In my early twenties I tried to go a whole week without a drink, and that taught me a lesson. Never Do That Again. And I didn’t, for another twenty-five years. I’d decided I wasn’t going to be an alcoholic, that just wasn’t going to happen. And somehow, I managed to believe it for a long time. Talk about denial.
After I’d been sober for a few years, I was still saying, and believing, that I’d never lost a job or lost my family or been arrested because of alcohol. Then, one day when I was preparing to tell my story at a meeting, it hit me out of the blue that none of that was accurate.
True, I wasn’t fired from a job, but after I got involved with my boss, along with lots of alcohol, he dumped me for someone else in the office, and I couldn’t face him or the job every day, so I quit. At the time, I was a single parent with three children and had no other way to support us.
I’m a member of a large extended family who, for decades, got together three times a year. I enjoyed the gatherings, but at the same time I dreaded them because I knew everyone looked down on me. I was the only one who wasn’t married, I had the most children, and I made the least money. After I was sober, I discovered that they had never felt that way. They hadn’t looked down on me. I had pulled away from them.
Although, technically, I never got arrested for drinking, on my wedding day (how could I have forgotten this?) my new husband and I were drinking champagne (after finishing a few bottles at the reception) as we drove from Houston to Corpus Christi for our honeymoon. We might have gotten away with it if I hadn’t been distracting him, causing him to weave all over the road. As it was, we were stopped by the Highway Patrol, and I spent three of the longest hours of my life drinking strong, bitter coffee in the waiting room of a police station in Ganado, Texas. Today we’d have been arrested for that, and rightly so, but they let us go when we were good and hungover and miserable. Not a great way to start a marriage.
Even today, after twenty-six years of sobriety, I sometimes think of all the energy I wasted, denying that I was an alcoholic; and as the years went by, it got harder and harder. The way I feel today, clean and sober, is the way I wanted to feel when I drank. But to get here, I had to stop denying what I knew in my heart to be true and accept the fact that I was an alcoholic. And not to just say it, but to accept it down to my toes. Only then, was I ready to do something about it. The freedom and self-respect it has given me is a wonderful thing.