Amy Hatvany is the author of the novel Best Kept Secret which comes out June 7th (just like my book!). I read the book and went crazy for it, basically made it my business to befriend Amy and then strong armed her into writing her personal story for this site. If you check out her website you can get all the pertinent info on her book. I also plan to do an interview with Amy in the next week or so. P.S. if you relate to Amy or any of the stories you read here, and are looking for support come join our online group, The Booze Free Brigade.
“I’m not a drunk who can tell you about her first drink. I didn’t get smashed the first time alcohol hit my system, nor did I party in high school or in my twenties. I was the consummate good girl – class president, homecoming princess – recipient of English scholarships and letters of recommendation from my professors. (Yeah, I’d hate the girl I was back then, too.)
I didn’t start drinking for a purpose until after my divorce, when I had just turned 30. I drank because I couldn’t sleep – I used alcohol to escape the wildly firing synapses in my brain and the intense stress of having two very high demand toddlers and working full-time outside the home for no money at all. My thoughts whirled in my head like tornadoes – other women do this; other women are single mothers and work and don’t feel like they’re off their fucking rocker – what the hell was wrong with me? On a friend’s recommendation that it might help me “relax,” I poured myself a glass of Merlot and tried not to think about the fact that the third novel I’d written didn’t sell, and I had walked away from my marriage with nothing financially – no part of the house, no settlement – because I’d counted on the advance from the book to get me through. And then…there was no advance, and I was falling deeper and deeper into financial and emotional turmoil. I was making $10/hr and trying to support my children, desperately trying to maintain that “image” of happy, successful single mother – a woman who had her shit together. But I was dying inside – extremely depressed, barely holding on by a thread each day. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize my reflection – my cold, sad eyes. I kept waiting for things to get better – to find the right man, the right job, the right positive attitude. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was looking for external circumstances to heal what was broken inside me.
My drinking increased very, very gradually. At first, it was one glass a night – when that didn’t quite “relax” me enough, I’d pour a splash more. It took more and more to get me to sleep, a.k.a., pass out. But it snuck up on me so insidiously, I didn’t realize I was spiraling out of control. After about a year, when I couldn’t go a day without drinking, I knew I had a problem – that I “needed” the glasses of wine instead of just wanting them. But I made jokes about it with my friends, “oh, the WHINE with dinner hour” with my kids. How my wine was just “mommy’s little helper.” They all laughed, they all told me they needed their occasional glass of wine, too. The secret I kept was how my wine was far from occasional – it was the only way I made it through my days.
I kept trying to think my way out of the problem – if I only drink after the kids go to bed, then I’m not doing anything wrong. If I only drink three nights a week instead of five, then I’m managing it. But I wasn’t managing it. Despite all my “rules” around drinking, I found myself finishing off at least a bottle a night – sometimes two, and sometimes I needed a drink in the morning to settle the shakes so I could function. If I stopped, if I tried to go a couple of days without it, I ached like I’d been beaten with a bag of stones. I was nauseous, my head pounded – I was in withdrawal and didn’t know it. I just thought I was weak for needing to drink to feel “normal” again.
Every day, I felt trapped, terrified and honestly? I was pretty pissed off I couldn’t find the will power to stop. I’d had some measurable success in my life before the divorce – I set a goal, and I reached it. So when I failed in my career as a novelist and failed to figure out how to stop drinking when it was so obviously screwing up my life, my self-esteem vanished. I hated myself more and more. And the drinking got worse.
Then came the night after a three-day drinking binge when I teetered on a precipice, unsure if my children wouldn’t just be better off without me. I was filled with such self-loathing, such disgust at what I’d become. I had a stare down with a bottle of pills and a glass of Spanish Merlot, and came terrifyingly close to leaping off that edge. As I counted those pills, it was a moment of grace that saved me – a friend who called and asked what I was doing, and for whatever reason, I told her the truth.
Detox and out-patient treatment followed, where they irritated the crap out of me by saying I had to attend at least three 12-step meetings a week. Were they kidding? I am not a joiner. And yet, faced with the very real possibility of losing custody of my children as a result of my drinking, I went. In meetings I found acceptance and other women who had gone through the same things as I had. Despite my bristly, emotionally raw exterior and the fuck-you look on my face, they welcomed me. A few months in, just enough willingness slipped in through the cracks of my denial and rationalizations for me to get a sponsor and begin to work the steps.
Five years later, my life has transformed. I practice the steps not just for me, but for my children, who don’t remember much of my drinking, thank god, but if it is etched somewhere on their beautiful souls, I hope seeing me get and stay sober – physically and emotionally – will have a longer lasting, more permanent effect. I have more friends than I know what to do with, an amazing husband (upgraded, version 2.0), and a writing career that has once again caught fire. Ironically enough, it is my experiences as a mother and alcoholic that lit the match.
I don’t think about the fact that I can “never drink again” like I did in the beginning. I think that today, I choose not to drink, because I don’t fucking need to. I’ve equipped myself with better coping mechanisms for when shit falls down around me – which it still does. Asking for help when I need it is still my biggest issue. Luckily, some of the most kick-ass people I’ve ever met are in those rooms. Smart-mouthed, wounded people like me who have taught me that I don’t have to do anything in my life alone. And I certainly don’t have to drink over any of it ever again.”