The Day I Quit Drinking

4.08.2019


Sitting on the beach in Hawaii on January 5th, 2019, I had a drink that was the beginning of the end of my drinking career. I can't say exactly how or why I knew for sure that it was going to be that way, but like I've heard others say before me — once you're ready, you just know it.

I was ready.

Nothing super terrible happened to make me stop drinking. It wasn't a near-death experience nor a midnight hospital visit. It was, however, a lot of little things that very well could have turned into a near-death experience and very easily could have put me in the hospital. How I escaped those situations? To that, I can only say Thank you God.

To fully grasp how much I was drinking, let me put it this way: I hadn't gone more than two days in a row without drinking since my eight year old son was born. And those two days in a row were sparse — they didn't happen often and I could count the times they did occur on one hand. They almost always only happened if I had such a severe hangover that I literally couldn't stomach taking a drop of alcohol because I was busy doing other things (fellow hangover veterans know what "other things" I'm referring to).

Oh, and my drink of choice? Vodka. The hard stuff. And more often than not, I was drinking half a fifth a day. Every single day

Sometimes, near the end, I would drink a smidge over half. I always measured how much I was drinking. It was a way for me to try and "regulate" and keep track of how much I was drinking. Because I wasn't drinking this much on just the weekends, or a night out with friends...it wasn't occasional and it wasn't random. It was part of my every day, and of course, I had responsibilities every day so in order to ease my guilt, I did everything in my power to make how much I was drinking seem "ok."

However, my drinking career didn't start only eight years ago. Yes, it had escalated to the point of drinking half a fifth a day for the most recent part of the past eight years, but I started drinking alcohol my senior year of high school, which puts me at just over two entire decades of heavy drinking. (I do want to add that I did stop completely drinking the two times I was pregnant. For me, it wasn't even a question, as I always knew I wanted to be a mom and it just wasn't an option to drink while pregnant. As much as I held onto my desire and willpower to justify my daily drinking, that desire and willpower was just as strong when it came to protecting my babies.)

Sounds extreme, I know. It was. It is. But would it surprise you if I said that almost no one knew I was drinking that much? That outwardly, it seemed like I was going about life in a normal way? My tolerance had worked its way up to me being able to drink that much, and I thought I was handling it just fine. I read stories to my kids every night, I got up in the morning and got them breakfast, drove them to school and got them there on time every day. I never called in sick to work because of my previous night of drinking. See, I had a routine. A "habit." I had a fool proof plan that worked for me so well, I thought I was making it all work seamlessly — doing life, taking care of my responsibilities, being a good mom and wife and all while enjoying my daily adult beverages that I told myself I didn't "have" to have but rather "chose" to have.

And I don't know about you, but when I woke up every single morning, mad at myself once again that I drank way too much the night before and promising myself at 3 a.m. that I was not going to drink the next day, yet always ended up pouring myself a drink right at 4 p.m. on the dot...I started to wonder, am I really choosing this or is it choosing me?

And I had my qualifiers that I had to do every day in order to feel at ease with my alcohol intake. There were things I made myself do daily in order to justify my drinking. Those included drinking tons and tons of water during the day, because if I nourished my body with tons of water before I injected poison into it, well at least I was staying a bit ahead of the game, right? I made sure I worked out consistently, because at least if I'm working out, I won't gain an insane amount of weight from the 800 calories I was drinking nightly, right? I knew that alcohol causes premature aging and *gasp wrinkles, so I spent my money on the expensive face creams that promised to diminish signs of aging, and that had to keep the negative physical effects of alcohol at bay, right? I only drank after 4 p.m., no earlier, because if I wasn't drinking at lunchtime, I surely didn't have a problem like those kind of people, right? I made sure I read my kids books every single night before I put them to bed, because if my drinking wasn't interfering with my parenting, then it couldn't be that bad, right? (Spoiler alert: it was totally interfering with my parenting.) I made sure the house was clean and tidy most days, because if I wasn't living in a pigsty, then I could tell myself the amount of alcohol I was drinking wasn't intruding on me making my house a home. I did so many things to combat my drinking because I had to ease the anxiety I had from my drinking.

