I like to support women writers and occasionally invite one to be a guest in this space. Today, I’m pleased to introduce Lisa May Bennett, author of My Unfurling: Emerging From the Grip of Anxiety, Self-Doubt, and Drinking. Alcohol abuse is a subject I’m all too familiar with. For much of my life, I lived in the shadow of those I love who struggled with it. It’s a tough place to dwell for all concerned. Lisa’s story offers hope and wisdom and I’m pleased to welcome her today.
One morning about a month ago I dropped my mom off at dialysis and then drove to the nearby grocery store. I pulled into the parking lot, turned off my car, and leaned against the steering wheel. My eyes filled up with tears. I jerked my head back and took a deep breath. There was no time for crying. I needed to get cat food and litter and hand cream for my mom and then go home to get some work done.
The previous couple of weeks had been full of doctors’ appointments—an unexpected procedure for my mom and physical therapy for me. My part-time job had been busy with meetings, so I was behind on all my projects. And our dog had a rather unpleasant appointment with a canine eye specialist.
Every three months or so, I get to a point where it all feels like too much. My mother is 84 years old and has been on dialysis for five years now. I’ve reached my late 50s, and my body has decided to let me know that this aging thing is for real. The arthritis in my right knee is getting worse, and this summer I hurt my neck pulling weeds in my backyard, an injury that continues to linger.
Our household includes two senior pets—a sweet kitty who is 21 years old and a feisty Shih Tzu who is 14. Just about every week someone has to go to the doctor, the vet, the dentist, or another medical professional.
Six and a half years ago, before I knew how stressful things were about to get, I decided to give up alcohol. I hadn’t hit a dramatic rock bottom, but I was tired of the same old routine—telling myself that I would only have a couple glasses of wine, breaking that promise, suffering the hangover, and then berating myself because I couldn’t find a way to moderate my drinking.
Living a sober life has been an incredible gift that I’ve given to myself.
Living a sober life has been an incredible gift that I’ve given to myself. It has allowed me to finally focus on my first love—writing. I feel better, both mentally and physically (well, aside from the pesky aging), and I am more present for my mom at this time when she really needs me. I accompany my mom on all her doctors’ appointments, take detailed notes in a blue binder, and keep track of her constantly evolving line-up of prescriptions. The pandemic lockdowns accelerated her declining mobility, and she relies on me to do all her shopping and run other errands for her.
Last year she was hospitalized twice, and one of those times I feared they might need to resuscitate her. If I were still drinking, I don’t know how I would handle all this.
And yet, that’s where the Catch-22 comes in: Sometimes, for fleeting moments, I wish I had the comfort of an alcoholic beverage to help me relax quickly, to release all the pressure that has built up.
I realized it was time to get some support—both for my sobriety and for my role as a caregiver.
After that morning in the grocery store parking lot, I realized it was time to get some support—both for my sobriety and for my role as a caregiver.
You see, when I quit drinking, I did it without the help of AA or any formal program. Lately, I’ve been craving the connection and community that comes with attending meetings. So, I joined an online recovery group and went to my first virtual meeting earlier this month. What a beautiful experience it was to hear other people’s stories and feel not so alone.
Next up, I googled “caregiver support near me” and discovered that the county where I live offers a free caregiver support group that meets twice a month. I went to my first Zoom meeting last week, and I’m looking forward to going to the in-person gathering next week.
Listening to the other caregivers, some of whom have it much harder than me, helped me put my own life into perspective. I even felt as if I had something to offer to the people who’ve just entered this path.
One caregiver reminded us to focus on what I can control, rather than what I can’t. Another woman noted that sharing in these meetings can be an effective way of “pouring out” the anxiety and overwhelm that has filled us to the brim.
I’m seeking the support I need and feeling no shame that I can’t do it all on my own.
Perhaps the next time those tears well up, I’ll let them pour out rather than holding them inside. In the meantime, I’m seeking the support I need and feeling no shame that I can’t do it all on my own.
My Unfurling: Emerging From the Grip of Anxiety, Self-Doubt, and Drinking
Wicked hangovers. Scary blackouts. Ugly fights with friends. The results of binge drinking weigh heavily on Lisa May Bennett. She tries repeatedly to savor “just a few” glasses of wine—only to find herself passed out on the couch again.
Lisa has a bucket list full of exciting adventures with zero check marks next to them. Her anxiety and self-doubt are crying out for real solutions, not more booze. And her dream of becoming a published writer is fading away. She worries that her love of a good buzz will keep her stuck in this rut. Can she take charge of her life, or is she headed for a disastrous rock bottom?
This touching and funny memoir explores the childhood experiences that paved the way for Lisa’s drinking habit. She examines her complicated relationship with her mother, her experiences as a late bloomer, and her ongoing search for validation. In an engaging and relatable voice, the author shares how she began to “unfurl” without alcohol holding her back. But will she stay sober and discover how to truly thrive?
Anyone wondering if they’ll ever burst out and follow their dreams will find My Unfurling compelling and hopeful.
Lisa May Bennett is the author of the memoir My Unfurling: Emerging from the Grip of Anxiety, Self-Doubt, and Drinking. She had a flourishing career in marketing and communications for more than two decades before finally embracing sobriety and chasing her dream of becoming an author. Her upcoming book will demystify the self-publishing process, and she hopes to encourage more people to tell and publish their own stories.