Fistfights At Brunch

Two summers ago, I spent an inordinate amount of time making myself beautiful in a hotel room in Baltimore, Maryland.

I was there for a blogging conference with my friend Audrey. On our final day, before returning back home to Baton Rouge, we headed to a nice brunch with a group of smart, influential women. I wanted to make a good impression, and the best way I knew to do that was to walk into the restaurant looking like I just stepped out of a hair salon. Because that makes sense.

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you may remember that I attended a now-defunct blogging conference two summers in a row. The first summer, I loved it. It was one of those life-changing experiences that let me know I am on the right path as a writer. It made me feel like I was a part of something greater than myself: a community of creative, brilliant women who support each other.

The second summer, I acted like an asshole.

This is the truth: I have a chip on my shoulder that may take a lifetime of therapy to eradicate. There are reasons for my irrationalities that I could list here, blathering on for pages and pages, but none of it matters. Not really. On that day in Baltimore, when I was at the height of my alcoholic behavior, full of a dark anger and sadness that I couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge the origin of, I sat at a long table full of power players in the blogging world and pretended.

I pretended to be happy.  I pretended to be calm. I pretended to be sober. I pretended to be whole. I pretended to be strong and unafraid and confident — all of the things that people told me I was, but I knew deep down weren’t true, because do strong, unafraid, confident women have to drink in order to make it through an afternoon at the park?

Maybe.

The lie I’d worked so meticulously to create for myself was blown to smithereens in a very public way when a fellow writer called me stupid in front of the long table full of women. She was joking, she said, but something about her tone and the moment in which is happened sparked a rage that I’d worked very hard to keep under wraps. It was the deep bitterness I’d been ignoring for years, the one that fueled my alcoholism and my incessant need for approval. This was the heart of my need to control, my desire for perfection, my constant feeling of worthlessness, and my many insecurities.

Instead of acting like a normal member of society and laughing it off as a joke, I damn near got into a fistfight. Dead serious, it almost came to blows. Audrey told me later that in that moment, she knew we were probably going to end up in a Baltimore jail that afternoon, rather than in the airport.

Looking back, I wish that had been my low point. It wasn’t. So, I’m taking the experience of threatening to punch another grown woman in the face in front of people who now rightfully think I’m a lunatic and I’m using it as one of many examples of how addiction turns people into horrible versions of themselves.

It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.

Recently, I was invited to keynote the 2018 Women’s Health Conference in Illinois. I honestly thought they were crazy to ask someone who has never given an hour-long presentation to KEYNOTE THEIR CONFERENCE, however, the clear insanity of the situation made me realize that this was clearly an opportunity meant for me. So, I took it.

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Here I am, trying not to puke in front of hundreds of people.

During my speech, I talked about that day at brunch — how I justified my behavior, twisted the situation to make what I did make sense in my mind. How I refused to apologize or own up to my part in it, which strangely enough, is exactly what haunts me about my past. The women who wronged me have never owned up to it or apologized, even when pressed in a court room.

I’ve thought about that day at brunch a lot lately. I think about it when I catch myself judging other people who are acting like assholes. I think about it when I overhear someone talking condescendingly about her addict sibling who just can’t seem to stay sober. I think about it when I see a homeless tweaker standing under a bridge, or pushing a shopping cart full of trash.

I think about it when my son hops in the car and says “Mom? What’s a hoe?” And after I explain that a hoe is a prostitute and prostitution is selling your body for sex which is illegal, he thinks about it and declares prostitutes are bad people and I have to pull over onto the side of the road because I happen to know a few former prostitutes and they aren’t bad people at all.

The deal is, everything I once believed to be true actually isn’t, and all I know for sure is that I need to stay away from alcohol, I’ll probably never go to another blogging conference, and there is a God somewhere out there.

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I Did Not Jump Out: learning how to ride in a car with 4 other humans

Recently, someone commented on an Instagram post that she misses my writing. I never stopped — I have essays littering the internet — but I haven’t been writing here. I’m not sure why.

