Monday, November 14, 2016

My year of not drinking

I was first aware of mom’s drinking when I was about 10-11 years old.  My parents fighting.  Brother being upset. Mom went to inpatient rehab. She was my girl scout leader. I was the only one in my girl scout troop who didn’t have divorced parents. It wasn’t long after that when my parents announced their divorce.  I was 12.

I was teenager alternating between 2 houses every 2 weeks. She a was  loving nice mom. She liked to cook, take me shopping and I knew she was proud of me.  She led my Girl Scout troop, took me on trips, instilled in me a love of gardening and rivers.  She taught me some basics of sewing and cooking.  Mom shared her makeup, hot rollers and clothes with me.

Alcohol ruled her life. When at my mom’s house, I felt like I could do anything I wanted.  I didn’t have much respect for her as a parent. If not daily, she was drunk weekly. Words slurred. Stoned cold passed out. Sometimes I would check for signs of life.  Trying to see her chest rise and fall with her breath.  Cocktails of gin hidden in cabinets, bathrooms, closets. Forgotten and lost with mold growing in them.

It led to me screaming the “F” word at her when I was in the 6th grade the time she was an hour late picking me up from kickball practice and driving me home on Mopac, the 55 mph highway, 40 mph in the shoulder. “What the F U C K  is wrong with you!” - she was wasted.  

The time I slapped her across the face like in the movies, a quick reflex reaction to her slapping me.  My high school principal and teachers asking me if I was okay and needed anything when she showed up drunk to watch me perform in the school play.   

I graduated, went to college and never lived with her again. She developed alcoholic onset diabetes, pancreatitis, recovered and a few years later died of lung cancer at 56.  Depressed, unemployed living off alimony in a sketchy neighborhood in a rental house she got in the divorce.

I remember tasting beer with adults as a child.  In junior high at a friends house, we took some alcohol from her parents liquor cabinet. I started drinking in high school with the other kids.  It was normal and what everyone was doing on the weekends.  I got drunk. Ended up in situations with boys I would not of been in sober. My parents never talked to me about me drinking or called me out on mine. I wonder if they ever noticed. I went to Al-Anon.

College life continued the weekend drinking. It served as entertainment. Something to do like going to a movie or playing soccer.  Drinking was an activity I would do with others. One day in my apartment after college, I decided to drink alone at home.  Like buy it at the store, keep it at home and drink alone. I remember talking to myself and knowing that it was not a good idea.   I justified.  Wine and beer aren’t gin or liquor.

My husband doesn’t drink. I have praised God for this for years.  He is my perfect husband. He did drink. Oh, he has some high school and college stories. We drank some on dates, at our wedding and honeymoon, but never at home, just him and I.  It was never OUR entertainment or escape. But, it was mine.

I became a mom at 28. One, two, three daughters by 34.  Around 4:00 pm daily the “mama, mama, mama” nagging and my patience would hit a wall and I would pour a glass of calm relaxation as I cooked dinner. Guilt. Justification. Guilt. And on and on I would dance in my head.  Frequently one glass turned to 2 or 3 and I would fall asleep reading to my kids in their beds. Unavailable physically, emotionally or spiritually to my husband.  Day in and day out for 10 years.

I would ask friends if they drink and with a resounding “yes” they would reply. “Oh girl, how do you think I survive.” or “Can’t wait for my margarita”. So, I thought, I must be okay, I am like them. It’s normal. I always wondered what normal drinking looked like. I just keep wine and beer at home. So, I am not an alcoholic… my liquor loving mom.  I am not an alcoholic……...I don’t drink in the day and pass out stone cold. I am not an alcoholic…….I have a job.  I am not an alcoholic…...I am positive and happy.   

I would make deals with myself to not drink at all. I would pray to God to remove the desire and cravings. I made a plan to only drink when out and not keep alcohol at home. I would drink when I was bored and wasn’t communicating in my marriage. I would drink to change my brain and entertain myself. Avoid discomfort. Slowly, vodka and pre-made margaritas made their appearance in my home. Just like mom showed me, I would hide it. In the pantry and freezer. My self-talk included that I never wanted my husband to acknowledge my drinking as a problem and ask me to stop. It won’ t go THAT far and be THAT bad. Shame. Guilt. Shame. Guilt.

“Normal” drinking continued. Drinks with friends. Cold beer on weekends. Wine while cooking. Oops, I drank the entire bottle - Shame. Guilt. Shame. Guilt. Please, Lord, take this from me.

The last time I drank it was December 31, 2015 and I was 43.  It was “normal” drinking with friends at a backyard New Years Eve party. Not drunk, not hungover. God opened my eyes and changed my heart that night. It was the first time He started showing me other people’s “normal” drinking as it really is.  My husband drove a family home that night. The man could barely stand up or walk. His wife, my friend was happily wasted. In the back seat their son and daughter were experiencing, expressing and verbalizing the embarrassment, shame and anger I did my entire childhood.  I don’t EVER want my kids to see or experience that because of me. Not once in my life have I witnessed a positive outcome from drinking alcohol.

The next day, as planned, I started the January 2nd Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living/Clean Eating Challenge which avoids alcohol among other things. I had done and even led this program 3-4 other times without drinking. With fresh eyes and a renewed mind, I decided to take a year off of alcohol.  I don’t ever want to crave anything more than I crave God, my children and husband. Again and again the Lord has positioned me to witness how drinking affects people. In times when I am tempted or in situations where use to drink, He shows what it does.

I wrote that about 7 months in. Today I am 11 months sober and free of guilt and shame and ready to share this tiny bit of my story.   Today I heard a mentor/friend at church say that “avoidance is the exchange for strength”. Today I choose strength.