It’s been a long time coming.  I’ve woken up far too many weekday and weekend mornings wishing I hadn’t pounded glasses upon glasses (or bottle upon bottle) of wine, often until the wee hours of the morning.   Hangovers suck, but they suck even worse when you have three kids under the age of six demanding your constant attention every waking second they are home.  Not to mention school drop offs and pick-ups, and a full day of actual job work on top of chores, groceries, errands, and – oh yeh – all the snacks and meals everyone has to eat day in and day out.

I drank wine often and I drank it hard.  What started as being part of the ever-so-popular “Mommies Who Drink Wine & Commiserate” Club, bursting with memes and jokes in texts and social media posts, gradually progressed (key word: progressed) into an uncontrollable problem.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I tried countless times to set boundaries for myself, take time off from drinking, or just quit on my own, with zero success.  I started reading countless  self-help books and blogs about women and mothers who successfully quit drinking.  I related to every single one in some way, and was utterly inspired to have the clarity and freedom they seemed to have achieved.  But I still couldn’t do it on my own.

Then, finally, THIS MOMENT came: Yesterday, I admitted myself to an intense outpatient rehabilitation program that specializes in rehab treatment, support, and continuing support throughout recovery (I loathe this word).  They put me through a battery of interviews and cognitive testing, made me sit through a THREE HOUR group meeting (which I am to attend every. single. day. For 7 weeks), then ended with an hour long doctor’s visit to determine my ‘treatment plan.’

But let’s back up to that group meeting scenario, shall we?  Perhaps one of the biggest barriers for me in seeking and following through with my ‘treatment’ is actually being seen in the rehab community or in an AA meeting.  I live in a big little city, so to speak, and know hundreds of connected through various phases, schools, and jobs.  Not to mention my children’s school and activity circles, as well.  I am extremely sensitive and self-conscience when it comes to what other people think and my family’s reputation.  I admit that.  So just the thought of walking into that room for the first time ever, not knowing if I would know anyone, was mortifying and worrisome to me.  But I took I deep breath, clenched my teeth, and walked in, secretly reassuring myself there was no way I would know anyone in this tiny room with maybe 12 people in it.  Besides, they’re all alcoholics and addicts and I’m still not convinced I fit that mold. I couldn’t possibly have anything – or anyone – in common with these people.

Yup. I was dead wrong.  When I walked in yesterday for the first time and quickly glanced around the room to find a seat and check these people out, the last person I saw and (barely) made eye contact with was someone I had a very personal ‘history’ with!! A former crush with whom I spent time with one summer and my second real heartbreak (but who’s counting;).  Speaking of my heart, it nearly burst out of my chest the moment I realized it was him.  All within a split second I didn’t know if I was going to make a run for the exit sign, pass out, or start laughing hysterically.  Certainly not at him – but at the mere fact that this was actually happening in real life.  This wasn’t a bad dream or romantic comedy.  This was a real life moment for me. Fuck. Of all the people in this entire city, it had to be him.  Put it this way: discounting my wonderful husband, he’s the only other one I really have a, eghm, bit of a physical history with. I mean it was years ago in college and most of the details have been lost on me and forgotten, but still.

What happened during the next 2.5 hours of ‘group talk’ (did I mention this was in a CIRCLE!) is mostly a blur.  Between my fried nerves and trying to hold back tears of pain and laughter (it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me), I don’t remember much of the material and conversation.  I mean, seriously, what were the chances?  As if the tangled webs in my life couldn’t get any more tangled or interesting, let’s just throw this new little twist in for shits and giggles.

But then, something wonderful happened.  During the break, he walked over and sat down next to me.  With a cool confidence and gentle voice, he said some very kind and comforting words to me, and invited me to reach out to him with any questions about the program or process.  He explained that he’d been sober for 6 months now and goes to this particular group session once a week for ‘continuing care.’  Holding back tears of shame and embarrassment, I nodded and thanked him. I’m not sure if I said much else.

