The feeling had been building for years. A kind of knowing that needed my focus — but I wasn’t paying heed. It was an awareness that I could no longer control my drinking, which was a big part of my life — and something I by no means wanted to give up. This realization had been tapping me on the shoulder and was getting increasingly hard to ignore.
It tried to get my attention in my 20s, when drinking was a normal part of my social life. I drank like everyone else I knew — no more, no less. Of course, I rarely hung out with people who only sipped, the ones who would nurse a drink the entire evening. I mean, what fun was that? But the awareness already was messing with my mind. When I told my husband-to-be I thought I might have a problem, he waved his hand at me and convinced me I didn’t. He said he knew what problem drinkers looked like, and I wasn’t one of them.
I was mostly relieved.
Until I couldn’t deny it anymore.
My daughter was in kindergarten when I made this life-altering change. Her presence in my life affected my reason for stopping. I’d tried making it through my pregnancy with her without the wine I loved, the wine that got me through cooking dinner every night, with a glass always beside the stove.
The wine that meant I didn’t really have a problem.
I mean, it’s only wine, right?
I lasted only through six months of the pregnancy, convincing myself a few glasses wouldn’t hurt my fetus toward the end. This knowledge played out in my subconscious, in the deep recesses of my denial, as a warm blanket that protects us until we’re ready to confront the cold hard truth.
I became aware of the times I nursed my daughter with a glass of wine in hand, never thinking it might be the reason for her colicky nature. I’d much rather blame it on the broccoli and onions I ate.
It could never be the wine, could it?
As she grew, I often rushed through bedtime stories, looking forward to that swig of wine just a little more than my daughter’s response to what I’d just read.
We took her to our favorite hangouts, bars that served pretzels and peanuts she could munch on while she played with her Barbies. The other patrons cooed at her, patting her adorable little head, as we guzzled our mugs of beer. The knowing kept asking, who brings their kid to a bar?
I ignored it for as long as I could.
We threw her birthday parties every year, inviting friends and family to celebrate with us. Bottles of wine and beer were always present for these occasions, even when little kids were the main attraction. Throwing a party without something to drink was unthinkable, and I never saw anything wrong with this party plan.
It all came tumbling down when my daughter turned 5, and I couldn’t hide it from myself anymore. My then-husband’s midlife crisis (aka, affair) was a defining moment, and the one that gave me the final push. It helped make me ready, beating me down enough to want to rise up and take control of my life — certain my daughter’s life would rise up with me.
I was sick of the knowing and wanted to shut it up. And even though it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I felt a great sense of relief when I finally surrendered to something I’d known for years.
I had a drinking problem and needed to make a change.
Stay tuned for part two of Carol’s story in a few weeks.
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