The other day I was chatting with my niece… She’s a teenager. She was asking me if I go to shows to hear music.
“No,” I replied. “They start too late, they’re too loud, and I don’t like crowds.” “Wow,” she said, “you sound pretty boring.”
I quit drinking on All Saints Day 2013. I woke up the day after Halloween feeling vacant, like the life force had been drained out (a familiar feeling). On top of that, I was ashamed of myself. I did it again. I drank. (Shame, first thing in the morning, before I’d even had my coffee!!)
About 3 months earlier I stopped drinking for a month. My husband was having health issues so we decided to cut out alcohol. I started drinking again at a fancy sushi restaurant in a trendy part of town. It was underwhelming. There was no charge to that first sip. And I remember thinking to myself, “no big deal.”
The next night it was still “no big deal” when I asked my husband to pick up a bottle on the way home. Just enjoying a few glasses of wine after a long day, right? Alicia Florrick does it all the time.
But any little issue – kids bickering, a comment I didn’t like on Facebook, a stressful interaction between me and my husband, loud noises, lack of sleep, resentment, boredom, even good things like a sunny day or a new client… It all became a convenient reason to drink more wine.
And heck, if I was drinking something expensive, like a fine glass of champagne (especially the ones from France), it didn’t count…as long as I savored it, right?
I noticed that I needed alcohol to have fun. Once I took the kids to a park to watch the swifts (a kind of bird) prepare to roost for the night in an enormous no-longer-functional chimney (it’s a Portland thing). This year there was no alcohol allowed. So I snuck my sips while the “no-alcohol patrol” was looking the other way.
Yet I wondered to myself all the time: “Could I have a drinking problem?”
None of my friends seemed to think so…My husband didn’t think so… My sister, who by all intensive purposes, was an “ugly drunk,” didn’t think so (she’s been sober for years). I didn’t act like the alcoholics on “Intervention.” The online quizzes proved inconclusive.
I didn’t black out. I didn’t throw up. I didn’t crawl up the driveway on my hands and knees like my dad used to do. I didn’t even like to get drunk. I just wanted to maintain a low level buzz round the clock. So I could turn the volume down on my life.
The kids were too loud, too emotional, too needy. School functions reminded me of high school and the anxiety I used to feel – “Is she talking about me? Did I offend them? Will they invite me to their thing?” And family… well there was always a curveball. Someone dying. Someone getting married. Someone having a baby.
During all this stress, alcohol fulfilled multiple functions. Things just got a little more tolerable, a little less boring — I could even convince myself that I was having fun.
Now two years later, the kids are still loud, emotional and needy. School functions still remind me of high school. Family members are still dying, getting married and having babies.
The difference is me. I am free.
I can deal with the noise.
I can deal with social functions.
I can deal with curve balls.
I can even have fun.
On my own. I don’t need a drink anymore to get through it all. In fact I’m not “getting through” my life at all these days.
And here’s what I’ve learned:
Planning meals ahead of time takes care of a lot of stress in my home. Kids are less hungry and I’m not frantic trying to figure out what to make for dinner.
It’s totally okay to turn the TV on. Kids usually get quiet when I turn it on and sometimes I need that space.
Attending grade school social functions is a choice. If I choose to go I don’t have to be a member of the “in” crowd.
I can survive awkward social interactions.
It’s okay to say no to stuff I don’t want to do.
I get a lot more accomplished when I’m not worrying about whether or not I’m an alcoholic.
It’s a lot easier to get up in the morning when you haven’t had 3 glasses of wine the night before. (And you get way more done!)
I love yoga.
I love to write.
I love to be with people, but I can only handle a few at a time.
And the most liberating thing I’ve learned about myself?
I can be “pretty boring” sometimes.
And I’m finally okay with that. In fact, it’s pretty darn good if it means I get to be me, uncensored.
Think you might have a drinking problem? Check out this free series by Tommy Rosen.