In some strange way, what I feared the most actually became the comfort I needed.  That brief and uncomfortable interaction made me realize I wasn’t alone in this struggle and actually gave me a bit more hope and determination to keep going.  After my second group session today, I continue to have feelings of doubt and question whether or not I really belong here.  But I am committed to seeing this through, one day and one step at a time, as I promised myself and my husband (and my kids, in my heart).

Perhaps it’s not so bad, after all, to see or be seen by others when it’s the last thing in the world you want to happen.  And perhaps there’s a reason we have crossed paths again, only under very different circumstances and for very real reasons. I can still hear his teasing voice from years ago saying, “C’mon…”, but instead of being cute and funny, it’s real and honest and encouraging.

The universe works in mysterious ways.

Sick of Sorry

So the jig is up (again, again) and here I am pounding away on the keyboard desperately trying to find an outlet, a purpose, and a meaningful and productive way to fix me.  Anything but AA.  At least, for now.  I need to find peace and God and talk to Jesus and pray to Mother Mary.  And exercise and sleep more and find my Zen, whatever that means.  I need to stop drinking.  And I’ve officially been told that.  Big surprise. [insert sarcasm]

I prefer not to rehash last night’s argument with the husband, but let’s just say it got nasty.  I got nasty.  And I don’t mean in the fun way.  My heart felt what I was saying and I am genuinely fed up with so many personal, parenting, and relationship failures on both our parts, I can’t take it anymore.  I can’t take us anymore.  I can’t take me anymore.  But my words were way too harsh.  Way harsh.  Not that the husband was exactly fair, either.  But neither of us fight fair and my falling apart is one of the many variables contributing to us falling apart.  Words like separation and the Big D were actually spoken.

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I’m sick of excuses, and I’m really, really tired of both hearing and saying “I’m sorry.”  So I’m implementing a new rule in our house.  No one is allowed to say “I’m sorry.”  The one exception to this rule is if someone actually hurts someone or something and is genuinely sorry for any physical pain or permanent damage ensued.  But emotionally?  Actions speak louder than words, and we must carry through our intentions through action and actually ‘do better.’

I’m pointing to myself, hoping others in our home will follow my lead.  I had a conversation with a friend recently, and she shared one of her brilliant parenting philosophies and tactics for keeping a happy home: That the wife and mother, being the matriarch of the home, sets the tone for the entire household.  (If that’s the case, then it’s no wonder I’m in this mess right now. Because I’m a mess.)  We reminisced and shared stories of our beloved grandparents’ and how their generation actually honored each other and put each other first.  I love that, but here’s my takeaway:  I think for now I will put myself first, so that I can give my best self to everyone else around me that absolutely deserves it.  And maybe then, we will start to see improvement.

The husband and I both have a lot to work on, individually and together. We both admit that. But I’ve read enough self help books (so far!) to understand that only I am responsible for myself and the way I handle situations.  It is not easy for me to be tolerant or patient – even with the people I love most – and God knows I don’t use the right tools from my toolbox right now to handle tough situations.

I have a ginormous mountain to climb and a lot of baby steps to take, figuratively and literally speaking.  But climb it I will, so I can see the beautiful view from the top.

In Hot Water

It’s 9:30pm – almost 24 hours since I crushed my last bottle of wine and had the last sip. Tonight was not easy, especially between 5-8pm when the kiddos were all home and wound up. At one point, every one of them was whining or crying simultaneously. That’s when I normally reach for the glass. But tonight, instead, I reached out for help. My husband was home from work early enough, and he had no problem pitching in to give me a break. He took over homework and bath duty, and entertained them long enough for me to take a hot bubble bath and start a new book called I Thought it Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will People Think?’ to ‘I Am Enough.’ It’s about addressing women’s hidden shame and the never-ending quest for perfection. It wasn’t what I was looking for at the bookstore, but it’s what I wound up leaving with since it really caught my attention. I’ve got a stack of self-help books to work through. Baby steps.

