For those not lucky enough to ever attend an AA meeting… My name is Lisa Ann and I’m an Alcoholic. As I sip my too hot, strong coffee with gross powdered creamer, from a cardboard or Styrofoam cup, I look around the room to see who will be attending the night’s meeting. I’ve made so many lifelong friends in the “program”; from the east coast to the Midwest. At least the rooms aren’t filled with cigarette smoke like they were in the 80’s-90’s! The smoke in the rooms was worse than the game floors in casinos, bingo halls, or billiard rooms! I forget when they banned smoking in the rooms of AA; but I welcomed it as a non-smoker. The day after Thanksgiving, 2020, I will celebrate 36 years of sobriety. My sobriety date is more important than my birthday! I believe my sobriety is one of my biggest gifts in life; I was born again that day, I was given another chance on life! I’ll set my cup down on the podium here and here it goes. Can everyone hear me? Great.
Like many of you. My story is very personal. I’m brutally honest about my journey. I believe my path was a crazy one; however, it’s just another addicts story. There are parts of my life I’m ashamed of, but many other parts I’m very proud of.
When I was in elementary school I was introduced to drinking. My alcoholic father told me I could drink in our home when I was about 11 years old; how sick was this! In an Irish Catholic home, I’m wasn’t sure if it was normal or not. I still didn’t want my mother to know I was drinking; so, when my parents left me home alone or napped, I opened the liquor cabinet and make myself a big old cocktail. The cocktail mixtures were small amounts from each bottle! It was my time to feel good! To escape from reality. I loved the taste and the warmth going down my throat! I loved how it took me somewhere else. I didn’t want anyone (my mother) to notice anything missing from the bottles; so, I started adding water to each bottle, I did this until I was in my last year of junior high school.
My parents entertained at our home every weekend; they put on quite the spread. Plus, their guests always brought liquor and food as well. They played poker, ate and drank from about 7:00 pm until 1:00ish. My mother was always the perfect hostess. She didn’t drink much, yet enjoyed the company. I was extremely close to my mother and didn’t want her to know that I was drinking; it would have broken her heart! She hated my father’s alcoholism.
My father, who was a raging alcoholic, always got drunk! Yet, to outsiders, you wouldn’t look at my father and notice his drunkenness; he was great at hiding it. The more he drank, the nastier he became to most around him, especially me. He was a sexiest, a huge raciest, and was an overall angry person. He was outspoken about all his political beliefs! If you weren’t on his side, you were faced with a debate from a drunk now-it-all. I was always embarrassed to be in his company. He abused me mentally and physically; mentally until the day I decided to walk away from him for good. I walked away from my brother the same day in 2010… that’s a whole other tragic story! It was the best thing I ever did.
During my grammar school years, because of the physical and mental abuse from my father and occasionally my brother, I would do everything I could to stay away from them. My mother tried, yet failed at protecting me. At bed time, I would hide in closets, under beds, or in the attic or basement not to be found; this was a common occurrence. I still wonder what I thought was going to happen or what did happen. Without getting into details, I was sexually molested by my brother and two cousins too many times to remember.
My father was a very sick, controlling and deranged man. He controlled and abused my mother too. Some examples of the control: she would have to make sure his dinner plates were warmed; salad plates were cooled and the same went with his drinking glassed. If they didn’t suit him, he got very ugly! If he didn’t like the meal served, it was either thrown across the table, on the floor or in the garbage. I can’t tell you how stressed out I was every dinner time. Then he made us listen to political talk shows on the radio during dinner. The volume was always turned up as loud as possible and we weren’t allowed to speak. I remember as a young one, not being able to stay silent at the table any longer! I finally broke down after listening to Rush Limbaugh’s commentary once too many times. My father and Rush turned me into a liberal a very young age!!!! So, for my punishment, we had to listen to carnival music during our dinner for the next two or three months.
I always felt different than the other kids. I thought I was ugly. I was very insecure. When I made new friends, I made sure they would invite me over their homes. I wanted a place to go. I was embarrassed of my father’s behavior, therefore wouldn’t have friends over to my house. When I wasn’t at a friends house, I was in the Indian reservation, or at other activities my mother planned for me.
Because I had a lot of energy as a young girl, my mother got me involved in every kind of dance class available. I was also on our community swim and diving teams. The community house in our town had art classes, gymnastics and roller skating which kept me busy as well. Because of my low self-esteem, it was hard to make new friends in elementary school. I was bullied by 3 boys. So, I basically felt bullied at home and at school. I was always terrified. I pleaded with my brother to say something to the boys, to help me and he refused; he told me to handle it myself.
