1 YEAR SOBER: The Story of an Alcoholic
My Ex and I Were Alcoholics, Now I'm a Proud Single Mom
My husband left me on Mother's Day.
I watched his pick-up pull away. Our brass bed was in pieces, jostling in the flat of the truck for all to see, and it vanished down the street where we lived.
I hadjustgotten sober before he left. Our daughter was five, an innocent bystander to our family's undoing. I thought my getting sober might help solve our marital woes and the troubles we'd been experiencing over the last few years – like our alcoholic parents before us – but it only made things worse. I soon found out there's nothing more harmful to a marriage heldtogetherby alcohol than when only one of the spouses stops drinking.
The reality is that I was only attracted to people who drank—people like my parents—but I had known for 12 years that I needed to stop, and my sober transformation meant I'd be going through a lot.
Back to that horrible day when my ex-husband left: I was slumped in the corner of our bedroom closet, sobbing, a puddle of hot tears pooling around me. I was my three-year-old self again, the child whose mother was sent away for 18 months to recover from tuberculosis. The grief I felt after hearing his announcement, that he was leaving me, was the same: A pyre of pain I had doused for years with drugs and booze. Here I was, stone-cold sober, with nowhere to go but to feel it.
I cried constantly, crawling through the days and tossing through nights, unable to end the grief and fear that haunted me. My young daughter helplessly watched me pour out my pain, which seemed to spill over with the slightest bump. I even cut off my hair to an inch of my scalp in a moment of rage. Hearing an old song or or seeing the lift of a stranger's eyebrow could send me into torrents. I remember apologizing to my daughter one day for crying so much, and having her wise, 5-year-old self comfort me by saying, "It's okay, Mommy. Tears help wash away the sadness."
I remember apologizing to my daughter for crying so much, and [she said], 'It's okay, Mommy. Tears help wash away the sadness."'
At this point, we had recently relocated to a new town, and I was fairly alone.
I signed up to see a therapist, and while I poured my heart out to her, my daughter sat in the waiting room, stuffed animals by her side, sitting quietly as I unleashed my deluge of grief. The therapist suggested I journal, which I did, writing all about my broken marriage.
The journaling seemed to help, though rage often surfaced like a pressure cooker ready to explode, a rage that today is still hard to define. I'd lock myself in my bedroom and scrawl down the feelings I'd stuffed away for years, my hand aching from the pressure of the words. My daughter would stand on the other side of the door, banging on it and begging me to let her in.
I knew if I did, I'd take my anger out on her.
Running was the best way to release the steam, though the guilt I felt for leaving my daughter alone in the house produced more angst, trailing me down the street as I ran.
One day, just as I was ready to take off, and my daughter, who was playing dress-up with my old clothes, asked me not to go. She chased me down the street, clip-clopping in three inch purple heels, tears running down her cheeks. She was sobbing, Mommy, come back.But the anger pushed me forward, yearning to ignore her pleas. My heart soon split open from the sound of her pain.
I stopped, held out my arms, and picked her up—the purple heels dangling from the ends of her feet. I carried her home, the two of us crying, still spilling with grief, a faucet that flows when it damn well pleases.
I dragged my daughter to 12-step meetings, sometimes twice a day. I can still picture her falling asleep in her yellow sleeping bag as I laid out my decades of shame at the tables nearby. I never felt more at home than I did in those dingy rooms, brimming with sober people like me.
I never felt more at home than I did in those dingy rooms, brimming with sober people like me.
At one of these meetings, I befriended two wonderful women who became like family, inviting my daughters and me to holiday dinners in homes where laughter took place. With support like that in our lives, I knew I had to stay sober for the sake of my daughter.
I signed up for a graduate course, then another, and before long, I was accumulating credits for a graduate degree. It was during that time that I became a writer, creating picture books to heal that young part of me that still grieved the loss of her mother, way back when.
Before long, the incessant crying slowed down, as all these things were helping me to heal. Four years after getting sober and separated, I earned my Master's degree and my career blossomed.
Somehow, in time, we learn to cope and heal, one blessed moment at a time.
A fistful of chocolate always helps, too.
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