All this secrecy is making things complicated. Today, I told my partner I had set a quit date, in a month. He didn’t really understand because I thinks I am already 99% sober. I told him that the cravings (I didn’t mention the actual drinking) happen when I am alone, not when he is around. He understood and was supportive, and told me that “I was already doing it”, which in a twisted way is true as far as the three last days are concerned. Anyway, now he won’t think it’s weird if I suddenly become obsessed with sobriety. I’ve been talking a lot about it for the last 3 days. Today I noticed that the irritability of the last two days has transformed into a high sensitivity and tenderness. I am also on my period.
Also, today, out of the blue, my mother called.My mother is a heavy alcoholic, and a retired addictologist… Sigh. We live on different continents- both physically and emotionally. I spent most of my life angry at her, but now we keep things civil. Mind you, I suppose we did even during all those years when I was angry. We are one of those families that doesn’t talk about stuff and keeps it all nice and repressed. My sister smokes a ton of weed. My brother goes out and drinks and does Molly regularly. My other brother is a workaholic. I am the only one in the family to have EVER gone to therapy. My sister is still too afraid to go.
Today, on the phone my mother was drunk and slurring her words, it was 10 pm where she lives. But at least she seemed in a somewhat ok mood. When I announced my desire to be sober for 3 months, she asked if “this another one of your starvation meditation retreats where they only give you vegetable juice?” (This, I believe, is a reference to the 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat I went on last summer, where they serve plenty of delicious vegetarian FOOD, and there is absolutely nothing involving starvation or vegetable juice, in case you were wondering). She then asked me if I was sure I was not being paranoid about being an alcoholic. Ahem. This, I know, is coming from her own denial and need to protect herself from guilt and aggression. I get it. I also made sure to make the whole conversation about me, not about her. (I even refrained from laughing when she said “I am your mother, Lucy, not your addictologist, so I am not the person to give you advice”… I refrained from saying that I didn’t ask for any advice!). To her question about me paranoid in my desire to stop drinking (i.e. her denial of my, and therefore her, alcoholism), I responded that drinking every day, finding it VERY hard to not drink and drinking in secret were all probably sufficient red flags to justify a break. She had no counter-arguments. My mother drinks to “deal with her anxiety” and pours her first glass of wine at 11:00 AM. She doesn’t stop until she goes to sleep. She literally does nothing else but drink and sit in front of the TV now that she is no longer working. When she worked she would drink about two bottles of red wine every evening. I have given up on trying to change/help/save her. Her drinking has always been a huge taboo in our family, For years she couldn’t even deal with talking about it. Once especially difficult year (I must have been 18), I told her how I really felt. I let it all out. My outburst caused a huge conflict, lead us to drift apart for a couple of years, but made no difference in her drinking. I have known her to drink as early as 7:00 AM during especially difficult times of her life, like when her father died. She is a sad woman. She has made a lot of people around her sad too. But at the age of 31, I have reached a point where I am sad for her, for us, but not angry anymore. It’s still hard – watching her carry her wine box and glass into the passenger’s seat of the car because she can’t sit for 30 minutes without a drink – watch my dad pretend everything is normal – watch and say nothing either, except maybe a sigh of disbelief and anger. This is how I grew up: say nothing, keep quiet, don’t make things worse).
By the end of our phone conversation this afternoon, she was drunkenly ranting about something else, and I was fighting back tears of frustration at having to JUSTIFY myself about being sober instead of finding some kind of support. When we hung up she was encouraging, though. She even said something about me being an “extraordinary person” (in response to me reassuring her and saying that apart from the meditating and the sobriety, I would still be a “normal” person). Maybe she was worried that I would cut myself off from the family – my cousin who is in AA refuses to see anyone who drinks (too bad our whole family drinks)… more on that another day. She said “I love you” and I muttered “I love you bye” before hanging up. I said it to her for the first time this year, on the phone. It was a big step. It’s still hard for me to say. I have never said it to her (or to my father or siblings) in person. Yep… nice and repressed, that’s how we do 🙂
Naively thinking that I might find support in people my own age, I texted a friend from abroad who had expressed worry to me last year about her drinking habits. I told her I had signed up for a 3 month sobriety challenge. Well guess what… she was ALSO SKEPTICAL ! She warned me to “avoid extremes”, cause those are “always bad”. It’s as if the people I told today were clinging to their desire for me to keep drinking, JUST A LITTLE BIT. After feeling sorry for myself, then remembering that I am not doing this for other people (or to get their support/approval/validation), it hit me: some people might want their friends and loved ones too keep drinking because that keeps the problem (their own problem) buried under the surface. Maybe they want me to still drink, but moderately in exactly the same way that the alcoholic part of me keeps begging for JUST ONE DRINK. Which is almost never just one. Anyway, whatever their motives are, I know that I just want to spend a significant period of time WITHOUT having to think about or fight against the desire for MORE alcohol. It’s so exhausting to have to say “no” once you have had a bit. I don’t want to live with the constant need to control, to moderate, to refrain, to feel frustrated, to be unsatisfied. With alcohol off the table entirely, I am FREE from that nagging desire. I can free up mental space and emotional energy for other stuff. This is why I wanted to call my blog “There is more to life than just beer” (and not “stop doing this really bad thing, you bad person”): I want to explore the multiple things that life has to offer once I get rid of this thing that had become my single object of obsession and used up SO MUCH time and attention that I literally was not interested in anything else. Oh, and THIS IS THE THIRD DAY IN A ROW without a drink, the second by myself. I feel vulnerable and also kind of proud.
No matter what you are trying to do, remember, you can do it!