about me

holistic recovery buddy | the other side of the bottle

Hi. My name is Carine, and I’m the creator of Quit Like A Winner and its course “The Other Side of the Bottle.”

You may have heard a lot about me already from the videos I have on my websites and social media channels, but I will give you another overview here to explain who I am, who I am not, and why I believe I can help you on your journey to being alcohol free.

It All Started About 30 Years Ago

Thirty years ago, I first started using alcohol as a coping device. I was pretty young… not quite legal yet, but it was fairly easy to buy alcohol back then without getting carded.

I was going through a LOT of emotional pain during that time… abandonment issues… loneliness… moving to a new city… dealing with a stalker… and I found that alcohol was a wonderful way to completely escape my reality.

I didn’t have any friends in the new area I had moved to, nor did I get along with anyone particularly well at the new job I had, so I was completely isolated and poor to boot. My parents had moved overseas to become missionaries and I was 100% on my own and I made very little income. I couldn’t afford cable television, so I had nothing to do after work… I could barely afford to eat, much less put gas in the car to go someplace interesting or take on a new hobby.

Enter alcohol. I used it to knock myself out quickly after work so I could pass out (go to sleep) in my easychair and escape the entire night until work beckoned the next morning again.

I didn’t grow up around alcohol (both of my parents are Evangelical Christian ministers and missionaries, so it was not really around us at all). Most of my relatives were Mormons, and they didn’t drink either. The most I knew about alcohol abuse was from VH1 “Behind the Music” documentaries and cheesy after-school specials I’d seen growing up.

So for me, my alcohol abuse was also partly experimental – I didn’t know what all the different alcohol tastes were, what it was made of, what the strength of it was… none of that. I remember trying to make rum ice cubes for my Coca-Cola, and I was baffled because it wouldn’t freeze. I would choose bottles for their unique shape (Manischewitz) or pretty labels, or fancy sounding french names (Pinot Noir).

Going into the “Too Much” Zone

I remember my first experience with having too much to drink – because prior to that, I had never had the spins, extreme dizziness, throwing up or passing out before. You would think that would be enough to deter me from going any further with it, but it didn’t. It was only the kickoff to my off-and-on war with alcohol abuse.

Knowing my personality, I think I was baffled that this liquid could get the best of me. I took it as a challenge. I wanted to know what my limit truly was, and how to increase it. I also secretly harbored a strange “rockstar wannabe” fantasy wherein I literally wanted some sort of substance or alcohol abuse problem, because it would lend to the mystique I wanted to cultivate as a future rockstar (and perhaps I would get my own VH1 “Behind the Music” special out of it.) I know it sounds strange, but part of my struggle with alcohol was actually willed by me – I wanted to have a tragic story to make me more interesting.

It Got Better, Then Worse; Then Better, Then Worse Again…

For the next several years, I often boomeranged back and forth between being a exercise/health nut to being a tragic drinker. It gave me liquid courage when I would try to date. I also worked in an industry that pushed it heavily… I was in the movie advertising industry doing graphics, and we worked crazy hours. Sometimes I would go in at 9am Monday morning but not leave until 3am Tuesday morning (just to come back in 6 hours later at 9am). We had beer in the vending machine. The company would go on grocery-store runs for us once or twice a night to get anything we wanted – including cocktails, beer, liquor… you name it. My manager would literally yell at me (semi-jokingly) to “drink the damn vodka Carineee, don’t be a f***cking wimp!” So staying with my exercise/health nut routine was challenging considering I sat at a computer all day, into the night, and the company provided food and alcohol constantly.

I would become a bit pudgy, hate the way I looked, and then go back to my super-healthy-exercise-queen persona (and quit drinking). But then I’d get lazy again several months later and go back to drinking/eating excessively and gain the weight back.

I was stressed out and depressed. My job ruined all of my social life and basically broke up all my relationships because it was so unpredictable. Alcohol didn’t help, but it was the paramour I could always count on because I could buy it anytime I wanted to and check-out of my disappointing existence.

Progression

I could probably write a novel, but I don’t want to bore you. Basically, by my late 20s, my drinking escalated to a pathological level. Add to it my stress level and the fact that my significant other was cheating on me, and my life just fell apart.

But, as does happen, I would get in to a new relationship again, and get “happy” and bounce back a bit. I just happened to be dating someone who had been in AA themselves (though more for drugs, not for alcohol) and they really read me the riot act for my drinking. That person didn’t know it, but every time they brought a bottle of tequila or vodka to my house and we’d leave it in my fridge, I would mark the bottle as to what the level was. Because throughout the next day or so, I would drink the whole thing. I would have to go out and get cheap liquor to refill the bottle with, to the mark. Sometimes, I’d have to resort to water though… and I’d have to be careful how much water to put in to it because the water would freeze but not the liquor.

