- Friends & Family
The first drink I ever took was when I was young; very young. I don’t remember it specifically. But, growing up, my parents used to let me try sips of whatever they were drinking. In fact, my mother’s remedy when I had an upset tummy or even just trouble falling asleep was to give me a shot of blackberry brandy. The first time I got drunk was the summer before my freshman year of college.
Fast forward to spring 2014. I was 42 years old. My life was spiraling out of control. My drinking had become the focal point of my daily living and the last three months had been just horrible. I wanted to drink from the time I got up in the morning until the time I passed out at night. I was on overload, planning my drinking around client meetings, kids’ sports, and other activities; attempting, but not always succeeding, not to drive or participate in conference calls while impaired. I was drinking a six pack of beer during the day and switching to wine when the kids got home from school. I usually finished two bottles of wine before passing out on the sofa or stumbling to bed. Before that, I seesawed between normal drinking, bingeing when we went out or attended events and holiday celebrations, and occasionally abstaining from alcohol from anywhere from a week to a few months.
Throughout my childhood, alcohol was always present. My mother is an alcoholic. Her parents were alcoholics. Her father died an alcoholic, by suicide. Her mother got sober. Today, my dad drinks as much as my mom does, but can put it down anytime. My brother, sister, and I were allowed to taste beer, wine, and mixed drinks if we wanted. Usually, we hated the taste and wanted to spit it out. (Not the beer, though. I loved the taste of beer, from a very early age.)
My dad played in a men’s softball league in the spring and early summer each year. The team was sponsored by the local package store. There was always plenty of beer for the guys after the games. My dad isn’t much of a beer drinker and would always let me have a few sips from his.
Thinking back to those days now, I realize I loved attending the games for three reasons: there were two really cute boys who also had dads on the team; my dad usually hit a homerun (watching my dad’s successes, being proud of him, seeking his approval and praise, and wanting to be just like him was a huge part of my younger years – I adore my dad more than anyone I know); and when the game was over I got to drink beer. I was no more than a tween at the time.
As I grew older, I became more keenly aware of the role alcohol played in our home, specifically in my mother’s life. We watched her drink too much, fight with my father after drinking too much, become physically ill from drinking too much, and, more than once, pour every bottle of booze in the house down the drain the next morning while vowing to never have another sip. She napped most afternoons and was often near impossible to wake. I now know why. One night, she drank so much before we went to dinner, she forgot we had already ordered our meals and got snippy with the waitress for taking too long.
As a kid, I was driven to perfection by myself as much as by my parents, specifically my dad. I was afraid to fail. I was your classic overachiever, but I was also terrified of success because it meant I had to be even more perfect the next time. In my teens, I think my increasing awareness of my mother’s alcoholism kept me from pursuing a bigger relationship with alcohol. That stopped me along with my fear of getting caught.
I was the oldest of three. No one paved the way for me. I didn’t hang out with drinkers in high school. I was a good kid. As an adult, I slowly and steadily became powerless over alcohol. But, I didn’t truly consider whether or not I might have a problem until after my daughter was born in 2006. Because I nursed her exclusively for a year, I was extremely careful with alcohol prior to her first birthday. After that, though, I definitely started to have my moments where I wondered if I was “turning into my mom.” I went through periods of heavier than usual drinking – a bottle of wine per night – and found it more difficult to control how much I drank when out with friends and at special events and holiday gatherings.
My binges, though not terribly frequent, got worse and worse. Eventually, I began to drink fairly heavily and much more often. I am not sure if I consciously rationalized my drinking – there was no internal dialogue. I knew what I was doing was not normal. It was wrong, even. I remember toward the end of my active addiction, the conversation I had with myself was, “You really shouldn’t do this. I’ll drink just this one more day. Tomorrow, I won’t do it.”
Without realizing it at the time, I rationalized it as a way to cope with increasingly severe and ultimately debilitating back pain following a 2001 auto accident. I know I certainly thought I deserved the “reward” of drinking – whether I was mourning, celebrating, or just relaxing.
My rock bottom was a slow demise. It began at a client event in March 2014. Just before checking into my hotel room to change into my dress, I located a package store and bought a six pack of Sam Adams lager. While I primped and perfected my appearance, I downed four beers. Then, I strolled across the parking lot to the event. I have absolutely no idea how much cheap red wine I drank. I can’t even recall whether or not it was open bar or if I was buying the drinks. I had a glass in my hand all night – even taking it with me, spilling like crazy. Each time I went to the ladies room I had conversations I don’t remember. I couldn’t put two words together and when I did my speech was terribly slurred.
I was interviewed for a video documentary and was astonished weeks later (when I received a link to the finished product) that there was actually a decent clip of me that made the final cut. To this day, I shudder when I think about all the unusable footage of me.
Long story short, I went out with a crew after the event and drank more beer and smoked a few cigarettes. I’m not a smoker. In the morning, I felt like complete garbage, had awful shakes, and promptly downed one of the remaining Sam Adams before my client picked me up for breakfast. The other beer I saved to drink before my four hour drive home.
About a week or so later, I placed a call to a wellness coach who had been a client years ago – we had actually bartered services. I knew at that time I had a problem but refused to open up to her – if I did that, I’d have to admit to myself that I was an alcoholic. This time, though, my call was my cry for help – I was ready to be honest with myself and with her.
A couple of weeks later, after continuing to drink to excess daily, I had my first session with her. It was another several weeks of off again, on again drinking before I managed to stop completely. When I was drinking, I hated hangovers; loss of control; the way I treated my husband and kids; all the energy it took to hide my alcoholism from everyone around me; feeling I couldn’t function or succeed without the crutch of alcohol.
I used to miss my comedic side. But, it turns out, I’m still pretty funny. As an alcoholic in recovery, I hate not being able to drink. I hate the feeling that I am not normal, that I have a problem. I hate the feeling that, once I tell people I am an alcoholic they are always going to wonder if I’ve fallen off the wagon, especially if I act silly or make a mistake.
When I was drinking, I loved drinking, the feel of the wine glass or beer bottle in my hand, the feel of the drink moving past my lips. My drink was my breath of air. It was how I decompressed. It was how I celebrated. It was how I mourned. Having to find new tools for all those emotions and moments has been and continues to be a challenge. But, I’m getting there.
As an alcoholic in recovery, I love knowing I will never have to doubt myself, my instincts, and my power. I love the clarity of sobriety. I love how much I have gotten to know myself and the process of realizing and embracing what a wonderful person I am. Today, I drink TAZO Passion iced tea from my wine glass. I exercise almost every night –- my favorite is taking a long walk along a river by my house. And, I have detoxed my entire body, eliminating sugar and most dairy, eating clean and organic.
A clean me is a healthy me. A clean me is a powerful me. Had I not quit drinking, I never would have started my blog (www.QuitWining.com) and my sober presence on social media. The wonderful thing that has started to happen as a result of that work is the opportunity to connect with others who are thinking about getting sober, struggling to stay sober, and celebrating years of sobriety. I’ve found a community I didn’t know existed and a place where I can share my story both as a creative and therapeutic activity for me during recovery and as a source of support for others with whom my story resonates.
That said, I absolutely do not for one second take for granted the unconditional love of my family – my relationships with my husband and kids are stronger than ever and I am so grateful I escaped the evil clutches of alcohol before destroying my family. I treasure them and their love and the ability to love them soberly more and more every day. And, my business, which I built almost to its current level in my most active stage of addiction, is thriving more than ever. I am so much more capable, creative, and truly brilliant without the alcohol I used to think I needed to help me keep juggling and never dropping any balls.
I’m winning. Because I make a conscious choice to remain sober. Every. Single. Day.