Fumes in the Night


Alcoholism and substance abuse were our family business—the one thing we all did well. No one even noticed when, as a child, I helped clean up after my parents’ bridge parties by drinking the last drops of liquor left in the bottom of each glass.

I started drinking on my own when I was thirteen. By sixteen I was pretty regular, and by eighteen I was a full-blown alcoholic. At nineteen I married an alcoholic; and at twenty-five I got divorced, but didn’t stop drinking. I functioned fine on the outside. I would work during the day and drink during the night. That’s the way we did it in my family.

Eventually I got married again. My husband had no clue what was going on. I’d have a few drinks with him over dinner and go to bed more or less when he did. In the middle of the night, when he was sound asleep, I would get up and spend several hours drinking alone. I had become my mother.

Even though no one was trying to stop me—no one even knew what I was doing—sometimes I would obsess for six hours a day about how and when I would get my next drink. My mind was always on it.

Things went on this way for many years. Odd as it may seem, I was a successful businesswoman and a fitness instructor. I began to meditate, and I regularly led group meditation and healing sessions. I knew I was lacking integrity in presenting myself as a leader that way, but I was powerless to stop.

Early one morning I awoke to an all-pervasive smell of alcohol in the bedroom. One of my most vivid childhood memories is opening the door of my parents’ room early in the morning and being assaulted by a wave of alcohol fumes. My mother, having gone to bed after hours of drinking, had been breathing into the closed room all night.

She had died years earlier—of alcoholism, of course—and I thought her spirit had come to visit me. As part of my healing work I channeled spirits from the other side, so it seemed natural that she might come.

“Mother,” I said, “is that you?”

Then, in a sickening wave of grief, I realized that the smell of alcohol was not coming from my mother; it was coming from me. I got out of bed, went into the dark living room, and fell on my knees and prayed.

“Lord,” I said, “you must help me. I can’t go on living this way.”

This time God must have known I was serious, because I never drank again. Not that it was easy. Adult Children of Alcoholics, Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps—I worked my programs with every ounce of strength I had and all the strength God gave me.

Even now, twenty-one years later, I never take my sobriety for granted. To me it will always be a miracle from God.