One year ago today I popped open a bottle of champagne at around 4:00pm. I was celebrating getting through another fucking day. I pumped a bottle for my baby, and proceeded to drink the whole thing. The plan was to get nice and numb because that made bedtime more bearable. It wasn’t a daily routine (yet), but it was familiar. I had it all planned out.
But then my husband called and said he’d be coming home early from work. This really threw a wrench in things for me. Any normal person who is drinking champagne home alone on a Thursday evening with a 3 year-old and 6-month-old in her care would quickly switch to water and get her wits about her. But that’s not what I did. I opened a bottle of red wine, took a big swig and hid it in the bookcase in the hallway. My husband came home, kissed me, asked if I had been drinking and I lied spectacularly. I drank the majority of that bottle in secret for the rest of the night. The baby woke up at some point and I was faced with a decision; warm a bottle and have my husband ask me why I’m not breastfeeding, or go and feed her. I sat on the edge of my bed, nursing my baby girl, drunk as a skunk. I went back downstairs and “fell asleep” on the couch while we watched TV.
At 3:00am I awoke with my heart racing out of my chest. My head was swimming with guilt and self-loathing. I was used to this feeling. The middle of the night detox. Of course, I didn’t know that was what it was. I did know that it had been getting worse over the past couple years. As the previous night came into not-so-clear focus, I hit my bottom. I didn’t have to get arrested. No one staged an intervention. All that happened was that I saw myself clearly. My two major realizations were that I chose alcohol over my children and that I was capable of successfully lying about my drinking. I became fearful that if I could lie about this, then what else would I lie about? How far could it go? I then had not so much a vision, but the sudden knowledge that by summer I would be drinking daily. And as I looked over at my husband sleeping, the next thought that came in my head was, “He can’t save you. No one is coming to save you from this. It’s up to you.” And I suddenly just knew I was an alcoholic. I shook my husband awake in the middle of the night to tell him I was an alcoholic and needed help. I told him I was going to get help.
He offers up some steps to help deal with emotional eating. Good stuff that most people trying to lose weight gloss over, but I believe is vital.
I’ve been thinking about this quote obsessively since yesterday. How amazingly true and counterintuitive. It is the foundation of Step 1, and I see how that has worked to get and keep me sober. I accept that I am an alcoholic and I also accept that in order to stay sober, I must work the steps and implement them into my daily life.
I think for a long time I was in denial about the fact that I was going to be permanently overweight because of my choices and lifestyle. I had this idea that things would somehow magically get better and that I was not that bad. That the slow crawl I was doing towards obesity was just a temporary thing and one day I was going to wake up, be in shape and eat less ice cream and more kale. Maybe the first time I really saw myself was in that CrossFit class.
At some point I began thinking, “Yes. This is where I really am. All my past thinking and behavior has gotten me here.” And then some time later I also accepted that it was going to take a lot of work to get out of the hole I was in. Not just a diet or exercise plan, but a complete overhaul of the way I looked at food, fitness, weight and my body. That’s a lot of work. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual work. And I don’t know if you are aware, but I have two little kids and not that much time to myself. However, because I’d already gotten sober (that definitely involved some work), I knew it could be done. I knew that this kind of work looks WAY scarier from the outside looking in. It’s sometimes difficult, but always worth it. You start by accepting where you are, take an honest look at how you got there and just put one foot in front of the other.
If I’m being honest, and I am, I’ve been sliding a bit in the food department. The massive, meticulously planned binges are hopefully a permanent thing of the past, but I have resumed the nightly chocolate thing. Not terribly out of control, but there. I’ve grown a little weary of the effort preparing whole, healthy meals requires. There were no vegetables in my dinner last night. Actually, I just kind of picked around what my kids ate. I’m getting lax with my nutrition and am paying the price in zits and low motivation for life.