I had a large keyboard (synthesizer) case in my closet. It was very big – almost like a coffin, but not as deep. And that’s where I would hide all my empty bottles (there were a LOT!). I would know when that keyboard case in my closet was ready to be emptied if I smacked it on the side and could hear the bottles clanking inside. I was embarrassed to dump my trash bags with all the clanking bottles, so I would wait until very late at night to go dump them in my apartment’s trash bin. 

There were zippered pillow areas in my sofa… and when I would run out of places to hide the bottles, I would tuck it inside there. Sometimes I would tuck it deep in my laundry bin (until a person I was dating decided to do my laundry for me as a help one morning… uh oh).

Many times, I could not remember where I’d hid bottles. They were everywhere. Most of them already empty though. Ironically, I almost never had to drive to go get more. There were grocery stores and liquor stores close enough to walk to in just about every city I lived in. And, I had money at that time… I was surprisingly a success at my work and beginning to also buy rental real estate on the side. I had gone “independent” for my work (meaning, I wasn’t technically an employee and could make my own hours). So I had good money, time-freedom, I was a success at my career with a lot of respect, and I could afford to drink every day and even potentially not show up at work for days at a time, without question.

But it was escalating so badly, and my binges had become so painful during withdrawal, that I was beginning to scare myself.

During one of those periods of time, I had done something like 6 days straight of vodka drinking, not eating any food, and I wasn’t showing up at work. I was literally afraid that I couldn’t stop drinking (it was extremely painful to stop at that point), and I had the money to continue, but I was afraid I could hurt myself. My liquor store was literally across the street, and my boss was out of town. There were no restraints, and I felt I had to do something drastic to stop. I had the presence of mind enough to decide to put myself into a 30-day inpatient rehab.

The Hab

I don’t know if the situation has changed at all with treatment facilities since 2005, but my experience in trying to find one was not good at all.

I had medical insurance. I was in Southern California… the literal mecca of rehabs, but I could not find one that would take insurance. All of them were cash-pay, upfront, minimum $30,0000. That is not a typo. I called probably 7-10 of them. I tried also getting ahold of detoxes, but those were insufficient for my needs. The internet was not as helpful in the rehab-search back then. I finally found one that would take my insurance, and after I had come off the vodka for 24 hours, I checked myself in.

Luckily, my client/boss was very supportive (little did I know he had a sister with a big alcohol problem, so he was pretty supportive) and my job was not going to be in jeapordy from being gone for 30 days.

The “hab” was fairly typical… based on the 12 steps. I learned that a lot of rehabs were cash-cows (extremely profitable). They didn’t have to employ doctors full-time, or acupuncturists and massage therapists, or have posh surroundings. They could pack you into the van nightly and take you to AA meetings (which are free). Then they had some part-time alcohol counselors who would come in on certain days and conduct some of the group get togethers.

I had been in and out of AA before, and I already did not have a very high opinion of it as a a potential solution for me personally. I’ll explain that further, here…. When I was about 16 or 17, I would drive a friend of mine to the AA group where she had a boyfriend. She didn’t have a problem with drinking, but she would say she did so she could be part of the closed AA meeting. Later, I lived in an area of California where if you really want to meet the rich and famous, just go to the afternoon AA meeting. You can network with writers, agents, actors… you name it. All you need is a substance abuse problem, and you’re in.

I also came to learn that there were actually 13 steps, not 12. The 13th step is where an “oldtimer” hits on a “newcomer.” And during sharing, you were often applauded more if your story was particularly dramatic (whether it was true or not). There were a ton of outlandish stories I heard over the years, and it was pretty apparent the person sharing was lying and doing a drunk-a-logue. It was kind of sick… it reinforced a lot of bad behavior, in my opinion.

What I mean when I say I didn’t have a very high opinion of it as a potential solution for me is that I found there was a discrepancy as to what AA officially espouses in their Big Book and the way it has evolved culturally over the years.

For example, there is no where in the Big Book that says “suit up, show up, sit down, and shut up,” nor is there any place that says you have to do 90 meetings in 90 days (which is sooooo difficult for people with jobs and children!!!!!) In the Big Book, an old timer is supposed to reach out to help the newcomer… there is no such thing as a newcomer trying to find and beg someone with more time to become their sponsor. In the Big Book, the 4th step is not touted as some cure-all as it is in most AA groups these days. It is a resentment list, not a moral inventory. Not a cure-all.

