This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
One day, I noticed I had been sorta drunk for a month. I had thought of myself, up until this point, as the occasional weekend wino, who enjoyed nights out with friends. The weekends, though, blended into weekdays. Additional nights out during the week were added, and then with amusement, I began to host those wine-infused play dates with other mommies. The days when there was no time for social drinking, I found myself sipping at home, and by myself. And THAT particular day, I noticed it all began around 11 a.m.
My eldest had a half-day of school. I was so dreading the pick-up, though it was unclear frankly if I was dreading the drive or the company of my increasingly surly teen. I thought my new little trick might prove helpful. I had taken to drinking quick little shots of bourbon or tequila right before the girls got home in the evening. Very occasionally, I would chug half a beer before a student would arrive. I am often asked to teach youngsters how to sing, and as a frustrated, former professional singer, this can be a tough hour. My trick seemed to be under control and seemed to yield a high success rate. Mealtime became tolerable, even fun, and the teaching that had begun to feel like drudgery was now easy because I had a little secret veil in which to live these moments.
So that morning of the half-day, I downed a quick shot, in a rather slow glass, and popped into the driver’s seat of my car. Not a few minutes into the long drive, I realized what I had done. I am a small person. I have a generally clean diet. So alcohol typically has a pretty intense affect on me. This early bout with only my kale smoothie to line my stomach brought that intensity to a whole new level.
This was not good. The experiment had epically failed me here. I mustered all my forces of attention, stayed in the far right lane, and somehow made it to her school safely. I pulled over to the 7-11 and poured out my tears into that terrible black chemical there they call coffee and looked at myself hard in the mirror.
I was more than ashamed. I was raised thinking Jewish people never got drunk. They were not addicts or law offenders. They were all “smart with good values.” What was I doing? I really had lost my way. I was a woman connected to my breath and my body. A meditator. A yoga gal. I worked hard to help in my community and was a leader in my temple. And there I was, strung out on an emotional avoidance haze.
It had been a difficult month. Rejection had come in all shapes and sizes. Work was slow, and the things coming in were difficult to get excited about. My kids had both started new schools. Their transitions felt painful as the long distances, and their long faces, newly consumed my time. The younger was a loner, and the elder was showing signs of depression, which seemed to trigger the childhood depression from which I suffered, untreated as it had been. My husband felt MIA. I was proud of the new commitment he was making to his career, but I was left alone and resentful. This empty place left me vulnerable to the friendship of an old colleague. I have been married for over 20 years, much of it happily, but what had begun as a lovely friendship, moved quickly into a daily need. We talked often, and I dove my heart more into his life than into my own.
I see that I fluctuate my addictions. That I transfer one for the other—I am either doing this thing or that. I am either healthy or not. I am focusing only on my life or someone else’s. This experience reminds me the teachings of a wise professor who once said, “The person who is able to live within the ambiguities of life is a person living a healthy life.”
That morning solidified for me that I am indeed not quite healthy. I need a lot of guidance and investigation. AA did not feel quite right for me. It may be the whole nice Jewish girl thing still, though I know many for whom it has helped enormously. Instead, I found a meditation and mindfulness practitioner whose message rings loud and clear to me.
Behavior is just that, behavior. It is not an all-defining, deafening judgment of your personhood. The rules are simple. First, sit still. When we do, we detach from the doing and we can observe the motivation behind that which seems compelling. Then we can actually make choices for or against the behavior itself. Now I understand fully that my alcoholism is perhaps not that of the disease based addiction, as I know it is for many people. I can still actually make choices.
I am grateful for the tools of mindfulness that I have learned. When I can access them, I am free. I can smell the drink. I can touch the cup or the glass and really enjoy the way it looks first. Then I can touch just a drop of the liquid to my lips, and then, when or if I choose to take a sip, it is a sip of gratitude toward the actual fruits of this actual vine, and not a guzzle from any old bottle in order get a quick fix out of one reality into another. The illusion of fun and freedom is always something I will be tempted to believe is outside of my daily life, but through the teachings of mindful self-compassion, I shift my perspective long enough to know it is this very shift from day to day that is the fun.
I am not out of the woods. I write this with the longing to be someone who never drinks at all. One who is never, ever swayed by the actual desire to be out of control. Yet, with each offering I make to myself to listen and be present with all the meanderings of my own mind and heart, the less my pull toward any bottle becomes.
Since Kveller’s conception, we’ve held to a pretty strict policy against anonymous posts. We’ve always felt that attaching real names to posts–especially those personal in nature–makes them even more powerful, and better allows for us to establish a real community and connection between our writers and readers. However, recently we were approached by a woman who wanted to share her experience with alcoholism but did not feel comfortable attaching her name to it. We think this is an incredibly important and often overlooked topic, and decided to break our own rules and share it anonymously with you above.