The bath water I drew was hot – way too hot! I had to inch my way in ever so slowly to adjust to the hot-tub-like temperature. It stung a little. I finally managed to get mostly-in, then took in a deep breath and held it before allowing myself to fully sink myself in and exhhhale. I did it! And it was worth it now that I was in a comfortable, quiet place and could take a few minutes to relax and read.

I imagine this is much like ‘recovery.’ It’s a struggle to get into and even hurts at first. Sometimes it’ll sting pretty badly. But in the end, it’s worth it (I hope). I quoted ‘recovery’ this way because I’m not even sure what this process is for me yet. I don’t feel like I am, or should be, someone who requires recovery, or may actually be ‘in it’. I feel like a normal, intelligent, competent, (mostly-) functioning adult who slips up now and then (or should I say, “sips up?”). I think I would prefer to think of this as my learning and healing journey, since it’s so much more than simply not having a drink.

So, now that it’s been just about 24 hours, does this mean I’ve almost completed Day 1 (again)? Cheers for getting myself into the right kind of hot water tonight (the bubble bath!) instead of the wrong kind of trouble.

Tonight, I’m praying for strength, clarity, and a good night’s sleep.  And I’m so grateful for my beautiful babies who have blessed me beyond measure.  They deserve the best of me, come hell or hot water!

Bottom’s Up

It’s Tuesday, and the house is quiet and empty for the first time since last Thursday. Finally. All the kids are off at daycare for at least a few hours and I have some time to catch up on everything and attempt to get some real work done, which I keep avoiding. But first I need to catch my breath, reflect, and write for a few minutes before resuming my daily domestic duties and my daunting job assignment…

My toddlers love to crawl around the house on their hands and feet with their little bottoms sticking straight up in the air, pretending their puppies and barking. It’s so darn cute. They’re so cute and playful, and so simply entertained. Why can’t life still be that easy and pleasurable as adults?

The scars I have from life’s battles and the constant stress I’m under to “be all and do all” have driven me into such a state of anxiety that my version of ‘bottom’s up’ has progressed from enjoying a glass of wine or two with good food and good company to sucking a bottle of wine on my own before bedtime. For some reason, I have the notion that this is what relieves my stress and makes me feel better. Until, of course, I wake up the next morning with more pain and regret than I started with before my first sip the night before. There is a parallel in the gradual progression of how much I’m drinking and how badly I feel about myself. A positive correlation, if you will, yet with extremely negative consequences.

My ‘recovery friend’ (who I haven’t exactly admitted the extent of my problem to, though I’m sure she suspects there’s more to what I asked her) was explaining to me that alcoholism is a progressive disease.   When I Googled it later, I came across an article that began with the following introduction:

“Alcoholism is a disease of the body, thinking, emotions and spirit. Progressive damage to these four aspects interact in various ways such that a person is increasingly compelled to drink. Also, once drinking starts they cannot ‘always’ guarantee when they will stop or how much they will drink.”

I continued to read the rest of the article and, to put it lightly, it scared the pants off my … eghm… bottom!

And speaking of bottoms, I’m not sure if I’ve hit rock bottom but I do know that if I haven’t yet, I sure as hell don’t want to. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories about my brother’s darkest moments during his battle with the disease (that he ultimately lost). It was disturbing and devastating for so many.

The reasons to quit and the reasons worth living and living well far outweigh the ‘excuses’ I keep making for having my first sip each day. I want my beautiful babies to grow up in a warm, happy, and healthy environment where they can keep sticking their sweet little bottoms up in the air and wagging them like excited little puppies. I don’t want their childhood memories to include ‘mommy with a glass of wine in her hand every night’ the way I sometimes remember my mother (and always remember my sister with a drink in her thermos). There’s only going to be one kind of bottoms up in the house, and it’s not going to be my wine glass’ anymore!!!

Wine not?

Whether it’s used as a question or statement, I’m finding myself saying this an awful lot lately.  I go back and forth constantly with whether or not I should continue my almost-nightly habit of drinking wine while trudging through the evening routine of homework (yes, with a 4yr. old), dinner, baths, TV, and bedtime with my three kids between the ages of 6mo-4yrs.  Just saying that makes me want to take (another) sip!  There, I said it.

