Alison experienced a drinking identity crisis. Picking up drinking later in life, it became her only way to cope. What would she be without her wine? This Naked Mind helped her find herself again.
I had a typical white suburban childhood, born in 1978, growing up in the ’80s and ’90s in a wealthy school district. Great friends, family trips, nothing really traumatic about my childhood in the whole. I grew up around alcohol being normal. It was always being imbibed by my dad and our family friends. I never saw my mom drink when I was a kid – just my dad. Never was barbecuing without a cold beer in his hand. Never a Christmas Eve without a gin and tonic. Margaritas with Mexican food. Tequila stories while hunting. As a mom now I’m like, what??? Back then, alcohol was a normal, not scary, not threatening thing. Dad was always in control of himself, never a drunk. Just a drinker.
Mom never drank. I never asked why; just never saw her drink. I remember this vividly because when I became engaged at age 20, I remember her drinking champagne and it just stuck out to me like crazy. Then I learned that the reason she didn’t drink was because when I was 3 years old, my dad found me drinking a sip cup with vodka in it. My mom had been hiding vodka everywhere and had forgotten she had hidden some in my cup. So mom went away apparently to get some help, I don’t remember that at all and came back and never drank again.
Mom didn’t go to AA, wasn’t known as an alcoholic. She just decided to quit and did. She was always withdrawn, never a sweet mom, just a mechanical mom. Always in her room wanting to not be bothered. Now I know why, but didn’t understand that until much later in my life. At that moment when she had that champagne, for her began another secret journey of hiding alcohol but we didn’t find that out until again, years later.
I was a competitive swimmer and singer in high school, so I never flirted with alcohol like the typical teenagers. In college, I found Christianity and it was my failed mission to preach to my sorority sisters and try to turn them from their wild ways. So didn’t drink in college either. As previously mentioned, I became engaged at age 20, was pregnant at 21 and 12 days after my 22nd birthday became a mom for the first time. Having 3 babies in 3 years I was needless to say in some serious weeds.
I never drank though. I had a beer when my son was nursing once because my milk supply was super low and someone said it would boost it. And it did but I couldn’t pump either, so needless to say, I had to nurse and not drink instead I just quit running and that was that. I was a young and super busy mom, and I kind of had this suspicion that I shouldn’t drink. After learning about my mom’s journey, I just decided to stick with not drinking. Instead I fled to sugar for my vice. So when I was stressed, just ate handfuls of sugar to feel like I was in control. What a lie that was.
When I was 26, my husband at the time left me. I was a single mom, working my butt off trying to support my 3 kids, left with an identity crisis. I had always wanted to live to an old age with my husband. Had no clue he was living an alternate life on the side with other women. I was devastated. All my idols of marriage and love and trust and honesty came crashing down.
Now, now I started to drink.
I deserved it dammit. Right? First, a glass of wine at the end of the week, then a glass of wine nightly. During this lonely time, I actually met my current husband. We would go on dates on Thursdays and always have wine. It was definitely a habit by then. We were shortly married and 3 months later, I was pregnant with my 4th baby – elated and excited! So quit drinking again, no problem. Took up nightly wine when I had weaned my son and then became pregnant with our 5th child.
I’m not proud of what I’m about to write. But I had a glass of wine pretty much every night of my pregnancy with my 5th son. My doctor said it was ok. Can you believe it? He was born a normal, precious crazy boy and is healthy. I give such thanks. But whoa nellie! When he was born, for some reason, I stopped drinking for a spell, till he was weaned.
My drinking at this point was so normal. A young mom of five kids, living near other moms with kids. Wine was such the norm. We called them “driveway dinners.” All our kids would be on their wheeled things, playing on trampolines, playing in the greenbelt and the mom’s would shovel out the quesadillas and fruit while we sipped our wines. Probably one night a week. It was ideal. Sweet friends, sweet kids, we lived within walking distances, wine, walk home, put kids down and sip on wine during our nightly binges of Netflix. None of us were ever drunk, just loosened up some. But it wasn’t idyllic for long.
Fast forward a few years. My oldest is a junior in high school, all the way down to pre-k for my youngest. I’ve gained 30 pounds, nightly 2 glasses of wine is the norm now. Yo-yo diets, yo-yo workouts. Five children with all the things – school, teachers, homework, fighting, sweet times, hiking, camping, Colorado summers, lake house summers. Such joy and just hard work. All the things. With the wine – wine seemed to just make me chill and I love to be chill. I hated feeling such extreme feelings. I didn’t know what to do with them! So wine was my answer and sugar. I had zero tools on how to live in a stressful environment, in a healthy way. My rock bottom was soon approaching.
