"I was a mother. A professional. I was also an alcoholic. I would never be able to moderate my drinking. If I didn’t change, the physical problems I had started having; pancreatic and stomach issues, intense depressive episodes, exhaustion, and ocular migraines were all going to eventually culminate in decimating my quality of life completely. I wasn’t going to be a mother to my children and honestly, at some point I was going to drive home the wrong night and something terrible could happen."
“On November 3, 2018, I awoke in a panic. Uncertain of when I had gone to sleep, how I had gotten home or why I felt so much worse than usual. Which was usually pretty bad, as a general rule. I bolted awake, still not fully coherent, to run downstairs to see if I had gotten home in my own vehicle. I had, but I was awash with an immediate panic attack, blinding headache and disorientation. I’d been hungover before but this felt different. As my thoughts raced, what came to mind was that this hangover seemed weird. I’d been roofied once before in my life, and this was how it felt. I knew nothing had happened to me, but I also knew there was a big black spot in my memory that would have concerned me if I didn’t have a co-worker verify that I left alone. I very rarely ever left my drinks unattended, even completely trashed, but apparently those five tequila shots and six vodka tonics (which, was a normal amount for me) were enough to forget this hard and fast rule.
I had been to a a regular location I went to, a run of the mill dive bar. One of my favorites because the drinks were cheap and really strong. Doesn’t mean I’d drink any less. But at least I got my money’s worth.
Everything that morning was about feeling. Feeling ashamed, feeling tired, enduring a pounding head. My body hurt, and I was easily confused. Not quite nauseated but not hungry at all. I was embarrassed because I didn’t know how drunk me had acted (per usual). I was frustrated that here I was again. Most of all, I knew that even if I had something slipped in my drink, no one would believe me because I was often hungover, so how would I know the difference. After 20+ years of addiction, one thing in that blurry day became clear. I had to stop.
I had tried before. Many times. Two years prior I went a whole two months through sheer tenacity and determination. But peppered with rules and exceptions, I was supposed to ease back into drinking slowly in an effort to find moderation. Two drinks per month, only on weekends turned into four drinks per month, on days I would choose. Eventually, I was drinking nearly every day again and both unsure of how I got there, and subconsciously knowing how.
Alcohol wasn’t my only drug. Since the age of 16 I had dabbled in nearly all types of substances, barring a few I wouldn’t touch. However, for some reason, despite my addictive behavior, I was able to keep them at bay, or quit altogether. I had a life to live, and I was self sufficient by the age of 17 (through my own choices) so I walked a fine line of freewheeling hedonism at its worst and being a “responsible” adult. I had to hide my secrets from most everyone around me in daily life because they would have been appalled at my behaviors. But drinking, that was okay. Drinking is acceptable. It’s legal. Everyone does it. So I never had to hide my drinking. It was my badge of honor and I held everyone to my tolerance standards. I drank for fun, by going out with co-workers or friends, and proceeded to get completely black out drunk nearly every time. I drank at home, usually doing shots to get drunk as fast as possible. Going through more alcohol each time despite any physiological pleas from my body to stop.
Alcohol never left me, and my identify became based around it. When I was married, before kids, we would plan parties that usually were themed around alcohol. (He didn’t have a problem and I wasn’t admitting I had one.) One time I vomited in our bed in my sleep. True rock star style. Or so I thought. The day after always involved me lying around in bed miserable from feeling like shit, professing my proclamations to never drink again. Until the next time.
I quit during both pregnancies and when I was breastfeeding, I studied every which way to drink and not have it enter my milk. I pumped and dumped. I still pumped occasionally when I quit my job and decided to stay home with them, so I could still have reserves to feed when I wanted to drink. Staying home triggered my depression and this caused me to slowly get back to drinking more, especially as my younger son weaned off breastfeeding and I had free reign.
When I got a divorce and was struggling with two very young children uncertain of this new living arrangement, and the guilt of initiating it, my drinking kept me company. Without writing a complete novel of my next few years, I will say that I went through some incredibly draining, intense and chaotic events, all while still parenting and working full time. The only time in those few years that I actually was able to suspend my drinking was the six months I fell back in love with my original addiction, my eating disorder.
Fast forward to the morning aforementioned, and what truly was a cliche, yet valid epiphany. I was a mother. A professional. I was also an alcoholic. I would never be able to moderate my drinking. If I didn’t change, the physical problems I had started having; pancreatic and stomach issues, intense depressive episodes, exhaustion, and ocular migraines were all going to eventually culminate in decimating my quality of life completely. I wasn’t going to be a mother to my children and honestly, at some point I was going to drive home the wrong night and something terrible could happen.
I made the choice that day to quit. My friends all supported me deeply. All this time I thought I had been the fun friend, the one who would go drinking with them and I realized I was the out of control friend who somehow thought she had it under wraps. I’m almost five months sober at the time of writing this, and while it’s been an uphill battle at times, it’s made a total difference in my life. There are days I get angry that I can’t drink. There are nights I wish I could enjoy a glass of wine. But very early I had to learn the phrase “play the tape forward” and that’s what I have to do each and every time. Because for me, it’ll never be just one. It’ll never be for any type of good reason. I’ve learned more in the last five months about how much I was avoiding and how, despite decent coping skills, what I really wasn’t facing. I was already somewhat of an anomaly in being a self-aware addict. But that just meant I was aware that I struggled with depression, anxiety and eating disorders and I lacked the clarity to see that I was perpetuating and fueling each of them with my drinking (and addictions). I was ready to face everything I had always run from and experience life unencumbered and without stumbling numbly. Being sober has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. But also the most fulfilling and it’s still early. That morning changed my life and for that I’m grateful, as one day I know my children will be too.”