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  • Paula Sangeleer

I'm certain I was born drunk in 1969

Many people have a recollection of the first time they got drunk, but I really don't. As the legend goes, my mother was a heavy scotch drinker even while pregnant. So I consider myself drunk from even before I got here.

I drank all through my childhood at family parties, at dinner. When we would have spaghetti, I had my own teeny, tiny wine glass and was drinking straightaway. When I'd go over to a friend's house, and they would serve spaghetti and give me a glass of milk, I was like, "What is this?"

And they would say, "Paula, what do you have at your house was spaghetti?"

I'm like, "Chianti, of course." It seemed like a natural thing to me. So that's how I grew up: always sneaking beers, always drinking.

Then, once I got near, you know, late teens, 20's, I needed some confidence, some self esteem. So what's better for that than alcohol? You become fearless when you're drunk.

Coming to Grips With Addiction

When I turned 21, I went to New York City with my friend Kym (pictured above), and we went all over New York City. In particular, in the village, there was this one bar called the Scrap Bar, a crazy little place. Had my life not revolved around drinking, then maybe I wouldn't have met Dee Dee Ramone that night and made him two very important promises. But I'll tell you more about it another time.

Once I was partying on a tour bus and, luckily, Kym got me off of that thing before I woke up in Richmond the next day. There were so many blackouts, a lot of fun, but a lot of misery too. It was very painful.

If you drink, and it's not for you, you know how uncomfortable it is to be alcoholic. Amongst a series of bad decisions and partying, so many things that are not recommended and sometimes illegal. I tried some drugs in the mix with all of that. When you're young, your body can kind of handle it. You don't need a lot of sleep. I don't think I could do it now - nor would I want to!

So, fast forward a little bit: once I got into broadcasting, and I moved to Delaware, that's where my radio career was really climbing up. The day, I got my first program director job, I celebrated all by myself, drank a whole bottle of wine, and blacked out, of course. I woke up and I was like, "What is all this purple shit everywhere?"

Oh, it was barf from that wine.

I was trying to get dressed up that day, because suddenly I'm a manager, right? Gotta look slick. I'm putting on mascara with shaky hands, and as I was looking in the mirror, I had a moment. Did it come from divinity? I don't know. But I had this moment where I thought to myself, "Paula, you are done. There is no way you'll be successful in your career if you continue to drink."

So that's the last time I drank. That was March of '96. And I have not regretted that choice, not even one time.

My Advice to Anyone Battling Alcoholism

Here's some advice that you did not ask for. If my story sounds familiar to you, then you know that you've got a drinking problem. Please reach out for help.

What I can tell you is that when you stop drinking, it's very uncomfortable, in every single way imaginable. And I white-knuckled it, quitting cold turkey. To do it again, I would go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings straight away.

There's no need to tough it out on your own. It's not easy at all, but you do not have to suffer. And there's so much help out there. Especially now! We've got the internet, we've got Zoom groups out there. Reach out.

You'll be delighted, I think, to find that people are not as judgmental as you think they are. You will find that there are more drunks out there, just like you and me. And people are willing to help. I promise you, a lot of the pain will very simply fall away.

Some of the things that you will learn straight away, tools that will help you get through life, are surrender, humility, and I think the most important, gratitude. They are muscles that you've got to build and work on all the time. But these things will improve your situation. I promise you that.

If you're in a really bad situation, and you know it, get medical help, because it could be dangerous just to quit. Get help. It's there for you. All we can do is do our best. You do not have to suffer.

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