In October of 2011 I ended up in the ER with debilitating stomach pain. It had been bothering me for weeks off and on, but one night it became excruciating. My (at the time) 2 year old and 3 month old were sleeping, so I had to drive myself to the hospital. They did an MRI and the Dr. let me know it was possible I had an ulcer. They asked me to follow up with my PCP, so later that week I sat in my Dr.’s office while she told me that in addition to the gastritis/ulcer, I had a hiatal hernia and my liver was enlarged. She needed to order more tests to find out what was going on with my liver.
I’m typically a nod-and-smile-type patient, but I found myself saying, “I’ve been drinking.” I was honest about how much. She recommended I go to AA. I was a blubbering mess. I couldn’t believe this was happening; that I was that bad. I mean, sure, I loved to drink, but I didn’t drink every day. Ok fine, my preference was to have at least a bottle of wine to myself, and maybe I’ve been wanting more than that lately. The fact that I was having physical consequences due to drinking freaked me out to a degree that I knew I had to do something. So like any alcoholic in denial, I imposed a 30 day ban on booze. Perfect timing for me to be able to drink again during the holidays.
I could not conceive of a holiday without alcohol. My fondest memories from my childhood are being at my grandma & grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’d arrive to an oven-heated house, filled with the smells of my grandma’s cooking. We’d congregate in the living room, my grandpa pouring drinks for the adults. Everyone seemed so flushed and happy. Men drinking an expensive scotch, women champagne. My grandpa would let me come with him to pick out a French wine from his makeshift cellar under the stairs. He would make up silly songs and dance. I remember feeling loved. I don’t have a ton of memories from my childhood. It wasn’t horrible, but there was a high level of disfunction underneath the surface. I guess on the holidays everyone was on their best behavior. More likely they were drunk and just cared less about all the fucked up stuff going on behind the scenes.
I’ve spent every single holiday since trying to recreate those feelings. I’ve been trying to go back. God, this realization makes me so sad. At least behind the sadness comes a deep compassion for myself. I didn’t know any better.
So I started drinking again on Thanksgiving 2011. I remember quite vividly the plotting and planning that went into that. I think I probably spent that whole 30 days deciding what I would drink. I was basically ecstatic. What I also remember is a general feeling of chaos. I always was trying to achieve the most Martha holiday I could muster, and I made myself totally insane in the process. Forgotten items, mismanaged time, too many dishes, unwashed table cloths, eating late, overcooked dishes, the huge mess… and the drinking. I drank a lot and remember trying not to slur at dinner. I continued to drink throughout the holidays. The wheels didn’t really start coming off until January.
At the beginning of my sobriety I was really concerned about this time of year. It seemed so depressing to think of a holiday season without all the fun drinks that come along with it. Now what seems depressing and exhausting is last year.