This site is a clear record of the crooked path I’ve followed over the years, something I regard with both a deep sense of sadness and a healthy dose of pride. Sometimes I want to wipe it all clean, hit delete, and start fresh. Sometimes, I’m too sad to come here at all. I don’t like to be reminded of the past, although it’s important for me to remember.

Making peace with who I am and where I come from is a bitch; the daunting task of acceptance, something so simple yet so freaking hard, reminds me on a daily basis that I’m better but still far from where I’d like to be.

Recovery is like removing layers from an onion. I may never reach the core.

My oldest, my muse, my biggest headache and source of inspiration. Maverick is the only one out of my three who remembers what I used to be like, before I got sober. Every so often he asks me a question like, “Do you ever miss drinking wine?”

I tell him the truth: yes, I miss it.

I might always miss it, in the way that a person misses a thing that might kill them, but missing a thing isn’t so bad if you have the right support. I take it in small bites. I miss it for a few minutes, a few times per day. But the day ends, and so does my desire to get plastered. I sleep, I feed myself properly — I’m having to learn how to do this, so I can continue to take care of myself — and I pray for the strength to creep forward a tiny bit each day.

“I’m proud of you.”

That’s what he says, when we talk about recovery. I’m proud of me, too. I’m also proud of him, and immensely grateful to call him mine. We have come so far since we were in that dark place two years ago, before his diagnosis, before we got the right help for him, and later, for me. The rest of our little family was being dragged along on a crazy — not the fun kind of crazy, the crazy kind of crazy — ride with no end in sight.

It was hell.

My hope is that the kids don’t think of that time when they look back on their childhood. The fire that burns underneath my feet to keep me moving is stoked by the knowledge that if we go backward, it would be so much worse. I don’t have the power to erase their crazy-not-the-fun-kind memories, but I can try like hell to create good ones.

This weekend was the first time I can remember when we all got into a car together and I didn’t want to throw myself out the passenger window. The screeching! The fighting! The kicking of the seats! The way Robbie cranks up the radio to drown them all out, but all it does is add to the chaos!

** INSERT GUTTURAL SCREAMS HERE **

I used to drink to take the edge off, and when I first got sober? No way was I getting in a car with everyone else unless it was absolutely necessary. THIS IS WHY MY SONS USED TO RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS.

But now, 14 months into recovery, I can handle it. The volume might grate on my nerves, but not unbearably so. I didn’t yell. I didn’t jump out of the car or call someone to come pick me up. I simply enjoyed my fun-kind-of-crazy family.

I count that as a win.

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The Time For Action Is NOW.

It happened again.

Seventeen people were gunned down at random. At a school. Again.

Our great nation has seen almost 300 school shootings since 2013 and 19 in 2018 so far, including Wednesday’s massacre in Parkland, Florida. When I look at the maps popping up all over Facebook, marking the locations with bright red dots, my throat closes up. How long until it happens in my town? How long until it happens in yours?

I shouldn’t have to add worrying about my child’s safety to the list of concerns running through my head every morning as I pack their lunches — and yet, here we are.

(CLICK TO READ THE REST OF MY LATEST ESSAY FOR BABBLE!)

Standing In A Snow Globe

351 days sober feels like standing in the middle of a snow globe right after a small child shook it so violently that an adult had to intervene. I am standing on two feet, which is good, but I’m also (still) disoriented and dizzy and unsure of what is actually happening and also I can’t see a damn thing because of

all

that

snow.

***

351 days sober is really close to a full calendar year and I almost feel paralyzed by everything I know. The mind is a tricky thing. It’s possible to lock parts of it up and hide the key from yourself, which is exactly what I did. I was depressed for years but did not want to be, so I found chemicals to perk myself up. I drank to deal with the emotions I wanted to avoid: fear, anger, resentment, PTSD, and heartache.

I was like this when I met my husband — he knew I had problems, but doesn’t everyone? Yes, everyone does. We married and vowed to stay with each other in sickness and in health and I guess this whole addiction thing is my sickness.

