I quit drinking 7 years and 7 months ago or 2,791 days ago - but who’s counting right? A few days after I made the decision to stop, I wrote about it on my blog Babyonbored because in addition to having a problem with alcohol, I also have a tendency to overshare. In the entry, I explained how my favorite stress reliever, anxiety reducer and daily treat had become a nightly obsession. I described my feelings of guilt and shame that the thing I thought I had control over had taken control of me.
This admission was incredibly painful, not to mention embarrassing because I was someone who was known for using my cocktail habit as fodder for my writing about parenting. I’d even gone on the Today Show to defend the right of moms to unwind with a glass of wine. I was all, “Yeah! We deserve a glass of wine! Parenting is stressful and we have impossibly high standards of ourselves! We should all relax and celebrate our humanness, our imperfections!”
I believed what I was saying at that time but unfortunately for me, that celebratory glass of wine had become four, and what’s worse, I could not take a single night off – but oh how I tried. Even when I saw that my drinking had become a problem I didn’t want to admit defeat. I did what all problem drinkers do and I tried harder to control it.
I made rules: “I will only drink on weekends (obviously the weekend is Thursday through Sunday)” quickly became “I will only drink on weekdays.” But that was really hard so I decided that it was easier to give myself permission to drink everyday, but only two glasses. Come on, that’s healthy right? Isn’t it good for your heart? Okay, maybe that’s red wine, and maybe it’s only a glass, but whatever!
That worked for a time, until one day I drove home from a friend’s house with my kids in the car after having what truly seemed like only a few martinis - although after the first one I wasn’t really counting. When I woke up the next morning hung over, I knew the jig was up.
Come on, that’s healthy right? Isn’t it good for your heart? Okay, maybe that’s red wine, and maybe it’s only a glass, but whatever!
I decided to call a sober friend for help and then I made that fateful blog entry and I cried onto my keyboard while I typed it all out. I was so afraid of facing judgment but I knew I couldn’t keep writing my blog and not tell this secret. And that is what saved me. The simple act of telling. Nothing I have done to try to quit drinking or to help me in my recovery has been more powerful than the simple act of admitting the truth to someone else –or in my case several thousand someone else’s.
The thing is that when the secret was in my head, it felt disgusting and awful and I was convinced I was alone. Which is probably why the response to my initial post shocked the hell out of me. So many women either commented words of support or else they admitted they too might need to take a closer look at their habits. I’d actually struck a chord! My words resonated! I wasn’t alone.
I was so afraid of facing judgment but I knew I couldn’t keep writing my blog and not tell this secret. And that is what saved me. The simple act of telling.
A few months later, after getting some more solid footing in sobriety, I did an interview for the New York Times about quitting, and once again, people related. Of course I got some mean comments too (it’s the internet) but for every mean comment, I got five emails from a person reaching out to say, “me too.”
Since then, I’ve been open about my progress and my hurdles because I’ve become downright addicted to honesty. I’m drunk on acceptance (and sugar-free pudding)! So I’ll be writing here every week about different aspects of sobriety: how I got here, how I stay here, what happens along the way. And maybe, hopefully, you’ll relate.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is an author, blogger and podcaster. She’s talked sobriety on Dr. Oz, Larry King Live, Dr. Drew, GMA, 20/20 and The Today Show. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three sporadically charming children.