August 27, 2017

Nineteen years ago this morning I had an epic hangover and was trying to piece together what had happened the night before. Shards of drunken memories filled me with so much shame and guilt that I picked up the phone book.

“This sh*t has got to stop,” I thought. “What if my little girl came home and found the front door wide open and her mother passed out?”

My best efforts to control my drinking – repeated over and over for years – had failed. I wanted these hangovers and mornings of piecing together the night before to stop. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I was done. I found the number for Alcoholics Anonymous and called. I stumbled in to a noon meeting – late – and found a seat at the table furthest from the speaker.

So it began.

I didn’t like going to meetings but I liked the meetings more than the hangovers, so I stayed. I put my little girl on the bus at 7:20 am and rushed to the clubhouse for the last half of the 7 am meeting.

At night I put her in her jammies and grabbed a blanket. She slept on a couch as I sat through the 8 pm meeting. A kind man picked her up from the couch after the meeting and carried my sleeping 7-year-old to my car.

Eventually I came to like the meetings. I made new friends and slowly my self-esteem seeped through the layers of guilt and shame that had smothered me for decades.

Nineteen years later I still wake most mornings racked with guilt and anxiety – the feeling I awakened to every morning after I was drinking. My brain is still programmed to awaken with those feelings. I have to tell myself every morning that I am not a bad person. I did nothing wrong the night before. Feelings aren’t facts.

Still, I feel compelled to do acts of kindness and generosity, hoping that someday I will acquire enough karma to awaken feeling clean and good. Some days it happens. Most mornings are still filled with anxiety from phantom hangovers.

You hear a lot of things at meetings. One that has stuck with me for years is this: Getting sober does not mean your life will get better but your ability to deal with life will.

I have had wonderful things happen to me during the last 19 years. And I have faced very painful tragedies. But I did not pick up a drink or drug. I know in my heart I am a good mother and I am eternally thankful that my drinking did not take that from me. I am clean and sober.

One day at a time.