A photo of a tanned, slim, blonde, bikini-clad woman holding up a glass of chardonnay popped up on my Facebook feed this morning.
Underneath the exterior of flat abs, hair extensions, a bleached mega-watt smile, she seemed buzzed, and truthfully, a little lost, but she wouldn’t realize it – at least not yet…
It was exactly one year ago today that Jason and I kissed our babies goodbye and headed to Mexico for a seven-day all-inclusive child-free holiday.
I had lived on a strict diet of eggs, oatmeal, brown rice and chicken for a good month leading up to our trip, completed the Wild Rose Cleanse for the third time that year to fit into my itty-bitty bikini, spent countless hours at the gym and achieved the perfect spray-on glow in less than 20 minutes.
Despite the health scare prior to our trip — traces of blood was found in my urine, which was chalked up to abusing the aforementioned cleanse above–I was ready to party.
And boy did we throw down.
To summarize our trip, yes, we had A LOT of fun.
We made friends, danced barefoot on the beach until 3 a.m., won a couple’s relay contest, ate our fill of sub-par buffet food and rocked the stage on karaoke night.
On the flip side, we fought A LOT while under the influence of wine, tequila, gin, vodka, etc. – well, more like I fought and Jason dutifully entertained my irrational tirades that seemed to flare up each night before my head hit the pillow.
Each morning I hid under a big floppy hat and sunglasses at breakfast, hoping nobody recognized me from the previous night’s debauchery…that they wouldn’t remember my impromptu table dance at the nightclub or frolic in the pool after hours, fully clothed.
A mimosa always took the edge of, followed by many more drinks throughout the day and evening hours.
Enough is Enough
After seven days of our holiday, my body finally had enough.
It was just one day after the trip when I keeled over in pain on our kitchen floor.
The spasms started in my stomach and radiated to my back like labour contractions, coming in agonizing waves that left me breathless.
My doctor shook his head the next day when I admitted roughly how much I had consumed during our vacation. The mix of too much alcohol, dieting and spicy food had taken its toll on my petite frame.
Alcoholic Gastritis was his diagnosis.
“Does that mean I’m an alcoholic?” I asked, masking my nervousness with a forced laugh, turning 50 shades of red.
He alleviated my concern by letting me know it’s common after a week of overindulgence and to lay off the sauce and spicy food for a good 30+ days. He also gave me a prescription, but it would take a few days to kick in.
It hurt to swallow my own saliva, let alone eat.
And yet, I recklessly poured myself a generous glass of wine that night, wincing as each sip felt like hot lava burning a hole in my esophagus.
Did I Have a Problem?
What first started out as a mild social lubricant slowly became my adult version of a baby blanket. Without it, I felt naked, exposed and discontent.
When I began to question whether I had a problem, many well-intentioned friends and family members proclaimed I was just overreacting.
After all, everyone else in Mexico that we spent time with seemed to be drinking the same amount I did, if not more.
Depending on who you asked, two-to-three, occasionally four, glasses of wine on a weeknight after the kids went to bed, wasn’t exactly all that bad either.
Truth be told, my drinking habits are considered ‘vanilla’ in today’s mom culture where daily drinking is encouraged, even celebrated, especially on reality shows and social media.
All one has to do is login to Facebook to see memes for ‘Tasty Tuesday,’ ‘Wine Wednesday,’ ‘Thirsty Thursday,’ and let’s not forget the oh-so-popular inventions for vino loving moms like the wine purse, wine funnel or enormous glass that fits an entire bottle made famous by Ellen.
I grew tired, even resentful, of being tagged in all of them on social media, prompting me to change my Facebook privacy settings.
I grew tired of the growing pile of empty wine bottles in our recycling box.
I grew tired of feeling numb.
I grew tired of being me.
Every. Single. Morning I woke up with a bloated gut and disheartened spirit, vowing that I wouldn’t touch a single drop that evening, and then would lose all resolve come 5 p.m. when the witching hour would strike.
Like clockwork, I had become accustomed to the pop, pour and numb.
And if I’m brutally honest with myself, a physical addiction was beginning to take root.
When did I become THAT cliché mom whose trusty wine glass is a permanent fixture of her whole being?
