That’s the word that pops into my head these days when I think about my life over the last two years.
Freedom from shame, guilt, burdens, bitterness, confusion, exhaustion and frustration.
Freedom to think clearly and speak eloquently.
Freedom to be sure that what I said the night before was really what I said the night before.
I am over seven hundred days free from alcohol*, a thorn in my flesh that poked and prodded for nearly thirty years.
Actually, I have been obsessed with alcohol even longer than that. My favorite drink as a kid wasn’t Kool-Aid or even sweet tea–every Southern gal’s favorite concoction. No, my favorite drink was the Crown, Coke and melted ice my daddy would leave at the bottom of our Burger King character glasses every night.
As I grew older, I became even more enamored. My mom, a lover of boxed wine, had no clue that as a preteen I’d empty out my Sprite can and fill it up with her wine.
I doubt she would have cared anyway. She was the one who had given me my first “formal” drink, a glass of wine in exchange for the address to my father’s new apartment.
My parents’ love of alcohol probably fueled my own. And I don’t blame them. Not one bit.
Alcohol is the opiate of the masses. We are obsessed with all things drink.
From mommy juice memes, to television shows centered around a kitchen table filled with wine glasses, to movies where people are excused from stupid behavior because they were drunk, America and the world at large loves a good glass of alcohol.
According to Alcohol Research Group, 96% of women polled by doctors across 50 US States reported to having at least 9 drinks per week. That’s more than one per night.
The average man’s consumption isn’t much different. In short, we have a major drinking problem.
Or we don’t, depending on how you look at it.
I recognize that many people don’t believe they have issues with drinking. I used to envy those people. I believed deep in my soul that I was somehow so much worse because I couldn’t “handle” my alcohol and they could.
But when I became sober, I realized something: whether you can “handle” your alcohol in public or not really isn’t the issue.
The issue is: Do you need alcohol to socialize?
Not do you want alcohol. If you can go out multiple nights and be around multiple people without drinking, and then decide one night you’re going to have a drink or two, then it’s clear you don’t need alcohol, you just want it.
What I’m asking is:
Do you not want to be around people, including (or especially) family, at social functions unless there is alcohol involved?
That was my problem. Having grown up in an environment where there was very little positivity and definitely no praise, I found it hard to be around people without feeling as if I were going to be criticized.
And truth be told, I was different than other kids my age. I didn’t see it at the time, but I realize now I had family issues that other children didn’t have. I needed to talk about deeper things than what brand of jeans I was wearing or what party we were attending on a Friday night. I needed help. I needed therapy.
I needed love.
I didn’t feel as if I fit in anywhere. I was too normal for the “crazies,” but too crazy for the “normals.” I was too white-trash for the “preps” and not quite trashy enough for the “hoods.” I couldn’t craft who I was because I was too busy trying to survive childhood.
You could imagine where this is going.
When I got my first buzz and realized I could escape the frenzied thoughts swirling around my head, I thought I’d found my ticket to Heaven.
Back then, we didn’t have words like self-medicate, anxiety, trauma, so I didn’t know what to call distraction. We were busy stuffing our feelings in Big Macs and MTV, sexual encounters and parties. That was how we dealt with trauma. We pretended not to have it.
Alcohol became the thing that made life fun. It made me “normal.” It made me forget.
Except…the more I drank, the more I wanted. It was as if I didn’t have the ability to understand when enough was enough. My tinker was broken. My gauge was off. I always drank too much, too fast and didn’t know when to quit.
So naturally, I’d wake up the next morning, not only with a huge headache, but a heaping of regret.
What had I said? What had I done?
What would fix this gnawing anxiety? Alcohol, of course.
My drinking became of vicious cycle of want and regret.
I was 16 years old the first time I begged God to take away my love for it.
He didn’t do that. My drinking issues lasted another twenty-five years.
I was never an everyday drinker until after COVID. I would drink a few glasses of wine a couple nights a week, then decide I was drinking too much and stop for a few weeks.
But that’s not to say I didn’t do some really stupid things while I was drinking, the most stupid of which was becoming the mom I swore I’d never be.
I was the “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” mom.
And it was my daughter who I have to credit for my sobriety.
After a horrible year, I found myself drinking more heavily than ever before.
Even worse, I found myself not caring about how much I drank, when I drank, or in front of whom.
One particularly bad night, I woke up to a text from her the next morning.
While it is personal and I won’t reveal what was said, it was enough to make me put down the alcohol for good.
Here I am now, over seven hundred days sober, and I never want to go back to that life.
There is no freedom in drinking too much alcohol.
I don’t judge anyone who chooses to. I didn’t want to be judged then and don’t want to be judged now.
But I have told my oldest children that the most important thing they can do before drinking is to ask themselves what their state of mind is.
Are they drinking to escape?… Are you?
If so, I urge you to take a break.
Drinking won’t solve your problems, and it could make life a whole lot worse.
Take a chance on sobriety.
While I won’t lie and say it’s easy at first, it is the only true path to freedom if you struggle with misuse.
See you soon,
*If you need help with alcohol, please visit Alcoholics Anonymous to find answers.
P.S. I’ve written numerous posts about sobriety. Here are just a few: