Ever since I wrote the piece below, I’ve always thought of it as my sobriety story, but the truth is, it’s probably a bit more of my drinking story.
When I started this website I had words bubbling inside of me. They needed a place go. Since then, I’ve always had the intention of properly writing “my story,” but then it seemed as if the words escaped me.
Too limiting! Not enough detail! Too much detail!
It’s felt hard to fully construct the story, because as I change, it changes. What I focus on changes. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling that need again to document words. To feel my power where I meet pen.
And, sometimes we need that reminder of where we started.
So, here’s one of the first pieces I publicly shared. Christina’s Story
(originally written in July, 2019)
I sat out of my first tap class. That class I was so excited to attend. I watched from the side, too timid to join the others. I barely made it inside school on the first day of first grade. I stuck my heels in the ground staring at my new teacher from a distance.
I was never an outgoing person growing up. I was always shy in public. I’m accepting that my parents did the best they could. I don’t recall ever explicitly learning how to make friends and cope with social situations. My friends were my siblings and the people in my neighborhood and I can barely remember how our friendships started. Then, middle school arrived and I felt so inside of myself. New situations, new people. I didn’t know how to be me because I never felt like enough. Dances made my skin crawl because I did so desperately want to join in on the fun, but I just felt paralyzed. I didn’t think I could dance and it felt like too big a risk. I felt so uncomfortable all the time.
It’s hard to say where drinking as a habit started so let’s start with the real beginning: My first drink. Two fourteen year olds babysitting and taking shots of peach schnapps. Then it was Mad Dog a few days later because we had had so much fun.
There. I think I cemented that notion there. Drinking is fun.
I remember sitting against the side of my house on New Year’s Eve, a senior in high school, and I couldn’t stop talking! Earlier that night, my friends and I acquired some Bacardi. I was sitting next to the boy who’d eventually become my husband blubbering, slurring my words, but feeling so free. I was able to talk and talk without worry, without hesitation. I could say whatever I wanted. I even started posting on a message board because I thought it was so refreshing I could be so uninhibited. I remember uttering the words that night, “I am a happy drunk.”
There. I think I cemented that notion there. Drinking is a happy time.
College and Career Ready: Drinking helps me to socialize.
Bars and Concerts: Drinking allows me to let loose.
Interviews: Drinking gives me confidence.
Hard Work and Parenthood: Drinking is a treat.
I always felt like a responsible drinker. I didn’t attend parties where people were unfamiliar. I didn’t put myself in risky situations with others. I certainly wasn’t going to get caught under-age drinking and lose my teaching license! I had fun and collected many stories to tell. I maintained, house, home, and work. I had my nights of drinking too much, of getting sick night and day, but that was the exception, not the rule. I was a binge drinker with limits.
At some point the “drinking is” notions turned into “drinking helps me…” which eventually morphed into “I am when I drink.” I did not see how my language changed, how my thoughts changed. Where once I had separated the act of drinking from me it eventually became part of my subconscious identity. It wasn’t until I decided to look at my drinking habits and consider sobriety that I was even aware how deeply I held these beliefs about myself.
It would take 16 more years for me to realize what power I had given over that night at 17, or was it 14? I relied on booze to do so much for me that it never occurred to me that I should build myself up any other way. I truly thought I was those things because drinking masked it as so.
I’m so glad my story doesn’t stop there.
A few days after New Year’s Day, 2019, I had a sensible thought around moderation. Then, it came to me. That quiet voice that said, “Why not just stop?” The quiet voice stuck with me for a few days, never shouting, but politely reminding me it was there. I could cry as I type these words: I listened. I listened and I explored. I listened, I explored, and I read. I listened, I explored, I read, and I kept diving deeper into myself.
I recognized that whatever I thought booze was giving me it also made me angry. I thought of the times I felt tense if I didn’t have a drink or wasn’t drunk enough for a situation. I shined a flashlight on those moments that I had ruined because I was too worried about the availability of booze. That was not OK with me.
I spent a few days cautiously, nervously searching the Internet for “Am I an alcoholic?” and reading articles like, “How giving up alcohol changed my life.” I felt a little in limbo. Then, I found Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind, and it was the ultimate game changer. I could no longer look at booze the same way. I saw it for what it was.
Every thing that was ever been has led me to this moment.
I am 7 months sober. I am growing my sobriety, baby. What I am realizing every day is that sobriety has been so much more than being alcohol-free. It has allowed me to look at the parts of myself that I value and the parts I need to grow. I am leaning into the discomfort and working on more self-compassion and acceptance. When I have doubts, I remind myself why I started: I know what will happen if I don’t change, I don’t know what can happen if I do. I have regained my own power.