I am six years old. My dad and mom are fighting. This time over a field trip that I missed because my parents slept in too late. The screaming starts. I go into the kitchen to see what the commotion is about. I hear my dad yell at my mom and then push her into the glass door. That is my first memory of my parents.
I am 12 years old. It’s late and my parents are drinking again, like every other night this week. My sister and I are lying in our bunk beds, trying to go to sleep for school the next day, when the fighting starts again. This time, I blame myself. “I should be doing more to protect my sister.” “They always fight … maybe it’s me?” My sister and I sneak into the kitchen to pour some of their alcohol down the drain so they wouldn’t get so drunk.
“If they stop drinking this instant, I will never drink in my life, I promise.”
I am 14 years old. It is my birthday and I decide to make my own cake. My mom lets me bake it, and it’s always a treat to be able to bake. Except this time, it isn’t a treat. That night my parents end up getting their usual, a fifth of Crown Royal. They bought it to celebrate me because that makes sense, right? That night, I end up sitting in the kitchen alone, singing “Happy Birthday” to myself as my parents party by themselves in the living room.
I am 16 and offered my first drink. I imagine all the nights I stayed up crying in bed about my parents’ drinking. I imagine my sister’s big brown eyes looking up at me in disappointment if I were to accept the invitation. With ease, I decline the drink and don’t even second-guess myself. I won’t start drinking until nineteen.
I am 20 years old. My parents have filed for divorce. Shockingly, it is a messy one. “Messy” being the nicest possible word I could use to describe it. My dad is going on huge benders at this point and calling my mom hundreds, yes hundreds, of times and threatening her life. He bought a gun. The court system does nothing for her and I am genuinely concerned for my mother’s life. I am currently pregnant with my first child, which happens to be an extremely high-risk pregnancy. Instead of worrying about that, though, I am fully invested in my parents’ divorce and trying to protect my mom.
I am 21 years old and a new mother. My son spent ten weeks in the NICU and is now home and safe. I embrace the “mommy wine” stereotype and have my weekly wine. Weekly wine turns into a couple of times a week, but that’s all. I couldn’t possibly have a problem because I am paying attention closely to make sure I don’t fall into the habits of my parents. I know the warning signs. I am solid. Right?
I am 26 years old with red and blue cop lights flashing behind me. You’ve really done it this time, Lacey, I think to myself as the officer asks me to perform sobriety tests. I spend the night in jail. Everybody I know has an OWI/DUI, so it’s really no big deal. A night in the slammer always makes a good story, right? I don’t have a problem because I am aware. I know what I am doing. Only, a week later I get into an “accident” while blackout drunk and told the paramedics I wanted to die. For the record, I did want to.
I am 28 and am now court ordered to attend two AA meetings a week. I don’t care about these meetings, or life in general, and go to get my paper signed … that’s it. I assume all the old guys who claimed thirty years of sobriety are full of shit. There is no way someone can abstain from alcohol for thirty years.
I am drinking a half a fifth of rum every day. I am depressed beyond belief with severe anxiety. Yet alcohol seems to make me feel happy, so that’s what I go back to, repeatedly. I don’t have a problem because I can quit when I want to — I just choose not to. Everybody else concerned about my drinking is being overdramatic. The fact that I had two DUIs and two stints in the mental hospital, all after drinking a lot, isn’t a sign of a problem. It was just the luck of the draw.
I keep attending meetings.
Nine months into attending meetings twice a week, something clicks. I want what they have. I want happiness. Stability. Fellowship. Calm. I realize I have become exactly what my parents were, even down to the fighting with my sweet husband. My life is in shambles, and I am the biggest denier of them all.
Every day I wake up in a panic after a night of drinking. What did I do the night before? Who did I text? What did I post on social media? Delete. Delete. Delete. The migraines kick in every morning, which causes me to spend most of my mornings and afternoons nursing a gnarly hangover and cuddled up to the toilet. I can’t look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted. Something has to change.
On November 14th, 2020, I say “enough.” I want to escape alcohol like a girl wants to escape a bad boyfriend. I love alcohol, but it no longer serves me and my life. I jump into “Quit-Lit” and submerge myself into the sober universe. I make a “sober” Instagram separate from my personal account and follow hundreds of sober people. Any and everybody. I start taking AA seriously and start going four times a week. I discover new hobbies, go for long walks with my dog, and baby myself. I nurse myself to sobriety and strength. On the days the cravings are bad, I go for a run or take a nap.
I am still 28. I wake up before the sun, almost six months sober, to make coffee and care for my kids. I kiss my husband as he goes off to work. I breathe in my morning cup of joe and take a look around. Calm.
Life is good … finally.