Every alcoholic has one. You'll find bits and pieces of my story in the posts on this blog. I go into some detail about my father, his alcoholism and how this shaped the kind of alcoholic I became. But, here is the overview.
I was a very "square" sort of teenager and was never really tempted to drink the way many adolescents do. I had my first full-blown drunk episode when I was 17, the first night in my dorm in September of 1989. A frat party at Boston University, drinking God knows how many cups of fruit punch and vodka, followed by snake bites. It was a sloppy evening, there were vague memory flashes of dancing, making out with some guy on the dance floor and flagging down a cab to get back to my dorm, where I quickly developed a serious case of the spins, vomited profusely (hello, new roommates!) and spend the first morning of my college career nursing a miserable hangover. I honestly didn't drink very often after that. I seemed to get bombed and sick after one or two beers. But when there was a party - which was pretty rare - we all drank with the goal of getting totally and completely blitzed out of our minds. Anything less than this was a failure. In general, though, drinking was not as interesting or fun as it was for a lot of other college kids and I went to art school, so huge "spring break" style parties, like the kind you used to see on MTV, were frowned upon in our circles. They were seen as something jocks and airheads did. Not us.
In my twenties, I became a social drinker. I learned how to drink without the goal of getting shit-faced. I learned to appreciate red wine and craft beer. I enjoyed these beverages in moderation, without giving much thought to when my next drink would be. I never thought of drinking alone or drinking if I had a cold. I smoked a lot of cigarettes by this time, so drinking was just a nice little "add on" when I was at a club or a restaurant. Nothing I craved. I could go weeks on end without thinking about it. So long as I had a pack of cigarettes at all times.
In my late twenties, I met my ex-husband. He was a pretty heavy drinker. I certainly don't blame him for the beginning of my heavy drinking - I actually think I was sort of primed and ready for this to start. He was charming and fun and drinking became associated with fun, unwinding, decompressing. it became a true reward after a bad day. It became a staple at the dinner table. I thought we were just being cultured. Isn't this how sophisticated people dine? Ask anyone in Europe! Once we were married, we started plowing through a case of wine a week (That's 13 bottles, by the way, since liquor stores generally give you a freebie when you buy a case, like a "baker's dozen."). So, I was about 30 when things started funneling a little out of control. We attended a lot of parties, I embarrassed myself more times than I could count and I don't remember half of it. We eventually divorced, though our drinking was not the reason.
I continued to drink. Alone. Daily. No matter how I was feeling. Good, bad, indifferent. Healthy, sick, didn't matter. I drank through my divorce. I was using it to self medicate. I started frequenting several liquor stores, making sure to never visit the same one every day for fear of judgement. This should have been a huge clue that something was not right. I knew it was becoming problematic, but I hushed the voice and continued to drink. I hid half of the bottles in the garbage on recycling day so my neighbors wouldn't be able to see how much I was putting away.
I began to date my current husband after my ex and I broke up. He doesn't drink, but never harassed me or questioned my drinking. I continued to drink at the same rate for the next 12 years, a bottle a night with no complaint from my new guy. Every once in a while, it would be more. It never really escalated beyond that, however, it was a seven-day-a-week practice. What began as something fun to do, suddenly became an addiction I could not control. I tried moderating once, and though I successfully managed to not drink for 30 days, I thought I was cured and could suddenly drink like a normal person again. I started making up a bunch of rules (You know the ones: no alcohol in the house, only drink when out to a meal or a party, limit drinks to 2 at any given outing.). What I didn't know about alcoholism was a lot. I spent 2 years questioning whether or not I was an alcoholic, but always found convenient excuses and reasons why I just couldn't be. Mostly, I would cite someone else's out of control drinking as a "true problem." I didn't have legal problems, my marriage didn't suffer, I had no financial consequences from my drinking (unless you count the cost of 7 bottles of wine a week - hello!), and my health was in pretty good shape, as I had managed to quit smoking many years prior. I also didn't eat meat and did my cardio everyday, further proving how "good" I was to myself. See? Wine was just a reward at the end of the day. I deserved it! I was a master compartmentalizer. I exercised in the morning, worked hard all day, then drank during and after dinner. I had divided my life into these very specific segments and a schedule was always maintained around when I would drink and making sure that there was always an adequate supply of wine. If these needs were not met, a general sense of panic would ensue. I have gone out in God awful weather - snowstorms, thunderstorms, bone-chilling cold snaps - to purchase wine. And if there was some sort of evening event planned, like going to a movie, I would need to know how drinking was going to fit into that. Would I drink beforehand? A bar on the way home? I avoided late movies because they interfered too much with my drinking. But if I did have to stay sober until say, 10 or 11 at night, I would always find a way to drink a bottle of wine before bed. In my recovery group, we all agree that drinking is s full-time job. That's why moderation is a joke for an alcoholic. It's exhausting and not at all fun, which defeats the entire purpose of drinking. When you progress into the disease, though, it's not about fun anymore. It's about getting your fix. Period.
So, what was my bottom? It wasn't a big event, really. After finishing my nightly bottle of wine, I started a ridiculous argument with my husband. It was as cliche as you can imagine, something about how I just knew he thought I was fat. He accused me of being drunk and I got very defensive. Why I became defensive, I can't possibly imagine because he was totally right. I was drunk. Just like every other night. I rarely got in this kind of mood, though. Mostly, I would just get sleepy and waltz off to bed. I often had trouble climbing the stairs, but lied to myself about how lit I was and tried really hard to appear sober before hitting the sack. I was in a lot of denial. The next day, as I was driving home from work, wondering where I was going to buy my wine, a little voice inside my head said, "You can drink wine tonight ... OR, you could maybe take a night off and try having tea instead." It was strange, because for the first time in a while, I saw that there was a possibility that I could do something different. And as automatic as it was to pull into the liquor store parking lot, suddenly, there was this new choice. I decided to listen to the voice. That was May 13, 2014. I haven't had a drop of alcohol since. I started this blog a couple of years before my sober date, back when I was trying to moderate. I went back to it right away and started doing the very important work of figuring out what the heck went wrong, why I drank and who I really was without alcohol. And so, here I am.