The Light

by Sara Berelsman

Today is the day. Tuesday, October 11, 2011. I want to remember this day forever.

The day I decided to stop drinking.

The sunrise was beautiful this morning. Possibly the best one I’ve ever seen. Pink and blue hues in the sky sprayed with just the right amount of clouds, the brilliant orange sun barely peeking over the fall trees, as if uncertain of making its appearance. There are knots in my stomach. I can’t breathe (allergies). I am on my period.

I am incredibly exhausted from being awake all night, tossing and turning and trying to banish the unwanted thoughts that kept racing through my head, taking up space where happy memories should be.

I look like absolute shit; my face is broken out, there are heavy purplish bags under my eyes, my hair is frizzy and disheveled. I am wearing an oversized Nike sweatshirt belonging to my husband, stained because of me, a constant reminder (as if I need one) of how I’ve continually let him down. But not again. Not again. Not ever again.

I am terrified. I have never been in control of my own life, never been in the driver’s seat..always a passenger, always letting someone else or something else take the blame. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t.

I joke around a lot and talk about drinking more than I actually do it; I exaggerate when I’ve had a bad day and say things like, “I want to drink my body weight in alcohol,” and it’s funny. I’m being sarcastic and it’s funny, and everyone laughs. Except it stopped being funny.

I can control myself some of the time, which is why it’s been so easy to rationalize why I continue to drink. Not to mention that I live in a town where drinking is practically mandatory, and raging alcoholics are accepted with open arms. I blend in here.

Alcohol is socially acceptable. It’s the times that I don’t stay in control that outweigh the times that I do – those are the times that, at this point, have accumulated to an incredible number that I don’t even want to think about. It’s killing my marriage. If this were reversed, I’d have left Andy by now.

I have used alcohol as a scapegoat, every time. I could do anything with it. I could be invincible whenever I wanted - do, say, or act however I pleased when the numbing liquid flowed through my body.

If I offended someone, “I was drunk. That’s not the real me. It was alcohol.” If I did anything bad, it was the reason. I’ve relied on it. It has been a friend. A friend who’s always been there for me, no matter what. And breaking up is hard to do.

I am absolutely shaking with fear that I won’t be able to do this, that I’ll fail. I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. I’m hurting inside. Badly. I’m so very sorry for the things I have done to people I love, afraid that they won’t accept me even if I quit drinking.. afraid to become who I really am instead of who I am with alcohol.

I have never been so scared in my life.

I’m afraid to face the truth and push denial out of the way, because to do that means I was wrong all these years. Wrong for thinking I was okay, and wrong for thinking I could control myself. To admit that I was wrong means all those years, all those incidents shouldn’t have happened, and that means I have regrets. And I want no regrets.

I feel guilty. I feel like a scumbag. I’m open about everything in my life, including my depression (which drinking exacerbates). But this, for some reason, ties my stomach in knots.

I’m so afraid of what people will think. Maybe because bipolar disorder, though not fully understood by the general population, at least I think, seems more like a disease to people; they view it as something beyond a person’s control.

Alcoholism, I feel, is looked at by many as a weakness. A sign of making bad choices and not necessarily a disease, even though it’s been proven to have genetic predisposition involved, as is the case with me and my family.

Of course, depression runs in my family too, and I have obviously been self-medicating for a long time now. It’s the first
thing I reach for, my go-to, my trusty friend.

With a glass of wine I can feel good again. It’s a great feeling. It’s the nights that the glass turns into two glasses, then a bottle, then two bottles…the nights I’ve blacked out, remembering little, if nothing, about a majority of the evening, wondering what I said, what I did…who I did it with…the horrible dread of trying to recall the next day, what took place the night before, the hangovers lasting days – those are the reasons I want to quit drinking. At this point there are no benefits.

But mostly it’s my marriage I want to save. I have an incredible man and he does not deserve this. There are a couple of other reasons too, and it’s a knife through the heart to hear them ask why Mommy won’t get out of bed. No, it’s not every day. It’s not even too often at all in the minds of many, I’m sure. I know there are so many people who are in much more advanced stages of alcoholism than I am. But this is not their life. This is my life. And I know I have to do this if I want to keep it.

I want to be a better wife. I want to be a better mom. I need to be a role model.

I know in my gut, with every fiber of my being and pound on my body, that this is the only solution left. I’ve tried limiting drinking to weekends, drinking only at home, drinking only a certain kind of alcohol, drinking only for a certain number of hours – I’ve tried everything. I’ve taken “breaks” from drinking before when I’ve been spiraling out of control. I’ve “slowed it down.” But once I started again, I ended up right where I had been.

I know I can’t just “take a break” this time. I know my addictive, all-or-nothing personality, and telling myself I can stop for a while and then set limits once I start again does not work. I’ve tried that. It’s a slippery slope. I’ve exhausted the options, made the excuses, and fiercely embraced the denial with a warm, tight hug every single time. This is it. This. Is. It.

