My relationship with alcohol has been a rocky one at certain points in my life. Unlike most kids I grew up with, I did not drink in high school because I was afraid of getting in trouble at boarding school, but mostly afraid of weight gain during my struggle with anorexia. When I entered college at Southern Methodist University, I felt very out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin, and everybody was drinking. I soon learned that after a certain amount of alcohol I would vomit, and this was the gateway to bulimia for me.
When I finally sought treatment for my eating disorder at age 20, I was introduced to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Desperate to fit in and also desperate in stay in recovery from my eating disorder, I took a newcomers chip in Alcoholics Anonymous and identified as an Alcoholic. I knew at my core that I was not an alcoholic, that I could take or leave alcohol, but I wanted to have a community of people who were supportive of me- and the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous really resonated with me- just not in terms of alcohol. I didn't drink for 4.5 years, but it was out of fear, not out of necessity. At my core I knew I was not powerless over alcohol, and that my life had not become unmanageable because of alcohol- THIS is when you know alcohol is a problem for you. I felt shameful for identifying as an alcoholic when I knew that I wasn't being honest with myself or others, but at that point I was so lost and so desperate to feel better that I bottled up those feelings.
Because my relationship with food had been problematic for so long, I knew I had to develop a new relationship with alcohol as well. Black and white doesn't work for me, I have learned I need to find the grey in life.
Being involved in the rooms of AA and other 12-step groups has given me knowledge and experience to help my clients who struggle with alcohol and other substances. Today, 6 months pregnant, I have had another 6 months to examine my relationship with alcohol. What will I want my relationship with alcohol to look like as a mother? For me, I don't believe "using" alcohol to alter my state of mind is a healthy option for me. If I am using alcohol to feel a different way, then I probably need something that isn't alcohol- to talk to someone, a hug, to journal, to go on a walk, clear my head.
I have determined that a relationship with alcohol that I am comfortable with is a relationship where alcohol does not stand in my way or inhibit my life in any way. I want to be able to wake up the next morning and feel good- be present for my future child, and not regret the night before- with food or alcohol. I don't use food or alcohol to numb anymore. I treat alcohol like I treat food in my recovery, I find the grey. White would be no alcohol at all, black would be balls to the wall, grey for me means, "what is the loving choice?" If there's a glass of wine that I know I love the taste of, or a cocktail that sounds really refreshing, I might decide to have one! If I'm feeling emotionally fragile or out of whack, drinking probably isn't the best idea. If I'm celebrating something, I might want to have more than one drink, this is where I need to be extra mindful.
Because I do not have a high alcohol tolerance, and because of my history with destructive patterns with food, I need to make sure that I am still being mindful. When intoxicated, I have made decisions around food that I have been unhappy with- I think most people have! So for me, remaining mindful when drinking- and not going to any extremes is really important- it is what keeps me feeling good about my relationship with alcohol. For me- I don't want to be restrictive in any area of my life, with food, with alcohol, with self-love, etc. I am learning to constantly find the grey and make the loving choice. Sometimes this means passing on the drink, sometimes this means having dessert, sometimes this means sleeping in instead of working out, sometimes it means telling myself I'm a bad ass and I can totally kick this workout's butt- despite feeling tired. It's always evolving.
At the end of the day, nobody knows your body as well as you do, listen to it.
If you are struggling with alcohol or it’s consequences, you are not alone. Please visit https://www.aa.org/ to find a meeting near you.