Drinking in my 20’s was so much fun.
At 22, I met my hubby at a small, rickety, hole-in-the-wall bar. It wasn’t a place my friend and I went to find a husband, we even bet who could find the guy with the most teeth (we were in our 20’s and MEAN AF).
I vaguely remember talking to him outside and being so drunk.
On our first date, he insisted on paying even though I had ordered, I don’t know probably five or six mixed drinks. Something I said to him that night sticks in my head to this day. I said, “You don’t have to pay for my alcoholism.” I wasn’t truly serious, but it haunts me sometimes.
Anyways, we got married a year later and the rest of our 20’s was spent finishing college, having a baby, buying a house, we were way too busy to worry about drinking too much. We drank mainly on the weekends, without an ounce of guilt.
At 30, I finally finished college and had another baby. We had moved into an old farmhouse that we rented from his parents. His brother lived in the upstairs apartment. Our first baby, who was now around 5 would love to go up the stairs and eat a second dinner and then hang out with his uncle. It was a special time filled with many parties and drinking escapades. At some point at this house, my drinking went from weekend/sometimes during the week, to every single night. It was a gradual transition, and I didn’t even notice until it was too late. This is the pitcher plant theory in action.
At 35 we had moved into our 3rd house, a cute tri-level on Sunset St. After 5 years of working for charter schools, I finally got into a public school. I remember being so happy to quit Hanley, the administration had started to treat our special ed team poorly because our students didn’t pass the state exam. They were just idiots because only like 30% of ALL students pass, and our students are working below grade level so I would literally expect zero to pass.
So when I found out I was crying tears of joy on my way home. I also vaguely remember a voice piping up in my head that said, You made it. You don’t have to drink every night now. It was profound and the first inkling of knowing that drinking nightly was not normal. I think I abstained for a few hours, but the other voice, the one I now call Besty, overrode the good voice and I was tricked into drinking once again.
At 36, I knew in my heart that my drinking was out of control but didn’t want to admit it. I told myself, and others, that I just liked to drink and didn’t want to stop. I told them that I liked to drink when I’m happy or when I’m sad. I told hubby this one night and remember him saying, “I can see why you want to do it, it’s fun and you’re productive.” At that time I was in a running class and getting up early to run some days. I should mention that he, like many of my other friends, had pretty drastically decreased their alcohol consumption in their 30’s and is considered a normal drinker (normy).
At 37, I suddenly lost my mother. The next 2-3 years would be spent spiraling. It wasn’t until I had health problems, that I knew could be related to my liver, that I knew that I had to stop. I would spend almost a year knowing that I needed to stop but having no idea how. I talked to a general practitioner who gave me some dead ends, and made me feel more hopeless.
At 40, I spent my very first adult birthday sober. I had a party and felt so boring and I mourned my old friend who wasn’t invited (alcohol).
I wish I had done things differently. I can see the big picture now. It doesn’t surprise me that life stress turned me into a daily drinker. I had no idea about self-care and coping skills, none- plus I wasn’t spiritual at all- which I now know is also a crucial part of self-care and dealing with life (not necessarily talking about God here).
So.. beware. Just like the Pitcher Plant, alcoholism will sneak up on you. If the party is long over, and all your friends (or most) have left, it might be time to go.
Pitcher Plant Theory
Allen Carr, an author and addiction expert best known for helping smokers overcome nicotine addiction, uses a perfect analogy for how addiction works: the pitcher plant. This analogy is powerful, both in making sense of addiction in your conscious mind and in reconditioning your unconscious mind.
Have you heard of a pitcher plant? It’s a deadly, meat-eating plant native to India, Madagascar, and Australia. Imagine you are walking by a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, and you smell the doughnuts frying. It’s hard to resist the smell of doughnuts. A pitcher plant is like Krispy Kreme for insects. You are an unsuspecting bumblebee flying through the woods. Suddenly, you fly through blissfully perfumed air. It makes your little bee tummy start to rumble, and you want to get a taste.
You fly closer to the plant; it looks like a delicious treat of fresh nectar. It smells great. To get a taste you must fly inside the rim. You land in the nectar and start to drink. But you don’t notice the gradual slope under your feet. You are caught up in the moment, enjoying the treat. Suddenly, you begin to slide down into the plant without realizing it. You only notice the intoxicating nectar. Then you begin to sense the slight slide; gravity conspiring against you, but you have wings. You are confident you can fly out of the plant at any time. You need just a few more sips. The nectar is good, so why not enjoy it?
You think, as most drinkers do, that you are in control; you can leave the plant at any time. Eventually the slope becomes very steep, and the daylight seems further away as darkness closes in around you. You stop drinking just enough to see dead, floating bodies of other bees and insects around you. Alarmingly, you realize you are not enjoying a drink; you are drinking the juices of other dead and dissolving bees. You are the drink.