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The holidays have come and gone, and after a whole lot of reflection, I feel that it’s time for me to admit something to myself and to you. 2019 was one of the hardest years I’ve ever experienced, and for most of it, I was pretty much just on autopilot trying to cope with all the sadness, anxiety, guilt, and hopelessness. It’s REALLY hard to type these words, but I realize now that drinking has become my way of coping with all those awful internal feelings I”ve been experiencing. It’s turned into a pattern that I feel like I need to address.
Now, please understand that this is a super touchy subject because many people will be quick to judge. I am not asking for criticism, and I’m not looking for a lecture. (Believe me, I’ve beaten myself up about this shameful little secret enough for all of us.) I’m admitting this here because I have a feeling that I am not alone in this situation. Am I an alcoholic? No. Do I have a drinking problem? No. However, I do want to take better control of my health and my well-being, and if I’m gonna do that, then I need to be honest with myself and make some changes.
It all started with my dad’s declining health problems. Since I live in Chicago, and my parents’ home is in southern Indiana (six hours away), traveling back and forth for my dad’s many different surgeries and procedures was beyond stressful, to say the least. Over the years, he had had three strokes, cancer of the larynx, triple bypass surgery, and throat cancer (two different times). I don’t have any siblings, so I always felt like I NEEDED to be down there to help as much as I could, while still being mom/wife/friend to my own family and friends here.
I used to only really drink a few glasses of wine on the weekends, but over the past year, I noticed myself drinking through the week too. The CONSTANT guilt of feeling like I should be in two different places at once was literally eating me up inside. It got even worse after my dad passed away in June. His final days of suffering were absolutely BRUTAL to witness, and then after he was gone, I HATED not being there to support my mom. It’s agonizing to watch her grieve the loss of her partner of 55 years. I literally worry about her all the time. So, a couple of glasses (or even three on some nights) have helped to calm my nerves. I also “thought” it was helping me get to sleep better, since my mind always seems to race as soon as I lay my head on the pillow.
The crazy thing about alcohol, however, is that yes, it does help you GO to sleep, but it certainly doesn’t help you STAY asleep. I honestly cannot remember the last time I woke up and felt truly rested. I’ve never been much of a morning person, but I detest them even more since I started this whole drinking-through-the-week habit.
The other thing about alcohol is that it is chalked full of empty calories, which have caused me to gain several unwanted pounds. I’m only 5’2″, so even a few extra pounds show on my small frame. You can just imagine what this has done to my self-esteem. Seeing myself in a bathing suit over the winter break was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.
So, as of this past Sunday, I decided to finally make a change. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of feeling guilty. Life is too short and way too precious to just be going through the motions. I want to be clear-headed. I want to be better rested. I want to be more productive. I want to be a better role model for my teenage kids. Basically, I want to enjoy life more.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m never gonna drink again. I love a good glass of wine or a cocktail, but I’m going to try to reserve those for special occasions. My health and my well-being are going to have to be my focus. It’s time to come out of “the funk” and find better ways to cope.
I read a quote recently that really resonated with me. It’s from Glennon Doyle Melton’s book “Love Warrior“:
“Perhaps pain was not a hot potato after all, but a traveling professor. Maybe instead of slamming the door on pain, I need to throw open the door wide and say, Come in. Sit down with me. And don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.”
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