Amanda started drinking to fit in. It didn’t take her long to realize that alcohol had stolen who she was and taken her joy with it. Read on to find out how she’s slowly embracing an alcohol free life with This Naked Mind.
Writing is cathartic and the truest expression of my thoughts, so when it was suggested to share my story at the end of your book, I didn’t hesitate because it’s time I am honest.
I’ve always considered myself an odd duck, since childhood was happier in the company of books and my siblings than venturing outside to develop friendships outside the home. Additionally, as practicing Catholics, my parents placed restrictions on whose house we could go to and media was vetted. I was only free to choose books. In grade and middle school, I was friends with everyone and close with no one.
Sports teams and science projects were a hodgepodge team of apathetic partners. After a few years, I found two girls who were “normal” like me, but didn’t really fit the mainstream crowd either. Through some sort of divine intervention I also met my boyfriend in early high school, the man who is now my husband. Combined with my church youth group and constant sports practices, I found managing those relationships to be satisfying enough and, in many cases, to be overwhelming, causing me to retreat in my solitary world of books and music.
The First Sip
It was almost senior year before I drank my first sip of alcohol and, as The Naked Mind asserts, it was disgusting. My sister had a water bottle of vodka in her car and after a long summer shift of scooping ice cream in 85-degree heat, I was thirsty. I took a giant sip and I remember the burn as it slid down into my stomach. I gasped in surprise and my sister began laughing hysterically as she realized what I had done. My sister and I are polar opposites – we definitely never had a close relationship. Honestly, the mortification of that drink was far outweighed by having made her laugh.
The next time I drank was with a guy who was my boyfriend’s friend. He assured me it was safe and would make me better prepared for college. The next time after that was at a party after that said boyfriend and I broke up. I was really ready to experience my full potential as a drinker and a party girl. I threw caution to the wind, played strip pong, and hooked up with a guy who I barely knew. Things didn’t get much better from there.
Drinking To Fit In
Essentially, what I really wanted was not to go to college, not to have to be cool or work to fit in. In my heart of hearts, I dreaded being the girl without a crew. Shortly after starting college, I joined a sorority. It wasn’t one of the horrible ones you read about where they abuse their pledges, but alcohol did flow like water. It was easy to get and frat guys were always welcoming to a decent looking girl who was down to party. This was the start of drinking to fit in.
Getting mono, taking Plan B, financial debts, and having too many hangovers to count weren’t letters of shame. They were great stories to tell and awesome ways to get someone on “never-have-I-ever”. Thank goodness I still passed my classes, but it was by a margin that was no where near my full potential. One of my greatest regrets is not soaking up all the knowledge available to me. I was not only addicted to alcohol, but I was also addicted to popularity. Everyone said a party was better with me there. People begged to have me host their pregames and costume parties. How could a little nobody like me give up on all that? Better yet, how could I let everyone else down? I kept on drinking to fit in.
My relationship with my older sister continued to be strained throughout college and beyond. She would visit me and buy me alcohol and I would take her out to my favorite bars, thinking she was impressed by my drinking buddies. Or maybe she wasn’t… I honestly never asked. I just assumed she would be because that’s what she talked about and that’s what she wanted to do when she visited. I’ll never know how I could have reset the dynamic.
Burning The Candle At Both Ends
About three quarters of the way through college, I reunited with my now husband. While drinking had never been a part of our high school relationship, it was the center of our relationship now… after all – it was college! When will we ever get to live like this again? Thursday through Tuesday we knew how to get the cheapest alcohol – Wednesday being the one day we “took off to recover”. It was exhausting and I relapsed into mononucleosis again, a somewhat rare occurrence.
Still, it never occurred to me to stop drinking. I could afford it and I liked it – so what’s the harm?
When will we ever get to live like this again?
Forced To Stop Drinking
Post graduation, I was relieved to get a job near my boyfriend, who was out of state. My parents never knew the extent of my drinking and I definitely planned to keep it that way. Plus, I planned on “living in sin” after a couple years and it wouldn’t have been possible to cover that up close to my parents. The party life continued, but it wasn’t so party-oriented anymore. It looked more like a solo dinner party after a long, super stressful day of teaching and a bottle of cheap wine to wash me down to sleep. I was tired and constantly hungover, but functional and surprisingly professionally successful. I worked long hours and mostly hung out with my husband’s coworkers who loved to drink.
