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Pamela Fagan Hutchins | Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Some things have to come first: Suz, Eric, Liz, and Clark.

I made a decision a few years ago that changed my life.

For the better. Forever.

All those years ago and one day ago, I drank alone for the last time. All those years and one day ago, I drank too much, alone, and damaged my relationships and myself for the last time.

The catalyst? My son, Clark Kent, the ADHD WonderKid[1], at the age of eight, told his teacher that he was worried about his mother.

Now, see, I’ve gone and made myself cry already when I’d barely started writing this story! Sheesh. I hate it when I do that.

Anyway, Clark’s words stopped me cold. I knew what he meant. I knew I drank too many Bloody Marys and too often, and that it had started years and years before. I knew my face had puffed up, that I woke up hungover over-frequently, that I cut out of work early to drink wine with my girlfriends, that I acted awful when I was drunk, that I no longer exercised. I knew that a hungover me lacked the bandwidth to deal effectively with my kids’ issues, let alone Clark’s distressing behaviors and challenges. I knew that and a lot more.

But all that was about me, and I didn’t care enough about me to do anything about it. I tried, sure, I tried cutting back any number of times. For all the good it did. But for Clark or my other kids, I would do almost anything.

So I told my boss I would see him in ten days. He didn’t ask why, which said a lot. I boarded a plane for St. Lucia and I checked into a mind and body spa. I planned a week of rejuvenation while I dried out. I’m not a joiner; I wish I was, but I’m not. AA was not for me. So, St. Lucia, solo.

So what did I really do when I got there?

Got drunk in my room on everything I could find in the mini-bar, all by myself in a panicked, sobbing frenzy on night one. So drunk that I woke up the next morning and didn’t remember falling asleep in the bathtub with the TV on. Congratulations, Pamela. You go, girl.

I didn’t think I could get lower than I had been after I heard Clark’s words from his teacher’s mouth, but I did. The morning after the last time I drank alcohol was the lowest point of my life, even beating out my later divorce, the bloody aftermath, and the custody battle that ensued. I despised myself. Not for the first time, I wished I were selfish enough to kill myself. It seemed like that would be so much easier.

For me. But this was not about me. It was about my kids.

So, I picked myself up and put on my too-tight stretchy exercise clothes that used to fit and marched with gritted teeth up 7,000 steps in the heat to the mind and body center. I spent the remaining six days (instead of the planned seven) alone in my mind. My version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s year of eating, praying, and loving, I guess. I sweated. I cried. I replayed Clark’s words and my failures over and over in my mind. I felt like absolute crap. I walked the beaches until my feet were as smooth as a baby’s bottom. And then I came home dry.

It was hard. So very, very hard.

My husband drank quite a lot at the time, and he didn’t slow down for me. The bad marriage I had drowned in booze was impossible to tolerate without anesthetic and contributed to my urge to drink. Most of my friends were heavy drinkers, too, and they viewed my decision to stop drinking as a personal indictment of their choices.

Who was this about, anyway? Right. My kids. I kept going.

I counted the days out painfully, one by one. I again rejected the idea of AA, not only because of my anti-joiner bent, but out of fear of the impact it would have on my high-profile career in our small community. I did it alone, with only one real friend who was aware and still with me (thanks, Nat!), in the middle of the Cruzan Rum-rich island environment of St. Croix, USVI.

Years later, three months had passed. Alcohol abstinence started getting easier—not a lot easier, but easier. And I felt better, I looked better. I lost weight. I acted nicer. I became more energetic and productive, crisper. I started running again.

And Clark quit worrying about me. (Tiny little sob again, but I’ve got it under control now, no worries.)

I am now married to a man who gave up alcohol on our first date. The same date on which he told me I stopped his heart. Eric wasted (pardon the pun) no time in showing me he meant to be my hero, and he is, for more by far than putting up with me writing about his Ironman underwear. (Woops, sorry, honey.)

People ask me how I do it all. I don’t know. But I do know that a drunken Pamela could not have run five marathons and written two novels in one year while parenting and holding down a day job, even with the world’s greatest husband.

And it’s not just productivity that the alcohol drained away from me. I have more money for what I need to do as well. I refuse to tally how much I’ve saved by cutting out booze—it would be too depressing. But I am so grateful that when hard times came to our household and I needed to watch every penny, I wasn’t battling myself for the money to spend on wine at World Market.

I know alcohol doesn’t affect most people the way it does me. Most people can drink in moderation and still thrive, achieve, and parent. I am happy for them, and envious. My non-drinking is not a judgment of what I think others should do, it is what I must do.

