Let me preface this by saying that I’m not an alcoholic. I’m not even a heavy drinker. I enjoy a glass of wine here and there at dinner or out with friends, but, in reality, I loathe losing control of myself and my emotions.
In fact, I can distinctly remember the handful of times I’ve drunk myself blotto, and let me assure you, you really only do need one hand to count the occasions.
That’s why it caught me so off guard this year, when, often after a stressful sleepless night or an intense morning drop off commute, I walked into Starbucks ardently wishing that they sold Irish coffee.
I laughed it off each time, indulged in a latte or a pastry instead of my usual drip coffee and banana and found my peaceful center through a chat with a friend – either virtual or real.
And so, one day at a time, I navigated my way through the year’s challenges without turning to any substance stronger than coffee or candy to see me through. I didn’t stop every day and think “another day, yay.” I just did it, and until I read Amy Hatvany’s book Best Kept Secret over Christmas break I thought nothing of it.
The story unfolded in front of me – sad tale of a newly single mom who finds herself drinking more and more until the drinking is out of control – and I couldn’t stop reading. One line played itself over and over again in my head. “Plenty of mothers use alcohol to manger stress. You just happened to get caught.”
It could so easily have happened to me. It would have been so easy to break open a bottle of wine at the close of every stressful day. To have a glass at lunch to fortify me for the afternoon. I never did though. I never really even wanted to. The need to rise to the occasion again and again was stronger than the occasional urge to find some sort of escape.
Was it because I’ve seen it before? Was it because I’m aware of the risks? Was it because deep down I know I might have an addictive personality?
I don’t have the answer. I don’t really know why I didn’t start drinking heavily this year. All I know is that I never did and I’m grateful for it.
I read the book and gained a better understanding of the struggle that many face with alcoholism. In hind-sight I now know, or at least suspect, that a friend who estranged herself from me was probably heading down the same path the protagonist took, if she wasn’t already there. Did she drift from me because she didn’t know how to talk to me about her problems? Or was it because she saw the look on my face when she told me about a bad night she suffered through? Odds are high that I’ll never know.
I wish I’d know more back then. I don’t know that I would have been able to help her, but at the very least I could have been more understanding. Maybe a little less judgmental.
When I finished the book I let the story rest inside me. It was heavy, full of sadness, and yet uplifting in an odd way. The protagonist’s strength was admirable and despite the sad ending, that’s what I took away. Like so many mental illnesses, alcoholism is an object of shame, stigmatized by society, punished by the family courts. With the right support, the right education, the right resources maybe parents wouldn’t lose their children, maybe spouses wouldn’t feel the need to leave, maybe friends would be able to help.
As I often do I turned to Facebook to share my thoughts with my friends and sat there, blown away by something I’d never noticed before. I’m friends with a lot of moms on Facebook. Some I know personally, some I know virtually. I’m on there daily, chatting away, and until I’d read Best Kept Secret I never noticed just how often people post about wine or booze. To most, like it’s always been for me, it’s nothing. A post here or there in passing. A recommendation for a bottle of wine. A comment about how the cocktail is helping recover from a hard day. A whine about needing some wine. A reason to laugh and commiserate with others about the challenges that parenting brings.
But to someone struggling daily, for someone who fights alcoholism every minute of every day, this virtual world where I, and so many other moms, find so much of the support that keeps us going, must be just another source of anxiety.
I have no solutions or answers to this problem. I’m sure none of those moms are even looking to me to supply the answer. I’m just grateful that, thanks to one book, my eyes are a little more open today.
Join us Jan 26th, 8-9pm CST for a virtual Twitter book club hosted by Great Thoughts featuring Best Kept Secret and Amy Hatvany (@amyhatvany) herself. Follow the conversation with the hashtag #Gr8Books.