Becoming AF is Hard. Talking about it is Hard, Too
Updated: Feb 25, 2021
Finally Coming Clean. Part I. In this post I share my loneliness surrounding quitting drinking and what happened when I finally confided in my husband.
I like the word becoming as it pertains to my sobriety because it sounds transformational. To say I am becoming alcohol free is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly – a beautiful, raw, exceptional process – rather than recovery or detox, which both sound clinical and depressing.
To say I am becoming alcohol free is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly – a beautiful, raw, exceptional process – rather than recovery or detox, which both sound clinical and depressing.
When it came to my AF journey, I kept my husband on a need-to-know basis. As far as I was concerned, (for the better part of ten months), he did not need to know. I was too vulnerable. I rationalized, if I wasn't successful maybe it would go unnoticed. Plus, if I dished, what would I be admitting to? I wasn't ready to shine light on my inner darkness. I assumed I knew how he would respond. I projected. I withdrew. I stayed quiet.
February 2020, after a hangout with friends at our house, I woke in the morning with a sour stomach and knot of anxiety throbbing in my throat.
I had mixed martinis that, by all accounts, tasted terrible. So, while everyone else politely declined a refill, I had north of 3 -- meaning, I'm not sure after that. That far down the pitcher plant, it wasn't about taste, it was about the chase.
The next morning, my husband got up and began to dress silently. He would be leaving soon to coach our 9 year old's basketball game. Tension pulsed between us. My mouth was a desert and a headache began to fray my already tattered nerves.
He left without a word, leaving me grapping for the missing pieces of the evenng.
Fuck. What had I done?
He left without a word leaving me grappling for the missing pieces of the evening.
I texted Erica:
... I had like 4 martinis so I don't really remember much. I know we were arguing. What did I do now?
... are you mad at me too?
... God, I hate myself
... Erica ...
Like normal people, she was still sleeping -- she had not been jerked awake by raging anxiety and was not becoming thoroughly unglued like I was. Erica had an off switch when it came to drinking. I did not. She had been babysitting me for years. I wondered why she still liked me.
After nearly a week of not speaking, I told my husband maybe I needed to quit drinking. I told him I was going to give it up for one year. Then, day by day, he watched me do it. If it looked like it was easy, it's not because it was. It's because I didn't talk about it. He said my drinking didn't bother him. It wasn't a problem.
But, it was a problem. It was a problem for me.
I had stopped for a stretch the year before. I flexed my "sober curious" muscles during Lent, and having recognized some of the benefits of omitting alcohol, I kept extending my goal. 90 days became 100 and three months became nearly six. The difference between then and now, though, was that last year I was mostly white-knuckling it. I wasn't learning or connecting. I was just collecting days.
I soldiered on.
I didn't tell him I joined Sober Sis.
I didn't tell him I was connecting with other women.
I didn't tell him it was hard.
I didn't tell him the raw emotions were overwhelming and crushing.
When I jumped on a Zoom call with these women, whom were becoming fast friends, I told him it was a mom group. Vulnerability bonds people in the deepest ways. When you see your reflection in another person you feel safe and secure. But I still wasn't ready to let him in. He is essentially a non-drinker -- a handful of drinks a year at most -- and I was clutching all my cards to my chest because I thought he would look down on me or think that I was less than or worse -- weak. I couldn't bear that from him.
Later that year, in September, my sober sis, Felecia, encouraged me to level up. She knew I wanted to start writing and that I had an inkling of blog growing in my imagination.
She said, you could write and post it in the big group on FaceBook. Use it as practice for your blog. In our Sober Sis community, we were a small group, part of a much larger group. Thousands of women. Could I?
It was Labor Day weekend and I was with my boys visiting my parents. They moved to Michigan's Upper Peninsula a few years before and were living their best life in retirement. They built the home of their dreams – a log cabin on a lake – and we were enjoying the resort-like ambiance and Mimi's cooking. Pandemic eLearning was not fun for any of us and the break was much needed.
I posted my story, article, blog-thing – I never know what to call it – to the big group.
Don't think about it, J, I told myself. I left my phone inside and headed down to the dock to sit in the sun and watch the boys catch frogs.
I was shocked to discover that hundreds of women resonated with it. They "liked," "loved," and "hugged" it. It was extremely validating. What did this mean? I basked in the glow of belonging.
Back home, folding laundry and preparing for the week ahead, my phone pinged. It was a Facebook message from an unfamiliar face.
"Loved your story. In fact, would you be interested in publishing it in our local magazine?"
I was full of pride and wanted to share with my husband, but I was cautious.
“What was the article about?” He asked. It was the obvious question.
“About quitting drinking,” I said.
I could see the follow-up questions forming in his mind. I didn’t want to answer them.
It wasn't until I hit my one-year alcohol-free milestone that I started to come clean. I might not have if the events hadn't played out exactly as they did.
I needed his help. With my article being published soon, I needed to provide a headshot to run alongside the article. I had been actively avoiding having my picture taken as if my looks would improve the longer I waited. Fortunately, I knew a photographer. I was married to one.
On February 9, 2021, my first "sober-versary," as they say, we did a mini-shoot in the bedroom. He got what I was going for without having to say a word – natural, authentic, casual.
He edited the photos quickly and I emailed our favorite off to the magazine editor. On a whim, I posted a summary of my year alcohol free in the Sober Sis big group and included the new photo. Imagine my surprise as the likes and comments began to flow in – one after another. The post topped out at 1.3K likes, a handful of DMs, and an offer from the magazine editor to run a 4-part series!
When he arrived home from work I was grinning and brimming with excitement. I felt completely validated that anyone would care about what I had to say or read anything I wrote.
For years I had been telling myself that it had all been said, I had nothing of value to offer, I wasn't smart enough.
I burst out, "So, today is one year for me – completely alcohol free. Not one sip."
"I didn't know it was your one-year birthday," he said. "I would have gotten you a cake." Aww. Really?
I continued, still grinning like an idiot, "I posted the photo you took of me on the Sober Sis Facebook page with a summary of what I have learned over the last year. The post has over 800 likes."
"Holy shit! Can I read it?"
A thousand excuses played out inside my head to refuse letting him read my post. But I took a leap of faith. I handed him my phone and winced.
I busied myself cleaning up the kitchen while he read. Bustling around, burning off the nervous energy. I wanted to snatch my phone back.
An eternity elapsed. He finished reading and opened the comments.
"I had no idea you felt like this, hun. I am so proud of you. You're finally getting back to your writing, and look, you're inspiring people."
He read me comments like, "You're inspiring." "I want what you have." "You are glowing." "You should write for a living." My heart swelled.
Maybe you're not like me. Maybe you have a strong personality and a ton of gumption to ask for what you need and not take no for an answer. I was so lost in my own thoughts – swimming in negativity and self-hatred – that I didn't even know what I needed.
I'm just saying, you don't have to do it alone. There are others like you. Like me. There are people who get you. There are people willing to help and support you. You just have to be open to letting help in. Did you know that it has been said that opposite of addiction is connection?
I'll repeat that. Connection is the opposite of addiction.
After I released everything I was holding back, I felt renewed. What has been broken can be mended to become stronger. That's what I was becoming – stronger.
Comment below and tell me how your story is the same or different from mine. What are you holding back from? Let's connect ❤