I’d love to say that after this many years dry that I never think about drinking, but that is not true. Sometimes I wake up with the sweats, dreaming that I have fallen off the wagon. In those dark moments in the middle of the night, I long to search the house for a bottle of comfort. Every time I travel, the urge strikes, because I used to drink alone in hotel rooms. Now, instead, I sit awake all night, writing to distract myself and praying for the day I never travel alone again.

I don’t want to waste another day or night of my life. I want to be the best me I can be 24/7, for my kids, my husband, and finally, for myself. I know only one way to do this, so I will stay true. One day at a time. One year at a time. For the rest of my life.

[1] You can read all about Clark and ADHD in The Clark Kent Chronicles.


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108 Responses to Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

  1. Christina says:

    I think it’s great that you wrote about this Pamela, because when you hit publish you really let something loose. I mean “you” in the universal sense, but I imagine it’s specifically relevant to “you” personally. Congratulations – you should be proud of yourself.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks Christina. So true. My followup blog will be more lighthearted tho, someday. Post drinking: how to use all those saved calories and dollars. Subtitle: your nondrinking friends can still be fun and drive you home, too!

  2. Susie says:

    To my brave and wonderful daughter- and thanks CLARK!

  3. Vickie says:

    Pamela ~ Simply: You ROCK! Congrats on your anniversary and here’s to many more. :)

  4. Jimmie King says:

    Thanks for sharing – never second guess yourself. It encourages me to be a better person.

    Thanks again!

    • Pamela says:

      Thank God for our kids; they make me resolve to do better every day. Most days I can’t honestly tell whether I have or not :) but, I just keep plugging away.

  5. Pamela,
    Hard to write, hard to read… I’m glad you wrote it and glad I read it.
    Keep on keepin’ on.

  6. LeDawn says:


    Here’s to many more sober and productive years.

  7. Eric Hutchins says:

    I am very proud of your courage and strength. ( and you are not a bad writer either 😉 ).

  8. Katherine says:

    Thank you, and thank Clark and all those who have supported you! I was very much into the 80s scene, and when I started dating, my now husband made one simple request–let’s both stop drinking and give our relationship a true chance at success. It was and has been the BEST thing I have ever done. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY my friend.

  9. Heidiopia says:

    My dear soul sister– bravo for you. Your courage and commitment to your “people” is so inspiring. That’s all I’m going to say, because I’m too teary to say anything else. I hoist my water bottle to you and say: “Cheers!”. Keep up the fight!

  10. Anje says:

    Hey Pam – Thank you for sharing your story!! You are an awesome , strong and very real woman(when I say real, that is a compliment in my book). You shoot straight and I like it!! Huge Hugs to you. Please never stop writing.

  11. nat says:

    Now you went and made me cry also!

    In ten intimate years, during which I time I have known you, You have always been an ispiration, leading by example.

    To your thanks I offer in return, a thanks.

    Thank you for continuously living it, being it, stressing it to better it and for telling it all gracefully and honestly from your heart.

    For there is one thing that you are not and that is afraid to evolve.

    I saw, I sensed and heard you, I hear you and can then seek a similar release because you have reminded me so tenderly.

    Congraulations – YOU ARE SUCH A STAR!

  12. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christina Uticone, Eric Hutchins and Eric Hutchins, PamelaFaganHutchins. PamelaFaganHutchins said: Wasted Days and Wasted Nights: Not anymore. Happy 7 yrs to me. #blog #imaybesoberbutimstillfun […]

  13. marni says:


    I am in awe of your strength.

    I am inspired by your courage.

    I am touched by your honesty.

    You are amazing.
    (sniff, sniff)

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. Kim Jackson says:

    First.. Congradulations on your seven year and one day anniversary ! Your strength and passion for life are a true inspiration .. Big hugs and tons of love to you.. I am so very proud of not only my friend but my “queen”, we were right in choosing you.. For you are greatness both on the inside AND out! :)

  15. Peter Fagan says:

    Congrats on taming the inner demons. Oh that we all could be brave enough to share ours.

    • Pamela says:

      My theory is that if I expose myself completely and face my fears then I can face anything coming my way with what I know is my future: to be casually judged and criticized for my words by people I don’t know. Side benefit: it seems to really help other people, which is humbling.

  16. Sandy says:

    Congratulations!! Growing up with an alcoholic father this story touched me a special way. I only wish my father would have loved me enough to stop his drinking. You are a brave woman and I commend you for telling your story…it could help someone to make the same decision you did. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Kevin Proops says:


    My wife Sandy commented this week how lucky she feels that we found each other later in life. I agree – but after reading your blog, I think maybe you AND Eric are luckier than we are.

