“The Alcoholic Is Me” | On Life With Alcoholism

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On June 8th, 2014, I woke up, hungover, in a Caribbean resort, wincing with hazy memories of trying to hit my husband while he held our 18-month-old daughter on what was supposed to be a nice family vacation with my in-laws.

“You couldn’t have waited until the last night to ruin the trip?” I grimly thought to myself (my drinking was a regular event-crasher at this point). My initial foray into sobriety had ended the previous May, and I had desperately spent the last year trying to prove to myself, to everyone, that I was definitely not an alcoholic, despite all evidence to the contrary. 

Alcoholism & Sobriety: My Journey

I didn’t always have a drinking problem…until I had a drinking problem. I wasn’t the kid who partied a lot in high school; I was extremely afraid of getting in trouble (you’re welcome mom and dad). Even away at college I only blacked out once and it scared the crap out of me. But something happened when I turned, ironically enough, 21. Maybe the disease just caught up with me. The allergy reached fruition. The insatiable craving was calling my number and I was powerless to resist its allure.

Have I wished sometimes that I could go to a Mom’s Night Out & have a glass of wine? Sure. But who am I kidding? It’ll never be just 1 glass of wine.
Like my bronzer, it’s about to get real bad, real quick.

My first sober journey started in August of 2011, three months before my wedding because, truly, I pick the worst times to hit rock bottom. Fear of losing my then-fiancé and general disgust with myself forced me into Alcoholics Anonymous. AA wasn’t entirely unknown to me because of family members who worked the program. I was 23 at the time and quickly forgot I was an alcoholic (It was just college! Who doesn’t bring a G&T to a Senior Seminar disguised as coffee to present on Kipling?!). I was so sure I could handle my alcohol as a now very mature 25-year-old. I just wanted to try new things like…like Craft Beer!

[Spoiler: she didn’t just want to try Craft Beer.]

Recognizing My Own Alcohol Addiction Symptoms

I really thought everyone drank like me, and truthfully, we live in a culture where alcohol abuse is “ok”…celebrated even. But it’s not ok for me because normal drinkers can stop after one. Normal drinkers don’t pat themselves on the back when they go one day without drinking. Normal drinkers don’t fill a vodka bottle with water to mask how much they’ve imbibed alone. Normal drinkers don’t buy the little wine juice boxes from Target because it’s a quick way to get tipsy and easy to hide in the recycling bin. Normal drinkers don’t have to make deals with themselves (“I’ll alternate water with beer, no shots for me.”) Normal drinkers don’t black out nearly every time they drink. Normal drinkers don’t.

Have I wished sometimes that I could go to a Mom’s Night Out & have a glass of wine? Sure. But who am I kidding? It’ll never be just 1 glass of wine.
She thinks she’s fun. She is not. She is a hurricane.

I drank when I was happy. I drank when I was sad. I also just drank because I was so damn uncomfortable all the time in my own skin. I didn’t know how to exist in the world without dulling the sharp edges. I was forever chasing that sweet spot of tipsy delirium. Inevitably I’d topple over and emerge with guilt so crushing it left me breathless. I’d wake up after one of “those nights,” roll over and try and guess–from my husband’s body language–how bad the night before had been. A clumsy reach for the phone for more evidence of how embarrassing things had gotten. I couldn’t ask because that would be admitting that I didn’t remember and that maybe I had a problem. I had become my own detective. It was the shittiest-ever game of Clue. Obviously it was Meredith, with the alcohol, all over the damn place.

On June 8th 2014, at 26-years-old, I finally admitted to my innermost self, in a hotel room, at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, that I was an alcoholic. I was past the point of an apology tour. I couldn’t say I’d never do it again because who would believe me? I wasn’t even sure I believed me. I just had to start doing the work and have faith that the promises of recovery would come true.

When I first stopped drinking, all I wanted was to stop thinking about alcohol every day, stop the drunk dreams (dreams so vivid you wake up sweating through your sheets convinced you broke your sobriety, again), and for the people close to me not to look at me with pity, anger, fear or a combination of the three. Being new in sobriety is a lot like the Wizard of Oz when suddenly everything is in technicolor. It’s louder and brighter and scarier. Temptation is everywhere. You come crashing down with the house and embark on a road unknown towards home.

Life In Focus With Sobriety

I can’t pinpoint when it happened on my yellow brick road, but one day, sometime during my first year of sobriety in AA, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I thought about alcohol. The drunk dreams ceased. I went on my first adult sober vacation with my husband and woke up at dawn to watch the sun rise in Colorado near the Sand Dunes, and I laughed at the fact that I was now a person who woke up early, sans hangover, on vacation for the simple pleasure of watching Mother Nature in comfortable solitude.

Have I wished sometimes that I could go to a Mom’s Night Out & have a glass of wine? Sure. But who am I kidding? It’ll never be just 1 glass of wine.
Said trip. Present, enjoying life, sober.


While I don’t fear alcohol, I know that I have a disease that doesn’t want me to believe I have a disease. Have I wished sometimes over the years that I could go to a Mom’s Night Out and have a glass of wine? Sure. But who am I kidding? It’ll never be just one glass of wine. One of the blessings of sobriety is finding (and attracting) friends who don’t care that I’m an alcoholic; they love me anyway. I quickly found that people generally don’t care if I drink or not (Spoiler: I’m not the center of everyone’s universe and no, people won’t assume you’re pregnant if you don’t order a drink!), unless they themselves have a problem.

Although convinced on June 8th, 2014, that my life was over, I also kind of felt…relieved? The jig was up. I no longer had to keep lying to those around me or myself. In acceptance of my addiction, there was also peace. Little did I recognize how small my world had become when alcohol was the sun and I, the Earth, aimlessly spinning around it. Seven years later, my world is bigger than I could have ever imagined. I can move purposefully through life, stand in my truth, fight for others without the fear of alcohol pulling me under. I can give back. I can make good trouble. I can live life on life’s terms. I can be a mom. A wife. A sister. A daughter. A good friend. I can be present.

And I can help others with my story.

I decided to write this article to share some of my story–which I know is only one story among millions–of what an alcoholic can look like. The addict or the alcoholic is not always the person experiencing homelessness, the strung-out junkie on T.V. The alcoholic is your therapist, religious leader, co-worker, homeroom mom. The alcoholic is me.

Have I wished sometimes that I could go to a Mom’s Night Out & have a glass of wine? Sure. But who am I kidding? It’ll never be just 1 glass of wine.
Nearly 4 years sober exploring Rome, Italy for work. My only indulgence? Gelato, which never got me in trouble.

Resources: If you think you might be struggling with alcohol, here’s a link to AA with a list of meetings near you. If AA isn’t your thing, here’s a great article with alternatives to AA. I personally know people who have used SMART Recovery with success. If you love someone who is struggling with addiction, check out Al-Anon (there are also specific meetings for teens).

x, Meredith

82 COMMENTS

  1. I love all of your posts because they are honest and funny. This piece is so brave, but it is another example of why TME is about so much more than clothes. Thank you for sharing.

    • I really appreciate that Lara. One of the joys of joining the team is being able to show all that I am and part of that is fashion, but it’s also motherhood, and addiction and social justice and literature for me.

  2. Thank you for your brave public share. My alcoholic sister–a nurse–didn’t sober up until she was 42. She lost her nursing license, spent time in jail, lived out of her car, & came close to death a few times before grace came. Needless to say, my family lived on eggshells. But it’s been ten years now, she got her nursing license back, and has been able to give far more back to the world because of the awful place she’d been–which is all to say that you have given yourself and your family a beautiful gift and I wish you all the best.

    • Thank you for sharing. This is beautiful and heartbreaking and a reminder that it doesn’t have to get “real bad” for you to decide to stop drinking. For some it does take those low, low bottoms. I didn’t lose my job, my family, etc….yet. It could have happened. It probably would have if I had continued down that track. I’m glad your sister is doing better and sharing her experience to help others. Don’t underestimate how much alcoholism effects the entire family.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. Thank you also for sharing resources about Al-Anon! Both programs have saved my life (and probably my marriage) What a beautiful 12th step 🙂

  4. Thank you for being vulnerable and brave enough to share you story. The way our culture elevates and celebrates alcohol, especially as a way to cope with motherhood is something we all need to think about.

