‘When a friend died by overdose, or suicide, or car accident, we celebrated them with a toast and a drink.’: Woman 2 years sober shares powerful message on drinking culture, ‘I finally see it’

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“I didn’t see it until I saw it.

When I was ten years old, I was in a Miss Pre-teen Cleveland beauty pageant. During the interview process, I was asked by the judges, ‘What is one thing you can’t wait to do when you are an adult’? I answered, ‘I can’t wait until I am old enough to sit in the garage with my parents and drink beer.’ I longed to be a part of their adult conversations and activities. I didn’t see anything wrong with this and neither did the judges because they gave me the crown. They all laughed and I suspect they thought it was adorable. Nobody saw it.

Drinking alcohol wasn’t always a normal occurrence in my life. My grandparents, who raised me for part of my life, didn’t drink at all. But most of the other adults in my life did. Most of my friends’ parents drank, and as we entered our teen years, we were bonded together through our adventures of drinking. We didn’t see it.

family on hike
Courtesy of Debbie Solomon

As I got older, I sought a community of friends who worked hard and played hard. We had promising careers. We raced sailboats, played softball, tennis, bowling leagues, flag football, sand volleyball, volunteered our time to local charities, and at the end of each of these activities we bonded over drinks. I didn’t see it.

For years, I didn’t see any harm in this. I was on a sailboat every Saturday and Sunday morning at 8 a.m. for most of my late teens and 20s. I didn’t miss commitments or show up late to work. No DUI’s or work performance issues. Something I couldn’t see then was the way my life, my activities, my vacations, my goals all revolved around when we were going to have a drink afterward to celebrate or to bond. I didn’t see it.

Into my late 20s and 30s, I started to notice friends who were starting to have serious problems. Friends who started with drinking and moved on to drugs. Friends who committed suicide, friends who died in drunken car accidents, friends whose careers were derailed by a DUI. When a friend died of an overdose, or suicide, or a car accident, we celebrated them with a toast and a drink. I visited friends in jail and drove them to their court-ordered AA meetings. Still, I didn’t see it.

woman at event
Courtesy of Debbie Solomon

I saw movies and TV shows that celebrated drinking. That normalized it. Meme’s about drinking and mommy wine time. Groups of friends where we encouraged each other to have another shot and laughed at each other when someone drank too much. Playdates where we drank champagne and counted down the hours until the little ones went to bed so I could have a glass of wine. Fancy dinners where we ordered the best wine or champagne money could buy, only to feel awful the next morning. Trips to beautiful islands and expensive destinations, where our days and nights revolved around drinking and we pieced together the evening’s events the next morning through hazed memories, and laughter, and a lot of times…..shame. I didn’t see it.

I didn’t really see any of it until a series of things happened in my life. My divorce, a forced job change, a friend who died, another who took his own life, blending of my new family……all of these things forced me to look inward and question my relationship with alcohol. I was questioning where my life was going and what I wanted in life for myself, my family, and my children. I purchased a book from Amazon called This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life. I started the book with a glass of wine in hand! I finished it and haven’t had a drink since and haven’t wanted one.

alcoholism book
Courtesy of Debbie Solomon

I finally see it. I see it all. I see my friends and loved ones struggling. I see the underlying and ignored mental health issues. I see that most of us have them. I see people with the greatest potential being held back by their drinking. I see beautiful children ignored by grumpy parents because they partied too hard the night before. I see how COVID has increased drinking. I see how many people reach out to me and ask, ‘What was the name of that book you read?’

I took the boys to a Monsters Hockey game last week for ‘kids’ night. They put people on the Jumbotron who were chugging their beer. The crowd cheered. Then they zoomed into a man chugging a water bottle and the crowd booed. I saw my 8-year-old look at me and roll his eyes. He sees it! I can see it now too, that our children see us. They see us coming home after a night out, and sleeping in, and our moods when our head is pounding from the night before. They see our parties, and how we become more loose, only to be ignored the next morning because we had too much fun. I see it and they see it too.

cleveland browns game
Courtesy of Debbie Solomon

We don’t get invited to too many parties anymore. Sometimes I have FOMO. Sometimes, I want to shout to my friends, ‘I am still fun!’ I don’t get invited to ‘mommy’s night out’ anymore. And that’s okay, because Mommy’s night IN, means more love for my family. It means 6 a.m. pancakes on a Sunday morning and re-runs of Little House on the Prairie with my boys wrapped in my arms under the blanket. It means more adventures with the kids, and big family dinners, and more emotional availability, and better friendships based on truly getting to know people. It means less drama, fewer ups and downs, and more love. I finally see it.

This journey has been so enlightening, so eye-opening. Two years in and I don’t miss any of it. The blessings have been abundant. We are so blind to things that we think are normal. I realized that I didn’t need to have a DUI, or health problems, or personal issues in order to question my relationship with alcohol and want something different. It’s all about self-discovery, ending the family cycles, and wanting more out of life.”

boys on hike
Courtesy of Debbie Solomon
mother and son
Courtesy of Debbie Solomon

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Debbie Solomon. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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