A future worth fighting for.
Six years ago, I woke up, looked around from the spot where my head rested on the pillow, and thought to myself, I have to stop doing this. It was an acknowledgment that filled me with remorse for spending yet another night drunk. The alcohol had the control, I did not. Alcohol had had control for so long, I couldn’t recall when it didn’t dictate my every move.
When I write about getting sober, I really have to think about what it was like; that other person I left behind six years ago today. She needed to give up on the addiction, and she did. That was the most important step I had prayed for. Facing the truth that bubbled up when I let go, was the next step. It was time to become the person I was meant to be without the choke-hold of addiction.
On that final morning my son walked into the kitchen, took one look at me in the throes of a massive hangover, and said, “Mom, I’m afraid for you.” I was making breakfast, knowing exactly what he meant, and instead of offering up some lame rebuttal, I just said, “I’m afraid too.” He gave me a hug, left the room and I remember quietly asking God to help me.
As I stood there, I felt what many in recovery have experienced; a spiritual awakening. For me, it was a calmness that swept over my body as I made another plea to God. Was this my enlightenment? I like to think God knew I was serious this time, and reached down, and filled me with an abundance of strength. The kind that I needed in that moment, and low points that would come. In the days that followed, I fought the intense urges of withdrawal, there was nothing easy about this fight. My mind and body wanted a drink and would do anything for it. I pushed back with everything I had as my mind would entertain thoughts like; just have one, start next week, tapering would be so much easier! What I relied on was strength from above to face this battle of getting sober.
After about two weeks, the fog lifted, and I started to feel really good. I got involved with LICADD (Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), for weekly one-on-one support, engaged with online support sessions and read a lot about what it meant to be co-dependent, an alcoholic and how addiction impacts relationships. Here’s the not-so, fun-fact about addiction, that I have learned; it’s not just about the relationship with the substance and I’m going to give this up and be done. It’s about the impact it has on everything; our behavior/outlook, health, those we love and everything we touch.
It has been an enlightening journey so far as I gain greater understanding into how I arrived here. In the beginning, at times I felt shame and some embarrassment when I thought about how my actions may have hurt others. I had to forgive myself, let go of the bad thoughts and not put the burden on those I love for what what I was experiencing. I was responsible for getting better. While I looked for understanding around me, I would have to lower my expectations from others. When I sought help, the strength to get through this came in abundance from so many sources. I have met some very interesting people along this new road I now travel. I have to say getting sober is one of my proudest accomplishments; it was hard, satisfying work.
I’ve done a lot of research on the topic. Sadly, alcohol consumption, especially among women is on the rise, female alcohol use in the U.S. more than doubled from 2002 to 2013, according to a 2017 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. What happened? Well, for starters it became more socially acceptable for women to drink, and it is encouraged from every corner of society. When I was drinking one of my favorite wine labels was Mommy’s Time Out and my favorite saying was, “If you can’t drink with yourself, who can you drink with?” I didn’t need an invitation or encouragement as I tipped over the bottle to get the last drops into my glass. But the message was there; I earned and needed this escape.
Alcoholism is the third leading cause of preventable death among women between the ages 35 and 55. –WebMD
Historically, it was men who drank more, but that has changed, there are not many differences between the sexes. What is even more concerning is by eighth grade, more females than males are drinking. According to WebMD, “Females are now for the first time in history, more likely to drink in 10th grade than males.” Another study found women drink in response to negative emotions. Men drink for positive reinforcement and pleasure. Culture also celebrates women who drink, rather than caution against it, think Bad Moms, a cute and funny, money-making movie about party moms. Most alcohol advertising campaigns glorify it and target women in particular. Women, by volume, are the largest consumers of wine in the U.S. over men, according to the Wine Marketing Council in 2018. So, all those clever wine labels are simply just targeting a growing demographic.
Change can happen to anyone. For me, I just needed to be ready and willing to take that first uncomfortable step, and the next steps after that. It wasn’t easy, but it happened and I really don’t think about it that much anymore, because I don’t miss it. Taking it one day at a time, not looking too far ahead allowed me to experience the gift of being free of addiction because it truly is a gift. I just look back and smile, life is a better kind of different.
Resources to check out:
Lipstick & Liquor
A wonderful documentary that explores the growing alcohol abuse by women. Available on Netflix and Amazon
Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdSXxdezvGo
Places to Go for Alcohol Free Fun
For New Yorkers, like me…here’s a great article on the sober bar scene:
Drunk Mom: A Memoir
An intense and brave memoir of a woman and her struggles with alcohol after the birth of her son. A really great book. I laughed, cried and cheered her on.