Around two years ago, I had an epiphany.
I’ve written about my decision to quit drinking elsewhere, but it’s time to talk about it here.
My first child made her way into the world when I was 20 years old. My second child was born a week before my 22nd birthday. I was homeschooled as a teen, got wrapped up in a boy, and got pregnant when I was 19. We married. I’d wanted to marry him, so even with the unplanned pregnancy, I was pretty happy. I thought.
For years, I could go months at a time without a single drink. It just wasn’t all that important to me, and I was either pregnant or breastfeeding most of those early years. Somewhere along the line, that started to change. After my second child was weaned, alcohol became the weekend treat for both me and my (now ex) husband.
After my third child was weaned a couple of years later, it felt like all hell broke loose. We were finally making good money. We were living the life. “The life” included a lot of alcohol and questionable life and marriage choices. God was not important to us and our relationship, and that showed. Although everything in life seemed like it was going the way I’d always wanted things to go, I felt completely empty. Now, I can easily look back and see that there were darker forces at play.
Alcohol was the only way that I could relax.
After one drink, I would marvel, “THIS is what normal people must feel like!” I wasn’t drunk or even really buzzed after one drink, I would just get that sense of calm that I never could experience otherwise. So of course, I would keep drinking to try and keep that calm, only that’s not how it works.
Around the time my divorce was finalized, I put more effort into moderating my drinking. Almost every time, I failed. I failed because I didn’t see the point. What was the point of just one cocktail, or one glass of wine? Wasn’t getting drunk the “point” of drinking alcohol in the first place?
I would swear off alcohol for 30 days, only to find myself ordering a rum and coke the following weekend. If I was going to drink again in a month, what was the point in turning it down now? My logic was flawless, you see. I really thought that way, and I’m not proud of that.
I told myself that since I wasn’t one of “those” people – you know, the ones who drink every day, drink to blackout every time, drink and drive, or get in trouble with the law – I was fine.
Only, I wasn’t fine. Not by a long shot.
When I drank, I became a different person. I’d refuse to go home (much to the frustration of my boyfriend). I was selfish, whiny, and childish. Not only when I was drinking, but when I wanted to drink, but couldn’t for some reason. My husband (the aforementioned boyfriend at the time) still teases me about the many nights that I would stomp around and whine that I “just wanted to go listen to music” with him.
I just wanted to drink, and he wasn’t interested in leaving the house. Drinking alone wasn’t an option for me, so I would whine and sulk when he didn’t want to “listen to music”. It was truly ridiculous.
Life felt like a never-ending rollercoaster. I’d be doing great, and then drink so much that I was out of commission for a full day recovering from a hangover. Entire nights would be missing, because I would black out and go on for hours wide awake. Did you know that blackouts aren’t normal, and they don’t mean passing out? I thought they were a normal part of drinking. NOPE.
Although some people learned to detect my blackouts, most could not. Blackouts are sneaky like that. There is no definitive way to tell when someone is having one. And people in a blackout can be surprisingly functional: you can talk and laugh and charm people at the bar with funny stories of your past. The next day, your brain will have no imprint of these activities, almost as if they didn’t happen. Once memories are lost in a blackout, they can’t be coaxed back. Simple logic: information that wasn’t stored cannot be retrieved.
– Sarah Hepola, Remembering The Things I Drank to Forget
I missed meetings and phone calls. I slept until noon on the weekends that I didn’t have my children, and woke up miserable. When I had my children, I focused on them completely. No drinking. When I didn’t have them, I drank to dull that pain. I clung to that in order to reassure myself that I was ok. “At least I don’t drink when I have my kids.” Right. Ok. *eyeroll*
All this, when I was actually trying to moderate my drinking and get my life back together after my divorce. I’m not even going to go into the horror stories from the years before my divorce. I want to crawl into a hole and die just thinking about it. You’ll just have to take my word for it – I was a mess. My marriage was a mess, and my (now ex) husband was a mess. It was all just a big, crappy mess.
I realized that I could lose everything a second time if I didn’t get my crap together.
Even though I wasn’t doing anything dangerous (anymore), and I’d seriously cut back my consumption, it was a crutch and an idol that I didn’t need in my life. It did nothing but destroy. I was still a slave whether it was 2 or 10 rum and cokes, 6 beers, or a bottle of wine with friends.
One quiet Saturday morning nearly two years ago, I googled my little heart out. “How many drinks are too many?” “Can I have a problem even if I only drink on the weekends?” Blah blah blah. My googling – and, I believe, God – led me to Soberistas. It changed my life. I remember sitting in my apartment poring over the various stories, forums, and articles and finding myself in every single one to some extent. It was terrifying and liberating at the same time.
At some point, it was time to decide. I was either done for good, or I would never be free.
Moderation wasn’t working, and I didn’t even want to try that anymore. It wasn’t worth it.
It was time to quit drinking for good.
After a few hours of research and reading, I picked up the phone to call my boyfriend (now my husband). I’ve never been one to sit on a decision for too long once I’ve made it. I want to put it out there as quickly as possible, or I’m afraid I’ll talk myself out of it. I’m good at that.
“Hey. Um. I think I’m going to quit drinking.”
“Quit? Like, be a teetotaler? Absolutely zero drinks?”
“Yeah. I think so. I think I need to.”
And so I did. With a lot of prayer and support, and all gratitude to God, I got my crap together.
My fear of telling this story publicly has held me back in my writing. I keep dancing around the topic of recovery, even though I live and breathe it every day. I’ve feared that this will harm me professionally, or even personally, somehow. When you’ve gone through the hell of a divorce that I’ve gone through, it feels like one wrong word or wrong move could end you.
This is important, though. I’m not writing this to get validation, or high fives, or approval. I’ve prayed and thought about this for a long time, and the only “answer” I am getting is a sense of peace that this is just who I am. I’m not afraid of being known for exactly who and what I am.
I don’t keep secrets anymore.
Everybody in my life knows all of this. I talk openly about this in mixed company, if the topic comes up somewhere. I’m not ashamed to admit that I used to drink too much, and now I don’t drink at all. People can usually draw their own conclusions, none of which bother me one bit.
I don’t judge people who drink, or make any call on whether they have a “problem” or not. That’s none of my business. I’m also not afraid to be around it, although I don’t keep it in my house and I don’t have any friends or relatives who drink excessively around me.
God bless my husband. He drinks maybe 1 glass of scotch every other month, because that’s what normal people can do. Not long after I quit drinking, he stopped buying beer for his own house. We weren’t married yet or even living together, but he saw it as a show of solidarity. He wanted his home to feel safe for me, and he wanted to show his support. I love that man.
I can no more hide this piece of myself than I can hide my adoration for God, or my love for my children.
In writing more openly about it, there is the hope that something I say resonates with somebody. It’s a very personal and sometimes difficult journey, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It’s also important to acknowledge this journey. You see, it’s time to get my crap together again, and my recovery plays a crucial role in every goal I make. I need to get my physical health back on track, and there is a book waiting to be written. I don’t know what the book will be, but it has pressed on my heart for most of my life. This blog is part of discovering my story.
There are hurting people out there, and I have been so focused on myself, I haven’t served like I should. I have dreams to travel, but not just travel for fun. I want to travel with my family to serve, give, work, and explore. As you can see, I have a lot of work to do.
One step at at time.
Physical health and writing are the first priorities, and that is what I’m going to be focusing on pretty heavily in the coming weeks and months. I’ll dig deeper into that in my next post.
There are so many more, but those are good starting points.
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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