From Kristine's first words in an email to me, I knew I would like her:
"Thank you for creating this magical space for us." I mean, how could I not?! Kristine is a mom in her first year of sobriety and has all the same hopes and fears that we did at one point in time, or still do. This is a voice to follow, folks. She is a fantastic writer--and her story just walks off the page into my heart. Hopefully, yours too. xo, Laura
(originally posted on We Are the Butterflies)
It’s been 45 days since I’ve had a sip of alcohol, but who’s counting?
For as long as I can remember, every time I drink too much I blow chunks. I don’t want just one drink, I want the bottle, so more times than not, I drink too much. Sometimes I drink and drive. Sometimes I drink and drive with my kids in the car. I’ve spent the night in the hospital twice to be “re-hydrated” due to drinking too much and uncontrollable vomiting (including on my wedding night). Over the past ten years, the frequency has increased and it takes less and less to trigger the sickness. I can have three drinks spread out over 5 hours, mixed in with water and food, drive home, go nighty-night and then I’ll have to race to the bathroom in the middle of the night to puke my brains out. I’ve seen doctors, and I’ve had lots of tests to see if I’m deficient in something, yet nothing has been revealed. Time after time when I describe my symptoms, the medical professional looks me in the eye and says, “Have you thought about not drinking?” It’s like that old joke: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” and the doctor says, “Don’t do that anymore.” Yeah, well, duh, but it’s just not that simple.
In addition to the vomiting, I also feel like the blood pumping through my veins is poisoned the next day and sometimes for days afterwards. It’s hard to explain except to say that I just don’t feel right. I’m anxious, jittery and unsettled, uncomfortable in my own skin. Then, there’s the guilt, oh Lord, the guilt. I know that most likely I will get sick if I drink, yet I do it again and again and again. Why? Am I an alcoholic? Alcoholism and depression plague my family history, and this knowledge haunts me.
46 days ago, I was with my very best friends in the whole wide world on our annual girls’ weekend. I drank a glass of wine at lunch, did a little wine tasting in the afternoon and then enjoyed a few wine spritzers poolside. As soon as I started to feel a good solid buzz (around 5:00 pm) I stopped drinking alcohol and only had water. We went to dinner around 7:00 pm at which time I felt sober. I had a margarita with my burrito. We moseyed back to our hotel and while the other girls continued drinking, I continued with water. Again, I felt sober. Fast forward to the wee hours of the night where I formed an intimate relationship with the downstairs toilet. I took a Zofran to stop the vomiting, which didn’t have the desired effect, but did make me feel like I was tripping on acid. Yep, fantastic.
The next morning, I was a hot mess. My friends woke up mostly feeling fine, maybe a little bit slow, but I don’t think anyone would have said they were hung-over. Give ‘em each a bagel and a coffee and they’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll. I, on the other hand, was a blubbering mess. Guilt-ridden and ashamed that once again I made a terrible choice. Why must I drink? I wondered aloud if I was an alcoholic to which the overwhelming response was, “God, NO!” You see if I’m an alcoholic, then others in that room might also be alcoholics and we certainly can’t have that. They offered me Xanax, they suggested a nice nap, neither of which sounded appealing to me. I just wanted to shrivel up and die. I wanted to disappear.
You may remember that I said it’s been 45 days since my last drink, yet that incident was 46 days ago… Well, you see, there was still fun to be had on night 2 of our girls’ weekend. Approximately 15 hours after praying to the porcelain gods, I drank a Moscow mule and then a beer. Why? Because drinking is FUN. Drinking is really fucking fun. Until it’s not.
I returned from our weekend an emotional wreck. I spent Monday in bed sobbing and praying for the strength to go on. I had thoughts of running away and thoughts of ending it all leaving my family better off without the pile of shit that I knew I was. Thankfully, I started to scare myself and I called my therapist for an emergency appointment. This marked the beginning of my recovery.
Now, I know that some of you reading this are going to think that I’m being awfully dramatic. “Recovery?” I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Seriously? Get a grip. I know you, and you are not an alcoholic; you are allergic to alcohol and it’s as simple as that.”
So, right this second I really don’t think I’m an alcoholic. But, isn’t that what every alcoholic says while they are in denial?
Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 45 days:
- Perhaps I’m not addicted to alcohol, but I’m certainly addicted to the approval of others.
- I am always drinking to feel better (to celebrate, to drown my sorrows, to ease my pain, to combat boredom), and, inevitably, I end up feeling worse.
- I hate small talk; I crave deep conversations. With alcohol, I can go there without seeming strange (in my own mind anyway).
- I don’t know how to socialize without alcohol; without a drink in my hand, I feel extremely anxious in social situations.
- I have an overwhelming desire to fit in and to be perceived as “normal.”
- I know that I am different on the inside, and I think I’m kind of weird, and I don’t want anyone to see that part of me for fear that they’ll reject me.
- I’m afraid I’m going to make one false move and my friends are going to walk away.
- I hold what I perceive to be other people’s expectations of me in a higher regard than my expectations for myself.
- I don’t believe I’ll be any fun without alcohol.
- I am like an M&M; I have a tough outer shell, but inside I’m just mush.
