I’m Misty and I’m an alcoholic. My sobriety date is April 2, 2018. I am an only child; the product of a career Marine and stay at home mother. In my home I knew stability, love, and security. My hometown in Alabama was small, but not so small I felt stifled. My upbringing was like Baby Bear's porridge-just right.
From an early age I remember the craving within me to garner the attention of others. I wanted the spotlight. I wanted praise and recognition. I wanted to be the best. When something became too difficult and I couldn't be the best at it, I channeled my passion for attention in a different direction. For short periods of time my talents and abilities would get me the attention I so desperately craved, but inevitably, someone else would come along who could do whatever I was doing better than me, and I would lose my place in the spotlight. This proved very frustrating for me, and as I entered my teen years I found myself lacking the qualities needed to stay in the center of everyone's attention, especially the attention of boys. I was extremely petite and completely unsure of myself. I constantly prayed that God would give me big boobs and a few inches of height so I could get a boyfriend and finally be happy. (At age thirty-nine I'd like to report God provided neither height nor boob for me, yet I somehow found happiness-more on that later.)
My thirst for attention and spiral into self-absorption followed me into early adulthood. I had never drank alcohol or done drugs in high school, but after graduation, at the age of 18, I drank vodka on a whim and without much forethought. From the first encounter I fell in love. Alcohol erased my inhibitions along with any common sense I had at the time. To hell with boobs and being 5'9! I might not have been the prettiest or wittiest girl in the room, but with alcohol I could be the loudest and most audacious, and for a time that filled the attention needing void within me.
My early twenties were a series of smoke-filled bars, sleeping in cars, and battle scars. I continued drinking socially, never alone or even with meals, until I moved to Las Vegas at age twenty-one. You could picture that move like someone running into a burning building with ten gallon jugs of gasoline strapped to their body. I spent the next three years drinking, drugging, waking up in strange places, and putting off that whole "growing up" and "being an adult" thing. I married another alcoholic, and together we built a terrifying nightmare of codependency, substance abuse, and soul wreckage. At age twenty-four I moved back home with my parents and entered an outpatient rehabilitation facility for opiate addicts. Though my plan was to return to Las Vegas, and my then husband, I never did. That life and that husband became pieces of a budding collection of collateral damage I have amassed in my thirty-nine years on the planet.
It was while I was living with my parents and attempting to rebuild my life from the basement up that I met my current husband. He was (and remains) amazing. He was (and maybe still is), crazy, because he agreed to take this train wrecked immature girl on a date, and from there, as they say, it was history. I finished rehab, we moved to North Carolina, and married. I'm positive had our wedding vows read a little differently (I promise to love her even when she's constantly drunk, hiding alcohol, putting our children at risk, and having a love affair with booze) he might've backed out.
My husband knew I was an addict, and I was drinking when we married, but I don't think either of us understood I was an alcoholic. Somehow, I'd managed to convince him, and myself, that my addiction issues were situational. I'd never had ended up in the mess I was in had I not moved to Las Vegas. It was all Vegas. I could live a normal life and drink like other people now that I wasn't living in Sin City.
The passing of years proved that idea false. Over the next decade I gave my life over to alcohol. If I had a problem, I drank. If I had reason to celebrate, I drank. If it was a day that ended in "y," I drank. Most of the time I drank at home. But there were times when I drank publicly, and those occasions almost never ended well. There was that New Year's Eve I mouthed off to some guy in a cab line outside a bar, nearly forcing my husband into a physical altercation. There was that time I left my aunt's house in Maryland, in shorts and no shoes in January, determined to walk home (to North Carolina). There was the wedding where I got drunk and gave alcohol to my underage cousin. All these events usually led to bitter arguments, ultimatums, and countless promises that I would stop drinking for good.
Despite the chaos, I managed to hold down a job as a legal assistant while my husband pursued his dream of becoming an airline pilot. God also allowed me enough short term sobriety to have children. We had two girls in the span of three years. Upon having children I was thrust into completely unfamiliar territory. Nothing was about ME anymore, though God knows I tried to make it that way. I had no clear and concise instruction on how to do this whole parenting thing, and I was continually plagued with the fear that I wasn’t doing it satisfactorily. After both girls were born, I stopped working. I no longer had my job to make me feel connected to the outside world or to make me feel valued and necessary. My days were spent planning how I would manage a shower and get to the store to buy milk. I felt disgusting, overwhelmed, under-appreciated, and miserable. Motherhood was not about the mom and I didn’t like that. So I drank even more. I spent the first few years of my children’s lives blacking out every night and raising them hungover during the day.
It was shortly after my first daughter was born that I was introduced to "Wine Mom" culture. Wine Moms, according to Instagram, are moms who are winning at momming because no matter what their day holds, they’ve got wine on their side. Wine mom credo states that parenting is hard; so hard, that alcohol is 100% required to maintain one’s sanity while raising children. With the discovery of wine momming, I had found my new societal niche. I was already a wine mom, I just didn’t know it was “a thing.”