So “Why Not?” have a glass of wine to unWINEd and get through these crazy, fun, and/or stressful evenings?  Or should I ask, “WINE NOT?”  Every morning I promise myself, “I won’t have any tonight.”  Then every evening, after the kids are all home safely and at least 2 of the 3 are whining at the same exact time, I throw my hands up and say, “Why Not?” and begin pouring.  Yes, sometimes I literally throw my hands up (I’m part Italian).  From the little bit of blog-reading I’ve done on this topic so far, I’ve learned that some refer to this as a f*ck-it moment.  Yup, sounds aboouut right.

Right now it’s 10:30 pm and I’m thinking aboutthe past couple days.  Until now, my last sip was Saturday night.  It’s now Monday night and I’m having my first glass instead of my 3rd or 4th by now.  I didn’t even pour the first sip until 10pm, after everyone was in bed and I was ready to (FI-NAL-LY) sit down for some quiet time to myself.  I’m feeling half regret, and half proud that I’ve made it this far,  And I know I won’t have more than a glass or two since I’m just about ready for bed.  So on nights like this, when I can be more controlled with the timing and limit the amount, I ask myself Why Not? instead of saying Wine Not!  Which leads to some reflecting on this matter in the form of Pros & Cons (I’m a lists person).

WHY NOT Have A Glass? (i.e., f*ck it)
1)  It helps me relax.
2) It tastes sooo good.
3) It takes the edge off the hard work and whining that comes with managing 3 young kids (often alone).
4) It’s mine and the kids can’t have it.
5) I can really limit myself to only having one or two glasses tonight.  I just know it.
6) It makes me feel happy and tingly inside.
7) I temporarily forget about my troubles (or just not give shit, for the moment).
8) I have a bar in my house that is fun to use.
9) It’ll help my mind stop racing so I can finally fall asleep.
10) Because I can, and I want to, damnit.

Hmmm.  My intention with this post was to also reflect on the reasons Wine Not! to do it… but apparently I’m in the mood to sip 1-2 glasses (only!) and get some sleep.  I’m exhausted and have a very busy week ahead of me.

And so it goes…

Cold Heart Truth

I’m hating myself right now. I did it again, I drank last night and didn’t stop after a couple drinks – I kept going until the party was over, and even snuck in a few sips after we got home and tucked the kids in. (I was not driving). A beer, a margarita here, some wine and champagne. What the hell is wrong with me?! I have a problem and need to admit it.

I’m terrified of being that person. Of being the recovering alcoholic. Of being the one who doesn’t drink. The one who is no fun. Mostly, I don’t want to give it up entirely because it’s my stress reliever and my liquid courage. It’s what I reach for in times of happiness or frustration or sadness. It’s what helps me feel ‘normal’ and manage my anxiety. It helps me make new friends and keep the old.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong about that. I’ve had some pretty embarrassing moments the past couple years because of the booze getting the better of me. Arguments with friends, tears over the baby crying non-stop, and snapping at my husband for unreasonable things. Rambling about random shit and wondering the next day just how much I’ve embarrassed myself. The truth is, I’m always ashamed of my drinking the next day – whether I was doing it alone at home (possibly hiding it) or out having a good ole’ time.

The urge is so strong. The past few days, I’ve caved before evening events and told myself ‘I’ll just have one or two to get me through’… just to get me there and not be so self-conscious, and help me be a happier and friendlier person. The other night I was so anxious about meeting up with new neighborhood friends for a kids’ Halloween party that I drank half a bottle of wine before going (without my husband knowing).   Once I got there, I was able to ‘sip socially’ and behaved perfectly normally. At least, I thought so.

Last night I had some pretty heavy and lighthearted conversation with two people who have different terminal illness.   They are both in their early 30s with precious young children. They were both drinking (a little) and sharing some laughs and sarcasm about their respective situations. They are trying to stay as hopeful and positive as they can, at least on the outside. They have no control over their eventual outcomes. All they can do is hope and pray and enjoy each moment to the fullest, for now.

