Have you ever woken up not remembering ever going to bed – not remembering a good part of the night? You remember going out with friends yet not much after some point.
It’s been a long time since I experienced that, though at times it feels like yesterday. Thirty-five years ago, my life changed forever.
Something wasn’t right
I woke in a fog on Monday, August 3, 1987, not remembering much. What happened the day before? Something was not right. All I thought was, “I need to stop drinking – at least temporarily.”
Sunday afternoons were often spent with my dad – a huge Chicago Cubs fan. It was a sizzling summer afternoon – night games at Wrigley Field were still a year away. Our plan was to go to the game and then to a Mexican restaurant known for their margaritas. I had never been to El Jardin’s and the anticipation of their margaritas consumed my thoughts. (I realize how sad that is.)
Thank goodness camera phones were decades away
Repeatedly, I think how grateful I am that everyone didn’t have a camera at their fingertips and social media was decades away. What happened in that restaurant was not one of my prouder moments. The only reason I remembered anything was that my then boyfriend didn’t hesitate to relay the events. It slowly came back.
Details trickled into my head and detail by detail I was demoralized. I made an idiot of myself. I said some very mean things to my dad and boyfriend. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to apologize to dad before he passed away 18 months later.
Me? Have a drinking problem?
I knew dad had a drinking problem, but me? No way. Living in Chicago, I had a cute condo a block from Michigan Avenue in the heart of Rush Street. I had a successful business career in sales and was rewarded financially, winning sales awards and travel incentives. Life was good. (Or so I thought.)
I didn’t need to drink every day and rarely drank during the day except for occasional business lunches.
What I did know that Monday morning was that something was wrong, very wrong. Fortunately, the NCR Corporation, where I worked, had an employee assistance program. A heartfelt conversation with my mom was the encouragement I needed. I made an appointment.
The 3 questions that changed my life
The counselor asked what brought me in and I recounted what I could remember of the events that past Sunday. He asked me three questions that changed my life.
- Have you ever had a blackout? Not remembering what happened the night before.
- Has anyone expressed concern about your drinking?
- Do either of your parents have a drinking problem?
My positive response to all three led to the next 20 questions and confirmed the counselor’s suspicions. He then asked, “What if I said you could never drink again your entire life?” I burst into tears. Not the response someone without a drinking problem would have.
Although I’m not an expert in alcohol recovery, I AM an expert on myself. I came to realize it wasn’t about what I drank or how often or how much, but what happened to me when I DID drink.
Do you participate in Dry January?
Dry January – a time when many resolve to not drink for the month – is months away. If you feel the need to not drink, remember the three questions that changed my life. If they don’t resonate with you but you’ve questioned your drinking, listen to your gut, and get help.
BTW, you might have been around me, at a social event, at a friend’s, at a conference, a networking event. Does your drinking bother me? No, not at all. If it did, I wouldn’t be there.
My life would not be what it is today without my recovery. For that I am grateful.
And Happy Thirty-Five Year Anniversary to me!
P.S. You’re never too young nor too old to get sober.
Image credits: Neily on Nutrition, Canva
Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach