I thought I was smarter than the booze.
I am one of those people who, five minutes into an episode of Criminal Minds, is convinced I know who did it. I would shout out, triumphant, “It’s the UPS guy!” and my husband would groan and leave, the show ruined. I was usually right. I prided myself on always being a step ahead.
I thought this should also apply to my drinking, even though alcoholism hangs on every branch of my family tree. My father, who is now over forty years sober, once told me to regard liquor like it was used chewing gum stuck to the bottom of a desk. I ignored this visual, and imbibed, regularly. Surely, I am a very separate branch on my messed up family tree. Surely, I am smarter than an inanimate material. Surely, I’m not an addict, like my father or like my brother, or nearly every other leaf in our messed up ancestry.
So, it might surprise you to know that in college, I didn’t drink like an alcoholic.
When I was in college, I drank like a college kid. I learned to appreciate Keystone Light and concoctions at frat parties called “Trashcan Punch.” Even in my twenties and thirties, I still didn’t drink like an alcoholic. I did wine tastings and bought a martini shaker, and weathered a bad break-up, all without red alcoholic flags fluttering at me.
And then, I got married and gave birth to two adorable, funny little boys that have blessed my life in a million ways. I had everything I ever wanted: a loving husband, a great job, and two kids.
And that’s when I started to drink like an alcoholic.
I love my boys. But, it seems, my perception of mothering didn’t quite match up with reality. It’s easy to identify the obvious triggers: my children are chaotic, messy, loud, and nutty at an Olympic level. At the end of the day, a nice dry glass of red wine seemed like all I needed to combat the nutty.
Now, enter Facebook, the gateway drug for tired moms with possible drinking problems. I live and “like” in the era of Funny Mom Memes about Wine. Social media was practically shouting at me that moms drinking chardonnay was medicinal, as if motherhood was some sort of infectious disease. As a result of all this, I began downing nightly glasses of You Deserve This while I binged on Netflix and folded fifty-thousand diapers.
I’ve even spotted a few posts on Twitter about giving teachers parting gifts of wine. The bottles were labelled, “I’m the Reason You Drink,” with a picture of a sweet toddler. I get the joke, but these funny memes and pictures still sting.
Yes, my drinking went off the charts after my boys were born.
But, it wasn’t them. I want to be clear about that. It was simply me, all along. Even though my alcoholic drinking didn’t show up until my forties, my alcoholic behaviors, minus the booze, had been around since I was a child. My role in the family, and the isolation and stress that came along with it, just added more coal cars to my loaded train headed to Margaritaville. The guilt and self-loathing that I buried beneath tequila and limes each night only made the train run faster.
The isolation of parenting created for me this perfect bubble of despair.
Isolation meant drinking, alone, in rapidly increasing amounts, for the first three years of my children’s lives. It meant sickness and fear and insomnia and anxiety and depression and weight gain, along with rage, and—eventually—liver and kidney pain. It meant hiding vodka bottles in my closet and laundry room. It meant suicidal thoughts on a daily basis.
It meant insanity.
I couldn’t quit drinking.
I had finally found myself outsmarted by the alcohol. Even with my great husband and kids and life, and without ever getting arrested or blacking out and ending up in Vegas, or any of that stuff that belongs on an Intervention episode, I had, very quietly, and very successfully, drank myself into full-blown addiction.
I am in recovery, forever. Now I have two kids, a husband, a great job, and no wine bottles clinking around in my closet anymore. Some moms would say parenting two crazy kids without wine is impossible, but I am proof, every day, that my life is better without it.
I am not smarter than the alcohol.
And once I realized that? I was free.