It’s easy to hide from the truth if you don’t want to see it. I believed all of the lies I told myself: I’m not good enough. Something is inherently wrong with me. I’m a shit mother. My husband doesn’t really love me.

In therapy, I described how, for a very long time, I blamed my family for causing me to believe those lies. If Robbie would just bring home flowers, I would feel loved. If only our children were easier. Then, I would know I was a good mother.  If only my own mother wasn’t so sick. I mean, that’s why I drank, right? Because I have a sick mom and a child on the spectrum and a husband who works crazy hours?

Searching for evidence to support the lies I tell myself occupied my thoughts. If I wasn’t busy thinking that I suck at life and finding examples to support this self-fulfilling prophecy, then I might actually have to look at myself, and clearly, that was out of the question.

So, no. I didn’t drink because of the people in my life. I drank to hide.

“What you just described to me is the definition of addiction,” my therapist said, when I told her how I would nitpick Robbie and blame his scatterbrained-ness, his work hours, his messiness, for my issues.

Oh.

At nearly one year sober, this is what I know: no one can MAKE me feel anything. I am in charge of my emotions. I am in charge of how I allow others to affect me. It’s like standing in the middle of a hula hoop — I can control everything inside of the hula hoop. That’s it. Everything else is outside of the hula hoop, which means it is outside of my control.

The only other thing I’ve figured out in the past 11 months is that the people I blamed for making me want to drink are the same people who loved me when I was at my lowest point. They are the ones who cleaned my vomit out of the car and the bed and went with me to the doctor and loved me, no matter how much I yelled or how unpredictable I was.

Not one of those people stopped loving me. They are living proof that the lies I told myself are, in fact, lies.

I have a lot of love to celebrate on my first sober Valentine’s Day.

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This is me. Can’t you tell?

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What I Cannot Do For Myself

I twisted my hands together, fighting the urge to pick at my cuticles as I watched my therapist’s eyes widen. She put down her pen; I bit my bottom lip to the point of pain, waiting for her to continue.

“That just doesn’t happen, Harmony.”

“I know.”

“No, I don’t think you do. I mean, I think you’re grateful for the people you have in your life. I think you know that you wouldn’t be sober today without them, but Jesus – you are incredibly, incredibly lucky.”

“I know.”

She picks up her pen; I exhale. I want to feel lucky: I’m a recovering addict and alcoholic who is still alive. I have not lost my husband or my kids. My friends still speak to me. I love and I am loved, even though a loud, persistent voice tells me every day that I am unworthy. The other shoe will drop soon, says the voice, and no one can be trusted except for my best friends, alcohol and uppers. Figuring out how to acknowledge that voice and then actively choose not to listen to it is an invisible, exhausting task that is hard to explain to people who have never had to battle with an almost constant feeling that everyone would be better off if they were dead.

I want to feel brave and fortunate and strong. People call me those things all the time – someone from my past recently called me “courageous” – but all I feel is a heaviness that never leaves, no matter how many hours of sleep I get or how many lattes I drink. Some people call it depression, but for me, it’s simply darkness. For years and years, I took uppers to snap me out of the sadness that wouldn’t leave.

It worked. No one noticed how messed up I was.

When that person called me courageous, I wanted to yell the following proclamation:

“I AM NOT COURAGEOUS. I AM EXHAUSTED AND WANT NOTHING MORE THAN AN ENORMOUS BOTTLE OF VODKA TO WASH AWAY THE PERSISTENT PAIN AND DISCOMFORT THAT I CARRY WITH ME ALL THE TIME. I AM DESPERATE TO FEEL BETTER.”

Is bravery the same thing as desperation?

***

On January 9, 2018, my dad had surgery. It was supposed to be minor – my mother couldn’t bring him, because she has virtually no immune system and is almost always narrowly avoiding hospitalization herself. I was happy to do it, especially because I knew this would be the first January 9th I faced in recovery and I needed a distraction.

