I remember the first time my husband sat me down and looked me in the eye and told me he was worried about my drinking, about four years ago.
It was after a very late and drunk Saturday night, and he approached me in our room the next morning while our three children innocently watched TV downstairs. I don’t remember where we were or who we were with the night before, but it’s probably the same drunken scene we’ve always had, with the same people.
What I remember is the look on my husband’s face. A mix of sadness, disappointment, and fear.
“I think you drank too much,” he said. “I was worried about you.”
I remember the panic I felt when I realized I was, in fact, in over my head. My husband was terrified, and the situation suddenly felt out of control.
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I remember not being able to catch my breath, thinking, “How are we going to have this conversation?”
I am embarassed. Embarrassed. Angry at him at first. And then mad at myself for letting my drink escalate to this point. I promised him everything would change.
“I’ll do better,” I said. “I won’t drink this much again.” It was a promise I really wanted to keep to him because I was afraid I would have to give up alcohol. I can’t understand it. I have to keep drinking. Liquor has entertained me since I was 15 years old.
And that’s how it always happens. I do it better. A moment.
I will stop drinking during weekdays. I would go out to dinner with my husband and order a glass of wine, asking his permission for a second glass—like a child. I’m upset that he made me feel this way, made me question my relationship with my friends, my trusted friend. But I knew I had no choice but to cooperate if I was to avoid that embarrassing conversation again.
My husband and I stopped going out with a large group of friends for a while because we both knew the temptation for me to be plastered was too great. We never really talked about the fact that a lot of my friends and their husbands sometimes drink the same way I do. So why am I being punished? That is not fair.
That’s how it felt all along. This is not fair.
But I know deep down I have a harder time controlling myself than anyone else, even though I can’t admit it. I know I can’t just stop at one drink like my husband. He often doesn’t even finish a single beer, leaving a few sips on the bottle, which confuses me.
My husband and I believed for years that it would be fine.
I would constantly pause and control everything. I won’t let it get too out of hand, I tell him. I have no problem, I told myself. But early in the morning waking up in bed at 4am, I would question everything. The cycle of shame will begin again. I would be worried. I will cry.
Little did my husband know that during our quiet dinner alone together, I was obsessed with every sip I drank. I had a hard time concentrating on our conversation because I couldn’t stop thinking about my next drink. When can I order another glass? Am I allowed again? Will he be angry? Can I steal a sip of her drink when she’s in the bathroom? I saw what people at other tables ordered, and I kept my eyes on the waiter. It consumes every thought of mine, and he never notices it.
Finally, after a month or two of good behavior, I’ll start casually drinking a glass or two of wine during the week, having proven myself responsible. I really think I can handle it. That I can drink like my husband and enjoy one glass and not feel like I have to drink the whole bottle. It was a slippery slope because my one glass always turned into two. And that one day of the week I was allowed to drink quickly turned into a two-day rule because staying home with the kids was tough, I told myself. Or my husband and I had a fight, so I deserved it. Or is it a vacation. Holiday. A family member is visiting. The sun shines!
There’s always a reason.
Within a few weeks, I was right back into drinking every night of the week, often finishing an evening bottle of wine on the couch alone. My husband would avert his eyes, gasping for air as he pulled out his recycle bin in the morning. I’d take Advil in the morning, sip some water, and pretend nothing was wrong—nothing to see here.
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And my husband will wait until I have a busy Saturday night or I do some other stupid thing, which will give him the leeway to approach me again about my consumption. Skipping the boys’ hockey game because I was hanging out drinking with friends at lunch, passed out at Easter, fell down the stairs drunk in front of the kids after a leisurely dinner outside. I gave him endless opportunities to face me because the opportunities were plentiful.
And my husband would always sit me down the next morning, begging me to consider drinking less. At times, he will be kind and loving; other times, he would lose his temper. Regardless, I would always promise him to do better, and for a few months after our conversation, I would. It’s a vicious circle.
I’ll learn that later he just surviveshope and pray i will finally find the answer.
This routine goes on for years; until finally, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. One day, I woke up and turned to my husband and finally asked for his help.
No rock bottom. No major incidents.
I finally got tired of being on the hamster wheel. I’m tired of horrible, embarrassing, and dizzy mornings, and I can’t look at myself in the mirror. I was getting tired of trying to convince myself that everything was okay because I definitely wasn’t.
I am so grateful for every second of every day that I finally found the courage to make that change. I realized I couldn’t live that life much longer, so I chose to stop drinking. I choose quiet life. I choose freedom.
Originally published in Elephant Journal