The familiar sayings that have cropped up in cultural-AA were perhaps helpful in their advent, but now they were often used to bash people. For example, I hate the one that says “your best thinking got you here.” That’s not true. My WORST thinking did. Lastly, I personally am not in agreement with the practice of counting only continuous sobriety. It makes people feel like failures before they can get any kind of progress going. The tradition of treating someone like a newcomer, even if they’ve had 14 years of continuous sobriety and then went on a bender one night, is just wrong to me. It sacrifices progress at the altar of perfection.

But that’s off-topic. This is supposed to be my bio, and I was talking about how the rehab I had chosen was AA based. Consequently, I tried and tried to embrace the AA paradigm, but I just couldn’t do it. I was able to get something like 6 months continuous sobriety, but then I went back to my old ways again, not realizing there were other options.

Mid 30s to late 40s

Alcohol tore up my next relationship after that. It wasn’t just any old relationship either; I was engaged, and it broke that to pieces.

Almost simultaneously, the bank failures and real estate bubble of the Great Recession hit. AND my graphics industry was all of a sudden globalized… so all my competition was coming from India and Pakistan. From people who only demanded $3/hour as opposed to my higher-end salary.

  • I had 4 homes at the time, and lost them all. 
  • I had the movie advertising career, but lost that too in the recession.
  • And as mentioned, I lost the relationship.
  • All of that happened almost simultaneously, so it was like going from Hero to Zero in a matter of months.

Ironically, I had gotten sober again – this time, due to my own decision and not out of “fear” – several months before losing all my homes. So I wasn’t one of those people who “when they got sober, everything got better.” It was the exact opposite for me. I had had great success when I was a drunk. I lost everything when I got sober.

I stayed sober for my first significant length of time – about a year and 3 months. When I realized I wasn’t getting any of my life back (my losses continued, my finances were gone, my ex-fiancé wasn’t coming back to me), I got what is called a “bad case of the f**ck-its” and went back to drinking again. And as usual, it was a disaster.

Binge Drinking

By this time in my life, I had gotten a holistic nutritionist certification (the irony isn’t lost on me). I had also taken on “binge drinking” instead of daily drinking because I mistakenly thought it was healthier. It wasn’t.

And, the pain in withdrawal had become even worse. I have always had a sensitive stomach… and the drinking tore it up. I would throw up so much during withdrawals that I timed it once out of curiosity. I threw up about once every 20 minutes for over 17 hours. Granted, it wasn’t food or alcohol that I was throwing up – that was long gone. It was acid, bile, and water/liquids I was trying to rehydrate with. I couldn’t keep anything down at all.

The pain would last several days. I would bloat up hugely, so much so that it was pushing on my diaphragm and making it difficult to breath deeply. I would throw out my neck and back from the force of the vomiting. I would sweat so profusely that I had to set aside about 3 outfits per night and lay a towel under me on the bed because I would sweat through the outfits to the towel multiple times during the night in my body’s effort to detox. I was so weak and afraid that I would fall if I got up to go to the bathroom, that I would sometimes just throw up in the bed. It was clear liquid… but gross nonetheless, and I ruined probably 3 mattresses that way. They would get that black mold/mildew from the liquid I couldn’t adequately clean. I would fall sometimes if I did get up, and had gotten black eyes. I can remember tripping and hitting the handlebars of my bike (that was one of the black eyes). It was awful. I cannot adequately express how awful it was.

And that was just the physical part of it. I also had been stripped of my career in the recession, and was competing with impossibly low hourly-rates from India and Pakistan (and Romania, and China… you name it – everyone was a cheaper graphic designer than those from the USA). I almost lost hard-won clients because I would disappear in the middle of their projects to binge drink. I would literally black out and not email them for days, or completely miss their deadlines. These were important projects that I messed up. I would probably still have a very large movie studio account (I’m not naming them, because you would know them) had I not blacked out in the middle of one of their blockbuster projects. It was a lucrative client and I ruined it.

I Tried Relocating Too…

In the midst of all this recessionary downfall and alcoholic disaster, I was still boomeranging. I was able to climb out of the alcohol hole again… for another year and 3 months. I guess that was my magical number. (That’s part of the reason why I am not in favor of counting days. There is obviously a trigger for some people when they get to a certain number of days that they just throw everything out the window. I am one of those people.)

I tried switching careers. I moved to a different State to try my luck there (but by that time, I was binge-drinking again). The out of State move proved to be equally disastrous. I moved back to Southern California and almost immediately had some bad drinking binges and my boss/friend at the time encouraged me to seek treatment again.

