Knowing

Words and sentences were flooding through me a few minutes ago – would have been pouring out of me had I only had the means… or perhaps not. Now that I find myself comfortably situated, keyboard at hand, I am fumbling for that fleeting erudition. It is difficult not to attribute this at least in part to a sort of cowardice, given the intended stuff of this writing. I will carry on, regardless!

Thirty seven has recently seemed to me to be awfully young to have stopped drinking alcohol forever. I am actually 37 for the second time, rather splendidly, as I spent a whole year being 37 – knowing that it was so and writing in on forms and all the things – realising only as my birth month rolled around that the birthday most recently celebrated was in fact my 36th.

Still, I don’t think that is why I have been feeling too young for such drastic steps. Rather, I suspect, it is the insidious creep of time and with it the forgetting that breeds complacency.

I always meant to chronicle my “bottom” here as a means of holding myself accountable and inuring myself to this very phenomenon, but I never quite got around to it. It came to me not in one messy breakdown, although there was plenty of that, but instead by degrees. A series of little deaths and with each a whisper that was ever more insistent; a knowledge that was there as surely as I know the year of my birth and thus my age and which I persisted even so, in misremembering.*

In August I stopped breastfeeding my baby. I loved breastfeeding and knowing as I did that this would almost certainly be the last time I loved breastfeeding him intensely. It was not enough to put the brakes on my wine drinking, though and I knew that the short, greasy hours between my collapsing into bed and nursing him in the morning were too few to imagine that all or even “enough” of the alcohol had been metabolised. I knew then.

In September, barely functioning under the weight of another brutal hangover, I was trying to make a smoothie for my boys and inadvertently switched on the immersion blender while I was scooping it out with my finger. I had to rely on my then-7 year old to help me dress my finger, maneuver the baby into the carrier and shepherd the four of us to an urgent care so I could have it stitched. I knew then.

In October I writhed with embarrassment as I sat drinking a glass of wine on a busy bar patio midway through trick or treating with my boys. I hated the judgement I felt in strangers’ eyes and hated myself, but I couldn’t do without that drink. I knew then.

In November, watching the devastating election results come in I didn’t even try to stop myself. Having drunk the one bottle we had in (never buy more than you are ok with drinking) I went out and bought two more. I abandoned myself to the desire to obliterate everything, and set about it. Although they were exceptional circumstances I woke up sick and sad and very afraid that I had crossed a line or at least peered into the abyss. I announced that I had given up alcohol and lasted 12 days. There are always exceptional circumstances. I knew then.

In December, a few days before Christmas, I left the kids with my mom on Saturday afternoon to finish up the last of my shopping. When I got back my oldest asked me where I had been. I said something vague about errands. “I know what you did,” he replied in the matter of fact way of young children. “You went to [the wine shop] and you bought wine and then you drank it in the driveway and went and put the bottle in the recycling so no one would know.” I hadn’t had anything to drink that day, nor been to the wine store, and I never drank in secret or tried to hide the bottles and to this day I don’t know how or why he came up with such a detailed tale, but I knew then that he knew, and that was worst of all.

It took me five more months of trying and failing to not know, to “get things under control,” to drink less or to not drink every day or to not drink at home or to never drink alone, and reassuring myself that resisting the voice that told me some mornings that “a drink would surely take the edge off and it’s foolish to suffer like this all day just for the sake of waiting until 5,” was itself a victory and a sign that I was not that bad after all and there was still time; but I knew then, too.

Our 10th wedding anniversary is next week, and if you had told me on my wedding day (or to be honest on our 9th anniversary) that we would not be popping champagne to celebrate because I was also celebrating 10 (and a half!) months of sobriety, I would have been a little skeptical, if not a lot incredulous.

I am happy and proud to be sober today, but it would be disingenuous to say that I am not sad as well. It was such an easy, obvious way of celebrating, of letting loose and forgetting the ordinariness and the struggle of everyday life, and although more often than not I drank too much and was left with regrets after even the brightest celebration, I am very sad that we can’t share a bottle of champagne (or two) and listen to music from when we were dating and laugh and get a bit silly on our anniversary.

I think I have been feeling recently that I have ruined something good, putting a kibosh on something fun and lovely, but for better or worse (ha!) it had long since soured. I have only to look, a little fearlessly after all, at where I was and what I knew then, to see that my sobriety is a gift to be prized and protected. I am so grateful to be here, and to know for sure that I don’t have to go back to that dark and fearful place, ever again.

*Misremembered is claiming not to be a word but of course it must be, because it is just what I did and indeed have been doing again, recently.

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What’s in a Name?

“You should start a blog,” said my well-meaning husband and friends, as with some regularity my interest would be seized by a question or subject and I would plunge deep into a rabbit hole, all the while eagerly regaling any who would listen with what I discovered. For years, I thought about doing so. I have actually started one or two and their inaugural posts drift through cyberspace in lonely isolation. 

There are many reasons that I was never able to get a blog or writing practice going, chief among them of course that what unclaimed time I had was given over to drinking wine or recovering from drinking wine (or cocktails sometimes because we moms deserve to kick our heels up, right?) When I did contemplate putting fingers to keyboard my thoughts and ideas seemed to scatter in dozens of different directions and I could neither marshal them nor pick a thread to follow. I had so many ideas, and so much I wanted to think and talk about, but I couldn’t find my voice and I didn’t have the discipline to look for it. 

