On 23 July 2018, I celebrated 12 whole years of sobriety. My relationship with alcohol, like most relationships, was complex.
Alcoholism runs in my family and was part of my daily life from the day I was born 54 years ago.
In many ways, it was kind of my destiny; everything was already in place. Genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and psychological tendencies; my progressive descent into alcoholism was marked, like signposts, by significant relationships with men throughout my journey.
The groundwork was laid when I met my first love at 16 years old. It was a wonderful relationship. I couldn’t have created a better match for myself if I’d whipped him up in a laboratory.
We were together, on and off, for 15 years. I always knew we’d met too young; there was no way we were going to settle down and marry right out of high school or college. And, like most teens, we ‘experimented’ with drugs and alcohol.
Smoking weed was a regular activity. Weekends were reserved for parties, football games or lying around in parks with wine coolers.
I took to drinking like a fish to water. I loved it and was very good at it. I weighed around 100 pounds through my teens and twenties, but found I could easily ‘out-drink’ almost any guy I knew, no matter his size. I didn’t learn until much later in life that such a high tolerance is not a good thing.
By my mid-twenties, I was drinking fairly regularly and often to the point of blacking out. I lived a carefree lifestyle, always highly functional, but bailing on things like jobs I became bored with or places I lived.
And ultimately, I bailed on my first love, when I met Casey at age 26.
We were together for just under three years, and in that time, I transitioned from ‘problem drinker’ to ‘alcoholic’. Of course I didn’t see that at the time; this disease sneaks up on you. Nor am I laying blame. But he was my tipping point. When you find someone that you click with on several levels; emotionally, sexually, intellectually, but who also shares your propensity for drinking .. well, it was like hitting the jackpot. My relationship with him validated my relationship with alcohol, and normalized it.
Of course, we had other things in common including a wicked sense of humor, the same tastes in music (except he liked country music, which I couldn’t stand, and still can’t hear to this day without thinking of him), we both loved to dance and we both loved to read. Often, he would read aloud to me; I still miss that. Our ‘singing-in-the-car’ skills were unmatched; sometimes he’d turn off the radio and ask me to sing to him. We both loved dogs, and his big black lab, Blue, was like our child. Our being-in-motion and being-at-rest rhythms were miraculously in sync. Our sex life was magical. Whilst not overly demonstrative with his affections, once in a while he’d make a grand gesture that took my breath away. One time, I got out of the bathtub at his house to hear him yelling my name from outside, and looked out of the window to see that he’d stamped ‘I LOVE YOU KATE’ in 10-foot letters in the snow.
But most of all, we LOVED to drink. We took that shit to the next level. We never talked about it, we just did it. It was like we were two aliens who’d somehow found each other in a foreign land and were able to communicate our growing dependency on alcohol without having to verbalize it.
Previous hard-drinking weekends segued into daily drinking. A boring Tuesday became ‘a special occasion’. We’d meet at a bar after work for a Bloody Mary, then have wine with dinner, then an after-dinner drink followed by a couple of six packs of beer at home. There was always vodka at his house for me and rum for him. On weekends he’d wake me with a Mimosa rather than a coffee. Saturdays and Sundays were spent either socializing with other drinking people at some drinking-centric event, or lying around the house and keeping a steady buzz going all day and night, tangled together on the couch watching old movies. Being with someone who so validated my ‘bad habit’ was a kind of vindication; it assured me that my relationship with alcohol was fine.
When our (inevitable) split came, it was swift, ugly and traumatic. I’ve never really gotten over it. I fully embraced drinking as some kind of pacifier, drifting from one one-night stand to another. When I finally met a kind and decent man with whom I somewhat ‘clicked’, I just went ahead and married him. I mean, that’s what you do, right? It was time, I was in my thirties, all my friends and siblings were married and settled. You buy the house and you marry the guy and you have the kids and then you’re happy.
Except that I wasn’t.
And it wasn’t because he was a bad guy because he’s not. It was because by then, I was literally drowning myself every day. Every decision I made, large and small, was made under the influence of alcohol. I remember him saying to me during an argument about my drinking ‘I hope you’re happy now’ and I shot back ‘Oh my God, you think I’m happy?? I haven’t been happy in years’.
I wasn’t speaking specifically about him or even our marriage, I was speaking in general, and my own words shocked the hell out of me.
When I finally got sober, at the age of 42 with an 18-month-old son, things calmed down a bit, and I had a second child.
The longer I was sober, the more I looked around and realized that I’d make huge life-changing decisions while I was either drunk or hungover. There were so many things in my life that could be called a mistake or a life lesson, including my marriage. We are now amicably divorced and my amazing children are now 11 and 13.
Since my divorce, I’ve been on several dates but am largely focused on my children and my career, which has essentially exploded since I became sober.
Exes have approached me looking for a ‘no-strings’ hookup but one of the best things sobriety has taught me is my own worth. There was a time when I’d sleep with anyone, any time; a guy just wanting me was enough of a reason. I don’t give myself away anymore. I don’t have the time or inclination for the inevitable fallout. And while I’m open to various ages/races/persuasions/careers/levels of baggage, I also know my deal breakers. That doesn’t mean I don’t want physical intimacy, or to find someone to love me and to give my love to, to someone who wants it and is in a position to take it; it means I’m judicious about it.
In a nutshell, I don’t have time for or interest in bullshit.
I’ve had men express interest in me who then abandoned that interest when they discovered that I don’t drink and that’s just fine.
I’m 54 years old, and while I don’t feel old, I’m old enough to know what I want and, more importantly, what I don’t. I’ve been in love several times – real, true, good love; I’ve been married, I’ve had children, and I’ve had fun flings with wonderful men who I remember with great affection. I’m healthy, fairly attractive, funny, sexy, and intelligent. I’d love to think (and am fairly optimistic) that there will be someone to love in my life again, and I’m open to it (although Remy Danton really is a fictional character apparently!)
Until then, I have words to write and children to raise. I am open with them about my sobriety and my experiences as an alcoholic, and they only know me as a sober person. I don’t want to tell them what to do. I want to continue to be a living example of it.
MY TOP TIPS TO ACHIEVE LONG TERM SOBRIETY
1. Addiction can be isolating. I’m not an AA fanatic, but I feel like some kind of support group is crucial, particularly in the first year. When everything has hit the skids or imploded and it’s all so scary and horrible and feels insurmountable and impossible to face, there is no substitute for being literally surrounded by people who know EXACTLY what that feels like, people who have done the same shitty things you have – and worse – and who understand the self-loathing and survived it. It props you up when you can’t prop yourself up.
2. Look around you. I used to wonder how I’d fill my days if I didn’t drink. The universe has a way of filling in the blank spaces in ways you can’t begin to imagine. Let it happen.
3. If you can’t get your head around ‘never’, as in ‘I can never drink again’, and even ‘one day at a time’ seems to hard, try one minute.
Reapply as necessary.
Written by Kate, edited by Sober Fish
Instagram: @katec616 and @cape_mayniac
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