Now let me be clear, I know not all mothers who drink alcohol are alcoholics. I also understand that Wine Mom memes and t-shirts didn’t make me an alcoholic. But what Wine Mom culture DID do for me was give me a socially acceptable label for my bad behavior. It gave my drinking a sense of normalcy.
As normal as I was trying to seem, there’s no clever meme for mommy passing out on the couch every night. There’s no funny bumper sticker about drinking boxed wines in your car, or buying booze with money from your child’s piggy bank because your husband would be suspicious of a charge on the debit card. You’d be hard pressed to find a couple of kids’ t-shirts that say “my mom’s a closet drunk,” but that’s exactly what I was. I was throwing birthday parties by day and pity parties by night. I built a virtual shrine to my martyrdom every night as I drank bottle after bottle of cheap wine.
When my youngest daughter was born, my husband was working for a commercial airline. He was gone four days out of seven on trips. This meant that four days out of every week, I could drink like I wanted without being policed. It meant I didn’t have to pour water into an empty wine bottle to give the appearance I’d had less than I actually had. I began to look forward to him being gone and resentful of him when he was home. My drinking, he said, was putting the children at risk. I’d roll my eyes and explain to him that mommy needed her mommy juice. Momming was, after all, “SO hard.”
I continued drinking and my mom and husband started pressing me more to get help. Solely for the purpose of getting them off my back, I’d go to some meetings, talk with people they knew who were recovered drunks, or string together a couple of weeks of sobriety. But there was never any change or actual recovery in those events, nor was there even a shred of a desire within me to stop drinking.
At Christmas in 2015 my husband, children and I were visiting my parents for the holiday. Three days before Christmas my father committed suicide. It was a time of horror and devastation, but in the aftermath that followed I found my greatest excuse to drink like I wanted. Truly, the tragedy of my father’s death became the cornerstone upon which I built the pinnacle of my drinking career. I drank myself into oblivion nightly and no one could say a word to me because of what I must be going through emotionally. Inside, however, I wasn’t processing ANY emotions except anger and relief. Anger at my father, and relief that I didn’t have to deal with anyone attempting to regulate my drinking any longer.
The funny thing about tragedy is that after a very short period of time, everyone expects you to be better. They may ask how you are doing, but they really only want to hear you say that you’re good. The phone stops ringing, the visitors stop visiting. Life goes back to normal, and that’s the way it has to be. And so, with time, I found myself once again in the hot seat with my drinking. Somewhere around six months after my father’s death, my hall pass expired and my husband gave me an ultimatum. This is when I entered recovery the first time.
I was somewhat committed to sobriety at this point. I knew the way I was living wasn’t sustainable and I knew I drank more than the average wine mom. But in the back of my brain was still the belief that someday, somehow, I would regain control of my drinking. I held on to this fallacious sentiment for better or worse. It wasn’t an issue, I thought. I knew better. I knew I was an alcoholic and could never drink again. It was okay if there was a part of me that still believed one day I could. After a year in recovery, I quit the program I was in. Three months later I was drunk once again.
It’s amazing how long it takes to build a life and reputation compared to the short amount of time it takes to tear it all down. My relapse, (if you can call it a relapse after such a short period of sober time), dismantled every foundational belief construct I had. I felt literally soulless. I made decisions that ravaged my home and reputation like wildfire, and the most shocking part was that I made these decisions before ever taking the first drink. I did these things sober. Then, I drank. This single facet of my story is so important for me. It is proof positive that my problem is not alcohol, it’s me. I am my problem. At my best, I am a sick and depraved human. Every inclination of my heart is evil when I am attempting to control my life. Nothing, absolutely nothing, I do in my own power can save me from my own sickness or from alcohol. No amount of will-power will ever be enough to keep me sober.
On April 1, 2018 I drank alcohol for the last time. I had lied, cheated, stolen, and broken hearts. I had put my marriage, and my husband in an emotional meat grinder. I had become a stench to those that loved me most, and I hated myself and everyone else. I imagined myself utterly beyond hope. I was walking on all fours in life. That’s how I entered recovery the second time; more humbled, and more willing.
That was eleven short months ago. My life is nothing like it was ever before, either in feigned sobriety or active alcoholism. I am joyful. I am free from the bondage of alcohol. I am no longer a wine mom. I’ve sold all my shares of stock in Yellowtail. I look forward to waking up each day and seeing my husband and children, who, by the grace of God, are still with me. In recovery I have developed friendships that I cherish. I have learned that both my alcoholism and my sobriety are gifts. Being alcoholic has forced me to my knees before God. It has given me the ability to relate to and help others who struggle. It has set me on a path of emotional and spiritual growth that I would likely never have found. My sobriety is a gift metered out to me twenty-four hours at a time by God in his grace alone. My job is to be obedient and humbly reliant on him every second of every day, and to cherish and protect my sobriety.
I am still very early in recovery. I still struggle with the desire for attention and my default setting is self-centeredness, but I have a solution that doesn't involve alcohol. In many ways I didn’t choose the #nonwinemom life, the #nonwinemom life chose me. And I’m so grateful.