This time proved to be more fortuitous. I was able to find an IOP – intensive outpatient program – that was based largely on Rational Recovery and SMART Recovery© principles. I got along very well with the group leader, I devoured the cognitive behavioral tools I was taught there, and I liked and cared about pretty much all the people in the group. I do think that particular facility did very well for me and I got a lot out of it. I still keep in touch with the group leader and we became friends over time. He encouraged me to become a SMART Recovery facilitator, and I did.

I was able to get some more months, alcohol-free, during that time. By then, I wasn’t so hung up anymore on counting days. SMART doesn’t really do that. I enjoyed helping people in the meetings too. The SMART meetings allowed dialogue and brainstorming so that people helped each other. They didn’t just tell their stories and move on without feedback.

Bottom line was, it seemed like there was actually a bit of hope.

Alcohol is a Formidable Foe Though…

But, as you probably know, alcohol abuse is pretty tricky. Very soon, all the negative motivation that originally pushed you into changing your life for the better fades away. Relationships tend to improve, work improves, life gets back to normal, and you blissfully forget how bad things get when you drink. It’s like happiness has blinders.

So when I started to feel “above it all,” that’s precisely when things went downhill fast. I don’t know what your achilles heel is, but mine tends to be a type of arrogance. Kind of like “I’ve got this” and I will think I’m above the fray, but I’m not.

Even though I’d had the good experience with the IOP and I was helping co-host SMART Recovery meetings, I did end up starting the binge drinking again, for probably another year and a half off and on. Just long enough to get my 1st (and hopefully, my only) DUI 2 weeks before I moved out of State.

I wasn’t moving out of State to escape my life or start a new career… I mainly wanted cooler weather and a lower cost of living, plus my lease was up, so I had to move no matter what. It was in this new locale that I had my big “last” get-sober epiphany.

The New Town

Fresh off the DUI and in my new town, I spent my first night here in a blackout sleeping on the floor because my furniture had not arrived yet. But I did manage to pull myself out of my haze a bit. I had more moments of not-drinking than I did of drinking. There was also snow, and I wasn’t used to driving in it, and I was terrified of another DUI, so I didn’t dare go out and get alcohol nearly as often as I wanted to.

I was away from family and friends, and not yet “connected” in my new city. They did not have any SMART Recovery meetings in this town… only AA, which I didn’t want to go back to, and Celebrate Recovery (which is like AA + Jesus). I also tried another church-based recovery program that I don’t recall the name of. The extent of my social life was saying hello to the checkout clerks, and my occasional night at that church’s recovery meeting.

I would binge occasionally though, and they were so bad that I’d call a taxi to take me to the ER to help me get off of the alcohol without so much pain. There was still pain, but not nearly as much. I did not have health insurance at this time though, and between my previous Southern California living situation and the new on in my new State, I had wracked up approximately $165,000 in “unforgiven” hospital/doctor/lab bills. Some hospitals had accepted my financial hardship paperwork I’d submitted, but many did not, and I was in a deep hole.

My final straw though (or the big “ah ha” or epiphany or “moment of truth”) came during the early fall of 2017. I had had a big drinking binge, and somehow/someway (I don’t recall all the specifics) I had put myself in the ER about 5 days in a row. Every time I would go there, the doctor on duty had refused to give me the usual medication that helped stave off the extreme pain. They’d give me ibuprophen and maybe an antacid and send me back home. Consequently, I would go get more alcohol again because the pain of coming off was unbearable. Once the alcohol would wear off again, I was in extreme pain again, and would call a taxi to go back to the ER.

They were also having trouble getting my heart rate down. It was through the roof. They kept telling me that the only way they’d agree to give me that medicine was if I agreed to stay overnight so they could monitor me. I kept saying no because I had pets and I had no one (literally) to take care of them while I was gone.

This kept going on (5 or 6 days in a row) until finally I agreed to stay overnight. I did call an old friend and ask her to break in to my house to feed my dog at least. She didn’t have pets, and ended up giving him Chinese food, but he survived… phew.

ANYWAY, long story short, they finally gave me the medication and I was able to go home the next day and not have to drink to stave off the pain. But I had pain of a different sort… emotional pain. It was the pain of knowing I had created a big drama again in my life, needlessly. That I’d harmed myself and my health again. That I’d disappointed others… family was terrified…

And I remember sitting on my couch and it hit me that I didn’t have to do that anymore. That I wasn’t born to be a drunk. That wasn’t my purpose or my destiny. It wasn’t like I was forced to live that life – I could change it. That was my big moment.

