Karen made a choice to live a life free from alcohol. Today she shares an excerpt with us from her book – YOU ARE HERE – A Memoir of Motherhood Transformed – Rescuing My Son, Reclaiming Myself.
I miss wine
I miss wine, but not in the ways I thought I would. Not as a friend, a comfort, or solace in times of loneliness and need. More like a possessive old boyfriend of mine who’d wanted me to be his chattel, a collar around my neck and duct tape over my mouth. My sense of reality, determined by something outside myself. In a place where I could not trust what I saw in the mirror. Guilty and sad and anxious. Hopeless in the way caged things are. Beginning to love my captor with a feeling that was not love, but merely weary bondage. He tried everything to hold onto me, to pull me back under the water with him. Promises, threats, lies―even a diamond ring.
I almost let myself drown. Luckily, something I hadn’t known was there rose up and unwound me from him. I kicked the long strands of seaweed from around my legs and swam to shore. I was wet and cold and very, very alone. But I was alive. I didn’t know it then, but I was, for the first time in my life, free. I had to start from that cold place under a starry sky with only a thin hope to guide me―that things could be different, they could be better. Believing I could live without him and make my way in the wide world.
It was like that with alcohol.
Always the lies
Giddy romance, followed by lies. Then the ripping away of the veil between me and the world. It started out as my private ally, lubricating my passage through cocktail parties and weddings, and workplace happy hours. But I was never the person I thought I was when I was drinking. Drinking just got me to the place where I could believe in an idealized version of myself―cool, calm, and collected―as the old Secret deodorant ad went. The glass of wine in my hand was magical, an elixir that could transform me into someone who was interesting, funny, carefree, and beautiful. I counted on it to reveal my “true self.”
It was easy to live this way. For many, many years I was able to keep it where I needed it to be. Something I didn’t always feel great about but could handle. I never missed a day of work or a school event. All the moms drank. Even at playdates with babies and toddlers. At Little League games. Before and after dance recitals. Red wine and sangria with orange slices at dinner parties, Coors Light from the cooler at the beach, mixed drinks in red Solo cups at company picnics, vodka and tonics before football games, tart mimosas at brunch, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in tasting rooms, and on back patios across the land.
I honestly didn’t give it much thought. When the first glass was finished, I poured myself another. Perhaps a third or fourth on some evenings. But in my heart I knew even then it wasn’t good for me―all this hiding myself from others behind a champagne flute―this posturing even amongst friends with whom I had real and lasting relationships.
Everything changed in an instant
All that changed when my fourteen-year-old son became ill with severe depression. My life telescoped to a single narrow focus: his wellbeing and survival. I clung to my glass of wine, sitting in the same spot every evening on the corner of the couch.
I was waltzing close to the edge. My husband and daughter receding each day. I let them go so easily into their busy spheres of high school and work. It was even easier once my son had gone to treatment. I bid the world farewell and myself with it, erasing the wounded places like a wash of watercolor over a canvas, blurring everything. I did not get drunk or drive or fall down. It wasn’t like that for me, just a gradual silent slide towards nothingness. Nothing inside me, nothing around me. All grey, all the time. By June, when my son was due to come home for good, I was lost.
The night he returned, I’d already had a few glasses of wine. The weight of the day overtook me. I wasn’t sure how to be his mother, or what we would say to each other. If it would be enough. That night, I was crushed beneath the staggering enormity of all our possible futures.
Only one choice
So I chose to disappear. My shadow greeted him at the door. He did not meet my eyes.
It was only the next morning, it all became clear.
I made the only choice left to me. A deliberate choice to end my relationship with alcohol. To take up again the mantle of life. To choose him, my family, myself, over all else.
For me to be his mother, I had to be the change I wanted to see in the world, the change I wanted to see in my child. To live daily with clear eyes, and an embodied presence. If he was to survive and thrive outside the protective bubble of residential treatment, I would have to do so beside him. If I wanted truth, I needed to speak truth. More so, If I wanted him to live without the buffer of substances between him and the ragged edges of the world, I had to take the first brave steps into that uncharted territory myself. I had to live without escape hatches, excuses, or crutches―no net, fallback plan, or seat as a flotation device. No glass of wine to suffer or to celebrate with.
To live a life free from alcohol
I discovered This Naked Mind only after I’d already given up drinking. I bought the book when I’d been alcohol-free for just a month, but didn’t read it until much later. The first few weeks felt fragile, as the world revealed itself to me in all its painful, joyful clarity, sharp edges, and softness intact.
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into as I opened the pages and began to read. I didn’t see myself as an alcoholic, but instead as someone who wanted to be free from the burden of alcohol. Annie Grace’s words resonated with me, perhaps more so in my new sobriety. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone. There were other people like me, with a glass of seltzer in one hand, engaged in the world in a completely different way. I was finally able to jettison the cognitive dissonance caused by the distance between my old behaviors and who I wanted to be. The book helped me appreciate that all I’ve gained in the past two years without alcohol far outweighs what I’ve left behind.
I learned it is never too late. To exist in a state of freedom. Naked and alive.
Are you ready to live a life free from alcohol? You can discover what Karen did by reading This Naked Mind. Download the first chapter for free right now.