| print this
FEAR OF FEAR
lady was cautious. She decided she wouldn't
let herself go in her drinking. And she would never,
never take that morning drink!
DIDN'T THINK I was an alcoholic. I thought my problem
was that I had been married to a drunk for twenty-seven
years. And when my husband found A.A., I came to the
second meeting with him. I thought it was wonderful,
simply marvelous, for him. But not for me. Then I went
to another meeting, and I still thought it was wonderful—for
him, but not for me.
It was a hot summer
night in 1949, down in the Greenwich Village Group,
and there was a little porch out there in the old meeting
place on Sullivan Street, and after the meeting I went
out on the steps for some air. In the doorway stood
a lovely young girl who said, "Are you one of us
souses, too?" I said, "Oh, goodness, no! My
husband is. He's in there." She told me her name,
and I said, "I know you from somewhere." It
turned out that she had been in high school with my
daughter. I said, "Eileen, are you one of those
people?" And she said, "Oh, yes. I'm in this."
As we walked back
through the hall I, for the first time in my life, said
to another human being, "I'm having trouble with
my drinking, too." She took me by the hand and
introduced me to the girl that I'm
very proud to call my sponsor. This girl and her husband
are both in A.A., and she said to me, "Oh, but
you're not the alcoholic; it's your husband." I
said, "Yes." She said, "How long have
you been married?" I said, "Twenty-seven years."
She said, "Twenty-seven years to an alcoholic!
How did you ever stand it?" I thought, now here's
a nice, sympathetic soul! This is for me. I said, "Well,
I stood it to keep the home together, and for the children's
sake." She said, "Yes, I know. You're just
a martyr, aren't you?" I walked away from that
girl grinding my teeth and cursing under my breath.
Fortunately, I didn't say a word to George on the way
home. But that night I tried to go to sleep. And I thought,
"You're some martyr, Jane! Let's look at the record."
And when I looked at it, I knew I was just as much a
drunk as George was, if not worse. I nudged George next
morning, and I said, "I'm in," and he said,
"Oh, I knew you'd make it."
I started drinking
nearly thirty years ago—right after I was married.
My first drinking spree was on corn liquor and I was
allergic to it, believe me. I was deathly sick every
time I took a drink. But we had to do a lot of entertaining,
my husband liked to have a good time; I was very young;
and I wanted to have a good time too. The only way I
knew to do it was to drink right along with him.
I got into terrific
trouble with my drinking. I was afraid, and I had made
my mind up that I would never get drunk, so I was watchful
and careful. We had a small child, and I loved her dearly,
so that held me back quite a bit in my drinking career.
Even so, every time I drank, I seemed to get in trouble.
wanted to drink too much, so I was watchful, always
watchful, counting my drinks. If we were invited to
a formal party and I knew they were only going to have
one or two drinks, I wouldn't have any. I was being
very cagey, because I knew that if I did take one or
two, I might want to take five or six or seven or eight.
I did stay fairly
good for a few years. But I wasn't happy, and I didn't
ever let myself go in my drinking. As my son, our second
child, came along, and as he became school age and was
away at school most of the time, something happened.
I really started drinking with a bang.
I never went to
a hospital. I never lost a job. I was never in jail.
And, unlike many others, I never took a drink in the
morning. I needed a drink, but I was afraid to take
a morning drink, because I didn't want to be a drunk.
I became a drunk anyway, but I was scared to death to
take that morning drink. I was accused of it many times
when I went to play bridge in the afternoon, but I really
never did take a morning drink. I was still woozy from
the night before.
I should have lost
my husband, and I think that only the fact that he was
an alcoholic too kept us together. No one else could
have stayed with me. Many women who have reached the
stage that I had reached in my drinking have lost husbands,
children, homes, everything they hold dear. I have been
very fortunate in many ways. The important thing I lost
was my own self-respect. I could feel fear coming into
my life. I couldn't face people. I couldn't look them
straight in the eyes, although I was always a self-
brazen sort of person. I'd brazen anything out. I lied
like a trooper to get out of many scrapes.