No one else was really pressuring me to do anything different. They were afraid for me, but they weren’t forcing me into treatment or anything like that. This came from a decision deep in my heart.

I knew I was made for more. That I was valuable, and that I didn’t have to live this way. I could walk out of it.

The Turnaround

So I did – I started switching around my life. Immediately, I contacted the leader at Celebrate Recovery. I was still very adamant about not going to AA. I got myself in to one of their “step studies.” I also immediately began cleaning up my finances. I know it sounds like an odd place to start, but as I always say – alcohol affects EVERYTHING in your life, and that included my finances. I needed to climb out of the mess I created, not only from the drinking but also from that huge recession. If it was nickel-by-nickel, so be it. I made the decision to do what it takes.

I also forced myself not to dwell on the past. I could look at it honestly and assess it, but I refused to allow myself to get depressed about it or wallow in guilt and shame because I knew those emotions would just lead me to drink again in order to escape.

I put one foot in front of the other. Although I physically attended Celebrate Recovery and their “step study,” I actually dove back in to some of the things I had learned at the outpatient facility years ago. I couldn’t remember them perfectly, but those morphed in to what I call the “Push/Pull” and the “Delay, Divert, Distract” that I teach within the first 4 days of “The Other Side of the Bottle” course. Those were my weapons to kill cravings when they came. Sometimes, the only thing that worked was just my decision from when I was sitting on the couch. I would call to mind that moment, and I’d power through.

In any case, I finally got some alcohol-free time under me and knew that I should probably start helping other people because I have that dangerous “arrogance” thing that always derails me. So I took the official facilitator training for SMART Recovery and started the first face-to-face meeting in my area. The facilitator training was pretty well done. I learned a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and some motivational interviewing.

And even though I haven’t been 100% perfect with contiguous time these past 3 years, I have had a massive MIRACLE-level improvement and I do consider myself FREE FROM ALCOHOL. It was a bondage for me. I felt like I was in chains to it. But not anymore. I don’t feel like I’m trapped anymore… it’s not my identity, it’s not a label I wear, and honestly, most of the time, I don’t even think about it. I prayed to be “indifferent” to alcohol, and for the most part, I received that miracle. Most of the time, I am truly indifferent to it. It is not a point of arrogance to say so. It is in extreme gratitude to God that I can say it.

So Why Create the Course?

This is all well and good, and I am still a face-to-face meeting facilitator for SMART Recovery in my town, but then, why did I create the course?

This is how it came about: we were having the annual “Recovery in the Park” event in my town, where different programs and centers come together to hang out and hopefully spread awareness. Most of the time, we just end up being aware of each other and not anyone new. I was sharing a table with a recovery resource center, and the lady who was representing it got in to a conversation with me. I was talking about how I wish I could share the other things that helped me… not just SMART. How my knowledge of nutrition helped me get my body back on track (I see so many people struggling with that long after they’ve quit alcohol… they just move on to cigarettes, junk food and sugar). And I told her about the workbook I’d written of 28 days worth of activities that boost your mind/soul/spirit. I told her how I felt like recovery needed to involve physical action too, and we should have “walk n’ talks”, not just “sit n’ talk” (I live in an area with lots of walking and hiking trails). How you need to rebuild your life with a VISION, not just by default; otherwise you have no motivation to stay alcohol-free. How when you engage your WHOLE self, your recovery has a better chance of growing roots.

In response to my whole shpiel, the lady from the recovery center said “well, why don’t you just create a program like that?” …she offered their facility to have me do holistic recovery workshops (technically, I think I couldn’t call it a program due to legal concerns), and that’s how this whole Quit Like A Winner idea got started.

I soon realized that an enormous amount of people need this, and I am only one very busy human being. I certainly can’t be Jesus and I am not perfect. I get burnt out a lot (I run a business still, and I also do fine-art and music production & performance at a few churches). I needed to find a way that I could get this holistic recovery method out to people…. enter Teachable.com, and “The Other Side of the Bottle” course was born.

That is just the beginning too. TOSOTB (which is my shorter version of the course’s name) is just the first “get alcohol free” flagship 40-day course. I will also be creating an aftercare course that will take someone through their first 6 months of being alcohol-free, and then another one to take them through the rest of their first year. So more is coming, and I truly hope it helps a lot of people.

And that is my story! I have a lot of years to make up for, so I will finish this up and get on with the business of living. I hope this course can help you or your struggling loved one. Take care. I wish you the best of success and a happy, alcohol-free life ahead of you.

~ Carine

lady breaking free from alcohol abuse

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