Changing It All
My husband came home one day and asked if I would be against moving out of town to a small hill country town about an hour and a half away. He was a principal of a private school, and there was a school that was recruiting him. It sounded amazing. Increase in salary, small town living, an adventure for our family. Our kids were so divided. It was torture for my oldest two, middle one found joy in it all, the younger ones were just excited for the “new” of it all.
It was super fun at first. Country house, chickens, quiet country drive home from our tiny “downtown,” stars in the sky, nightly fire pits. BB guns and bike rides – away from my hometown for the first time ever in 38 years, I was excited to spread my wings and live a new life. It did feel lonely at times. Meeting new people was difficult in this small tight knit town. Fast forward two years, we live in the country, have chickens, love small town, my daughter graduates and finds a college and goes.
I unravel. I was so excited for her to go and live her life and spread her wings and soar. It wasn’t that she was gone. It was that I was fearing when everyone was gone. Who was I going to be then? I was in the midst of an identity crisis. I’m a mom, a teacher, a songwriter. I don’t know how to cook for less than at least 7 people, it’s just what I do. So my nightly wine expanded to 3 glasses a night and sometimes a bottle. A night.
I will never forget a conversation with my friend one day when she said she thought she needed to quit drinking. She described her habits of drinking and I was thinking to myself, “Shit…you should see how much I drink!” The seed of living an alcohol free life was planted. Boom.
Losing My Drinking Identity
I started experimenting with not drinking then. But would always fall back into the wine. I started taking notice of my body and how I felt. As you can imagine – I felt awful. Headaches, so sick to my stomach, bad eating habits, blurred vision at night. I became withdrawn. Ignoring my kids, ignoring my husband, annoyed when anyone needed anything. Barely keeping it together. All I wanted was my wineglass in my room and Netflix shows. It was this horrific cycle of misery. Stop, start again, feel gross, stop, start again, etc. Begging God to save me from this cycle of doom. I begged and begged and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t just stop. I wanted to be free from the shackled feeling, the weighed down feeling, the exasperating nightly dialogue with myself.
It was during this time my mom’s secret drinking came out. She was the worst at this time – always slurred speech, personality major flaws, she was rude to my kids. They began to notice too. One day my nephew saw her chugging vodka in her closet. We had the confrontation and she said she would just stop. She googled a book and it was by this nuts guy, so I thought, Alan Carr. She had read his book about smoking and had quit so she decided to read his drinking book. And absolutely quit. We kept waiting for the shoe to drop. Kept waiting for her to pick it back up. She hasn’t to this day 7 years later. More seeds of living an alcohol free life were planted.
Nothing To Celebrate
I decided to try to read that book but just couldn’t get through it. It pissed me off and I wasn’t ready. Then, last Mother’s Day, I asked to be alone in my house for the whole day. That’s what I wanted for MOTHER’S DAY – ha! To be alone. So, my sweet husband packed up the kids and drove to grandma’s house out of town for the day. I drank two bottles of wine that day. Starting early in the morning and just went through it all. Hiding the bottles, it was the first time I had been ashamed of my amount.
My son told me the next day that I had fallen asleep while tucking him in on the floor next to him. I was so embarrassed. I woke up the next day and had to go teach and it was murder. Feeling so sick. So so sick. The worst headache I have ever had, the sour stomach, the whole thing. It was the worst ever. Why oh why did I keep doing this to myself?
Ending My Identity Crisis
That next day, on Facebook, a friend of a friend was holding your book and said it changed her life. I ended up calling her to talk about it. Next, I purchased your book and read it in two days. Then, I spent the next 6 months listening to your book on tape, your podcast. Voracious for any new information. Listening to multiple audio books, reading everything I could get my hands on during the summer. I joined your 100 day challenge in August and had the most amazing euphoric experience. Meanwhile not drinking … just allowing the information to soak in.
Change Your Identity
Are you experiencing your own identity crisis when it comes to drinking? Start reading This Naked Mind for free today and see who you were always meant to be!
Resolving your identity crisis also takes connection. Join us in The Alcohol Experiment to connect with others who are also rediscovering themselves.