Why am I playing roulette with my health and sanity when alcoholism is strong in my family tree?
And while these were all huge factors, if I’m totally honest with myself, the one that scared me the most was whether my life would become boring.
Everyone around me knew me as that fun party mom. Who would I be with a wine or martini glass in hand at social functions?
And what about the stress factor? Being a mom and freelancer is tough stuff. How would I relax after a stressful day? What would Jason and I have in common without our horror movie and wine nights? How would I deal with my anxiety?
Looking back, I realize now that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
My life had already become mundane and predictable – alcohol was just a mirage that made everything look shiny, optimistic and fun, until it wasn’t fun anymore…
My Foray into a Sober Summer
It wasn’t until four months after our trip, Father’s Day to be exact, that I decided to take a break from all alcohol and embark on a personal challenge self-dubbed a ‘sober summer.’
Our family sat on the patio of one of our favourite restaurants, watching the last bit of the sun fade slowly into the horizon.
Molly and Zoe were buzzed on sugary Shirley Temples and would erupt in a fit of giggles while playing Tic-Tac-Toe on their napkins with Daddy.
Sitting across the table, I felt like an outsider looking in – a feeling I’ve secretly harbored since my own childhood.
It would take every ounce of energy to be present, as my mind had drifted elsewhere, only to return momentarily when the waitress brought along a second round of drinks.
I rationed every last sip of that sangria, somewhat regretting my decision, as the level of sweet numbing liquid went lower and lower and lower, until the glass was bone dry.
Without a distraction in front of me, I quickly grew irritable, restless and voyeuristic to the scene unfolding around me.
I felt somewhat envious of my husband who was still nursing his first scotch and of the other ‘normal’ moms around me, who savored their meals and time with their spouses and children.
As my two young girls dug into their pasta dish, I remember thinking to myself that they deserved better than a half-cut mother who couldn’t seem to get through a lovely meal without a buzz. It was time to make a change.
Through meditation, writing, a lot of nature walks and conversations with strangers over coffee in a little dimly-lit room, I was able to get through my challenge – one that I extended for an additional three months.
I loved everything about sobriety, and through the process, learned to love myself again. Food tasted better, my relationships with loved ones grew richer, my weight dropped and I slept so much better, but it wouldn’t stick quite yet.
Face-to-Face With the Sobering Truth
At the six-month mark, I began to question whether I had a problem in the first place.
Of course, the only way to test this theory was to do the drinking test.
Could I have just one glass on occasion and be fine with it?
Yes, that first time was easy-peasy. I nursed a glass of buttery smooth chardonnay for 2.5 hours, shocked by how much of a buzz I was able to get from just the one glass.
The second night I decided to test whether I could have two and be fine with it. Nailed that challenge, but secretly pined for more.
On the third night I wanted to see if I could just go back to having one – I had four.
Life beyond my the Bottle
Whether it’s dieting, obsessive exercising, work or wine, moderation has never really been my thing.
If I really wanted, I know I could use all my willpower and allow myself to only drink on the weekends. However, I know myself all too well – those weekdays would seem like a total write off.
I don’t want to spend my whole life living for Friday night, nor do I want to always feel like I’m on a diet from my favourite vice. Honestly, it’s just a lot easier to go without altogether.
It’s almost been one whole year since my second foray into sobriety, and life isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn good.
While I may have changed my hair colour, grown a little thicker around the waistline and have long-lost my tan, I still love to have fun. In fact, I seem to have a lot more of it these days now even though I’m not ‘that girl’ anymore. It also turns out that Jason and I have a lot more in common that getting tipsy. In fact, I’d say we’ve grown a lot closer these days.
Yes, You Can Do it!
Most people find sobriety terrifying– I know that because I was one of them. When you start off, you have no idea what to expect, and yes, it can be extremely lonely at times, especially at a party when you’re the only teetotaler. There are also so many misconceptions of what addiction and sobriety look like, which is why so many men and women are terrified to admit they’re struggling.
Whether it’s 12-step program, sobriety blogs or online support group, there are many ways to connect with others who share similar stories.
Thinking about taking a break or quitting for good? Here are 5 blogs/resources I highly recommend checking out.