You Don’t Drink?

The Answer I Never Give to the Question I Always Get


I’ve never had a DUI or been arrested.

I did wake up with my car nose deep in a snow bank and not remember how I got there.

I’ve never lost all my money, family or friends to booze.

I did lie to my best friend, staying out late after my cocktail shift, while she babysat my two-year-old son.

“Hitting bottom” showed its ugly face during the months when my marriage came to a grinding halt, after years of pretending everything was okay. I got drunk, falling-down, dare-me-to-take-one-more-shot, I-don’t-care-who-sees-me drunk. I drank to escape, to excuse myself for having an affair, to allow myself to act irresponsible and irrational.

At one of my sickest points, quite literally. I was ill will a high fever and a brewing kidney infection. My body quit on me and I spent four days in the hospital.

At one of my sickest points, quite literally. I laid ill will a high fever and a kidney infection I didn’t know about. My body quit on me and I spent four days in the hospital.

Many nights during college began with intentions of having fun with friends and ended with “friends” hounding for hook-ups, too drunk to care how or with whom. Drinking wasn’t new to me. I worked and drank and danced at bars for years. Sick with hangovers, I arrived at work many days at my first full-time job out of college wondering how I could hide and take a nap.

Everything changed when my son was born. I quit smoking and drinking, and made being a mommy my full-time job.

My then-husband came home one day, having lost a year’s salary to the casino demons. My resolve hardened to fix our family and finally tackle our massive debt. I returned to work when my son was 16 months old. My resolve to fix everything didn’t yet extend to myself.

I truly count it among life’s miracles I survived hitting bottom without hurting myself or someone else. I am grateful to the friends who watched me struggle and allowed me to work my way out of it.

I didn’t quit drinking for another year and a half. During that time, I forgave myself. I reconnected with my young son. I began to like myself again. I made a new network of friends and found success at a new job and a new home.

I didn’t quit drinking because I didn’t think I had a problem. I knew a lot of people who did have a problem. I never admitted, even to myself, how I still used alcohol to take the edge off a tough day or allow myself to check out.

I didn’t quit drinking until I agreed to take a month off booze with my younger brother. He and I also wanted to support our older brother, who long battled alcoholism and depression.

When I quit drinking, I thought my brothers had a problem and I didn’t.

I quit drinking on January 4, 2012 as a show of solidarity.

In March 2012, my oldest brother David took his own life. My sister and I both say it isn’t that we gave up alcohol as it was taken away from us. I’ve been sober for two years and my resolve to stay sober is stronger than ever. Today, three out of my four living siblings choose sobriety.

Telling my story now, I am inspired by Brene Brown, author or The Gifts of Imperfection. I particularly relate to her views on shame and fear as motivators for us to live superficial and disconnected lives.

“I’ve spent most of my life trying to outrun vulnerability and uncertainty. I wasn’t raised with the skills and emotional practice needed to ‘lean into discomfort,’ so over time, I basically became a take-the-edge-off-aholic” (Brown 71-72).

She explains the real concern comes when and if our habits (candy, wine, shoes, staying busy, over-working, etc.) get in the way of our authenticity. She also describes subtly why traditional 12-step programs didn’t suit her brand of sobriety.

“Understanding my behaviors through a vulnerability lens rather than strictly through an addiction lens changed my entire life. It also strengthened my commitment to sobriety, abstinence, health and spirituality” (Brown 72).

The book describes much of my own growth, even though I hadn’t yet assigned these words—shame, vulnerability, authenticity—to my story.

Each day I remain sober and stick to my personal goals of eating healthy, limiting sugar, unplugging, connecting with friends, and being active I am better able to handle uncomfortable situations. I am able to feel vulnerable and know I will survive. I live a life with very little to hide behind and it makes me more aware of my actions and reactions.

I’m often asked if I want a drink. I easily say no. When they ask why, I struggle with what to say.

My new answer: I’m busy living.

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