You know that feeling when something is clearly bothering you but you haven’t identified what it is? When you have zero patience and no ability whatsoever to tolerate the sound of anyone’s voice talking to you? When you feel nauseous, your head throbs as if it’s about to explode, and your eyes just start crying?
That was me today. I woke up like that. I didn’t know why, so I decided to be good to myself. I ate breakfast and drank tea, went snowshoeing, cleaned out my car, worked on laundry, cooked my kids and myself a hot lunch, and went to my son’s hockey game. When we got back home, I fixed a broken sink and then ran myself a hot bath.
As I soaked in the tub, tears began gushing from my eyes and I heard my voice say, “What the f*** is wrong with me?” Is it because I’m not ready for Monday? For years, Sundays used to put me in the most foul mood as I prepared for the week ahead, feeling like everything in the house had to be perfect before I could have any chance at focusing on my job and succeeding at the work life balance.
Suddenly, I realized what it was. I don’t want tomorrow to be Monday. I’m not ready. But, not for the usual reasons. In fact, I’ve been conflicted about Monday since last Thursday. I have a difficult decision to make, and I haven’t given myself a chance to work through it.
Some women with whom I volunteer are getting together tomorrow morning at one of the women’s homes. I have been looking forward to this gathering for weeks. Most of the women are only acquaintances, and I have been excited about getting to know them better, outside our monthly business meetings.
Last Thursday, the emails started flying. The host checking about food allergies. One woman offering to bring a casserole. Another saying she’d bring salad. As I brainstormed what to contribute, I was blindsided by the next email. “I’ll bring the Prosecco,” it read.
You know the sound of the Wheel of Fortune wheel rapidly spinning around and then slowly clicking to a complete stop? That. The wind, sucked out of my sail. Wait a minute. What?
The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. Day drinking while the kids are at school. I can’t go there. It’s not that I’m nervous I might relapse. I know I won’t. I just can’t go hang out at someone’s house where there is alcohol being consumed at that hour and I won’t be able to enjoy myself and there are so very many other, more worthwhile, things I can do with my time.
Sure I can. I can do anything. One of the things I most pride my sober self on is being present, not bailing out.
It’s funny. When I was interviewed for a local radio program last week, I was asked how I make sure I don’t relapse. I can’t recall my exact answer, but it was something like this: “I don’t spend a lot of time around drinkers anymore. I don’t host moms nights and I rarely attend them. I think long and hard about every single invitation I receive and I make decisions about who I want to be with and if the people involved are really worth the time spent away from my family, my business, and myself.” I have made a very conscious decision to limit my exposure to mommy drinking.
It’s not that I can’t go; it’s that I don’t want to go. I don’t want to force a smile and fake my way through what will be extreme torture for me. I don’t want to deal with the, “Aw, come one, just have one.” Having to explain why I can’t, and defend my addiction.
I tried to talk myself into going. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. I tried telling myself this is an important opportunity to potentially educate others. I am completely uninspired.
My husband came to ask me when I’m getting out of the bath. “Never,” I answered, and I shared with him what was going on.
“They know I’m in recovery,” I sobbed. “Why didn’t they ask me if I’d be comfortable with them drinking?”
“They just don’t care,” he offered.
I couldn’t believe that. I’m sure they care. And, I wondered. Would I have checked with the sober person before deciding to serve alcohol?
They know. And, they didn’t ask. Are you supposed to ask? If the roles were reversed, would I have asked? I don’t know. I’d like to think I would have. But there’s no way to say for certain. Because I’ve never been in that position. And, I never will be.
If this was dinner, I don’t think I’d have batted an eyelash. But it’s breakfast. On a Monday.
I’m so angry. My head hurts and my eyes sting. I’m trying to talk to my husband and choking on the lump in my throat.
I’m not mad at these women. Not at all. Jealous, maybe. Maybe. But, my addiction is not their problem. I’m mad at myself. I’m so angry that my alcoholism is making this so excruciatingly painful.
I feel like I’ve been robbed. Sobriety has given me so many incredible gifts. I treasure them all and I wouldn’t change a thing. But, the anxiety I feel when I think about everyone sitting around, sipping their bubbly and raising a glass to welcome the New Year is nothing less than suffocating.
For the first time, I realize as much as I have an incredibly stocked toolbox for maintaining my sobriety, I’ve been hiding from some of the really tough stuff: The social situations where people other than family and very close friends are drinking. Normal mom stuff. Because, I’m not a normal mom.
As I prepared for the arrival of 2017, I chose strength as my word of the year. Yet, no matter how I try to approach tomorrow’s gathering, I simply cannot find the strength for it.
I feel so defeated. Less than. And, I have never cried so hard or been so physically ill over something that doesn’t involve death or a broken heart.