In Junior High School, I climbed out of my shell and started to mingle more. Swimming, dance, roller skating, sking and gymnastics were still parts of my active life. I had more friends, went to drinking parties, school dances, pool parties and hung out with friends on the weekend near the pool and school. I could never hold my liquor! I always got drunk. I didn’t have to drink much to get drunk; now I know it was because I was a Type 1 Diabetic and didn’t know. We started smoking pot too. Pot could be found in the girls bathroom everyday at school. I had one really close friend who loved to drink just like me. I stayed at her house a lot. She was very pretty and began to have a steady boyfriend by the last year of junior high; so, I found more friends to be with. I was also wanting to date boys and found out quickly my father had strict rules on which nationalities I couldn’t date; almost everyone except German, Irish, English or Scottish boys. And not until the age of 14. Of course, I fell for all the Italian, Greek, and Spanish boys; mostly the Italians. I was looking for love and attention.
Dinner time was still a very stressful time. I was forced to sit and eat. Forced to listen to the political talk shows. What was different now… my father asked my opinions. I was always an Independent; I still am. I sway over to the Dem side more. My father would say I was just like Jane Fonda. He would call me horrible names; he never listened to my views, he never cared. Names a father would never call a daughter! He hated me.
Most (You notice I said “most”) of high school was a fun and carefree. I was involved in gymnastic, field and track, managed the soccer team, ski club, DECCA club, racquet ball and sequence swimming team. The only elder interested in my future was my HS Guidance Counselor. I met with him in 9th grade, I took a occupation test and it stated that I would be a great Counselor, Social Worker, or Psychologist. I was excited about this! He explained the college path for me and the curriculum I should start following. I remember going home that night, announcing my exciting news to my parents at the dinner table. It was that night my dreams were shattered! My father told me he wouldn’t be paying for me to go to college and that college…it was “worthless” in his eyes. I remember my mother crying when she watched me cry. He told me I thought I was better than anymore else in the family.
I had a hand full of friends that I became very close with. We all had fake id’s at age 15, would sneak out of our homes at night, meet up and take the train to the path to the subway in NYC to dance the night & drink the night away. It’s a wonder we ever made it home. This went on for a couple of years. Our transportation changed from time to time. Occasionally we took my girlfriend’s father’s car; until we forgot where we parked it one night. Ahhhh, the stories I can tell.
Everlasting experiences happened at Studio 54 in December and January of 1980. Being in that club was like being on acid but wasn’t. After waiting outside in a huge line at approximately 11:00 pm, we walked into the club with excitement to see which celebrities would be there and to dance the night away! The music was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself breath, the bass beat of the music set your heart rate, there where red velvet couches with mirrored tables in front of them; people snorting lines of coke right in the open. The strobe lights, smoke machine, and other light shows made everything seem like you were in a trance. I saw Donna Summers, Billy Idol, Liza Minnelli and some models there. Frankly, I’m surprised we were chosen to get into the club.
My friends and boyfriends would frequent all the clubs in NYC, NJ Shore and NJ. The Limelight, Visage, CBGB, Palladium, The Tunnel, Montage, The Stone Pony, The Meadowbrook, The Turtlebrook Inn, Creations, The Surf Club, The Polo Club, Cedar Grove Inn, Shang Hi Reds and Malibu’s. I remember drinking Champaign with Linda Evans and Billy Idol in a VIP room at Visage. Being at a party on Park Avenue with The Grateful Dead and many others who were probably very famous. Being at another party with a Sheik and his friends (females as well) in NYC; thankfully not drunk. I made friends very easily.
Drugs were always readily available in high school; however, I only smoked pot. I lived in a pretty diverse area and we had many rich kids in our class, I remember going to Sweet 16 parties and having parents bringing out bowls of joints.
Living so close to NYC was a gift. There was a bus stop 2 blocks from my home that took me right into the city; just a twenty minute ride. As a teenager, I rode into the city on the weekends all the time. I loved the vibe! The museums, art galleries, shopping, parks, the zoo and eateries. I would explore as much as possible during the day and then return home.
