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’m sorry” time and time again. Those words are now rendered meaningless when they come from my lips.
I hang up the phone, but she’s 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 tell me, “It’s okay mom, I love you” when I don’t deserve her love or her forgiveness?
People often 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 children, 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 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 the 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 so 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, a higher power 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.
I ask for 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 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, sober. With many of those days, I’ve seen growth happen when I look fear in the face and say: “fuck you.” I no longer measure my best self in the number of drinks. I now measure by days and weeks and years instead. Four and a half years of sobriety and the work has only just begun. My spiritual journey doesn’t have an ending, but it has a beginning. I began to grow the day I allowed Molly’s forgiveness to fill me up—and for that, I am forever grateful.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can find local resources on our FIND HELP page. You can also take a free screening thanks to Mental Health America. Hope and help are real. Sobriety is possible.
Thanks. I thought I had hit my bottom, homeless, pennyless, sleeping in my car, stealing vodka every day to stop the shakes. Then I was kidnapped, beaten up, car stolen, fell into a coma, was in the hospital a month, rehab three months. Six months sober now and it’s still killing me. The pain of living is too much for me to handle. I work w my psychiatrist, but, how many pills? Too many riots in my head. I went back to the streets to find Karen who I ran with, I thought if she saw me well she might get well too. I didn’t get to her soon enough. Word got to me she was found dead on the streets, alone, she was just 43. I took it hard. I have a case manager who works with me, she ok. Seems to care. I’m in a sober house. Share a room with Paula, she’s fine, my age, 51, but Paula has kids, something to live for. Thanks for reading this. It’s night now, almost time for slumber, not that it really matters, I don’t have much sense of time. So many people care much more about my life then I do. Night now.
We want to say how glad we are that you are alive and have found support through your case manager and those in your sober house. Please know that we are also here to support you, too. We are so sorry to hear about your friend Karen. It was brave and caring of you to try and help her.
Would you email our team at [email protected] so we can learn more about you and offer you some encouragement? It would be an honor.
Wow, thanks for sharing. Tears are in my eyes as I write. My son Trevor is 26 and an alcoholic. I am so happy for Molly and her mother yet I am so envious. I would do anything to have my son be saved, to feel worthy of living a life without alcohol. I pray every day he will go to treatment and get sober. It is hard to remain hopeful.
We understand how hard to can be to hold on to hope when things are difficult, but know that there is hope — always. We’re so glad your son has a caring and concerned mother in his corner. If you want, you can email the TWLOHA team at [email protected]. We would love to offer you and your son some resources and encouragement.
Thank you for your honest story. Your words describe my life. I am where you were 4 years ago. Beautiful daughter, who has forgiven me too many times to count, but, as a young adult, is at a point that she, rightfully so, is threatening to sever our bond because it is causing an emotional drain on her life that she just cannot take anymore. I have taken the steps to go into a long term sober living facility to not only save myself, but the bond I have shared with my only child. It has only been a week, but taking it day by day. Your words really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing your story.
We are so inspired by your willingness to reach out for help as you start your journey of healing. Please know that our team is rooting for you. You deserve recovery, you deserve love and hope. Keep going. Day by day.