Whew! Why do I write about such matters? Who does being so emotionally vulnerable benefit? Sharing about things that I’d perhaps be better off keeping to myself. Perhaps. It’s at that juncture I hit a hard pause. The thought that I’d perhaps be better off if I didn’t share as much I recognize as the societal conditioning that tells us we should value our privacy above all else. I would succumb to this belief – in fact, I have in times past – if not for this deeper and more primal desire within me that propels me to share. To share not only because of the healing I experience when I let go of shame in the telling. But also, because in sharing, I hope no one gets to live in their shame. In the shame of feeling broken, alone, and unworthy.
I have felt all of those things and still feel them from time to time. This idea that I may indeed help someone feel less alone isn’t one that I’ve always believed without questioning my motives. Am I narcissistic, do I not understand the sacredness of privacy and the sanctity of our deeply felt emotions? Do I over share because of trauma? And the list and self-flagellation goes on and on. At one point, I may have believed that I had said ulterior motives and failures in self regulation if not that what has helped me feel the least alone and broken in this world are the words of others. The words with which they too shared what many in our society consider private/secret and sacred even. It is in others sharing their stories of abortion, self harm, abuse, violence, anger that I’ve seen myself reflected to me. It is in those stories that I found reason to stop questioning my worth, my validity, my humanness. And so I share.
This latest share is about how the pandemic, multiple infidelities, a divorce and reconciliation led me to develop coping mechanisms I’m re-examining. I grew up with an alcoholic dad and later became witness to an alcoholic brother. All that to say alcoholism isn’t new to me. I’ve seen the different shapes it takes. The dad who only drinks at night but might finish a 24 pack of beer yet still wake up in the morning to run a very successful business. To the brother who is using alcohol and drugs to escape a mind besieged by words and images that aren’t within his control.
Because of those very close examples of what it looks to be at the mercy of alcohol, I would never have categorized myself as an alcoholic. I still don’t. But there was enough for me to examine my newly developing coping mechanisms. I mean, I had the “good” coping mechanisms on lock. I crocheted, I went to therapy, I wrote, I podcasted, I skated, and I drank a bottle of beer almost every night. Yup, that’s it. Just that one bottle. Some nights, if I was feeling frisky, I’d have two bottles or maybe some wine. Certainly not enough to get drunk. But for me, a lightweight, a bottle of beer was just enough to take the edge off. You know, the edge of living life during a global pandemic isolated from friends, family, and for me, coworkers as I haven’t been to work in four months.
I never sought more than those one or two bottles because I don’t like the feeling of being drunk. Tipsy is just good enough for me. Good enough for me to want to feel it nightly. My partner would tease me every time I said I went grocery shopping by asking, “you mean you got plantain chips and beer?” I’d chuckle and say “you already know it”. While she said nothing expressly, I could tell she was beginning increasingly worried about my apparent desire to have a beer every night.
So yeah, I had some concern, but nothing that I couldn’t explain away. I was just kinda taking the approach of observing myself to see how long this streak would last. I didn’t consistently drink the whole pandemic; just in those initial did in the initial months where I was freaking out and filled with anxiety at the unknown. In fact, I intentionally went a couple of months with no alcohol at all because I wasn’t trying to have the conversation about whether I was drinking too much. This time around though, I was taking more of a let me wait and see how this plays out approach.
What prompted me to write about this, you may ask. Well, I broke my ankle a few days ago while practicing my new hobby of roller skating. It happened in the hallway of our apartment complex, which is where I had taken to practicing ever since I took up the new hobby. I’ve had multiple falls, as one does when learning how to roller skate for the first time! Yet, with this fall a few days ago, I couldn’t brace myself for the fall the way I had learned to. I was “off” just enough to careen into the wall with my foot with a resultant crack sound that showed the break an X-ray eventually confirmed. That feeling of being “off” is the feeling I recognize accompanies my tipsiness after a beer. This happened around 3pm in the afternoon, and I had had a beer earlier on that afternoon with lunch.
When I was telling my partner and folks on Instagram of the fall, I didn’t mention I had had a beer. I didn’t even mention it jokingly like I would have if I felt it was a joke. Something to the tune of “y’all better not skate after having a beer because you might break your leg, learn from me”. As I kept this from my partner especially more and more, I realized the familiar feelings of shame that accompany doing something that my instinct tells me isn’t right for me. I eventually told my partner, and she was kind enough to say “that was kinda hard for you to tell me, wasn’t it?” Yes, it has been hard to admit it. And so, after tackling that hard, I wrote about it.
I’m choosing to write more, but also to write truly and share authentically in all ways. This may resonate with you, or it may not. That is not within my control. However, if it does, I want to say, you’re not alone. Maybe I’ll never know how this resonated with you and I don’t need to know. I only needed to get it out. To cast out the shame that accompanied this for me. Because only when I have let go of the shame am I able to decide and say hey love, let’s stop with the daily beer, yeah? Let’s see how hard it is to stop. Let’s see the emotions that stopping brings up for you. Let’s face it from a place of self love and acceptance and see what comes up for us.
So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m two days in and so far, a little anxiety, a little displacing of that anxiety onto my partner, a little desire to open that bottle of wine or buy some beer but above all, a lot of noticing and sitting still.