I have not updated my blog since the COVID crisis began. While I have been tempted to write about many things circling around in my brain, it is not until I began reading We Are The Luckiest by Laura McKowen that I felt inspired enough to write again. Then, after starting her book and sharing it with my Instagram community, Laura saw my Live and shared it in her story. This led me to delve more into who Laura is and hear more of her story. I wanted to know more about this bold brave goddess who so fearlessly shares her sobriety (and more importantly, what led her here) with the world.
Yesterday I spent time listening to the podcase HOME, hosted by Laura and her pal Holly Whitaker, another bold brave sober goddess whose book Quit Like A Woman I’m planning to read too. Last night I worked on a particularly difficult puzzle (cuz COVID helped me rediscover my childhood love of puzzles) while listening to Laura and Holly interview each other in the first episodes of their raw, emotionally heartfelt podcast. There was a particular question that struck me that they asked one another – “At what point did you realize that you had a drinking problem?” They both shared that they knew pretty early on, and they drank in high school and college.
This was not the case for me. I did not start drinking heavily until my latter years of college. Then I became known in my 20s as Hot Mess Celeste. I started blacking out on a regular basis. I went to work hungover and suffered through days where I hunched over my desk just willing time to speed up so that I could go home and climb back into bed.
It didn’t occur to me that I had a drinking problem; I just thought I was young and having fun. I did experience quite the wake up call when I drove drunk and spun off the exit ramp while leaving the expressway. Somehow, I did not crash my car – I remember distinctly driving in between two trees. It was a miracle that my car didn’t flip and it only suffered a few scratches from tree branches. It was a miracle that I didn’t get a DUI. It was a damn miracle that I made it home that night.
Perhaps this was a wakeup call for me to no longer drink and drive, at least temporarily. But it wasn’t a wakeup call for me to realize I had a drinking problem. Again, I was young. That was my excuse.
Drinking also led me into sexual encounters that I am ashamed to admit. Me drinking myself into confidence where I could speak to any guy or girl I wanted to in the room. This led me to loudly “whispering” (can drunk people even whisper?!) to one particularly cute boy on a group ride home one night what I wanted to do to him. Only problem was, I was too drunk to realize it wasn’t even the right boy. I was the laughingstock of the group, but I played it off like I was just a "funny drunk." What isn’t funny, however, is getting raped, which happened to me while blackout drunk visiting a friend in New York. Even having to get tested for STDs and HIV wasn’t enough to scare me into sobriety.
Then I settled down and became a mom. I took a brief hiatus from drinking while carrying Adam in my belly and nursing him (and Noah, 2.5 years later), although there were a couple of occasions where I “pumped and dumped” after attending a friend’s wedding or enjoying a night out with my husband. After Adam turned one year old and I began drinking again, his seizures began when he was 13 months old. One would think that these seizures would have kept me from drinking so that I could be coherent in case anything happened. Unfortunately that was not the case. I let my husband be the responsible one.
It wasn’t until 2018 that my drinking got heavier again. If Mark and I had plans to go out to dinner or meet up with friends at a club/bar, and we had to cancel because one of our boys was sick, I would throw a fit. I was pissed that I wasn’t going to have an excuse to drink, to feel that delicious buzz of alcohol running through my veins. Wanting so desperately to escape the anxiety and depression riddling my brain much of the time. Just wanting to run away, the only way I knew how – through alcohol. When Mark pointed out that alcohol was only exacerbating my mental health issues, I did what most people in denial do – I got defensive.
My path got darker and darker through 2019. The summer was full of nights out with friends, with me returning home belligerent and sleeping in the guest bedroom. When my eldest son came in one morning and found a puke bucket next to the bed, I was not even embarrassed enough to let that be my “bottom.” I was still in denial. And by this time, I was finally on a medication to help my anxiety and depression. I was mixing meds and alcohol, a big no no. But what did I do – I asked my friends who were also drinking and taking meds, justifying what I did by pointing my finger at them and saying if they could do it, so could I.
By comparing myself to others, I was still denying I had a problem. Yes, I liked to drink - so what?! I loved my Sauvignon Blanc, the tart, crisp taste of glass after glass of wine with dinner. I also knew the bartenders at a particular Ann Arbor restaurant quite well; I am still shocked that they never cut me off. They refused to serve one customer who came in totally obliterated one night, and I remember judging this person, thinking what a mess they were. Thank goodness that wasn’t ME. But the truth is, it had been, many times. Of course I just don’t remember it because you don’t remember the times you are in that state.
Even still, I couldn’t come to grips with the fact that I was using alcohol in an unhealthy way. That I was a horrible role model to my boys. One particular day comes to mind when our whole family was at a pool party, and I downed a bottle of wine and tried so desperately to hide the evidence. By this time though, my husband had me figured out. He wasn’t stupid. Even though I thought I could hide my drinking, he was onto me. I found pictures on his phone of opened bottles of wine in the fridge; he was keeping tabs on me. I thought I was so slick too, hiding wine in my water tumblers and sipping on it during Zoom meetings like it was water.
STILL, this was not enough to deter me. It wasn’t until I literally hit rock bottom that I knew I had a problem. That rock bottom for me came when my husband and boys left for the weekend to go to a Purdue football game, and I made plans with a friend to go out for her birthday. I vowed to not have more than a few drinks, to stay in control. Well, we all know what happened next. I blacked out. I took a cab home and got into a fight with Mark. He was so worried about me. He couldn’t figure out why I was on the couch. Apparently I was too drunk to make it upstairs. When I awoke that next day and couldn’t stop puking until dinner, I suddenly realized I was in deep shit. Then, and only then, I could finally admit I had a problem because I realized that I was NOT in control. I committed to going to AA, then later transitioned to Recovery Dharma, and never looked back. I am now over 13 months sober.
While this is my truth, I know for many others it is not. They had to lose more/experience more to get sober. Or perhaps less. That is the beauty of us as individuals – we are all unique and therefore have unique stories to tell. One of the most important things we can do is not compare ourselves to others. We are NOT other people. We are each our own unique beautiful selves.
Know that wherever you are in your life, it is where you are supposed to be. You are special. You are loved. I am not here to judge you or tell you how to live your life. As the incredible Laura and Holly discuss in their podcast, alcoholism and drug addictions are diseases. They can be very difficult to control. Everyone is so different in the way they handle their recovery. Be kind to yourself. As Buddha says, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Pics by AJ Kahn.