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There is an answer

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Have you ever woken up after a night of drinking and wondered what you did? Have you looked for physical clues on your body to see if you've had sex, fought someone or got sick? Have you felt guilty wondering what you have done and afraid to ask your friends; drank a lot quickly to get to that point where you felt good and then figured out you over-shot the goal when you ended up in a black out?

Have you ever had trouble looking your boss in the eye on Monday when they asked how your weekend went? Had a customer offer you a breath mint because you smelt like alcohol the next morning? Afraid your photos might end up on someone's FaceBook or MySpace page and that someone whose opinion matters to you might see it? Or that the Airmen who saw you fall off that bar stool may not regard you with the same respect they used to?

I've done most of these things at some point in my life.

Perhaps the worst part of my life while drinking alcohol was the knowledge that I had a problem but not being able to fix it on my own. I had been through so many life issues, it killed me to not be able to fix it on my own. It almost did kill me. After several years of increasing levels of drinking and built-up guilt about behaviors I've had while drinking topped by a phone call with a boyfriend that didn't go the way I wanted it to, I gave up. I was spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally broken and couldn't figure out how to fix myself. Asking for help wasn't an option because then it would mean letting people know I wasn't the strong, "good" person I wanted them to think I was. I was hurting and lived in constant fear of being found out.

I opted for an easier solution; I swallowed between 20-30 sleeping pills and waited for the peaceful sleep I longed for. In the meantime, I sent the boyfriend a text saying I may have done something I would regret and then turned off my phone. The last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital was vomiting and then lying down to sleep again. Thank goodness my friend drove me to the hospital despite my wishes.

I don't remember much of that night but have read the intake records. My body was toxic and in addition to the charcoal, I had to take medicine to help my liver. It was embarrassing when my first sergeant came to my hospital room. Hard to hear him say I was the last person he would ever have thought would do this and when he asked me if I thought I might have a problem with alcohol, my first reaction was no. My disease was so strong that I was in denial about the true effects of my drinking on those I loved, friends who cared, and people I worked with.

I was a "functional" alcoholic. I worked hard at my job because it was the only thing that gave me a positive feeling. I didn't realize how when I was "sick" and couldn't go, or was distracted because I was thinking about that next drink, or had to be hospitalized that someone else had to take up my slack. Or that when I was passed out I really wasn't taking care of my kids and how being snappy with them because I wasn't drinking and my body wanted it's fix or was too tired to interact with them wasn't fair to them.

So why share this with you?

After a referral to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment clinic and a diagnosis of "alcohol abuser" I began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. From the beginning it felt like I had come home. Alcoholism holds no prejudices; it attacks whoever it can. Although no one in the room was the same, we all shared a common disease with similar symptoms. Through working with a sponsor, someone who had some years of sobriety and whose life was heading in a direction I wanted mine to go, I worked the 12 steps.

It was hard at times to face my past but I didn't do it alone. I had a 164 page book with a road map to recovery, a sponsor to help me through the difficult parts, a group of people with the same symptoms that understood me and loved me until I could love myself, and a higher power who I began to realize had been there watching over me my whole life.

Life has been hard even in sobriety, but I've been shown tools to help me cope in healthy ways and I know I don't have to carry these burdens on my own. AA never told me I couldn't drink. It did promise me a life beyond my wildest dreams and that has come true. I can take back my old life with one drink if I want but today I chose not to.

If any of my story seems familiar, or if you can relate to it and want to try a different way of life, then I encourage you to seek out an AA meeting. Your local ADAPT clinic or chapel can usually tell you where the meetings are. And remember, there is an answer.