    • Completely agree. There’s an article in there. I don’t know what it is, but it’s got my wheels spinning.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been trying to support a friend through alcoholism this year, which has involved many ER trips and rehab stays. It’s been very hard and I can no longer believe anything she says. I now have to stay away for my own mental and physical health, which is another type of hard. I’ve had my share of drinking to excess in my 20s and 30s, but was thankfully able to stop and now drink only very occasionally. It has been a sobering – pun intended – experience to watch someone destroy their life through alcohol.

    • Unfortunately you can’t save an alcoholic – they need to be ready to help themselves. But, you also have to protect yourself and you don’t have to be a martyr. I hope your friend finds the help they need and who knows, maybe you’ll be able to build back that relationship at some point.

  6. Oooph, did I need this today!. As someone who is on Day 13 of separation from a 26-year marriage, strictly because of alcoholism, I NEEDED this post! Thank you so much for sharing. And for sharing resources. I now know I also need Alanon.

  7. I’ve enjoyed your posts about clothes, Meredith, and I appreciated this even more. I’ve started drinking more during the pandemic (was not a big drinker before) and have been wondering if I have a problem. This line “Normal drinkers don’t pat themselves on the back when they go one day without drinking” really hit home. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  8. Beautifully written, I am so glad you shared your story with us. The more we normalize and show different faces of what an alcoholic looks like, the more we give space for others who need it to see themselves.

    • Totally agree. It’s definitely a personal decision to come forward and I recognize that I do have privilege in coming forward. In some places alcoholism is very taboo. I wouldn’t have been ready nor would it have been helpful for me or for anyone around me for me to have broken my anonymity before I was really ready. It took till about year 5 to get to that space.

    • Oh wow, Kate, that is really nice for you to say. I just hope to pass it on. Maybe help someone else. Maybe shed light on what an alcoholic can look like to others.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I can personally relate, and it’s nice to know there are others like me, even at TME! Sometimes the beautiful pics with glasses of wine and beer are a little too much for me.

    • I used to work in social media for a foodie hotel and had to make posts with pictures of alcohol or wine tasting events. It was hard. It’s ok to keep scrolling when you need to 🙂 I’ll eventually have some beautiful pics, sans-alcohol 🙂

  10. Meredith, thank you for being brave enough to share– and also for having the humility and grace to accept your addiction and get help. My sister in law took her own life a few months ago because she was unable to do just that. She could not imagine there were other women like her with this disease, and she carried around such shame. I wish that she was still here so I could forward her your essay — maybe she would have realized she wasn’t alone. God’s blessings to you on your journey.

    • I am so sorry to hear that. There is a ton of shame, which is why I decided to share publicly, when I knew I was ready and it wouldn’t negatively impact my own sobriety. Much love <3

  11. I had a “high bottom” which for me meant I didn’t have any drastic consequences from my drinking except I didn’t really want to get out of bed every day and my relationships were in shambles. I convinced myself I wasn’t an alcoholic because I had a good job, I was a great mom and I could go days, weeks or months without drinking. The ugly truth was I was miserable. Once I started drinking I couldn’t stop. I hated myself. Getting sober was the best thing I’ve ever done. All I can say to anyone who is struggling is you don’t have to do this anymore.

    I have a loving and healthy relationship in sobriety. I make living amends every say to my kids abs our relationship is so much stronger. My kids dad is so proud of me. My relationship with my parents so so much better and more honest. I have so much fun. My friendships serve me and are so much deeper.

  12. You are doing an awesome thing for others by sharing your experience and how you were able to turn the ship around. Your stories sound eerily familiar in so many ways and similar things were regular occurrences for me too. 7 years ago I realized that my relationship with alcohol was very dysfunctional and that I had to make a big change. I’m incredibly grateful for that realization because my road could have been a very different one.

    My brother is an alcoholic currently in rehab and my mom has developed an unhealthy dependence on alcohol in the last few years. It’s all been heartbreaking to see my family in turmoil. As difficult as the feelings around my family aare to deal with, I’m grateful that I am able to cope with them without drinking.

    • It typically runs in families, but that doesn’t make it any easier to see. If you can stay sober through all of that, you can stay sober through anything. That’s what’s gone through my mind at certain points in the past 7 years where previously the first think I would have done was drown my sorrows in alcohol.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m not me when I drink, so I don’t. I’ve always been annoyed with the Mama needs wine mentality. Maybe I’m just a bitch lol. I think you’re great and proud of you even if I don’t actually know you.

