Trigger warning: substance abuse, alcohol abuse
On April 9th, 2021 I was celebrating the retirement of one of my coworkers. Everyone that I was with was drinking alcohol, laughing, and having a great time. I was laughing and having a great time, too, but I wasn’t drinking. In fact, I was celebrating 6 months of being alcohol free.
A few weeks prior a friend had reached out to an old group text message asking for volunteers to hand out alcohol at an aid station at a race. I stayed quiet. I don’t quite feel comfortable with groups of people, yet, even though I have had my COVID-19 vaccination. I also realized that it was my 6 months alcohol free date and didn’t think handing out alcohol would honor that very well.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t look down on people who choose to drink alcohol. I don’t think that I am better than anyone because I choose not to drink alcohol. I recognize that it is a privilege that I am able to choose not to drink alcohol because for a lot of people it is not an easy choice, or it is a choice of living or dying.
My mom admitted that she was powerless over alcohol 23 years ago. I was 10 at the time and honestly had no idea my mom had a drinking problem. Looking back there are some memories here and there, but mostly I just remember my mom getting sober, and I’m really glad for that. Some might think that because my mom was a recovering alcoholic that I would stay away from alcohol, but of course that was not the case. I drank alcohol and there were times when it was problematic. Some of my friends would say it wasn’t… they would say that I am a fun drunk.
Today my husband sent me a video. The video starts with my mom laughing. My husband is sitting at the table with her, his brother and his brother’s wife, and my dad. In the background you can see me with my husband’s nieces and nephews and we are playing a drinking game. At that point my mom was a lot more comfortable being around people who were drinking, but the video made me cringe. I absolutely despise seeing myself drunk, and I especially despise seeing myself drunk in front of my mom.
As many of you know, I quit drinking in January 2020 with some friends of mine as a part of “Dry January”. I continued to stay alcohol free for several months until during a video chat playing virtual Cards Against Humanity I decided to drink with my friends. While it was fun and I chose to have a drink not just to fit in but because I wanted to, it quickly turned into me being drunk. I didn’t drink very often after that, and there were of course times that I just drank to enjoy the beverage. There were also times that I drank to relieve anxiety. To loosen up. To escape.
I decided to stop drinking again in October 2020 when a childhood friend of mine lost her husband and her daughter in a drunk driving accident. The last time I had a drink was October 10, 2020. So on April 9th, 2021 I was 180 days alcohol free.
On April 9th, 2021 my mom died.
I am choosing to share this part of the story, this part of my story, because April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month is to spread awareness and reduce the stigma associated with alcohol addiction. It is also to educate on the dangers of alcohol misuse. Alcohol is the most used substance by youth and adults in the United States. More than half of high school seniors have used alcohol according to a recent survey. While there are many people who may use alcohol “responsibly” (I’ve always cringed at that term), there are many who struggle with the disease of addiction, and the stigma surrounding it can create barriers to care. My mom was fighting to break that stigma until her very last day. She supported so many others in their sobriety and they in turn helped her to maintain hers. I am so proud of my mom, and I know that she would be so proud of me for sharing her story and my story.
You can learn more about Alcohol Awareness Month and find treatment options and resources from the following sources and others: