April 29, 2010 -- Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is a comedian and author of "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay," "Naptime Is the New Happy Hour," and the blog, "Babyonbored."
If sobriety has taught me anything, it's the value of complete honesty. Every time I tell my story it takes the shame from words like alcoholism and addict. Because I am just like you. Maybe I drank more or maybe I drank less, but I was just a mom you may have passed at the grocery store buying frozen waffles, or playing with my kids on the lawn in the summer. I wasn't on skid row or working on a novel from my jail cell. I've never had a DUI or been drunk before 9:00 a.m. but I'm still an alcoholic. I always think that maybe, if more women had been out in the open, I could have seen myself more clearly and not been embarrassed to ask for help. So, when "20/20" asked me to appear on camera, I said yes.
As I approach my one-year birthday, I have dealt with more and more firsts without the calming balm of wine or a Vicodin or even one little blue Xanax. I may be getting further and further away from my last drink, but there are times when I feel it all right behind me nipping at my heels trying to pull me back. This is to be expected. But as an addict, I'm always surprised at the ferocity of those cravings. And, as an addict, I'm convinced that whatever I'm feeling is going to last forever. The addict voice kicks in like this: "God, I'm so anxious. Why am I so anxious? I don't know why I'm anxious so maybe this is just my new state of being. Great, I'm now a person who has heart palpitations, a clenched jaw and a generally nervous disposition. This is horrible! It will never change no matter what I do and I cannot live this way, right? No wonder I had a prescription for Xanax -- I have an anxiety disorder. It's a medical condition dammit. Am I really supposed to just sit here in this crazy anxiety and not just take one little Xanax to make it all better? God invented Xanax for people like me! I am special and I need a Xanax to function!"
And that's when I call someone close to me who understands my problem and they intervene with some words of wisdom like, "Xanax is for people who aren't alcoholics. People who are alcoholics will take a Xanax and then take one more for good measure. Then, the next time they feel anxious, they will say, 'Hmm, I took a Xanax last time I was feeling this way so I should take one now' and pretty soon they will be crushing up Xanax, putting it in a gel cap and using it as a suppository." OK, so that person's advice may be a little hard-core but you get the point.
I can't take Xanax. I can't have a drink. But there have been times I want one so badly it scares me. I guess I thought that once I got over the hump, I wouldn't deal with this anymore. This seems like Sobriety 101, this whole white-knuckling it through an hour of I WANT A GLASS OF WINE RIGHT NOW feeling. I feel like I should be past this.
What I'm figuring out is, I've never had to do it before. I've never had to tell myself no. And I'm a big baby. I want what I want and I want it now. I don't want to feel better a week from Tuesday, I want to feel better as fast as possible. In those moments the thought of sobriety being a long-term solution sure sounds like bad news to me.
But, the more times I go through this feeling and come out the other side, the more confidence I have that this thing can be done. If I can be on a deadline, have three kids, two of whom are usually crying and manage to not give in to a craving, anyone can do it.
I do this not drinking thing one day at a time and with a lot of help. But I don't have any fancy slogans to make it all better for anyone else who's doing it too. All I have is the truth. And the truth is that I am an alcoholic and I need to keep reminding myself of that.
When I posted on my blog last May that I had to stop drinking, I described a pattern in my drinking that had emerged in the last couple of years since my twins were born. My drinking did step up with the stress of having preemies. It had crossed a line into daily drinking and a feeling that after a glass or three I really didn't want to stop until I was completely out of it.
But as the months have passed without mama's feel-better juice, I've come to realize that that line had been moved back inch by inch long before I ever even crossed it. I've gotten a prescription for pain killers and plowed through them like a bag of chips on more than one occasion. I've driven drunk. I've gotten so drunk I puked repeatedly -- on a first date. I've done things I don't remember and don't care to remember. I've embarrassed myself and other people. I fell down the stairs at my in-laws house after coming home literally stumbling drunk. So don't let me paint a prettier picture of myself for you. Don't let me make you think that I just quit drinking because I had "a couple of glasses" of wine at night. Because that may be true, but it's not the whole story.
My name is Stefanie and I'm an alcoholic.