By Jenna Hutt
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My career as a secretive drinker ended the night my suitcase full of empty bottles was discovered. Getting busted was the best thing that ever happened to me, but at the time it felt like the worst. Everyone knew there was something wrong with me; they just didn’t know they needed to point the finger at alcohol. I had spun so many lies and hid most of my drinking that most people did not see that alcohol was the true cause of my physical and emotional demise.
We had planned a trip back east to visit my husband’s family. I was an anxiety ridden, panic attacking, crying mess that summer. My husband at one point suggested that maybe I should stay home from the trip. My stubborn, I-can-get-through-this, side said I would go, and I am thankful that it did because a part of me worries I could have drank myself to death if I had been home alone for 10 days.
I had managed to get through a full week of our trip without exposing the amount I was drinking until my husband found the empty bottles in my suitcase. We had been staying on other people’s houses, and I never found a discrete time or place to dispose of my empties, so I stashed them amongst my clothes in the suitcase I was sharing with my 7 year old.
The last place we stayed in backed up to a wooded area. I’d like to think that the environmentalist in me didn’t want to throw glass bottles into the woods, but the fact is I hadn’t gotten desperate enough to get rid of them yet. Had it been the last day and I didn’t want to fly home with them, I probably would have resorted to this. This is the one part that my addict brain clings to, I could have just tossed them in the woods and no one would have been the wiser and who knows how much longer my days of a secretive drinker would have continued.
My daughter had taken a shower, and my husband was helping her pick out clothes for dinner. He called me into the room we were staying in and asked me, “What the hell is this?!” There were two empty vodka bottles and one that was partially full. I froze. My stomach dropped. I had no explanation. The veil of secrecy was ripped off and the harsh truth of an alcoholic stood there, naked in the room. I was ready to be tarred and feathered, yelled and screamed at. I crouched in anticipation of him verbalizing all of the disgusting feelings I had for myself, but he said nothing and walked out of the room. The pin had been pulled on the grenade, but it didn’t explode. We went to dinner with the family, not speaking to each other. We were in a large, boisterous group and could get away with not talking to each other, but the tension between us was increasing exponentially. We each had our separate feelings of anger and fear about the newly discovered addiction, but we didn’t have the privacy to address it.
As soon as we got back to the house, I got to work conserving the vodka that was left in the bottle, hoping the shock of his discovery had kept him from remembering exactly how much was in the bottle. I poured some of it in an empty water bottle to hide under the bed, filled the 3-oz travel shampoo bottles I used as my secret purse stash and guzzled some for good measure. As I lay in bed ready to pass out, my husband was trying to talk to me about how much I was drinking. He had noticed difference in the amount that was in the bottle before and after we went to dinner and was concerned that I had drank the entire amount.
The next day was torture. My bottles were gone from the suitcase in the night, and I now had a hawk for a husband, watching me all day while we were still pretending that nothing had happened in front of his family. I managed to get enough alcohol throughout the day when my husband wasn’t watching me to not start detoxing. I drank with his family because they knew me as one to never turn down alcohol, but I tried to keep what my husband saw to a minimal amount.
Packing up to go home, my husband was going through all of my things, looking for where I was keeping alcohol. I felt desperate after being discovered and not ready to sober up. I wanted alcohol even more when I was told I couldn’t have it.
Traveling on three flights for an alcoholic who is sobering up with an angry spouse is not something I want to experience again. I wasn’t going to obtain any alcohol without starting a major fight with my husband, so we remained in a standoff of him watching my every move and me sitting in quiet contempt.
We arrived home late that night, and I went straight to bed. All of the alcohol was removed from the house that night while I slept, and I found myself between a rock and a hard place. Was I ready to let go of my addiction, the one thing I thought I needed and wanted but had stopped working for me?
The shame of being discovered kept me sober for 8 days before my addiction told me that I could drink responsibly again. On a night when my husband was out of the house, I picked up a mini box of wine that was about 3 small glasses and drank it in an evening. Halfway into the box, I started to feel what used to be my favorite feeling, that initial buzz of alcohol. I was shocked when I realized I wasn’t enjoying the feeling, but the beast had been fed and I finished the box that night. I had three more weeks of drinking before I found my bottom and surrendered.
Jenna Hutt is a writer that lives in Colorado. After traumatic events sent her alcoholism into warp speed, she found recovery and used her creativity to write about how her life improved after she faced her painful past of her father’s suicide and husband’s traumatic brain injury and her biggest demon, alcohol.