As a former Mormon, Brittany knew religion and alcohol don’t mix. What she also discovered, was that losing your religion and using alcohol also doesn’t mix. Read about getting lost and getting a Naked life to find yourself again.
Our Religion and Alcohol Don’t Mix
I first started listening to your podcasts and Recovery Elevator back in August of 2018. It was sparked by my frustration with my husband’s drinking, which over the years has been difficult for him to moderate after more heavily drinking when we left our Mormon faith in 2012/2013.
We Didn’t Drink
Back in the beginning of our relationship, we had never touched alcohol. We both grew up as adherent followers of the Mormon faith. No drugs, no alcohol. I myself didn’t care much for getting involved in the party scene and only had a few close friends in high school. For us, religion and alcohol don’t mix. I worked on the weekends at a local restaurant which took most all my weekend nights. I had goals in life and lived under the umbrella of getting in big trouble if I was caught with booze.
My sister did and she got grounded for a month. She was more of the ‘sow your wild oats’ sister and I was the straight arrow.
After graduating I went to the University of Utah for school with aspirations of becoming a nurse. There I met my charming and intelligent husband the first week of my freshman year. We dated right off the bat and eventually got engaged the following summer and married the very end of 2002. We were all in, religion-wise. Faithful and living the standards set by the faith. No coffee or tea. It was drilled into us that religion and alcohol don’t mix. No alcohol or drugs and many other lifestyle markers of living a faithful life.
We moved 3 days after getting married to Southern California. As newlyweds, we used our faith community as our main social avenue. It was the center point of how we lived our lives, who we associated with. After 8 months, my husband took a job in Boston. I had put school on hold for a bit but when we got to Boston I re-enrolled in a nursing program. I had friends at school that would go out, but I kept to myself and my church-going routine. I held a slightly ‘holier than thou / self-righteousness’ air about my drinking friends. I never made comments to them, just listened to their drinking stories and laughed half heartedly at them.
Leaving Our Religion
My husband worked and I did school. Then we switched roles and I worked while he got his MBA. At this time we socialized during his MBA stint and alcohol was certainly there but I never gave thought to it. I learned how to be comfortable meeting many new people, getting out of my shy bubble. I also became pregnant with our first kid, my husband graduated, and took another job. Then baby number two came along. We then had the opportunity to move back west to WA.
Right before this move, my husband dropped a bombshell of a revelation: he no longer believed in our Mormon faith for several reasons I could not contemplate or understand at the time. We then packed up and moved west, moved into my believing Mormon parents’ home while searching for a home.
My life was changing at a rapid pace. Two kids, a 3000-mile move, and my husband was on his way out of shared belief in the most sacred part of our lives. This was 9 years into our marriage. As you can imagine, this was a rough period for us as a couple and I was intent on not shifting my stance, but when it came to a pivotal moment, I decided to open my mind and search for my own answers and allow myself to hear his side with more curiosity. It meant possibly saving my family and marriage. Choosing them over my faith. This sparked my own faith journey. That itself is part of the catalyst towards drinking. Up until that point, I still believed that religion and alcohol don’t mix.
He stopped attending church in the spring of 2012. That spring I felt like everything I thought I knew from a belief standpoint in my religion was shattered and I was left with a broken glass house to then rebuild. With all that pain and hurt also came the opportunity to be open to experimenting with alcohol. We invited a new neighbor over and he left a 6 pack of beer with a few left in it. My husband asked if I wanted to maybe try it since we no longer had a reason not to. So we did… I didn’t like it, but figured it was like coffee – you get used to it. I was 29 at this time. I vividly remember approaching with caution since it had been labeled BAD my whole life. But boy – I didn’t know enough about it.
We discussed rules or boundaries with it – no drinking alone, keeping it minimal etc… my husband’s paternal side has a history of alcohol abuse/dependency and I was concerned. We tried a wine, red I believe. Then we got a champagne bottle and threw a blueberry mixer from a Christmas basket in it. Since for us, religion and alcohol don’t mix, we needed to make it sweet and flavorful to cover the dryness of the alcohol. I got pregnant with our 3rd baby that following fall of 2012. I had a glass or two of wine during pregnancy, feeling I was missing out. We took a babymoon vacation to Cabo when I was in the second trimester. My hubby drank enough to slur his speech and I took little sips to taste.
I was on a journey of redefining myself, what I believed, and forming a new identity. I was getting comfortable with what I didn’t really know after all. So I decided to leave the church right before our 3rd baby was born in June 2013. During this period our neighborhood was booming. We had left our long-time community of faith and found it in new neighbors. Neighbors that drank a lot, several coming from a culture of the Navy. Socializing really ramped up. Lots of little kids and BBQs and booze. We had a newfound freedom from our previous faith standards and the new camaraderie made us feel welcome, genuine and – well, we had some wild oats that had not been sown.
The fallout emotionally and mentally from leaving the church left me fairly vulnerable to the appeal of drinking. The inhibitions came down. The friends next door were happy to help us drink and probably even rebelled in converting us to the life of drinking during anything social.
I remember thinking while I was still breastfeeding, that if I timed things right I could have a drink – to feel a part of it all – not wanting to miss out. I had missed enough, watching my husband seemingly have more fun and freedom than I had. I wanted it too. Eventually I stopped nursing my baby at 7.5 months. Finally I could join the fun. Up until 2am at times at the neighbor’s with the baby monitor. This went on for almost three solid years. Summer was always heavy in the drinking. I started working out with the thought of, ‘if I’m burning this many calories, I can have two glasses of wine’. My husband began really hitting the bar hard after work. This eventually became a source of contention.
