In high school, I always had at least one large bottle of TJ Swann in the back of my closet. I don’t think my mother, and surely not my father, ever knew about my stash. However, they did know that I was the one who refilled the vodka bottle with water; and a quick sniff of the air I was exhaling was proof positive that I’d sampled more than a little bit of the home-made wine in the fridge. At 16, troubled with nightmares of foster care, the lack of a secure emotional foundation since I was adopted at seven, feeling rejected by my birth mother, my adopted family, kids at school, and nowhere to turn for support, I felt like life had knocked me down. So, alcohol became the crutch I figured my life needed.
I held onto that belief throughout the rest of my teens and into my 20’s when I attempted college, married the first person who asked me, and had my first child, believing my husband’s words that he was only playing when he held that pillow over my face … and pressed down.
I didn’t understand about life back then. I accepted life knocking me down. I believed my mother when she told me, “you made your bed; now lie in it.” I thought I was supposed to go through all the hard times that life was throwing at me. So when I got knocked down, I stayed there – and made sure that I always had some wine (I think I’d moved onto Riunite by then) to make my stay down there bearable.
The thing was, I only thought it was bearable. Alcohol has a way of numbing the pain, making you think that you’ve got it all together, without fixing anything. I was fortunate, I never became a falling-down drunk, nor did I ever get to the point where I needed Alcoholic’s Anonymous even after drinking nearly a gallon of my wine of choice, getting in my car and s-l-o-w-l-y navigating my way across town to pick up my children from daycare. Perhaps had I actually stumbled into the daycare to get my kids, I would’ve been forced to make a new plan for my life right then and there.
As it was, I didn’t start accepting my need to address how life was affecting me until after my daughters were grown, and I was in my early 40’s. Fortunately along the way, I’d learned that there were other things that, unlike alcohol, actually made me feel life: self-help books like “In the Spirit,” written by Essence’s Susan Taylor, and “Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color,” written by Iyanla Vanzant. I’d also kept up my need to keep active with exercise, and to keep my fingers busy with writing, and the crocheting my Aunt Vivian had taught me when I was a teen. Without realizing it, over the years I had been forging a plan for a more productive life not suppressed by an alcoholic fog.
Now, I may stumble but as with cow-tipping, life’s ability to knock me completely over is virtually an impossibility. Just in case though, I have a plan. I keep a laundry list of resources that will not only strengthen me while I’m down, but will ensure that I get back up.