I have no reason to have a problem with alcohol, but I do. I was raised by both parents in a fairly well-adjusted environment, even though I think that my mom did a little psychological abusing…but hey, who doesn’t think their mom abused them psychologically from time to time?
My parents drank a little; that is, my dad enjoyed a beer or two after he cut the grass. My mom drank half a glass of wine or a quarter of a White Russian once or twice a year. Alcohol made her sleepy. Alcohol was not a big deal in our house. They gave me the occasional sip, I pretended to not like it, and that was pretty much it. I had a great group of friends all through high school, and we were the “smart” cool clique. We didn’t attend (nor were we invited to) the “cool” kids’ parties, where parents were out of town, or better yet, HOSTING the parties, and providing the alcohol. We were all church going, straight A, band nerds–although pretty popular band nerds; we were happy with ourselves and one another, and we had enough fun doing various other stupid things to have any need to drink. In fact, we thought we were “better” than those who drank. And we wondered why teenagers felt the need to drink, when there was so much more to life and friendship.
I went to college, and guess what? I didn’t drink there, either. Of course, I wasn’t in a sorority, so there wasn’t the never ending party scene in my social set. I spent summers working as a counselor at a Christian camp.
During my second summer, I fell in love. My boyfriend was planning to go to seminary to become a pastor. We got serious in a big hurry. And on New Year’s Eve, my senior year of college, he proposed. I said yes. And I blissfully set about preparing myself to be a pastor’s wife. Until, less than two weeks later, he decided he’d made a mistake, and not only was he not sure I was “the one”, he also wasn’t sure he wanted to get married, ever. Period. There followed weeks of clinical depression for me. And then an older guy, the friend of a friend, was always comforting me. With flowers. And wine. And I discovered that it was FUN to get rip roaring drunk. That didn’t last long, though–only a month or two.
Then I started dating a guy who had serious alcohol and marijuana issues. But I didn’t sink to his level…no, I tried to SAVE him from his evils. When I graduated, though, we went our separate ways. I went to camp for one last summer and dated another “I’m going to be a pastor” who turned out to be a huge jerk. But I can’t complain too much, because it was through him that I met my now-husband.
Then camp was over, and I was off to the big city. And hey, now I was a grown up, and there was nothing wrong with having a few beers at night, right?
A lot of crazy stuff happened over the next couple of years, most of which is inconsequential, but one important thing DID happen. Eventually I started dating my ex-boyfriend’s friend. Three guesses what his occupation was? Another pastor. I joked that it must be my destiny to marry a pastor. And at that time, my drinking was basically non existent. Champagne on NYE, that was about the extent of it.
When he and I got engaged, and then married, all of my dreams came true. Except that suddenly I wasn’t joking about being a pastor’s wife; I WAS one. And we were serving a most difficult church. And I had a rotten, crappy, difficult job. I would come home, and my husband would fix me a bubble bath and a glass of white Zin. Only later did he say that he worried I was a little TOO excited about my glass (or two) of wine every night. But again, there was an ebb and flow…I drank a glass of wine every night for a few months, and then I didn’t. I would have beer, and then I wouldn’t. He did the same. And then I got pregnant, and not only did the thought of alcohol make me sick, but so did everything else. I threw up for nine months. (And people ask why I don’t have another child!)
But then I breastfed for a year, so I didn’t drink for 21 months, right there. Then we both sort of eased back into it. We had some good friends who drank, and it was nice to hang out with people and NOT be “the preacher” and “the preacher’s wife”…to be “normal”. To have a couple glasses or wine or a few beers. And then we weren’t just drinking with them, we were drinking more at home, too. Basically, every night. Beer or wine for me, vodka for him.
At the time, my husband was very busy with church things. He was gone almost every night during the week, and all day on Sundays. And I was just really getting into Facebook. Well, he wasn’t there, so I was getting started with my drinking earlier than he was… and he wasn’t there, did I mention that? And I found that a couple of old flames were on Facebook. I did not actually have an affair, at least, not in the Old Testament sense. But in the New Testament, Jesus says that THINKING is the same as DOING. So in that sense, yes, I had an affair. Two, in fact. Several months apart. And my husband found out about both of them. I am fortunate that he didn’t divorce me then and there.
We were working through things, but we were both still drinking.
And then we were moving to a new church, and we had the opportunity to start over, we said. A new church, a new town, a new beginning. And for him, it mostly worked. He stopped drinking. I started drinking more. He caught me. I cried. He stopped trusting me, but what else was new? I bought beer and hid it. He would confront me, and I would deny. And then cry. Our son worried himself to death because I was “acting weird” or because Daddy was “going to be mad at you.”
One weekend, something happened that made my husband stop drinking once and for all (but that is his story to share, not mine), and suddenly I was smug. Well, I rationalized, at least I’ve never done THAT. Until, less than a month later, I nearly burned down our house because I passed out while I was cooking something. But *I* had forgiven him, so he HAD to forgive me, right? Well, I thought so, anyway. But he continued to harp and nag (I thought), and I continued to hide alcohol.
He threatened to throw me out, to divorce me, to take full custody of our son… and so I finally stopped. But when he would go out of town, I would have more. Just to *show* him that he couldn’t tell me what to do. It was all HIS problem, you see. Not mine. I could handle it. And then came a few months where I actually did stop. It was a relief to not have to hide anything anymore. It was a relief to not worry if you could smell it on my breath. But one day I was in the supermarket, and I reached out, like I used to, and put a 6 pack in my cart. And I drank it, in between work and coming home. But that was it. No more. I was no longer drinking daily, look how good I was doing!
And then this morning, for some reason…I really and truly don’t even KNOW why, instead of going straight to work, I went to the store instead. And I never even drank it, because my husband saw it before I had the chance. And finally, FINALLY, I realized that the problem was ME. The problem was MINE.
It is not my husband’s fault that I have become addicted to alcohol. It is not my son’s fault. It is not being in the fishbowl that is a pastor family’s life that “made” me drink. It was, and is, choices that *I* have made. Destructive choices that have nearly cost me my marriage more than once. Dangerous choices that could’ve cost my life, or the lives of others. Stupid choices, that might’ve meant that I never got to see my son again. Because for me, it isn’t about the “alcohol”–I just really, truly like the TASTE of beer. (Good beer. Or red wine.)
Honestly, I don’t like the way the alcohol itself makes me feel. And yet I drank it anyway. Because it TASTED good. That is the absurdity of it all. That for years now, I have been putting my desire for a TASTE of something that is, for me, a dangerous substance, above my family. Above my husband, who has stood by my side in spite of my many and frequent shortcomings. (Oh yes, I left out the part about going to church drunk one Sunday…) Above my son, who is the reason that God put me on this Earth: to be his mommy. Above my God, who should be the center of all that I am, anyway. Because where would I be without mercy, and grace, and forgiveness? It has been many days since I actually had a drink, but today I gave into temptation and WOULD have had a drink, had I not gotten caught.
All I can do now is make the choice, daily, to NOT give into the temptation. My family is worth it. And so am I.
Note from Stef: If you’re looking for support the Booze Free Brigade can help.