A Story Of Reluctant Sobriety

In the Summer of 2011, after years of imbibing, pill-popping, and being a general sexy, agoraphobic mess, my brilliant but troubled best friend entered a mental facility to once-and-hopefully-for-all purge all the chemicals from her body and begin the unholy process of getting her mind right. Depression and dependency are so sophomore year, and all that. During her stay, I was on the mend from an ill-advised move to Paris, and an overall confrontation with my own stupid, largely self-imposed demons. In short, we were in a state.

Right around the time she was leaving what we now affectionately/ begrudgingly refer to as the “Asylum,” I was accidentally getting my uterus fertilized with pure, all natural baby. And thus began our mutual embarkation upon a life devoid of the chemical crutches that had eased our respective anxieties for years past. For different reasons, we were both off the sauce (and I couldn’t smoke cigarettes, to boot). She went booze-free to keep her mind clear to deal with her years-long struggle with anxiety and depression; I was abstaining because, as I understand it, fetal alcohol syndrome is the Wu-Tang Clan of baby afflictions (ahem, it ain’t nothin’ to f-ck with).

Our general philosophy as we navigate the oft-painful condition of sobriety/ pregnancy is a healthy serving of “Chin up, buttercup!” with a requisite side of “Let’s not kid ourselves, this is really sh-tty sometimes.”

And lest ye judge, keep in mind that A) We don’t claim that our relationships with substances, other people, or our own brains are healthy examples to follow.

B) We talk some sh-t about AA, but we don’t think that AA is a bad thing for every person. For some people, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous do a great deal of good. Our negative feelings about it stem from the fact that it’s forced on people in recovery as a one-size-fits-all approach to the cessation of drinking. The tenants that AA is founded on, and the assumptions it makes about every drinker are not universally applicable, nor are the always helpful. But seriously, yay for AA and the people it helps.

We don’t actually take any of this lightly, which is precisely why we constantly and inappropriately joke about it. Just clearing that up. Now back to business:

Below is a sample conversation that we might have on any given day.


Me: Are you alive?

Anne: Kind of, yes. How are you?

Me: I’m fine. How are you?

Anne: I’ve been depressed about my 6 Month Sober-versary. I never wanted to be here.

Me: I can understand that. It’s weird when so many people are congratulating you on something that you would greatly prefer to not be happening. I felt the same way when I was first pregnant… everyone happy and congratulating me, feeling like I should be celebrating when I mostly felt awkward and upset.

Anne: Exactly.

Anne: And pardon the dramatics, but, like, I don’t want to live abstaining from alcohol. I miss it.

Me: I know.

Anne: People are like, “THAT’S HUGE!” and I’m like, “Thanks, I hate my life.”

Anne: Like, let’s take away something you love, and see how you feel.

Me: I have a theory about you and alcohol, but it’s just my theory.

Anne: What’s the theory? That it’s my abusive boyfriend?

Me: That alcohol itself was never your problem, that obviously it was just a symptom of your problems with anxiety and depression. And you abstaining from alcohol doesn’t necessarily have to be a permanent life change so much as it’s clearing your head and body so you can deal with the real problems. You cant do that when you’re drinking. But maybe think of it like a reward, like, “Once I fix my brain and get stable emotionally, I can have a healthy relationship with alcohol.” Maybe it won’t work out like that, and maybe you will discover that you can’t be a well-functioning, happy person with booze in your life, but there’s nothing wrong with trying. You will know when and if you come to a place where it’s safe to try.

Anne: I know.

Me: I think we should never think of anything as permanent or definite. It’s too big and scary to digest, and we’re not arrogant enough to think we know what will happen later, or how we’ll change. Just focus on what you’re doing, rather than what you’ve lost, or something.

Anne: Like, it was always, “I’m depressed, LETS DRINK IT AWAY!”

