In the Beginning

One of the “Quit Lit” books I read recently asked you to think about how you got to the place you did with alcohol. In essence, how did you start drinking? Why did you start drinking? What was the progression? At what point did you realize you had a problem?

I figure this is a great place to open my blog.

The first time I drank I was in the 8th grade. Eighth grade! I went out with one of my sisters (I have three) and her friends to a local park. We brought blankets, chips, hotdogs, cookies; a ton of junk food. In the falling darkness, we swapped turns drinking from grape-flavored wine coolers. I wish I could say I hated the taste. I wish I could say I choked up the liquid. But it was the opposite. I had fun! I felt “lighter,” more carefree. I laughed at stupid jokes, shared personal stories, was all-around more outgoing.

I didn’t puke and learn a lesson.

The next time I tipped back the bottle was in high school. I had a close friend, Tara, whose mom was always working. Tara and I would sneak drinks from her mom’s liquor cabinet after school. It wasn’t entirely fun, but it did feel a little daring, a little reckless. It was something so unlike me—the shy, quiet introvert who always achieved good grades and never got into trouble. This girl was now “cool.”

By sophomore year, I was drinking socially. Homecoming night with peach schnapps handed me my first hangover. It would be a while before I would drink again, but then it would become a “thing.” Junior and senior year everyone would drive around trying to score alcohol—cheap beer, fruity wine coolers, hard liquor stolen from parents’ stashes. We would sip from shared tumblers in places like construction sites, empty parking lots, or behind gas stations. I felt so grown up, so ready to move beyond high school and spread my wings in college. I picked up smoking, did pot, tried mushrooms, and one time a hit of acid (which was a horrible experience). I listened to the Doors, Nirvana, and Radiohead, read books about vampires, wrote poetry. I considered myself “alternative” and capable of handling my alcohol.

In college, I believed in my ability to drink even more. I saw the idiots who got plastered and made asses out of themselves. Yeah, I’d throw-up now and then, but for the most part I knew when to cut myself off. By the end of junior year, I was even partying midweek. My tolerance was building. But hey, I made it to class Friday mornings, so I told myself the drinking was no big deal. Everyone did it in college.

Then, I slowed down. I moved out of state and entered “the real world.” I didn’t have much money and was on a strict budget. I also didn’t have a lot of friends. Alcohol slipped into the background of my mind. I was more focused on starting my career, on spending time with my first love, on making a home of my first apartment. But when I moved back to Nebraska (where I’m from) at the age of 27—after my boyfriend and I broke up—this changed. I partied with my sisters again. We hit the bars, going to places that served super strong drinks. I bought alcohol to keep in my apartment and would have drinks before going out. “Priming” was a necessity. Alcohol loosened me up, made me feel like I was more fun to be around, had more confidence. Since I was entering the dating world again, I relied on it to make connections with guys.

Then I ran into my future husband. He enjoyed drinking as much as I did. Our dates revolved around it. We soon tied the knot, and I got pregnant. This was the first time I abstained from drinking for any length of time. I experienced postpartum depression the first six months after my son was born, but once I felt like myself again, I started picking up the glass (no matter that I was on antidepressants.) Alcohol became my escape. It helped to calm my anxieties, take the edge off my worries. But because I got pregnant with second child, I didn’t let it take me too far. I went back to abstaining. Within a year after my daughter was born, however, I was right back at to where I was before I was pregnant. And in time, I was worse. Alcohol fed me hope, helped me believe that I could rely on it and not my medications, that I didn’t need my medications. I titrated off all my antidepressants and turned to drinking, instead.

The day I knew I was in over my head was a day when we lived in an apartment complex while our house was being built. The kids and l went to the pool around 11:00 AM, and I kept walking back to our apartment to fill my tumbler full of vodka lemonade. By that night, I was tired and irritable, was in no mood to be around my family. I was starting to feel the “downer” effects of the alcohol on my brain, my overall body.

And I was worried.

I tried cutting back here and there. I’d make promises with myself that this would be the week where I would ONLY drink on the weekend. Or ONLY drink on Thursday and the weekend. Or okay, ONLY have one cocktail on Wednesday, two on Thursday, and then the weekend. I would make and break these promises all the time, quietly keeping my fears to myself—that I needed help, that I was headed downhill, and fast.

What changed for me were a couple of things. I began to really worry about my health. My liver, my brain (memories), breast cancer, my heart, etc. I also began to think more about what my kids were witnessing, and whether they’d grow up making poor choices about alcohol from what they’d seen their parents do. I also began to take note of how much my husband and I argued when we had been drinking. These things resonated in me and prompted me to look for reading material on the subject of quitting alcohol. I came across the book, This Naked Mind, and everything changed from there.

Today, I’m on a 32 day dry streak (I only had one data point the whole month of January), I’ve gone 26 days straight in December, 50 days straight in July and August, and hopefully will continue to keep cutting back until alcohol plays no part in my life at all. I need this.

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