No longer was I drinking to fit in, now it was just to get by. We got married and bought a house. Fast forward 3 years to an unplanned pregnancy.
I found out I was pregnant while holding a glass of wine in my hand, which I sadly poured down the sink.
I was sad because it was my favorite. I’m horrified by writing this down because I was more sad about not being able to drink anymore than I was happy about being pregnant.
Lost and Alone
Being pregnant was extremely rough. I had hyperemisis gravidium, which was likely a result of my wine and carb-forward diet. I lost thirty pounds and had to resign from my position. I was so lost; having few real non-drinking friends in my state, it was startling to me how few people wanted to hang out with me and my growing belly. Now that I was no longer drinking to fit in, I was an outcast. I was lonely and we couldn’t afford our bills with me not working.
Shortly after the baby was born, we sold our house and moved to another state 700 miles away, thinking me being home was the best thing. Shockingly, we got pregnant again only six months after our move and I was utterly isolated and alone. Occasionally, people would visit but having moved to a shoebox apartment with no space and every waking moment occupied with a toddler and a colicky newborn, I had no world to retreat to, except my addiction. If I didn’t drink too much, I thought could still reasonably take care of my kids.
It was the only coping mechanism I had and I was desperate for help.
When I didn’t drink, I was moody and sad and when I did, I was tired but at least calm.
My husband and I realized we were both unhappy living so far from our hometown. We quickly decided to move back less than 2 years after moving south. I rejoiced! At last I would be free! I could be so happy and I’d get help with the kids. What I didn’t realize was that I’d also be under a microscope and that all the flaws I’d been hiding were going to be magnified. My life was finally everything I wanted; a loving husband, kids, family, friends and my home church.
At that point I was firmly addicted to alcohol and even though everything was good and I said I didn’t want the alcohol anymore, somehow the drinks with dinner turned into bottles. Soon it was worse than it ever was before. I still don’t fully understand why, after my life got better, my drinking got worse. I still need to figure that one out, maybe with a therapist. This I know for sure; being around my parents and my elder sister were triggers.
There wasn’t a single party without alcohol. My parents are loving, generous people but you cannot imbibe at their house without taking your side dose of shame with it. Drink, but not too much. Be the life of the party, but don’t overdo it. Don’t be too loud or you’ll be reprimanded. At my sister’s house, it was a delicate dance of not losing my cool while pleasing her by being fun, not boring and a party pooper.
It was at my sister’s house where I finally did it too much; I was the drunk-version of myself and flipped the bird in front of my horrified parents. I was drunk. Honestly, I can’t tell you anything other than this – I was joking and I thought it was hilarious. To be honest, that was a completely acceptable party trick from college – and even at my sister’s house. With my parents and aunt in attendance, it was something unacceptable. Honestly, I’m not ashamed of my actions themselves. They didn’t actually hurt anyone and at another party, I would be the life of it.
What became abundantly clear was that I should have taken it easy on the wine that evening and it wasn’t the time or place. Yet, I couldn’t see that. One glass became two. I’m sure I consumed at least 6. I was absolutely drunk. I knew my parents didn’t approve, yet I didn’t and could not have stopped myself. Addiction.
That set off my journey of questioning. Had I done what my mother later accused me of – lost control? Had I passed that obtuse line between frequent user and occasional misuser, moderation and free-for-all? Was drinking to fit in really worth it anymore? I read every book I could, found Holly Whitaker’s The Tempest on Instagram and read every article in the archive. I read Alan Carr’s book, and a multitude of others, most recently This Naked Mind.
“Is it alcoholism or not?” The question I wanted answered, but the wrong line of thinking. The real questions should have been; “Is alcohol serving me well? Am I living my life with truth and integrity? Am I happy with this? Is this the way I want to live each week? Is a hangover worth the supposed social currency?”
Have you had enough of drinking to fit in? This Naked Mind can help you to break free. Start reading for free today!
