Yep, you heard, me: day 2, not 1.
Why, you ask? Because, my friend, for me, day 1 was spent in bed, running to the bathroom to puke bile every hour, nursing the worst hangover I have had in a very very long time.
Let me rewind a little bit.
Two weeks ago, I hopped on a plane to my home country for a well-deserved holiday, after an intense summer of work. Back home (I’m not trying to justify anything here, just saying), drinking is part of every day life, of the culture, it’s “what we do”. Or at least, it’s what the people I’ve surrounded myself with throughout the years do. All the time. My family and friends all drink. Because I knew I would be going back home this summer, I knew I would want to “enjoy myself” one last time before my quit date, which I set for my return.
And enjoy myself I did! For about a week. At first it was just one or two drinks. Soon, I needed 3 to get a buzz, and by the end of the two weeks I found myself obsessing about drinking and gulping the drinks down faster than most of my friends, thinking about the next one before I finished the previous one, and waking up to hangovers like that was a normal part of life. Still, it felt like I was “having fun” and my “well deserved” alcoholic reward.
Then, on week 2 I went to visit my parents, which is when shit started to hit the fan.
My mother is a heavy alcoholic (and, I think, a narcissist). I spent my whole childhood being sad for unknown reasons and my teenage years being silently angry at “the monster” that was my mother. She has been an alcoholic for the last 35 years, with occasional month-long periods of sobriety. My father, my siblings and I tried several times to get her to quit. She saw several addictologists, who (surprise) all ended up being “incompetent”. All her attempts failed. Now she drinks when she wakes up, she drinks in the car (yep, she brings a fucking wine box and glass and sits in the passengers’ seat sipping wine like it’s a normal thing to do), she drinks during meals, before meals, after meals. My dad (a quiet, hard-working, emotionally incompetent Protestant type) is the enabler, who takes her shit and pours her “top up” after “top up”. I spent most of my 20’s being angry at him for being so passive. For several years now, he has resigned himself to living with (and taking care of) a depressed, obese woman who no longer has a job, treats him like shit, has hip replacements but can barely walk, and drinks herself into oblivion (or worse, an angry drunk) every day. My parents’ life over the years has shrunk into becoming a black hole of isolation and co-dependent hell.
Needless to say my siblings and I all fled the nest as soon as we could. I see my parents once or twice a year. Living abroad is a convenient excuse. I have worked hard in therapy to deal with the anger, sadness and guilt that all this has caused, and am still working on it. Going back to the nest feels ok for a day or two, but then starts to feel like hell. We all grew up in silence, treading on eggshells and unable to express our feelings. Therapy has helped my to set boundaries and speak up when I feel like thing have gone too far.
Nowadays, my tolerance limit with my parents is about 2 days. After that, the mind games, the addictions, the arguments, the drama and conflict are too much for me to handle. This summer, I stormed out of their house on two occasions, completely overwhelmed by the unhealthy manipulation and drunken aggressivity. The second time, I left after telling my mother “you need a psychiatrist”. Going back to their house turns me into the angry 14 year old I was never allowed to be. We did “make up” on the last day, mostly to make my father feel better, but it was artificial. I was happy to leave. It was a question of survival.
During my stay, there was one notable and useful event. When I was alone with my father, I brought up a topic that had never crossed my mind and was mentioned to me by my little brother the previous week. I asked my dad if there was any hidden trauma in the family that would explain why my mother is so unhappy, beyond the alcoholism. He confirmed that as children, my mother and her siblings (two heavy alcoholics, one of them who died of alcoholism) were repeatedly sexually molested by an uncle of theirs. This was both a shock (especially as my father “never really talked about it with my mother”. sigh.) and a huge relief. Turns out, unlike what I had grown to believe throughout the years: I am not doomed to become like my mother. There is no “curse” in my blood or DNA, there is an exterior, empirical traumatic event that was not dealt with. I am not my mother. I didn’t mention the whole matter to her, since a) she was never sober b) I was not sure she could handle it or c) that it was my place to do so.
I had never suspected that there was another reason that made my mother so fucked up. I had never stopped to think that the alcohol did not appear out of nowhere, but was used to self-medicate for a wound that was never healed. I am happy and proud to be the first one in my family to go to therapy and break the cycle of shame and silence and addiction.
Going back to alcohol-hell made me remember where I come from and where I don’t want to end up. Gave me even more motivation for my sober journey.
After my trip, on the day that my plane landed, I had a department event: pizza and drinks. This was my “last chance” to “enjoy myself” before my quit date. Despite the jet lag and exhaustion from traveling, despite the fact that I neither knew not liked most of the people there, I went to the event. I didn’t care about anything except drinking. And boy, did I drink. I gulped the drinks down until people started saying “Anne, I am worried about your jet lag”, or “wow, you really need to go to bed”. And I kept drinking, “having fun”. The next morning I spent vomiting and feeling the pain of having poisoned my body so violently the night before. I texted my partner to say I was hungover and couldn’t get lunch with him. He was very disappointed, and texted me “Is that why you didn’t want to see me last night? So you could drink? I feel like you chose alcohol over me, and like I was lied to”. Despite my apology and his “forgiveness”, I know he is still upset with me.
So yeah, for me day 1 was easy. It was practically nonexistent. A cloud of pain and shame. This morning, I woke up very early. I was sewing a hole in an old pair of shorts of mine, and you bet: my fingers were shaking.
The real shit starts now.
I no longer want to make tortured decisions about whether to drink or not to drink. This single decision, whereby alcohol is off the table altogether no matter what, is freeing. I want to be free from hell.
During my hangover I finished listening to This Naked Mind, which really helped me get ready over the last few weeks. https://www.amazon.com/This-Naked-Mind-Discover-Happiness/dp/B078F9NDFS/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=this+naked+mind+drinking&qid=1567784774&s=gateway&sr=8-2
I am more motivated than ever.
Whoever is out there and trying hard: you can do this ! Stay strong!