Growing up in an alcoholic home I had a strange sense of what was normal. I thought all grown-ups had drinks in the middle of the day, in the evening and at bed time. One really did have three martini lunches. I thought all 5 year olds drank from their parents’ champagne glasses on holidays. When I was out of college and looking for work, I drank at lunchtime because that’s what grownups do. I did it in graduate school too, even if I had afternoon classes. Every Sunday a group of my parents’ friends gathered at our house for after church drinks. All very normal, right?
The one place I did notice that things were not normal was in the things I was not allowed to do which others my age could do. I think primarily because many of them involved my being driven somewhere or inconveniencing may parents in some way. Additionally they were so out of touch that I was always sent to school in jeans or overalls—everyone else wore dresses. I was sent to the pool in swim trunks because at 8 or 9 I didn’t have noticeable breasts.
I did not know that what I was experiencing had a name---shame. I not only made mistakes, I was a mistake, an inconvenience, who fit in nowhere.
I truly think that I drank against the shame, drank to not be shy, drank to finally fit in. Unfortunately I over shot. I drank more than anyone else and it became a source for more shame. I managed to get tranquilizers but was careful to not mix them with booze. I always waited 30 minutes between stopping my drinks for the day before I took a tranq. or a sleeping pill. At some point I realized that might not be normal.
I drank because I couldn’t not drink. Sometimes I stopped after 2 or 3 but once I put the first one in my mouth I could no longer predict how much I would consume. I swore off alcohol many nights as I fought the “twirlies” in bed and had to keep one foot on the floor. The next day it was “well, I won’t drink anything tomorrow”.
A side benefit of getting sober was that I could buy a high four poster bed because I no longer had to be able to get my foot on the floor to keep the room from spinning. But the greatest benefit was that at age 40 I found a program that not only got me off booze, it gave me a road map that got me to the goal I had always chased. My skin fit. I was comfortable in my own skin and didn’t grimace when I looked in the mirror.
I still make mistakes, we all do, but today I know I am NOT a mistake. The shame is gone, and I belong somewhere. Not just in AA but in the wider community. I have been given the opportunity to be of service to God and my fellow man. As they say, if I’d said 30 years ago where I wanted to be at age 70 I would have short changed myself. As a friend who died 52 years sober always said, “I don’t drink, and I’m not mad about it”. I’m thrilled about it! Sober is the new normal. Thanks be to God.