January 9, 1999 is the day my life imploded. Now that I’m no longer drinking to avoid thinking about it, I’m thinking about it a lot. Here’s where I am: when those people made the decision to cross the multiple lines that were crossed, I was forced to make a series of decisions. First, I pressed charges. Second, I broke up with the man I was planning to marry and spend the rest of my life with, because I could no longer fathom a happy future with him. It wasn’t because of anything that was lacking in him as a person, or in our relationship. It was purely because he happened to be related to the kind of people who thought it was acceptable to slam me, choke me, kick me, punch me, and lick my face. I just … I couldn’t. I was done.

Maybe walking away from that relationship means they won. Maybe becoming an alcoholic means they won. If they wanted to destroy me, they were successful. Not one of them ever acknowledged what they did. Not one of them ever uttered an apology for smashing their brother’s relationship into pieces. They did what they did and pretended it never even happened, and we were left to figure out the rest. I chose to walk away from the relationship, and that is something I drank over for a very, very long time.

When I got sober, it was like awakening from a deep sleep. Like, oh! Okay. I made that decision and now my life is this. That choice led me to point A and then to point B where I seriously screwed up, but how did I get here? It’s a super involved process of turning over every rock and analyzing the how and why of my current situation. Was I sober when I met Robbie? Was I sober when we married? What about when we decided to have kids – was I sober then?

***

This year, I spent January 9 in a hospital waiting room working really hard not to self-destruct. I made it through the day – my dad went home, and so did I – but then I had to rush him back to the Emergency Room two days later.

The E.R. is a terrible place, something I can say with certainty because we spent 16 hours there before he was finally admitted. I was awake for 36 hours straight. My dad was hooked up to morphine. At a few different points, he and I both thought he was going to die.

I’m very good in emergency situations. I fold into myself, feeling nothing until it’s safe to do so. It wasn’t until I’d pitched a fit while holding a barf bag full of my daddy’s vomit in the middle of a flu-infested E.R. with a crazy man sitting in the corner yelling about how he was going to kill us all and they finally found a room for us that I allowed myself to cry.

Recovery feels like that for me. It didn’t feel safe to feel until it was safe to feel.

***

I don’t know how long I was at the hospital before my friend Kate flew in from Virginia. She was there to take care of the kids so I could be with my dad, but she admitted later on that she was mostly there to make sure I was able to take care of myself so I could take care of everyone else.

She came so I could remain sober.

My girlfriends sent food to my house and to my parents. Kate grocery shopped for my kids, bought them balloons, and assured them that their real mom would be home soon. My mother-in-law did all of the laundry, and then, Kate did it again.

“All you have to do is press the button on the coffee maker,” she told me before I fell into bed one night. “The coffee is ready to go.”

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She taught my children ballet poses.

Kate mothered me. She cooked food and encouraged me to eat it. She sent me to my 12-step meetings. For almost a week, she reminded me that it was okay to need and accept help. Her presence made me remember to keep doing the things that keep me sober.

Robbie bought a desk for my office and had it assembled when I got home. He did everything he could think of to make my life easier while I was preoccupied with getting my dad better. And really, that’s the part that touches me the most – how everyone in my life just SHOWED UP. Maybe before now, I was so walled off that I wouldn’t allow people to truly help me or love me. Maybe now I can learn how to do a better job of that, even though the voice still whispers that I don’t deserve love because I’m not good enough.

***

My 50-minute therapy session is drawing to an end, and I kind of don’t ever want to leave but I also kind of want to make a run for it and never come back. Getting better is hard work, something my therapist acknowledges and encourages me to talk about. Owning my issues will help me get better, and I really am proud of my progress, even though right now I’m pretty much constantly in a state of discomfort, shame, or self-loathing.

“Let me sum it up for you like this, Harmony,” she said, snapping her notebook shut and leaning forward. “God is doing for you what you cannot do for yourself.”

Yeah. No kidding.

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This is Kate. She is my sister.

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Learning To Swim

Every rental we’ve lived in since we left Alabama came with a disappointing bath tub.

Our town home, although small, had a large garden tub that I kept scrubbed clean. A hot bath with Epsom salts is the only thing that relaxes me the way wine does. When I was pregnant with Maverick, and later, Asher, I soaked in that tub almost every night to relax the muscles wrapping around my midsection.  As I floated, belly protruding, I could breathe.

