I’ve been reevaluating my relationship with alcohol for a few years now, and back in March, on one particularly sick morning, I decided I’m done. At least for now.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch a Facebook Live where I tearfully describe the start of my journey, and level with you about all the misconceptions about taking this powerful step.
By the time this picture was taken, I knew my drinking was becoming too much of a focus.
We were on a dream vacation.
The sun was hot. The air was balmy. Our house was on the most beautiful beach I’d ever seen.
Nothing particularly dramatic happened on the trip.
I know that might seem odd because I’m starting off the post with this story. Come on, where’s the big upsetting, aha moment or confrontation or shameful incident? I’m sorry to disappoint (*wink*) but there was none of that.
But behind my smile, I was questioning.
Even as I looked like the picture of fun and health.
It didn’t feel right that I wanted the whole family to go to the local beach bar each night because their pineapple vodka drinks were super strong (like, even for me and that’s saying something), and I enjoyed sliding into bed and plunging headfirst into a deep sleep without a single thought interrupting my unconscious bliss.
It didn’t feel right that, as my kids swam in the crystal clear waves in front of our house, I never once touched that water the entire trip, but instead made constant trips back to the fridge in the house to scoop ice into a plastic cup, and fill it with the Grey Goose, fresh pineapple juice and Pellegrino I’d bought at the island liquor store. (In my defense of the not-swimming part, my kids had also fished sharks in that bay, so that might’ve actually been a good call.)
It didn’t feel right when I ran out of vodka and texted my in-laws to ask them to get me another bottle of Grey Goose at the neighboring resort. My text was clear: I wanted a “small-ish” bottle (not really true), but certainly not minis. I remember that text because I rewrote it several times. An air of I-don’t-care but pointed clarity so the job was clearly defined.
Even in those lines, I knew I was justifying.
When I ordered two double Tito’s sodas at the airport and sucked them down as we walked onto the tarmac to get onto our plane, I knew in the back of my head I couldn’t keep this up much longer.
I loved alcohol but something about this wasn’t working. It was too present. It was too much of a focus.
But, what was my other option?
I mean, what would it mean if I ever decided to stop drinking?
Does that make me that horrible A-word (Alcoholic)? The word I will never EVER use to describe myself?
No, I will never and still have never used that word.
I refuse to put myself down for what I’ve done in the past. My drinking, in summary, was simply fixing a problem the best way I knew how. Period. I will NEVER put myself down for that. But more on that later.
The terrifying questions continued.
If I am reevaluating this relationship I have with alcohol, does that back me into a corner where I have to totally stop, like forever? Is it just drink or don’t drink?
Do we only have two options: Alcoholic or Sober?
If those were our options, why would anyone ever decide to stop? That sounds like a death sentence. I would rather kill myself.
(Side note: I also hate the word Sober. Yuck! It sounds boring and dead and so not fun. But more on that later.)
So, back to my story:
About two weeks later, we were at our hunting property. We recently bought 84 acres in north Florida, and at the time, had been renting an RV to visit and spend weekends hunting, sitting by the fire and enjoying the outdoors.
That night, something unexpected and upsetting happened.
I felt awkward, sad and uncomfortable.
And so, like I’d done many times before, I did what I knew to do.
I had something in my RV that would make me feel less sad, less awkward and more happy and fun. I could unfeel these unpleasant feelings in about five minutes.
It was foolproof. I’d done it hundreds of times before.
I wanted to elevate my mood, and I knew just how to do it.
I walked into our RV, unscrewed the Tito’s handle and exhaled as I felt the heaviness of the thick, clear liquid ease out of the glass handle in my hand and fall into my large Yeti below. I added some coconut LaCroix, put my straw in and fastened the lid, and exited the RV, ready to have a great night.
Now, let me back this up a bit.
You know, I am the drinking girl.
I love drinking.
Drinking is fun. I am the person who drinks on the way to the party and pours the shots.
If you are a drinker, I am your girl.
If there isn’t alcohol there, I don’t want to come.
Alcohol is fun. I am fun. So therefore, I like alcohol.
But there were too many sick mornings.
Too much shame.
Too many “going to be moderate” mornings and failing by 4pm and then waking up in the middle of the night with the shakes and a sick stomach and those haunting words from within:
Why did I break another promise to myself?
Something was misaligned. I knew it, I felt it. But I was terrified to let it go.
