I came across a writing prompt this morning to write poetry about something that affects you deeply. I’m not in the poetry writing mood, but the first thing that popped into my head was… Alcohol. Liquor. Libations.
As I’m learning more about myself, I’m realizing that alcohol is a very touchy subject for me. I’ve been through my phase of drinking too much in college and learning what my limits are. I went through drinking often with my now ex-husband, but realized that I didn’t like who I was becoming.
I’m beginning to understand that so much of my frustration during my marriage was due to all of my emotional baggage from growing up in a family where alcohol was an issue. I hated that my father drank and never kept his promises – partly because he didn’t remember them. I hurt from my mom telling me from a young age that my father started drinking too much when I was born. (She neglected to explain the part where his lost a few friends in Vietnam and a couple others due to murders around that time.) So many complicated emotions that I partially waded through during my 20s. I caused more issues because I truly believed that if my father loved me and my brother enough that he would stop.
Now that I’m in my 40s I’m realizing that I drank around others who drank partly to cover the smell. I have a strong negative reaction to the smell of alcohol on another person. I feel tension in my core. I began to realize in my 30s that I would pull away from my husband when he smelled of beer or liquor. It set something off in me that I could not explain to myself, let alone anyone else. If I drank with him, I was okay because the smell was coming from me also. But, when he continued to drink regularly, I couldn’t handle it. I became angry, agitated, frustrated, fearful. Again, I fell into the thought of – if he loved me enough, he’d quit. And, apparently, I was not lovable enough because he didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t.
With a year’s distance between me and my failed marriage, I’m seeing my patterns more clearly. I dated one man who drank often. Great guy, but I’d tense every time he mentioned being at a bar with his friends or that he had passed out at his sister’s. I dated another who rarely drank and I loved that there was no pressure, no smell (although he was an addict in his own way and was addicted to caffeine-filled energy-supplements). Then I met a man who completely changed my life.
Although we are no longer dating, I will be eternally thankful for an inspiring man I’ll call Ryan. After a DUI conviction, Ryan changed his life by becoming sober for the last 1-1/2 years. I’ve never met anyone like him (in a romantic sense) and he showed me what attending support groups such as AA can do. The change he made in his life – while extremely tough – has been inspiring for me. It opened my eyes to an entirely new world of responsibility, making changes and recognizing flaws, experiences, old hurts, memories that can be completely detrimental to today.
In the brief last month since I’ve started attending a support group and read literature every single night, I’ve recognized things about myself that I had buried deep in the recess of my mind. Many of these things were coming to the surface for me to finally acknowledge. They’d been manifesting themselves in self-destructive ways more than ever.
I have found a group (or several) where I feel comfortable and am surrounded by people who understand. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. I’m not alone. I’m not isolated with my baggage. And, now I know that I can work through all of this and be the best me I’ve ever been.
Angels show up in our lives in ways we least expect and in forms we didn’t imagine. My angel brought me self-awareness and has put me on a wonderful (albeit often painful) path to recognizing thoughts that hurt in order to work toward healing and recovery. He renewed my faith in the future and showed me a path to follow.
I know it will take much more time to not feel a knot in my stomach every time I smell beer on someone’s breath, but I need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol. Alcohol is part of the American culture and I need to relearn how to live feeling okay about it. It’s time.