I wrote this article with your help. You may recognize your words in this piece. Thank-you for reaching out and sharing. You are helping a lot of people. Peace and happiness my friends.
I’m going on KQRS FM, Minneapoolis, at 7:10 am CST; KAYT FM in Louisiana at 8:40 am EST/7:40 CST; and taping The Father Albert Show at 2:30 pm EST. I’ll let you know later today how it goes!
Going public with the fact that I’m an alcoholic has been an interesting ride. I’ve been on the TODAY show http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/43563592/ns/today-books/ , babble‘s cool mommy blog picked up the segment http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2011/06/30/are-moms-drinking-too-much/ , and I’m going back to New York to be on a new talk show called The Father Albert Show. Father Albert is taped in front of a live audience, so the ride will get more interesting. If you check out the TODAY and babble links, you’ll see I’ve received some great comments and some not so great comments. Thanks for riding with me. Connecting with you is everything.
We understand each other like no one else. And we can help each other arrest our addictions. I find comfort and relief in knowing I am not alone. Thank-you for your wonderful comments. Keep them coming. What’s going on with you? What’s working? What isn’t? Someone else is facing or has faced the same issues you are. We’re in the same boat.
Peace my friends,
If you are in Chicago March 3rd, please come to my book release party! It’s at Mars Gallery, 1139 W. Fulton Market, from 7:00-9:00 pm. Visit me at brendawilhelmson.com for more information about Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife and my party. I hope to meet you!
Some of you have been wondering why I stopped writing. Well, Hazelden is turning Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife into a book. I’m excited and scared at the same time as everything I’ve written will soon be very public. My book is being released as an e-book through all e-book channels April 1. Print copies will be available through Hazelden.org/bookstore.
If you have a drinking problem, I hope you’ve found comfort knowing that you are not alone. And I hope you have hope. When I started working a 12-step program, I discovered that life was a cool and interesting ride. My former life was numb and riddled with hangovers. I hope I never take that life back.
Peace and happiness,
Things got ugly today, just like I knew they would. My family and I have been coming up here every summer for years and at some point, usually midweek, my father has a major meltdown. My father gets increasingly irritable as the days tic by. He dwells on instances where he thinks he wasn’t thanked sufficiently. He tallies up the money he’s spent and figures out how many meals or drinks he should have been treated to. Basically, he comes up with ways his ass should have been kissed but wasn’t.
Tonight, my dad started picking on the kids. He yelled at them for monopolizing the TV, not picking up enough, not spending enough time fishing, wasting food. He had begun the day, like every other, with Bloody Marys after breakfast. He’d moved onto beer by lunch and by early afternoon he was pouring Manhattans. By dinner, my dad was tanked and cranky. We were having dinner at The Ribber, the lake restaurant my dad and I had checked out yesterday morning. We all hopped in his boat, put our name on the waiting list, and ordered drinks on the patio. Max and Seth ordered kiddy cocktails.
“I hope our drinks come with umbrellas,” Seth said.
“Why? Are you a girl?” my dad sneered and made a limp-wristed gesture. “Only girls want to play with umbrellas in their drinks.”
A few minutes later, Seth pulled out a stack of business cards he’d collected from the places we’d been.
“What do you want with those?” my dad asked nastily. “You want business cards? Here, take these.” My father fished three cards out of his wallet, his fishing charter business cards, and said, “You can give these to your father. Tell him this is the guy who took you tubing, shooting at the rifle range, put you up in Minocqua for a week.”
The hostess sat us at a table twenty minutes later. I ordered Van chicken fingers and asked the waitress to bring them before the rest of our meal. Fifteen minutes passed. Our waitress delivered a basket of rolls and left. Fifteen more minutes passed. The waitress brought our soups and salads but no chicken fingers. Finally, the waitress delivered Van’s meal and almost twenty minutes later, the rest of us got our dinner. Max and Seth were bouncing off the walls. While we were waiting, Seth and Max had pulled up the hoods of their jackets, yanked the strings tight, poked their noses out of the tiny hood openings, and dangled spoons from their noses. When their ribs came, they yanked their hoods off and ripped into their food. Van, however, barely nibbled at the chicken because he’d eaten loads of rolls before his food arrived.