We were on our own journeys and I felt it. He had a lot of past trauma early in life that had boiled to the surface. He turned to the bar and booze to feel that connection with others, filling a void, nursing the pain and numbing it away. I was at home with the kids and frustrated that I lacked the freedom to just go to the bar and socialize like he did. We, however, would throw parties and all end up in the hot tub for hours drinking and spending weekends hungover. During my faith transition and after boozing for a while, I decided I had had enough of being a stay-at-home mom. The drinking nights with neighbors became drunken broken records of dancing and karaoke. I needed an outlet for my brain. I returned to work my dream job as a labor and delivery nurse.
Back To Work
My husband traveled for work a lot and I worked nights. We hired a nanny and things got busier and crazier. I backed off drinking, moderating a fair amount because I needed sleep, needing to recover from my job and flipping my days and nights. Also, there were some serious issues brewing in my marriage over drinking. The summer of 2015 and into the winter of 2016 was about as much of my husband’s drinking as I could handle.
I had so much anxiety about his heavy drinking and not being home as a physically present support. During his hardest time, we decided to have him leave his job the summer of 2016 to buy a company. I thought maybe the unhappiness and such that was coming from his travel, partnerships at work, and other stressors in life (post-religion) could be remedied by him living out a dream of entrepreneurship. So we did it.
It was a major lifestyle shift and a huge investment. No more after-work bars, but the drinking still remained a crutch. As a perceived ‘social lubricant’ and our locale is ripe with breweries and plenty of friends that drink whenever there is anything social going on, it just never was escapable. Just about EVERYTHING we do has alcohol present. Even school auctions to raise money… it’s everywhere.
I turned my drinking down again, but it became and remained more like binge drinking when I did drink. I thought “normal amounts” were 3-4 drinks in a sitting. Having less than that seemed odd to me. We never had a slow introduction – that’s what happens when religion and alcohol don’t mix.
I would go 2-4 days, occasionally just on the weekends between drink sessions and then as I saw the negatives creep into my life I became less enchanted with it, much less what it was doing to our relationship. I noticed it took more to get the same effect and the hangovers lessened over time and I began to question my own drinking. A friend of mine did a cleanse, so I did it too. No booze. I asked my hubby to join me on it and he didn’t last the first 10 days. I made it a month and then it was right back to it. Back to “normal life” with drinking taking the center stage. It slowly became apparent to me that this substance had moved in, settled into my life like a sore that never heals. It was causing marital problems left and right between the good times.
My husband’s drinking sparked a big argument over his use of it in August. All the while, I was not backing off my own social drinking habits. I was more in control (or so I thought). He was not. He was using it as an emotional and social crutch, buying into what I see now are alcohol’s lies. But yet I was not willing myself to stop. It made me anxious. But why? Why was this so hard to give up???
His drinking from the past and present made me anxious for our future. This is not what I thought I was getting that night we tried our first sip. How did we get HERE??!! Where is this heading?!?! We had a big blow up fight over his drinking, I was requesting he get help. I went to an Alan-On meeting and it was depressing. There I cried… a lot and felt alone.
Time For Changes
A friend of my husband’s was a newly sober person whom he reached out to, acknowledging he needed to make his own changes. He hoped to moderate… yet also entertained that it may be a black and white issue. I requested he have something guiding him to a better relationship with alcohol and for his health, as he was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2017. The friend recommended This Naked Mind and the Recovery Elevator podcasts, which I started listening to but was not seriously convinced yet that I could manage to work a sober life back into my life. I knew religion and alcohol were why we didn’t drink before but why should I need to give it completely now? So I listened and listened for months. All while noting that friends, colleagues in their somewhat young lives were struggling with cancer, some on my husband’s friends had died from heart attacks in their late 30/40’s. Did I want to keep doing this to my one body?
Read About It
Did you grow up thinking religion and alcohol don’t mix? Wondering how we get caught up in the drinking lifestyle so easily? Find out when you start reading This Naked Mind. Download the first 40 pages today!
I watched and watched my husband struggle and myself struggle with the cognitive dissonance. My husband has held a strong belief that we can only really open up and be open with each other over a glass of wine. That it’s needed to make hard conversations happen. I held onto that belief slightly less tight, but acknowledged that I have my reasons for drinking. I felt like I fit in, because I never felt that as a youth. It loosened me up for good sex, which felt liberating after being fucked up by a sexually repressive religion. For connecting and making friends here in my community. The list goes on.
Fast forward to January 2019. Dry January. Except for my birthday celebrations with friends, I did better. But I still wanted to drink for my day. Also, I found myself still in an internal battle with what I really wanted for me…. and also for my marriage. I ordered This Naked Mind, skeptical of the method to decondition the belief I still held to. I have, after all, questioned my beliefs before – why not again with a different belief. If religion and alcohol didn’t mix, maybe alcohol and I don’t mix either.
I started reading. Recently, I’d lost some of my interest in drinking and my husband’s had ramped back up. He drank 9/10 nights in a row and my frustration boiled again. We argued over it again. I finished the book after we made some amends. I had a beer (most of it) with a night out with a friend. That was Feb 23rd, 2019. I finished the book and I felt free. I had no desire to poison my body anymore.
Next, I shared what I felt with my husband. He agreed to read it. He has yet to do so, but I’m hopeful he will see my journey out of the grip of booze and follow. My only current struggle is how to deal with his drinking if he does not follow a path to sobriety. My husband is concerned I won’t loosen up as much and that alcohol was a useful tool in that my more extroverted side was more out in the open with drinking. I venture into not a completely unknown world. I spent a good part of my life sober, just not the last nearly 7 years. This time, I’m not sober because a religion told me I had to be to please god.
Share Your Story
That is my story in a nutshell. From sips to heavy binging and thinking that was normal. I should have educated myself before letting it touch my lips. Did you use This Naked Mind or The Alcohol Experiment to break free from alcohol? Please share your story and help others!