There has never been anything in my life that I couldn’t set my mind to, work hard and accomplish all by myself.
Well, except this one really big thing: DRINKING.
Asking for help was truly one of the most brutally challenging and humbling experiences of my life. But it was also the wisest.
It is a decision I made 500 days ago today.
Addiction: How it happened
Have you ever been riding a bike, rollerskating, skateboarding or skiing down a big hill – at first you feel nothing but exhilaration – you are enjoying the moment and feel completely in control. But suddenly, you pick up speed, your heart begins to race as you realize there is something bigger than you at play – you feel powerless to control your next move….left? right? stop? Sometimes, you make the correct move and land safely. And sometimes, you are stopped hard at the bottom of the hill.
This is what my addiction to alcohol – wine specifically – felt like for me. Sometimes I landed safely. Until I didn’t.
I moved through my 20’s and 30’s as a ‘social drinker’. I would have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and stop. I wouldn’t even think about it. I drank ‘only on the weekends’. The phrase, ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ was reserved ENTIRELY for vacation (never a Tuesday at noon). I might pour myself a glass of wine while making dinner and not even finish it (something the alcoholic in me can no longer comprehend).
But sometime in my early 40’s, I tipped. Hard. And fast. Trauma, PTSD, anger, depression, deep sadness and a little bit of life felt like too much.
‘Wine helps’, they said.
‘Wine helps’, I agreed. It soothes. It numbs. It eases my tension. I told myself I earned it, I deserved it, wine was self care.
Sadly, these are all lies we have been socialized to believe….lies we tell ourselves when we are flying down that hill with no way to stop on our own.
Wine (alcohol) is not self care. A bubble bath, a call with a friend, a massage, exercise, meditation, time by yourself to do the things you love, setting boundaries – THESE are self care.
I didn’t want to think I had a problem.
I just couldn’t be an ‘alcoholic’. Alcoholism ran in my family. I knew better. Alcoholics HAVE to drink everyday. And in the morning. They shake from withdrawals. They show up at work drunk. They are homeless. They are willing to drink ANYTHING just to get alcohol in their system.
I was none of these.
They lie. They blackout. They feel a compulsion to drink that consumes their thoughts. They isolate. They sometimes wish they could just disappear. They hide when they drink – in the bathroom, in closets – anywhere. They constantly wake up telling themselves they won’t ‘do that again’. But then convince themselves they can control it – this time.
I was ALL of these.
Wine used to be a luxury….only served in a beautiful glass. A treat, an accent to a meal. And yet, it had become a way to disappear. I disliked myself so intensely, that each day, I was desperate to NUMB this girl I’d grown to hate.
But friends, I didn’t stop. Not yet. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I could’t. Addiction isn’t about self will or being ‘strong enough’ to just stop. It’s about having a moment – and for all of us it is different – a moment that allows the light to seep in, for hope to grow and foster the willingness to ask for help.
500 days ago, I did just that.
The Gifts of Sobriety
That girl I hated? I kind of like her now. She has the light back in her eyes and in her heart. As the cracks widened and hope grew, I have continued to live one day at a time – confident that this journey happened for me, not to me. I am open to constantly learning and recognizing there are parts of me I’m just getting to know.
I’m not graduating. When I left treatment 470 days ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever ‘try’ to drink again. Maybe a glass of wine or champagne in a few years? I have since come to the realization that, for me, this journey is a permanent one. I’m not going to ‘be healed’ at some point and start over.
I’m a better version of me, a more self-aware, patient, kinder and hopeful human being living alcohol-free.
As always, friends – I am here if I can support you or anyone you love, in any way.
THANK YOU, for the gift of your love, friendship and support as I continue to walk this path and keep my head up as I wander into the next 500 days.