This is a post from a reader of DGDF. She was kind enough to offer to tell her story and I was thrilled when she sent it to me. If you aren’t sure telling your story would help anyone else, you are very wrong. There are tons of us out here, including me, who live to here you tell the truth.
“On the evening of July 10th, 2010, I did a lot of things for the last time.
I had my last feelings of angst as I counted up how many drinks I had per hour. I had my last feelings of shame as I drove home to pay the babysitter. I lied to my husband for the last time about how much I had actually drank at the party I went to. And I took my very last drink.
My husband is the most wonderful and patient man on earth not because of what he did for me to get me sober, but for what he didn’t do. He never told me to stop drinking. A martyr like me, I would have used that so well in any argument: “I stopped drinking for YOU!” But he didn’t. He told me he knew I would figure it out and do it my own way. This was the scariest thing I had ever heard at the time. I could face something if I was being made to do it, but do it on my own? What would I tell my friends?
When I admitted these feelings of weakness, fear and utter humiliation to my husband, he only said this. “I know you can be better than this. I would not have married you if you couldn’t.” And that was what I needed. He knew I could be better, do better and drink less (or not at all). But now I was starting to believe it too.
In a moment of clarity the next day, surprisingly, I made the following comment to a close friend (the one who gets me through my worst days), “I will never regret not drinking. But I might have regrets if I drink again.” And that was it.
Well, okay, it was not that easy.
I don’t have the best genes when it comes to this. My father was an alcoholic. It contributed greatly to my parents’ divorce. He entered AA when I was eight and never took another drink. I attended open meetings with him, became familiar with the families he met through AA and he gave me all of the gold chips that he received for his own sobriety. I was well aware what drinking could do to a person and a family. I knew the signs in myself even back in college when I sought counseling for my blackouts. Apparently, it took ten more years for me to really get serious about facing it head on.
Months before I actually became sober, I did the sobriety test that all alcoholics do at some point before they stop. I stopped for two months and said that I really had “evaluated my relationship with alcohol and learned a lot.” Well, that’s a crock. I learned that I liked alcohol and I liked a lot of it. I just had really forgotten about all the guilt and shame that comes with it for a while, so it was like giving myself a clean slate again. I began to drink again with much less reserve. In fact, it was almost like I was making up for lost time.
But, there came a morning when I realized I was simultaneously hiding a hangover from my husband and child. When I looked at them, I saw the woman I wished I was but wasn’t and the things I thought I could do but couldn’t. Alcohol gave me a lot of things, but clarity was never one of them. It only made me feel less and less in touch with who I was to the people who loved me.
Months before we conceived my son, I had promised my husband I would never drink like I did then after we had kids. I thought my motherly instinct alone would propel me into more adult-like behavior. You know, things cleaning the toilet, folding the laundry when it first comes out of the dryer, darning socks and sewing buttons.
But the truth was, motherhood gave me more license than ever to drink. It was the release, the celebration, the focus of the evenings. And after all that hard work (he is the best baby, I really have nothing to complain about!), didn’t I DESERVE it?
Even after I stopped, it took me a while to see that what I really deserved was to stop drinking. The fear and mourning I felt toward sobriety were the hardest things for me to get through at first. My romantic-emotional self sees drinking as this clink-clink-congratulations-let’s-celebrate-all-is-well-in-our-world act. But for me, it was never just that.
Sobriety made me see that not only do I not drink for the same reasons as other people do, I also enjoy it a hell of a lot more than other people do. In my first weeks of sobriety, I was dumbfounded by how I would “release” all of my stress without drinking. In the Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick describes the release as a “click” that happens in your head once the alcohol kicks in. The click that makes the rest of the world fall away. Alcoholics love that click.
I was tortured by thoughts like: What will I look forward to at the end of a long day? How will I blow off steam? This is why the rooms of AA are what they are. When we start to question what we will do and when we will do it, there is a place to go to stop questioning.
But, once I was sober and truly honest with myself, I realized drinking never released anything positive for me. It did not blow off steam. With the amount of shame, regret, guilt, worry and angst I would wake up with after a night of drinking, nothing was being released to begin with.
So, what is my release? This blog. AA and its teachings. My son. My husband’s face when we are at a party and he is not looking worried and feeling completely relaxed. Learning that there are more sober people out there than you ever thought. And most of all, the amazing feelings I have about myself. I have gotten in touch with a new part of me that has been really nice to find. I am not the impulsive, reckless soul that I once thought. I can make this work. I can make myself better. And I can feel like I am not losing anything, but gaining a better relationship with every person close to me, and most importantly, myself.
So, my new favorite thing to say? “I don’t drink.” I remember being in awe of self assured women who could make this statement without reserve. Inside, I secretly longed to say those words someday with the same aplomb and matter of fact-ness that they did. Now, I can. I know that my son will never see me take a drink; he will never see his father’s worried face when I drink and I will never wake up to those feelings of anguish again.
I can do better, be better and drink less (not at all). And I feel more like myself than I ever have.”
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