Everything's the Same But Me
Everything’s the Same but Me
When I first got sober, my children were relatively young—ages 10, 8, & 4. When I tell my story in meetings, I often mention that my darkest time in addiction was when my kids were itty bitty. Raising children is hard. Taking care of babies and toddlers is an all-consuming 24/7 job, with not a lot of time for self-care, much less self-indulgence. My husband worked incredibly long hours at a high-paying job working for a multi-national financial service company. It was isolating. I did what every new mom does—I reached out to other moms socially, in effort to fill the hole of uncertainty and isolation.
Ladies who Lunch (and Drink!)
My mommy connections were powered by alcohol. Once a social convention, soon turned into a necessity for any social interaction. This was viewed as acceptable in my circle. I would drag my little girls to my new mommy & me playgroup, of which alcohol was always a part (even if I was the only one at the party). I’d pack up the minivan after, get the girls in their car seats, and sigh as I started the engine for the drive home. Now feeling physically bad from the wine I’d just consumed, I was headed home to more caretaking and isolation. Did the other moms feel like I did? I concluded that I was alone, and that there was something uniquely wrong with me.
The reality from which I found it hard to cope, was the same reality to which I was emerging a new sober being. The dichotomy was that the old drinking, pill-popping Stephanie which I’d thought was cool, was radically different from the newly sober, clear-headed Stephanie that I was afraid was too serious, and awkward in her sobriety. How would the world react, when I was still getting accustomed to this new skin I found myself in? I worried about what was going to change with the moms at my children’s school.
Christmastime, the winter of the first year of my sobriety, I attended an ugly sweater holiday party at a friend’s home. *Side note: I won the grand prize for ugliest sweater! She had invited a few women from church, one of which walked right up to me and said, “You look good. What’s different?” I blushed at the direct line of questioning, in the context of the group that was now forming around us.
“All that healthy living,” I replied half-jokingly giving her a standard response. I had lost a fair amount of weight due to a renewed (in sobriety) love of running. I had more hours in the day for exercise, and I rediscovered how much I enjoyed running, and how it centered me.
“No, that’s not it,” she shook her head emphatically, sure of herself.
“Maybe it’s the sweater?” I laughed, growing more uncomfortable. She was on to me. She had found me out.
“It’s something.” She walked away from me.
My friend who hosted the party, a binge drinker, who I’d later grow apart from for that reason, was in rare form that night. She loudly announced how she had plenty of Diet Coke for me. She had her husband point out the “Diet Coke cooler.” I thanked her politely, and moved on to find another group of people to talk to. Later in the evening, I was walking past her and heard the following, “I can feel close to God totally wasted!” She moved her wine glass around in an exaggerated gesture for emphasis. The decibel level had increased with that sentence for my benefit I’m sure, and her eyes met mine as I passed. Back then, her behavior confused me and made me feel bad, but I was too busy worrying about myself to see that this was a reflection of her own insecurities.
Every other year, my children’s school puts on an auction. It’s a chance for moms to get dressed up in as “sluttily acceptable” way as they can get away with, in keeping with the theme of the auction, of course. Drinking is a big part of the atmosphere of this event—from pre-dinner cocktails to champagne with dessert, open bar in between and throughout. The items up for bid at the auction would include such things as a gift certificate to “Wine Merchant Ltd,” ladies’ painting & wine party, trip for two to Napa Valley, etc. If the item wasn’t alcohol itself, it was as though alcohol must be worked into it in some way. Gift certificate to a spa?—must be upgraded to the deluxe package where wine and champagne is served. I attended this auction with my husband two years into my sobriety, and this year proved not to be an exception. Mini liquor bottles of vodka were part of the table place settings, however, I wasn’t sure how this fit into this year’s theme of “Nautical Nights.”
Betsy, my new friend in the program, who’s also a mom at school, reached out to me beforehand about her anxiety about the event. “It’s all good,” I replied. “We can laugh about the asses everyone will be making of themselves! Text me if you need me.” We were sitting at different tables. I sounded confident, and felt confident going in, but soon into the evening I began to waiver in that confidence. Everyone seated at my table was drinking, including my husband (who would later go on to enter the program himself). While that was tolerable, it became less so when the conversation started to revolve around alcohol. I get very uncomfortable when people actually discuss alcohol, because I have nothing to contribute. I was the one to reach out, “Where are you?” I texted Betsy.
“I see you! I’ll come over,” she replied. She did, and we did a lap around the room. Then I was okay. That night was okay because I was sober, and I had the very real connection of a friend who was willing to drop what she was doing to help me. She, like me, was learning to navigate in the world with a new way of being, without the crutch of alcohol. That is the gift of the program, and the gift of the fellowship of the program. We both left the hotel that night with stories and indiscretions we’d laugh about later…stories we were grateful not to be a part of.
Sobriety does in fact allow you to see clearly. And what a gift that is! I have grown comfortable in sobriety, and still a “lady who lunches,” I now lunch with my friends after a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. Being the only variable in a world largely constant, I was now able to see others for their true selves, and determine if the equation: me + them truly equaled a friendship.