Weightlessness. That’s what I am always searching for.

After we walked away from our mortgage in 2012 like so many other young couples who found themselves trapped in the real estate market crash, I either drank myself to oblivion or crammed my body into the dingy tub of an overpriced rental home to relax. Sometimes, I did both.

A few days into sobriety, my brain still fogged over from detox, I wondered what would happen if I sank under the murky water and inhaled.

The dense fog has lifted now, and most days, being sober feels like a heavy weight. Drinking was like a weight, too, but this is different. Life is what feels heavy. Alcohol let me block it out but did not provide an escape from my problems. Sobriety opens up the curtains and lets the light in: painful, but promising.

I voluntarily opted to birth my middle child without any pain medication whatsoever. It was an amazing, horrifying, terrible, awesome experience. There were a few points when I was absolutely certain that I was going to die, but I had no choice but to keep going. With the help of my support system, my son and I made it to the other side alive.

It was exhilarating.

That is what it feels like to be in recovery. As terribly uncomfortable as it is, I just have to keep moving forward. Neither stopping nor going backwards is an option for me.

Some days I really wish I hadn’t made the choice to get better. At this particular time in my life, with small kids who have a lot of needs, true recovery can feel like an impossible undertaking. But, just like childbirth, I have to remind myself that I’m not the first woman to do this and I certainly won’t be the last.

Recovery from addiction is painful, but it’s not going to kill me.

My addiction is what will kill me.

Merriam-Webster defines heartbreak as “crushing grief, anguish, or distress.” I define it as something I worked really, really hard for a very long time to avoid. I thought if I moved on fast enough, planned well enough, and accomplished enough, I could somehow escape it. I ran, literally and figuratively; I recoiled from it like someone might from a thing that has the potential to kill you.

I thought it would crush me if I allowed myself to feel it, so I refused to. I masked the pain with a number of relationships, walled myself off, and became an alcoholic. I met my husband and we built a life, but as much as I love him I never allowed him to truly love me.

We can’t ever truly escape the past. My story will never go away, no matter how many times I try to pretend it didn’t happen. On January 9, 1999, I suffered emotional and physical trauma followed by a heartbreak so profound that I never allowed myself to address it at all. I smashed myself back together like a car wreck survivor might if lost in the woods without access to medical care, and I never healed properly.

Just like a broken arm that never healed correctly, I have to re-break my heart in order to allow it to fully mend. There is never, ever an ideal time for heartache. I procrastinated for 18 years, but now, if I want to remain sober from alcohol, and I do, I have no other choice but to surrender.

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I am learning to swim.

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Downward Facing Spiral

I’m going through a really scary time in my recovery: processing major events in my past that my alcoholism is rooted in. Maybe normal people wrestle with terrible things that happen in their lives within a reasonable time frame, without having to hit rock bottom half a lifetime later and narrowly avoiding rehab. Clearly, I am not a normal person.

For half my life, I stuffed and avoided and blocked out and denied and channeled all of the pain and sadness into defiance, drive, and misguided attempts at controlling the outcome of almost every situation I found myself in. When I had fully exhausted myself of all those options, I turned to alcohol.

I would drink anything that was handed to me. I knew it would make everything better, if only temporarily. The liquid burned; I didn’t care. The burning hurt less than the pain inside my chest.

I’m in a really uncomfortable place. I can’t eat and I can’t sleep and I’m sweaty all the time and it sort of reminds me of my first 30 days of sobriety, except without the shakes. I’m afraid. Feelings are terrifying — I’ve spent half my life running from them — but they aren’t fatal. I have to remember that.

Trying to stay focused on today is hard for a planner. Even as a child, I would lie awake in bed at night thinking about the next day, preparing my outfits in my head, making sure I don’t repeat anything twice.

Recovery has hills and valleys. There have been times that I felt amazing and everything was great. This is not like that. Right now, I’m in a valley, a dark one, and someone stole my flashlight.