    Perhaps you’re blessed to have been at those lows, since you’ve managed to overcome them, and do so very well today. Congrats to you and your entire family, and may you continue the positive reinforcement which you’ve found.

  18. Danny Johnson says:

    Pamela, excellent post…XOXOXOX. I salute your honesty and courage to share your story!
    I have a family history of alchoholism; I’ve seen the dark side (been there too), probably why it scared me into being what I believe those in the AA community call a “Normie”. Little do they know that is far from Dan In Real Life. Anyhow, you rock…. Congratulations on being true to your new-found self for the past 7 years! Pat your healthy self on the back, and keep those monkey’s off of it!

  19. Paula Lancaster says:

    You SO rock Pamela! I knew Annalise had stories within stories. You’ve got grit. I”ll always think of you and your anniversary on my birthday.

  20. Kris J. says:

    I am glad you posted this. I am even more glad you were able to stop drinking for your children.

    I buried my own mother 3 years ago, because she could not stop drinking. She allowed her numerous boyfriends to abuse her children, lost custody of her children, lost jobs, homes, money, time, friends, me allowing her grandchildren to spend time alone at her home, her ability to drive a car, even her freedom for about 5 1/2 months. She still choose the bottle.

    So if your children have never said it – I thank you for putting your children first.

  21. Heidi says:

    Wow, Pamela!

    That’s wonderful!
    You are an inspiration and
    brave to share your past.
    I applaud you and your future success…
    (and your husband who sounds so great.)

  22. larry Simpson, SR says:

    did Uncle Paul ever take Clark, for his 15th birthday present, to TOOT N Totem showing his nephew where he conquered many young ladies?


    • Pamela says:

      Haha. Nope. Not going to tell him that or that Toot ‘n Totem was where we bought alcohol when we were underage (and where I got busted by a cop; proud moment). Clark shall stay in the dark for as long as possible.

  23. Rene says:

    What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger! You conquered and have gone on to live up to your amazing potential! keep on going girl . . .

  24. J Sturgeon says:

    Pam…am so proud to call you a friend. I only wish I known…to drop you a word of encouragement, give you a hug, or if needed….kick your behind. :) You’re doing great….

  25. adena says:

    Woman, you are a true inspiration. WOW There is much I can relate to here, thank you or being brave enough to press the publish button. (ps I am talluleh from twitter)

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks Adena/Talluleh. Hitting publish was harder with this blog than with my usual silliness. But some things need to be said, you know?
      I occasionally throw out a big emotional piece like this — “Confessions of a Guilt-Stricken Mom” (adhd/my son Clark), “Turn the Page” (high school reunions, closure, moving on), ” “Take Your Head out of the Sand” (abuse of kids), Getting our Groooove On” (learning how to be @trimon29/Eric’s wife). Therapy-via-blog. But usually I’m pretty silly. I’m working on rewrites for 2 funny novels for an agent, and she wants me to focus on being funny; every now and then I cheat tho and Wasted Days is the result.
      Wishing you best of luck on your goals (half marathon up thru olympic tri) … and the next goals after that, and all the hidden struggles we carry with us. Thanks for visiting :)

  26. […] am not a quitter. I am an example to my children. I run the race to finish, not for speed. I guess I have even […]

  27. […] quite what it seems to the rest of the world.  I habitually and publicly confess my failings and foibles.   I wish I could do the same with my marriage: how about a story that Eric is a compulsive […]

  28. Donna says:

    Wow, I am totally inspired by your strength and determination. Here’s looking forward to Year 8.

  29. Steph says:

    I’m proud of you Pam. That’s awesome! Another dear friend of ours has gone through this. I Don’t drink either. But I don’t do it as a choice and a decision I made to support my friend that had the problem. I always tell people, “I’m high on life baby!” lol I love you friend!

  30. runningfairy says:

    Congratulations Pamela.

    What an inspiring blog post. My father isn’t able to have a lone glass of wine either and having grown up worrying about him (and even now when he’s had 6 and 3 years of steady sobriety) both my sister and I have similar traits that you can trace back to being very ‘all-or-nothing’. I constantly have people tell me ‘one glass of wine won’t hurt’ and it gets tiring having to justify yourself which alone is challenging.

    An amazing thing to have had the courage to go through as a choice on your own and so lovely you have Eric who totally supports you in your choice now.

    Well done you.

    • Pamela says:

      “One glass of wine won’t hurt you.” You either have the perspective to understand the fallacy of this for someone with a propensity toward “all-or-nothing” or you don’t. You so beautifully do! Thank you for sharing your story with me. I hope you, your sister, and your dad continue to do well.


