My Struggle with Alcohol and How I Quit
By Molly Patrick
Jun 21, 2016,
I’m laying in my bed. It’s 8am. It’s cold and dark. My head pounds. My mouth is dry. I feel nauseous.
The Bay Area fog has nestled itself tightly around all of Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. There will be no blue skies today. There will be no sun.
I have to leave for work in less than an hour, and even the thought of getting out of bed is exhausting.
The only thing going through my head is Britney Spear’s voice singing just one line.
“Oops, I did it again”
This one line of this one song has plagued me for years. It’s been the first thing to pop into my head and greet me as I exit sleep and enter my hangovers. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but when I hear Britney’s voice in my head, I know that I’m hungover before I even feel the physical effects.
This morning is no different. “Oops I did it again” plays loud in my head. The message is clear, and the dialogue with myself sets in.
Molly, you said you weren’t going to drink yesterday – what the fuck happened?
I don’t know – it just happened. I forgot that I wasn’t going to drink (a lie).
What the hell is wrong with you?
I don’t know, but I’m definitely not drinking tonight.
Your breath stinks, you look like ass, and you have a long fucking day ahead of you. You’re better than this. Come on woman – get it together.
Yeah – got it. Getting up now.
You’re too old for this shit, and you’ve been doing this for too long. And you KNOW this.
Yeah – thanks. Understood.
I love you, but damn this is tired. Stop talking about quitting and start DOING.
Okay – fuck. I deserve that, but stop. I feel like enough shit already.
Before I drag myself out of bed, I silently apologize to my body for beating it up with wine and cigarettes on an empty stomach.
I skim over the fact that having an empty stomach is always part of the plan because food absorbs alcohol, and I don’t want it to fuck with my high.
I send love and light to my liver. To my lungs. To my heart. To my brain. And to the rest of the cells in my body.
All I want to do is pull my fluffy warm down blanket over my head and go back to sleep.
But I can’t. I have to get up and pretend that I’m fine. I have to shower and wash off the smell of alcohol and cigarettes. I’ll try to wash off a little shame and disappointment while I’m at it too. I have to do normal things that shouldn’t be challenging, but with a hangover, they feel monumental.
I sludge through, feeling like my day is more of a punishment than a blessing. I drink a green smoothie. I eat some carb-heavy vegan food. I drink copious amounts of water. I take a couple of Ibuprofen. I fake a smile. And I tell myself that I am NOT going to drink tonight.
My day slowly goes by, and by 3pm I’m feeling much better. My headache lifts. I don’t feel nauseous. And I start to get some energy back. Things are starting to look up. But as soon as I feel better physically, thoughts of drinking start to stir. At first, it’s a quiet whisper.
Hey – maybe you can drink tonight after all.
I try to ignore it, and I remind myself of it earlier this morning. I think of Britney.
As time goes by, the nudge gets a little more ballsy.
Hey – it’s Friday. You can’t NOT drink on a Friday. Come on you quitter.
I listen. I agree. But I hold firm. I felt like shit this morning. I need to give my body a break. #ForTheLoveOfMyLiver
As it gets closer to 5pm – the end of my work day, the nudging turns into a full-on shout.
Molly – you eat like a rabbit, you work hard all week, and you can sleep in tomorrow. You deserve some fun and some time to unwind. Everyone has a vice, and everyone is going to die someday. Do you want to die sober and boring? Plus, you’re going to drink at some point, so you may as well drink tonight.
I am becoming convinced, and I like it. I welcome more convincing.
Thatta girl! You know what to do. You can already taste that first drink of wine going down. Right? Am I right? Woo hoo!! We’re going to drink when we get off work!!
With this, my mind has been made up – I will drink after work. And once I make the decision to drink, it’s on. No matter how hungover. No matter how much the better part of me knows that I shouldn’t. No matter what obstacles or boundaries are blocking my way. The second that I decide I’m going to drink, it’s over, and I’m already on my way to getting drunk.
I get off work, and before I even reach my car I know exactly where I’ll stop to pick up my supplies. Now – there’s a part of me that wants to go straight home and skip the store. She wants a nourishing plant based dinner. A bath. A good book. She wants peace. She wants to go to bed early and wake up early. She wants to start the day feeling energized and happy.
But that part always loses out.
