Sometimes I catch myself getting just a little too cocky with my sobriety and slipping into a false sense of security. The great thing about writing my blog is that I can use it to smack some sense back and scare the crap out of myself. In doing so, hopefully I can help a few others out there do the same. When we get complacent, don’t get to as many meetings as we should (for whatever reason) and think that we’re in a good place and feeling strong in our sobriety, it’s an excellent time to look at the way we used to be and how we never want to be again.
As I wrote in one of my earlier posts, “Misunderstanding Being Misunderstood”, I shared that many people asked me how and when I knew I had a problem with alcohol. I can only share what the signs were for me, yours may be much different. I thought I was just a social drinker who, on occasion, drank a little too much. Ok, a lot too much. But when I look back and see things clearly now, I can see how things turned and how the disease progressed. I used to think how nice a drink was going to taste when 5pm rolled around. The anticipation of that drink started taking over a greater part of my consciousness. That anticipation turned into a longing. That longing turned into a need. That “occasional social drink” turned into a must-have, even if I was by myself.
I used to look forward to pouring that first glass of wine while I made dinner for our family. Sometimes I would sip it slowly, return the bottle to the refrigerator and continue to cook and listen to my music. As my alcoholism progressed, that glass turned into the bottle, which I would bury among the empties in the recycling bin so my husband wouldn’t know I had already consumed an entire bottle by myself before he came home from work. When friends stopped by, it seemed as if I had a free pass and it was okay that we polished off a whole bottle—even if I had three or four glasses of it and my friend had only one.
Somedays when I wasn’t quite ready to go to wine yet, I would make a stronger drink first. A cosmo, gin or vodka and tonic, whatever, to prime the pump. Then I would go to the “lighter stuff” like wine or occasionally beer. Regardless, by the time we sat down to dinner I usually had quite a decent buzz going. But with that decent buzz came a not so decent version of me. I had a very short fuse and a very bad temper. The littlest things would set me off. I was not kind to my husband or my kids, and I focused all my attention on myself and where and when my next drink was going to come from.
I would, of course, have to continue to drink while I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner. Sometimes I thought it was a great idea to pick up the phone and call someone since I had the booze babble going. That or email people. That was brilliant as well. At least when you ramble on to someone on the phone the words are out and gone. Writing them down allows your drunken dribble to endure and get sent back to you for deciphering. And embarrassment.
After the calls and emails, it was bedtime or, more accurately, time to pass out. No telling my kids stories or tucking them in because I was too wasted and too self-centered. Sometimes I even passed out in my clothes. The days when I used to wear contact lenses were especially lovely, since I would wake up with them glued to my eyeballs. No conversations with my husband, unless it was an incoherent ranting about something. No watching a show or movie together. He was busy doing the tucking in and story telling.
The next morning would inevitably start with a miserable hangover and those first few minutes upon waking were spent trying to piece together the night before. I needed to figure out how bad the hangover was, try to recall how much I drank and who I called or emailed. I would have too bad of a headache and upset stomach to eat any kind of normal breakfast, and barked at my kids while doing the minimal amount of work necessary to feed them and get them dressed and ready for school. On really bad mornings, I would simply go back to bed and nurse my hangover all day. On days when I had to actually function, I threw some very cold water on my face, grabbed my Diet Coke and struggled to get through what I had to. I’ve got to believe that people could smell booze coming out of my pores and breath. But it was always just laughed off as yet another hangover.
And the cycle went on, waiting until 5pm to crack open that next bottle. If a friend stopped by earlier, after school, it was a good excuse to start my drinking day even sooner. How did I feel throughout this whole period? Like absolute crap. Physically and emotionally. I was depressed and drank alcohol, a depressant, which I told myself actually helped me to feel better. I was miserable and I was making everyone around me miserable too. A few friends tried to tell me that I had to get a grip on my drinking but I brushed them off completely, telling myself that they had no idea what they were talking about. I remember looking in the mirror, morning and night, and not liking what I saw at all.
Fast forward to today, 1172 days since I’ve had a drink, and I can honestly tell you that I feel a thousand times better. Well maybe 1172 times better. I feel better all around. I am here for my kids and my husband. And my friends. I start each day fresh, usually on my knees thanking my HP for another day sober and healthy. I end each day being able to look in the mirror and be proud of who I see looking back at me. I remember what I say and email to friends and family. And I need to remind myself, as I’m doing here, that my sobriety is a daily reprieve, and can be gone in one split second if I take a sip of a drink. It’s a little more difficult to be cocky when I remind myself of the times I spent doubled over and throwing up. My daughter asked me once when she was really sick with a stomach virus if that’s how I felt when I would be sick from drinking too much. I told her yes, only much worse. She said she couldn’t understand how I could ever intentionally make myself that ill. I can’t either. But thankfully, those days are gone.
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”
George Bernard Shaw