I started drinking to be social. I was forty years old, and I wanted to look and feel as young as my twenty-year-old friends. I felt pressure to fit in.
I just needed a bit of help to take the edge off my anxiety. It always started with anxiety. I had been binge drinking on weekends for two years before I was diagnosed with anxiety and mood disorders—specifically panic attacks and depression. What started as a few drinks to relax, always ended in too many.
I used to be a binge drinker.
I drank before parties to socially prepare myself. I was anxious about what to wear, and how to wear it. Nothing ever seemed to fit me properly, and the drinking usually started after feeling awful in outfit attempt number two.
Once I found something to wear, I would carry my bottle of wine to the shower. As the wine disappeared, so did my anxiety. Drinking made going out easier.
I would apply makeup, slip into a sparkly dress, and find a matching wig.
I always felt better playing a character. I always felt better being someone else.
Whenever drinks were offered I accepted. I could never just slowly sip them no matter how hard I tried to pace myself. I drank, blacked out, passed out, and recovered. I never drove drunk or went out with people I didn’t trust.
Every time I got drunk I played Russian roulette with my body and poisoned my brain. I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my husband, or the friends who took responsibility for me. I didn’t fully understand the danger I was in—how my actions could possibly harm my daughter.
I thought I was being smart and taking precaution to be safe. I thought I would pace myself next time. Next time, I would handle myself better and just not drink…as much. And then I would wake up with a hangover asking myself, “What happened?”
I ignored the fact I nearly cracked my head open a few times while passing out. I forgot the time I went out for air and a friend found me passed out on a sidewalk with strangers stepping over me. I discounted the times I almost left friends to be with strangers, all the drunken kisses, and every time I made a complete fool of myself.
It never occurred to me I was doing permanent damage.
The last time I got drunk, I was going to pace myself: one drink, maybe two. The second drink, half vodka, and half cherry cola vodka, was an accident. I was already tipsy and didn’t realize I had mixed straight vodka with vodka. Fully clothed and crying (because alcohol and depression are a lovely mix), I took a seat next to a swimming pool. When I passed out, I fell into the pool and if there hadn’t been people in it, I would have drowned.
The next morning, I woke up in my own bed once again questioning, “What happened?” The answer scared me sober.
I could have died. I could have left my beautiful daughter motherless…because I needed calmer nerves?!?
It has been almost a year since my last drink, and I’ve started to realize the other detrimental effects binge drinking has had on me. Besides all the obvious dangers of getting drunk, binge drinking also has long-term effects on the brain.
I believe the anxiety, depression, and short-term memory problems I experience daily are directly connected to bouts of excessive drinking. I can now also clearly see how my continued use of alcohol as a coping mechanism would have damaged my daughter.
I will always have anxiety and depression, but I am learning better coping strategies to deal with it.
I still think about self-medicating with alcohol. Sometimes just walking into my closet before a party makes me want to pop open a bottle of wine.
But I don’t.
I don’t drink because I know if I do I will end up in the floor of that same closet, crying and contemplating suicide. I don’t drink because my daughter has just reached the age of understanding. She is beautiful and brave, and she needs me.
I am her role model.
I can deal with my issues without relying on alcohol today.
Just watch me.
You can follow her journey on her personal blog Hasty Words.