That part is overpowered by a much stronger force that will feel cheated if I skip the store. She will feel angry if I go home empty-handed. She will feel like she’s missing an opportunity to drink if I opt for dinner, a bath, and bed. The thought of skipping the store and going straight home is soothing, but only because I know it’s not going to happen.
I drive to the store, and I buy three bottles of wine and a pack of yellow American Spirits. I feel excited and ashamed as I happily hand over my hard-earned cash and avoid eye contact with the cashier.
As I drive home, I humor the small part of me that doesn’t want to drink by telling her that I don’t have to drink or smoke tonight and that maybe I’ll save the wine and smokes for another time.
But I can see right through my bullshit. I’m so giddy to get home that I’m genuinely smiling for the first time all day.
I walk into my house, I tell my girlfriend (Luanne) hi, and then I see how long I can put off opening the first bottle. It’s a little game that I play with myself. I’m hoping that Luanne opens a bottle and pours me my first glass because this way, I’ll feel less responsible for my actions.
I will wait 30 minutes. If she doesn’t offer me a glass of wine by then, I will uncork the first bottle myself.
As soon as I have my first glass readied up, I make my way out to the deck, wine, cigarettes, and lighter in tow. This is my happy place, and my entire day up until now has been the entrance fee. I sit down, and I melt into the experience.
As the wine gently hits me, any lingering feelings of being hungover fade away, and I become blissed out, happy, and totally content for the first time all day. I’m slightly tingly. My worries and my problems are forgotten. The conversation I had with myself earlier that morning flashes through my mind, but I dismiss it and chuckle to myself for overreacting. I pour another glass of wine and light another smoke.
Luanne and I talk about our day. We laugh. We tell each other stories. We connect.
I don’t dare tell her about the mind fuck and the grip that alcohol has on me because I know that she’s free of it, and if I tell her, it’ll compromise my addiction.
I call it a night when the wine bottles are empty. I’m sad that it’s over, and if there were more to drink, I probably would. This is one reason I don’t keep extra alcohol in the house. It’s protection from myself. I waited all day for this, and now it has ended so fast. That original tingly good feeling is gone, and I now feel sloppy, unsteady, tired, and regretful.
I rummage through my fridge. I’m not hungry, but I know I need to eat something before I go to sleep, or else I will throw up in the morning. There are no leftovers to heat up easily, so I make a piece of toast. It’s not dinner – it’s a sponge.
I brush my teeth. I put in my retainer (much to my surprise, I always manage to put in my retainer). I wash my face, I put on my pajamas, and I get into bed. I turn off the light, and I pass out.
The next morning, before my eyes open – before I’m awake enough to feel my hangover, it hits me.
And the whole cycle begins again.
Until June 2015, some variation of this was my life. And although my drinking became more predictable and heavier over time, alcohol was a constant in my life from a young age.
The first time I got drunk, I was 14. I was at a big New Year’s Eve party with lots of adults who were letting loose and too preoccupied with having a good time to notice a couple of teenagers sneaking wine from the kitchen.
My best friend and I drank pink Carlo Rossi wine from a box until we felt tingly and light-headed. We went outside to get some air, and we laid down on the inviting grassy lawn. We looked up at the night sky, and we laughed until tears rolled down our cold, pink cheeks.
That was it. The floodgates had been opened, and they wouldn’t close until June 14th, 2015. Twenty-one years later.
I have a hard time believing it, but it has officially been one year since I’ve had a drink or a smoke.Molly, June 14, 2016
I thought about quitting hundreds of times before my first attempt at kicking it to the curb.
Thinking about quitting was safe because it was in my head. If I decided that I didn’t want to quit after all (which invariably was the case), there would be no one to explain myself to, and I wouldn’t have to backpedal.
If my desire to stop drinking were transferred from my head to someone else’s, I would be bringing attention to my problem. And I didn’t want attention on my problem because only then would it become a problem. I was okay living in denial. Living in denial meant that I could drink, and let’s face it – that was one of my highest priorities.
I loved drinking.
- It was how I coped. It was how I staved off boredom. It was how I celebrated good news.
- It was how I got through bad news. It was how I loosened myself up in social situations.
- It was how I entertained myself and my friends.
- It was how I had fun.
It had been a huge part of my life since I was a teenager. The thought of living without alcohol was unimaginable. Who would I be without it? What would I do without it? Life would be boring and painful and anticlimactic and pointless without drinking.
I was not a quitter. And goddammit – I deserved every single drink that I’d ever had.