    • No I think you are on to something with this “Mommy Wine” mentality because it’s very much tied to motherhood and why is that? Why is motherhood so isolating and difficult that we have an entire cottage industry of merch and beverages tied to checking out? This is not to say that having a glass of wine at night or unwinding with friends is bad; I’m talking about the larger, societal implications of the whole thing. There’s an article there. Maybe it’s already been written, but I know it’s something I’d like to explore.

  14. I could relate to so much to what you said here – my last drink was October 3, 2014. This 7th year I have been confronted with so many more occasions where the only activity a group of friends had planned was to get together and drink and have been feeling like they miss the old fun me. And maybe I miss that past time and the silly things we used to do.

    Of course that is my disease talking and like you, I know that one drink would lead to ALL of the drinks. The only thing that has ever worked was “don’t have the first drink”!

    I drank to give up the rumination on the couch and sobriety has been way more than I could have imagined. So much more connection and life. Worth it. But a disease I will live with forever.

    • Oh totally. I have moments where I’m like, “one drink wouldn’t kill me” but like yes, yes it would, eventually. Also, as my brother bluntly put it, “you weren’t fun when you drank. At all. It was horrifying.” So the fact I was able to scare the crap out of my younger brother is kind of enough for me to realize I was not cool at all and sober me is way more fun.

  15. Such a brave post. My sobriety date is 11-01-04; thanks to the grace of God and AA, I haven’t had to take a drink in a Vu little over 16-1/2 years. My son, age 31, is 10 years sober in the program. Thank you for sharing.

  16. All the love and respect to you, Meredith. I’m so happy for you, and everyone else here, who have been able to get sober. Really, truly, I have so much respect for all of you. Sending peace and strength to you all.

  17. Thank you for writing such a beautiful, brave article. My father used to come home from work every day and get drunk. He would be drunk all weekend too. It made me totally avoid alcohol for years because I saw what a terrible person he would become. Alcohol addiction is very insidious because drinking is socially acceptable and tee totaling is suspicious. Like you said, most people can stop after one. It’s only a problem for those who can’t. I am amazed at your strength to decide to quit, and to keep quitting every day!

    • Thank you and I’m sorry you had to watch your father struggle with this disease. An alcoholic has to be ready to quit, to admit to their innermost self that they have a problem and willing to go to any lengths to get sober. I was able to do that through AA and finding women in particular who had what I so desperately wanted; others find it through other sobriety programs.

  18. Thank you for sharing & normalizing sobriety. I quit when I got pregnant & realized that if I wanted to be a good mom, I couldn’t start again (there is a long & distinguished history of alcoholism in my family). My husband quit 3 months after our son was born (almost 9 years ago now). As he says, “I got sick of having the same conversation in my head every night about the second drink.” (One drink never satisfied either of us.) I realize that these were very “high bottoms,” but there were lots of very ugly, embarrassing moments over the years that we each experienced to reach this point. I rarely comment anywhere on FB/online, but I wanted to chime in to reassure anyone reading this looking for hope that it is possible to find happiness in sobriety – the beginning is really the hardest part. My life is so much richer, fuller, simpler, joyous without alcohol & I hope others who are struggling can find hope in these stories.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Truly you don’t have to be an alcoholic to decide that alcohol causes more problems and doesn’t satisfy you. I have a much fuller life sober than I ever did while consumed with drinking.

  19. Thank you. I’m reading this with tears in my eyes, because Scott and I are both adult children of alcoholic parents. I hid alcohol from my step dad for years, worried when friends (and dates) came over, for fear of what would happen. Scott’s parents were both alcoholics and it was hard to watch as a new girlfriend how f*cked up they would get. Fortunately for both of us, we know what our limits are, we can have a drink or 2 and be fine. Neither one of us experienced black outs, but both have had to deal with the aftermath of our parent’s behavior. It stays with you forever. Thank you for your bravery, in sharing your story.

    • That’s really hard. I’m sorry you went through that. I’m not sure if you’ll find any peace knowing that it wasn’t for lack of loving you that they kept drinking; they couldn’t stop. It’s a disease, not a lack of willpower. I’m sorry though, that’s hard as a child and an adult trying to make sense of it.

  20. Thank you for sharing your story and helping to normalize addiction. My brother died of an aggressive melanoma in his 20s, but before that he struggled with addiction, went to rehab twice, and was sober/getting his life back on track when he was diagnosed. It was a blessing to get to know him during that year of sobriety before he died, but also sad that he didn’t get a chance to realize his hopes and dreams.

