“2021 was a year of growth for me personally. I had just been existing with grief, and not living my life in a way I could be proud of. Drinking, for me personally, became a crutch I heavily relied on not to feel what I was going through. It’s easy not to admit you have a problem until it’s a problem. I drink well with others, so I had to step away so I could live well with myself. I hit my breaking point in August. I suffered two huge losses that month and felt like I was at a fork in the road—I could either continue to drink my emotions away, or I could stop drowning myself in alcohol as a way not to have to feel things I didn’t want to deal with.
Alcoholism is something people don’t talk about, especially women. It’s embarrassing, yet also widely accepted and celebrated. It’s a joke of sorts. Stressed out mom? Wine. Tired? Wine. Hurt? Beer and wine. Husband died? Drink whatever is available. Repeat on a loop. That’s the cycle of hell I was in. I was tired of being the butt of the joke. One of my closest friends asked me how long I was going to let myself be the ‘good time girl’? It hurt at the time, but I see now that’s who I was. I no longer wanted to be viewed as someone who had to drink daily to be fun.
So I stepped away from it. I stopped buying it. Leftover bottles collected dust or ended up down the drain. I can’t remember the last time I went through a whole football season without drinking heavily on game days, but this year I did, and I enjoyed life so much more. I dug deep into sessions with my therapist and questioned everything about how I had been living and parenting Q. I spent hours on my knees in the groom’s room at church praying, taking it minute by minute, second by second. I read my Bible. I cried a lot because I finally had to feel things for what they were.
I accepted responsibility for the mistakes that I had made. I didn’t want her to grow up having every memory of every occasion with me tipsy with a drink in my hand. I am to the point now where I can have a drink or two and I’m done. I no longer drink myself to sleep. I no longer run for the wine when life feels like it’s too much. I can drink on special occasions without going overboard, but the need to drink until I feel nothing is no longer there. Feeling grief without alcohol was the hardest thing I’ve had to do since Matt died. As my therapist says, I couldn’t sidestep grief. I had to walk through it.
This meant shutting out the world. I went to work. Church. Home. That’s about it. I removed myself from people and social situations that could’ve made me stumble and places that drinking myself into a hole of hell would’ve just been too easy. It made me a crappy friend, but it made me a great mother. My relationship with Q grew, my home life got so much better, I no longer felt the need to escape from my feelings every night. Sure, it was lonely. There were plenty of times when I wanted nothing more than to fall back into old patterns the minute anything hard happened. But I pushed through.
A lot of people didn’t understand my withdrawal, but I’ve spent years of my life taking care of other people and their feelings and for once, I had to be selfish. I knew I was on the right track when my child no longer yelled, ‘Mama, don’t forget wine’ in the aisles of the grocery store. I used to think that was funny. Now I am so embarrassed she ever thought that way. My relationship with God grew when I placed all my doubts and fears in His hands. I no longer have to look over my shoulder in restaurants or do the ‘baptist slide’ with my drink when I’m out so no one will see because I no longer carry the shame of being the drunk widow. I’m proud of that.
Now, I can have a few drinks. I have a limit. I don’t go overboard. I don’t drink alone at home. I don’t skip dinner for drinks just to ‘unfeel’ faster. I cook meals for my child. We do fun things together. I get emails from her teachers telling me how much she is thriving. This is no longer in spite of my behavior, this is because of it. Not spending money on alcohol allowed us to do amazing things this year. Every week that we went to a game, I would think to myself, ‘We can do this because I no longer do that,’ and it encouraged me to keep going. We made memories that will last a lifetime.
I don’t cater to relationships with people who drink constantly because that’s not what I want for my life or hers. Every social event is no longer surrounded by alcohol. I lost friends. I gained friends. But most of all, I gained my dignity and self-respect back. No one else has to understand it. It wasn’t personal, but it was a personal choice I made to make sure I could really live life and not spend it in a bota box fog. It took me a while to get it, but if you’re a drunk, guess who you attract into your life? Drunks. It took a very toxic relationship and a walk through hell with an alcoholic to realize that’s not who I want to attract anymore. It’s hard to care for someone who has a problem and to want the best for them when they don’t want the best for themselves. Sometimes walking away is the only answer. I can’t carry the burden of someone else’s grief while walking through my own. It’s too heavy.
It’s very important to remember that what you see on social media is just a snippet of the happy. You don’t see the pain, struggle, or darkness. You see the highlight reels. People suffer in private every day.
2021 brought me a lot of darkness, but since choosing myself and my child above everything else, there is so much light. As we kiss the other side of this year, I am going in with a crystal clear head and no regrets for any decision I have made since August because I’ve made them with lots of prayer and petition and obedience to God. Because of that, I’m a better mother, teacher, friend, and Christian. I don’t carry the shame or the guilt anymore. I found myself and I found peace. And I protect my peace at all times now.
If you’re struggling, lay it down at the foot of the cross and watch what happens in your life. So when people say, ‘Yeah, she’s changed.’ Yep. I have. I have overcome things that could’ve crushed me. The people who understand that and are still around are the people who tell me every day how proud they are, and that means a lot. But mostly, I’m just proud of myself and the life we have built for ourselves, and that’s all that really matters. Grief is a hard road to navigate when you have a small child. With all the mistakes I’ve made since Matt died, I finally feel free. Freedom from the things that hold you down is a powerful and humbling feeling. Here’s to 2022. Our saying for the year is no longer one of just surviving. It’s derived from a Welsh saying that means ‘Go slowly and go far’ so that’s the plan.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cyndi Smith of Moody, Alabama. You can follow her journey on her website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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