During the times in my life when I felt most alone, finding my people—the community who understood and empathized—was lifesaving.
In 2004 I had my first baby. At that time, I would have told you that it was the worst thing to have happened to me. Pretty shocking, I know. Not the sentiment you’d expect from someone having a planned child, am I right? I was just as surprised by my own reaction to what everyone—every TV commercial, every greeting card, every woman who rubbed my pregnant belly, even my own mother—led me to believe would be the best thing to ever happen to me, or at the very least a fun new adventure. I didn’t have a single friend with a baby to give me a head’s up or at least tell me to lower my expectations. So when I found myself at home away from the safety of the hospital, with a crying newborn, struggling to breastfeed and feeling crushing anxiety that this would never be doable, let alone fun, I was quite sure I was completely alone.
Out of sheer desperation to find some sort of connection to the outside world, I started a blog. I had no idea what I was doing, but I felt compelled to spill my vulnerable, real, decidedly anti-Hallmark thoughts onto the Internet. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was surprised when the comments started coming in. There were comments from people who may not have shared my background, career, religion, or geographical location. But they did share my thinking, which turned out to be so much more important. There is such power in feeling understood.
I’d found my people: other like-minded moms to commiserate with me, laugh with me, and virtually raise a glass of Chardonnay (or three), to surviving witching hours, bailing on breastfeeding, attempting potty training, and accepting non-fading stretch marks. These women made me feel sane. Most of all, they made me feel a part of something bigger instead of simply apart.
After years of denial, I admitted my struggles with alcohol
Years later, in May of 2009, with shaky hands and tears streaming down my face I dropped another truth bomb on my blog: My drinking had gotten out of control and I’d made a decision to stop.
I’d always loved to drink, especially white wine. I loved everything about it but the taste. I loved the glug glug glug sound it made when you poured it into a wine glass … the sound of relaxation. I loved its reliable effect; alcohol softened the harsh edges of my day like an Instagram filter. I loved how drinking wine made me feel like my old, lighthearted self. I really didn’t want to give up drinking.
But for the last couple of years, I’d been questioning whether or not I had a drinking problem. I would sneakily take online “Are You An Alcoholic?” quizzes where signs would point to yes. Yet I had always managed to convince myself I drank like everyone else I knew, except when I didn’t.
After I’d had my first baby, I’d noticed I was drinking more but I chalked it up to postpartum anxiety and stress. But since I’d had my twins, my drinking had ratcheted up another degree and I found that as hard as I tried, I couldn’t take a night off. I would wake up with a bad headache from the night before and have every intention of refraining that night, but by 5 p.m. I would find myself automatically pouring a glass. I even managed to drink when I had the flu. I just combined it with some Nyquil and called it medicinal. I might have gone on this way indefinitely if it wasn’t for the fact that one night I drank at a friend’s house with two of my kids and drove them home thinking I was fine. The next day I knew I hadn’t been fine. The jig was up.
My people stepped up again
I decided to get help, and that’s what led to me spilling it all out on my blog.
I laid out all the gory details in an entry titled “Secrets” and braced for impact. But once again, my community came through with support instead of condemnation. Just like when I admitted to my parenting struggles, admitting to alcohol struggles struck a chord with way more readers than I expected. Lots of anonymous commenters detailed their own struggles in my comment section, which led to a string of separate comment threads. In order to connect all these people so they could help each other, I started a separate Yahoo! community called The Booze Free Brigade, which quickly took on a life of its own. The Booze Free Brigade became a Facebook group called BFB and that group has grown to 2,000 members.
In the BFB, whether a person is sober or just attempting sobriety, all are welcome. The members of that group have found a place to hold each other up, to admit they’re hurting but also to celebrate big and small wins: days they’ve put together, sober anniversaries, even driving past a liquor store on the way home for work without pulling over. To this day, I still pop into this group for support.
Your people are out there
For me, I’m going on 13 years sober, and I’ve found that having a place to feel like I’m among my people is the most important tool of my sobriety. There are so many options out there, whether it’s a 12-step support group, internet chat room, or one of hundreds of virtual and in-person programs and communities. I’ve found there’s nothing more intoxicating than the words, “Me too.” So if you’re struggling, I encourage you to take a chance and find a place where you can tell the truth. Your people are out there.