I didn't know my drinking was a problem. I mean, I knew. But I didn't know-know. I didn't know that my husband stayed up at night worrying about me. I didn't know I was scaring my family. I didn't know all my friends could see me slipping.
Most alcoholics have a moment they can name when they knew their drinking was out of control. When they knew they had to get help. Mine was my wedding reception. I didn't do anything to embarrass myself. Didn't fall down drunk or yell at anyone. But I threw up all night, and in the morning I realized I couldn't remember a lot of the conversations I'd had. We had friends and family travel in from all of the country, and I'd gotten too blitzed on white wine that I barely remembered talking to them. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. I was so angry at myself for blowing such an important moment in my life. But it was still several months before I stopped drinking completely.
My drinking went out with a whimper. I couldn't stomach getting hammered after my wedding, but I still drank from time to time. Every time I did, it felt like something wild inside me was awakened. I essentially had to sit on my hands to keep myself from slamming one drink after another. To stop myself from ordering "just one more" round. I could tell I didn't have control of my drinking. I knew I had to stop.
The first year was a challenge, but it was a challenge in the manageable, obvious goal sort of way. I knew all I had to do to be successful was to not drink. Of course it wasn't actually that simple, but at the core it really was. During the first year I just focused on saying, "No." I turned down events to social engagements that involved drinking. I didn't go to parties. I made sure my husband didn't bring booze back to the house. It was a total "out of sight, out of mind" approach.
But that only worked for the first year.
During my second year -- this year -- of sobriety I had to start facing all the reasons I drank. I had to think about a childhood of emotional neglect. I had to think about how the first man I ever lived with cheated on me. I had to think about the second man I lived with coming home drunk and calling me a slut. I had to think about a family history of alcoholism and depression. I had to think about my own depression. I had to think about all the horrible things I'd grown up believing about myself. About my worthlessness, my inabilities, my pointless existence. I had to delve deep into these issues. I had to get into therapy and talk about all the problems I'd been drinking away.
It was exhausting. It made me realize that, though I thought drinking was helping me forget, it was actually just fueling the fire. It was driving home the idea that I was a useless drunk. It was reaffirming a belief based on nothing.
Getting sober has been terrifying. It has absolutely been the hardest thing I've ever done. But in the last two years I have learned one very important thing: I'm worth it. And more importantly, I'm beginning to learn to believe it.