When I was a teenager, I had a fearless quality that escapes you once you become an adult, particularly a parent. You realize that any form of injury can mean the inability to work, which means the inability to pay bills and help with the kids and chores, which then makes you a burden on everyone. I fear to be a burden. You also realize that your body takes longer to heal and it doesn’t take much to get hurt. When I was really little I played chicken with moving cars (let me not let you think this was highway speed limits but rather residential 15 mph zones.) And as a teen, I used to jump off bridges and cliffs with friends during the summer in Washington State. I remember the first jump being a whole lot easier than the second, nervous and full of adrenaline, showing off in front of friends, and not knowing how much it hurts when you smack the water. Writing this entry I get the same anxiety as the second jump. I know I can’t go diving into shallow waters. This all has to be deep enough because I know how bad it can hurt if it isn’t. One good thing is, it’s very doubtful that I can physically hurt myself writing this all out, but I can still achieve the rush of doing something daring so…WIN!
I’ve received some pretty incredible encouragement so far. It’s motivation to keep honest and not self-criticize or over edit what I want to tell you. One of my friends told me that she really thinks this will help her. For her I will make this entry. Mary Karr’s Memoirs inspired me the same way.
I cannot tell you how many times I sat up late in a running shower, drunk, and sobbing, and gurgling words out that I wouldn’t remember ever saying. Always in the shower so I didn’t have to feel my tears, so they could get washed away as if they never were. Did I actually cry? Sometimes I don’t even know if I did. Maybe I just imagined I did. The very next morning I would turn over in bed and shamefully face my husband, who would give me a sweet “it’s okay” smile, and I would wonder how I could be so lucky that he put up with me for another night. And then I would make promises to myself that today I wouldn’t drink. Really, the only time I kept that promise was when I was so hungover from such a bender that even the thought of alcohol would make me sick. There were many private episodes that resulted in me doing the “crazy laugh” at myself, paired with hysterical crying and then just flopping down on the bathroom floor, fetal and heaving. While pathetic…it felt good to let it out, as most cries do, and I would feel better. I developed deserving reasons to drink varying from shitty days, rewarding days, National Corn Dog Day (not kidding)…anything. You may think that 3 drinks isn’t too bad, though pushing it since we’re talking about vodka martinis, or a couple beers with a whiskey chaser (and I can’t remember if I considered the beer/chaser combo as one drink or two)…regardless, I always had red wine when I got home. While my family knew I was “unwinding” they didn’t know I was absolutely LIT by the time I got home. And because I was lit, I would “only” drink 1/2 to 3/4 of a bottle of wine when I was home leaving a bit for the next day. I was so proud of myself when there was wine leftover. It’s these “accomplishments” that make me so much more proud of the actual accomplishments I am able to achieve now as a sober person.
I had admitted to my husband a couple of times that I felt that I drank too much. He said he didn’t think so. Initially I would feel so relieved that I didn’t need to change anything about my drinking. But deep down it made me feel more crazy. Was I making this all up? Was I just needy, begging for his attention? Does he just not give a shit? I know San Francisco is a pretty boozy town and we drank for any occasion anyone could come up with but, incidentally, I’m pretty sure he was getting tired of me stumbling in after hours of “unwinding” then incoherently bitching him out for all the feelings I’d been suppressing, and most likely foaming at the mouth. I don’t know, like I said, I blacked out all the time. He was sometimes able to identify what kind of booze I had been drinking by the level of anger I was exuding. Whiskey= waking him up, agitated, long-winded slurring, dark, emotional. *cringe* Tequila=frisky, talkative and excitable. Beer=coming home really late because it took longer to get drunk, feeling ugly and bloated with a chance that I peed behind a car and got some on myself. Wine=self-loathing and wanting to be left alone, my favorite. *note: any of the above when consumed in a large abundance would result in Whiskey drinking behavior.
I can’t say I had a rock bottom. There wasn’t an amass of friends who formed an intervention to help me back into the world of actually living life for real. Before I decided to break-up with the bottle I wrote a letter to my oldest friend’s mother, who has been sober for over 25 years, confessing that I think I am an alcoholic. That was the first time I actually identified myself as such. It was incredibly scary and she was incredibly supportive. Just a couple of months after I wrote her, I was pregnant with my son. I wish I could tell you I didn’t drink at all while pregnant because I did. I drank a glass of wine a night and I savored every last drop. After he was born I supplemented with formula more often than I thought I would because it was more important for me to not face the issues that I had been ignoring for a few years, which was a growing disconnect with my husband. My son was not a bandaid baby. As in, we didn’t have him to bring us back together. He happened and I was happy to have him. But my pregnancy didn’t bring my husband and I closer and I mentally prepared myself to be a single mom. By thinking this way, I created more distance from husband and built up the resentment that was already forming into walls inside myself.
One of my biggest fears in life is to live with resentment and to let that build into a fortress surrounding me until there’s no way to get in and no way to get out. I feel my mother experienced this and it was painful to watch her shrink away from any sort of light and fall deep into the dark. I try to let go as often as I can. I do feel I am capable of getting swallowed up by the past until all I see in the future are my memories. Children are more keen to this type of behavior than anyone. They may not know what is happening or understand why you’re so down or so far removed but, they know that you are some place sad and consuming. I remember walking tenderly around my mother when she had episodes of brooding hopelessness. I tried to have no reason to upset her or cause her more grief. I have witnessed this from my own daughter on a couple of occasions and broke down immediately into tears when her eyes reflected the same little girl I was around my mom. Every parent has moments that are not their best moments, believe me, I have had some doozies. But, those concerned, wise-beyond-her-years, how can I not make this worse for you eyes are the eyes that I can see myself the most. A child’s eyes are the most honest in the world, especially when they’re your child’s.