It would be so easy.

It’s been years, after all, and the whole notion of counting days hasn’t really panned out because there have been other substances and no one in the Hi-My-Name-Is rooms would condone the use of, say, edibles, and let’s just be real, I am an addict. I always have been and I always will be. I have abused nearly everything including (especially?) food and while I have found a kind of peace here in my mid-forties it feels a lot like the lyric from an AWOLNATION song: I’ma make a deal with the bad wolf / So the bad wolf don’t bite no more

Or the Lumineers song,

There we will be, like an old enemy / Like the salt and the sea

Songs say it better than I can, I guess. Me and my disease, we are intertwined so deeply it feels weird to even talk about it, because it’s so much of who I am. I used to battle against the label, the shaming nature of it — just the word addict is such a grimy brushstroke, it paints me in a way I don’t like to be seen. I’d rather you see me for everything I try so hard to be: a loving, attentive mother. A fit and healthy woman. A loving wife, a loyal friend, a generous and caring person.

I hide my struggles and it wouldn’t be hard to hide my eagerness to finish the bottle. It would be nice to order something other than Diet Coke for once. There are so many craft beers now! Hard seltzer is a thing! Why not a glass of wine with dinner, or a cocktail with a friend? Why even bother drawing lines in the sand, at this point?

It would be so easy. My husband’s half-finished beer, left on the kitchen counter.

What’s one more bad choice among so many?

But.

This I know: it’s never just one. It’s never anything remotely like the uplifting images some forever-stealthy part of my brain presents me, a series of sensory-fueled pictures served clickity-clack like a pre-movie ad reel: NOW SHOWING the cooling citrus swallow of a gin and tonic on a hot summer day! The rich embrace of a red wine with a steak dinner! The melting foam from a deliciously biting IPA! All this and more could be coming to a beverage glass near you! It’s maybe that for a minute and then it’s vodka in the fucking hamper. It’s pounding, soul-crushing headaches, it’s embarrassing behavior that veers from hysterical laughter to fits of weeping, it’s entire swaths of time lost to the black.

Alcohol and I parted ways in the summer of 2013, after a hideously shameful binge that ended with me falling down drunk in front of my children and in-laws. Before that, it had been years of sneaky drinking, pretending to be sober for weeks and months at a time but chasing oblivion whenever I could. Before that, it had been daily drinking, the kind where the bottle wholly consumes you from the painful moment you wake up until you pass out at the end of the day.

I’m left with no shortage of bad memories to remind me that I cannot moderate when it comes to booze, and if I falter — if NOW SHOWING appears and attempts to downplay what used to be — I can all too clearly imagine what could be, today. How about showing up to my school library shift reeking of Skyy? How about seeing my kids’ faces as they warily assess my level of intoxication each day? How about weaving across the middle line with both my children in the car? How about visiting a hospice patient and not remembering a single thing I said or did?

How about a life in which only one thing is truly important, and that is when the next drink is coming?

I don’t have to imagine that last one, actually. I remember it just fine.

It would be so easy, because my old enemy never gives up. But I will not falter in this. I don’t always make the right choices but I will stay strong on this one. I will not drink, not today and not tomorrow. I carry the salt within me, but I am the sea: I am the holder, I am not held.

Comments

45 Responses to “The holder”

  1. Angie on November 5th, 2019 12:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. My parents were alcoholics. It killed my mom in 2010, but my dad is sober now for 15 years. He quit for good after being fall-down drunk at my son’s baptism. I’m grateful every day he’s still here, and truly present. I gave up my own pill addiction a year ago. It’s so important,so helpful to read posts like this. Thank you.

  2. JennB33 on November 5th, 2019 12:06 pm

    I’m glad you are holding strong. Alcohol is what ultimately broke up my 19 year-old marriage, and it was a long time coming. The damage that it has done to my kids is overwhelming. Together the three of us move forward, while my ex lost the kids and everything we had built together. He hit rock bottom after threatening me and getting locked up for a while. It’s an ugly monster. My disease is not much prettier (depression and anxiety), and it’s a dragon that needs to be kept firmly in check. Every day is a new opportunity to face off and see what we are made of. I’m glad to hear that today you are inspired to write about it, and make the right choice for you. I hope your tomorrow is the same. <3

  3. Christine on November 5th, 2019 12:07 pm

    Love you.