Me: “Don’t let any AA bastards convince you that you have an “alcohol disease” that you’re “powerless” over and that you can not have “even one drink,” and that you have to “surrender to God” if you have a goddamn prayer of wellness. That isn’t you.

Anne: That’s why AA is stupid; it teaches that the only way to put down the bottle is to admit that you’re permanently broken and stupid and only God can save you.

Me: Right. You’re disease isn’t alcohol. It’s sadness. That’s what you’re trying to fix. Quitting drinking is just a tool to do that. A really annoying tool.

Anne: I agree. AA cheerleaders are as bad as religious zealots. Leave me alone, you coffee addicts.

Me: I know you know all this I’m telling you. I’m just reminding you that I understand because sometimes we all need someone to tell us things we know just so we can see some reflected sense of understanding. Sometimes all I need is to not feel alone in how I’m feeling, which is also a thing you know.

Anne: To a certain extent, I am kind of taken aback by it being six months, only because when I used to try to take time away from booze, I never made it a week.

Me: Even if it sucks, making it six months is undoubtedly impressive. I feel the same way about smoking. I hate every minute of not smoking but I’m still proud.

Anne: That’s true.

Anne: Point being, all I want to do right now is go get f-cked by a bottle of whiskey.

Me: IF IT WILL HELP, I will fashion you a whiskey bottle dildo. Whatever I can do to help.

Anne: Does it count as relapsing if you ingest it through your ladybits? Or really any orifice other than your mouth?

Me: Don’t even joke about vodka tampons. Let’s just give you a merlot enema and see what happens! SCIENCE!

Anne: Well, you can’t do that. Your problem lives in your junk! SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS!

Me: That’s true. Unborn babies probably don’t like vodka tampons.

Anne: Yours might.

Me: Also true. The spiked watermelon doesn’t fall far from the vine, or something.

Anne: Exactly. TC mark


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  • Anonymous

    I hate to say it, and you (and she) will never believe me telling you because it’s something she needs to figure out for herself, but she sounds pretty much exactly like a person in denial. AA saved my father’s life and making fun of it (as in vogue as it is) is exactly what someone who needs it would do.

    Just from my own experience. You seem to be enabling each other rather than actually helping. But! I could be totally wrong. I hate when people make assumptions about my life because of a piece I’ve had published here. This one just hit close to home.

    • Anonymous

      More about the piece though – I loved the pull quote. I think you captured the weirdness of being congratulated for both very well. Interesting thought.

    • Anonymous

      I was really trying to be clear that I don’t want to take away from the beneficial nature of AA. i’ve seen it pull people i love back from hell and I can’t thank them enough for that. We’re not making fun it as much as we’re wishing aloud that there were more options for people who want to quit drinking but for whom alcohol isn’t really an addiction. There’s a difference. 

      Trust me, we’ve done our days in denial. Lots of them. Being self-aware about your issues doesn’t mean letting people convince you that you have additional ones that don’t really exist, ya know?

      Two giant thumbs up for your father, by the way. 

      • Anonymous

        Eh, the making fun was just one part. This is what hit me as denial: “Anne: That’s why AA is stupid; it teaches that the only
        way to put down the bottle is to admit that you’re permanently broken
        and stupid and only God can save you.”

        Someone with a real addiction (which I’m not sure sadness and using alcohol are exclusive in the way you both believe. I think they go very much hand in hand, and are more intertwined than she wants to believe — because who wants to think they’re an alcoholic, right?) would say exactly that.

        I’ve heard those words (or similar) from more addicts/friends/now deceased people than I’d care to relive. She’s wrong on what AA is about and what it does, more than anything. I don’t know if it’s additional issues, as you say. I think they’re part of the same thing. But you know, I can’t diagnose your friend via Disquis and I feel badly about trying. Haha.