I won’t stop moving forward, but I gotta say — I DON’T LIKE THIS PART AT ALL.

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I found this meme on Instagram via @hallelujahnellie and I LOVE IT SO.

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Finding Serenity

My first sober Thanksgiving is probably not the ideal time to work my 9th step, and yet, here we are.

I spent Thanksgiving Eve on the couch, reading trashy celebrity gossip and texting my friends who were running around town or traveling, so our conversations happened in snippets. I tried to boil my feelings down to a few short paragraphs.

I got up from my spot on the couch only a handful of times throughout the day to feed the kids and brew more coffee. We left the house exactly one time, and that was to run over to my parent’s to borrow a Crock Pot. There were things I should have been doing instead – I had complicated holiday dishes to assemble, and my house was not suitable for guests – but I felt rooted to the cushions. Almost 9 months into recovery, I have learned not to fight the exhaustion that sometimes comes in waves. I give in.

Change is exhausting. Finding the willingness to learn how to react differently to emotional situations or stress or heartache takes a deep level of mental energy that I’m not sure I have at this stage in my life. I have three elementary-aged kids, none of whom know how to brush their teeth properly, and sometimes I barely have the bandwidth to get everyone to school on time. Digging for the emotional strength that recovery requires is often beyond me.

Thankfully, miraculously, admitting that I JUST CAN’T is enough. I don’t understand how it works exactly, but announcing my powerlessness to another person or group of people gives me just enough strength – not a lot, but just enough – to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

I’ve literally drank or pilled my way through the past 16 or 17 year’s worth of holidays. I’d start drinking hard around Halloween and blast through to Thanksgiving, Christmas, December 26th (my birthday), and finally, New Year’s, which is when I would get so shitfaced and feel so horrible after months of unbridled eating and drinking that I would dial it back a bit to get myself straightened out for awhile.

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This was me. Literally.

Time ticked by like that, for years and years, without many people noticing a pattern. I’m a reserved, controlled drunk, until the end, when I hated everything and everyone — especially myself.

As a kid, holidays were my favorite time of year: magical and fun. The Christmas I turned 19 was the worst of my life. I never fully recovered from what happened that year, so from that point until I entered recovery almost exactly 18 years later, I found different ways to mask the pain that always crops up. I bulldozed through it. There is never a convenient time to feel pain or deal with uncomfortable emotions. You either face it, or you numb yourself.

This year, there’s no numbing or masking or bulldozing. There’s simply the experience of being awake. I want to say something nice about blessings and gratefulness and all the jazz, but I’m still too freaked out to feel blessed just yet.

I feel, in the words of my friend Amber, like a vulnerable dumpster fire. But at least I know that is how I feel, and not what I just drank an entire bottle of wine in order to pretend like I feel. So, as crazy as that probably sounds, I think what I’m feeling might be serenity.

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Saying Farewell To My Best Friend

I thought she was my best friend.

We planned to grow old together, laughing on the lawn of the old folk’s home where we would inevitably end up, wearing bright shades of lipstick and gaudy caftans.

We would be like the Golden Girls: brash, spunky, flashy, and so full of life that no one would dare ask us our age — they’d have no reason to, because we’d be so much fun to hang out with that no one would care if we were incontinent. We would outlive our husbands, of course, and maybe take a lover or two. Our children would come visit, their own children in tow, until the day we quietly died in our sleep.

I couldn’t imagine life without her.

I abruptly ended our friendship almost 9 months ago, and she left a bottle-shaped hole that I’ve worked daily to fill with other, less toxic, things. That was the problem; she was a stone cold bitch. I loved her too much to see it before now, but now that she’s out of my life, I understand clearly that she wanted nothing more than to see me dead.

She made me believe I needed her to make me happy. She made me think I had to bring her with me almost everywhere I went, that people wouldn’t like me unless she was there, and that I’m no good without her, period.

She made me sick on my honeymoon, clutching the tiny toilet in our cruise ship bathroom. Because of her, I got myself into dangerous situations. I wandered drunk and alone in the middle of Manhattan at 3 a.m., too messed up to figure out how to get an Uber. I picked fights with my husband, threw things, blacked out, and made terrible decisions.

