Today is March 28th, 2020. Four years ago today I made the decision and the choice to stop drinking alcohol. I became Sober! Why? There is not one clear answer to that question. Up until that point, I had used alcohol to celebrate, to forget, to cure boredom, and to bond. I loved a chilled margarita on the rocks with salt on a hot summer afternoon, or the clearness of a vodka martini on a romantic evening. Alcohol helped me bond with my girlfriends at happy hour as we gossiped about our coworkers. And that extra martini at dinner was essential sometimes in my relationship so that I could forget about all the things we needed to say to each other but weren’t saying. Alcohol provided an escape to reality and kept my life moving along, until it didn’t.
My mom died in December of 2015. We were never close. I distanced myself from my her after I graduated college. My mom was a sensitive person that built up defenses to handle a life that was not kind to her. She was treated with cruelty in her childhood and by my father. So, she was insecure and lashed out at her children. It hurt. A part of me knew her words were really nothing to do with me, but another part of me believed that I was all the negative things that she told me I was. So, I stopped going home for holidays, I stopped answering her calls, I stopped letting her take me to that place where I felt small and helpless.
After my father died, my mother started to come visit me annually at Thanksgiving for a couple of days. It was short and busy and I managed to get through it every year without too much hurt. But one year my teenage daughter didn’t feel well so it was just my mother and I at lunch. At dessert, she turned and looked at me with her intense green eyes and asked why I had left the family all those years ago. I hesitated, and didn’t know if I should tell the truth or tell her what she wanted to hear. The truth was that I loved her, the truth was that I saw her pain and I knew why she lashed out, the truth was I wanted her to be peaceful and happy. But I knew that there were so many layers of feelings and events that it would take years to sift through, I felt overwhelmed and I changed the subject. She was my mother, but I did my very best to disconnect from her emotionally to avoid the pain that would well up inside me when we tried to connect.
I think I might have drank 3 bottles of wine the day after I got the call from my sister that my mom had passed away. Just like that, she was gone. The person that had caused me so much anguish, confusion, and hurt no longer existed. She was my nemesis but she was also my anchor. I felt like I was going to float away into nonexistence without her powerful energy that kept me tethered to my life. I drank because the alcohol clouded my reality and buried my unexamined feelings. It wasn’t fun to drink, it was necessary.
During this time,I drank every single day and ramped it up on the weekends. I went to work and came home and sat on my spot on the couch and stared at the TV, which might have well have been turned off for all that I was absorbing, and drank the night away. No one was more surprised than me how hard her death hit me. We had never been close, she was not a regular part of my life, I talked to her a couple times a year, but she was deep in my blood and consciousness. And I couldn’t accept the finality of never being able to resolve our issues. It was like a movie ending in the middle, and I was left looking for resolution that I knew now I would never get.
It wasn’t until almost 4 months later, on Easter March 2016 after I spent a boozy afternoon at brunch that I decided that drinking every day had to stop. I didn’t decide in that moment to stop drinking for good, I was just going to give it a rest for a bit. So the next day I stopped. I threw up that morning and later that week I became incapacitated. My muscles no longer seemed to want to work how they should and I could barely lift my arms or walk. It scared me. I called in sick to my job and laid on the couch like a deflated balloon. I was having withdrawals yes, but I was also feeling all the emotions that I had been avoiding and it overwhelmed my body. I was at rock bottom.
When I was drinking I felt like I was in a race car speeding around a track in endless circles. A lot of energy being expended, but getting nowhere. I would swerve to miss other cars. I would turn the wheel just in time to avoid going head on into a brick wall. There were a lot of near misses of complete catastrophe, but I refused to slow down. I would move to the side for a pit stop, but it wouldn’t last long and I would be out on the track in the never ending race with no end in sight. When I stopped drinking it felt like that race car came to a screeching halt and everyone left the stands. The race was over, but no one won. I was left with a deafening silence, and a nothingness that was almost unbearable.
Looking back, I understand why people start drinking again. That silence and that feeling of nothingness was excruciating. I had my husband and daughter, I still went to work, I still had my friends, but I felt nothing except my own aloneness. As much as alcohol had insulated me from the outside world, without it I felt even more isolated. I had smoothed over all of my disagreements with a drink rather than talking it out, or examining my feelings. So all the loose ends of my life that I hadn’t taken care of along the way sprung up before me. And I realized that my life was a mess, and the alcohol hadn’t fixed anything it had just allowed me to leave it a mess.
How did I get here? It wasn’t an overnight process, it happened over many years. It was a slow giving in and giving up of the things I wanted. I had to start at the beginning and rediscover what those things were. What was important to me? When I started to uncover them, at first they seemed childish and silly. I liked drawing and writing. I wanted someone to hold me when I slept at night, and smile at me in the morning. I wanted to be nice to people and have them be nice back. Such simple things that I craved so badly. But without the alcohol to wash them out of my thoughts they became not so silly anymore.
It was a process. I didn’t stop drinking one day, and the next day start writing and drawing. There were two extremely painful years of just making it through the day in a dulled silence. But during those years, with clear eyes I could see certain relationships and situations were unhealthy for me. I started moving away from the people that made fun of me for going on this journey, didn’t understand it, or that actually tried to derail me. It was hard, but I relied on new friendships that I was building to help me through.
It took me 2 years after I stopped drinking to move forward and try and bring what I wanted into my life. In January 2018 I started this blog. The words I write are really who I am, and so in order to truly be myself I had to put my words out into the world. I started this blog to tell my truth and connect with others, but mostly I started it for me. I wanted to challenge myself to write once a week in hopes of improving and to see where it took me. My writing connected me back to my creativity, and in March 2018 I started drawing again.
The journey to sobriety is a singular one. It is a journey of one person, one soul, one mind reconstructing everything about themselves. It is a disrupting and changing of thought patterns that have been engrained in us sometimes since childhood. It is not easy to start, and it is not easy to continue. It is not glamorous or loud, it is quiet and humble. It is not action and achievements, it is being okay with stillness. Because I have learned that it is in that stillness that I can see the value of my own love, and know that it is enough.