- I’m not sure if I’m okay.
- I need to stop drinking. Period.
About two weeks after my last beer, I started to believe that I might actually be able to stop drinking. My health is at stake, mentally and physically. I need to take care of myself and stop the insanity. Will I be able to go to parties and still have fun? Not sure. Will my friends still want to hang out with me? Not sure about that either. What I am sure of, with 100% certainty, is that being sober is what is best for me.
Little by little, I’ve shared my story with very close friends and family, always with an intense fear of their reaction. In my mind they’ll argue with me and try to convince me that I actually don’t have a problem, or they’ll nod politely and then graffiti the information in bathroom stalls across the country. Nonetheless, I’ve mustered up the courage to talk about it, and I’m working on being okay with whatever the fall-out may be. Mostly, my friends have been supportive and have had very kind words of encouragement for me. For this, I simply do not have the appropriate words to express my gratitude. And… I’ve told my story and then an hour later the girls were trying to convince me to have just one drink with them. When I wouldn’t do that, they tried to get me to have just one sip of their wine. Seriously? Yep. I’ve had people diminish my angst and say, “Well, maybe it’s not forever, you’ll just have to see.” Some friends have laughed thinking I was joking, and then had no words at all when I insisted that I was serious. Okay, but there have been two reactions that rocked my world that I also need to share.
The first was a friend who said that she too feels like she doesn’t want to drink anymore, but she feels like she can’t stop. Not because she’s an alcoholic and can’t stop physically, but because it’s expected of her in certain situations. We had a long talk about how we feel like people really want us to drink. Everything is more fun when you add alcohol, right? That’s the perception. Play date with the kids? Let’s drink! Hike to the top of Saddleback Mountain? I’ll bring the wine! Boat ride to Catalina at 9:00 am? Bloody Mary, please! Husband not home yet, cooking dinner for the family? I’ll just sip vodka out of this shot glass to take the edge off. Somewhere along the line we started adding alcohol to everything we do and now it’s expected. When you meet someone for the first time, if you find out they don’t drink you think they are weird. Don’t deny it, because I’ve heard you say it and I know it’s true. Or, perhaps you don’t think they’re weird, but you know that you could never truly “connect” with them if they don’t drink. What the FUCK is this about, ladies? I say “ladies” because I suspect the men don’t give a shit about who drinks and who doesn’t. I think this is an expectation that women have placed on each other and, in my opinion, it’s totally fucking un-cool.
The other thing happened when I shared my newfound sobriety with two girls who I love and trust at a play date. We laughed about how I might not be fun if I’m sober, and we joked about how maybe they won’t like me anymore. The ridiculous reality was that we had never spent a significant period of time together without alcohol by our side. We teased about all of this, but inside of my heart my deepest insecurity was triggered. I truly believe that some people are simply not going to like me anymore if I stay sober, because I just won’t be as much fun. At the end of the play date, we said our good-byes and I asked if they still liked me even though I didn’t drink. One of those beautiful ladies looked at me sort of sheepishly and said, “Do you still like me?” Oh my God, we are all the same! We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, yet we are afraid to be different! We fear rejection and judgment. You know that I wanted to grab that girl and hug her fiercely and tell her that I love her no matter what. Ah, but that might be weird, so instead I laughed and said, “Yes, of course.”
One of the main objectives of this blog is to increase the love factor in our universe. So, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about things they might have said or done in the past. I guess I’m just trying to raise some awareness in the hopes that we can decrease some of the negative junk that’s surrounding real issues. I know wholeheartedly that we are all doing the best we can with the tools that we have at any moment in time. Sometimes, we are just living our lives, doing our best, and unbeknownst to us, we are unintentionally judging/hurting/alienating others. So, here’s the thing (for the record)… My choice for myself has nothing to do with what you should or should not do. Even if I decide to call myself an alcoholic that does not mean that you are any more or less likely to be an alcoholic yourself. My choice to not drink does not in anyway mean that I think you should not drink either. My choice is just for me and really, honestly, I swear to God, has nothing to do with you. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could somehow unlink our insecurities and let everyone just do their thing? If I drink and you don’t, that’s cool, man. If I don’t and you do, that’s cool, too. Let’s maybe lay off each other and try to see past the stupid alcohol, and instead work on true connections, understanding and support.
Another objective of this blog is to provide a sense of belonging for those of us who feel very much alone on the inside. Yes, actual humans surround us, but some of us feel isolated and misunderstood when we think about our souls. I’m hoping that anyone who is struggling with an addiction might find solace in knowing that they are not at all alone. Whether you’ve started your path to recovery or not; please know that you are in good company.
I’ve decided that I’m part of a club called Sober Sisters. I’ve also decided that you don’t actually have to be sober to be in this club, but you do have to support sobriety as a choice even if, especially if, you don’t get it. You can’t believe that we are ridiculous and dramatic, and you can’t talk shit about us behind our back. To be a Sober Sister, you just have to love and accept those of us resisting the booze, and we promise to love and accept you too.
Ooooh oooh! Pick me! I'm in! :) I'm a SOBER SISTER™ too!
Of course, after reading this, I desperately wanted an update on Kristine's life.
In case you were also in my boat, look no further!