    Anyway, I attended a family class during his first rehab stint and it completely changed my understanding of addiction as a disease and what it means to struggle with addiction and to love someone who is going through it. Like you say, it is not just the stereotype of the homeless person. My brother and I had a comfortable, suburban childhood with loving parents who had a good marriage, etc., and yet he ended up struggling with this terrible disease (it also started for him in college, like your experience) and I did not.

    So one of the ways I try to honor his memory is by speaking openly about our family’s experience and normalizing it for others. There is no shame in being a person in active addiction–it’s a disease, not a personal weakness. There is no shame in having a loved one/family member in active addiction or recovery–it’s a disease, not a sign that something is horribly wrong with your family.

    Finally, I’ll never forget how my brother’s friends from AA took turns sitting by his bedside at the end. One guy came every day for at least a short visit and the others rotated in and out. I was so touched by their huge hearts, devotion to my brother, and support of our family. That experience taught me that going through hard sh*t, whether addiction, cancer, the death of a loved one, etc., is an opportunity to open your heart even more with compassion and empathy for the suffering that everyone goes through at one point or another. So thank you for opening your heart to all of us TME readers, Meredith, and agree with the other comments about you being a wonderful addition to the TME team!

    • Thanks for sharing your story and I’m so sorry about the loss of your brother. Alcoholism truly knows no gender, race, social class, etc., it’s a disease that some are more susceptible to than others. Alcoholism runs in my family and yet I am an alcoholic and my brother isn’t. It’s beautiful that you did learn more about alcoholism and the fact that it is a disease and nothing to do about willpower. Trust me, the alcoholic wants nothing more than to stop hurting other people and “just be normal.” That can be a difficult thing to digest in a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” society.

  21. This post really spoke to me, Meredith. Three years ago this month, I told my therapist that I was drinking a lot, thinking about it all the time, and hiding or downplaying how much I was drinking. I also told her that I was scared to tell her because I didn’t want to be told to stop. I had two kids, a job, a husband, a life, and I wasn’t sure I could do it all without drinking. But I felt so much better when I finally said this out loud. With my therapist’s support and the work we did together, I first cut my intake and eventually stopped drinking altogether. I am not sure I identify with the term “alcoholic,” but ultimately it doesn’t matter. What I know is that any drink I take has the risk of making me want it all the time and shifting my life to revolve around alcohol, and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Thank you for the thoughtful and vulnerable post.

    • That’s awesome! Congrats! No need to identify with alcoholic. It can just be you’re choosing to live life sober or unfiltered or whatever you want to call it. I actually reached a sort of crossroads myself with AA a few years ago. Not saying I’d never go back, but I’m definitely exploring what sober living looks like and how one maintains a sober life – physically, mentally, and emotionally – through other avenues.

  22. I apologize for jumping into this conversation, but this is so well-said and really kind of profound, and I hope one day you do consider writing something on this. Your writing in the above post is really outstanding (and funny! the Clue line is so good), and I would read anything you write at this point.

    • Don’t apologize! Thank you for commenting. I’m definitely saving some random thoughts I’m having and seeing where it might lead. 🙂

  23. Yes! Because it’s easier and more lucrative to sell women on the idea they just need alcohol then to promote true gender equality, universal childcare, and paid maternity *and* paternity leave. Things it’s hard to fight for when we’re fuzzy or hungover. This doesn’t feel like a coincidence.

    • OOOO Preach Renee, preach! Writing this down because these are all threads I want to pull at and examine more in due time. Capitalism of course plays a role.

  24. Thank you for sharing. You are a beautiful writer. I also appreciate your honesty and truth… so hard to be so vulnerable… many blessings to you .xo

  25. I’ve been reflecting on this since I first read two days ago. Thank you so much for your honestly and vulnerability. I appreciate you and admire you, Meredith!

  26. Thank you for sharing your story. So we’ll written and so important to break the “junkie” stereotype. So brave and congrats on 7 years.

  27. Thanks for sharing! I’m a sober mom too! Love waking up without a hangover! And my mom friends actually make sure to have non alcoholic drinks for me on MNO’s! Life is still hard but I am never going back to drinking!

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