Measuring My Best Self in Number of Drinks

by Suzanne Hayes July 19, 2019

Person holding drinks bottle

I hang up the phone, still in a fog from my recent binge. My apology has to mean something, right? It feels sincere and loving, just as it did the last 30 times. “Molly, I am sick again. I am so sorry; I promise I am going to get better this time.” I mean it, too. I truly want to get better – better enough, anyway. But I have abused the words “I am sorry” time and time again. Those three words are now meaningless when they come from my lips. I hang up the phone, but she is all I can think about. Molly. How can I love her so much and be such a constant source of disappointment? God, I want a drink. I don’t want to hear her name in my thoughts, or to catch a glimpse of her beautiful face in my mind. It hurts too much. She is so perfect, and there is not one thing I have done right as her mother. How can she still utter the words “It’s okay mom, I love you?” I don’t deserve her love or her forgiveness. People ask “Do you want to stop drinking? What were you thinking when you picked up the first drink? Don’t you think about the kids before you take the first drink?”

These questions reverberate harshly as I lay in the hospital bed, hating myself, missing my kids, feeling complete and total despair. I should want to stop drinking. But I don’t. I love myself when I am intoxicated, and I hate the feeling of my own skin when I’m not. What I want is to feel exactly how I feel when I have four drinks in me. I love myself four drinks in. Four shots of vodka and I am a great mom. Four drinks in and I’m funny and likable. The anxiety disappears. My mind quiets. No chatter, no fear, no people pleasing. Just unapologetically me. Why can’t I stop at four, sober up, and then drink four more? I must perfect my drinking. Drink four, stop, wait an hour or two, repeat. So, no, I don’t think of Molly before I take the first drink. The pain of being sober takes over. I need that alcohol as quickly as possible merely to feel comfortable breathing and thinking. My mind tells me I will have four drinks and stop. It lies.

During the desperate depression that accompanies the detox process, my body and mind crave the thing that put me in this hospital bed in the first place, as my heart longs to be understood and accepted. Something about this time is different, though. It is as if growth is percolating. This time, I am more concerned with Molly than I am with my next drink. One more broken promise and I will lose my little girl forever. This isn’t a thought as much as a feeling. I have no more chances. Maybe I heard it in her voice on the phone. Maybe I am drawing conclusions based on the stories I have heard from alcoholic mothers along the way. Or maybe, just maybe, God is at work in this hospital room right now. I am not ready to stop drinking. I would rather lose an arm or a leg than my bottle.

But something feels different. It is as if something else is guiding me. I am defeated. I am tired. I am broken. I don’t want to live, but I don’t want to die. So I ask God to give me the strength to give it one more try. Fighting to stay alive and learning to live sober are risks that frighten the hell out of me, requiring me to journey toward the unknown, to face my fear, and to somehow trust that what feels impossible is, indeed, possible. I must trust that God will restore my sanity and offer me a life worth living. I must stay in that detox bed and say yes to rehab. So, I do. I stay, and I say yes, and I allow thoughts of Molly to fill my heart and kill the fearfulness. I walk through the painful guilt and shame, I grieve the loss of my best friend, and I vow to not drink just for today. With each of those todays, I have grown a little more – more courageous, spiritual, strong, and sober. With many of those days, I realized that for me, growth happened when I looked fear in the face and said fuck you. I no longer measure my best self in number of drinks. I now measure days and weeks and years instead. Four years of sobriety and the work has only just begun. My spiritual journey doesn’t have an ending, but it had a beginning. I began to grow the day I allowed Molly’s forgiveness to fill me up, and for that I am forever grateful.

Suzanne Hayes


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