When I tell people that I have decided to live a sober life, I get a number of reactions…
Wow! Why?- Seems to be the most popular. My “go-to” answer is “I’ve come to realize that I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and it is keeping me from living my BEST life!” Sounds kinda clinical. Also doesn’t even BEGIN to address all the really good reasons why I have decided to live sober. Here we go….
I grew up with an alcoholic/addict father. My mom left him when I was very young because it was clear pretty early on that his addictions were creating a toxic environment for both of us. You gotta give props to Mama! She was a teenage mother who didn’t have much on her own, but she had the strength to walk away when she knew she had to. Taking me and what little we owned out into a wintery night on a sled and trudging through the snowy streets to my grandmas. That couldn’t have been easy…. but usually the RIGHT choice isn’t.
I learned this years later when I walked out of a toxic relationship. When you KNOW it’s what you have to do, you just do it! Because if your not strong enough to stand up for yourself (and your dreams) then who will be?
In the years that followed, my dad continued his struggles with his demons and we had a handful of men that came into our life. The 1st one ended up being Mr. Right but we had to throw him back to grow a little 😉 We’ll get to that later. Husband #2 was also an alcoholic but worse than that…he was abusive. For 6 years he mentally and physically abused my mother and sexually abused me. I’ll never forget the day my mother came to me in the kitchen of our 2nd floor tenement apartment and told me we were leaving him. Every detail…from the lace curtain gently waving in the breeze that came through the window that early summer evening, to the way my mother looked so defeated. Like she had failed us.
For five years I buried that season of my life. It was over! No need to talk about it, no need to tell anyone, right? Just tuck that shit away behind the memory of almost drowning in Auntie Mary’s pool one summer and my fear of elevators. Packed away in a nice little box sealed up tight with duct tape. Well, the adolescent years are not a good time to repress memories of sexual abuse. As I began dating I used alcohol as a distraction from being intimate with my boyfriends. I’d go out and party with the “bad kids” instead of facing the feelings that were rearing their ugly head. At 15 I was an accomplice to breaking and entering, and grand theft auto most weekends. Started stealing… like A LOT! Got caught once and NEVER did it again! Nothings scarier than the thought of going to juvy for swiping a bottle of Drakkar Noir from a drug store. And all of these situations I found myself in had one thing in common, alcohol. When I think back I wonder how I didn’t end up arrested, pregnant, or worse.
Fast forward a few years…Met a nice guy who was patient and caring enough to ask WHY I didn’t want to do the sex stuff, and so I told him. Poor guy probably didn’t even see it coming! He told his mom, who told my mom, and that’s when life got really fun….time to rip off the duct tape and unpack that box!
The years that followed that were rough. Mom and I went through hell and back together. Dealing with all the feels, and guilt, and shame.. like Lady Bosses, if I do say so myself! During this time my dad got so many DUI’s he lost his license. Once I got my drivers license and a car I used to pick him up before school in the morning to drive him to get his methadone dose… there were times I couldn’t wake him because he was passed out surrounded by empty beer cans. I made a difficult decision at this point in my life. I wrote my dad a letter giving him the ultimatum, ME or your addiction. I didn’t hear from him for many years. That’s a crushing blow to a young girl who has yet to find a man in this world that hasn’t disappointed her. We never told dad about what happened to me, I have no doubt he would have murdered the prick and gladly done the time. I couldn’t do that to him. Therapy was so amazing and helpful during this time of my life! I was blessed to find an amazing woman who helped me heal and move forward. When I came out on the other side of this hell I really needed to escape reality.
At 19 I started working on Mega Yacht Cruise Liners and spent a lot of time in countries with no drinking age, with college age party peeps! Boat life was incredible! Booze was abundant! I dabbled in eating disorders and lost 85 lbs, came home after a year and jumped into that toxic relationship I was telling you about earlier. This chick was a HOT MESS! Somehow I always managed to make it seem like I had my shit together though.
So have I touched all the bags here? All emotional baggage on board…? Almost…
The morning of December 16, 2001 was a cold slushy New England winter day. I was working as a Dental Assistant and I’ll never forget the way my stomach dropped when the receptionist came into the operatory during a procedure to tell me my Aunt was on the phone. Dad was dead. 46 years old. Never remarried, never even dated another woman. Spent 90% of his time on earth battling his demons and he lost. I felt so guilty for walking away from him, could I have helped? Would he have eventually gotten sober if I remained a part of his life? I’ll never know, but I did learn that you can’t change people. They have to want to change themselves.
Alcohol quickly became my accessory of choice! I started drinking at 15. By 21 I was a pro! I could drink more than most men twice my size. When your 5’2″ and weigh 105 lbs that’s not good! But the thing is, when you don’t drink everyday, and you don’t carry a flask in your purse, you don’t think you have a problem. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re “good” and you don’t need to change. I sometimes wonder if that’s the story my father told himself.
When you work in the bar scene and you surround yourself with people who drink as much or more than you, it’s easy to hide the fact that you have a problem. Everyone else is ordering another one! She’s drunk, and look how much fun she’s having. No one sees the problem with your drinking when they don’t see you at your worst. The lucky winner of that prize was my partner. I met him one fateful day on a bus trip to New York City!
When I met Mr. Forever I was still hanging on to the toxic relationship I was in. I had already called off the wedding but I told myself I could fix it…again, you cannot change people! The only thing you have control of is yourself. That day on that bus opened my eyes to exactly what I wanted in a relationship. Even if it wasn’t with this man, I KNEW I would never get what I needed where I was…and I made a choice.