But the cold hard truth is that none of us have control over our eventual outcome. We have no crystal ball. But we do have a say in how we live our lives and how we handle our affairs and situations. This I know. And yet, it’s one of the biggest challenges I face.

There are some strong drinking genes on one side of my family.   One of my siblings is most definitely an alcohol-abuser (far worse than me from what I’ve recently witnessed) and sadly the other is no longer with us, due to ‘complications’ from being a serious alcoholic.  We’re not sure if it was an accident or intentional, although we’d like to think it wasn’t. And the saddest part is, we never had a funeral.  When it happened, every immediate family member was living in a different state or country, and our mother was such a mess she was in no condition to make any arrangements let alone.  One million ‘excuses’ from all of us. My wedding was the only time my husband ever met my brother. When I was a little girl, I adored him. I thought he was taller than God and he was so goofy he always had me laughing.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as family affairs go. I have a lot to work through.

Now I’m off to meet an old friend who’s in town for Sunday brunch. It just so happens that she’s a recovering alcoholic, sober for over 10 years now. She recently earned a master’s degree and has become a counselor in these matters. I wonder if I’ll have the courage to confess and confide in her and ask for guidance, or if I’ll order a beloved Bloody Mary instead to shake off this mild hangover.  I mean, it is my second favorite brunch menu item after eggs.

Time (to) Change

Not to sound like a Debbie Downer, but I’m dreading the “fall-back” time change this weekend. Back in my single-and-loving-it days (which Hub and now consider ‘before children’), it was great because it meant we could stay out later and sleep in longer without any added guilt. It was a real treat. You might assume I’d love the extra hour even more now with three little ones since this tired, strung-out mommy can never seem to get enough sleep and is forever wishing for more hours in a day to get it all done.   But, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Instead of helping, the extra hour just hurts. If the kids’ usual bedtime is around 8pm, we will have to wait until 9pm to put them down so it doesn’t feel like they’re going down at 7pm. Which is critical on the back end because we most definitely don’t want them waking up at ‘the new’ 5am which is their usual 6am (even though we pray they’ll sleep until 8am, which will now be ‘the new’ 7am). Do you follow? In actuality, we sort of have to wean them into the time change by tricking them and slowly adjusting their schedule by 15-30 min increments each night the first week, cumulatively, until we’ve reached a full hour difference. Ok, we’re really not that strict and orderly, but that’s the general idea. Otherwise we’ll wind up with 3 very tired and cranky early birds – and even more tired and cranky parents, if that’s even possible at this point. I already feel a panic attack coming on.

I’m also convinced I that I get a case of SAD every year (Seasonal Affective Disorder – yup, it’s really a thing). It’s bad enough that I’m housebound most of the time, tied up with loads of dishes and laundry that somehow multiply faster than we do, in record time. (Seriously, having 3 kids in 3.5 years was really aggressive.)  Add to that the fact that it gets darker earlier each week until mid-Dec, so the window of opportunity to get outside for some much-needed Vitamin D and playtime with the kids (for quality family time, of course, but also to wear their little fannies out) diminishes over time… and you’re in a real pickle jar, just fermenting away. The winter blues are real, people. And they suck. I didn’t even mention the obvious cold weather that keeps people indoors more, too. And now with a third baby in the mix, this should get interesting.

So, ‘in light’ of this new blog journey (see what I did there?) and the upcoming time change, I’ve decided it’s most definitely Time To Change my ways and set some new personal goals for myself, effective immediately. So here it goes:

  • Be a more patient mommy (and wife, daughter, sister, niece, etc.)
  • Cut (way) back on stress drinking.
  • Exercise. More.
  • Read. Even if it is about self-help or raising strong-willed kids.
  • Find a reason to laugh every day.
  • Get better organized (this is more like a hobby or a high; it’s my therapy).
  • Practice being present and mindful.
  • Pray or meditate. Or something.
  • Get better at saying NO and put my own family first (i.e., stop being the families’ middle-man and messenger)
  • Toss the shallow friendships and foster true friendships.
  • End every day with gratitude.
  • Work on improving my self-esteem.
  • Blog about it and stay accountable.