I had my first real love at 16. I wasn’t one to have many boyfriends. And of course, he was Italian. His parents were right off the boat as they say. He was a few years older than me. My mother liked him and my father didn’t. His family loved me! I wanted to marry him and the feeling was mutual. We had so much fun together. His best friend dated my best friend; so, we went everywhere together. We were together for 2.5 years. Even with contraception, I became pregnant in the summer of 1982; I was sitting in my graduation gown wondering how to tell my parents I was going to have a baby and get married. It didn’t go well. I was forced by my father to abort the child at 5 months. Forced. It was a horrible process! They actually had me go through labor and give birth to a boy. I had to stay in the hospital afterwards for a while because I had a nervous breakdown. I broke up with my boyfriend; I’m not sure why! I loved him. The abortion is something I will take to my grave.
It took me awhile to get back into life. I had a plan in place to leave my childhood home. It was months later that a friend introduced me to a guy. We drank a lot and skied a lot. I broke off the relationship when I felt he didn’t have a strong enough personality. My father liked this guy. He liked him because he was Irish, he wanted to become a law enforcement officer and he drank with him. It was during our courtship that I became sober.
I’m not sure of the date or month now, I know it was in 1984. I was out with a girlfriend of mine. I still don’t remember much of the evening. We were at a pub, she left me there alone. I do remember the bartender (a friend of my brother’s) taking me to his apartment. He must have put something in my drink! He date raped me. Another thing I’m so ashamed of; yet, I had no control over what happened. I told my brother and he told me to deal with it. I’m not sure why I even told him! Maybe I hoped as an older brother, he would try to protect me. I remember crying for weeks because I didn’t know what happened!!! I should have reported to the police! It wasn’t long after this that I stopped drinking for good. I blamed myself for this rape. I understand the Me Too movement. The shame is like a mountain!
On the day after Thanksgiving, in 1984 my life changed. After driving home on 4 major highways in a complete blackout; interrupting a dinning party at my mother’s covered in vomit, being shoved in the shower down coat and all, I decided enough was enough! I didn’t want to be like my father!!! I stopped drinking.
I moved out of my childhood home with excitement, fear and guilt. The guilt was for leaving my mother behind. I moved to a beautiful town about 40 minutes from my parents. I was still feeling anxiety and depression; go figure! I became ill with Shingles. I had an awful case of it and had to be hospitalized for over a month. After being released from the hospital, I was praying and surrendered myself to my higher power and God showed himself to me. It was my moment! It was at that moment that I realized I would never walk alone again. I would be okay. From that moment on, I felt my God wrap his arms around me and say “walk with me” and I understood there was a path already planned for me and I had to trust God had my back. My faith grew stronger and stronger from that day on.
I joined AA and never took a drink or smoke again. I promised myself I would never do it. I would forever be true to myself.
I met a guy in AA who had over 18 years of sobriety at the time; he also had a great program behind him. I was very involved in AA, service work through AA, working out (I ran on a daily basis and played racquet ball) and had a good job. Things were going well for me. Of course, I got involved with this guy and months later he moved in with me. About 2 years into the relationship we became engaged! I had two careers: I was trained and certified in NYC as a Reflexologist and had my own business; and I had my Real Estate License and sold Time Shares, Vacation Properties and Land Internationally. We bought boats, traveled, and bought a farm in Pennsylvania. We both worked hard and played hard. Our relationship was great! When we began our journey together, he told me, if he ever started drinking again, run and run quickly! Sadly, he started drinking again with almost 25 years of sobriety under his belt. He wasn’t going to meetings either. So, I left the relationship. I ran away from everything we built and earned; however, he became a dangerous person while drinking.
Many obstacles happened in my life in 36 years of sobriety. Many great things happened in 36 years as well. My path is nothing like I ever expected. I never thought I would be living in Lawrence, Kansas. I grew-up in New Jersey. Moved to Pennsylvania, back to New Jersey. Had 2 unsuccessful relationships in between there. One of my biggest blessings was the beautiful little girl I had in 1990. Found the love of my life. Married the love of my life. Built a relationship with my husband’s beautiful daughter. Moved to Austin. Moved to Kansas. Traveled to many magical places. Rescued many dogs in need. Made and cultivated friendships. Became a grandmother to three gorgeous and amazing grandkids. Built a very fulfilling and successful career in the world of technical, executive and engineering recruiting. Watched our daughters marry wonderful husbands. Made a special home for us in Overland Park, Kansas. Dealt with too many health issues to mention. Retired from the workforce. Moved into a charming victorian cottage in Lawrence, Kansas. I’m still living one day at a time. Still enjoying the AA program and the relationship that I have built with my higher power. Today, I’m truly blessed.