Like Mama with her sled, I made the difficult decision to leave that familiar place and forge out into the unknown…. because I knew that I had to if I wanted to be happy. I lived on a friends couch for a few weeks until I found a place I could afford on my own. That wasn’t easy since I had a mortgage and bills to pay and once I told him I was leaving, Mr. Toxic packed up everything we had accumulated in our 6 year relationship and left me holding the bag. He even took the iron, ironing board, dust pan and broom. Loser. I did the right thing, I signed everything that was rightfully his over to him (his business that he put in my name so he didn’t have to pay court ordered child support) and started over. It took years to climb out of that financial hole but it didn’t matter because I was happy. For the first time in my life I was dependent on myself! That’s an amazing feeling, and a little scary!
Fast forward to a couple years ago. That amazing man from the bus, who showed me what it meant to be cared for and taken care of emotionally, asked me to be his forever. The answer was so easy and he still takes my breath away every time he kisses me. I was given this gift and I couldn’t be more grateful. Being with someone who truly cares about you and your well being is a blessing. When they love you enough to point out your faults, it helps you see the truth instead of believing the lies you tell yourself. When Mr. Forever expressed his concern with my drinking I immediately put on the armor. You don’t know what I’ve been through!
I don’t HAVE to drink to have fun, I WANT to.
I don’t drink all week, just on the weekends!
I don’t have a problem, I could stop drinking if I wanted to, I just don’t want to!
I have had so many conversations with myself about my addiction, but I always seemed to convince myself I was good! I even stated this blog once before, after staying sober for a few days, but it wasn’t the right time. When you wake up in the morning and the sense of dread consumes you because you can’t remember the end of the night before, but your pretty sure it was bad. When Mr. Forever rolls over with that look of disappointment and fear in his eyes and all you can think is “Oh God what did I do now??” I can’t even tell you how many times that happened, countless. Life had become all about the next drink. Weddings? Ohhh I hope it’s open bar, cuz then he won’t SEE how much I drank! Bridal/Baby shower? Mimosas and Blood Mary’s WHOOP WHOOP! What do you wanna do tonight? Let’s go grab a drink. (or as many as I can suck down before we leave). But i’m GOOD! I got this! Holding a job, great friends, trophy marriage, building a business and creating a life of freedom i’ve always wanted! I compared my drinking to others around me and in comparison to some of them, I was a saint! But you cannot compare your life to others in order to determine it’s value. The fact of the matter was, I KNEW I drank too much. I was afraid to admit it. I was afraid of the label, I was afraid I couldn’t control it, and I was afraid if I “quit” drinking I wasn’t strong enough to succeed in sobriety. So I kept telling myself I was fine.
A little over a year after beginning my journey in direct marketing, I attended a Leadership retreat. Two days in a room with uber successful leaders in the company giving you all their “golden nuggets” of advice on how to follow your dreams and live life on your own terms! One of the BIG things they touched on was journaling. I always had a really tough time with this. It felt silly. Like “Dear Diary” ya know? But for a moment I allowed myself to get real. “Make the decision to feel. What are you avoiding? What is holding you back? What is keeping you from becoming the best version of you?” this statuesque, blonde beauty asked as she fluttered around the room like a butterfly. She was a top earner in the company and probably one of the wealthiest people in Direct Marketing…period! I committed to going all in. I stared to journal, and it only took about half a page before it came flowing from my pen. “If I can’t control my demons…they need to go! Stop making other things a priority! I drink too much!”
WHOA! There is was…and in PEN!!! Now what? There’s no backspace button, it’s out there now! The journaling helped me be honest with my self instead of the self sabotaging I was doing in my head. The rest of the afternoon was incredible, and driving home that evening, alone on the freeway, I cried my eyes out. God winks 😉 EVERYWHERE! I said THIS is it. The time is now. I will not allow alcohol to control me, my thoughts or my life. I will not allow it to hurt my relationship with my husband, my family or my friends. And I will not allow alcohol to stop me from becoming the best version of myself. I had to make a choice, a HARD one! The first step is admitting you have a problem, and that means out loud! It was tough…I actually couldn’t find the strength that evening to tell Mr. Forever that I decided to quit drinking because…
1. Once you tell someone else, you are held accountable if you fail! In the past when I only told myself that I had quit drinking, it was easy to tell myself that I had QUIT quitting drinking 3 days later. No one else knew!
2. He asked me to get it under control so many times before. Why wasn’t that a good enough reason for me? Was my marriage not worth that?
So I didn’t tell him that night. And when the morning came, and I was headed back to day 2 of the retreat, I almost considered writing him a note, because it was so incredibly scary to admit it. But I knew that meant it had to happen. “Sooooooo…I’ve decided to quit drinking” EXHALE! There in that moment, felt like the top a roller coaster, before you begin the plunge into twists and turns, the moment when your suspended just over the arch of the drop… dangling. Here we go!
Today marks 45 days sober for me. I certainly am not an expert, but i’m kinda killin it… if I do say so myself. And like everything else in life, I try to learn and grow from the experience. This journey (so far) has showed me how strong I really am. How much helping others really completes my soul, and how incredibly blessed I am to have ended up here. In South Florida for the winters, working from home and spending every second of my time the way I choose. And now, telling my story so that it may help you KILL it on your journey. This life we are given is precious. How you choose to spend it is entirely up to you! The struggles along the way are NECESSARY!