saw from half way around the world that even getting Dad to a chemo appointment was overwhelming and paralyzing to her. So I left him in Poland and came home to care for my Dad. 2 years later and 2 days after my birthday he died with my husband by his side and Mom and I close by. 6 months after that, my Mom had a stroke on the operating table and catapulted her into full on dementia and I cared for her everyday until she died ten years (and two days) after my Dad.

In the middle of that decade - I somehow built a fantastic career and had really excelled in my profession - traveling the world and speaking at conferences from Amsterdam to Madrid. But, my dirty secret of sex and drinking wa just under the surface. Only known to me - so I THOUGHT - I'd begun to build a web of lies, carefully constructed to hide how much and how quickly I was dissolving. If I slipped and got out of hand with a group of people - I made huge efforts to schedule time with them where I didn't lift a glass. If I was out of the country - or out of town - I'd white knuckle a few glasses of wine, excuse myself early claiming "I'm too old for this" and walk to the closest liquor store or order room service or break into the mini bar and get obliterated alone in my room. Home wasn't much different. Hiding bottles, hiding drinking, waiting tip my husband went to bed and sucking down a fifth of vodka...for YEARS.

5 or 6 years ago the consequences began catching up with me big time. I've wrecked our two cars a collective 8 times. Had a DUI which landed me in jail for a weekend, an interlock for 3 years and probation for 2 years. I had moved from the job which made my career in NYC to the mid-Atlantic as my first "geographic" by this time but my disease came with me and life spiraled out of control.

I had lost the job I moved for due to some just stupid circumstances that had little to do with me. Was one of the few things my drinking hadn't impacted by that time - but it certainly didn't help.

Even with consequences and trouble piling up though - I continued to drink. About 8 months ago - I had an opportunity to reclaim some of what I'd destroyed with a new job - a BIG one - back in the field I'd originally found success. I'd managed to put together a few months of sobriety by then and thought I could handle it. Actually - no I didn't.....i thought I SHOULD handle it. I imagine it was God giving me a chance. I ignored the warning sounds in my own head, the caution of the fellowship from my home town and the lack of overall support from my sponsor. And I moved. Alone. To Florida. My husband had a job already - so we'd planned to live apart for the year until he could relocate and I would rebuild my reputation and our home at the same time.

I was drinking my first day there. I employed every trick in the Big Book and then some to control myself. I went to meetings and the people weren't overly friendly like I was used to . It was a small community and newcomers/visitors weren't frequent. But, instead of saying "I'm here and I need help" - I went by the liquor store and then to my rented apartment on the beach. It was horrible and I was miserable.

I did not ask for help, nor did I want it. I wanted to drink. I wanted to drunk and drink and drink until the hole in my soul was filled and I didn't feel alone, failure, pathetic, self hatred and like a dirty human being. It got so bad I hit my nevers of drinking in the am, at work and drinking and driving again like I thought it would be different.

One day, about 6 months after I took the job, one of our senior leadership found me in the floor of my office passed out drunk with a pint of Absolute beside me. Empty.

That was my bottom. Three days in the psych ward in FL, a plane ride I do not remember, checked into rehab for the 28 Day package. Complete with four roommates and packed full of self loathing, shame and pain.

Thank my HP my husband has been right there - supporting me every step of the way and never stopped believing in me. We have HUGE issues with my sexuality, how I've treated him etc....but we're still in it and that's a gift.

There are days I am still broken. Many in fact. But I don't want to be....I want things to be different and I am willing to feel the feelings (for once) and deal with that and to do the work it takes.

I have no idea if I'll ever get my career back. I don't really care most of the time - but I do care that I feel different about myself and I do know I have something left to offer me, my husband and to the world. When my HP presents that plan, my prayer is I am sober and healed enough to recognize and grab it.

Love to us all. We are the perfectly broken people who have had the courage to say out loud "please help me". I learn to love me, us and the fellowship I belong to everyday. Be blessed - Jo

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