Today a flyer from the LCBO came in the mail. I flipped it open and landed on a page featuring what my favorite drink was before. For a split second in my mind, I really missed drinking. But then all those reasons came flooding back in. I put the flyer down and walked away.
I sat for a minute staring blankly at the countertop in my kitchen thinking about how normalized drinking is in our society, and how really messed up that actually is. Unfortunately, I can’t blame society for the path that I followed. I started out on the journey a long time ago, from a place of innocence.
I was just a teenager, trying so desperately to fit in with the cool kids.
The first drink I ever had was at a house party when I was in grade 9. My friend and I had spent days planning out how to get the alcohol, and what we would try. I had tasted alcohol before, but I wanted to see what it was like to be drunk.
The first drink was 90% Vodka, and 10% orange juice. That was the defining moment in my story. That was the moment I realized that all the feelings that I felt and didn’t understand had gone numb. At that moment I felt giddy and happy – and from then on until 5 months ago I chased that feeling in alcohol, in drugs, and in sex.
I would find that feeling in one of those places. For a few hours of my life, my past didn’t exist and the trauma was blurred out. Then that feeling would leave me in the morning after, and I would have to start it all over again. Always chasing, and never gaining.
This pattern continued through high school, university, my twenties, and my thirties.
In there I managed to stay sober during my pregnancy with my daughter. But as soon as I could I was drinking again. I told myself I would limit myself to one glass of wine a night. Quickly that turned into two.
Before too long, I would just polish off the bottle, sometimes two. Every night, a new bottle, or two. Then the night drinking turned into day drinking. And all the while I am convincing myself that I have everything under control. I’m FINE.
But I wasn’t fine, and I knew that somewhere deep down. That feeling was quickly drowned out with wine. Until eventually something had to give.
I believe that sometimes life will send an offering down to us.
This offering is a way of saying, “Hey, there’s a better life waiting for you over there. Maybe you should take that path.” And sometimes these offerings come in the most unusual of all ways.
5 months ago, I was sitting on a patio drinking a beer and eating french-fries with my daughter and my mother. My mom had just had the roughest year ever, and she wanted to do something nice. I suggested we get a cabin and have a girl’s weekend.
She chose the place, and I came equipped with $180 worth of alcohol. I was ON vacation.
But as I sat there, I felt the pain that I thought was trapped gas start to get a little more intense. I complained to my mom and she insisted that when I get back to the room, I hang myself upside-down off the edge of my bed. Yeah, ok… at this point I would literally do anything to get this gas out because it’s starting to hurt.
Finally, I gave up and said I would just go to bed and it’s probably nothing.
I lay in bed whimpering and crying until my mother couldn’t stand it anymore and ordered me to go to the hospital. We called my husband and he drove the hour drive to get me and take me to the closest hospital. My mom said she’d be happy to stay with my daughter and so reluctantly I went.
I ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days. I had another diverticulitis attack (I had one in 2014 that ended in a perforated bowel). For 5 days I had nothing to do but think.
I had no one else in my room because it’s a flipping pandemic. The only human interaction I had was when the nurses would come in to check my vitals.
I thought about how I got there, seated in this hospital bed.
Stress, deep depression, and drinking had sent the invitation and I willfully accepted. The realization that I needed to make a lifestyle change had struck me deeply. I made a promise to myself that I was never going to drink again.
But this time, I had 5 days to think about all the reasons to never drink again. I had 5 days to wonder if a lifestyle change would be enough. But mostly, I had 5 days to remember that I am worthy of sobriety.
There it was shining through all the darkness that had descended. This beautiful beacon that life had shone down on me. Life had just made me an offering. Did I want to continue to bury myself beneath the cloak of alcohol to feel numb? Or did I want to live every day without a mask and live it to its fullest potential?
Did I want to go on an incredible journey filled with moments and emotions that I could experience and be enriched by?
I want to live and feel the textures of life with my bare hands.
So, in that hospital bed, I chose to give up alcohol for the chance of living this life to the fullest. And just to make sure I would hold true to my promise I held myself accountable in the tiny hours of the morning; before the sun made its way over the horizon.
I held my iPhone up to my face and opened the camera app. I then made myself a video to remind me about how much I hated being in the position I was in. I told myself that you are strong, and you are determined.
I promised myself that I would do better, for me. I would do better for my relationship that hung in the wings. I would do better for the kids because they deserve a parent who is present.
The night of the day I came home I set a pillow on the floor of my living room and sat on it. I YouTubed “5-minute guided meditations” and for the first time in my life, I sat with my feelings. Then the next night I plunked a pillow down on the floor and chose a different guided meditation, and I sat with my feelings again.
Every night I find myself on the floor sitting with all the things that scare me.
But the more I sit in stillness – allowing myself to fully feel with my soul bared from the alcohol cloak – the more I realize that it’s only scary for a little bit. And then one day, it isn’t so scary. I’m still fine.
I remind myself that there will be days when an LCBO flyer shows up in my mailbox. There will be days when I feel the romance of a drink and really wish I had one. There will be days that are so hard that I feel like I want to cave in to the temptation.
But I made a promise to myself, and I made a video to make sure I kept that promise. And a promise is a promise.
I have those moments, and I feel them, and I let them pass. Because, as I am typing this, there is this beautiful little girl huddled in as close as she can get, sharing her “pickle chips” with me. That little girl is the greatest gift life has given me, and she deserves to have a mom who is present. I choose sobriety because I am worthy of it and because the biggest surprise of them all – in sobriety, I’m actually fine.
***DISCLAIMER: This website, jugglingthejenkins.com, is not affiliated with any specific recovery program. Different avenues work for different people.***
I have two alcoholic family members fighting for their lives.
You don’t want to get that bad.
I’m glad you saw the other path now.. instead of seeing it when you might just die before you get to enjoy the new life.
You are strong. You got this.
I’m doing inner child work right now to face the things I spent so many years numbing … continue the meditations!
The hardest part of the begining of sobriety is the feelings. The emotions, things that you gaurded yourself from forever you know have to feel ten fold. It feels like years of emotions all at once. Everytime I cracked up I ended up sobbing. And had no idea why. But this is very nicely written and I hope you continue down your sobriety path . Go Ida!
So thankful your on the path to recovery & finding yourself! I will left you up in prayer.
Your awesome and you got this I’m 6 months clean and can relate to your story and I chose sobriety everyday for my 3 beautiful children and will work at it everyday one day at a time for the rest of my life not only for me but for them you got this girl and I wish you the best of luck and never think your alone we are all in this together!!!
My cousin and life-long best friend succumbed to her alcoholism on October 1, 2019. She left behind a son, whose drug and alcohol abuse has landed him in prison, and a daughter who just had her first child and cries every day that she’ll never meet her grandma. I give you a HUGE pat on the back for your decision to be okay.
Ida, you are so strong and courageous! Congratulations on your sobriety. Alcohol doesn’t give us anything it only takes everything and it sounds like that could have been your precious life. So glad you are living life to the fullest and present for your family and yourself.
Beautifully written! Beautifully real! You found your WHY! Keep sitting on that pillow… one day at a time!
Brava! I just wanted to applaud you, from Toronto, Ontario. As someone from the same province, I wanted to reach out and say, way to go! Keep going!