The chains of alcohol are too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.Anonymous
Ah, sobriety, oh how I loathe you sometimes….
I have been sober for 237 days, and every single one of those days has been a struggle for me. I never realized how powerful alcohol was and how much I surrendered to it until I quit drinking. My decision to quit drinking was completely voluntary…. it was an attempt to straighten out my messy life. When I quit drinking, I did not realize I was eliminating an enormous part of my life, and no matter how bad it was, I still find myself mourning the loss of it. But why? Why do I miss something that was ruining my life? Why do I miss a life that was completely out of control? It amazes me how much alcohol has a hold on me, even now in its absence.
I began drinking alcohol at a very young age. It was easy for me to drink at such an early age because my parents allowed it while living under their roof. My parents have been alcoholics ever since I can remember, only I never viewed them as alcoholics until I became sober. When I was fifteen years old, my favorite drink was a strawberry wine cooler. I can remember begging my mother to buy them for me because I loved how they tasted and how they made me feel, especially on a hot summer day out by the pool.
Because of the easy access to liquor at my parents’ house, it was very easy for me to take random shots of whiskey at any given time, without consequence. My drinks became stronger as I grew older and began to party outside of my home with friends. I was always looking for a party, or a reason to drink. I was so excited to turn eighteen, because that meant I could legally drink alcohol at bars as long as I was with a parent…. and I had a dad who loved hanging out at the bars in New Orleans and never minded me tagging along for the fun.
By the time I became an adult, I had a strong addiction to alcohol, and I was not aware of it. You see, alcohol has a way of camouflaging the truth, and I was no match for the power it had over me. I wound up dropping out of college, which meant dropping my full scholarship, so that I could move off to New Orleans to continue my life of partying. I lived in New Orleans for almost a year and enjoyed life in the fast lane, until disaster eventually struck, a hurricane hit. I was forced to move back to my old hometown after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, destroying my life there. Back in my hometown, I continued living my life, one drink at a time.
I have quit drinking alcohol numerous times in my life. The first few times were due to my pregnancies. I never struggled with not drinking when I was pregnant because I was a paranoid mother-to-be who did not want to risk the health of my babies due to my selfish desires. I also quit drinking a few years ago, for four months, when I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. Yes, I was diagnosed with a disease linked to my alcohol abuse at the young age of thirty-one. I was already on the path of wanting to quit, telling myself and my husband every morning that I would drink no more and that I was ready to live a sober life…. just to find myself at the bottom of another bottle each night. The horrible diagnosis I received scared me enough to end my drinking, for a while. I struggled with sobriety then, but nowhere near as much as I struggle with it now. I did not realize it then, but I think I was able to handle sobriety better that time because I lived knowing that I would drink again one day. And I did. Four months into my sobriety, I was able to talk my husband into letting me drink while we were on vacation at the beach. I mean, what is a beach vacation without a cold beer or a daquiri in hand? I made a deal with my husband, that I would only drink on vacations and when we were out of the house, but never at home. That arrangement was short-lived. I began to find reasons not to cook so that we could go out to eat, so that I could order a drink. Suddenly, we were going out to eat too much and I finally just surrendered and began drinking at home again.
Everything finally came to a head last summer, when I was spiraling so far out of control that I almost lost my family. My husband did not give me an ultimatum at first, but I knew that I was on the path of extreme self-destruction and I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would lose everything. You see, I became too much of a “party girl” last summer and I flirted with fire too many times. Unfortunately, it took an affair for me to wake up and realize that I needed to make a big change. My husband did not know about the affair when I decided to quit drinking, but that ugly skeleton came out of the closet a few weeks later. After going through the heartache and pain of nearly destroying my family, I knew that I could never be that same person again. I knew I would never drink again.
So here I am, sober.
There are so many factors that play roles in mental illness, but does the genetic factor play a big role? My research all points to genetics, and I could not agree more.