But I felt a fear
coming into my life, and I couldn't cope with it. I
got so that I hid quite a bit of the time, wouldn't
answer the phone, and stayed by myself as much as I
could. I noticed that I was avoiding all my social friends
except for my bridge. I couldn't keep up with any of
my other friends, and I wouldn't go to anyone's house
unless I knew they drank as heavily as I did. I never
knew it was the first drink that did it. I thought I
was losing my mind when I realized that I couldn't stop
drinking. That frightened me terribly.
George tried many
times to go on the wagon. If I had been sincere in what
I thought I wanted more than anything else in life—a
sober husband and a happy, contented home—I would
have gone on the wagon with him. I did try, for a day
or two, but something always would come up that would
throw me. It would be a little thing; the rugs being
crooked, or any silly little thing that I'd think was
wrong, and off I'd go, drinking. And sneaking my drinks.
I had bottles hidden all over the apartment. I didn't
think my children knew about it, but I found out they
did. It's surprising, how we think we fool everybody
in our drinking.
I reached a stage
where I couldn't go into my apartment without a drink.
It didn't bother me any more whether George was drinking
or not. I had to have liquor. Sometimes I would lie
on the bathroom floor, deathly sick, praying I would
die, and praying to God as I always had prayed to Him
when I was drinking: "Dear God, get me out of this
one and I'll never do it again." And then I'd say,
"God, don't pay any at-
to me. You know I'll do it tomorrow, the very same thing."
I used to make excuses
to try and get George off the wagon. I'd get so fed
up with drinking all alone and bearing the burden of
guilt all by myself, that I'd egg him on to drink, to
get started again. And then I'd fight with him because
he had started! And the whole merry-go-round would be
on again. And he, poor dear, didn't know what was going
on. He used to wonder, when he'd spot one of my bottles
around the house, just how he could have overlooked
that particular bottle. I myself didn't know all the
places I had them hidden.
We have only been
in A.A. a few years, but now we're trying to make up
for lost time. Twenty-seven years of confusion is what
my early married life was. Now the picture has changed
completely. We have faith in each other, trust in each
other, and understanding. A.A. has given us that. It
has taught me so many things. It has changed my thinking
entirely, about everything I do. I can't afford resentments
against anyone, because they are the build-up of another
drunk. I must live and let live. And "Think"—that
one important word means so much to me. My life was
always act and re-act. I never stopped to think. I just
didn't give a whoop about myself or anyone else.
I try to live our
program as it has been outlined to me, one day at a
time. I try to live today so that tomorrow I won't be
ashamed when I wake up in the morning. In the old days
I hated to wake up and look back at what last night
was like. I never could face it the next morning. And
unless I had some rosy picture of what was going to
happen that day, I wouldn't
feel like getting up in the morning at all. It really
wasn't living. Now I feel so very grateful not only
for my sobriety, which I try to maintain day by day,
but I'm grateful also for the ability to help other
people. I never thought I could be useful to anyone
except my husband and my children and perhaps a few
friends. But A.A. has shown me that I can help other
Many of my neighbors
devoted time to volunteer work during the war. There
was one girl especially, and I'd watch her from my window
every morning, leaving faithfully to go to the hospital
in the neighborhood. I said to her one day when I met
her on the street, "What sort of volunteer work
do you do?" She told me; it was simple; I could
have done it very easily. She said, "Why don't
you do it too?" I said, "I'd love to."
She said, "Suppose I put your name down as a volunteer.
We need them so badly even if you can only give one
day, or perhaps two days?" But then I thought,
well, now wait, how will I feel next Tuesday? How will
I feel next Friday, if I make it a Friday? How will
I feel next Saturday morning? I never knew. I was afraid
to set even one day. I could never be sure I'd have
a clear head and hands that were willing to do some
work. So I never did any volunteer work. And I felt
depleted, whipped. I had the time, I certainly had the
capability, but I never did a thing.
I am trying now,
each day, to make up for all those selfish, thoughtless,
foolish things I did in my drinking days. I hope that
I never forget to be grateful.
for more resources on Ceil F.