I realized that, because I want to keep having fun, I keep drinking. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? It makes sense. Drinking is fun, so more drinking means more fun. If I’m going out (or let’s be honest, staying in and drinking witching hour away), I don’t want to have two or three drinks. I want four, or more.
I want to keep drinking because that means the fun is continuing.
And over and over, I found myself waking up: head reeling, stomach heaving, soul screaming:
Something is off. This is not working.
The night at our property was not a night I sought to overdrink.
I was simply solving a problem.
I was sad, and I wanted to be happy. I was uncomfortable and I did not want to feel uncomfortable. I mean really, does anyone really want to feel sad and uncomfortable? Duh! No brainer!
And so, that next morning, was WOW.
First of all, we’re in an RV that six people have been living in, pooping in and dirtying for three days. We are “dry camping,” which means there are no sewage hookups or extra water. The poop goes into the hole and sits down there in the box under the toilet. It smelled like raw sewage and farts and dirty sweat.
On top of that, we were leaving that day. So we basically had to pack up the whole campsite, and do all that last-day-of-camping stuff which is already the worst. And with four little kids running around in the midst of it all.
It’s bad enough on a good day.
And now I’m hungover and can’t even move. Cool.
As I laid there, I could hear my husband’s patience was thinning with each passing hour.
I needed to help him. I needed to parent.
I tried coffee, but it made my stomach wretch. Aspirin would not have done a thing. It was that bad. Nothing could make this sickness better, except time.
And so I sat in my hangover prison cell. Time, the only thing separating me from this sickening state and actually feeling human again. Unable to move and pondering how I would even drive home (my husband and I had come in separate cars). First, I was probably still drunk. And second, I couldn’t even sit up.
Suddenly, I felt the back of my tongue tinge and I jolted to the RV bathroom, which smelled like shit and grossness. And I threw up in that disgusting toilet. I wretched over and over and saw my dinner in nasty fragments flow into the toilet and stick to the sides of the bowl.
I wiped my mouth.
Then, I looked through the crack of the open door. And saw my child’s face. Watching me.
You are the biggest loser. The words from within invaded every corner of me.
What a failure. Overdrinking, not able to engage with the family and now throwing up in front of your child.
I stumbled back to the bed and collapsed.
It felt like a chainsaw was pressing in on my temples. I was still dizzy.
But my mind was as clear and resolute as it’s ever been.
I will never feel this way again. This is not me. I am better than this.
I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I could easily justify how I felt and what I had done the night before. It was an upsetting night, and so I drank. Of course. Understandable. I didn’t set out to overdrink, but I had. And now I am hungover, as I have been many times before, but I’ve learned my lesson. This was an anomaly, and it will be over soon. I will not do this again.
But I knew it was a lie.
Because if this line of reasoning was okay with me, then I would be doing this again. Because I could always justify it. (Our culture makes this very easy, but that’s another story.)
This is not who I am.
And so, in that disgusting RV bed, I decided this time was different.
To be honest, I didn’t know if it really was, but I felt bad enough to decide in that moment that I would never, ever feel that way again.
It was another promise I wasn’t sure I could keep.
Once I could finally unpeel myself from the bed, I got the Tito’s bottle, opened it and poured the entire thing down the drain of the RV sink.
I am a frugal person. I do not like to waste things. Despite my years of questioning, I had never done that with any sort of alcohol before.
This was symbolic. This was huge.
This glass handle will not come home with me. It sickens me and it is trash.
At the stoplight to the freeway onramp on the way home, I emailed a coach who I’d exchanged a few lines with before, and that made it official that I was doing this.
This is the first day of the rest of my life.
Every time I doubted my choice on that sick, 3-hour drive home, I kept reminding myself of the freedom I was choosing.
Now that I’m almost 5 months in, I could add so many more, but that first, fateful, fragile and terrifying day that I decided alcohol no longer held a space in my life, the most encouraging words to me were:
You never have to be hungover again.
This is getting too long, so I will continue next time with another post about what that first month was like, what helped me and the deep sorrow I felt in saying goodbye to a dear and loyal friend who’d been there for me through the good times and the bad. Turns out, I didn’t really need her and she wasn’t that great of a friend. If you are reevaluating your relationship with alcohol, let me know how I can support you, and if you feel comfortable, join the new private Facebook page I just created: She Just Glows – Living Free.
My laptop died halfway through the Facebook Live video embedded above in this post (darn it), and the last 20 minutes are the best part! To watch the whole Live, check out the one on Instagram.