Upon a recent visit with my parents and baby sister, I was faced with many situations that I never would have noticed without being on the path of sobriety. Being able to view the world through sober eyes, especially my own family, has been such an awakening for me. Unfortunately, these revelations come with great sadness on my journey to recovery.
I visited my parents and baby sister recently, during my kids spring break vacation. In the past, these trips were always very exciting because I always knew what to expect… laughs, hugs, stories, good times, and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. I always looked forward to our arrival at my parents house because I knew that my mother would have a merlot open and a glass ready for me. Our entire visit with them would revolve around drinking. My recent visit with them was quite different though. My parents know about my medical treatments and my recovery from alcohol. I spread the news of my recent medical diagnosis to my parents and siblings, in hopes to shed some light on why I have been having so many problems lately. I, regretfully, encouraged my parents and sister to carry on as they normally do and to not go out of their way to make any special arrangements to hide their drinking from me. I knew they all drank a lot, and I was prepared to be able to ignore that part of the visit. What I did not expect was for my heart to take a massive hit.
The first day of our visit was very mild and pleasant. When we arrived, we were greeted by my mother who was ecstatic about our visit. We enjoyed a Japanese lunch, a swim at the country club, and a walk around the park to feed the ducks. We were later met at the house by my father, who came home from work and grilled dinner for everyone while we sat on the back patio and told stories back and forth, catching up with one another.
Everything was perfect and peaceful, just as it should be.
The Good, the Bad, and the Drunk
It did not take long for the alcohol to show up during our visit. I am pretty sure there was some drinking going on that first day of our visit, but the discretion was impeccable, and I never noticed. Day two came with lots of alcohol and heartache. My baby sister showed up bright and early in the morning with breakfast for everyone. We had plans to go into town to look at wedding dresses since my sister will be getting married this year. The day was all planned out and was unfolding as it should, only I could not help but to notice that my mom and sister were already hitting the bottle before we even began our day. First, the whole family rode down to the shuffleboard courts for a fun and competitive game of shuffleboard. We stopped at a bar and grill for lunch before dumping the boys off at the house so we could go dress shopping. I enjoyed delicious appetizers with my family as I watched my dad, mom, and sister throw back drink after drink. After that, it was finally off to the dress shop. The visit to the dress shop was an alcohol-free visit and was the only part of the day when my mom and sister were not boozing. By the time we got back to the house, the drinking frenzy was in full force.
That evening, we had plans to go bowling together. After an eternity of interfacing with every friend of my parents who wanted to stop by for a drink and chat, we were finally able to head to the bowling alley. Once there, the pitchers of beer started rolling out and I watched as my parents and sister got ridiculously trashed. This unfortunate situation put me in a place where I had to ask my mother for the keys because I was not okay with her driving back with my kids. Though she insisted she was fine, stumbling over her own feet while trying to convince me she was okay to drive, I held my ground and refused to allow her to drive my kids back to the house. This was the first time I had ever taken a stand for myself and my family against my mother, and she did not handle it well at all. It was devastating to me.
When I pulled up into the yard that night, I found my mother hanging out on the lawn chair with a bottle of tequila in her hands. I gave up and walked inside with my kids. I shuddered because all I could think was….that used to be me.
An Overwhelming Realization
My visit with my parents and sister did not end in a negative way, but it ended with me realizing that things will never be the same again. I could not believe how much their world revolves around drinking and I cringed at the thought that I used to be the exact same way. Was that me who used to booze at any occasion possible? Was I the one who randomly yelled out obscenities or danced inappropriately with others? Was I the one who made other people uncomfortable?
Yes, that was me. Was. Now, I am sober, and I have realized that even though I can change that ugly part of my own life, I cannot control that in others. I never realized how difficult it can be to sit back and watch the people I love drown themselves in alcohol just so they can enjoy life. My sobriety teaches me new things about myself, and others, every day. I wish I could show the world how I see it now, through sober eyes. Maybe, one day, I can.