My priorities had shifted significantly since I began drinking. The relationships left in my life were all ones that had nothing to do with alcohol, except my husband’s. He was 100% supportive of my alcohol free existence, though I was apprehensive at what our relationship would look like without it. In reality, these relationships I had were forged without alcohol. I have to trust that they will remain without it too. Also, I want more kids. Yet the idea of parenting three or the four I want on crappy, alcohol-fueled sleep and social commitments (not to mention the money spent on going out or at the wine barn) was and is utterly exhausting. Even just imagining it makes me ready for a nap.
Yes, it’s my honest truth, that if I chose alcohol, I would be prioritizing it over two more beautiful babies I imagine and feel so ready to welcome in one part of my brain. Would I seriously let a wine habit rob me of my deepest desires? It can and I did let it. I also let it make me a sub-par mom. I’m a preschool teacher and I love children; my life centers around them. Yet with my own children, I snapped and yelled, often way too tired (if not too hungover) to really play.
I love to sew and create, yet I now have access to all my supplies and hardly ever touch them. Alcohol robbed me of my fun, my creativity and my passion. In the pie chart of my life, far too much was colored wine red. While drinking to fit in, I lost myself along the way.
The Final Drink
The final drink I had was at my husband’s friend’s wedding. It was a beach wedding and the weather was beautiful. It was the first time we’d ever left our kids- in four years. I was so free! We drank and barhopped and went to bed early so we could be up and sit on the beach. The day our best couple-friends came down, we started out drinking grapefruit crushes on the boardwalk.
Buzzed but not drunk during the wedding, I was feeling beautiful and in control. With the heat and dehydration, I soon turned into a sweaty mess, not in control. Finally, after a friend of a friend’s husband hit on me at the bar, my drunk brain had a moment of clarity.
I found my husband and literally said “I’ve had enough.”
He thought I meant enough that night and he walked me home, ignoring my ramblings of that idiot jerk and his oblivious wife. Giving me water and tucking me in, he returned to the wedding. He held my hair and helped me clean up the bathroom. Then he drove the whole six hours back home while listening to me wretch the day away in the backseat. I knew at that moment in the bar that the sub-par, thick, warm and too-sweet glass of red was going to be my last. I think my husband is still waiting to see.
It’s exhausting because I’ve thought a million thoughts of how I could have done that night differently so it didn’t have to be the end. Maybe I could have drank more water! Or, it’s their fault for serving dinner so late! In reality though, thank God I didn’t do any of those things because then alcohol would still be shoving my days down the dark abyss and I wouldn’t be as far down my road of reclaiming myself.
Alcohol has a mighty strong hold on me. It may be out of my system chemically, but my subconscious is still (many, many weeks later) considering what could have been done and when it might be reasonable to start drinking again. Perhaps at Christmas? No, should have one at Thanksgiving too. Actually, the answer has to be, and is, at none. I have seen me do it a million times before and so has my husband – once I get going, I don’t stop. I think “wine is delicious; one glass is great so let’s keep going! Why leave just one glass in the bottle? Who wants to store that? I’ll do myself a favor and polish off the bottle now.”
Ready To Live
I promised myself and my husband that I won’t be wasting anymore days hungover in my bed. My kids don’t know it yet, but I know the secrets and the brainwashing they will be exposed to. Now, wrapped into my desire to be a great mommy, is also to be an informative one. They will know what a poison it is and how to avoid it. I hope someday my husband will see alcohol for what it is too. He’s committed his fair share of literal crimes under the influence of alcohol. Currently he’s still clearly under the assumption he can moderate himself. While I’d be happy to assist in his unchaining, I can also see how my sudden negative view of alcohol is likely to be seen as hypocritical rather than helpful.
I suspect that as a natural course of our relationship, we will have to find other ways to connect. I refuse to participate in ways that require alcohol. I’m confident we will find our way since our relationship started without alcohol – I’m confident it can be that way again. I know I’m no longer drinking to fit in with a person I never really was.
Share Your Story
If there really is someone still reading at the end of this I thank you for sticking with me. I’ve never even been asked to tell this tale. It’s a healthy narrative for me to form. Cheers to a life free and true rather than drinking to fit in. Please share your story and inspire others!