My most-often cited stumbling block, though, was a title. “I don’t know what to call it,” I would lament, palms outspread. “It needs to be about something and it feels like it’s all been said before and better than I could anyway. All the good ideas are gone.” Who knew that what I was missing all along and in so many ways was sobriety. I have so much more time. I have (some, more) clarity. I have so much to say, and I see now that what I needed was not discipline* but hope.

When I started Storm in a New Cup 59 days ago I felt as though I was lost at sea. The waves seemed to be crashing down on me faster than I could catch my breath and it was all I could do to keep my head above water. I had no time for joy or even fun and I didn’t believe that it would ever get better, because I knew it was me. I was the sea and the waves and the storm and yet I had no control over any of it. Our home was chaotic (our home is still chaotic) and I was crushed by the feeling that I was responsible for everything and everyone. If my husband was tired or out of sorts or my kids were unhappy or fighting or acting out I felt on some level an absolute conviction that it was utterly and entirely my fault. 

In desperation I had stopped drinking five days earlier, not so much because I understood that the drinking was the problem, I see now, but because I felt I could not keep on riding the storm as I was – I was never going to figure out how to fix myself and my marriage and life itself unless I made the only change I could (finally) think of. (You have to be on top of your game to save the world, baby.) 

With the fledgling clarity of 64 days sober I am still at sea, and the waves still come (all the f**ng time,) but there is space between them, and better – so much, much better – than that, I know that I am not the storm. I am not in charge of the sea, and although waves and weather will come, they will also pass. I don’t know what the shore looks like, or whether I will ever even get there but finally, finally I feel like I can swim. 

All this by way of saying I have changed my blog’s name to better reflect what it is that I am doing here: no longer trying to be the weather or control the sea but learning to accept it and embrace it, and find my joy where I am. I am so looking forward to figuring out what I want to fill this beautiful, new sober life with. 

I am so proud of this blog. For the longest time I felt as though I wasn’t making anything but babies and dinner (which, while I am proud of those too, are not mine.) To be honest, I don’t know whether I have anything to say that hasn’t been said before, or if I can say it in way that will bring value to anyone but me, but at last I am making something of my own. It feels wonderful.

*Perhaps. This is a whole blog post – or blog – of its own.

All Title and No Post

Seriously! Possibilities considered and abandoned (THIS MORNING) include but are not limited to:

All the Thoughts Not Marshalled (Is this just FOMO?)

Girl With No Brakes

Grace and Tragedy

This Is Why I Drink (It’s not, obviously.)

I Have Lost My Voice

Crawling Out of My Skin

Flat Bottom (or a Bouncer)

It’s not that I don’t have A LOT to say about all of these, and so so much more besides. I just can’t keep any of it in my head, or at least front and centered in my head before the next thought (this is generous) muscles in. I keep having to go back to add more titles as they interrupt the sentence I am trying to form. I have been reading recovery blogs (a little obsessively) for the past few days and have been struck time and again by how inspiring and relatable and honest they are, but also how fully formed the ideas seem to be. How do people know what they want to talk about? I do wonder whether this is what it’s like for everybody. I understand (I think) that writing is a craft and has to be worked at, and that is work I have not done.

For as long as I can remember I have had a sense – never terrifically well articulated – that if I could master or even just grasp the practice it may help me to slow down a bit and gain some of the depth of insight/understanding that often passes me by. I am struggling not to use the word “discipline” because there is a lot of weight, and a lot of shame, attached to it for me (if only I had some) but for want of a better one…

It seems to me that my best bet just now is to just keep showing up. I am going to try writing every day (hopefully) and I think I am going to post that here. Even if no one reads it. Because maybe (probably?) no one will read it. Because someone might read it. Ego is a funny and terrible beast! I suspect this is a bit of a rambly and self-serving proposition, but I don’t know that I trust myself to keep showing up or be honest if I am guaranteed to be my only audience, and right now I don’t know how else to gather my thoughts or find my lost voice (which of course is so much more than that. My lost self, really.)

I stopped drinking alcohol six days ago. I am probably an alcoholic, although that is another word I am finding very challenging and heavy. Language is so complex. I had no “rock bottom,” or awful moment of reckoning, which is a grace I believe I have not yet even begun to understand, but in an absurd moment of clarity that I will write about another day I understood that I am MISSING MY LIFE, and it could be such a good one.

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Day 5

I don’t know yet. I have been lifted up and carried away by the courage of the women on here telling stories that are like mine and not yet mine. They have given me a glimmer of hope and a place to begin. I do not have a history of maintaining any kind of writing practice (or very much else for that matter) so I do not, today, have any reason to believe that I will be able to grasp this particular lifeline* but, perhaps… Writing was always supposed to be my “thing,” my gift, what I would do – but I never did. So perhaps now is the time. In the meantime I plan to use this as a pinboard (?) for links to the amazing blogs I have found in the past few days, rather than keep 8 million tabs open in my browser. I am sure there is another way – dare I say a normal way? – but I don’t know what it is. Eight million open tabs has always been my MO and I recognize on this clear-eyed day that that is more likely part of my chaos than my salvation. Not sure of the etiquette of linking from a blog that may never be more than this. I hope it’s ok!

*Which is not to say that I am not done, done, so fucking done. Thanks to the magnificent Mrs D for this technique, if that’s what it is. I see now, and I am done. No more alcohol for me. (Typing that was stupid hard, considering how stupid hopeful and sure I feel.)

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