“I don’t know why you order him food,” my father snapped at me. “You know he’s not going to eat anything.”
“He stuffed himself with rolls and crackers because it took forever for his food to get here,” I snapped back.
My dad scanned the table with a nasty look on his face. He was mentally tabulating what the meal was going to cost him. Charlie and I had bought dinner last night, but I could see my dad was feeling entitled to another meal. Fuck him. Charlie looked at me when the bill came and I shook my head.
We hopped into my dad’s boat and drove back to the cabin. I put Van to bed and Max popped “Psycho” into the VCR. We’d started watching “Psycho” a couple of nights ago but Seth had fallen asleep before the shower scene so Max rewound the tape to the infamous whacking.
“It’s always the kids, everything’s for the kids,” my dad bitched. “What about me? What about what I want to watch?”
“What do you want to watch?” I asked him.
We watched the shower scene.
“That wasn’t scary,” Seth said. “I wasn’t scared at all.”
“These kids, all the shit they see and this is nothing!” my dad howled. He wagged his head disgustedly and drained his Manhattan. He got up to get another drink. I let the kids finish watching “Psycho” and told them to go to bed. My dad put on David Letterman. Just then, my geriatric German Shepherd, Sturgis, farted.
“Hey mom, when did the dogs go out last?” I asked.
“Now your mother’s supposed to take care of your dog?” my dad growled. “She’s supposed to let your dog out? That’s her job?”
My parents have a Labrador Retriever, Corbie. We all let the dogs in and out of the cabin constantly.
“What are you talking about? I just want to know. . .” I started.
“You don’t even know when he’s been out last,” my dad spat. “Your mother’s been picking up his shit, too. Yeah. That’s her job, too. Let her do it.”
My mother started to say something and my father cut her off. “You know it’s true. You’re the fucking maid.”
My mother attempted to speak again and my father shouted over her.
I looked at my mother. “Don’t get sucked into this. He’s drunk. It’s pointless.” I got up and went upstairs. Charlie had fled upstairs when the boys went to bed. I put on my pajamas and sat on the loft couch attempting to read. My parents were sitting in the living room below still watching Letterman. I could see them out of the corner of my eye through the pine log railing.
“What the hell’s wrong with her?” my father muttered to my mother. “Can’t take a little criticism? She brings Max’s friend along and I’m supposed to feed him, take care of him for a week? What kind of shit is that? The gas money I burned dragging him around the lake, what the fuck?!”
I wanted to chop my father’s head off his stubby neck. I took some deep breaths and told myself, “Detach, detach, don’t get sucked in.” During my dad’s meltdown last year, he and I had a screaming match. I attempted to remain calm this time but in the end I got up off the couch, grabbed my purse, scribbled my father a check for two hundred dollars, and penned a note that said, “Dad, Even though we bought most of the groceries, this check should cover any food or boat expenses. Thanks for being a gracious host. Brenda.” I marched downstairs. The door to the downstairs bathroom was open and my father was in there brushing his teeth. I walked in, slapped the check and the note down on the sink, and stalked back upstairs.
“Would you look at this,” my dad screamed at my mother. “What the hell is wrong with her?” I entered the upstairs bathroom and slammed the door shut. I began washing up but could still hear my dad screaming over the running water. “I’m gonna wipe my ass with this check and give it back to her,” he bellowed.
I looked in the mirror. My adrenaline was pumping. The bathroom see-sawed as my heartbeat banged in my head. I heard my mother tell my father to calm down, go to bed, everything would be better in the morning. Their bedroom door slammed shut. I could hear my dad bitching behind it. I went to bed and lay rigged for at least an hour before falling asleep.
