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need no other guides but that one," says
Teri DuBuisson, a counselor at Houston International, says simply "for an alcoholic, one drink is too many and a
thousand is not enough."
A good example of this is Ann. After
her first drink, she was a full-time drunk.
"I was in high school and I went out
with a bunch of kids. Somebody had a
pint of Jack Daniels and they were mixing it. When I got a taste, I loved it. I
started drinking right out of the bottle. I
remember that everybody got mad at me
for drinking it all. I blacked out that
"By the time I was a junior in high
school I had a reputation for being a big
drinker. By age 21 I began to worry
about my drinking. When I'd drink I'd get
kind of wild and uninhibited. That was
the purpose of it for me. It gave me a
personality I didn't have when I was
sober. I slept around with men I really
didn't want to be with. I felt physically
sick ail the time. My drinking pattern was
one night on, one night off so that I
could get rid of my hangovers and be able
to keep working. Because I was getting
along in business, I really thought I
couldn't have a problem."
Gina echoes some of these same
myths. "I had a job I was good at. I never
missed work because of a hangover and I
only drank beer. I knew I couldn't bean
alcoholic because alcoholics were the bottom of the barrel. I was a responsible person so I couldn't be like them. Ha, what a
joke that was."
All four women say friends helped
them realize their problems and that one
person recommended Alcoholics Anonymous and saw to it that they went to
their first meeting. Some liked it immediately, others didn't, but all stuck it out
for one reason or another.
Ann tells of how people reacted to her
quitting: "When I finally began to admit
my problem, all my friends and family
helped minimize my drinking. They'd say
'Sure, you're a lush, sure you're moody,
sure you're crazy and screwed up—but
it's because you're talented, not because
you're an alcoholic'
"I remember one company I worked
for, we laughed about how you had to be
an alcoholic to work there. My boss actually told me that I'd lose my talent if I
quit drinking. Well, it's just not true.
My thinking is clearer and my work is
better since I quit drinking."
All four women say they were fortunate to have had help in quitting.
They realize many alcoholics are not so
lucky. Many lose jobs and families, others
end up in jail or institutionalized.
"When I think of how lucky I am I
can't believe it," says Gina. "I still have
great kids. I've put them through so much
and somehow they turned out to be the
most fantastic people on earth anyway.
Also, my true friends have stuck by me.
I'm having honest fun. I'm feeling anger
and emotions that I never felt before. I
know that I shut out a lot of hurt and
pain with my drinking but, God, I shut
out all the good feelings too. I never had
sex sober before. And it's so wonderful
The women all credit AA for their sobriety. "When I was on the way to my
first meeting I had this vision—six feet tall
creatures with long green tongues waiting
to attack me," says Gina. "I was belligerent as hell the first three meetings I went
to. Now they all tease me about it. They
are the most beautiful people. They come
from all different backgrounds but when
they come to those meetings they're just
alcoholics trying to stay sober."
Dr. Cork is a whole-hearted believer in
AA. "We're very bigoted toward AA here
at Houston International. The emphasis
of AA is honesty. Most people go to look
for sobriety and end up with a way of
"There are many, many AA groups.
There are groups for non-smokers, professionals, blacks and Spanish-speaking.
Everybody can find a group they're comfortable with."
However, she doesn't approve of
groups that use a base other than AA. "If
it splinters from AA then it's not good.
There is no easier, softer way to sobriety.
When people come to Houston Interna
tional with drinking problems, we try to
get them to 90 meetings in 90 days. It's
a tough program. We're not here to collect their insurance, we're here to get
them sober and keep them sober. We
don't want to see them back again."
AA works on the principles of "The
12 Steps." The steps begin with admitting
the problem then dealing with the emotional and spiritual aspects.
"I know this will get us bad press,"
says Dr. Cork, "but one of the most important things about AA is its belief in
spirituality. Not necessarily a God figure,
but belief in a higher being. Some people
use the group as their higher being and
Patrice said that if she'd known she
was going to have to develop a religious
feeling at her first meeting, she would
have left and never come back. But, she
says, "I found out I could develop a spirituality I was comfortable with. I grew up
a Roman Catholic and hated it. But now I
have a sense of hope in my life I didn't
"When I get pompous and caught up
in a loose, secular world, those Smirnoff
ads just jump out at me," says Carla.
"Most of the compulsion has left me but
I can tell when I don't take care of myself spiritually."
Carla says she is still grappling with her
powerlessness in society. Before her suicide attempt she felt totally out of control. "The moment I swallowed those
drugs, I felt powerful. At last I was in total control of my body. I was euphoric."
From that overdose to today, it's been
a long road for Carla. The road to sobriety has been hard on all the women. Yet,
the camaraderie they speak of and the
spirituality they've reached have strengthened them. They all live their lives on the
AA creed, "One Day At a Time."
"I'm living for the moment, one day
at a time," says Carla. "I'm taking life for
what it is and using it to the fullest. Now
Sandy Long works with the Houston
Area Women's Center.
BREAKTHROUGH ON THE AIR KPFT-FM90.1
(Left to right) Marilyn French, author of The Women's Room, joins Margie Glaser, Nancy Lane Fleming, and Rita Saylors in an interview that will air
Wednesday, May 7 on KPFT.90 FM at 6:30 p.m. Breakthrough on the Air is now is now 60 minutes of conversation and women's music.