My story is a little different from many stories you may have read about other women getting sober.
I wasn’t the blackout drinker or the one who was the life of the party. To be honest, I don’t think I ever really loved drinking, but I just did it because I felt like that was what you did. It sounds crazy because I also wasn’t someone who felt pressured to drink or do things out of my comfort zone, but I do remember almost thinking I needed to make myself drink just to try to have more fun. I had friends that seemed to have so much more fun than me so I guess that is part of the reason I kept going back to it.
Fast forward to recently, it’s hard to believe that I have been drinking every weekend and some weeknights for the last 20 years.
I think this became my normal. Alcohol has always surrounded me amongst family and social events. I take full responsibility for my own actions, but I can’t really think of a time when alcohol hasn’t been in my life.
When I first started drinking as a late teen, I was the nervous, cautious friend. The one who didn’t want to take it too far, get in trouble, or was just paranoid about ALL the things. Like I said before, I never felt pressured to drink, but I did try to push myself because that is what you did in “Small Town USA.” You sit around hay bales, sit in someone’s shed, or drive around and drink aka “road trip.”
I was never really a big partier in college. I was most concerned with my school work and being at the top of my Dental Hygiene class.
I often found myself feeling like I was outgrowing alcohol, but it always had a way to creep into my life. Maybe because I let it or maybe because of who I was surrounding myself with. At that point, I didn’t really have a voice or I hadn’t quite found who I was or what I was meant to be doing.
My husband also drank, and I always felt like he wasn’t able to implement boundaries with alcohol so it always made me feel uncomfortable. Feelings like, how much will he drink tonight, how late will we get home, who will drive, etc. All of these things made me so uncomfortable. I knew I couldn’t control what he did, so I would just join him in drinks, but my anxiety around alcohol just always was there.
I also never felt like drinking made me that much happier, but again, it seemed to make everyone else happier and carefree, and I deeply wanted that. I often wondered what it would be like if we didn’t drink. I kind of wished we didn’t, but it just didn’t seem like a practical option for us because everywhere we went there was alcohol and drinks and some sort of vacation or “party.”
However, moving into my darkest days, I was almost too down to drink. In my early to mid 30’s I had found the sweet spot for alcohol. I started to like it. I started to crave it. It became my outlet and I felt deserving of alcohol because of my struggles or because I worked hard or because I wanted to celebrate.
When alcohol becomes a big piece of you, you can find any and every reason to have a drink.
I used it to cope, but I didn’t really connect how much it was affecting my mental health and mood. Again, I watched everyone else drink and considered myself a rather mild drinker compared to some people I knew, so I didn’t think it should have that much of an ill effect on me. I remember starting my antidepressant and it being one of the first thoughts like, “I can drink while taking this right?”
Of course the antidepressant helped get me on my feet, and I felt full of life for the first time in a LONG time. I finally had a sense of that free feeling I had been chasing for years. So then the drinks started to trickle in. I found life FUN and it made sense to have drinks to celebrate myself and what I had been through.
Covid hit and I really started to create more drinking habits. By this time, I had quit my full time job as a dental hygienist to run my full time online business. The flexibility my schedule brought me also felt so free to me. My kids were home for many days because of the schools being shut down so we did what we wanted and it felt like summer break.
I found myself drinking almost everyday and not feeling a bit guilty about it. Some days I would have my first drink late afternoon, but I usually drank a half of a bottle of wine or more a night. And that became my normal and I craved it and loved it and felt like I was in a good, comfortable space with alcohol. I had found my sweet spot… until that changed too.
This lifestyle continued until I finally decided to start to wean from my meds. This was a nine month process, so when it finally came time to completely come off of them, I knew that I could NOT afford to feel bad.
I had started making connections that when I drank, my anxiety was heightened.
Between the side effects from my meds in combination with drinking….I felt the desire to rid it from my life become deeper. It seemed to affect my sleep and give me heart palpitations. It seemed to make my mood unstable, so I knew if I was going to come off of the meds, I had to give up drinking too.
In the meantime, Aaron had given up drinking. He did it first. Not because of me. He did it for him. This was so inspiring to me because here I was always struggling with his choices of drinking, he was the first to change the pattern and here I was still utilizing it.
As I write this, it has been 87 days since I have drank. Do I miss it?
The taste is the only thing I still miss. I don’t miss how it took me away from the present moment with my kids. I don’t miss the control it had over me. I don’t miss wasted, sluggish days on the couch the day after drinking. I don’t miss rushing my kids to bed at night so I can reward myself with a glass of red wine. I don’t miss giving alcohol the power it had over me. I don’t miss a foggy mind that can’t think clearly. I don’t miss analyzing whether or not I am going to drink tonight. I don’t miss my kids watching me prioritize alcohol over them.
Will I ever drink again? I don’t think so. I really don’t. One drink won’t serve me. It never did, I just didn’t realize it. It isn’t about “restricting” myself either. I tried to limit alcohol in the past, but the boundaries just didn’t stick and then I found myself in many gray areas with limits.
My priority is to feel good and to be so present with my kids and husband. I know I will never regret that choice. I have never felt this good, and for that I am forever grateful. And how could I introduce something back into my life that had such power over me?
For more healthy living from Tabitha, find her book and journal, Anxiety, I’m Not Your Bitch, here