Kids say the smartest things.
A decade or so ago, when I was still caught in a cycle of hustling for worthiness all day and numbing my discomfort with wine, my then-eleven-year-old delivered a truth bomb that I am still unpacking to this day.
I had paused for breath (and dramatic effect) while delivering an anecdote/monologue to my husband over dinner that was meant to illustrate the stupidity I was forced to deal with out there in the world. There were a lot of emphasized words and faces and gestures accompanying the story, a lot of so I saids and then he saids and seriouslys.
I was really selling it, but then came the little voice into my pause.
My son had been watching me and I assumed he was impressed with his strong, smart, tough mom who had spent the day setting egomaniacs straight. Instead he said this:
“You, like, really enjoy being right.”
If an adult had said that, I would have been defensive and wounded. Instead, I was (uncharacteristically) receptive to the honest observations coming from my own child. I had no idea what to do with that information, but I sensed it was powerful and tucked it into my pocket for safekeeping.
It would take years, but eventually I’d start unpacking that and other nuggets I had gathered over time and wonder if they could be put to better use. I am learning, but it is a slow process.
I know this much. I confuse being right with being safe. I confuse approval and worth. I confuse others with myself.
After eight years alcohol-free and reading a million books and listening to others and thinking thinking thinking and filling multiple journals, I am undoing the hairball of mixed-up ideas I believed were true. One revelation leads to another. It takes time, though, to go from awareness to change.
That is what recovery is all about: slow, methodical, intentional change.
I am still too easily wounded by criticism and swayed by flattery, but also quicker to ground myself and assess my own opinion. That is progress.
Confusing right with being safe. That really hit me. Thank you, gonna dig deep into that one.
I was alcohol free for so wonderfully long (got sober before I had children/now a mom of 4, 2 of which are teens) until 2 years ago. I stopped taking great care or any care of myself when mental health challenges with one of my children involved crisis intervention units, psychiatric emergency room visits, calls to the police to keep everyone safe when my child was out of control and unreachable…. SO not their fault one bit, and I truly embrace the challenge of caring for, understanding, empowering, supporting my child and our family through this challenge. I accept and embrace it. But I also felt used up by it and that’s when it started. And with all of the research, professionals, outreach, school coordination that I have undertaken, I feel very competent and we are making amazing wonderful good progress. I am grateful for our progress and my ability to help foster this progress. But along the way I developed this habit so even now that I feel less like a wounded soldier battling the attacks my child had to suffer because of their mental illness, drinking at night had become a part of me. I relied on alcohol to get a break from all of it. I need myself back and I feel close and am not quite getting it yet. Nighttime rolls around and I think I need it to relax, escape and to sleep (which I know is not good healthy sleep). I know better and am trying to find my way back. Also because of nightly drinking I have gained a horrible amount of weight. Two years ago I was proud of my defined arms and toned body and healthy weight. Nothing fits and now it’s summer. I am a writer with a stalled dream project because I am stuck and afraid to let my secret out. I am hopeful and I love this blog and I just need some help to get me to the ledge where the only next step is a soaring beautiful leap of faith in my life not blurred or dulled or hindered by alcohol. I am just having trouble getting started with even just a simple step. I’m not ready for AA which I respect and find to be a transformative (in a non-denominational way for myself) spiritual hour of the humility of having at least one thing in common with each person in that room. I want to be free, write my book, get in shape, be healthy, take good care of myself and be healthy and happy enough and present enough to truly be with the amazing, sometimes annoying but always kind people who make up this family I am a part of, and come back from the sidelines. I just need some help. I saved your blog to my home screen some time ago and happened to curiously click on it curious to remember what I’d saved sometime ago. The more I saw the more I wanted myself back. I am grateful for what you have created.
I’m glad you’re here. It’s time to take back your power and look after yourself again. You muddled through the time of crisis and held on, now you need to turn that nurturing strength of yours back onto yourself. You’re not alone. There’s so much help for you. I know how hard it is to write – I’ve working on a big project and it’s taking every ounce of my energy. It’s impossible to be creative when you’re pouring your soul into saving a loved one, and alcohol is stealing your time and capacity now that the situation is improving with your child. I’d suggest you consider starting a blog as an outlet for writing and to support your efforts to go alcohol free. It’s quick to set up and for me it was a way to connect with others and feel accountable for my recovery. I highly recommend it!
Today is day 1 and I am hoping for some anonymous support. I am an escalating white wine drinker.
I had 4 years alcohol free, but then started secretly drinking again for no discernible reason. A number of Day 1’s, 2s, and 3s have come and gone. It is very important that I stop, as my liver was affected during my previous drinking. I have a wonderful husband and two teens who love and need me. I’ve always held it together. My kids have never been late to school, I get up and make hot breakfast and fix lunches every day, my home is lovely and clean, and I am accomplished in my field.
I was elated to find this blog at 3am on Saturday night after waking up feeling sick and ashamed. I read voraciously until 6am, and then drank wine in secret all day.
I was evaluating when to schedule another day 1, but after reading more of this blog and listening to the first episode of The Bubble Hour, I decided that today is the day. I’m trying to treat myself well. I’m making homemade soup for lunch. But I have to go and get rid of my empty bottles and visit the liquor store to maintain my secret.
I truly appreciate the work that you do here.
Here I am again. Day 2. I had 4 days last week. I just wanted to tell someone because it’s my not do secret secret. I am very tired of quitting every week. Thank you for your blog and your hope.
Dust yourself off and carry on. Head high. Honest and brave, working to get free. Take some time to reflect on how alcohol tricked you into backsliding and take the lesson with you. Write a letter to yourself about all the reasons you’re doing this, and read it when you feel tempted. Onward! Day 2 and then 3!!
Well here I am on another Day 1. I seem so sure I’m going to quit then my hubby pulls out the wine bottle and I say “ I’ll have a glass with you honey”. We both then polish off more than two bottles and I end up feeling like crap the next day. I do this over and over. I’m approaching my 65th Birthday and I can’t face it while still drinking. I love this blog and I’m reading it and listening to The Bubble Hour. I hope I can keep on track. Wish me luck!
Looking for the “right” button but settled for the “like” button instead 😂
Gosh that hit home, I love being right too! Really stopped me in my tracks, going to make note and process that some more.
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Hi Jean, just love reading you , I feel that you can put word on my life ,my feelings. I just have to be right all the time and its exausting.. I will keep working and recovering.. val 47 days AF and counting…
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We have a dear young friend who I shared this with. She is afraid of not drinking as it is her persona. Thanks for sharing sister!
Somethings are kids are harsh but somehow truthful. About one year before I finally embraced my alcohol-free life, my son discovered me basically passed out on my couch and told me no one past the age of 27 should drink. Lol. Guess I tagged on 23 extra years. 🤷🏼♀️
Love it! Kids see our truth!
Oh yes. I know when I get into this mindset I feel the scratchiness of anxiety. If I listen to my inner self, I stop. But sometimes I just want to be right…
Sigh. More work to do. I guess we aren’t perfect yet! Lol
I love this story, Jean. I totally get that: “hustling for worthiness all day and numbing my discomfort with wine.” It’s a great description of what happens for so many of us. Love you, and thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Right, without a doubt!