Oh yeah, the anxiety. I've struggled with anxiety as far back as I can remember. I've written about it many times, including here, and the funny thing is, I started having anxiety issues right about the time I started drinking. And I absolutely, positively drank to "help" with my anxiety. I could feel my nerves buzzing and working their way up towards my head and the only thing that worked was drinking them back down with vodka. 

Except, I can tell you that it didn't work at all. It never works. 

And it wasn't interfering with my life, right? I mean, I had all these things I did to ensure that I could have my nightly cocktails. I stayed on top of things, I kept up on my responsibilities, I volunteered at my kids' school and I always went to our family doctor in order to make sure I wasn't destroying my liver. I'm not kidding, I would go see our family doctor a few times a year, mainly because I always thought I was dying of cancer. It sounds silly, but I legit would have those thoughts, and with my constant anxiety, it was all I could think about. Of course, I only had those thoughts because I knew a) that alcohol can cause cancer and b) that the amount of alcohol I was drinking was very, very unhealthy. 

Side note: I never once thought that the amount of alcohol I was drinking was not unhealthy. I knew it was, and that is why I did all my "things" to help justify it. But I also believed that it was making me happy, that it was making me fun. I wanted to hold onto my vodka so tightly that I made every excuse in the book.

So for me, going to the doctor was another way to condone my continued drinking. I had headaches constantly, and thought I had brain cancer. I went to the doctor and had a brain scan done, no cancer. Then I swore my throat was feeling unusually sore, so I went to the doctor and had a throat scan, no cancer. Then I was absolutely positive that I had breast cancer (reading the stats on alcohol and breast cancer in women scared me, as it should) so I went to the doctor and had a breast scan. No breast cancer. And I kid you not, a few months ago I was positive I had stomach cancer. I mean, I was drinking nightly, I knew all that vodka was just sitting in my stomach, how could it possibly not be eating away at my insides and causing a terminal illness?

I can clearly see now that I was just working my way down my body, scan by scan, to relieve my constant worry and anxiety that what I was doing to myself daily was slowly but surely doing irreparable damage. I was in constant turmoil with my mind and my desire to drink — and then my subsequent shame and regret over how much I had drank — that it was causing physical and mental issues to arise. I can totally remember how relieved I felt whenever the nurse would call and give me the "all clear" results on my liver test (I would always specifically ask for them to test it) and how I  would let out a big sigh of relief and then pour an extra strong drink, because I hadn't destroyed my health yet! Cheers!

Did I also mention we had private insurance? Our deductible was insanely high so almost all these procedures I insisted on having done were paid out of pocket. Did it cause financial stress? Absolutely. But it was something I told myself I had to do in order to feel at ease. Because God forbid I give up the one thing that was causing all my problems (mental, physical or otherwise).

Drinking made me happy, no way would I give it up.

Besides, it wasn't interfering with my life, right? I'm a reader, I love to read. I can't tell you how many times I would pick up my book in the morning and have to re-read multiple chapters, because I didn't remember anything I had read the night before. Or I would start to watch a TV show that I had recorded, with a vague memory of having watched it before, but not being entirely sure. "Not remembering things" was a common occurrence during my drinking days.

Don't laugh, but I love Britney Spears. I grew up with her, listening to her on the radio, and hearing her songs brings me back to good memories from my childhood. So when a friend and I decided to go to Las Vegas and see her perform during her first year of residency, I was beyond excited. Number one, I have always loved Vegas — mainly for the party atmosphere — and on top of that, I get to see my idol perform?!  

When we first looked up tickets to her concert, I knew that nothing would be good enough unless we were up front and close, and I meant the very front row. We paid big bucks to get those premium tickets, and I was so insanely excited on the night of the concert. 

Both my friend and I liked to drink, and we joked with each other before the concert that we were not going to get too drunk to enjoy her show, and I really had that intention. Why would I knowingly drink myself into oblivion before her show and not consciously enjoy it? This was a once in a lifetime opportunity (seriously, I really, really like really love Britney) and I was not going to "not remember" this one.

But that's exactly what happened. At the time, I thought I was being a "responsible drinker" and was controlling myself just enough that I had a fun buzz going but would still be able to enjoy the concert. After all, I'd traveled to Vegas to see her perform, had spent a few hundred dollars to be able to see her up close and I had been anticipating this moment for so long.