  4. Donna on November 5th, 2019 12:09 pm

    You know I got high a lot in high school and tried pretty much everything. I guess I just never hit on the one thing I couldn’t put down.
    You truly are a bad ass. Much love.

  5. Phoebe on November 5th, 2019 12:29 pm

    I so appreciate you, your writing and the updates and insights you share. Thank you!

  6. Jen on November 5th, 2019 12:35 pm

    You are so strong. When you share yourself, it helps me to face the demons in my life. Thank you.

  7. Dawn on November 5th, 2019 12:38 pm

    Powerful writing as always. Never stop.

    You are so strong and aware. It’s very inspiring.

  8. Danell on November 5th, 2019 12:48 pm

    Every time I read something (anything, really) you’ve written, I’m slightly frustrated that the whole world doesn’t know your name. How does everyone not know about this gifted person?
    Thank you for sharing so much. (Although, does it feel weird to think there are a number of us out here that have been reading long enough that we feel like we *know you*😬?)

  9. PETE J HAIDINYAK on November 5th, 2019 12:54 pm

    Great post and continue the Good Fight

  10. jen on November 5th, 2019 1:00 pm

    “I carry the salt within me, but I am the sea” is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in months.

  11. Jan on November 5th, 2019 1:14 pm

    I am so proud of you sweet girl. Keep holding up the best you can – as we all do.

  12. Nix on November 5th, 2019 1:22 pm

    You are strong. And amazing. And I’m so proud for you. Eloquent as always. Keep on keeping on, lady.

  13. Jujubeejenny on November 5th, 2019 1:25 pm

    How did you know i needed this message today? Thank you.

  14. Ellen Morris Prewitt on November 5th, 2019 1:34 pm

    What a beautifully writte and starkly realistic post. Thank you for sharing it.

  15. Jennifer Iverson on November 5th, 2019 1:38 pm

    Every day we choose. Every moment. Thank you Linda for sharing with such honesty, and for continuing to choose life. You are the holder.

  16. Kim on November 5th, 2019 1:41 pm

    Eleven years ago this month I went Christmas shopping with my mother-in-law, bolstered by the opioids I had to take every day in order to function. I knew withdrawals were coming because my source mysteriously became unavailable like sources often do, and what followed was the most miserable weekend of my life. In movies they sometimes get close to what heroin withdrawal looks like but they don’t show things like the addict removing all clocks from the house in order to not see how slowly time is passing, the hideous things happening to your body in or out of the bathroom, etc. I finally had to admit to the husband it wasn’t the flu I was suffering from. I found a suboxone treatment doctor that Monday & have been on maintenance & sober ever since. It still counts as a substance so I’m not welcome in a lot of meetings, but I’m a clearheaded functioning member of society who no longer has to do the count-the-pills math every day. The holidays, with all the family & socializing, is always a challenge but I’m hoping I can compensate with vigorous exercise along with all of the carbs this year.
    You’ve been an inspiration for a long time and I appreciate the heck out of you.

  17. Ariella on November 5th, 2019 1:42 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before, but I have been reading your blog for a very, very long time. Anyway, I thought this was a really moving piece of writing. My mother was a functional alcoholic for as long as I can remember, and I think she mostly used it to cope with anxiety. Reading this gave me some more empathy towards what she must have felt like for all those years. She passed away many years ago and I miss her very much.

  18. Bethany on November 5th, 2019 1:45 pm

    Alcohol and I parted ways in September 2014. Sometimes the years make it easier, sometimes harder, as you have clarified so beautifully here. Seeing you.