She erased a whole lot of memories that I wish I had.

Her influence touched every corner of my life. I made a living writing jokes and essays about our friendship. I didn’t miss a day without her, even when I was sick or taking antibiotics or a host of other prescription drugs that you aren’t supposed to mix with alcohol, because I believed the lie that nothing bad would happen.

She put me behind the wheel of every car I’ve ever owned, too drunk to see the lines on the road. She whispered that one more shot of whiskey or tequila or vodka wouldn’t hurt, that I could handle it if I just drank enough water. When I was angry or depressed, which happened more and more frequently toward the end of our friendship, she convinced me it was everyone else’s fault. She fanned the flames of my anger in every direction away from her. My problems were never, ever because of her. They couldn’t possibly be. She was my confidante, my closest companion, the one I ran to when life became too much.

It was always too much.

Towards the end, she was systematically ruining every relationship I had in an attempt to have me all to herself.

Getting sober from alcohol has been liberating and terrifying and life-changing, but I am also grieving the loss of a friend who knew all of my secret fears. She was aware of the darkness that I’ve learned to hide behind a happy exterior, the wounds that have never healed and the pieces of myself that I’ve tried and failed to smash back together without help. Breaking up with her, and staying broken up with her, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

But bitch, we are no longer friends. We aren’t even frenemies or arch-nemiseses or regular enemies. We don’t have a connection or a tie whatsoever tethering us together because I have burned every bridge that connected me to you. And really, I’m not even sad because I don’t want to die.

I want to live.

This is why.

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A Very Sober Halloween

This is the first Halloween that I’ve been sober for as long as I can remember, and I have a lot of feelings about it.

Part of what grieves me about the absence of alcohol in my life is all the fun I used to have while drinking. Clearly, there was lots of bad stuff too, or I’d still be doing it, but when I’m feeling sorry for myself I only remember the good times.

Before Robbie and I had kids, we went to Halloween parties every year, sometimes more than one in a night. We were the people who meandered from party to party — no curfew, no babysitter to worry about, and very few responsibilities to wake up to the next morning.  Because of this, I equate drinking to having very few responsibilities, which isn’t accurate at all, but that’s my way of romanticizing the past. As time went on and our family grew, my sense of responsibility, worry, and fear grew as well. Escaping responsibility and worry was one of the biggest reasons why I drank — and the more I drank, the more I drank, because I’m an alcoholic and my body craves it.

Also? My responsibilities did not go away. At all.

Last year, I was excited about the kid’s costumes — it was the first time in years that I’d planned ahead far enough in advance to avoid making a very last-minute trip to the store — but by that time in my drinking career, I was pretty much a miserable person, wracked with anxiety, sadness, and an overwhelming sense of dread. None of that is evident in the photos, but I remember.

WJHAbrunch

I carried a cup of wine with me the entire time the kids were trick-or-treating, ducking back into my friend’s house to refill without telling anyone. Today, as I was feeling sorry for myself thinking about all the carefree, happy parents who will be able to enjoy a beer or cocktail tonight, I remembered being drunk last year, after dark, with all three of my kids scattered in different parts of an unfamiliar neighborhood. I didn’t allow myself to consciously feel shame at the time, and it certainly wasn’t problematic enough for me to consider stopping my habit, but today, I let myself go there.

I’m ashamed that I was so deep in addiction that I couldn’t stomach the thought of taking my kids trick-or-treating sober. I’m ashamed that I have missed out on so much of their lives because I was either drunk, or miserable, or both. I’m ashamed that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate my life because I was too busy running from it.

Thankfully, this year will be different. Although we are all far from perfect, I no longer feel like running away. I’m learning how to embrace the good and the bad, and although it’s really, really hard, it’s better than trying to escape.

For the first time in my adult life, I’m not trying to escape reality, or my emotions, or my fears. How appropriate that this Halloween night, the scariest thing I’ll have to face is myself.

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