The Best Breakup
I want to say that my relationship with alcohol is finished and done. And it is. There is no relationship anymore. Not depending on it. I don’t “need” it anymore. Don’t crave it, I don’t constantly think about it. It’s done. I don’t have an identity crisis when it comes to wine because it’s no longer part of my identity.
Guess what? I had wine over Christmas for the first time. Going in with MAJOR boundaries, just one glass, and it was no big deal. It was nice, but I didn’t love it. It was nice to hold that thin little glass stem in my hand, but I didn’t want to keep filling her up like I used to. I felt free and in control, but it definitely was not my highlight of my time with family.
Honestly, I hated the space it took in my head to create the boundaries I came up with and to be honest, I love not drinking.
I never thought I would say that, ever after feeling such entrapment. I LOVE not drinking. After reading the science, I also know that it’s a slippery slope. We don’t want to awaken the monster who whispers all the lies about alcohol again. I’m so happy to have my hot rooibos tea at night, my sparkling waters at gatherings, or just plain old delicious cool water.
The Moderation Option
Will I ever drink again? Not today. Not regularly, maybe once a year, maybe not but I do know this. I have so much back in my life that I had lost. Having wine isn’t worth losing that. I have presence with my family. My kids notice that I’m available for them, into the latest hours of the night I am available for them. My teenagers know they can call me at any hour of the night. Now, I will be able to come pick them up sober and safe. My body is healing after years of abusing it because I finally, without the dark cloud of alcohol whispering it’s lies constantly to me, I finally feel worthy of treating myself good. I am eating things that make me feel amazing, I am active again.
My New Identity
I started running again! After a 15 year break, I’m in a small running group of two other ladies and we’re trail running together. What fun! We’ve signed up for 3 different 12K races for 2020 if you had told me that a year ago, I would have spewed wine laughing out loud. My identity crisis has become discovering a new me. I am journaling again. This is huge.
I am a creative. I need to be creating or I am a menace to myself and others. For Christmas, I knitted my entire extended family and my sweet family beanies and scarves. I could see what I was doing and loved every moment. Journaling is a huge one because I’m a songwriter that hasn’t composed in over 7 years. So I’m excited to see what space is growing back in my brain to create again. Permission granted to pick up my guitar and create!
My favorite freedom and gift that has come from me not drinking is the authentic connections with myself and others. I sent my mom your book. I actually sent everyone in my family and my close friend group your book…ha! Mom read it and we talk at least once a week about how lovely life is without booze. We talk about the science, we talk about the advertising lies, we talk about life. It’s opened up a whole new friend to me – this not drinking thing.
I have connected with another friend from my home town and we talk about the struggles of living in this world of alcohol and choosing not to partake. We encourage each other that we are actually the lucky and blessed ones, by far. I saw that friend of a friend from Facebook at the grocery store and I just hugged her and cried. Crying joyful and thankful tears.
I cried because I FELT. For years, I have been dousing the flames of emotions so that when I do feel emotions, I just let them happen. Anger. Sadness. Joy. Fear. All the feelings.
The Ripple Effect
My husband still drinks so much. He has watched me, I have been quiet about my choices…he has picked up one or two of the ten books I read over the summer about alcohol, one of them being your book. My identity crisis has started a flame in him. He has decided to not drink for a season as of three days ago. This is a jaw dropper to me because he drinks a &$*% ton. I’m excited to see how it unfolds for him. To just watch and support and encourage. This has been the hardest part of not drinking – him still drinking so much. It has driven a ginormous wedge between us, to the point where we just coexist. We are an incredible side by side duo but the face to face duo has become stagnant and frozen. I know alcohol plays a big role in that for so many reasons. I’m happy to see him wanting to change for him, and to decide on his own fruition.
I have stilled a bit in my euphoric feelings. Quieted inside. I’ve begun to feel peacefulness in moments that I would have chugged wine. It’s still very new. I don’t like feeling the hard things but I do feel capable of walking through hard. I can do the hard. What fun to write this experience all down somewhere. Thank you for your work you are doing. You are an instrument of peace to many people you will probably never meet. They will be instruments of peace to others, and they to others and so on. What a gift of peace your one book has begun for years to come.
I don’t laugh at the old lady walking down my country road anymore with her little bag she collects trash in on the side of the road. I used to think, how is one lady, on one country road going to solve the ‘out of control’ trash problem the entire whole earth is facing. But now I can see that just one person can create a ripple of change for the much larger good.
Sharing our stories
Did your identity crisis include leaving alcohol behind? Please share your stories so you can help others!