Yet again I have been overwhelmed with some beautifully written end of programme blogs, and just cannot resist posting this additional one for June.
Hi. My name is Darcy, and I’m not an alcoholic… But I did have a problem with alcohol, and I could see myself heading towards possibly being one.
Everyone’s definition of being an alcoholic is different. My dependence on alcohol started about 11 years ago when my family bought a home on a lake, and it was a big, fat party up there. Suddenly, I realized I could have a few cocktails every night of the week, because up there, every day was Saturday! Woo hoo! It was fun for awhile, but once summer was over, another light bulb went on that said, “You can drink any day of the week at home!”
Tack onto that that this was the early 2000’s when nap time was the new happy hour, and moms were partying up a storm. There were books and blogs and recipes,and all sorts of fun excuses to drink. I had two little kids, and was in the midst of launching my first entrepreneurial endeavor, a magazine for moms about which I was extremely passionate. Part of the premise of the magazine was staying connected to the authentic woman (even more basic, person) you were in addition to being a mom. I had a voice in me that I couldn’t contain, and I was determined to create this magazine because I knew mothers needed it.
I was not unlike so many moms I knew – truly overjoyed at the little people I helped to create, while hungering for creative expression, connection to my passion as a woman, my sensuality, my deep quest for spirituality and my desire for open, honest dialogue about motherhood – the good, bad and ugly. I was past parenting magazines. I wanted one all for me. I put out six issues, launched a few websites, learned a ton, and tried with all my might to turn it into a viable business. I turned to Pinot Grigio, Cabernet and Merlot for stress relief and to manage the sadness I felt that my third baby didn’t manifest the way I dreamed it would.
Little by little, over the years, I found I couldn’t stop. I would will myself to stop every day, and 5:00 would roll around The cork would come undone. I would justify it by spending a lot of money on each bottle and feeling like a connoisseur of sorts. I would space it through the evening, and ultimately, downing a bottle of wine a night was a piece of cake and pretty regular. Going out with friends and other couples always resulted in more than a bottle for me, even though I would convince myself otherwise. My goal became to get more drink. Just one more glass. Even at 1:00 in the morning before going home to bed. “What bar is open now?” God forbid the party end. (Or the escape, I should say.)
I started to convince myself that I was an alcoholic. I took assessments on line, I read tons of books about the subject, and finally, I went to a few AA meetings. But something inside me just didn’t resonate with the disease mentality and labeling of being an alcoholic. That’s just me. I have friends who are alcoholics in recovery, and my respect for them and the 12 Step process is immense. It just didn’t resonate FOR ME.
More so than being an ‘alcoholic,’ alcohol became for me a crutch and something I thought I was depending on for relief. I didn’t realize the power of the drug of alcohol – how it covers all the bases: happy, sad, angry, bored, irritated, you name it. There literally was never a reason NOT to drink. Book club was a cover up for wine club (for me), and cooking was an excuse to sip while creating. Thursday was almost Friday, and Wednesday was my daughter’s dance night and all the moms hit the Mexican restaurant for Margaritas. Literally, there was (is) ALWAYS an excuse to drink.
I started to notice that I was envious of people who didn’t drink. I wanted to be like them – not a slave to my nightly habit.
It doesn’t really even matter how this dependence evolved. What matters is what I was noticing about myself as I continued to drink this way and make every excuse in the book convincing myself that I was ‘just like the Europeans.’ My eyes were constantly puffy, I drove buzzed with the kids sometimes, gained weight, gave up on getting nice clothes and started shopping at lower quality stores as I intended to get back to my size. I was constantly sad, forgetting things, taking on too much, arguing with my husband, and not realizing the incredible value that my sanity lent to my family. I was ‘doing my job’ for the most part very well, working a bit, and having fun. I DESERVED to have a few glasses of expensive wine every night if it took the edge off of the stress in my life. But I was spinning my wheels day after day, week after week and on and on and on.
It oodled me for years. It eroded my sense of accomplishment because I simply couldn’t break the habit. I was convinced of the deeply held belief that I had buried in my subconscious and was manifesting in my every day life; the internal belief that said “I am a loser.”
No one would ever suspect that I was a loser as I worked hard for many years convincing myself that I was not. I have many degrees, licenses, accomplishments, a solid marriage of 24 years, never left a job on bad terms, respect and love from my family. I had done things – run a marathon, rode a century, lots of different things to combat this perpetual feeling. But it remained. And I believe that IT was the primary reason why I drank – to try to quiet down that critical voice that no matter what I did, would not allow me to see my true worth as a person. (I am a deeply spiritual and practicing Christian as well. That didn’t help either. Except that God lead me to Sarah TurnerJ)
After stumbling upon Soberistas and Sarah’s book, The Sober Revolution, I thought I had found my home in this arena of my life. Finally, someone who was on to new thoughts about alcohol and its sneaky ways of sucking life away and manipulating me – without the disease mentality. After a lot of thought, and a TON of fear, I quietly and on my own reached out to Sarah – who completely understood what I was saying, didn’t call me an alcoholic, and told me she could help me ‘put alcohol in its place’ in my life.
I signed up, and over the weeks leading up to my time with Sarah, found an alternative non alcoholic drink, and continued to drink nightly, but noticed I was cutting back substantially and was quite relieved that there was an end in sight. The fear leading up to that point was incredibly real, however. I really get that. Making this change can be quite terrifying as alcohol is a very powerful lure and liar. Imagining life without it can be downright – unimaginable.
But let me tell you, when you’re on the other side….. Oh my!!! Life is Amazing! I’ll get to that in a minute. My six weeks with Sarah were much more meaningful than I had expected. I had thought that just writing every day certainly wouldn’t be enough. But I trusted her because her track record was very high with her program. The writing was unfiltered stream of consciousness writing (hence, connecting with myself in a real and vivid way and being accountable to someone with the same experience as you in this arena). Wow. The daily challenges to the way I spoke to myself and the deep false beliefs I held about myself along with removing the poison of alcohol from my brain and body set me up to be ripe for creating conditions that would change my life.
The lies I had been living with. The unfair way I spent my time, giving it away to people who didn’t deserve it. Constant questioning of my decisions, parenting, career, just about every aspect of my life. I was exhausted by the perfectionistic expectations I put on myself. And often, pretty embarrassed writing them down! Sarah encouraged me to set the bar low. To lower my expectations big time, to allow my body to detox and heal, to rewire my brain and thinking. To learn to tame the dragon that had become way too comfortable on the sofa of my subconscious mind. (He’s a lot smaller now, but he’s still there. I’m being much nicer to him now as well.)
After my time with Sarah, I feel a combination of a recognition of my younger self and the responsible woman of 48 that I am today. I feel much more in charge of my life, my relationships, my decisions, and my time (which I have a LOT more of now that I’m not wasted or hungover for ½ of it.) I wake up and have an hour of quiet time, and my kids come into my space in the morning and see this. I am being a model and finally it is a good and true version of myself. I am very sorry that I mistreated myself for so long and having a lot more compassion towards myself now. I see how even my relationship with God had become co-dependent, not healthy or meaningful but full of shame and not being good enough.
The best thing Sarah said to me at the end of my journey with her was, “It’s time to have faith in Darcy.” I forgot this a long long long time ago. I think maybe 38 years ago. I am so relieved I have come full circle and remembered how important this notion is in my life. Because that’s just it. This is my LIFE. No one else’s. It’s mine. And now I am living it on my terms.