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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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Schooled by a 4-year-old

When I was 25, I got pregnant, got engaged, had a miscarriage, and then, even though I knew it was a mistake, got married.

I had always said I wasn’t going to take my husband’s last name if I ever got married, but for some reason I changed my mind.

My marriage lasted approximately 17 minutes.

Once the divorce was finalized, I went back to my maiden name.

Being young and impulsive and stupid, I decided it would be a good idea to get a tattoo of my initials.

On my left boob.

I basically monogrammed myself.

At the time, 20 years ago, it was a cute little tattoo. It was probably 3/4″ from top to bottom.

Now, at 45, after lots of kids and lots of breastfeeding and just lots of, well, gravity, it’s not so little or so cute.

It’s probably doubled in length at this point.

The other day I was teaching a swim lesson to a four-year-old. The top of my stretched out tattoo was peeking out from my suit.

The four-year-old pointed at it and said,”Why is that there?”

“Because I wasn’t thinking very clearly at the time,” I told him.

To which he replied, “You should have just gotten a sticker.”

I didn’t really know what to say other than, “I really wish you had been around 20 years ago.”

And if you are a young twenty-four-year-old contemplating a tattoo, remember these three words: location, location, location.

 

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The Hangover

The other night five friends and I had a Mom’s Night Out.

I drank a few Blue Moons. It was karaoke night.

I didn’t sing, and I didn’t go crazy.

I thought about it, but ultimately I left the karaoke to the college kids, and the craziness to the ladies in the booth next to us.

The ladies were there with their boyfriends,or husbands, but they were full on making out with each other. For a good five minutes.

They were seriously going at it, but their boyfriends/husbands didn’t seem to mind one bit.

Now those two chicks were completely shitfaced.

Wasted.

So the next morning, when I woke up and felt like I got run over by a semi, it wasn’t from a hangover, as some people may have assumed.

I was sick.

Those two making out ladies probably couldn’t say the same thing. I’m sure they were hurting.

But my totally shitfaced days are over.

And this is why.

I can tell you the exact date of my last hangover.

A hangover which knocked me on my ass, leaving me  feeling like I was on the verge of death.

It was on July 6th, 2008.

On July 4th, 2008, I had a miscarriage.

I was only about 8 weeks pregnant, and I ran a 5 mile, 4th of July race.

I was 37 at the time, and I had been running for a few months, and my gynecologist said I was okay to run in the race.

I ran the race no problem.

Later that night the cramping started.

I went to the bathroom and saw blood.

Lots of it.

I was devastated.

The next day I went to a party with my family.

It was a birthday party for a kid, but then at night, the kid party turned into an adult party.

The ping pong table turned into a beer pong table.

Now let me tell you something about beer pong.

I’m good at it.

Like really good at it.

Yesterday I saw a list of the 20 Most Fun Colleges in America posted by one of my friends on Facebook.

I went to Lehigh, which was number 12 on that list.

Lehigh has about 4000 fraternities, and those fraternities have a lot of parties. At least they did back when I went there.

And that is where I learned to perfect my beer pong game.

So when my husband took the kids home, I partnered up with my friend’s husband, and we played some beer pong.

We won the first game.

And the second.

And the third…

I think I played about 12 consecutive games.

I drowned all my emotions from that miscarriage in beer.

Until I couldn’t feel anything at all.

By the time I got home, I was a total mess.

I got down on my hands and knees and puked my guts out on the front lawn before I went inside and passed out on the couch.

The next day, I was completely useless.

My husband was beyond upset with me.

I don’t blame him.

And so, in the late afternoon of  July 6, 2008, when I was finally able to sit up and form coherent sentences again, I promised him that I would never drink to that point, or anywhere near it, again.

And I haven’t.

Yes, I still like a Blue Moon.

Or three.

It may have taken me a few years longer than most people, but now I know better.

Being really, really sad is definitely no fun.

But being really, really sad and so hungover that you have turned yourself into a non-functioning member of society?

Well, that just totally sucks.

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The first time wasn’t for love, the conclusion.

If you are new here, you may want to read yesterday’s post to get yourself up to speed…

So, it was the beginning of August, I was 24 years old, three months pregnant, about to get married, and a few weeks away from starting a full-time teaching job.

I had adjusted to my new situation, and the reality of becoming a mother had set in.

My future mother and sister-in-law gave me a bridal shower.

I received lots of wedding gifts,

and even a couple of baby gifts.

At the time, I was the pool director and head swim coach at a country club in Pennsylvania.

I went to work one morning and wasn’t feeling great. My stomach was really bothering me.

Over the course of the day, it got worse and worse.

I just wanted to get home.

Which I did.

But before I crawled into bed and called it a night, I went to the bathroom.

And when I pulled down my underpants, they were full of blood.

I freaked out.

Lost it.

Called the doctor.

Who told me to go to the emergency room.

My fiancée went with me.

We waited in a room for the ultrasound technician to come.

She finally got there, set up her stuff, and proceeded to check me out.