  31. […] and two other Clark Chronicles — I love you but I’ll have to kill you now, she said and Wasted Days and Wasted Nights — round out the top […]

  32. […] the best of reasons.  For the love of … […]

  33. […] worry about me.  I’ll sit in my hotel and dream about the day when solo business travel will be a memory.  And everything goes right, for a […]

  34. ryoko861 says:

    Just found your blog through your twitter profile.

    Blogs are funny things. We pour ourselves out in mega-pixels, gigabytes and lash out on the keyboard about our innerselves. I know exactly where your coming from when it comes to clicking “publish”. I always get a hot flash when that time comes around.

    Your story is inspiring to all who have this nasty affliction. If I could I’d hug you! You’re stronger than you think! I’m so glad you got your life back on track. You’re still dealing with those ghosts, but you won’t let them get the best of you! I commend you!

  35. Suzanne says:

    You already have 61 comments but I suppose you will still like one more :). Your story – wow. I nearly cried myself reading it. Such bravery to climb incredibly steep mountains. Don’t ever forget how brave you are. I’m going to check out the rest of your blog now – thanks.

    • Pamela says:

      Hi Suzanne! Thanks for commenting despite all the others :). Thank you. I really appreciate your words. Welcome to Road to joy. It’s partly about fitness/triathlon/bicycling and a lot about relationships, parenting, and utter nonsense.


  36. heide says:

    Happy Lucky Seven! :)

  37. Erin says:

    This was hauntingly beautiful. I cannot imagine what you were going through, but you are obviously strong, and a survivor. I’m thrilled you found @trimon29, too!! And Clark? He’s turning out so well!! And it’s because of YOU and that choice you made 7+ years ago. BRAVO, Pam, BRAVO!

    Cheering you on! Love this. Loving YOU!


  38. I like hearing what “serious Pamelot” has to say just as much as I like hearing what “funny Pamelot” has to say. It’s all good. It’s all you. Thanks for sharing your story.

  39. LBDDiaries says:

    Now it is 7 years 1 month and 29 days and I just read this. How powerful. Hi Pamela, you ROCK and you made it through the toughest time – waking up believing you’ve fallen off the wagon. Congratulations to you!! And many, many more.

  40. As if I didn’t think you were great enough, you had to go and post something that would make me like you even more…You are such a brave woman to make this change in your life and even more brave to share it with all of us. I know what it is to feel ashamed when your children realize and call attention to your weaknesses. I quit smoking when my older son started asking me, every time I left the house, “Mommy, are you going outside to smoke?” It was definitely not a good feeling…

  41. That post has seriously inspired me Pamela. What a great writer you are, such emotion in your story. Well done for achieving 7 years and by the sounds of it, making a very successful life for yourself. Keep up the good work and keep writing!

  42. Pamela says:

    Other comments on old blog hosting:

    That post has seriously inspired me Pamela. What a great writer you are, such emotion in your story. Well done for achieving 7 years and by the sounds of it, making a very successful life for yourself. Keep up the good work and keep writing!


  43. Pamela says:

    Well, then, Corrine, it is a mutual admiration society!!

  44. […] the best of reasons.  For the love of … […]

  45. rtcrita says:

    Well, my dear, you are quite something. I came across your blog, how? I don’t remember. But I read one of your posts and thought it had something special and was funny. Then I read another, and another, and so on. I’ve known you less than a year, probably less than 6 months from the Internet only, but became a fan immediately. Now…I am even more of a fan.

    The thing I think I really admire about you the most is your honesty. Your honesty about yourself. And it’s because you have the ability and the courage to write things like this.

    Belated congratulations on this important anniversary, and best wishes for many more celebrations in the continuing future. Keep enjoying and experiencing every “today” your Creator gives you. Keep choosing happiness, love, and life and all the challenges that come with these things. And keep writing!

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you! I don’t recall how we crossed paths either, just that suddenly I knew of you on Twitter and your beautiful photographs, and that you also had a teenage son and admired cardinals… :)
      Which reminds me that I need to re-add your blog to my RSS feed. When I migrated away from I lost all my wordpress blogs!!
      Anyway, thank you VERY much. Your words mean a lot to me!

