On July 16, 2015, I took my last drink. I didn’t know if it would be my last drink. I’d tried to have a last drink many times before, only days later to chase it with another first drink. But, I WANTED it to be. I desperately wanted it to be my last. I’d gotten so accustomed to failing at stopping drinking, that I was afraid to get my hopes up. I didn’t really believe I could do it. But over the course of that summer, something changed. I came to the understanding that I wasn’t supposed to do it, it wasn’t just about ME.
Unlike many alcoholics, I wasn’t a big drinker in high school and college. I didn’t party. In fact, I commuted to college and preferred being a homebody. While I wasn’t “girls gone wild,” I do recall now, looking back, that the few times I did drink during those years, I drank until I passed out…
It was in my first year of teaching after college that I met my husband, Carl. We had a great time together. We dated for just a year before getting engaged and marrying three months later. We drank socially, kept bottles of wine in our house we’d been given as gifts, but rarely drank at home.
My drinking started to escalate after my youngest daughter was born. That winter, Carl took the week off after Christmas and we spent evenings by the fire drinking cocktails or red wine after putting our 3 babies to bed. I felt so grown up! But when he went back to work on Monday, it was so anticlimactic. I longed for that feeling of maturity, sophistication, and fun, that I’d felt over holiday break. But he was back at work, the kids were back to being toddlers and a newborn..in January...and I was just another working mom. That was 2008.
I remember vividly trying to recreate those feelings of inner warmth, of release and refuge from the daily worries of home and family, by having happy hour at home each night with Carl. But he was rarely interested. He didn’t get it. Why would we drink on a Tuesday at 6 while eating spaghetti with our kids? What was the point?
Throughout the next seven years, I justified any reason to drink. I was tired and “needed” to unwind. I was stressed from work. We were moving and I was overwhelmed. It was Friday...it was Thursday (almost Friday)...it was Wednesday. It was a holiday. Doesn’t Columbus Day count? I drank to calm down. I drank to get ready. I drank to celebrate. I drank to numb. By 2015, we’d moved, our kids were all in school, I was working full time in my dream job, and I was miserable. I was drinking at least a bottle of wine a night, before I swore it off convinced wine was my problem...hard liquor wouldn’t get me. I then switched to vodka and tonic with the belief I wouldn’t drink as much since it was so strong. HA!
By the spring of 2015, I was drinking alone, hiding bottles from my husband, selecting individual cans of flavored Lime-A-Rita at the grocery to drink in the car on the way home. And while I’d never gotten a DUI, went in late to work because of a hangover, did anything to embarrass myself publicly, or endangered my children, I was getting terribly close. I was obsessing over not drinking as much as I was over drinking. It consumed me. I lived in bondage.
By June of 2015, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was tired of worrying Carl, of snapping at the kids, of feeling like a failure, a disappointment. I was sick of waking in the middle of the night, cringing at the memories of the night before, another failed attempt to “control” my drinking. I was tired of wondering if other people were counting my drinks as much as I was. I was sick of feeling unhealthy, tired of waiting for something to change, and sick of the loneliness.
From July 19 - August 3, I willingly left my family to stay in the home of a couple with over 20 years sobriety, on a mountain in Tennessee. There, along with six other women just like me, I learned about my disease. I learned I could never cure myself, any more than someone with cancer can cure their disease. I had to surrender. I had to give up and stop trying to stop, and start trying to live. It was such an incredible relief. It was liberating. All that time I’d spent trying to do it alone, only pulled me deeper into the hole of shame, guilt, loneliness and despair. Once I stopped fighting it, God reached down and lifted me out.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul describes his own begging of God to remove the thorn in his side, to spare him from its torment. But once God explained the thorn was to keep Paul humble and forever dependent on God for all he needed, Paul recognized it as a gift. His thorn reminded him daily that his weakness would forever be covered by God’s grace.
By “letting go, and letting God,” I was able to release the burden of controlling my drinking, of managing it, of stopping. Instead, I asked God to intervene, to take over, to remove my temptation. It wasn’t easy. I still depend on the fellowship of AA, the close friends I have in sobriety, what I have learned about my disease, and the coping skills shared by countless others in recovery, to live my daily life. I can honestly say that my life today is better than I ever imagined it could be.
I never thought I’d become addicted to alcohol and once I realized I was, I never thought I could enjoy life without it. But here I am, living proof, that with God all things are possible. Because of that, I feel an obligation, a calling, to share my daily struggles and survivals with everyone else. My life is not perfect. No one’s is. But instead of drinking in response to those imperfections, I have an entirely new skill to cope. I still have an active social life, and still do all the same things I used to. Yes, there are days or times that are harder than others and I will share them with you all here. My thorn still cuts. I encourage you to follow my story as a woman, a wife, a mother in sobriety while I navigate daily living, owning a business, vacations, holidays, black tie events and raising teenagers without a drink in my hand.