Not drinking for that time in my late twenties became my primary obsession. I thought about not drinking the way only a true alcoholic can. With the freed-up time, energy and crippling self-hatred, I made quick work of reforming myself. I believed my “problem” was actually that I was still single and not meeting the right kind of guys in bars. I decided that if I could refashion my whole self, lose like 40 pounds and get a nice guy, with a job, to agree to marry me, then, I’d surely live happily ever after. I found that putting my mind to this did manifest the scenario I’d imagined would end all my problems. (I’ve found, as an alcoholic, that we do know how to get after a goal. Think about it, we are drinkers who are fantastic at getting tremendously fucked up, which is all we wanted but I digress.)
So, I had found a guy who could, with the right encouragement, relieve me of the bondage of my singlehood. He knew only what I was willing to share with him and thought I was a real catch because I made it my business to stay on brand, go to yoga sometimes and hide my drinking and checkered past. What could go wrong?
Drinking started to worm its way back
Once I knew I had him, drinking slowly started to worm its way back into our lives. I made a lot of rules about my consumption that eroded faster than I could make them. I hated only having an appropriate amount of alcohol, but could on occasion. However, the regularity of our drinking dates grew despite my desire to be a respectable marrying type of girl. We pretended we were young and in love and not at all spooked by the prospect of having to grow up someday soon. Looking back on that time, I think we were both unwilling to look at the fact that something was preventing us from moving forward. We watched as most of our peers had already started to leave us behind. The turn came after we had been married and my troubles still sat in the corner, unsolved and calling to question my clever avoidance strategy.
Falling in love and getting married was fun but it hadn’t solved ALL MY PROBLEMS. Worse, being married came with the inevitable question of whether or not we intended to start a family. That Valentine’s Day I tearfully broke the news over an enormous Martini that I was painfully far from ready to start the family I had thought we both might want. Even then, I didn’t know I wasn’t ready because I wasn’t ready to quit drinking.
My lived experience up until then hadn’t filled me with any desire to do really hard things. 1. It would potentially endanger my drinking and 2. I couldn’t bear the idea of not being great at something. My sense of self was directly linked to making people think I was the best.
What chronic self-centered perfectionist isn’t terrified of being a Mom?
So, Motherhood was out. That was very clear to me. It was going to be a huge problem. It was this looming monster that there was no way to best. What chronic self-centered perfectionist isn’t terrified of being a Mom? Even if I wasn’t a perfectionist, society has laid on the expectations for mothers pretty thick. Selflessness being the biggest of the expectations. Up until then, I had never thought to do anything for anyone without considering how it might benefit me. I didn’t get how this being a Mom thing was supposed to work. Also, there are limited celebrated images of Mommy passed out on the floor while junior plays. We don’t even want to allow room for women to be bad moms sometimes, let alone admit to the collective panic we feel about Moms who can’t begin to care for their children because they are in the depths of their active addictions.
Like most addicts, I had one fairly effective go-to coping skill, drinking myself into oblivion. Sure, it had it’s very serious repercussions, but those were never going to prevent me from continuing to reach for that soothing elixir. Before conception, I feared what would happen if I tried to bring this behavior into the life of a child. In my heart of hearts, I knew that was not the kind of mother I wanted to be. So, I thought I’d just skip it, instead. Take a hard pass on being a mother altogether. That was how drinking worked in my life. If my life couldn’t make room for my drinking, my drinking decided I would make my life work for it. I’ve come to understand this warped sense of priorities more clearly after having gotten sober. It’s hard to fathom that I sincerely believed continuing to drink would better serve me and my life than the experience of bringing forth a new human life.
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.