Few things have driven me to long for “a nice, relaxing glass of wine” more than having a toddler. Meltdowns because I’d like my 19-month-old to put his pajamas in the hamper (because lessons in responsibility, y’all) or refrain from playing in broken glass because he wanted graham crackers right now, and I stupidly stored them in a glass container within his reach.
But the reality is that I can’t. I mean, I could. But I haven’t had a drink in 14 years, so why mess with the (mostly) good thing that is my life? This makes it doubly difficult when so much of the “mom culture” today is rooted in snarky memes and boozy jokes lending themselves to the bizarre sentiment that a nice glass of wine or five will make being a mother — a job we are (hashtag) blessed to have — that much more bearable.
Yes, I wholeheartedly get it (see first paragraph). But I’d be lying if I said that oversaturation didn’t sometimes exacerbate those moments where I deeply question the decision I made on October 2, 2004, at the ripe, young age of 23.
I was living just outside New York City, where I spent my days working for a teen magazine and my weekends getting blackout drunk at dive bars and nightclubs where I most certainly felt like an undeserving imposter, leading to even more rum-and-Diet-Cokes to quell the sh*t talker that is my brain. There are few things more terrifying than waking up in a strange apartment with no clue how you got there, or worse, what you did the night before and with whom. Or passing out on the subway ride home only to wind up in some unfamiliar place deep in Brooklyn at 4 a.m. when all you want is a slice of pizza and your warm bed. What started at the age of 16 after the loss of my mother progressed through my college years (sorority included), and no matter how hard I tried to be “normal” or escape myself, my genetic makeup — two alcoholic parents and an addictive grandparent — was working against me. So I woke up one morning in my own piss (a first) and shame (a regular occurrence), sick and tired of being sick and tired, and white-knuckled my way through a few of those meetings, maybe a sponsor or two, and buckets of coffee until not drinking became my norm, and drinking became a distant memory. Because I never wanted to feel that stomach-sickening shame and remorse ever again.
Fast-forward to today, and while my brain is still the king of anxiety and negative self-talk (constant work in progress — how you doin’, Zoloft?), I am at least in control of my actions and behaviors. If I make a mistake (a regular occurrence), I can do my best to own it and make it right.
My husband has never seen me take a drink, and my son has never seen me take a drink. Having only been in Jacksonville a couple of years, my mom friends here most certainly have never seen me take a drink. Many may not even realize that this is my “thing” — my own personal not-really-a-secret-but-kind-of-a-secret scarlet letter. The thing that makes me feel different, self-conscious, and sometimes weird, especially at those moms’ night out events where the booze flows like breast milk from a lucky overproducer. I’ve since perfected the art of waving away the offering of a drink in exchange for my Coke Zero, and when the well-meaning “Are you sure?” questions persist, my usual speech comes pouring out like word vomit: “Yes! Thank you. I used to drink, but I don’t anymore because I blacked out and made bad decisions. It wasn’t good. And alcoholism runs in my family, but I’m happy to be your designated driver any time…” By then, I’ve made them uncomfortable, because I’m uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable because I don’t want them to feel judged for enjoying their wine (please, have a big ol’ glass for me!), because I don’t want to come off like a holier-than-thou prude who can’t have fun (I’ve danced on tabletops sober, thankyouverymuch), and because I have an unhealthy fear of what you might think — even though what you think of me is really none of my business.
So yes, while I do sometimes go back to that day in early October and wonder if my blackouts were merely a phase — maybe I could (just once!) enjoy that glass of wine you so kindly offered — the risks simply aren’t worth the reward. Because for me, I know one glass of wine (or two or three) most certainly won’t be enough, and I would never want to lose this sweet, sweet life I’ve built on sober ground.