My body really does show me what it wants, what it likes. Sometimes I don’t want to listen. Sometimes it’s just easier to go to In-N-Out. I don’t want to shop, to cook, to clean. It’s exhausting. Life is relentless. So I guess I’m tired. And you know what the funny thing about that is? I ignore that, too. I’m falling asleep on the couch at 9:30pm every night and forcing myself to stay awake until 11ish. And for what? I feel like I have a right to that alone time. I deserve it after taking care of the kids all day. I don’t want to get short-changed on me time because I’m tired.
When I made the decision to surrender to my workout routine, I also decided to make my body a higher power. Self-will certainly hadn’t helped me when it came to my health. My preference was to sit on the couch watching Real Housewives, drinking wine and eating pizza and ice cream. That was my reward for just getting through another day. The problem is that my reward was killing me, albeit slowly. So I accepted that my way wasn’t working and surrendered to the signals of my body. I did it in a loving way. Muscle soreness means keep exercising and acute pain means stop. If there aren’t any vegetables in the house, load the kids in the car and drag my ass to the store instead of making mac & cheese. When I’m tired I go to sleep, even if I’m 2 weeks behind on Homeland. My body sends the message and it is my responsibility to listen no matter what. I let go of ego either telling me I deserve something or am not worth the effort and become willing to just follow directions.
This practice has worked so well for me for the last six months. I’ve been able to change my health and fitness in ways I used to dream about. Today it is sliding, and I don’t like that. I’m having more and more fantasies of reward and feelings of, “What’s the point anyway?” I’ve been thinking I’d like to rededicate myself to using my body as a higher power (not THE higher power), and I’d like to start with my sleep. Sleep is so important, and I’m disrespecting my God-body every single night. I want to say that I’ll start tonight. I could. I could just let go. That would certainly be something!
Last night my almost 4 year old wanted me to rock him to sleep. He’s not much of a cuddler these days, so I jumped at the opportunity. I was sitting there holding him in the dark, trying to stay present and grateful, but my mind was fixating on a headline I saw come up in my Facebook feed days ago. I didn’t click it at the time, but the beast was thirsty and I found myself there in the dark reading this article on my iPhone. I first thought that sounded like a fun time, but they describe it as a “nightclub on wheels.” I remembered that I hate clubs and the douchebags inside them. Pretty sure this will be a train full of alcoholics and douchebags. Anyway, my brain instead went off on a fantasy where I abandon my family to get drunk by myself in some seedy off-strip Vegas motel. It’s especially strange because I’ve never even stayed off the strip. I’d usually end a night in Vegas by vomiting in a bathroom with a plasma TV.
Just before I went off on this imaginary nightmare of a relapse, I was thinking, “How the fuck did I get here?” How did I end up in this house with this husband and these two amazing kids? I suddenly felt like I didn’t choose any of it. I don’t remember how I got here. I got kind of pissed off. I’m an alcoholic and there is a part of me that wants to slowly kill myself in Vegas, but here I am in charge of raising these two little ones instead. It’s often said that alcoholism is an elevator heading down and you decide what floor to get off on. In early sobriety, I honestly felt like I wanted to ride that fucker all the way to the basement just to see what’s down there. I was actually angry with my kids for interfering with the self-indulgent trip to hell I had planned.
I want to understand what makes me want to drink myself to death in Vegas when I have an enviable life. I think the easy answer is self-loathing, but when I think on it, that doesn’t sit right. So I’m sitting here thinking about the fact that right before I fantasized about running away and numbing out, I was feeling like I had been delivered a life that I didn’t choose. I don’t understand how I got to be holding this sweet little soul in a dark room on a Sunday night in the suburbs. It’s not what I thought my life would look like; not what I planned. That means I’m not in control. Oh crap that means I’m REALLY not in control! The ego rebels.
My plan was to end the post and put up this Talking Heads song, but I looked up the lyrics and they’re even more apropos than I thought. Today I actively turn my will and my life over to God. I wasn’t doing that before, my life is what it is regardless of what I had planned. In self-will, I fight the currents of the ocean making myself exhausted and miserable in the process. No matter what I do, I’ll eventually find myself on the shore asking, “How did I get here?” When I surrender to the currents, let the water hold me down if it needs to, I might not have to arrive tired and bewildered.