  19. Sarah on November 5th, 2019 2:06 pm

    You are an amazingly talented writer. I’m so glad you are writing here again. I so fervently wish addiction would leave you the hell alone and let you live your life in peace. As that’s not possible, I’m glad you are in a good place today and hope that’s where you remain.

  20. Cindy on November 5th, 2019 2:32 pm

    Beautifully written. Always in your corner.

  21. Jules on November 5th, 2019 2:39 pm

    I’ve been aware lately that I’m drinking more than I should. Your post was timely. Thank you for your refreshing and honest writing.

  22. Alex on November 5th, 2019 3:47 pm

    Forever rooting for you, forever believing in you, forever grateful you share your thoughts and experiences with us. You are generous like that, always have been, and it has had a tremendous impact on me.

  23. Trish on November 5th, 2019 3:53 pm

    “I am the holder, I am not held.”. I had a physical reaction when I absorbed those words. You are stronger and shine more light than you know. Good God, I am proud of you!

  24. Jane on November 5th, 2019 4:31 pm

    May you ever remain the holder, and not the held. Thank you for your amazing entries over the years. You are a skilled writer who has touched my soul more than once. Be well.

  25. Anna A on November 5th, 2019 6:35 pm

    Keep holding strong. You have such an incredible way with words. ❤️

  26. Kathy Potvin on November 6th, 2019 5:56 am

    My brother, sober for about 24 years and having lost much, still says he is sure he has one great binge left in him. He is also quite sure he doesn’t have another recovery left. He works every single day to say no to those siren calls you described so well. Blessings on you both

  27. Elizabeth_K on November 6th, 2019 7:46 am

    Thanks for sharing your difficult, triumphant journey with us as we all slog through our own. You are an inspiration and a role model — I admire you for so much of what you have done and survived and accomplished.

  28. kate on November 6th, 2019 9:03 am

    I have never commented but I am so proud of you and the way you write is like no one I’ve read before. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your struggle. We are holding you too

  29. anne nahm on November 6th, 2019 9:55 am

    As always, <3

  30. Carrie on November 6th, 2019 10:17 am

    Convicting and comforting at the same time. Thank you for sharing.

  31. Alison on November 6th, 2019 10:30 am

    This is beautiful and so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it.

  32. Andrea on November 6th, 2019 6:34 pm

    You’re an inspiration, and you’re also a person I don’t know, but respect greatly. Thanks for posting this.
    My husband is recovering and it’s hard to put myself in his shoes most days. “Just don’t drink!”, I think, “it’s easy!”. Reading your blog over the years has helped me understand how hard it is. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Mackenna on November 6th, 2019 8:43 pm

    Every alcohol ad is an insidious airbrushed lie and everything you wrote is true. Except the part about addiction tarnishing how you might be viewed. I grew up in an effed up home and every other home on the block looked like the home I didn’t have. Everybody has secrets and struggles and sh*t they are ashamed of and if it wasn’t for the people who have the courage to share their truth, most of us would feel incomprehensibly alone. Your insightful honesty makes you intimidatingly awesome. I respect you immensely.

  34. Valerie on November 7th, 2019 3:58 pm

    Beautiful.

  35. Donna on November 7th, 2019 11:55 pm

    I am another who has read you so long that I feel like I know you – and that is why I am so very very proud of you. Sometimes (today!), the responses in the Comments are so beautifully written – it is obvious how much you have touched so many of us.

  36. Mary Clare on November 8th, 2019 6:50 am

    Linda, you frame your story with beautifully told words. I keep coming back to them. Thanks for sharing your struggle with us.