I remember almost nothing of that Britney Spears concert. 

That experience is just one of many that I've missed out on due to my drinking. Another time, my husband and I went on an all-expense paid trip to the Dominican Republic. The beach is my thing. It's where I find clarity, rest and peace. The beach in the Dominican Republic was gorgeous: all white sand, teal blue water...I remember being so excited to go on this vacation and experience a different part of the world. I knew I would have cocktails while there, but I thought I would be able to have some drinks and thoroughly enjoy myself. I always thought I would be able to have just a few drinks and thoroughly enjoy myself, yet, that rarely ended up happening. 

I remember bits and pieces from our trip, but the thing I remember the most is one particular night, after drinking all night at a club, my husband and I went back to our room and got into a major fight. (That tends to happen with couples who frequently over-drink, so I've heard.) I'm not exactly sure how it all transpired, but I do know there was yelling and things got heated and a glass was thrown against a wall and shattered in pieces. I remember running out of the room barefoot, well past midnight, up to the concierge and in-between inconsolable sobs, said I needed my own room for the night, as I couldn't sleep in the one I had with my husband. (Now I'm not blaming my husband in this fight at all, I am sure it was 50/50 responsibility. I know how I get when I drink too much and it isn't pretty. That's also a downside with drinking too much...you can't even remember whose fault it is!)

That room I had to have immediately cost $700 for the approx. six hours I used it to get some sleep, i.e. pass out. (Another thing I've learned in two decades of drinking, is it can get really, really expensive. And after it's all said and done, you've got nothing to show for it!) The next morning, my husband and I said our apologies like we always did, went on with our day, laid at the beach, went out to dinner and then had more cocktails because that's just what we did. 

Of course, no one knew that is what happened. If you looked at my social media feed from that time, I posted photo after photo of beautiful sand beaches, swim-up bars and smiling photos of myself in the pool with a cocktail in hand. That's what alcohol would do to me...I'd hide the shameful parts and pretend I had a great time.

To this day, I look back on that vacation as one of the worst times of my life.

So you see, I have a lot of making up to do. I'm not saying the past two decades of my life weren't enjoyable, not at all: I have so many amazing wonderful memories and so many incredible things have happened in my life since then, but at the same time, so have many negative, detrimental and crummy things. I think I'd like to try and see what the next decade can hold without my trusty little sidekick.

That sidekick kinda sucked at his job, anyway.

And besides, there are so many amazing things you can do when you give up alcohol. You can buy nice sunglasses again, and not just the cheap drug store ones, which you always bought because you knew you would end up losing them in the river. You can feel happy when you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, and not feel regretful when you see a blotchy, bloated face looking back at you. You can actually yes finally fit into those skinny jeans you've kept hanging in your closet all those years "just in case."

But you can also do so much more than just feel good about your physical appearance and ability to keep track of expensive purchases. You can know, like really know, that you are doing everything in your power to be the best wife you can. You can rest assured at night that when you tuck your kids into bed, they won't smell alcohol on your breath. You can know and feel deep in your soul that yes, you really, truly are happy, and none of that happiness is due to alcohol, thank you very much.

Oh, and waking up without a hangover is pretty much the best thing ever.

So here I am saying goodbye to something that had become as common in my life as toothpaste. I can't say for certainty that I will never drink again, but I can say that I'm feeling pretty good about my decision to not drink right now.

I had one of my last drinks on January 5th, 2019 on a beach in Hawaii. It was splendid, it was momentous, it was time. 

It was a well deserved end to an era. 

33 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. As the daughter of a "functioning alcoholic"* I can relate to the fights, the money spent, being able to go to parties and work and functions and no one being the wiser. When I was in college I swore on my life I would never have a relationship with my mother because of everything she had done. She's been sober and attending AA meetings for almost 9 years now and can honestly say she's one of my closest friends. We talk every day and she's moving to the state where my husband & I live when her first grandchild is born. I truly hope you continue to remember how good you feel, mentally and physically, and I hope your relationships continue to be positive.
    Some of your details were personal and dirty and awful and sharing them was a huge step. People "on the outside" probably don't know what it's really truly like to have a bad relationship with alcohol, and I hope someone reads this and has some clarity, either for themselves or to help others.

