At 69 years old, Peggi has now lived life on both sides of alcohol. She credits This Naked Mind with helping her find freedom and encouraging her to write a book about it – This Side of Alcohol.
This Naked Mind and My Story Intersect
There are two highlights of my story that relate to you. One is that your book changed everything for me. TNM was Jenn Kautsch’s first recommendation when I enrolled in Sober Sis in July of 2019. The second is, that my husband initially left me because of my drinking and came back after reading your book. This is not an exaggeration. He credits your book and William Porter’s (Alcohol Explained) for saving our marriage. Your book helped Paul choose understanding over leaving. And he writes about that in the last chapter of my book, This Side of Alcohol.
Living Out Loud
For the past 8 years, I have been teaching social work and coaching for UC Davis in California. The chair of my department and my two directors have encouraged me to live my sobriety out loud. In June, I will be presenting my book and the effects of secondary trauma on social work at the UC Davis Well-Being Conference in Anaheim.
Annie Grace and Jenn Kautsch have been the central drivers of me getting and staying sober.
My Drinking Story
My drinking did not become a problem for me until I was in my 50’s (I am 69). Up until then, I drank socially, but it was on occasion, and I really didn’t think much about it. We didn’t keep alcohol in the house. Looking back, I do see that when I did drink, it was never one and often border lined on binge drinking.
I am a type seven on the enneagram. Sevens are known to have many careers. Two are notable. In the 90s, I owned and directed a dance, aerobics, art, and theater company named Heart and Sole. We put on recitals, art shows, and The Nutcracker, and contracted with local schools and the community college to put on plays and musicals. I sold the business when my children were in their teens. They needed their mother. And owning my own business was a 90-hour-a-week endeavor.
I then became a social worker for child welfare and adult protective services. It was such a good fit for me. I loved it. But about ten years in, I was starting to suffer from secondary trauma from witnessing so much abuse and neglect. On top of that, I found myself getting so burnt out working in a system that is broken in so many ways. There are so many first responders in the recovery community who consistently take care of others while neglecting themselves.
During this time, I found myself coming home and decompressing with a couple of glasses of wine during the week not thinking a thing about it.
On top of work stress, I was part of a blended family. I tried to be the best step-parent on the planet. There is no such thing. I almost lost myself in the trying.
The Next Phase
14 days after I retired, UC Davis asked me if I would be interested in teaching social work and coaching. It was and is my dream job. In 2018 I was selected out of 1750 instructors to receive the outstanding service award. You would think having my dream job and receiving that kind of recognition would make me drink at least less. Nope. I actually drank more. This was cognitive dissonance at its best. I was teaching social workers how to work with families who are affected by addiction. I felt like such a fraud.
Right then, I knew I was in trouble. It took me several more years to do anything significant about my drinking. I did have several periods of sobriety and periods where I said I stopped drinking, but I was lying.
Life on This Side of Alcohol
By this time, I was teaching by day, and breaking my immediate family’s hearts by night. My friends, most of my family, and all of my colleagues had no idea I had a drinking problem. I didn’t tell my best friend until 4 months in. My husband threatened me, shamed me, left me, repeat. All that did was make me more defensive, more of a liar and my drinking literally went into my closet. And because I was guzzling the wine so fast, I began to experience more grey and blackouts. I was a mess.
There were several incidents: I drank too much at my daughter’s best friend’s wedding and created a scene; I passed out at her mother-in-law’s house on Mother’s Day and drank so much at another granddaughter’s birthday party, I was too drunk to babysit that night so Lindsay and Jason had to cancel their dinner plans.
I think of July 11, 2019, as that one, last, rock bottom that very nearly cost me everything I care about. I still wake up sometimes to thoughts of that day. My husband and I had just returned to a cabin we rented after an annual family picnic in Lake Tahoe. I purposely didn’t drink at the reunion because I didn’t want to do anything that would embarrass my family in any way. So, I drank when I got back to the cabin. Quickly. After being in the sun for 8 hours.
A couple of hours later, my son, Brett, daughter, Lindsay, son-in-law, Jason, and their two sets of twins came home from the lake to find my husband screaming at me because he was so pissed off that I had been drinking.
My son, thinking he needed to defend me, went after my husband and my son-in-law stepped in to pull Brett off of him. My daughter and terrified grandchildren stood there watching the whole thing. With no intention of returning after 34 years of marriage, my husband left and was gone for most of the following month.
