I Give Up a “Friend”

I’m an addict.

That’s right. You heard me. If I like something, I really like it (I smoked a lot when I was younger and after cold-turkeying it for days, I gave it up when I was 33). My really liking some things is why I never bring cookies, potato chips, or chocolates into the house– because I have no discipline regarding them. I’ll dispatch them quickly… maybe in one sitting.

I must be constantly vigilant. I wasn’t vigilant this past pandemic year and gained 25 lbs. of the 30 I’d lost when I was really sick 2 years ago. You see, I developed an affinity for comfort food desserts…you know, the ones with cream in them… around them… or on them.

But this post is about another addiction of mine—alcohol.

Years ago, I wrote a piece that appeared as Cover Story in Providence Journal “Lifestyles” Sunday magazine, Nov. 2003 (the picture is the illustration the Providence Journal used to go along with my story). It was my “coming out,” as a person who determined to give up alcohol. I wrote it at the 2 year anniversary of my abstinence. The title? “Sober.” It ran with an “Anonymous” by-line because I was a member of an organization that proclaimed such. More importantly, I wasn’t comfortable owning up to my “problem” publicly.

My story documented my journey…how I determined, at age 53, to give up alcohol, despite one daughter saying “Mom, you don’t drink any more than my friends’ parents.” I knew otherwise. Even if I were “only drinking a few wines at night,” I still knew how it ruled my  life for I ordered my activity around it.

In the article, I talked about the support group I joined, one whose meetings I went to every day, at noon, for 3 years. I knew it would be that difficult to end a daily practice I’d had since I was 21.

My drinking started out with my nightly ritual of having wine, to relax me, after a punishing day. That practice, escalating over time, stretched out for years.

And make no mistake: For a period of my life, alcohol worked. It helped me stave off the terrible loneliness of the years I was sole parent of a young child, living in an apartment, working every day as teacher, from age 26-33. When friends went out clubbing, I always had to beg off. In addition, I had limited resources for I paid a sitter every day to care for my child, while I worked.

Alcohol worked, again, to mollify me in a second, 8-year abusive marriage, one that ended in 2 years of that husband’s terminal cancer. With his death, the marriage ended but not without my family having endured significant damage.

Through life crises, alcohol allowed me to deaden my pain, and by the time I was in my 40’s, I neither wanted nor expected improvement in my life.

But something happened to me in my early 50’s. I was sick of it. I began to wonder what it would be like to not drink alcohol (alcohol counselors call this the pre-cognition stage). I wondered if I could be more positive. (Alcohol is a depressant.)

So, at age 55, I gave up the lovely amber liquid that sustained me so often (See?—I can still romanticize it)— a drink that worked for me… until it didn’t.

But make no mistake. I know my enemy: I came to realize that drinking deadened my energy… isolated me…affected my sleep…probably kept me in a negative space for whole chunks of my life.

Which is why, after 20 years, a period marked by my breast cancer (mastectomy) in the first year of my abstinence, my long-time partner’s accident and “death” (they revived him), 7 years ago, in North Carolina, and our many years dealing with Alzheimer’s, I’ve never sought to go back to it.

Do I occasionally miss my old “friend”? Of course, but I have no interest in where one drink would lead.

What’s my sobriety date? Sept 12, 2001.

That’s right, the day I gave up alcohol is 20 years and 1 day after the sacking of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Sept. 12, 2001 became my personal day of hope.

****Why do I write these posts? Many of you are going through tough times. I write of my experiences to give you hope that no matter how things seem to rain down, unabatedly, you can get through it…get through it and go higher.

 How do I know? I’m living proof.

 #alcohol #alcoholic #sobriety

 

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