by Sara Berelsman
Today is the day. Tuesday, October 11, 2011. I want to remember this day forever.
The day I decided to stop drinking.
The sunrise was beautiful this morning. Possibly the best one I’ve ever seen. Pink and blue hues in the sky sprayed with just the right amount of clouds, the brilliant orange sun barely peeking over the fall trees, as if uncertain of making its appearance. There are knots in my stomach. I can’t breathe (allergies). I am on my period.
I am incredibly exhausted from being awake all night, tossing and turning and trying to banish the unwanted thoughts that kept racing through my head, taking up space where happy memories should be.
I look like absolute shit; my face is broken out, there are heavy purplish bags under my eyes, my hair is frizzy and disheveled. I am wearing an oversized Nike sweatshirt belonging to my husband, stained because of me, a constant reminder (as if I need one) of how I’ve continually let him down. But not again. Not again. Not ever again.
I am terrified. I have never been in control of my own life, never been in the driver’s seat..always a passenger, always letting someone else or something else take the blame. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t.
I joke around a lot and talk about drinking more than I actually do it; I exaggerate when I’ve had a bad day and say things like, “I want to drink my body weight in alcohol,” and it’s funny. I’m being sarcastic and it’s funny, and everyone laughs. Except it stopped being funny.
I can control myself some of the time, which is why it’s been so easy to rationalize why I continue to drink. Not to mention that I live in a town where drinking is practically mandatory, and raging alcoholics are accepted with open arms. I blend in here.
Alcohol is socially acceptable. It’s the times that I don’t stay in control that outweigh the times that I do – those are the times that, at this point, have accumulated to an incredible number that I don’t even want to think about. It’s killing my marriage. If this were reversed, I’d have left Andy by now.
I have used alcohol as a scapegoat, every time. I could do anything with it. I could be invincible whenever I wanted - do, say, or act however I pleased when the numbing liquid flowed through my body.
If I offended someone, “I was drunk. That’s not the real me. It was alcohol.” If I did anything bad, it was the reason. I’ve relied on it. It has been a friend. A friend who’s always been there for me, no matter what. And breaking up is hard to do.
I am absolutely shaking with fear that I won’t be able to do this, that I’ll fail. I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. I’m hurting inside. Badly. I’m so very sorry for the things I have done to people I love, afraid that they won’t accept me even if I quit drinking.. afraid to become who I really am instead of who I am with alcohol.
I have never been so scared in my life.
I’m afraid to face the truth and push denial out of the way, because to do that means I was wrong all these years. Wrong for thinking I was okay, and wrong for thinking I could control myself. To admit that I was wrong means all those years, all those incidents shouldn’t have happened, and that means I have regrets. And I want no regrets.
I feel guilty. I feel like a scumbag. I’m open about everything in my life, including my depression (which drinking exacerbates). But this, for some reason, ties my stomach in knots.
I’m so afraid of what people will think. Maybe because bipolar disorder, though not fully understood by the general population, at least I think, seems more like a disease to people; they view it as something beyond a person’s control.
Alcoholism, I feel, is looked at by many as a weakness. A sign of making bad choices and not necessarily a disease, even though it’s been proven to have genetic predisposition involved, as is the case with me and my family.
Of course, depression runs in my family too, and I have obviously been self-medicating for a long time now. It’s the first
thing I reach for, my go-to, my trusty friend.
With a glass of wine I can feel good again. It’s a great feeling. It’s the nights that the glass turns into two glasses, then a bottle, then two bottles…the nights I’ve blacked out, remembering little, if nothing, about a majority of the evening, wondering what I said, what I did…who I did it with…the horrible dread of trying to recall the next day, what took place the night before, the hangovers lasting days – those are the reasons I want to quit drinking. At this point there are no benefits.
But mostly it’s my marriage I want to save. I have an incredible man and he does not deserve this. There are a couple of other reasons too, and it’s a knife through the heart to hear them ask why Mommy won’t get out of bed. No, it’s not every day. It’s not even too often at all in the minds of many, I’m sure. I know there are so many people who are in much more advanced stages of alcoholism than I am. But this is not their life. This is my life. And I know I have to do this if I want to keep it.
I want to be a better wife. I want to be a better mom. I need to be a role model.
I know in my gut, with every fiber of my being and pound on my body, that this is the only solution left. I’ve tried limiting drinking to weekends, drinking only at home, drinking only a certain kind of alcohol, drinking only for a certain number of hours – I’ve tried everything. I’ve taken “breaks” from drinking before when I’ve been spiraling out of control. I’ve “slowed it down.” But once I started again, I ended up right where I had been.
I know I can’t just “take a break” this time. I know my addictive, all-or-nothing personality, and telling myself I can stop for a while and then set limits once I start again does not work. I’ve tried that. It’s a slippery slope. I’ve exhausted the options, made the excuses, and fiercely embraced the denial with a warm, tight hug every single time. This is it. This. Is. It.
I am very scared. What do I do? Can I still have fun? Will I fit in? Will I always feel awkward now? Do I attend AA meetings? I’ve always thought of alcoholics as people who get up in the morning and have to drink. People on street corners with tattered clothing and bottles hidden in brown paper bags. People who, in general, seem much more “out of control” than I am.
I’ve never thought of myself as “one of them.” As it turns out, there is no exact alcoholic profile. I am one of them.
I’m not sure where to go from here, how to go from here. My path has not been marked out yet. I know that I do need to go from here, though, and take the path I have never taken. In order to save my marriage, my family, my life, I can’t stay on this path. My therapist said just as much a few weeks ago, when I had once again vowed to be better.
Yet somehow, some way, no matter what precautions I try to take, no matter how much I worry and think, and try, really, really try...I somehow always take a detour, and I’m back on the old path again. That path has now been blocked off, eradicated, and filled in with the grasses and weeds of yesterday.
I know I have a problem.
So today, I am going down a new path. The path of sobriety. It’s surreal. Alcohol has been such a focal point in almost everything I do. It’s very hard to imagine my life without it. It might not look like to others that I even have a problem, but I know I do. I’m scared that people won’t be supportive, and I’m scared to be this honest and vulnerable.
I don’t know exactly where I’m going yet, but I know where I’ve been, and if none of it had happened then I wouldn’t be where I am. And that is at a point of great change. Everything in my life has lead me to this point. Everything.
My name is Sara, and I’m an alcoholic.