  37. Nine on November 8th, 2019 9:35 am

    Always here for the addiction, anxiety and depression ouroboros you write so well about. So many of us will swallow ourselves whole just trying to live.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwDlcx3HWAU

    RIP CC

  38. Jennifer W. on November 8th, 2019 6:32 pm

    You have described exactly what it feels like to me – those alcohol ads that sometimes make my addiction begin the whispers…it’s been more than 5 years, maybe you can actually have 1 or 2 of those fun cocktails? Or it wasn’t THAT bad!. Maybe you’re NOT an alcoholic?
    It is definitely addict -like thinking! Because, I know if I take a drink I might as well say Cheers to becoming a daily blackout drinker! Cheers to pissing my pants on the regular! Cheers to hideous, mortifying behavior! Cheers to becoming a liar again!
    The reality is I’m an alcoholic and can’t drink without becoming a drunk.
    A few days/weeks/months before I got sober in 2014, I emailed you about being an alcoholic. I knew I needed help but was so scared and ashamed that I reached out in a broken and sick hung over fog. But I was too scared to even read your response. I literally closed my eyes and pretended it wasn’t there.
    That was the first time I had reached out to anyone about having a “drinking problem”. Even that tiny first step was so important to me, and enabled me to eventually get actual help and get sober. A thousand thank you’s aren’t enough for me. You put yourself out there, relatively newly sober and let me begin saving myself. 🙏🏻⭐️💗

  39. Jamie on November 8th, 2019 8:28 pm

    It’s been YEARS since I updated my own blog, said anything on twitter, or managed my own very small and insignificant brand…but a decade or more later, I’m still coming here to read your words out of habit. The URL types itself, part of my routine. I’m thrilled that you continue to fight your demons – a velvet bag of hammers – and I will always be here/there for you.

  40. Kate on November 11th, 2019 3:20 pm

    I, too, have been reading your beautiful words for years and rarely, if ever comment. Please know how many people are touched by your words, and how many feelings you have made me feel over the years. I will keep reading and treasuring your words for as long as you are willing to write them.

  41. D on November 11th, 2019 5:29 pm

    I’ve read you for a long time as well. We even emailed once. I appreciate you, and wish you continued strength. D

  42. Barbara on November 12th, 2019 10:37 am

    We can’t ever say, “I am a warrior!”. We are a warrior in the moment, or we’re not. Addiction is a teacher. As is catastrophic illness. I choose not to battle my teachers, rather respect them and glean what I can, all the while determining to graduate from that class.

    Then, I vow to always remember the lessons. Easier said than done, of course. Still. You are awesome and utterly gorgeous in your transparency here. Thank you forever for sharing your very Being. So, so profound and such a shining light in this world.

  43. Valarie on November 12th, 2019 11:52 am

    Oh Linda. Thank you for being so refreshingly honest. Addiction is a fucking bitch. I am not an alcoholic but my parents were. They both quit drinking about 20 years ago and it saved the relationships they have with me and my sisters.
    Unfortunately, the “addiction gene” – if there s such a thing – has presented itself in me as a food addiction. Food rules my life most hours of most days. I feel pathetic and weak for not being able to “be normal”.
    Reading your posts feels… I don’t even know how to articulate it. Truthfully, our writing touches me in my heart.
    Thank you for taking the time to share with all of us. I appreciate the energy and effort that it must take.

  44. Rachel on November 12th, 2019 5:14 pm

    Wow. I’ve been a friend of Lois W for many years. I started reading your blog in 2010 ish when I felt that horrible chilling loneliness that comes from being a new mom. It’s still lonely with an 8 and 10 y/o — mostly because I don’t love being around people who use drugs and alcohol to dull the reality of parenthood— and so believe it or not it’s hard to find moms to be friends with outside the rooms. And most of us with the non-substance side of this disease get here a LOT later so there just arent a lot of youngish women or moms in the rooms. It’s easy to feel super alone watching all the wino moms enjoy themselves and never connecting with that party crowd at school social groups etc. This is such a fantastic reminder of the suffering that is easy to mistake as fun. I sometimes forget they suffer when I’m standing outside the circle. Thank you for this very moving recollection of how patiently this disease awaits.

  45. Jessie on November 12th, 2019 5:25 pm

    Reddit has a sub r/stopdrinking and it is a truly lovely community of alcoholics – recovering, stumbling, many years sober and at all points in between. It’s an amazing place for support, if you’re ever seeking it. Thank you for all of your honesty and vulnerability. You’re amazing.

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