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This Could Have Been Me

Recently, someone recommended that I watch a video on Netflix. Lipstick & Liquor is a documentary film that explores the growing number of suburban women who become alcohol dependent. It is a film about women and alcohol – one in particular who disappeared on a frigid December day. Thirty-nine year old Julie stumbled away from a minor car accident, leaving behind her eight year old daughter, an open container of alcohol and a host of questions that baffled her family, her friends, and the police.  Days later, Julie was found dead right around the corner from her home. 
We had a huge snow storm several weeks ago and similar events unfolded right in my own neighborhood. I didn’t know the woman well, but had met her once through my husband. He told me that she also suffered from a life-threatening problem. She disappeared during the storm and was discovered two days later, a victim of hypothermia and other injuries.
This very thing could have happened to me! She came from the same culture, socio-economic status, and community as I do. She was admired and esteemed by all who knew her. 
I remember, awhile ago, I started drinking in the morning and walked down to the local liquor store. On my return up the steep hill home, I slipped into the woods to have a few drinks, hiding so my adult children who were home wouldn’t know. The glass bottle was tucked safely under the waistband of my sweats inside my coat. I placed my arms around my tummy to keep my prize from escaping from my grip.  
I had sneaked out of the house earlier, no one the wiser save for the occasional passerby and the liquor store owner. He didn’t recognize me because I seldom frequented his store. I was ashamed to be known as a familiar buyer in my own neighborhood. Years ago, when it was owned by different people and I was in denial of my disease, I was a regular. Back then, I told my kids it was the licorice store because I would purchase licorice for them when I stopped to get my own treat. My own treat ~ really?
The news of the woman in my community has hit me hard!
I picture that day.  She saw the snow coming, went to church, cleaned the house, cooked her family’s meal, all while sipping her drinks. I imagine her husband getting frustrated with her – scared and angry, helplessly taking away her keys. Then, after he left for work the following morning, the cravings hit hard. Without a vehicle, she grabbed some cash and began the mile long trek to the store. Ahh… the bottle.  Walking home, she stopped and hid to take a swig. She slipped in the snow, already a foot deep and still coming down. She reached for her phone, but realized it was at home. She couldn’t get up.
I envision her husband returning home from work to a cold and silent house. He calls his wife’s cell and it rings in another room. He is alone, completely alone. Out in the driveway sits the new fifth wheel they purchased to vacation with this summer and in the coming years of retirement. After a long while of comforting his anxiety, reasoning that she is with a neighbor, or on one of her long walks, he faces his reality. He calls 9-1-1. A report is filed. The adult children are notified. Days pass. Another needless tragedy has struck. 
Liquor and lipstick – the middle class career woman’s essential purse items. According to the documentary, DUI arrests of women have increased by 30% over the last ten years. Binge drinking by women is also on the rise. However, if you were to query a woman’s family or friends about her habits, many would not even know she has a problem. That’s because women are more likely to drink alone and keep it hidden. 
This could have been me. It could have been you. We must stay vigilant so that our families do not endure this type of senseless loss. I have so many questions. How do I reach out to women in denial, women at risk, women who believe they are fine because they think they are responsible, women who call themselves highly functioning? How do we reach these women before they die? How do we reach all women? How do we help homeless women, women of color, and women in abusive relationships? How do we help them find peace? 
It is my sincere hope that these women will discover the benefits of Women For Sobriety (WFS) and its New Life Program. To learn more visit https://womenforsobriety.org/
~ MAC
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Trust the Universe

I often want to share about how wonderful sobriety is, but that can feel overwhelming because there are so many experiences I could discuss. I’ve decided to share about trusting the universe and what happens when you do.

I stopped drinking on July 2, 2016. My first half year of sobriety was simply focused on not drinking, studying the Women for Sobriety (WFS) Statements and beginning to feel stable without alcohol. By the following spring, I began to get antsy. I knew that my life could be so much better, but how would I even start to make changes? I pondered on that, attempting to discover my purpose. Then, early one morning during my daily routine, I wrote in my journal “I am ready for my change.”

That afternoon, I learned that my teaching contract would only be half-time for the following year due to low student enrollment. My first reaction ~ well it was some colorful language! Then I acknowledged, “This is exactly what you just asked for.”  My superintendent offered to help find me a full-time position in another school district, but I knew something else was out there for me.

By mid-summer I was offered a new job in a completely different field, one where I would be able to apply my teaching expertise. After just two short months, I felt overwhelmed and asked myself,  “What have I done? How can this be my purpose when I feel so unhappy?” Yet, I decided to stick with it for one year and give it my all. I learned as much as I could in the field and always tried to go the extra mile.  Life can be ordinary or it can be great and I was going to do a great job!

Within a year, I found myself applying for another job that someone had suggested. I had only worked in the field for a short time and had almost none of the required qualifications. But when I walked into the interview, I recognized people who had seen my efforts and knew that I had put my whole heart into my work. I felt like  crying tears of joy! I was offered the position and thought, “Yes! This is my dream job!”

Nothing is what I would have imagined ~ but my dream job is a perfect fit! I have a vision for what I am doing and I am becoming an expert. This is the coolest thing – I’m still in disbelief – but my new job is so fulfilling! I write a newspaper column related to my work and it’s published in eight papers. Why? Simply because I told them I wanted to!

Here is what I’ve discovered. I am not afraid of my passion anymore! I don’t try to dull my enthusiasm for fear of being ‘too much.’ I’m not afraid to use my voice to advocate for what I believe in my heart is right. Women for Sobriety has taught me so much about compassion and love, and that allows me to connect with people in ways that I wouldn’t have known before I stopped drinking.

I can feel my power inside. I harness that power, along with self-belief and courage, to tackle unimaginable challenges. I have confidence and I trust myself now. I am what I think, and I think positive thoughts throughout my day. I believe this is true because I have experienced it. The more amazing you believe you are, the more others will see it, too!

It’s all a work in progress. Every morning I wake up and tear off yesterday’s page on my Audubon calendar. I ponder my newest feathered friend before my journaling, meditation and setting of priorities begin. I know that the time I spend each morning is an investment in my future. There’s no question that I will do this routine each day for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine going back to my drinking days! Drinking was a closed circuit loop; sobriety is a wide open field. “The sky’s the limit!” This is what I was told when I accepted this job, and I now push myself to reach for it! For me, that’s fulfillment.   

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