So there you have it. Bring on the time change because it’s seriously Time To Change.

Tangled Webs

I’ve been looking after my mother’s house while she’s out of town for an extended period of time.  She’s done this to me a lot over the years, so it’s nothing new.  It’s a sweet little house with a lovely patio.  But until today, you could barely walk or sit anywhere because it was so cluttered with fake plants of all sizes, dusty old candles, and cobwebbed children’s toys that were salvaged from garage sales so my kids could have something fun to play with at Grammy’s.  Sadly, I’ve never once seen my kids play outside there.  And the yard was looking like an overgrown jungle, if that’s even possible.  Even the spiders were so freaked out by the outdoor jungle that they started seeking shelter in the fake plants on the patio, alongside the lizards.  Poor little guys.

I woke up tired and hungover again today after another ‘wine night’ (that sounds a bit more classy and a less self-destructive than booze binge, don’t ya think?).  I’ve been trying to limit these occurrences but almost every day, after I’m home for the night with the kids, I uncork and unWINEd.  I hide some of it from my husband, finding clever and deceptive ways to cover up how much I’m actually drinking.  He knows I have some wine most nights – we even laugh about it sometimes.  And occasionally he’ll join me for a glass with dinner, or have his own whiskey cocktail or two.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  With three kids ages 4 and under, what parents don’t need some escape?  Right?  The truth is he has no idea I’ve throwing back a bottle of wine – more often give than take – almost every night.  Ouch.  When I actually say it that way, my head starts hurting and my liver starts telling me to run to the doctor.

So I clearly wasn’t feeling so great this morning, but convinced myself I was just exhausted from staying up late with the baby and getting up early with the kids.  Oh, and apparently my new melatonin supplements give me hangovers.  Ha, good one.  But I forced myself to go to my mother’s empty house and  take matters into my own hands, whether she likes it or not.  Besides, she’s not around to tell me what to do and I’m the one taking care of things.  So at her expense, my yard guys spent two full days there and it looks great.  Now it was my turn to completely clean and declutter the patio.  I moved things around, threw some nasty stuff away, killed every spider I met, swept every inch of the floor and corners full of cobwebs, and made friends with a few lizards (those I don’t kill; I just pretend to try to catch them even though I’m too chicken and let them get away).  Over two hours later, it looked great and I felt really good about that.  I was proud of myself for pushing through and making a positive change today.  And then it hit me.

I realized what I was doing was trying to take control.  Over everything.  Past, present, future.  Ok, this isn’t really that shocking since I’m already a self-proclaimed control-freak.  But there was something about this moment that made me think a little more seriously about where this compulsion came from.  There are so many deep rooted issues in my family’s history it’s not even funny.  Actually, it’s so flippin’ hilarious it could easily become America’s next big dramady (drama? comedy?  you decide).  You seriously couldn’t make this juicy shit up.

But more on all that later.  For now, I’ve come to realize two critical things:

1) I DO NOT want to keep binge-drinking,  feeling like crap, and making excuses all the time.  I want to, and need to, become a better me, a better wife, and the best mom I can be.  I owe it to my childhood self (that dreamed of having the perfect family someday), and especially to my three perfect babies and loving husband, with all of his ‘perfect imperfections’ – ha.

2) It’s time I start sorting everything out, both figuratively and literally.  I need to better manage the stress and eliminate the dead weight in my life. Purge and revamp.  And through this process I need to start talking and telling my stories to sort it all out… and even laugh about it.  The memories, the experiences, the pain, the feelings, the dreams.  It’s not all bad.  In fact, I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate in so many ways.  But I need to start living my life accordingly, hold myself accountable, and find the silver linings.

So, it’s time.  Time to work through the tangled cobwebs and remove them from the dark corners so that each day is clearer, more meaningful, and happier than the last.

After all, it is October.