On November 5th, 2018, for the first time, I tearfully announced to a small group of people sitting around a table in a church basement, “My name is Jane*, and I’m an alcoholic.”
At that first meeting, I was terrified. What was I doing there? Me, a successful, married mom of two? I should be having a cocktail on my Mommy’s Night Out, not sitting in the basement of a church.
Only I had never been able to drink only one cocktail. After one, one more seemed reasonable, and after two, well, then I stopped bothering to count. As a fellow alcoholic reminded me, “We were never the cool girls having one cocktail, we were the drunken messes in the corner, having to be carried home.”
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I started drinking, as most do, in my teen years. I immediately loved the way alcohol would turn off those voices in my head, the ones saying, “You aren’t enough.” Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not popular enough. With the help of alcohol, I became the life of the party.
As a young adult, although I enjoyed the times I drank, often staying out Friday and Saturday nights until the early morning hours, I didn’t let alcohol get in the way of my studies, or later, my career. In fact, as a young professional, my ability to “keep up with the boys” at the pubs after work caused my star to rise.
When my husband and I decided to have children, it was no problem for me to stop drinking. I missed it, sure, but not enough to endanger my unborn child.
However, after my second child was born, my drinking took on a more sinister tone. I began spending more “Mommy Nights” out with friends, often meeting up with various friends throughout the week, each time convincing my partner in crime to have just one drink more. Although I usually planned to have an early night, once I started drinking, I was unable to stop. I began experiencing blackouts – where the next day I wouldn’t remember what I had done the night before. The hangovers also got worse, often leading to intense depression in the days following a binge.
Even at home, I usually surpassed my husband in the number of drinks we had after the kids were in bed. It was totally normal for me to start with a vodka soda, and then finish off a full bottle of wine, or more, on any given weeknight. Weekend nights, when I was at home, involved even more alcohol. The days when I didn’t drink at all started to be few and far between.
The worst part of the drinking, however was the shame. I started to distance myself from not only my non-boozy friends, but also from my husband. I did things while drunk that I would never have done while sober, things I don’t want to admit even in an anonymous article. I put myself in dangerous situations. I got so drunk at the company party that a co-worker had to accompany me home in a taxi, because I couldn’t remember my address. I have no memory of the night. The last thing I remember is doing shots with our company CEO.
I often planned to cut back, stop, or “just have one” – without success. I took every test I could find online as to whether I would be classified as an alcoholic: when I was honest, the tests were pretty clear. But I convinced myself that I was OK. I was still working, still raising two happy children, still married. I wasn’t drinking on the sly, in the mornings, to stop my hands from shaking. I had never been admitted to a psychiatric hospital or arrested for drunk driving. I wasn’t on the streets. Alcoholics, I thought, were something worse than what I was.
The hangover-induced depression, shame, and fear, however, got so bad that I woke up one morning and decided that it would be better for everyone, including my children, if I was gone. It wasn’t the first time I had had such thoughts, but it was the first time that I knew exactly how I would go about such a task. Through luck, or the grace of God, I decided to first reach out to a childhood friend who had been posting on Facebook about her #soberlife. She convinced me to try going to an AA meeting first.
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In the hundred or so days that I have been sober since that first meeting, I’ve learned a lot.
I have learned that alcoholics are not a glum, downtrodden group: at these meetings, they are clearly happy, their lives immeasurably better than they had been before.
I have learned that while everyone has to hit “bottom”, you don’t have to wait until you lose your job, your children are taken, or you are admitted to a hospital. You just have to want to stop – and you have to be willing to go to any length to do so.
I have learned to take things one day at a time.
I have learned how to handle my disease. I no longer crave alcohol. Instead, I am largely indifferent to it. But to keep up that indifference and avoid picking up that first glass, there are certain steps I have to take.
I wake up early these days. I spend some time remembering what I am thankful for and ask my higher power to support me in making the right choices throughout the day. Not just the choice not to drink, but the choice to live a good life. To be of help to others, rather than only thinking of myself. To not fear what the future holds, but to believe that it will work out. To attend meetings of fellow alcoholics to remind myself of the danger that I face, and to help those that are suffering.
I have a long road in front of me until I have fully sorted through the wreckage of my drinking life. I have amends to make and trust to regain. But I am one of the lucky ones. I still have my job, my family, and many of my friends. I am, like the overused hashtag, #blessed. And to my great surprise, I am already happier.
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If any of what you have read rings true to you, and you want help, please reach out. You can contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use the information found on the websites listed below to get yourself help: