I am sober today.

Not just today, I have actually been sober for 5 days in a row. I am feeling good, but that feeling isn’t coming from a number, it is coming from inside me. It is such an incredible change!

A week ago I knew things were not going well, but as much as I could tell myself that drinking wasn’t doing me any favors, I still kept popping open that bottle. Night after night. And the opening came earlier and earlier. Soon I was finishing 1 1/2 -2 bottles a night. I was waking up, not remembering going to bed or what I had done prior to going to bed. Mystery Facebook posts I would see in the morning, in all their embarrassing drunk-typed glory, would clue me in. I was getting behind at home and work and school. I was in danger of being kicked out of my master’s program. If that happened I would lose my job. I had lost out on enough in my life. I wasn’t going to lose this too. So the last half-bottle of a really nice wine was poured down the sink and I faced the daunting specter of sobriety once again.

Now I know I have said I am not looking for the “never ever will I drink another drop” sobriety. The never again is where I trip up. I have a deep rebellious streak that makes me challenge all the “never”. Perhaps it is where I will end up. But for now, I am just taking it a day at a time. Today is all I am worrying about. Just today. Not yesterday and not tomorrow. And today is a good day. Today I am sober. Again.

Took a long walk off the wagon

Once again, burying myself in the fog of a heavy buzz has become my nightly routine. Then clearing the empty wine bottle from the kitchen counter every morning while silently admonishing myself for drinking again instead of attending to my anxiety-inducing mountain of responsibilities, is how I start the morning. Not the way to start, or end, a day. I am having major surgery in a few days. I know that will mean no drinking for at least a couple of weeks. I am hoping that will jump start me back to a mostly, if not completely, sober life. I need to confront all the things I have been hiding from. I deserve better for myself. So back on the wagon I go.

Changes and Challenges: A brain dump of my mess

My personal life imploded. My husband and I have separated but we are still living in the house with the kids together because financially that is our only option right now. I haven’t been able to write and I’ve been barely functioning. There was so much emotion and stress and tears wrapped up in it all. Then there was dealing with sobriety on my terms, and of course COVID – and people have gone completely bonkers out there politically and with the masking business. I knew our society was selfish, but I didn’t realize we were “I don’t give a fuck if you die. I’m going to do what I want and not be a decent human because FREEDOM!” And I’m stressed about returning to work as a teacher. I was stressed before all this, now It’s just amplified. I’m not good at multitasking emotionally.

My marriage has been in trouble for awhile. My husband has problems with money. He hops from job to job, never staying long in one place. He would frequently take out pay day and title loans against my paid off cars, (he always held the titles in his name. I didn’t think it mattered) and they would get repossessed when he decided not to pay. A few years ago my husband was arrested and went to jail briefly for stealing from his employer. He ended up getting a slap on the wrist – a few weeks in jail, probation, and restitution. He lost a good job (of course) and his VA disability benefits ceased while he was in jail. That was 80% of our income. Our family was thrown into chaos. He was gone, so I had to tell the kids what happened. They adore their dad, as kids should, and this was a big blow. I had to figure out how to pay for lawyers and rent, food, utilities, and other expenses. I also had to deal with the fact that I was married to someone who would steal. That the great family trip we had recently taken was paid for with stolen money. I still can’t look at those pictures without feeling sick to my stomach.

I had been a stay-at-home mom/part-time worker all of my adult life. I had a few stunts of full-time work, but I loved staying home and being a mom. When my younger set of kids (I have 2 – one much older and on their own from my previous marriage and my 3 kids with my current husband) all started school I started working full time in a school as well. It was a low paying job as a special education paraprofessional, but it provided good health insurance, had hours that matched my kids’ school hours, and I really loved my work. When my husband was working, it was perfect because it provided much needed health insurance and paid for extras and some savings. Now it was our only income. After deductions, my paycheck would barely cover our rent. I was selling Lularoe clothing on the side, another job I really enjoyed. I liquidated my inventory and closed to pay our rent and other expenses. I applied for SNAP benefits (food stamps) so my kids could eat. It was difficult. I discovered lie after lie my husband had told me. Lies I accepted hook-line-and sinker. I was devastated and felt like a fool. I consulted a divorce attorney. I could barely afford gas to get to work, much less the thousand or so dollars it would cost to file for divorce. I couldn’t afford to move out on my own. My husband wasn’t working so child support was unlikely and even if he got a job, it was likely he wouldn’t pay or his checks would bounce. I made the choice to give him a chance to grow and change. I was a fool.

One good decision I made was to move toward being able to support the kids and myself on my own. I loved my job working in special education and a nearby university had a program in which I could get my masters in special education and my teaching certification at the same time. I would even be able to teach on a provisional license. I applied and was accepted. Eventually, I was hired as a high school special education teacher. Just a couple of months shy of my 50th birthday I had my first real, salaried job. I was enthusiastic. I was unprepared. I was terrified.

Through all this my husband had gotten and lost a job, been unemployed for most of a year – except for some part time work gaming online- lied about having a job (had me drive him there for weeks even!), and then got the job he lied about. We were tapped out on all savings. After the lie about the job he agreed to get some counseling after I gave him an ultimatum. He went once or twice and quit. Somewhere in all this my nightly glass or two of wine escalated to a bottle plus. I was just trying to numb it all.

When my husband lost his job he was on Workman’s Comp. He had hired an attorney for the comp claim. When he got fired, he sent me a picture of a letter he received saying he was being terminated due to pending litigation. Because you cannot fire someone due to them filing a workman’s comp claim, I encouraged him to give the letter to his attorney. I should have realized that things seemed fishy. His unemployment claim was denied because , he said, they falsely claimed he was fired for giving medication to a coworker. I didn’t want to pay attention. I accepted his flimsy excuse as I always did, without question. He received his comp settlement which promptly went to living expenses. He told me they were perusing the wrongful termination claim.

He lied. fast forward a year or so. He tells me they have set a court date for his wrongful termination case. A couple of days before that he tells me they have settled for a bit more than $66,000. To say this is a relief is an understatement. I can see a light forward. We talk about what we will use the money for. My older daughters are both getting married. Some of the money will go toward their weddings. Our oldest needs braces. We will be able to pay for that. We talk about going on a vacation, buying a house finally, and putting most of the money into savings. Around this time I realized my drinking was excessive and I decided to quit. At first my husband keeps bringing home wine. He doesn’t want me to quit. Eventually he stops bringing home wine.

Again there were red flags. He was having problems getting the check from his lawyer, but COVID had hit and we were in lockdown so I wasn’t overly concerned. Finally, he told me the check was ready and he went to get it. He sent me a picture of the check. He deposited it in his personal account rather than the account we share. He showed me the bank balance on his phone when the check hit his account. We had agreed to put it in the shared account, but this was a minor issue I supposed. I was just happy we were finally above water financially. My daughter was getting married that week in a COVID virtual Zoom wedding. He wrote her a check from his account and we sent it off. The wedding was lovely. My daughter and her husband called to thank us for the check. A few days later my husband is out and I get out of the shower to the dogs barking. Someone is outside our house taking my car. My car is getting repossessed AGAIN! I call and text my husband but he doesn’t respond. When he finally returns he admits he took out another loan against my car. He tells me he is going to fix it. He has the money. Over the next few days it comes out that he does not have the money. Only part of it. There was no settlement. He lied. I empty my bank account to get my car back and call my daughter who confirms the check my husband wrote bounced. I am angry, humiliated, devastated. The financial safety net I thought we had is gone. It feels like it was stolen, though I know in my head it never was there. It still feels in my heart like he stole it from us. And in a way he did. He stole the peace of mind the settlement had given me. I investigate if it is possible he is just hiding the money from me. No, it really was all a lie. Again, I have to face what a gigantic fool I am.

Our wedding song was “Fools Rush In” – the song is inspired by the saying “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” which I wish I knew at the time so I could have heeded the warning. I married my husband barely knowing him. We had spent less than 48 hours together and had known each other for less than a month. It was reckless and, looking back, completely stupid. I loved him, or at least who I thought he was. I was not perfect. I have flaws like everyone. But I never lied, cheated, or did anything to undermine our marriage. He did all those things. In many ways, if I had a time machine, I would go back, laugh, and say, “Absolutely not!” To his crazy proposal, but, by saying yes I do have 3 wonderful children I adore. At least I come out of this with that.

So, now I am on to the next step. For now we are living together. It is hard. Hopefully we will be able to figure out a way to make living separately financially viable. I know he is thinking I am going to give in again and things will go back the way they always have, and I can’t really blame him. I have always done that. It is easy and familiar. Being alone scares the crap out of me. I hope my husband gets into counseling for the sake of our kids. I’m afraid his behavior will continue to hurt them if he does not. I am in counseling to make sure I am strong enough to leave and to deal with my dependent/codependent behaviors that got me here in the first place. It’s a mess, but so far I am dealing with it mostly sober. I had a couple of days of binge drinking and feeling sorry for myself/angry with him. I felt awful and realized I want to be able to cope and deal with things clear headed as they come. I don’t do well moderating my drinking yet. I think I still have too many emotions I want to numb. So no drinking if is for now.

Back to the Beginning

Well, that was a bust. My usual bust I guess. I can go a few days sober and then I fall right back into my evening bottle habit.

I am trying to piece together the whys of this cycle. I know I will be better without alcohol. So what is holding me back? I want this. Don’t I? Frankly it is scary. Really, really, scary for me.

I know one fear I have is the “Never again” fear.

That I will never again share a fancy cocktail with my adult daughters or friends at a trendy cocktail lounge.

That I will never again be able to enjoy a glass of wine with a nice dinner.

That I will never again sit on a balcony watching the sun set with a glass of wine (how I love doing this!!).

That I will never again have an alcoholic drink as the primer and buffer that makes socializing bearable for me. This is a biggie. I am awkward and awful in social situations. If I know people I am fine, but crowds and strangers – I am hopeless. Alcohol helps me relax enough to participate at least minimally.

That I won’t be able to use it to calm my anxiety and OCD when my house is dirty and messy. (and it is always dirty and messy, so this one really sucks)

That I won’t have it to calm my anxiety about having my first real, salaried job at 50 and if I can keep up with work and school. (school is required for work for another year until my certification is complete)

Then there is the other big one. The super big one.

That I will never again be able to use it to block out the things I don’t want to address in my personal life.

And there it is. That is the big one.

My drinking got out of control when things started spiraling out of control in my marriage. I am a person who avoids confrontation. Alcohol lets me relax and not think about the things that are upsetting me.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying about having a Purple Heart.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying about being diagnosed with cancer.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying about how he lost his job.

I don’t have to think about how I didn’t even know these were lies for years and what a fool that makes me feel like.

I don’t have to think about my husband threatening to kill himself.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying and getting my car repossessed.

I don’t have to think about my husband lying, stealing from his work, and getting arrested.

I don’t have to think about how my husband lied to me about having a job, had me get up early for weeks and drive him to the job, and there was no job.

I don’t have to think about all of the other things that have happened.

When I drink, I can stop worrying, for just a little bit, if another “surprise” is about to drop and the rug will be pulled out from under us yet again.

People may wonder what part I have had in all the mess that is my marriage. I was definitely too trusting. I let him control all our finances. I stayed at home with our kids when they were little and didn’t develop any job skills. I was passive. I wanted to let someone else be in control. I just didn’t realize I had chosen the wrong person for that. I have started to fix those things, but it is hard. I can say I have never lied to my husband about anything important (Nothing more serious than claiming I did not know what happened to the leftover cookie dough) or cheated.

So I am going to start this again. I am going to look for some meetings or therapy. I checked on AA meetings once and the ones in my area all looked SUPER religious (not surprising, I am in the Bible Belt) which put me off. I am also going to join a yoga studio. Maybe going to yoga will keep me busy in the evenings. We will see. I have to try something.

Day 2

It’s late. Well late for me at least. 10:00pm. Today I have been plagued by a hideous headache. Not sure if it is related to the not drinking, the lack of sleep last night, or if I am coming down with one of the awful viruses that have been going around.

I was disappointed in the sleep situation last night! I was hoping that without drinking I would not be waking up at 2:30, unable to get back to sleep until just before my alarm goes off , but it was a night like all the others with tossing and turning for hours. Maybe tonight will be different.

Then, of course, the first news story today was about the bumper crop of California grapes which is resulting in wine prices going down! Of course it is. I stop drinking, motivated in part by the expense, and the price goes down! HA! The universe has even decided to tempt me!

I ordered some books from Amazon that arrived today.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray

This Naked Mind Control Alcohol by Annie Grace

Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston

So now I have some real life reading to try to squeeze into my schedule.

I did help my daughter with her accessories for “Meme Day” at her school tomorrow. Baby Yoda and Welch’s fruit gummies (It’s a meme I am told). Even though she remembered late, the time didn’t matter since I wasn’t drinking so I could take her myself instead of having my husband do it. Then I was able to help her get her things together while we both had decaf tea. A nice evening.