I miss getting loaded. I’ve been wanting to drink all week. When I arrived at the cabin on Friday, I went directly to the kitchen to get a martini then remembered I wasn’t drinking. It felt weird not grabbing the vodka bottle and pouring myself a stiff one. Saturday night, while we were having dinner, my dad asked, “Where’s the wine?” I’m the wino who always supplied it. My dad doesn’t drink wine if I’m not around. I wanted a glass of pinot grigio so bad I could feel its icy dryness on my tongue. I made a trip to Triggs to buy groceries on Sunday and my dad said, “Pick me up some vodka,” as I was walking out the door. I didn’t buy him any, so yesterday he purchased a liter of vodka. Before dinner last night, my dad took the kids and me for a boat ride and on our way back, he said, “I’m gonna fix Charlie and me a nice martini. Charlie’s about ready for one, I’m sure.” This morning, my dad and I went out on the boat and docked at a restaurant to check its dinner hours. “Last year we stopped here for Bloody Marys,” he said. “Remember?”
My father has been grinding me down for four days. He’d love to have me back as his drinking buddy, and part of me feels guilty for not drinking with him, like it’s the least I could do for a dying man.
When my dad and I got back to the cabin, Charlie and I loaded our bikes on our Jeep and took Seth and Max biking in Boulder Junction. We rode to Cathedral Point, a gorgeous secluded lake spot, and ate a picnic lunch there. We waded into the water and Seth and I decided to swim. Seth, Max, and I were wearing quick-dry shorts. Charlie was wearing heavy cotton shorts.
“Take them off and swim in your boxers,” I said.
Charlie, for whatever reason, was in one of his pissy moods. He shook his head and I turned away from his crabby face. Max was agitated, too. Seth was riding a brand new bike that was twice the size of Max’s and Max was pedaling twice as hard as the rest of us to keep up. Max said he didn’t want to swim either.
“Come on Max,” I said. “A swim will feel good. Go into the woods, take your underwear off, put your shorts back on, and come in. You’ll be all nice and cool during the ride back. It’s not going to be fun sitting here like a bump on a log with dad watching Seth and me.”
“I’m going to swim in my underwear,” Seth said, peeling off his shorts and wading in.
Max shook his head at Seth and reluctantly walked into the woods to change out of his underwear. I walked to a different spot in the woods, took off my underwear, put my shorts back on, removed my shirt, and walked out in my shorts and bra.
“Mom!” Max said, appalled. “What are you doing? Are you crazy?”
“What? Pretend it’s a bathing suit top.”
The water felt great. Charlie sat on the bank fidgeting irritably. I continued to ignore him. Fuck him if he won’t tell me what’s wrong. I’m not going to wheedle information out of him like he’s a child. On the ride back, the boys and I were cool and refreshed and Charlie was sweating and grimy.
We got back to the cabin, showered up for dinner, and hopped into my dad’s Suburban. We drove to the Norwood Pines restaurant, but there was an hour wait for a table.
“You got all these tables here,” my father said to the hostess and gestured at a closed dining room. “Can’t you open this up?”
“We can’t do that to our wait staff or our kitchen,” the hostess answered. “We don’t have enough people tonight.”
“Well, we’re not waiting an hour,” my dad snapped. He was already lit.
“Would you like a menu to take with?” the hostess asked. “You could call for a reservation next time.”
My father waved his hand at her in disgust and stalked out the door. My mother took the menu.
“Who ever heard of a reservation on a Tuesday night,” my father growled. “If they know they’re going to be busy, plan for it. No reason they couldn’t open a fucking table for us.”
We had dinner at The Plantation instead. Charlie paid the check and we piled back into my dad’s Suburban. Charlie, Van, and I climbed into the backseat, and my dad opened the hatch for Max and Seth to hop in the cargo area. My dad drove off. We were on the road two minutes when police lights began flashing. My father, who’d had many cocktails, began yelling for someone to give him a piece of gum. My mother had given Charlie a stick of gum at the restaurant and was frantically digging through her purse trying to find another piece.