      • Anonymous

        I think there are a lot of ways to look at it. The point is, putting down the bottle isn’t really her struggle. But to speak to my own side of things, a lot of people have been like, “You are pregnant and talk about wanting to drink! You’re an alcoholic / bad mother!” When the truth is, I go through periods of drinking all the time, and am in NO way an alcoholic. I’m someone who likes to have choices, and freedom, and options. Not having THAT is my problem. So for me, quitting drinking sucks because it’s an offshoot of me giving up a degree of freedom, but whatever, NBD. But just because I mention it, people automatically think you’re a messy alcoholic who will be a terrible mom. 

        The point from her side and mine, the common thread, is that people shouldn’t pigeonhole, or automatically classify the origin of your real problem or unhappiness based on the avenues you choose to address it. Meaning: just because we both needed to stop drinking for different reasons, and just because that can suck ass sometimes, DOESN’T make us alcoholics. That’s the point.

      • Anonymous

        Oh, and I won’t go into it because it’s boring, but I actually have a tremendous amount of experience with AA from several perspectives. I feel very confident in being educated when I take a position on the points of the program that I see as strengths, and parts that I think are flawed logically, or don’t work for some people. But hey, it’s just one person’s opinion and like I said, I’m grateful AA exists. Just don’t tell me I’m in denial because I say I’m not an alcoholic. Maybe, ya know, I’m just not.

      • Anonymous

        I read your other posts and I’d in no way ever ever ever say you’re a bad mother or unfit or an alcoholic mom. Not ever ever ever. I think there’s this weird narrative where people expect pregnant women to become saints and to never have feelings or pasts or futures ever again. I’m super uncomfortable with that.

      • Anonymous

        Amen sister. People are doofuses about that kind of stuff. They’re like “You’re going to be the worst mom”, or even better, “you hate your baby”. And i’m all, “Oh that shit I said? Yeah, that was me purging the #dark thoughts. It’s healthy. Look into it. My baby is a magical goddamn unicorn.”

    • http://twitter.com/kaimcn Kai

       AA absolutely has value, but not everyone with a drinking problem needs AA, and AA won’t work for every person with a drinking problem.

      It’s unfortunate that it’s held up as one of the only solutions for drinking and other substance abuse. For some people, replacing drugs with their “higher power” is not going to cut it, and it may not even appeal.

    • Anonymous

      Speaking as the Anne in this article, there’s a lot left to be cleared up. First of all, this is a (sometimes poorly) paraphrased conversation.
      So far as being in denial is concerned, as this piece states in the beginning, I spent the summer and fall of last year in a psychiatric hospital because I finally admitted to myself that not only would I probably not make it another year, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to. While there I spent as much time discussing my problems with alcohol as I did any other psychiatric disorders. I consider this the opposite of denial and avoidance. Since leaving the hospital, I’ve had an equally difficult time with both. I’m an absurdly strong believer in personal responsibility, and for this reason the practices of AA wouldn’t work FOR ME. That is to say, I wouldn’t let it work for me. The concept of surrendering myself to a Higher Power is completely foreign and uncomfortable to me. I’m aware that there are several forms of AA with varying Higher Powers, but the idea of participating in a program that would some how dull my responsibility for horrible things I’ve done, and snake around until I forgive myself isn’t something I’m capable of. I’m very, very hard on myself, and the forgiveness is what I have a problem with. However, I AM seeking psychiatric help (and undergoing analysis, whatup Freud!) for myself and addressing my drinking is part of it. But, none of it is easy, and sometimes I get angry that I have to be sober just like I get angry that I have psychiatric problems to deal with. My point being, and what I think Jess was aiming at, we’re willing to do the work to better ourselves, but sometimes it just about kills you to do it.
      And you’re spot on about us being enablers. It used to be about drugs and booze and random (sometimes not remembered) sex, but now we’re trying to be healthy enablers. Exercise! Prenatal vitamins! Carrots! Healthy! Pow.

  • Katie

    the sarcastic and dry wit you’ve attempted to dilute the seriousness of what others painfully and maturely go through leaves a bad taste. i hope you find your way, perhaps another way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/roydriskill Roy Driskill

       You seem like somewhat of a bitch.  People handle different situations in different ways.  Hell, if I was trying to quit some substance, you’d bet there’d be a lot of “my kind” of humor.  As in, dry humor.