    *Please know I'm not 'diagnosing you.' I don't know how you categorize your relationship with alcohol. I'm just talking about a similar experience with my family member, and not suggesting you follow the same plan <3

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    1. Thank YOU for sharing. I am so happy for you and your mom, and the new relationship you have now that she is not drinking. All the love!

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  2. Just a follower who is proud of you...stay strong!

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  3. My husband is about to hit one year sober. It’s been the hardest year of our lives but it’s made us stronger because of it. It’s hard to share your story but it meant a lot of me.

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  4. Thank you for sharing something that no one wants to talk about. You are very brave. ��

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  5. I’m reading a book right now on this very subject. The Naked Mind how to control Alcohol. It is fascinating and inspiring. Good for you Raven. Parayers for your continued successs.

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    1. I LOVED that book. Am about to listen to it once again. It was and is amazing.

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  6. You go girl!! Love your brutal honesty on a tough subject!! Thank you for sharing!!

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    1. this comment made me laugh a little just cause "babygirl" is what my husband has me saved under in his phone lol. But thank you!!

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  7. I know I commented on your Instagram post, but I have to come here to say it again: you are so awesome! It's really brave of you to share your story with such transparent honesty. There were many parts where I felt like I could have been reading about myself. I, too, have gone to the doctor thinking I was having a heart attack and I've also had them test my liver. *I've never told anyone that before* Thinking to myself that drinking my wine every night is "cool" and makes my mom duties easier and more fun. Sleeping like shit and waking up with a headache or nausea almost every morning. Being too embarrassed to ask my husband (again) about events from the previous night. I could go on...

    I've been a follower of yours for many years because you've always been so relatable, and being able to relate to this post encourages me to get my own act together and stop letting alcohol control me. Thank you! <3

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    1. Being embarrassed to ask your husband about things that happened the previous night...that was a common thing with me also. I didn't want to ask because I didn't want to hear. Thank you so much for your comment and I think the "cool club" is shifting ;)

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  8. SO much resonated with me; I need to do some reevaluating. All the best to you.

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  9. I am so fucking proud of you, my girl. And I'm right there with you, and behind you :)

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  11. You are so brave to open up as you did and I know someone out there can relate to what you're going through. I know I've had people in my life who have also struggled like you have and are doing better. So kudos to you for acknowledging that this was a problem that you needed to rectify for your health, your family and your overall well being. You got this! Keep it up and keep being open minded and maybe even go to an AA meeting. I went with my ex when he became sober and to this day, he's still sober, even though we're not together. You can't do it alone so if AA helps or even family, you need all the help you can get. Best wishes!!

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  13. Was looking for something like this today, thanks for putting this up!

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  14. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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  16. blessings, so brave!

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  17. I relate to this post 100 percent. Everything, right down to the not remembering things, to having fights with my husband not remembering whos fault or what it was about, to losing my Ray Bans in Mexico after I just got married. I got a 19 month old boy, and I don't want him to smell the alcohol on my breath when I put him to bed, or ever.. I relate to this soo much. I would really like to talk on a deeper level on this to see what you do to pass the time, how much you think about drinking, how you overcome the overall urge to do it. I also noticed you have lost a ton of weight and look great. Your living your best life and would love any tips you could lend to me... Thank you for sharing, you have no idea how much this blog post means to me.

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  18. شركة شام للخدمات المنزليه تقدم افضل خدمات المنازل بالدمام والمنطقة الشرقيه وذلك بافضل الاسعار واعلي معايير الجوده والاتقان ، ولمزيد من المعلومات عن كافة الخدمات التي تقدمها الشركه الرجاء زيارة الرابط التالي
    شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام
    او هذا الرابط
    شركة تنظيف مجالس بالدمام شركة شام
    اخيرا اعزائي العملاء وليس اخرا يسعد جميع العاملين بشركة شام المثاليه للخدمات المنزليه الحصول علي شرف خدمتكم لذا لا تتردد واتصل بنا الان واحجز خدمتك المرجوه ونحن بخدمتك .

    ReplyDelete

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