DaMomma and One Crafty Mother are writing a tandem post. It is a story about alcoholism and denial, about the protection of children and the meaning of friendship. The story begins here, with Liz, Part One, then continues with my perspective, below.
Karin surprised me with her call. I didn't remember the conversation we had the night before. If I had, I wouldn't have picked up the phone. I knew she was testing the waters, trying to figure out how much, if anything, I remembered of our conversation the previous night.
I tried to make light of it, laugh my way through. She didn’t buy it. "You were pretty drunk last night," she said.
I mumbled some responses - mini-apologies, loose explanations: things are just hard right now, I'm adjusting to the new job, I'm not sleeping, I haven't been feeling well, I'm going to go to meetings. She was silent, and before she could respond I concocted an excuse and hung up.
I remember that I felt unburdened. The worst had happened - my good friend called me on my drinking - and I got through it. I admitted drinking is a problem and that I'm doing something about it. I could no longer distinguish truth from lies, because I believed what I told myself: I just need to do this my way. I know drinking is a problem, and I'll get a handle on it. I will control my drinking so I don't have to stop completely. I believed that I would be okay, that I would learn to drink like a normal person. I had to believe this, because the thought of life without drinking was too terrifying to contemplate. I thought I just needed more time.
I resolved to be more careful. No more phone calls after I've been drinking, I told myself. I came up with a plan to admit a little bit, feed people just enough information to get them off my back.
I tried not to answer the phone. On the odd occasion I would connect with someone, I pretended I was busy, when in fact I was alternating trips to the liquor store with naps. Steve was doing the drop-offs and pick-ups for the kids each day, part of my new work from home schedule. I spent my days scrabbling to hold things together - getting the kids up and ready for school, doing just enough to squeak by on my job, and then tucking the kids into bed at night. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I was never exactly sober, but I tried not to get too drunk. I was pleased to be left to my own resources during the day - no kids to look after - so I could maintain my drinking.
Then things start to change, slip. I realized that once I had one drink I couldn't predict what would happen. Some nights I would only have a few drinks and I would get drunk. Other nights I drank and drank and couldn't get to the point of sweet oblivion I so craved. I broke my promise and called people at night, embarrassed myself. More and more I couldn't remember things from the night before. I started scrawling down reminders to myself: remember Michelle called, you talked for an hour. Just chatted, nothing serious. Sometimes I couldn't read my drunken handwriting the next day.
I felt a vague sense of panic, but not about my drinking. I was terrified that I wasn't hiding it well enough.
There are lots of conversations I don't remember well, or at all. But one conversation stands out in my mind. It was after a particularly bad fight with Steve. He had found yet another hidden bottle, knew I had been drinking, and left with the kids. I called Liz, sobbing, my hands shaking.
I was desperate for friendship, sympathy, a human connection. I told her I thought Steve and I weren't going to make it. I told her we were fighting more and more. "You have some tough choices to make," she said. I remember thinking: tell her. Just tell her. Tell her Steve left because you can't stop drinking.
I was too afraid. I knew she would tell me I had to stop, so instead I told little bits of the truth, enough to feel validation, love. It was one of those rare moments when I saw myself as I really was: drunk, addicted and scared. But not scared enough to tell the truth.
The fear of life without alcohol trumped everything.
For Part Two of the Tandem Posts, click here.