I have received several emails in the last month that all touch on the same topic, which is whether or not I’ve mentioned why I don’t drink. If you’ve been reading for a longish time, you know at least part of my story, although obviously I haven’t detailed every last sordid part of the tale here.

For those of you who have joined more recently, the short answer is this: I don’t drink because I was, or I suppose the correct term is am, an alcoholic. I spent years of my life drinking on a regular basis. Drinking for the specific purpose of getting drunk, for the most part. I never could have one glass of wine and I still can’t wrap my head around the concept that there are people in the world who can. You mean you don’t finish the glass and have another and another and empty the bottle then switch to mixed drinks and eventually wake up with a vicious, soul-destroying hangover, the only coherent thought in your head something along the lines of oh my god this sucks when can I have another drink? Huh. What’s that like.

Somewhere around 2003 things got downright pathological, and I was drinking a lot of straight vodka from bottles I’d hidden around the house. On a day in 2004 I started drinking in the morning, was drunk at work and made a complete ass of myself, and got a DUI when I drove home. I’d say that night was my rock bottom, but actually, it was probably the 24 hours I had to spend in jail several months later, as part of my sentence.

The DUI was a horrifying, shameful, endless (so many, many months of court appearances, fines, and court-ordered classes) wakeup call, and I stopped. I’d guess even that wouldn’t have kept me from drinking for too long, but then I was pregnant. And the months went by with no drinking and life became a thousand times richer and more real than it had ever been when viewed through the haze, and I was free from the self-loathing, the sickness, the endless cycle of when am I going to have that next drink, and while I can’t say there haven’t been a million times when I wished I could have a nice relaxing beer or something I know it’s never just one. Never.

People have sometimes asked me how I knew I had a problem and I don’t quite know how to answer. I always knew I had a problem, I guess, and in the last years before I quit it had become this terrible, hellish treadmill I thought I’d be trapped on forever. It was something a little more than a problem at that point, really.

There’s a great line in Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions where she talks about wanting a drink when her baby is first born, just one to help with the stress of it all. And she says something about how she knows, though, that if she did go to the liquor store to buy the bottle for that one drink, she may as well put her baby on the counter along with her money, because if she has the drink, she’ll lose it all.

So there it is, the Reader’s Digest version of why I don’t drink. I own the mistakes I’ve made and I continue to think about them and deal with them, and I’ll tell you, as nervous as it makes me to confess all this to you, I can’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t.


161 Responses to “Never just one”

  1. Josh on January 16th, 2009 2:19 pm

    Dude, being an alcoholic blows donkey dick. Cause that’s me, the dumb ass drunk guy that nobody can stand. It’s really a bummer, honestly, like some swirling toilet of depression that life repeatedly dunks you in day after day. While I don’t necessarily agree with you, or AA, on the whole complete rigid abstinence thing, my life has improved dramatically since I started admitting I have a problem and making strides to deal with it and overcome it all and hoorah. Maybe I’m just a stubborn fool, but I refuse to let some addiction determine whether I can drink or not. That’s why I couldn’t stay in AA, although they do wonders for some people, I absolutely will not say that I am powerless over my addiction. I am weak in the face of my addiction, and I have to keep that on my mind all the time, but I am not powerless, and I will not lose to some chemical imbalance or whatever the fuck it is. I still have bad days where I crave something to drink, and I still drink too much some times, but I don’t kill myself over it. If I was a retard and I fucked up some math problems from time to time I shouldn’t freak out right? If I had one of those weird little club hands and I dropped some plates or whatever I shouldn’t freak out. So the same thing applies with my alcoholism, it’s my weakness, my handicap. I can’t let it bum me out, cause I have enough shit to deal with without stressing the little stuff. (like the weekend time I’m leaving to serve in forty five minutes, a repercussion of my alcoholism)

    But either way, even though we approach our problem a little different, it’s really nice to be reminded that other, more successful people who actually managed to form some kind of stability and normalcy are out there dealing with the same thing. Thanks Linda. If I have to go through life with this monkey on my back, I at least want to be in the monkey-back club with all the other boozers. ;)

  2. Amity on January 16th, 2009 2:43 pm

    (Maybe somebody already asked this–I’m not reading all 150 comments, but…)

    Does JB drink? If so, does he do it around you, or not? As a family member of an alcoholic, that’s one thing that I’ve found difficult, and I just kind of wonder what JB’s take on it is. Also, I’m assuming that you guys drinking together in the “early days” was probably a big part of your relationship–how did that change?

    (I’ve read a number of your previous posts on this subject before, but I can’t remember if any of that was discussed.) I think it’s awesome that you put this out there! You’re a super strong woman, and an asset to your family. :)

  3. Amity on January 16th, 2009 2:47 pm

    Okay, never mind my last comment. I just found your 06/12/07 post. :)

  4. Cara on January 16th, 2009 6:42 pm

    Thank you.

  5. Betsy on January 16th, 2009 7:03 pm

    good for you!

  6. agb on January 16th, 2009 9:34 pm

    Your story is another example of how life is always darkest just before the dawn…..

    I’m sure you have changed a life or two today with your honest and courageous post.

    Thank you.

  7. Fattylumpa on January 16th, 2009 9:41 pm

    You’ve so beautifully captured addiction, and I think you are brave and lovely for sharing this.
    Thank you.

  8. erin on January 17th, 2009 8:46 am

    Awesome. Thank you for sharing. Your story will help someone out there realize their life is worth way more than having that next drink.

  9. Sonia on January 17th, 2009 11:01 am

    Every time you share a snippet of this story, I am fiercely proud of you. I hope that doesn’t seem condescending, because I mean it with the utmost respect. You are helping someone who reads here each time you share this story. Thank you Linda.

  10. breckgirl on January 20th, 2009 10:40 pm

    Linda – do you do anything “recovery” related at all or do you just ‘not drink’? No AA? Just wondering. I think you are very cool and brave and I hope you are able to stay sober for the rest of your life.

  11. Amy on January 30th, 2009 12:44 pm

    Your candidness is truly admirable!This is an amazing story to share.

    I am a new blogger and stumbled upon your site while blog surfing. I read one post and loved it. You have such a realistic but comical approach to life.

    Thank you for sharing!

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