I was watching a favorite Netflix show, Happy Valley, when a horrible feeling started in the pit of my stomach.
In the show the main character’s sis is a recovering alcoholic, 12 years sober. On the day of a friend’s funeral the older sister leaves her younger, vulnerable sister, alone at the funeral. She said she would be right back. She wasn’t. She leaves her sister there with mostly strangers for 5 hours.
When the older sister finally comes back you can imagine what she finds. A very drunk, irate, sister. Of course the sister doesn’t want to go home. She wants the night to last. Even as her sister begs her to stop on her hands and knees, she doesn’t. She goes to a dive bar she used to go to for years. The older sister follows and they argue for hours even while the younger sister continues to drink.
Watching all of this felt so familiar it made me uncomfortable. I started thinking of the past and when people in my family had begged ME to stop drinking. I didn’t.
I understood all too well why the younger sister drank. She felt out of place, she thought the other people there were better than her, she didn’t know how to talk to people in a fancy house at a wake. She felt invisible.
All of these feelings I’ve felt and thought I was fixing them by drinking. When I drank I didn’t care who the people were around me, I could find the courage to start a conversation, I was even cocky or arrogant at times.
As the alcohol left my system I would start to feel anxious and guilty. I would go crazy trying to remember who I pissed off or who I was too friendly with.
The only way to fix the shame and guilt was to drink again. A never ending cycle.
I did decide this last time that I was taking guilt and shame out of the equation. I wasn’t going to set myself up for failure before I even began. I put all of the what ifs out of my head. I decided if I slipped I wasn’t going to spend a week dry heaving with anxiety attacks and then decide it was too difficult and everyone was already disappointed so I might as well give up.
When I gave myself a break and took all that pressure off of myself I found it easier to stay sober. And I have for 7 years. I won’t bullshit you, the thought crosses my mind from time to time. The first few beautiful days of summer are the hardest.
But that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach reminds me of how I act when drunk. That alone stops me. Will it always stop me? I don’t know. I can only hope and continue to try.