I am very scared. What do I do? Can I still have fun? Will I fit in? Will I always feel awkward now? Do I attend AA meetings? I’ve always thought of alcoholics as people who get up in the morning and have to drink. People on street corners with tattered clothing and bottles hidden in brown paper bags. People who, in general, seem much more “out of control” than I am.

I’ve never thought of myself as “one of them.” As it turns out, there is no exact alcoholic profile. I am one of them.

I’m not sure where to go from here, how to go from here. My path has not been marked out yet. I know that I do need to go from here, though, and take the path I have never taken. In order to save my marriage, my family, my life, I can’t stay on this path. My therapist said just as much a few weeks ago, when I had once again vowed to be better.

Yet somehow, some way, no matter what precautions I try to take, no matter how much I worry and think, and try, really, really try...I somehow always take a detour, and I’m back on the old path again. That path has now been blocked off, eradicated, and filled in with the grasses and weeds of yesterday.

I know I have a problem.

So today, I am going down a new path. The path of sobriety. It’s surreal. Alcohol has been such a focal point in almost everything I do. It’s very hard to imagine my life without it. It might not look like to others that I even have a problem, but I know I do. I’m scared that people won’t be supportive, and I’m scared to be this honest and vulnerable.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going yet, but I know where I’ve been, and if none of it had happened then I wouldn’t be where I am. And that is at a point of great change. Everything in my life has lead me to this point. Everything.

My name is Sara, and I’m an alcoholic.

Comments for The Light

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Jan 04, 2014
by: Anonymous

Sara, thanmks for your story! I am going thru the same type of journey right now four days sober from beer. I basically would drink about a 1/2 case a day after my kids went to bed. Have been doing it for a long time! Again your story gives me hope.

- Earl

Apr 20, 2013
Small world!
by: April

Ironic isnt it? I was one of your students, & by the way, my name is April & I am also a recovering alcoholic. Your not alone. xxxooo

Apr 20, 2013
I'm where you are at
by: Anonymous

Sara I am where you are at right now, I have fooled myself and others to think I don't have a problem but drinking 20 - 30 oz's. per day is a huge problem. I am scared to death to change it has been a major part of my life for decades. The person I live with is very supoortive but I am risking everything if I don't stop, now. I am signed up for treatment starting in a couple of days and again scared to death that I will fail. I see no enjoymnet in life thinking i can not drink anymore and need to find the joy's of life being sober. I am not a religous person and will need to find my own way without asking God for help. If there is a God he needs to help children with cancers or other problems and not me.Best of luck for both of us, we will need it.


Jan 05, 2012
Wonderfully Written
by: Anonymous

Top Notch! I am encouraged tremendously as i read that! so me! Thank You for your honesty! Keep your head held high!

Jan 03, 2012
Smiley face
by: Mandee

Sara...i know we have never been close.....but i want you to know I AM SO PROUD OF YOU! Awesome...Awesome! God Bless you hun

Jan 03, 2012
Thank you!
by: Sara

Rae, thanks so much for all the nice words! It hasn't been easy, but I know I made the right decision.

Nov 22, 2011
To Sara
by: Rae

Hi Sara,

Thanks so much for writing in to our website. Your story was incredibly honest and very brave. I remember when I first realized that I had a problem with drinking. I don't think there was a specific moment that I realized it; it was just a culmination of a bunch of horrible years and events.

I didn't know where to go or what to do. I didn't even know what an 'alcoholic' was. That word wasn't in my dictionary. I hadn't ever really known anyone who was an alcoholic and I didn't know where someone went to get help. I couldn't even really admit that I needed help.

All I knew was that my life was miserable and I needed to do something differently.

I think one of the greatest gifts we get as alcoholics is the gift of desperation. It may be cliche, but without desperation, nothing seems to change.

I remember when the jokes stopped being funny, and I remember what it feels like to continuously let everyone down; I remember letting myself down countless times.

All I can say is that your honesty is admirable, and there is, as you can imagine, a better way to live. I never imagined that my life was going to turn out this way. I never imagined that I would finish my college years sober. I didn't think I could be happy or have fun without drugs and alcohol.

The truth was, I wasn't happy with drugs and alcohol in my life. I just didn't know that there was another option.

I feel your pain, but I also feel your hope. If you didn't think there was hope, there would be no reason for you to try to go down this path of sobriety. All I can say is that no matter how difficult it is and how scary it is, it's been well worth it for me.

Getting sober didn't give me my life back, it gave me a life worth living. I don't hate myself today and I don't hate the things that I do. I don't have to constantly apologize to people and wonder what I did last night.

I truly wish you nothing but the best. Keep being honest and you will find your way. I do suggest (and this is not in any way supposed to be condescending) trying out some AA meetings. All I can tell you is that they have worked for me, and for a lot of people I know.

Sometimes I love them, and sometimes I hate them, but in every moment of my life, I like my sobriety more than I dislike meetings.

Keep us updated and write back if you would like! Best of luck to you, and never lose hope. Sure, sometimes I miss alcohol and drugs, but it's fleeting. I truly wouldn't trade my sobriety for anything. I also wouldn't trade my regrets and my past experiences for anything, because these mistakes are what got me here and what made me a better and happier person.

Take care!


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