We stared at that black and white monitor.

The image of the baby came up.

I knew immediately something was wrong.

My fiancée was clueless.

He hadn’t been to any of my appointments with me.

But I knew where the heartbeat should have been.

And in the spot where that fluttering light used to be,

there was just a black spot.

The heartbeat was gone.

I’d had a miscarriage.

It was devastating.

I had heard of women having miscarriages before.

I didn’t think it was that big of a deal…it’s not like it’s an actual baby or anything.

Boy, was  wrong.

It doesn’t take long to fall in love with that little person growing inside of you.

And the visions of what your baby will look like, and what your life will be like, start coming right away.

One day you are walking around, your hand on your stomach, a tiny human growing inside of  you,

and then,

poof.

Gone.

I had to wait until the next day to go back to the hospital for a D&C.

That wasn’t much fun either.

On the way home, we bought a pack of cigarettes and some wine.

I started smoking and drinking immediately.

I was pretty depressed.

But it wasn’t just the miscarriage.

My gut immediately told me something else.

The wedding…

I was getting married in two weeks.

To a guy I was really only engaged to because of the pregnancy.

And that new teaching job.

All the sudden, the wedding wasn’t really necessary.

I knew the guy was not the right guy.

But the wedding plans were in place.

Everything was reserved.

And paid for.

I’d even gotten gifts.

What were people going to think?

Every part of my body told me to call the whole thing off.

And then, a week before the wedding,

my pot-smoking, long-haired, direction lacking, Jetta-driving fiancée bought me a wedding gift.

A puppy.

An adorable, little, face-licking, tail wagging, brown-eyed, yellow-lab.

yellow lab puppy

Great.

Thanks for the cutest puppy ever in the history of all puppies.

Let’s call off the wedding.

I couldn’t do it.

I had no internal Number 4.

And so,

we got married.

It took approximately one week for things to deteriorate.

It was my first year with my own classroom.

On top of that,

I was the head coach of a USS swim team with over 200 kids on it.

So everyday after school, I went to the pool and coached 3 practices.

I left for work at 7 a.m., and I got home around 8 p.m.

Every day.

On the weekends there were swim practices too.

And meets.

I was working my ass off.

80 hour work weeks, easily.

And my husband?

Phhhht.

He had a conversation with one of his buddies.

Who talked him into going to a meeting.

A meeting I knew nothing about.

One day in September I came home from practice.

I was exhausted.

I walked into the kitchen, and there were boxes,

and boxes,

and boxes,

of crap on the counters.

And the table.

And the floor.

What the fuck was this?

I walked into the living room.

My husband was lying down on the couch.

Watching tv.

In a cloud of smoke.

Like Brad Pitt in True Romance.brad pitt1

Minus the hotness factor.

“What the fuck is in the kitchen?” I asked him.

And that’s when I found out my husband had quit his job.

He had a plan.

He was going to make millions.

In,

like,

a week.

All he had to do was sell the $6000 worth of shit that he had purchased on our joint credit card.

The water filters,

and vitamins,

a supplements,

and other bullshit he had been persuaded to buy when he went to that pyramid scam meeting with his friend a couple weeks earlier.

I was livid.

LIV

ID.

Needless to say,

that shit, and those boxes, sat in our kitchen.

Untouched.

By the middle of October,

I had had it.

I told him to get a real job.

I said the same thing in November.

If you don’t have a real job by Thanksgiving, I’m leaving.

And December.

If you don’t have a real job by Christmas, I’m leaving.

The fucking boxes were still in the kitchen in January.

So.

I moved out.

I got my own place,

took my shit,

and the dog,

and I left.

HNO (Husband Number One) was a little shocked.

He called.

And called.

And called.

He came to visit.

He cried.

He begged.

He pleaded.

And then,

he got a real job.

As a used car salesman.

When that didn’t win me over,

he pulled out the big guns.

He came over to my house,

and asked if he could just talk for a minute.

He had brought a duffle bag with him.

He sat down on the couch,

unzipped the bag,

and he whipped out,

his bongo drums.

He sat down on the couch and proceeded to “sing” me a song he had written.

Boom. Bada boom. Boom. Boom.

Susie… I love you.

Bop. Bop. Biddi biddi bop.bop.

I want you back.

Boom bada boom boom boom.

I’m sorry…

Boom. Boom. boom bada boom….

He kept going.

For, like, a reeeeally long time.

I was speechless.

It was sad.

And hilarious.

The poor guy.

He was trying.

But it just wasn’t meant to be.

He meant well. He was just young.

We both were.

So our divorce was finalized the following October.

I wish I could say I learned enough from that experience to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with a guy.

I wish I could say I learned to listen to my gut after that.

But it would take another 15 years of mistakes and fucked up relationships to get to that point.

You’ll have to wait for my book to come out to read about those 🙂

In the meantime,

trust your gut,

and listen to your inner Number 4.

When she’s screaming at you,

listen to her.

She’ll always steer you away from the bongo drums,

and in the right direction.

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