I need to get something off my chest. I need to say goodbye to this last year; 2014.
January started with me feeling lonely, isolated, depressed, and just basically flailing desperately. I had just tried a career change, sheerly due to lack of availability of quality jobs in my profession, and it was a disaster. I quit the job just before Christmas of 2013 and found myself ringing in the new 2014 as a stay at home mom in a rural, beautiful, isolated, freezing town in Idaho. I had two friends in the area whom I saw rarely. I was full of resentment. I felt abused and mistreated by life. My only joy was my sweet daughter who really carried me through each day. I would put on a brave face as soon as she woke up. I’d sing songs to her, talk to her constantly, try to do something every day with her that involved seeing actual other real live people.
I also drank. I started to have a glass of wine with my lunch. Then maybe my mommy happy hour started at 3pm, then 2pm… Then I had a few days where I’d start around 11am, get a nice safe buzz where I still felt like I was a capable mother, then I’d nap when she napped. I’d wake up ready to pretend like I’d had nothing to drink that day when my husband got home. And maybe I’d have a few more glasses of wine on the couch with him.
This is when my boxed wine phase really got serious. I had discovered I needed much more than one bottle could hold, so it became pointless–and way too revealing–to buy them.
There were some moderation tactics employed during this time. We would agree that we would only drink on the weekends. Then on Wednesday we’d grab pizza at the brewery and have a couple. Then on Thursday it was pretty much the weekend so what the hell? Then it was Friday and boy howdy! I could finally just DRINK.
There was something nasty creeping into me. This desire to drink and the act of it all…it had just become..sad. It wasn’t sipping champagne to celebrate a special event. It was downing a bottle of prosecco in under an hour between me and the hubs and then switching to white wine until I got just the right amount of a buzz to put me to sleep.
Just the right amount. Now here was the tricky part. You see, I’m a mom, and I strive to be a good one. I needed my alcohol, but I also needed to be there for this baby. I constantly tried to catch and ride the wave of just buzzed enough but not actually “drunk.” I may have done ok at it, but good God it was exhausting. And the guilt! Was I “asleep” or “passed out” from 11:30pm to 1:30am when I woke up? What if my baby needed me during that time? What if she cried for me and I didn’t hear her because I drank 6 glasses of wine before bed? I would lay awake at night and feel a sense of dread.
In the spring, I began to think about suicide. It would come into my head like a story I was imagining. Maybe I could just drive off a cliff. There were several nearby; it wouldn’t have been hard. I could get a babysitter, and go for a drive. I didn’t really plan on doing it, but I wanted a way to end the pain I was feeling. I called a friend at one point sobbing uncontrollably. I was having a complete panic attack. I frantically called doctors trying to get in to see someone. I ended up seeing my OBGYN and getting on good old-fashioned Prozac. My doctor asked me that day how much I was drinking weekly. I gave her a slightly altered number. She was so gentle. She said, “You realize alcohol is a depressant, right?”
I thought maybe I just needed a good vacation. I went to see a dear friend, the same friend who consoled me that day and helped me to feel better about getting on Prozac. She had just had a beautiful baby boy, and I wanted to go out and be a supportive friend to her while also getting a little vacation for myself. The trip was overshadowed by the sadness that had seeped into every move I was making. I drank to embarrassing excess. At one point her husband asked her if this is how much I usually drink. She was worried about me, of course, but was kind and gentle with me. I don’t know what she really thought, but she was understanding and let me believe that it was just that I was going through a rough time.
We moved shortly after that, and as external solutions usually do, it worked for a little while. I started exercising a little more. The summer was here and I got some sunshine. There are more people here and more opportunities for socialization for both my daughter and me, so that was refreshing. I was still taking the Prozac.