“Fuck!” my dad shouted. “Give me the piece in your mouth Charlie.” Charlie spit his gum out and handed it to my dad. My father popped it in his mouth and got out of the car. “What did I do?” he asked the officer, who was standing next to the Suburban.
“I need to see your license, your vehicle registration, your proof of insurance,” the officer said.
My father stalked around the front of the Suburban, opened the passenger side door, and started rifling through the glove compartment. After handing the documents to the officer, my father and the cop exchanged some testy words I couldn’t make out and the officer told my dad to get back in the car.
“Fucking asshole,” my father ranted from the driver’s seat. “Said I improperly entered the highway, that I pulled out right in front of him. He’s giving me a warning for that and writing me up for the kids in back. Cocksucker! The cocksucker was laying for me. Son of a bitch. Fucking asshole. ‘How many drinks have you had tonight?’ my dad mimicked. I’d tell him where to fucking go if I didn’t have drinks in me.”
“So you could go to jail, spend the night in jail?” my mother asked sarcastically.
“That’s right,” my father spat. “Because I’m in the right here and I’d tell him where to stick it.”
“Jerry, calm down,” Charlie said. “You’re going to make this worse. You just don’t say anything. When a policeman gives you a ticket, you say thank-you and drive away.”
“Shut-up,” I hissed at Charlie.
“Thank-you!?” my father shouted. “I’m going to say thank-you to that cocksucker? I don’t fucking believe it.”
“You don’t say thank-you,” I snapped and looked at Charlie like he was a moron. “But don’t get upset. Don’t let the cop have that kind of power over you.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes.
“What the hell is taking that asshole so long?” my dad asked. “He’s just fucking with me now. I’d like to fuck with him.”
The cop was sitting in his vehicle parked behind us. The windows of the Suburban were all open.
“Somebody else better get in the back because I can’t leave here with minors in the cargo area,” my father growled.
“It’s okay if adults are back there?” I asked.
“Yes,” he snapped.
Charlie and I traded places with Max and Seth. The cop walked up to my dad’s window and gave him the ticket. We drove off.
“Cocksucker,” my dad muttered.
I’ve been trying to find a recovery meeting for two days. On Friday, I called a number in the phone book, left a message on someone’s answering machine, and no one called me back. On Saturday, I called the number again, someone picked up, and it sounded like the phone was tumbling around in the bottom of a purse while a hand fished for it. An older woman laughed then the phone went dead. I called back. The old woman answered.
“Hi,” I said. “I’m looking for a meeting but I’m not sure I have the right number.”
“Oh hi,” she said. “Yeah, this is the right number. I’m not at home so I’m not by my meeting list. Could you call back at four-thirty when I’ll be home?”
I called back at four-thirty and got her voicemail. I left another message and left the cabin number and my cell number. She didn’t call back. I called a local treatment center thinking they might have a meeting list. What sounded to be a very old woman answered. “There’s a meeting going on here right now, but it’s almost over,” she said.
“Great. Is there another one this week?”
“Oh, this is the only one here,” she said. “It’s once a week on Saturday.”
“There have to be other meetings,” I said. “Do you have a list?”
“I work at the hospital as a greeter,” she said. “I don’t have any of that information. Call me back tomorrow. I’ll be at work at ten on Sunday. I’ll see what I can find out for you from the men as they leave tonight.”
I called the hospital greeter this morning.
“Oh, I didn’t get a chance to ask,” the woman said. “They went out a different door.”
I was livid. I called Sara. I told her I felt like drinking.
“Look how hard you’ve tried to find a meeting,” Sara said. “Look how much you want to stay sober. That’s awesome. So you couldn’t find a meeting, you’re talking to me. Just think how lucky we are to have all the meetings we have at home. Those poor people up there—it’s got to be a lot harder for them. Keep calling me.”