Tainted Love

Tainted Love

This is a family week, if such a thing exists. In the United States, Thanksgiving marks time spent with, or at the very least thoughts about, family. Joyous times. Painful times. Sober thoughts. Intoxicated memories. Family is complicated. The grip they have on our emotions comes and goes, often in correlation to our geographical proximity. But make no mistake about it – on a week like this one, the family-o-meter is pegged in overdrive.

 

I recently challenged my friends in our SHOUT Sobriety program with this writing prompt: “Describe the stages of knowing that alcohol had no place in your life.” Sarah wrote the response to the prompt that follows. As we navigate the messiness of a week with family in the spotlight, I thought it particularly appropriate to share her experience. And yes…there is a bit of irony to featuring the lessons of a Canadian on U.S. Thanksgiving week (in my defense, she wrote it very close to Canadian Thanksgiving last month).

 

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I can’t remember not knowing that alcohol was likely to be a danger in my life – that the number of alcoholics on both sides of my family tree meant I was at high risk. I was lectured to. from a young age, about this by my mother, the same person who insisted I have a glass of wine with dinner the day my first child was born. Because that drink was safe.

 

I was poisoned by the messenger, my mother’s voice in my head, set up to fear and fail in so many ways, offered warnings but no support or solutions.

 

So I drank anyway – first to fit in – I started early, on a trip to Australia at age 13. Fourteen was bad, escalating alienation from my family, seeking belonging and escape with friends I wanted to be “cool” with. Because cool, I was not. A geeky kid, I was at home when reading a book, escaping into the lives of other people and their stories, away from the pressure to perform – to be all that my demanding, perfectionistic parents expected of me, out of their need for a return on investment in my development.

 

Their tainted love.

 

I was 15 when I quit alcohol the first time. Arrested at an arena dance, sentenced to community service and a mountain of shame. I owed it to my parents to clean up my act, and I did. My high school years were spent achieving – top ten in all of my very competitive classes, first in social studies, honours with distinction. Swimming competitively – practice 8 times per week – winning many medals, yet just missing the cut for the provincial team in the Canada Games and Nationals. Working evenings and weekends, no time to party. 

 

I transferred my pathological unease to binge eating, inspired by something I read to become bulimic. I also quit that cold turkey after a traumatizing counselling session that blamed my parents for my condition and ripped open the wound that was, now that I have the vocabulary, the result of intergenerational trauma – my inheritance of poverty, mental illness, addiction and abuse.

 

In my early 20s I did some serious work with a wonderful therapist and was as a whole as I’ve ever been. Madly in love with a guy I met on the swim team, we married while still in university. A success story outwardly.

 

So why did the poison re-enter my life?

 

By my mid to late 20s, I was unfulfilled and self-doubting. I found myself in a life I had desperately wanted and had been told was the best way to live, a mostly stay at home mom, my career ambitions on the back burner, sacrificed for babies and enabling my husband to develop his professional potential early. And for opportunities – to travel, to leave the country, to leave the province that is the suburbia I hated and too far from the ocean.

 

Before I escaped physically, it started with wine, first more often, then with more glasses with dinner. I needed it after long days. Then I added a beer in the afternoon while my oldest was at kindergarten and the youngest napped. I remember the first full bottle of rosé when on my own for a weekend. 

 

The geographical move to France in my early 30s increased both motive and opportunity, I murdered bottles of wine. Socially encouraged consumption from long lunches to apero, dinner and aperitif. 

 

I knew I drank too much. But by then, I couldn’t stop. There was nothing else.

 

By the time I started to stop making sacrifices, returning to Canada and putting my own needs for stability in a liveable place, along with professional development, first, it was too late for my brain. Fully hijacked, my poisonous best friend demanded I drink, almost daily and in increasing quantity. Promises to not drink alone led to hidden bottles and daily deception. I knew I was the alcoholic that my genetics destined me to be at 35.

 

But knowing and stoping are two very different things.

 

Do you know? Are you ready to stop? Is it time to explore sobriety with others who have experienced tainted love and mixed messages about alcohol? We hope you’ll join us in SHOUT Sobriety and write all about it.

SHOUT Sobriety

My 80 Proof Fantasy
May 17, 2018
Alcohol without Consequences
September 22, 2021
Live Every Week like Shark Week
June 2, 2020

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