As usual after a setback, I’ve procrastinated returning here to the blogging world to report another defeat. It’s hard not to feel like this story is getting old, the endless attempts I’ve made to stay sober only to disappear after a couple of weeks (sometimes not even making it that far!), then return and start over with the same, tired intentions. Part of me almost feels like it’s irresponsible to keep writing, to readers who are obviously so much better at staying sober than I am and who are apparently taking it more seriously. What could I possibly say that is helpful to anyone, when I keep failing?
That’s one way to feel. The other way to feel is that I have the power to say, “This is not how my story will end.” Yes, I have let myself down countless times since I started this journey back in November. I have changed my mind about a billion times about whether or not alcohol is a problem for me. (Which is pretty indicative of a problem, all this excruciating thinking.) Yes, after 11 days sober, I had two glasses of wine at dinner with my husband on the way to the airport to New York, and proceeded to drink every day for the past 11 days. But this doesn’t have to be the end. I can pick myself up and try again.
Every time this happens I’m learning about whether I have “a problem.” Every time I pick up drinking again, it’s because I become convinced that I’m simply being dramatic and that alcohol is not a problem for me. That I’m strong enough to prevent it from becoming a problem. That I just want to be normal and that I in fact AM normal, because most of my friends drink like I do. But every time, there are more and more hints that maybe that’s not true. When I’m not drinking, I have a front row seat to actually see people’s lack of drinking. That it’s not as big a deal as I make it out to be.
When I am drinking, I’ve started to notice how fast I drink compared to other people, and that I have to concentrate to get myself to slow down to their pace. I notice that I feel irritated when I have to pace myself in this way, and that I can’t believe how slow people drink and that sometimes their glass of wine just SITS there, untouched, for what feels like hours. I’ve noticed that each time I pick up drinking again, I drink more and more in secret. That the urge to drink secretly is more and more present and seems more and more acceptable in my own head. I’ve noticed that when I am drinking, more and more often I cannot totally remember the night and I have to piece it back together the next day. This morning, it took me about a half hour to remember what happened when we got home from dinner. When I did remember, my stomach turned a bit; I had called my mom and talked to her for at least a half an hour. I’m sure she couldn’t tell I was drunk… right?
One of the things that makes it the hardest for me to embrace that I have a problem is that no one else sees it. My husband will listen to me swear off alcohol, and he’ll promise to help me, but when I decide to have a drink he doesn’t try to stop me. He’ll ask me if I’m sure, and then let me decide. I don’t know what else I’d have him do. And this last time, it was great. We had an awesome date at a beautiful wine bar and enjoyed every minute of it. I am terrified of losing the ability to enjoy wine in that way. Especially when he doesn’t see the problem for me… but he doesn’t live inside my head and feel the inevitable pull towards the daily obsession that happens after even one casual light drinking evening. Once the “I’m drinking now” switch is flipped, it’s like I’m scared to take a day off because I’d be missing out on my drinking days that will have to come to an end again soon. How crazy is that?? So I drank each day, never too much or too crazy, but a little more each day. Until yesterday, when I was happy that my husband took the dog out for a walk around the block, so that I would have time to drink from an open wine bottle I had concealed in the wine cellar, under the guise of doing laundry downstairs. Even though we were going to dinner shortly where I could order wine, and I had already had two drinks at the pool a bit earlier.
So yeah. I have a problem. But this is not how my story will end. So here I am again, on day one. Someday I will look back on this and think, “Remember how many times it took me of trying before I quit for good??” And someone out there will be having the same struggle. And I will understand. And I will say to them, “Your story is not over. I get you. Keep trying.”