“I always felt like a responsible drinker. I didn’t attend parties where people were unfamiliar. I didn’t put myself in risky situations with others. I certainly wasn’t going to get caught under-age drinking and lose my teaching license! I had fun and collected many stories to tell. I maintained, house, home, and work. I had my nights of drinking too much, of getting sick night and day, but that was the exception, not the rule. I was a binge drinker with limits. "
"I sat out of my first tap class. That class I was so excited to attend. I watched from the side, too timid to join the others. I barely made it inside school on the first day of first grade. I stuck my heels in the ground staring at my new teacher from a distance.
I was never an outgoing person growing up. I was always shy in public. I’m accepting that my parents did the best they could. I don’t recall ever explicitly learning how to make friends and cope with social situations. My friends were the people in my neighborhood and I can barely remember how our friendships started. Then, middle school arrived and I felt so inside of myself. New situations, new people. I didn’t know how to be me because I never felt like enough. Dances made my skin crawl because I did so desperately want to join in on the fun, but I just felt paralyzed. I didn’t think I could dance and it felt like too big a risk. I felt so uncomfortable all the time.
It’s hard to say where drinking as a habit started so let’s start with the real beginning: My first drink. Two fourteen year olds babysitting and taking shots of peach schnapps. Then it was Mad Dog a few days later because we had had so much fun.
There. I think I cemented that notion there. Drinking is fun.
I remember sitting against the side of my house on New Year’s Eve, a senior in high school, and I couldn’t stop talking! Earlier that night, my friends and I acquired some Bacardi. I was sitting next to the boy who’d eventually become my husband blubbering, slurring my words, but feeling so free. I was able to talk and talk without worry, without hesitation. I could say whatever I wanted. I even started posting on a message board because I thought it was so refreshing I could be so uninhibited. I remember uttering the words that night, “I am a happy drunk.”
There. I think I cemented that notion there. Drinking is a happy time.
College and Career Ready: Drinking helps me to socialize.
Bars and Concerts: Drinking allows me to let loose.
Interviews: Drinking gives me confidence.
Hard Work and Parenthood: Drinking is a treat.
I always felt like a responsible drinker. I didn’t attend parties where people were unfamiliar. I didn’t put myself in risky situations with others. I certainly wasn’t going to get caught under-age drinking and lose my teaching license! I had fun and collected many stories to tell. I maintained, house, home, and work. I had my nights of drinking too much, of getting sick night and day, but that was the exception, not the rule. I was a binge drinker with limits.
At some point the “drinking is” notions turned into “drinking helps me…” which eventually morphed into “I am when I drink.” I did not see how my language changed, how my thoughts changed. Where once I had separated the act of drinking from me it eventually became part of my subconscious identify. It wasn’t until I decided to look at my drinking habits and consider sobriety that I was even aware how deeply I held these beliefs about myself.
It would take 16 more years for me to realize what power I had given over that night at 17, or was it 14? I relied on booze to do so much for me that it never occurred to me that I should build myself up any other way. I truly thought I was those things because drinking masked it as so.
I’m so glad my story doesn’t stop there.
A few days after New Year’s Day, 2019, I had a sensible thought around moderation. Then, it came to me. That quiet voice that said, “Why not just stop?” The quiet voice stuck with me for a few days, never shouting, but politely reminding me it was there. I could cry as I type these words: I listened. I listened and I explored. I listened, I explored, and I read. I listened, I explored, I read, and I kept diving deeper into myself.
I recognized that whatever I thought booze was giving me it also made me angry. I thought to the times I felt tense if I didn’t have a drink or wasn’t drunk enough for a situation. I shined a flashlight on those moments that I had ruined because I was too worried about the availability of booze. That was not OK with me.
I spent a few days cautiously, nervously searching the Internet for “Am I an alcoholic?” and reading articles like, “How giving up alcohol changed my life.” I felt a little in limbo. Then, I found Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind and it was the ultimate game changer. I could no longer look at booze the same way. I saw it for what it was.
Every thing that has ever been has led me to this moment.
I am 7 months sober. I am growing my sobriety, baby. What I am realizing every day is that sobriety has been so much more than being alcohol-free. It has allowed me to look at the parts of myself that I value and the parts I need to grow. I am leaning into the discomfort and working on more self-compassion and acceptance. When I have doubts, I remind myself why I started: I know what will happen if I don’t change, I don’t know what can happen if I do. I have regained my own power."