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Why I Quit Drinking

In June of 2008, I found out I was pregnant.

Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 were 10, 8, 3, and almost 2 years old at the time.

It was not planned and came as a complete surprise to my husband and to me.

My husband was not exactly thrilled at first. We already had our hands full.

I, on the other hand, was ecstatic.

I wasn’t ready to be done yet.

At the time, I was running pretty consistently, and I had started entering short road races to keep myself motivated.

I was 38 years old, and since it was early on — only 8 weeks or so — and I was very active before finding out I was pregnant, I had no reason to stop running anytime soon.

On July 4th, I ran in a local 5 mile road race that I had been training for. I didn’t quite finish in the time I had wanted to, but it was the longest race I had run so far, and I felt great. I was riding a natural high.

Later that night, about eight hours after I finished the race, I went to the bathroom, and my underwear was full of blood.

I’d had a miscarriage.

I was devastated.

The next day, a friend of mine had a party at her house.

I wasn’t going to go. I wasn’t in the mood to be social or  even be vertical, for that matter. But the kids wanted to go, and I thought maybe it would take my mind off of things.

So I went.

It started out as a birthday party for my friend’s daughter. They had a bounce house and other fun kid stuff, but entire families and not just the kids were invited to the party.

Around 8:00 p.m., the kid party turned into a grown up party.

Some parents took the kids home. Some kids had come with pajamas and sleeping bags and had planned on sleeping over.

We only lived about a mile away.

My husband was ready to leave, but I was very depressed, and ready to drown my sorrows.

Literally.

So I drove my husband and the kids home, and I returned to the party flying solo.

When I got back, there was a beer pong table set up and ready to go.

This was my kind of party. Parents who liked to have fun.

A lot of it.

And I don’t want to brag, but I kick some serious ass at beer pong.

As soon as I returned, I got myself a partner and hopped into the next game.

We won the first game. And the second. And the third.

I don’t know how many games we played, but we won them all. And with each game I got more and more wasted, until I found myself in the driveway smoking cigarettes.

I remember crying in the driveway. I don’t remember driving home.

But I did.

I do remember puking my guts out on my hands and knees in the grass in my front yard.

I spent the next day completely hungover, incapacitated and on the couch.

My husband was not very understanding.

This kind of thing didn’t happen weekly or monthly, but it did happen more than a handful of times after getting married.

I don’t remember exactly when it was, whether it was that day or the day after, but I promised my husband not that I would never drink again, but that I would never get that drunk again.

I held to my word. That was the last time I puked from drinking.

While I’ve been thinking about quitting a lot lately, I never discussed it with anyone. Not my husband. Not my friends. Not my parents.

It’s all been a silent conversation I’ve had with myself.

I’ve never had a friend confront me about drinking.

Anybody who knows about it now knows because I made an announcement here on the blog twelve days ago.

Are they surprised?

I’m not sure. Did they ever whisper behind my back that maybe I had an issue?

I honestly don’t know.

Here’s the thing.

I was in AA about 27 years ago. That’s a whole other story that will take some explaining at another time.

But I spent the end of my junior year and all of my senior year in college (and my 21st birthday!) completely sober.

So I know a thing or two about alcoholics and alcoholism.

I am not a heavy drinker. I don’t drink daily. I don’t even drink weekly. I don’t drink alone, and I don’t drink during the day. I’m not dependent on alchol. It is not my drug of choice.

By my friend’s standards, there’s a good chance I am not an alcoholic.

But by friends of Bill W, I definitely am.

By my standards, I don’t know what I am.

But I know I have a problem.

Because while I don’t drink regularly, when I do drink, I drink.

Not always. There are occasional nights at home where I might only have a glass of wine or a couple Blue Moons.

But if there is a party, a Mom’s Night Out, a dinner out with my husband, any social function, I am going to get as drunk as I can without ending up on my hands and knees, puking in my front yard.

That’s not exactly healthy.

We had a small party here on the 4th of July, and I told a friend of mine that I’d quit drinking. I told her one of the reasons was because if I had more than three drinks I’d be hungover the next day.

