“It takes what it takes,” they like to say in the rooms of recovery, a place I never thought I would find myself about half way through my first trimester. But, there I was. It was late spring, I was in my early thirties, pregnant and finally facing a fear I’d probably carried with me since my very first drink. I was terrified that I had no idea how to only drink an appropriate amount of alcohol and that people would surely not love me if they only knew. But worst of all, that probably meant I was an alcoholic.
I hadn’t been able to honestly look at my drinking and the death grip it had me in, until I found myself a little pregnant three Springs ago. I was sitting at the kitchen table in our apartment in Brooklyn, newly married and starring at a pregnancy test as it slowly shifted to barely positive. In that moment, I was 100% positive that I’d never beÂ able to avoid consuming alcohol for anything close to nine months in a row, which is a fairly given expectation for expecting women. Well, some circles allow for a little wine every now and then, but I’d never been satisfied with a little wine so I truly didn’t know how I was going to manage. That this was my first and most pressing concern to follow my pregnancy test, proved both telling and life saving. Most women would probably have celebrated being blessed with a child after only one attempt at conception, but I wasn’t most women. I was freaking the fuck out.
Over the next few weeks the state of shock lingered. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. Panic and denial took turns protecting me from the very real possibility that I would all too soon be responsible for another human being. That thought alone was worse than the morning sickness and constant trips to the bathroom. A human being that I made a conscious decision to invite into my womb was going to need me to get my shit together, post haste. I sincerely had no idea how I was going to pull that off.
“Oh God, what have I done?” Played on a loop in my head for weeks, as I munched sleeves of saltines and napped in the middle of most afternoons. This white hot terror prevented me from moving anywhere near acceptance. Forget about joy or gratitude or celebration. I was stuck. I received this gift of life like a spoiled child cleverly biding her time until she could find a way to give it back without anyone finding out. My disassociated response to this life altering moment horrified me most of all. This crippling fear would carry me straight into the welcoming rooms of recovery.
Like most addicts, I came by alcohol addiction fairly honestly. My father and mother were both adult children of alcoholics. My father’s Mother and Father did eventually find sobriety and recovery. But my father, Flynt, sadly, was not as lucky. He managed to drink himself to death by the age of 55. My childhood was marked by the chaos, neglect and abuse that is typical of homes plagued by active addiction. I survived but acquired few healthy adult skills outside of self reliance, over achieving and an obsessive need to maintain a perfect outward appearance. In moments of intense fear, which became more regular as adulthood pressed on, I began instead to rely more heavily on denial, avoidance and self destruction. Oh, and blame. My problems could always be located outside of myself, placing me comfortably in the helpless victim role, where I could justify most of my despicable behaviors away. You’d drink too if you had my life, I thought with annoying frequency.
My father’s death from alcoholism marked the beginning of my own slow self demise. The sadness I felt from his loss was unbearable and it was all too easy for me to get lost in an unmentionable amount of whiskey. I hid my dependency in justification after justification. I was young and living in a city where bars closed at 4 AM and everyone I knew drank too much. The effectiveness of booze wore off for me fairly quickly and I soon added drugs and dangerous men to the mix, so that my pain could only surface sporadically as self hatred, after nights of exceptionally poor judgement which increased with startling regularity.
My twenties had me veering way off course and I eventually landed in therapy. I was able to start talking about what had happened in my early life while still acting out in increasingly harder to defend ways. When pressed by my therapist about whether I thought I had a problem with alcohol myself, I categorically denied the possibility and managed to stop drinking to prove it. This was also (mostly) to put my own fears to rest, for it was inconceivable that drinking was my problem. I just needed to dry out a bit, get my life sorted, so I could eventually drink again, but this time like a lady. There was no way that I was one those awful alcoholics who was doomed to never drink again.
If your drinking or a loved one’s drinking feels out of control, Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are two organizations are free to all seeking relief. They are a great place to begin your journey of recovery.