The next morning, my quiet, reserved, more-mature-than-me daughter sat down across from me and said, “Mom, if you don’t do something about your drinking, you will not be able to have the kind of relationship you want with me, Jason and the kids.” This was too high a price to pay.
A Reason To Change
I am actually grateful to have a tangible incident that ignited my resolve to stop drinking. For good. And although I will always credit my daughter’s words that day as the ones I needed to hear, words that literally saved my life, I also think about my son who stayed with me, who watched over me to get me through those first couple days where I was filled with shame and complete self-loathing. He stayed with me while the others spent the day at the beach. He took me to lunch at a restaurant where I could barely keep from laying my aching head on the table. Where just looking and smelling his chili cheese fries came close to making me hurl.
I signed up for the Sober Sis 21 Day Reset program that day. It just happened to come across my Facebook page. I felt like I had to do something immediately that would make my family understand that I was serious about addressing my drinking.
Living a New Life on This Side of Alcohol
That evening, I asked my son to take me to an AA meeting, and when I looked back at him in his car, he was crying.
I know he was scared.
I will never forget how a man from AA witnessed this, walked over to my son, praised him for bringing me, and asked if there was anything, he could do for him. He actually sat with Brett for a few minutes and they talked. There are so many kind people in the world.
Thirty-three months later, Brett still calls me almost every day, not to check on me but to check in with me. We have meaningful conversations about life, and I remember all of them.
Even though Brett never really thought I had a serious drinking problem, he is clearly no longer worried about me. I am present. I am his mother. As it should be.
My daughter has a predictable mother she and her children can depend on every single day. A daughter who doesn’t show her affection easily, but one who texts thumbs up, comments with heart emojis, and “I am proud of you” to acknowledge my sober milestones. I can feel the connection with her even though she has a harder time talking about it. She calls me now for no apparent reason, something she rarely did before. I have my daughter back.
How Others Felt
Recently, I asked Paul to describe some of his feelings about my drinking. “Are you social working me?” he asked. I said no, I really wanted to know what he felt other than the apparent anger and complete frustration my drinking caused. “Scared, anxious, he missed the real me, humiliated, hurt, disgusted, helpless, if-you-really-loved-me-you-would-quit, weak, hateful, alone, done”. He threatened and cried, he left, he came back.
Paul talked about how reading “Alcohol Explained” and “This Naked Mind” turned his anger into compassion and understanding. It was then that he became my biggest supporter.
Are you ready to start living life on this side of alcohol? Start reading This Naked Mind for free now and you can!
Peace From Havoc
My sobriety has brought peace into my marriage where before there was so much havoc and chaos. The emotional pain from the alcohol-fueled fights we had rivaled any physical pain I have experienced in my life. For both of us. Heart. Breaking. Names were called, there was shoving, breaking things, there was a lot of leaving, threats of divorce, just an overall shit show. There were times I had absolutely no recollection of the damage I had caused the night before. So many walks of shame to the coffee pot. Sometimes, like on July 11, our adult children and grandchildren become involved. More. Hearts. Breaking.
There is still much work to be done in our marriage. On both sides. But I am doing it sober. And I team with an amazing psychologist.
What Brought Me To This Side of Alcohol
I completed two Sober Sis programs, Annie Grace’s 100 Days of Lasting Change, Staci Danford’s Grateful Brain and Gratitude Boost, Laura Mckowen’s We Are the Luckiest course and a nine-week enneagram coaching series with The Art of Growth. In addition, I have read books and listened to hours of podcasts. I drank 150%. I am getting and staying sober the same way.
Was all this work worth it? Absolutely. My life is infinitely better, and when it isn’t, I have the tools to deal with that too.
Who I Am on This Side of Alcohol
Some of my non-negotiables are writing, journaling, walking, and surrendering. I facilitate a weekly Zoom meeting in Northern California and help coordinate local sober activities. I discovered I am a writer. My Facebook page has over 15.3K followers. I write a weekly newsletter. The Sober in the City event being held in Sacramento, CA on May 21 features me as a guest speaker.
I have a dream to connect communities like TNM to child welfare parents whose only choice right now seems to be AA. Also, I am developing a tool called Sobriety Mapping that comes out of my experience as a social worker.
Share Your Story
Did This Naked Mind help you move to this side of alcohol? We’d love to share your story and encourage others with it. Whether it was a book, the This Naked Mind Companion app, a podcast, or another program that brought you freedom – share that hope with others. Learn how here!