“Why don’t you just have one?” she asked me.

And my automatic response was, “What’s the point of that?”

She burst out laughing at my answer.

And then she told me maybe I had made a smart decision.

So I don’t drink regularly.

But I do drink to excess. Often.

And I don’t know if it’s because of my age or the fact that I think I am going through menopause (seriously! what the hell???) but my body can’t tolerate more than two drinks anymore, really.

A couple weeks ago I went to a friend’s house. I was planning on staying until 10:30 or so.

I got home at 2 a.m.

I didn’t keep track of how many drinks I had, but I had quite a few.

And the entire next day I was useless. It took me a good eight hours after waking up to feel human again. I’ve gotten to the point where I have to make sure my schedule for the entire following day is clear if I’m going to have a night of drinking fun, because I know I won’t be able to function the next day. At all.

In addition to the hangovers, I am starting to black out.

Sometimes they are just partial black outs (yes, I said just partial blackouts — you know, not that big a deal — so I know that’s kind of a big neon flashing sign) where I won’t remember small portions of the night or pieces of conversations.

Other times, I don’t remember anything at all after a certain time.

This is one of the biggest red flags for me.

About a month or so ago — I don’t remember where I had gone and I don’t remember what or how much I drank — I put the kids to bed.

And the next day I could not remember any of it. I couldn’t even remember if I was the one who put the kids to bed at all.

It was unsettling and it was a wake up call.

The drinking to excess, the fact that my body can’t tolerate it, the blacking out — those are reasons enough to quit.

And then there is the depression.

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder about 16 years ago.

In my adult life, I have been committed to the psych ward of three different hospitals on three different occasions after attempts to commit suicide.

Two times were before I was married. One time was after.

Those are also stories for another time, but one thing ties them together.

Alcohol was a factor in all three of those incidents.

And they were BAD.

Alcohol is probably the dumbest thing I could possibly add into the equation of my life.

I suppose a normal person would stop drinking after the first stint in the hospital nuthouse.

Not me.

I’m an overachiever I guess.

Or an idiot.

There is also a history of alcoholism on both sides of my family tree. I’m kind of fucked genetically.

So am I an alcoholic?

By the clinical definition I am.

By society’s standards am I? By my friend’s standards am I?

I don’t know.

But by my standards, yeah. After writing all this down (and this is just a fraction of it) it’s kind of glaring.

It’s a hard pill to swallow.

And it’s scary.

Can I survive the shitty stuff that will inevitably come my way without the availability of something to completely numb myself?

Can life be fun without Blue Moons and reisling and Strawberitas and margaritas???

Is there even any point in going to a party ever again?

I’m scared that there isn’t.

But I’m more scared of the thought of losing entire days of my life. And losing more memories of time spent with my children.

And if we’re going to be honest, nothing is really scarier than the psych ward of a hospital.

That shit SUCKS.

So I guess I’m gonna continue on this new path.

It’s not going to be easy.

But it’s not gonna be any harder than the fucked up path I took to finally get to this point.

This route has been exhausting.

It’s time to reroute myself.

I know there will be times where I’ll feel differently.

But right now, in this moment, I am really looking forward to finally finding a way to navigate the ups, the downs and all the bullshit in between without the assistance of booze.

 

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It took six months, but she sent me a sign.

Almost exactly a year ago, my husband had a boogie boarding accident when we were on vacation in North Carolina.

I was at the condo we were staying in with three of the kids, and my husband and parents were at the beach with the other three.

My father unexpectedly walked in the door and said to me, “Something happened to Daryl. He hurt his head. They want you to go over to the beach.”

 I don’t know if my dad was trying not to worry me or if he was clueless, but there wasn’t any urgency in his voice.

Our condo was a couple blocks from the beach. I rolled my eyes, got up off the couch, found the keys, and took my time driving over to the beach where everyone was.

As I pulled into the parking area by my parents’ condo, my mom came running off the walkway toward the car before I could even park the car.

