It has taken me a long time to admit this, I was addicted to alcohol.
To my inner circle, my addiction looked like drinking too much, too often.
Getting drunk too fast.
Passing out too quickly.
Getting sloppy, slurry, while the people around me were just starting a buzz.
To me, my addiction looked like disappointment.
An uncontrollable downward spiral that picked up velocity at every corner.
It was a dirty secret to be hidden away.
A spill to be cleaned up quickly, before it became a stain.
To most people, my addiction looked like someone who never drank too much.
Someone who had it all together, someone who could moderate.
I drank around other people and I also drank alone.
Alcohol is an addictive substance that creates dependence and changes the brain.
I didn’t see myself as an addicted person, until after I got out of it.
I think this is true for most people.
I was a loud happy drunk at times.
I was sad, confused, and angry while drunk too.
I was often desperate and demanding.
I felt this way when I was drinking and also when I was not.
My addiction was messy and confusing for everyone including me.
I am an expressive person, and I suffered from my addiction out loud too.
My loved ones had no idea how to help me.
I also didn’t know how to help myself.
I wanted to not have a problem so I pretended like I was a person who did not have a problem.
No one, including me, knew what to believe.
Was I ok?
Was there a problem?
It was complicated.
My drinking problem did not always look like a drinking problem.
The word “addict” does not bring to mind a middle class, kind hearted, suburban Mom.
I was a good mom that drank too much.
I was an accomplished professional that drank too much.
I was a fun time gal who drank too much.
I was a loving sister, friend, and daughter, who drank too much.
Basically everyone I knew, also drank too much.
(according to the Center for Disease Control's definition of heavy drinking)
It was hard to see my addiction, when I was surrounded by heavy drinkers.
My drinking made people uncomfortable, but it was my early sobriety that made everyone even more uncomfortable.
My drinking got a lot of attention.
Loved ones spent time trying to analyze if I did or did not have reason for concern.
They talked about it amongst themselves.
They wondered what should or should not be done about it.
When I was approached about it, I was quick to shut it down.
My drinking was no one’s business and it wasn’t open to discussion with me.
In reverse, my quitting drinking got no attention.
The only sound I heard when I quit drinking was the faint chirp of crickets in the background.
My drinking felt like the elephant in the room that everyone talked behind my back about.
My not drinking felt like an elephant in a room that no one would talk to me about.
I had shut down conversations about my drinking.
I tried to open conversations about my new found sobriety.
All. The. Time.
When I mentioned it, I got shut down.
Conversation changed topics quickly.
No one asked questions.
People quite literally got up and walked away.
I got the memo.
No one wanted to hear about it.
They still don’t.
I get eye rolls when I mention anything sober related.
My drinking was concerning but it was also familiar.
Early sobriety is terrifying because changes everything.
As I sobered up, I could no longer be relied upon to be the drunkest person in the room.
I became sober minded and clear headed.
I had clarity to see the buzzy behavior in others when my own drunkenness was no longer on display.
I looked up and realized everyone around me was drunk often.
I was no longer the scapegoat for everyone else’s drunkenness.
The barometer of the worst drinker had changed.
I was no longer playing the game, the rules had changed.
Our code of conduct had always been to drink through the nerves, avoid tough conversations, tolerate the loved but twitchy togetherness time with drinks.
Turns out, I wasn't the only one with a drinking problem.
I was the only one addressing my drinking problem.
A change for me meant a change for those around me.
I felt the distancing of myself from certain people and situations.
I was no longer forcing myself on others.
They were not ringing my phone.
Looking back, they never had been.
Even my precious children had some unwanted change to get used to.
They very much welcomed and supported me as Sober Mom, but there were times when they couldn’t get away with things they were used to when I was distracted by drinking.
My kids were used to Free for All Parties on St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and certain random Thursdays when the mood struck and we needed a change in routine from the ordinary.
As a Sober Mom, I didn’t host these impromptu gatherings to get my socially acceptable "drink on" anymore.
My children were forced to pick up after themselves, even when we had visitors.
They could no longer run around and destroy the house, while I sat, sipped and destroyed myself in the center of the island and in the middle of mommy wine culture.
We left parties at a reasonable time, when I was no longer hunting down my last night cap while my husband warmed the car.
I had no one to invite over on drinking holidays anymore, and we had nowhere to go.
We would not be serving drinks, who would want to come to our house?
As a drinker, I would not.
As a drinker who would invite a sober person to come drink with them?
As a drinker, I would not.
I could not blame anyone for doing exactly what I would have done.
I had to find other ways to celebrate, have fun, and be wild that didn’t include alcohol.
I had to show my children a world where alcohol isn’t the center of the good time.
There was much to celebrate with my growing sobriety.
There was no one to celebrate with me.
I’ve never received a congratulations card or a bouquet of flowers.
There has been no text of encouragement for any sober milestone I have reached from anyone.
No one has this anniversary on their calendar except for me.
It is solely up to me to make my own celebration.
I make my own parade.
I buy myself flowers.
Sobriety is a very lonely journey.
To myself, I say,
“Congratulations YOU! Great job saving yourself! Fighting the fight of your life. You have made me proud!”
I have to have a strong relationship with myself, because sobriety has repelled many people in my life.
As a drinker I surrounded myself with drinkers.
As a sober person I have few friends left.
Many of my biggest fears in sobriety came true.