  46. […] It’s a free country, after all. Go read a serious post if that is more to your taste, like Wasted Days and Wasted Nights, The End is the Beginning, or Confessions of a Guilt Stricken Mom.  The Road to Joy, like the […]

  47. […] tough stuff.  For some of us it is medical, for others, like me, it’s struggles with mood, alcohol and a failed first marriage.  And some, like my husband, have battled financial woes and […]

  48. […] quite what it seems to the rest of the world.  I habitually and publicly confess my failings and foibles.   I wish I could do the same with my marriage: how about a story that Eric is a compulsive […]

  49. […] drinks with the least sugar or you’ll really mess yourself up, ie., red wine, low carb beer.  I don’t drink at all, but that choice wasn’t about weight.  However, the less alcohol you drink, the better you […]

  50. CONGRATULATIONS!! I have been sober 9 1/2 years and I am so very very blown away that you did it on your own! You are one strong woman. That is amazing. And it’s so hard at first when everyone around you is drinking. I used to go to the bar even after I quit because I didn’t know what else to do. Once shots were being passed around and one of my friends refused the shot, then said for me – out loud, “She doesn’t drink.” and I felt so supported and grateful for him in that moment. I always hated telling people I didn’t drink because I thought I’d look like a freak. He’s still one of my best buddies.
    I also have these crazy dreams where I’m falling off the wagon and they feel so real and are so terrifying. Although, sometimes, I wish I could realize I was dreaming and just enjoy the moment;)
    So couragous of you to share your story. It takes so much strength to put it out there! Congrats to you and your super badass strength!!!
    I had to stop by when Normal Mom Ally Tweeted you as a favorite. I’m following now!!

  51. […] and two other Clark Chronicles — I love you but I’ll have to kill you now, she said and Wasted Days and Wasted Nights — round out the top […]

  52. Galit Breen says:

    This post is powerful, strong, well written. I’m honored to know more about your story. Thank you for writing it, sharing it, right here. XO

  53. JennyBean says:

    Pamela, you really are amazing. I can’t imagine how hard that was. Happy anniversary, my bloggy friend.

    XOXO, Jenny

    P.S. I’m not getting on that wagon with you! 😉

    • Pamela says:

      LOL I wish I was off the wagon with you — y’all sound like you have a blast. It’s just not meant to be. I can be your designated driver. Or the one who walks around the house the morning after a great party, waking everyone up, passing out excedrin and bottles of water, while talking in a chirpy annoying voice. :)

      And thank you. It sucked. But it’s all good now.

  54. JennyBean says:

    We do have fun–for the most part, but then there’s Grandma Bean, who is still still snockered most of the time at the age of 87. She’s obnoxious when she’s sober. When she’s bombed, she’s unbearable. I’ve want to write about it, but I don’t want it to get back to her.

    So glad you’re good now, and you can be our DD anytime! I have an achilles heel–chocolate, and it’s why my hips are the size of your home state.


  55. Krissy Nelson via Facebook says:

    Happy 8 Years to you Pamela!! A you know, I too have struggled with addiction. My hope is that I can be as strong as you and continue to put time and distance between myself and the bottle. You are an inspiration and someone others can look to for hope in their own struggles. I appreciate you and am thankful to call you my friend. Congrats and keep going! Proud of you!

  56. So happy for you and proud of your accomplishments! :)

  57. All I can say is Wow Pamela. It is amazing how humbling and powerful an observation from our children can be. You were smart enough to listen. Some of us should listen more acutely. You have true courage for posting this. Thank you!

  58. A says:

    No sure how I missed this last year, but I am proud of you for making this decision for yourself and your family.

  59. Croup Cough says:

    I admire your strength! and you are a very lucky woman to have a man like that.
    I also has a fiancee and I quit smoking for her sake. I love her very much.

  60. […] am really, really not a groups kind of person. So, the first thing suggested to me when I learned Clark might have ADHD, by a kindly phone rep […]

  61. Lean on me says:

    […]            I am really, really not a groups kind of person.  So, the first thing suggested tome when I learned Clark might have ADHD, by a kindly phone rep […]

  62. […] I know The Family Adventure Project A blogger who has made me laugh so hard I have peed my pants Pamelot My favorite podcaster RunRunLive My Tri Motivator TriMeOn If you enjoyed this post, make sure you […]

  63. […] am not a quitter. I am an example to my children. I run the race to finish, not for speed. I guess I have even […]

  64. […] } } dropdown.onchange = onCatChange; /* ]]> */ Reader's Favorite Scribblings (# of comments)Wasted Days and Wasted Nights (106)The pain of puppy love. (77)Couples who make you want to puke. (75)My diet is not a racist. (75)Dear […]

  65. […] most painful and personal to me in the first person and getting the hell over it being about me. Alcoholism. My flaws as a parent. The challenges I face in personal relationships. I learned to access that […]

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