“They just took Daryl to the hospital. You need to meet him there. Number 2 saved him and pulled him out of the water. He’s paralyzed. It was really bad.”

And then she started crying.

My mom never cries, so I went from being annoyed to freaking out.

I put the address into my GPS and headed toward the hospital which was about twenty-five minutes away.

I had no idea what was waiting for me. No idea what had happened to my husband. No idea what his status was.

I was clueless.

I envisioned every horrible possible scenario.

And then it started raining.

And as I was stopped at a red light, I saw a rainbow.

I freaked out even more.

Why the fuck was I seeing that rainbow?

Had my husband died? Was that him cutting his earthly ties?

Fuck.

If you’ve been around since last summer, you know the rest of the story.

I got to the hospital and my husband was still strapped to a backboard.

He was still in his bathing suit and he was covered with sand.

But he had already regained movement in his limbs.

He was going to need surgery, but he would eventually be okay.

My husband was very lucky.

If that rainbow was a sign for me, it meant something else.

The next few months would be very challenging for me and my husband.

The surgery he needed would be the second major surgery my husband would receive in two years.

They say that remodeling a house puts a huge strain on a marriage.

I’d have to add major surgery to the list of marital stressors.

It is obviously hard on the patient.

But it’s not easy for the spouse, either.

And two major surgeries in two consecutive summers was tough for us.

Combine that with our financial situation and the regular crap that comes along with marriage and children, and to be honest, by this past February, I was ready to call it quits.

My husband knows this.

I was really struggling.

We were really struggling.

And I was starting to believe that there was no way we’d get our shit straightened out.

I was starting to believe that we’d both be happier, and better off, if we went our separate ways.

I messaged a friend who’s been through a divorce. An amicable divorce. A friend who’s not judgmental and whose advice I really trust.

She couldn’t tell me what to do.

And I knew she couldn’t. But I needed guidance from someone.

Oh honey, I’m so sorry. It’s a tough and super personal decision. Either way it’s hard on the kids, but you’re their rudder and they need you to be as whole as you can be. Only you know how you can get yourself there. Sending you love.

This friend is kind of out there. Which was why I felt drawn to her. I’d exhausted all my in the box options.

I needed something out of the box.

And before I had a chance to reply, she sent another message.

Can I offer some “woo woo” advice?

I wasn’t sure what “woo woo” advice was.

Then came another message.

You should talk to your grandmother. The one who passed away two years ago. Ask her for help. Ask her to give you a sign.

I told you she was out there.

But out there in a good way.

I “talked” to my grandmother. I asked for a sign.

I didn’t see one that day, or that week, or that month.

I waited and waited and waited.

But I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I felt nothing.

Things between my husband and me would continue to deteriorate through the beginning of the summer.

And I still hadn’t received any signs from Gma.

Maybe no sign was the sign.

Maybe Gma wanted me to figure it out on my own.

Up until about a month ago I was almost convinced that the Big D was the right decision.

But after some serious introspection, I believed that there was still hope.

I hadn’t done all I could do.

Last night my husband and I were able to go out for dinner while we are down here in North Carolina for a vacation do-over.

We went to a place that’s right on the water, and we sat on the roof top deck.

My husband was drinking a beer, and I was drinking a tropical, girly drink.

It was beautiful out. Sunny, breezy, and blue skies.

We were having a really nice time.

My back was to the water and I was looking at my husband and he said to me,

“Look behind you.”

And I saw this:

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One year later.

Same place.

Much different circumstances.

Another rainbow.

Some cultures believe the rainbow is a bridge between heaven and earth.

Rainbows are also seen as symbols of promise, potential, harmony, and connection.

Who knows.

Maybe it was just a fucking rainbow.

A coincidence.

But I don’t think so.

I think it was a message from Gma.

And even though I already know it, I’m pretty sure she’s telling me I made the right decision.

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11 Things All First Time Moms Need to Do

Dear First Time Mom,

It’s okay.

It’s okay if you are overwhelmed. If you feel like you are failing. Drowning. Completely fucking up.