I went to my hometown to visit my family for two weeks in the summer. One of my best childhood friends was in town as well. She is also a mother, and also loves to drink. I crossed some more lines during this trip. I just wanted to be fucked up. I finally had babysitters galore available to watch my child since my family is there, so I took the opportunity and pushed the envelope as much as I could. There was a day where my friend and I took our kids to a hot springs and we brought along some wine and a little pint of vodka. We cradled and cared for that cup of vodka mixed with syrupy pink lemonade. We passed it back and forth, careful to not let the staff see us refilling it, since alcohol is not allowed there. We still watched our children and played with them, but that cup was so important. I needed it to be there, and I couldn’t wait to get home so I could drink more without needing to drive somewhere.
Then one day something happened. One day in July, something inside me clicked. I wanted to do life differently. I was desperate and willing to go to any length. Nothing spectacular happened that day. Sure, I started drinking the precisely at the moment the clock turned from 11:59 to noon. I used one of the giant bowl sized wine glasses I had recently purchased at the dollar store, and drank maybe 3 or 4 glasses of chardonnay. I passed out on the couch while my daughter was napping, and when I woke up, something magical happened.
I googled “moms who drink too much,” found UnPickled, The Bubble Hour, FitFatFood, and so many other wonderful online resources. I saw myself in every story I read. The next day I went shyly to my first meeting in several years. It was a women’s meeting, which felt safe for me. I cried and said I’m a mom and I need help. They all gave me their phone numbers, and I randomly chose a woman to ask to be my sponsor. I picked her because she was older than me, presumably wiser than me, pretty and serene, and looked like she had her shit together.
This was on July 7, 2014, which unfortunately is not my sobriety date. I spent my first couple of months wondering if maybe I was blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Maybe it was just this move. Maybe it was really my marriage that was the problem. A friend, who has a few DUI’s on their record, told me I was definitely not an alcoholic. Of course, I wanted to hear this and wanted it to be true. I was fragile, and a few days later I drank while on vacation with my in-laws, mainly because of my fear of people not liking me unless I drink. I got completely plastered, had some laughs, did some embarrassing things, made some terrible judgement calls, and had an awful day-consuming hangover the next day. So of course I drank that day too just to ease the pain. The next day, July 28, 2014 is my sobriety date. I got home and got to a meeting, and I’ve been doing my best to work the program ever since, with the help of my pretty sponsor, who really is quite serene and wise.
I’m only a little over 5 months sober. Every day I realize more and more what a fool I’ve been for so long. Every day I have a thought that feels just a little more mature, a little more grounded, than the way I was thinking the day before. I feel like I’ve gone back to the 15 year old girl I was when I began using alcohol and pot to deal with life. I feel like I’m going back and picking up where she left of and just growing the fuck up. Growing. Slowly.
They say that growth comes from pain. There has been a lot of pain over the last 5 months, but it’s the kind of pain you know you need to feel. I remember as a young girl having a conversation with my mom about the antidepressants she was taking. I was so confused by them. I asked her, “But if you take a pill to make yourself happy, how will you know what things in your life you need to change?”
Emotions. There has been a lot of joy. Real, pure joy. I am closer to secure in myself than I’ve ever been. There has been boredom. There have been actual real conversations at social gatherings where I look people in the eye and listen to what they are saying and give appropriate feedback. I no longer obsess over what I will drink and when I will drink it and how much I can get away with without making a fool of myself and/or being an inadequate mother. Now, I get nervous and I just feel the nervousness. I feel how it makes my heart speed up and my hands and voice shaky. I notice what makes me nervous and try to deduce why; there is almost always a fear there to look at. I figure out what might calm me down, a cup of tea, slowing down, deep breaths, calling or texting a friend, a walk, a meeting, giving it over to God. These are called coping mechanisms my friends, and they are what normal people use.
So, thank you 2014. I met desperation, finally, hopefully for the last time, in you. Desperation gave me willingness, and willingness is giving me hope and strength and faith that I can do this.
Thank you God, and thank you AA, for giving me the peace and strength to just be me.