      • Stevie wonder

        are these the four most obnoxious sentences ever written

      • http://www.facebook.com/roydriskill Roy Driskill

         Well what you just said wasn’t even a sentence, so I don’t think you’re a good judge of obnoxious sentences.  I mean, was that a question?  An observation?  How about a  statement?!  MY MIND IS RACING.

        What I’m saying, and what you apparently missed, is that PEOPLE DO SHIT DIFFERENTLY.

        People who can’t respect that not everyone is like them and shouldn’t be like them really piss me off.

        Well I guess I can give you some slack.  You are blind and whatnot.

      • Stevie wonder

        can you imagine having to spend even one minute talking to this dude

      • http://www.facebook.com/roydriskill Roy Driskill

        Well no one seems to have any problems with it. <3

        By the way, stop liking your own things.  It's pretty obvious.

  • ML

    please change “tenents” to tenets. Thanks

  • ManicMontag

    This is precisely what I am going through, to a T. “Right. You’re disease isn’t alcohol. It’s sadness. That’s what you’re trying to fix. Quitting drinking is just a tool to do that. A really annoying tool.” Just like meaningless sex, symptoms of loneliness. 

    • Anonymous

      Hey, meaningless sex was a symptom too! But one with a cardio workout perk, so it at least had a silver lining.

      • Manicmontag

        and that quick sobering up, which let’s you drink more! it’s a huge win-win.

  • Guest

    “Me: Right. You’re disease isn’t alcohol. It’s sadness.
    That’s what you’re trying to fix. Quitting drinking is just a tool to do
    that. A really annoying tool.”

    * “your disease”

  • God

    This piece is less interesting than five minutes of an AA meeting. 

  • Girl

    Anything is possible if you have unconditionally supportive people in your life, whether that be friends, co-workers, family or AA Members. All too many people let the definition of “normal” be projected on to them which causes the underlying problem of loneliness, followed by anxiety, followed by depression, followed by substance use and potential abuse. The way to overcome them, if you want to, is to work on each issue backwards, in that order which is what it sounds like she (and you?) are doing.

    I wish you both all the best in overcoming the ridiculous societal expectations. Also, great article and laymen’s depiction of the cycle of addiction. Alcoholism is a choice, not a disease.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, you had me until that last sentence. “Alcoholism is a choice, not a disease.” is NOT what this article is trying to communicate, nor is it a sentiment I can get behind. 

      Thanks for the other thoughts though.

      • Girl

        You’re welcome, what I was trying to do basically, was to touch on one aspect of your article about the importance of understanding mental illness as well as respond to the other ignorant comments about the cause and effect of alcoholism. In no way was I trying to summarize this article. 
        Also, I think what I meant with that statement is “Overcoming alcoholism is a choice…”, but somehow got caught up in being preachy, for that, my apologies. Research has shown alcoholism is not a “disease” however, though some are predisposed to struggle more-so than others with the addiction, due to their genetic make-up or their environment. It is not something that requires medication although they prescribe some to help with it. Whereas, Depression, that is a chemical imbalance in the brain, possibly the thyroid, which either requires on-going intensive cognitive therapy or chemical treatment to overcome. Basically what I am trying to say is that your friend has hope of overcoming dependence on alcohol, with the right supports. If AA is not for her, then so be it.What is the article trying to communicate exactly?

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    I thought I was an alcoholic for awhile, really I was just bored out of my mind.

  • sryi'mjustahater

    Thank fucking jesus fucking christ someone shares my view of aa. America refuses to treat mentalish health issues instead replacing them with god, yet another mental health issue imho. And, as usual, the patient has no choice in their treatment unless she has a shitload of money.

  • Anonymous


  • guest

    tenet of AA not tenant

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