We have all been there. You are not alone.

And you are not alone if your emotions are all over the map.

Because you have now entered the world of extremes.

You love this kid more than anything in the history of… ever.

But at other times, your kid has you so fucking frustrated and angry that you want to get in your car and drive far, far away. Alone.

Yes, those moms who tell you how amazing being a mom is have felt that way, too.

They may not have told you, but they have had those thoughts.

All of us moms have.

We have questioned whether we could handle this motherhood thing.

Am I doing this correctly?

Was this a mistake?

Am I fucking my kid up?

I’m not sure I can do this.

It’s okay.

Stop putting so much pressure on yourself.

Instead, do this:

1. Relax.

Look at your baby. She’s still alive, right?

Then you are doing okay.

If you feed her formula instead of breast feeding her or don’t have her sleep schedule nailed down yet or let her watch TV before she’s two years old, she’s not going to change her name to Destiny and start dancing at Scores on her 18th birthday.

It may take some time to figure shit out.

But you will figure it out.

And I have good news. You don’t have to figure it out alone.

Which brings me to my next point.

2. ASK FOR HELP WHEN  YOU NEED IT.

This is HUGE.

You are not a failure because you ask for help.

Motherhood is so different for all of us.

None of us have the same financial situation. The states of our marriages are all different. Our education and childhood and relationships with relatives are not all the same.

And so a situation that one mom might handle easily, may be very, very difficult for another mom to navigate.

It’s okay. Stop comparing.

And stop shoulding on yourself.

It’s okay to want help, to need help, and to ask for help.

Who do you ask?

You ask the people you trust. The people who you admire and respect. The people who don’t make you feel bad about yourself.

They will be glad to help you. I promise. Because at one time, they needed help too.

3. Prepare for your kid to do some fucked up shit.

Literally.

There may be a day your kid poops and it’s a totally different color than it was the day before.

It’s okay.

My two year old sucked all the ink out of a Crayola marker once and she pooped blue poop for two days.

I’m not implying you use a marker as a pacifier or that you don’t do your best to baby proof your house.

But shit happens.

My daughter is fine now.

In fact, she’s eight years old, and she kicked my ass in a 5K race last weekend, marker juice and all.

Your kid will also get rashes and make sounds and get injuries that will scare the crap out of you.

The first time your baby gets croup, you will be certain he is minutes from death.

He’s not.

The first time your kid falls and gets a lump the size of a baseball on her forehead, you will freak.

Of course, when something happens that makes you nervous, when you see something you are unsure of or your baby is sick, call the doctor.

But don’t immediately jump to the worst case scenario.

Like I said. Weird shit happens to your kids. Lots of weird shit.

And usually, it’s nothing major.

So refer back to Number 1.

4. Admire your new body.

Yes! Admire it! Your body just did something pretty fucking miraculous!

I know it’s hard. I know you have seen skinny bitches in Us Magazine bounce back into pre-baby shape in a nauseatingly short period of time.

But that’s not reality.

Yes. There are a handful of genetically blessed women who will look just like they did before they had kids two months after giving birth.

And one of those (annoying) women may be a friend of yours.

Don’t hold yourself up to that standard. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. It is not realistic.

Most of us will never get those bodies back exactly the way they were.

When you can accept that, you will unload a big burden from your shoulders.

And you know what?

Your friends don’t give a shit.

Your husband doesn’t give a shit.

Your husband now looks at you as the mother of his child.

To him that is sexy.

You will eventually have enough time, willpower, motivation, and determination to get back into shape. Although it may  not be the exact same shape you had before you had kids, you will get there.

It will just be on your own timeline.

It could be in a few months.

It could be in a few years.

When you and your body are ready, it will happen.

5. Prepare for accidents.

They are going to happen.

And sometimes they will be your fault.

You are going to fuck up.

A lot.

We all do.

When my now nine-year-old was just a couple weeks old, I fell asleep on the bed while I was nursing him.

He rolled off of me while I was asleep.

And he fell onto the hardwood floor.

