Giving up "the last drink"
BY SANDY LONG
The stigma of alcoholism made it even more difficult for women to admit they needed
help, much less to talk about their problem. They're now getting help and more willing
to share their experiences, but the stigma still remains. Writer Sandy Long interviews
four Houston women who are recovered alcoholics but who prefer to be anonymous.
Carla maintained a good job, family life
and kept active in many community and
feminist organizations. "I certainly funct-
tioned during those seven to eight years
of drinking and popping pills," she says,
"but it was like functioning as a longdistance runner doing 35 to 40 miles a
day, every day.
"I spent years of continuous physical
and emotional pain. I was in a daze the
whole time. My senses felt worn down by
Gina says she doesn't even remember
the 1960's. "When I look back, it's a
complete haze. I remember some of the
things the kids did but I stayed drunk in
"I was active in church groups—God,
they were the ones I did most of my
drinking with—but I took good care of
"Today, I have fits of giggles with my
ex-husband over my drinking problem
during our marriage. He never thought I
had a problem. He said that as long as it
didn't interfere with our life and I didn't
embarrass him, it was okay.
"When I admitted my alcoholism
seven months ago, he tried to lay guilt on
himself but I said that was silly. I drank
because I wanted to."
Carla's family experience was similar.
She says, "My husband thought it strange
that I passed out on the couch all the
time but our relationship had become
very frayed anyway. The whole family
had set up such walls that we weren't
even conscious of one another.
"Outwardly, everything was correct.
I had two children, a good job, the cleanest floors in town, and I belonged to all
the right women's clubs. I had the American Dream and I was miserable.
"I thought I'd be liberated by being
Supermom and Superwoman. I'd go to
social and political functions so full of
chemicals that I wouldn't know what was
going on. I'm amazed at how well I operated in a semi-comatose state.
"I never knew I was cross-addicted
until I attempted suicide. I knew there
was something terribly wrong but I didn't
correlate drinking and drugs with the way
my body felt.
"I complained to my doctor for years
and he just kept prescribing more Valium.
You'd think that in all that time he'd
have checked to see if there were deeper
emotional problems than just tension. I
can't paint him as a total villain, though."
Patrice was also cross-addicted for several years, to speed and alcohol. She believes her doctor originally prescribed
amphetamines to help her lose weight,
though the years are such a haze that she
can't be sure of anything.
"I loved speed the first time I took it,"
she says. "That's the way it was with alcohol too. The first time I drank a beer I
got drunk. That's the way it continued
for many years." Later, another doctor
prescribed Valium to her. She immediately began abusing those too.
Dr. Patricia Cork, a psychiatrist specializing in alcoholism rehabilitation at
Houston International Hospital, admits
doctors are often too quick to prescribe
tranquilizers just to hurry through their
patients. "What is often overlooked," she
says, "is that most patients cover up their
drinking. You may ask why doctors don't
realize the problem. It's because most
people don't give them a clue. A woman
in particular, has difficulty telling a doctor how much she drinks. It's just more
humiliating for a woman. A woman
drunk is not the south Texas image even
if it's a reality.
"People have crazy notions on what
makes an alcoholic. As far as I'm concerned if there's a change in personality
when drinking, you're an alcoholic. You
Anthony D. Sheppard jd, ll
SENIOR ASSISTANT COUNTY ATTORNEY
Saturday, May 3rd
Mary McKerall, Assistant County Attorney
Joyce Burg, Attorney
Kathleen S. YWw'mkz, Attorney
Sula Rays, Attorney
Freda Gardner, M.D.
Jama Casey, Attorney
Thelma Aleo, Educator
Leon Jaworski, Attorney
Miriam Kass, Attorney
Dan Arnold, Attorney
Johanna F. DiDio, Attorney
Diana Hudson, Attorney
Deborah Rider, Attorney
Karen Wolf, A ttorney
Dr. Kate Bell
Mr. & Mrs. Harris Masterson
Portia Poindexter, Attorney
Linda M. Bullard, Attorney
Gwenn M. Bookman, Attorney
Katharine G. Crain, Attorney
Shirley J. McGregor, Attorney
Cheryl Hanson, Attorney
Phoebe Lester, Attorney
Rita M. Fason, Attorney
Carla L. Martin, Attorney
Carol C. Clark, Attorney
Finis E. Cowan, Attorney
Martha Tobin, Attorney
Doris Stewart, Attorney
ELECT SHEPPARD COUNTY ATTORNEY
Paid for by Ms. Bettye Sheppard, Campaign Treasurer;
3623 Sun Valley Dr.; Houston, TX 77025
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