My Sobriety Journey is Interlinked with Infertility
It was easy to cut back on drinking the first time.
“I’m trying to lose weight for my wedding,” I’d tell people. “So I’m not drinking until then.”
I knew that when I got pregnant, I’d again have an understandable, socially acceptable excuse to quit drinking for good. After the nine months there was breastfeeding, and then I could say I had simply “lost the taste for it” like I told people I had with beer after my pre-wedding detox (that was when I was on my “white wine only” rule).
But then I didn’t get pregnant, and kept on not getting pregnant for three years, and I watched my excuse fly out the window.
“We’re doing another round this month,” I’d tell people instead when I declined a glass of wine. And it was true that we were doing fertility treatments, but it wasn’t quite accurate. If I still wanted to be drinking, it wouldn’t have stopped me.
I first recognized I “should” stop drinking in that time before I got married, and that’s where the rules started - rules I would inevitably break, and then feel horrible about breaking. After a few more years and “oh shit” moments, the mental gymnastics of regulating became exhausting. The “should” grew into “could,” and without fanfare, one morning I woke up and I was done.
After making it through a series of “firsts” - first dinner out, first happy hour, first wedding without booze - the time went by fairly quickly. I kept myself busy with work, as a spin instructor on weekends, or promoting the children’s book I had co-written with my husband. I couldn’t drink because I had to get up early for work, for class, for a book event. Excuse, excuse, excuse.
Soon, it had been 14 months. Only a small handful of friends knew the weight of my accomplishment and they celebrated accordingly, but many still assumed I wasn’t drinking because of the many reasons I had laid before them. I still posted colorful drinks to my Instagram (all mocktails). I had created confusion more than anything, and shouldn’t have been surprised when the outpouring of support wasn’t there.
Then a few things happened: I had surgery for endometriosis related to my infertility. We had our third unsuccessful IUI one month later. Then we got two pieces of news back to back, which, coupled with the synthetic hormones I was taking, led essentially to my having a nervous breakdown. Our doctor told me to go to therapy before he would continue treatment, which was the correct assessment of the situation, but still left me feeling hopeless.
And I started drinking again.
I had started to believe my own excuses, and since we were taking a break from fertility treatments, I didn’t have a “reason” why I should continue abstaining.
Anyone reading this site knows that’s the worst possible decision I could have made in that mental state, but it’s easy to rationalize just enough to lean into the comfort of our old familiar choices. I told myself I was fine, that giving up drinking had almost been *too* easy. Maybe I didn’t have a problem after all.
And at first, drinking again seemed fine. I could have one glass, then two, but then I would get scared and re-limit myself to one. There were quickly occasions where two planned drinks turned into six, where I shrugged, “might as well finish the whole bottle” when I could have easily put it away. I collected a few more “oh shit” moments. It had only been five months. Was that really all it took? I lost a day. I spent an unbearable international flight hungover. I was done this time, for good.
I learned in this period that even though I had become healthier in many ways - going to therapy as my doctor suggested, taking myself on hikes and to yoga, and journaling and meditating - when I drank I was still a dumb, needy high schooler that first picked up a drink and realized I could belong. It didn’t matter that I was fine when I could stick to one or two, it was that I had become constantly stressed about how much I was drinking and self-conscious about how I was acting with every sip. And the few times I did go over my limit, I was deeply ashamed that my actions weren’t in line with who I had worked so hard to become over the past year and a half. The anxiety was no longer worth it. And you know what’s affected by stress? Fertility.
Right now I’m focusing on being as zen as possible for my everyday anxiety, and drinking is not a part of that journey. My husband and I did restart our fertility treatments, and for me the challenge will be keeping it together if our results are unsuccessful (and believe me, those moments are brutal), and continuing with my sobriety once my “excuse” has long run out (especially when faced with “wine mom” culture). But this time at least, I’ve identified my reason. This time, it’s for me.