Just a thought… Someday – you will just get sick of being hungover. [@JannArden on Twitter Aug. 16 2020]
Whew – what a weekend! We got a call on Saturday that the kids’ moving truck would be pulling into their driveway the next day, and so it did; so far, so good. We are hoping all boxes are accounted for, although to be honest, we only got in about four hours of hard-ish labour. With one adult entertaining a baby, we’re down a pair of hands, but we have lots and lots of time to figure this out.
Last night we celebrated with pizza, DQ cake and PJs. A lovely, unexpected development in the weekend.
I’m reminiscing a lot these days: it was a year ago yesterday that my six weeks in rehab came to an end. There’s an email hanging over my head that I really need to answer and I thought that as I mark this anniversary (my one year sobriety came and went on June 30), I’d write a response to her.
The past year, I’ve found myself being contacted by women who see themselves in me (or vice versa) and I’m eternally grateful for the fact that it’s something that anyone can relate to: my even talking about stopping drinking and getting help with the problems that led to me picking up again in Dec. 2016.
I often joke that if you can’t be a good example, then you’ll have to be a terrible warning. And so I’m responding to the most recent email I got (and I’ve let her know privately that I’m doing this) in hopes that if you find yourself in my sandals or know of someone who does, you’ll be able to share this with them.
Because You Wrote Asking How I Did It…
You’ve gotten to a point where you’re worried that you’re more than a “social” drinker. Whether it’s self-isolation, recent retirement, boredom or stress, you have found your intake of wine, cocktails, beer – whatever – on the rise. And you don’t like it.
I mean, you do like it at the time – most of us do – but you don’t like the knowledge that when you open that bottle of Pinot, you know you’re not leaving any by the time you go to bed. You might even open another, right?
You like how that first sip of an icy martini or a spicy Caesar just gets you a little warm all over, like a wash of wellness and comfort that starts at your toes and gently rises up until the colour comes to your cheeks.
That colour. Rosy red that is starting to show on your face the morning after. Are those broken capillaries? Huh. You haven’t noticed them because you’re busy applying concealer to the dark circles under your eyes. Under-eye concealer, eye drops, ibuprofen: the i’s have it. As in “I think I have a problem.”
You likely chide yourself for having such a thought; you know plenty of people who drink way more than you, and none of them considered asking for help or thought they might need to examine their intake. I mean, how many DUIs have you had? Well, none.
You plan ahead and do your drinking at home; no one in your office or circle of friends would ever imagine that after sipping your one beverage slowly when you’re with them, you go home and can’t wait to crack open that bottle that has been patiently anticipating your return.
You can’t have a problem: you really only drink on Fridays and weekends! And never alone. Okay, rarely; you deserve to sip a glass or three of wine while you read a good book. It’s civilized; all of the memes online say so. Cook with wine (and even put some in the food!). Drink to survive parenting. Drink to survive COVID. Drink to deal with stress. Drink to forget. Drink to celebrate. Drink to mourn. Drink. Drink. Drink. What kind of a wuss would you be if you stopped?
Your clever brain tells you that you don’t possibly have a problem: you count your drinks, after all. You aren’t like those people whose elevator has gone all the way down, living in the streets with no home and seemingly no hope; you know when to stop.
You can’t imagine walking yourself into a 12-step meeting (although all you know of them is 50s movies with smoky rooms filled with forlorn, fedora-wearing failures). You forget the glamorous types: Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Jann Arden, Robert Downey Jr., Bradley Cooper, Rob Lowe, Demi Lovato, Daniel Radcliffe…and that’s just a few.
But if they do cross your mind, you remember that they’re all rich; they must all have gone to some posh resort and gotten sober in anonymity, your sharp mind tells you. Yes, most of those people, if not all, have a lot of zeroes in their bank account (in the right places, mind you). But you’re forgetting the meetings, those 12-step gatherings, where there’s no bouncer at the door, just a greeter. Who you think you are, what you earn or what you have is immaterial; it’s what you want – sobriety – that is the only price of admission.
I was tired of hiding. Tired of feeling ashamed. Tired of not moving forward. Tired of looking so tired. Tired of the weight gain. Tired of the lethargy. Tired of depression. Tired of the fog: forgetting words when I needed them, having to check emails to see if I’d answered, tired of not knowing how a movie ended. Just. So. Tired.
If you’re tired, you know, a brighter morning awaits. And however you decide to stop – whether it’s writing to a stranger or calling a friend, Googling “find AA meeting near me” (online these days or safely distanced in a parking lot somewhere), looking up treatment centres or picking up a book that resonates with you (for me it was A Thinking Person’s Guide to Sobriety by Bert Pluymen) and reading it, then re-reading it numerous times – it’s never too early and never too late. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” they say.
Some of us quit in our forties (and again in our fifties); others in their twenties, and some even in their sixties or seventies. It doesn’t matter what year, just the day you wake up and say you don’t want to feel like this anymore: sluggish and filled with regret and remorse for the precious days you’re just wasting, the days when you feel like doing nothing except counting the hours ’til the wine comes out of the fridge or it’s time to crack that beer. That’s the day it all begins. The day you say no more – but just for today.
Because that’s all it is. Today…and hope for another one. Why else do you think we say “One Day at a Time?”
I’ll be back with you Thursday. And, oh, so grateful.