So whenever I would get the bright idea to quit (always when I was hungover), I would keep it tucked away in my head, where my drinking routine was safe from it.
In 2010, I started getting the nudge. It was a knowing that my life would open up and be so much richer if drinking wasn’t part of it.
My spirit felt dull and grey, but there was an energized light just underneath the madness of my addiction that I knew was waiting to come out and play. It was clear to me that drinking was holding me back from fully stepping into the life that I was put on this planet to live.
It sounds woo-woo. It sounds super patchouli, but that’s the best way I can explain it. This message – this nudge, was bittersweet. I wanted to shine, and I knew that I had more to offer, but the thought of not drinking was ridiculous to me.
So I tried cutting down.
Okay, so cutting down might work for some people, but for me it was a joke. Having one glass of wine was a tease. It made me hot, and then it didn’t deliver. It gave me pink clit (yes – the equivalent of blue balls, but for ladies). It was impossible for me to have one drink. As soon as I had one, I kept going – even if I didn’t want to necessarily. It was easier for me to have zero drinks than one drink. But I wasn’t ready to have zero drinks, so I kept having lots of drinks.
My inability to stop at one drink and my tiring cycle of habitual alcohol use intrigued me, and I became fascinated with other people’s drinking and sobriety.
I read book after book about people who struggled with alcohol and who had gotten sober. I was obsessed.
Every book I read was like reading an autobiography. Even though I was reading books about quitting drinking, I wasn’t ready to get sober yet. Sometimes I’d read about people getting sober while I was drunk, having to shut one eye, so I didn’t see double on the page. The irony and madness made me laugh out loud.
I knew one day I’d have to quit drinking, and even though this pissed me off and made me shit scared, I accepted this as my truth and my ultimate fate.
So I kept reading. I kept seeking answers. I kept learning from others who successfully got off the bottle. I started journaling. I started meditating. I started cleaning up my eating. I slowly got myself ready for what was sure to be a shit show that I wanted no part of, but at my core knew that my participation was required.
I was preparing to give birth to a life and an existence that was totally foreign to me.
I was doing a good job preparing, but I kept putting it off and telling myself that I would quit soon. Months went by. Years went by. There was always tomorrow.
One Monday evening in November of 2013, I had a moment of clarity for no apparent reason.
It was around 5pm, and I had already had four or five Jameson and Ginger Ales and smoked half a pack of cigarettes.
I went into my kitchen and sat down at the table. There was a heaviness in the air, and I knew things would not be okay if I kept this up. I knew something had to give, and it had to give soon. I felt like I had just got the news that an old friend had died.
The next day I told Luanne I would go one month without drinking. This was the first time I had set boundaries for myself out loud, and because I had verbalized my plan to someone, I felt accountable for following through with it, which gave me an excuse not to drink. Yes – it had gotten to the point that I needed an excuse NOT to drink. The first few days without alcohol were brutal and beautiful. I wasn’t tempted to drink because I had someone to keep me accountable.
- This was my first foray into sobriety, and it lasted exactly six weeks.
- I lasted two weeks longer than my intended four weeks, so from my skewed, wanting-to-drink judgment, it was a success.
- My next sober attempt was in 2014, and it lasted all of three days. Yup, one, two, three.
- I tried again later in 2014 and I lasted five days – not even a full week.
For most people, going five days without drinking is completely normal; for me, it was a small victory.
In June 2015, I’d finally reached the point where it was more painful for me to keep drinking than it was to stop.
Reaching this point was anti-climactic, and I’m grateful every single day that I don’t have a horrifying story about my low.
I didn’t drive drunk and hit someone. I wasn’t homeless. My drinking never spilled over into doing drugs. I was never diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I didn’t cheat on my girlfriend or say awful things to those I love.
It was a day just like any other day. But when I woke up, I knew it was over.
I was exhausted, and I was finally done.
I hated that I had reached this point, and I fucking loved it.
I breathed in relief, and I breathed out sorrow.
I was full of excitement and absolute dread.
It was the thing that I wanted the most and the least at the same exact time.
This had been over two decades coming, and I knew I couldn’t put off quitting drinking any longer.
I also knew that I had to go all in this time. So I put a plan into place, and I got ready for life to sting for a little while.
If you can relate to this and want to quit drinking, we can help you.
Do you have a personal struggle with alcohol? Talk to me in the comments below.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with moments of clarity for no apparent reason.
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