Face first. 

I thought I was going to die.

I was hyperventilating and hysterical and certain I had permanently damaged him.

That nine-year-old just starred in the fourth grade play, is doing great in school and is a star athlete.

Of course, I’m not advocating that you toss your newborn off the side of the bed.

But I’m saying that things will happen. Accidents will happen. Don’t destroy yourself over them.

Just use these fuck ups as lessons.

Learn from them, make the necessary adjustments, and then keep on going.

And when you breastfeed your baby, move into the middle of the bed.

Or at least put a pillow on the floor.

6. Speaking of breastfeeding, understand that it can be really hard.

Nobody really tells you this. Nobody tells you that there is a good chance you will have difficulty nursing your baby. Nobody tells you that they don’t automatically latch on to your boob. Nobody tells you that it takes a couple days for you to actually make milk out of those suckers or that the first few weeks of breastfeeding can be just as painful as the actual act of giving birth.

But one way or another, you get through it. The two of you may figure things out easily. But you also may never get the breatsfeeding thing down.

If you don’t, you are not a failure. If you bottle feed your baby, your son is not going to live in your basement until he is 50 years old.

7. Establish routines and be as consistent as possible.

This definitely helps. Especially with sleeping.

But sometimes there are days where you just don’t have it in you.

It’s okay.

You don’t need to get all military.

Inconsistency is not going to mess your kid up permanently, but it will make your life more difficult.

So if, early on, you have to make a choice between being consistent or folding the laundry… screw the laundry.

8. Ignore the know-it-all, trust your gut, and do what works for you.

Yes, you are new at this.

But you are also a mom now. And so now you possess that mother’s intuition.

If something really doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.

If you know that something is off, get it checked out.

If you see something going on with your kid and you know it is out of the ordinary, be firm.

You may not be an authority on all things baby.

But you are the one who knows your baby the best.

9. Give up control.

This can be so hard with that first one.

Because you might really like the fact that this little life needs you so badly.

But when you don’t allow your baby to get used to someone other than you taking care of him or her, you are potentially setting yourself up for house arrest.

And that gets old pretty fast.

You don’t have to leave the country for an extended vacation. But you can just get away for an hour.

Your child will survive!

Put your husband in charge. He may not do things the way you would do them, but he is a grown man, for Christ’s sake.

He is capable.

Have your parents help as much as possible if they are around.

If you belong to a gym that has babysitting, USE IT.

If you have the funds, hire a babysitter.

Expose your kid to lots of adults.

Your baby will still want and need you the most.

But when you give  yourself as big of a support system as possible, you are making a healthy decision not only for your child, but for yourself.

10. Aim for survival, not perfection.

Give yourself time to adjust, and make sleep, not housework a priority.

You need rest. When you are exhausted it’s hard to get through the tough parts of being a mom that make you want to run for the hills.

If you can sleep while your kid is sleeping, then sleep.

The dishes and vacuuming can wait.

If you wear the same outfit for  a week straight, you are in good company.

If you can’t remember the last time you took a shower or if you leave the house and realize it’s been more than 24 hours since you last brushed your teeth, you are doing things right.

At some point you will have the desire to shower and change out of pajamas even if you aren’t leaving the house.

It may happen five days after you give birth or it may happen five years after you give birth.

11. Enjoy It.

I know it may not seem like it in the middle of the night when your kid just will not go the fuck to sleep, and I know you probably have already heard this, but it goes by so fast.

So. Fast.

While it may seem unfathomable to you now, you will, at some point, look back and think, Wow.  I miss those times.

And if you do have another child, the experience will certainly be very special. But there is only one first time.

Those firsts with the first are just not the same the second (or third or fourth…) time around.

There is only one time where it is just you and this little miracle you have created, only one time where no other kids are fighting for your attention.

So refer back to Number 1.

Relax.

You will make it through this.

Your baby is going to be fine.

And you are going to be just fine, too.

 

 

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One more night.

Long day for me at the hospital, and now we are off to visit Daddy.

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