Will I lose friends? Yes.
Will everything change? Also yes.
Will I be misunderstood? Yes.
Will I be judged? Yup that too.
Even with these painful truths, I would choose sobriety over everything.
I have grown in a different direction.
I no longer grip to the way things were.
I no longer need people still drinking to approve of my sobriety.
My imagination says my old friends are taking vacations without me, which may or maynot be true.
Some friends are definitely having weekly happy hours and I am not invited.
While my own anxious state typically has all my antennas up, I am working on being less defensive, insecure, and competitive.
I am much closer to real intimacy while sober.
I am making and tending to friendships where drinking was never our glue.
I let go of thinking I will control someone’s opinion of me.
I am working on having my own good opinion of me.
When I see old friends for a minute I wonder if maybe I could still be drinking like them?
Maybe I am jealous?
I see them expending a lot of energy to moderate and I think for a minute, that’s a good idea, I’d like to do that too.
Maybe we can go back to the way things were but I will just drink less?
It makes me wonder about this sober person that I have created.
Can’t I just be cured and go back to my old ways?
Can I drink a lot (please) and have drinking a lot be a problem for me or anyone?
Can I drink alcohol but not have it bring me down?
Not have me spiral into shame over it?
Not wake me up feeling like garbage and death from it in the morning?
And for the rest of the day?
And for the rest of my life?
Can I ditch this sober persona and just order a glass of wine with dinner like a normal person?
Can I just be a casual drinker now?
Can I be happy with my casual, moderate life?
No, I can’t.
That’s the problem with sobriety.
I can’t fit with the mediocre moderation anymore.
My body, mind, and spirit won’t allow it.
I can feel the energy within me when I start to think about.
Being with an old familiar crowd is like Pavlov's’ dog salivating when the bell rings.
The thought both scares me and relieves me.
I put it on a shelf for now.
I take a pause and sit with it, as sobriety has taught me to do.
The next morning, I read my sober newsletter.
Rooted in my daily rituals and personal check ins vs wine fueled check outs.
I am reminded about my soaring sober heart happy over here on the flip side of misery.
I know I won’t go back.
I am surrounding myself with new people.
The exact weirdos I was afraid I would become.
The people who sat in the fire and burned through.
The Phoenix’s that have risen from the ashes.
These are the people I am seeking.
Sober connections with strangers are now moving into spots that I had reserved for long time friends, who are not using their spots to park here, in the front row of my life.
The shift is ok.
It is good.
I have created freedom within, so there is freedom for others to move in and out of my life.
I do not hold anyone hostage anymore because of my own insecurity and dependence the way I did when I was drinking.
I make room for new endings to old stories that I have told myself about friendship and belonging.
I am attracting mindful warriors.
I repel those who don’t understand.
It is a perfect natural selection situation.
I am not for everyone.
Everyone is not for me.
I stop the expectation that this would be possible.
I stand in my ever growing light and truth.
I am magnetized by others operating at the same vibration.
Do I think I am better?
There is no such thing.
I have made a different choice.
I have overcome something huge.
I have come out the other side of it as a different person.
I recognize and see this in others.
These people are a safe haven for me to travel with now.
I can share what’s in my suitcase, and empty all my secret pockets.
My sobriety has had many challenges.
Plenty of agony.
The horrific ache of loneliness.
But it is not a life of deprivation.
It is a life of gratitude and integrity.
It is a life of more.
I don't want moderation anymore.
I want more.
There is more to life than slowly (or in my case, quickly) slipping away with alcohol to merely tolerate the presence of the people and my own itchiness in their company.
There is so much more to my life than an appropriate glass (or two, or is it ok to have maybe three?) of wine at dinner.
There is more for my mind than the constant back and forth of drinking the right amount, but not too much.
There is more thinking to do than setting up impossible rules to follow that inevitably lead to failure at some point or another.
I am done with my attempts of toeing the fine line of drinking perfection and measuring my success in life by how many drinks I had, or how many drinks I wanted, but did not consume.
I am over believing that somehow not getting as much as I want, is the basis for a big, bold life.
I let go of the illusion that this kind of moderation is what happy lives are made of.
Everything in moderation.
I refuse to believe this sentiment is the wild and precious life Mary Oliver was poetically waxing about.
I don't think walking the middle road is best, that having enough to make you question and crave is good, but not so much that you are satisfied is best.
That coloring within the lines is ideal, when you know exactly how to improve upon the laid out notion about what a beautiful picture or a beautiful life is.
That not getting what you want, but having less and going unnoticed by others, is the juicy life I was made for.
That constantly thinking about alcohol is key to living my biggest dreams.
I don't want to go on that diet that gets me excited that I have deprived myself enough all day, to successfully shrink my body, the reward being poisoning myself with wine at night to shrink my mind and spirit too.
I can no longer believe that continuing to drink without drinking too much is the secret to luxury, glamour, stress relief, and connection with less shame.
Drinking in moderation is sold as the cat's pajamas.
Drink! But don’t gain weight.
Drink! But stay between these rails.
Drink! But for God’s sake don’t tailspin.
There are many problems with sobriety, but thank goodness moderation isn’t one of them.
Pushing myself further.
Digging in deeper.
Loving myself more.
Filling the void by staying awake and not numbing out are big challenges, but living an awakened life has no room for moderation.
Sobriety is made for more.
There is more.