From the Podcast: Amanda Hoffman – Living As A High-Functioning Alcoholic
After a very short and severe battle with alcohol, Amanda Hoffman admitted herself to McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts where she underwent a medical detox and then entered the Lionrock Recovery Intensive Outpatient Program. Today, Amanda is a wife and mother of two girls. She’s been sober since July of 2018 and is grateful that she has been given a second chance at living. To listen to Amanda’s raw story of her secret battle as a high-functioning alcoholic click here.
Amanda grew up in Vermont, always close to her family. Her parents divorced when she was 3 years old. Amanda was an only child for nine years before her stepmother had a son. Her first drink was at the age of 15 despite the fact he had been adamant about not drinking her freshman year of high school. Not drinking was not typical behavior at her school, and she was ostracized for her decision. Amanda was fearful of how she would react to drinking. “I was terrified of [drinking] I felt like, once I started drinking, I would never stop,” recalls Amanda.
During her sophomore year, her strict rules fell by the wayside at her first keg party. “I went and did a keg stand right off the bat and got drunk and misbehaved,” says Amanda. She didn’t like the taste of alcohol but she loved the way it made her feel. It was a short-term engagement with alcohol and she ended up going to a boarding school. There she reverted back to her own strict rules from sophomore year. She turned her focus to sports and health. “Drinking was maybe a twice a year thing from sophomore through senior year,” says Amanda.
That changed when Amanda was 21 and she started partying all night. “I would get up and justify my drinking by running to just sweat it out. Then [I’d] get back from my run and eat a healthy lunch and by 6 o’clock [I] was pre-drinking before the frat party.” She kept things under control in college and would go days without drinking. She maintained good grades and continued all of her athletic endeavors.
“I grew up with a family that at 5 o’clock dropped everything for a glass of wine,” recalls Amanda. Although they drank every day, her family prided themselves on only having 2 drinks a night. She recalls her mother always having a glass of wine to decompress from her job. “There was no real joy, it was just, this is the end of the day and it was a relief for them to be able to pour that drink,” she said. Many years later when she was 38, Amanda found out that her mother had an affair. “The floor dropped out from underneath me and everything I had perceived as truth was no longer,” describes Amanda. The foundation of her truth was shaken, and her drinking quickly escalated.
Amanda’s drinking started out just like her parents, “every night at 5 o’clock, pour a drink, more often than not, given our social circle.” When she found out about her parents’ divorce, she went from two or three glasses of wine per night to drinking a bottle every night. This continued for about a year. She then created scenarios where drinking became a necessity to calm her; whether it was because she was traveling or giving a presentation at work. This lasted a year, and then it really started to escalate, “I would drink after 11 AM every day, one or two glasses, but usually more and then I’d have to justify opening another bottle when my husband got home,” explains Amanda. She would drink a bottle with her husband and oftentimes she would have another bottle ready to open. She started to drink two bottles a day right around Christmas 2017 when she left her job. “I was drinking all day long,” says Amanda.
When her two daughters became more independent and she could pass out without having to worry about them, Amanda really let her guard down and began drinking more during the day. She always hid her alcohol in her office. “It was astonishing what I would go through,” Amanda said. She usually had nine bottles stashed in her bookcase at a time. Alcohol completely consumed Amanda’s life. “The only thing I thought about was where my alcohol was and how much I had left,” she said.
The Turning Point
During a ski weekend with her family, Amanda didn’t drink one morning and started vomiting over the side of a chair lift with her 7-year-old next to her. “I realized at that moment that I was sick because I hadn’t had a drink and that I needed to get down to the base lodge so I could get to the bar and justify having a vodka at 8:30 in the morning.” This was a turning point for Amanda; she could no longer function without alcohol. Instead of seeking help, Amanda kept drinking. “The last thing I wanted to do was disrupt my family’s tranquility.”
During conversations, Amanda would have “brownouts” and only remember snippets of conversations. “I think that, to me, was really a part of my emotional crumbling. I was just a shell of who I normally am, and I was giving people nothing,” says Amanda.
Amanda’s husband confronted her when she stopped hiding her drinking, “if I needed alcohol, I would go grab a bottle of wine and put it to my mouth and just chug, just to get alcohol in my system,” she describes. Her husband didn’t know where she was hiding her alcohol or the extent of her drinking, but he knew she needed to stop. Amanda knew she needed to detox at a treatment facility, but she didn’t want her husband to know the severity of her addiction. Instead she detoxed at home and became violently ill.
The first day she had horrible shakes and vomited all day. That night she began getting delirium tremens, a severe case of withdrawal. “I was awake all night with hallucinations that people were trying to throw a party in our backyard,” says Amanda. The hallucinations grew stronger and more severe. On day three of detoxing Amanda’s sister-in-law came to her house, saw Amanda and called her husband to come home right away. Amanda’s husband drove her to the hospital an hour later and the doctors told Amanda she was lucky to be alive.
After she got home from the hospital she went straight to her hiding spot and started drinking again. She drank for three more weeks and then entered McLean Hospital. “I drank the entire way to McLean knowing how sick I had gotten the time prior and they admitted me,” she recalls. She entered the hospital and detoxed. “When I arrived there, I was like I’m done, this is it, I can’t do this anymore.”
Amanda emotionally let go of the prospect of ever drinking again. She remembers having a feeling of being done, “I think the finality of arriving at McLean and walking through those doors was a gift I gave myself. To say, this is my last day and this is my only chance, there’s no round three.” Amanda knew she no longer had control and that alcohol controlled her. “That’s just the darkest feeling in the world, that I no longer have the option.”
Amanda medically detoxed, got set up with an intensive outpatient program with Lionrock, and a private therapist who helped her get to the root cause of her drinking. She routinely attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She remembers feeling terrified to go home to a house without alcohol. “We actually closed the door to my office for the first three months.”
Amanda attributes the success of her recovery to the structure of what she learned at McLean. She implemented every tool they gave her: self-care, exercise, eating healthy and lots of sleep. She took all the core tenets of what they wanted her to practice and implemented them to the best of her ability.
“It’s not like there aren’t difficult days, but they are few and far between now and situations that were really intimidating early on in recovery, I sort of giggle at how intimidating they were to me,” Amanda describes. “I’m raising my kids, who realize that 5 o’clock, is just 5 o’clock.”
*Quotes have been edited for clarity.