I got triggered yesterday. Hard.
For the first time in a long time in this sobriety journey, I was very close to succumbing to the mindset of “fuck it, I’m done, I just want a drink”. Like, this close –> <–.
Inquiring minds want to know: what triggered you, Cari? Was it the lack in confidence you had to wear the red, white, and blue Wonder Woman swimsuit your husband was so pushing for? Was it the lack of a drink in your hand during the Fourth of July celebrations? Was it your inability to let down and have “fun” while sober? Was it the throes of people at the park drinking and having an apparently amazing time? Was it being a “party pooper” at 11:30p because you couldn’t keep your eyes open and just wanted to go to bed?
Nope. None of those.
I chose not to wear my WW swimsuit because I listened to how I was feeling; it wasn’t comfortable and so I went with something else. Period.
I had lots of yummy drinks in my hand all day long that kept me hydrated and present. I made a giant 2-gallon jug of pineapple water, there were cherry limeades and strawberry and peach and coconut-pineapple seltzer waters, and I even made a delicious hibiscus slushy. Tasty!
I had lots of fun. I floated in the pool with the kids for the better part of the day, we caught up with my husband’s brother and family (I was able to remember conversations the next day), and I ran into several people I knew at the park and was able to catch up (and remember the conversations the next day). It was a full day of smiling and laughing.
The throes of people who were drinking at the park, actually put me on high alert and thank my lucky stars that we weren’t doing the same. My husband made the comment when we pulled into our space, “we would have been half in the bag by now”. How right he was. In a past life, we would’ve been drinking all day, would have packed up our kids, drove them to the park, laid out our blankets and chairs to drink more while watching the fireworks, then try to navigate home after the show. Understanding that a large portion of the other park goers had the same itinerary, I kept an extra close watch on the bottle rockets, Roman Candles, and Black Cats that were being let off in our vicinity. I was in the right mind to keep an eye on and corral the younger kids and be conscious of the older kids’ whereabouts. We confidently drove home, knowing we weren’t putting pedestrians, other drivers, or the officers directing traffic in danger.
So, it had to be the “early” bed time, right? No, not at all. Once I got past the initial sleepless nights, chalked full of night sweats and anxiety and the mindset that I needed alcohol to fall asleep, I’ve been able to drift off, almost effortlessly, into restorative and peaceful sleep. That has been one of the best parts of my sobriety.
My trigger was… disappointment.
Stupid, right? I’ve entertained before. I’ve even entertained sober before (once, I think). It’s inevitable – you invite people, plans change, some people show, some people don’t. No big deal. This time, for whatever reason, it was a big deal. Almost knocking me off my sobriety rails, big deal.
I’ve tried to dissect the “whys”. It wasn’t even like it was a large group of guests. It was my brother-in-law and his family and my daughter and her fiance. I did send an invite, very last minute to a friend and her family, but had no expectations there. But, then there was…. my dad.
I’ve always been close to my dad. When visiting his house every other week, I dug his laid back attitude on life. We talked weather and gardens and cars. When I left for basic training, Dad was my biggest fan, and him and his fiance came down to my graduation. After moving back home after a failed marriage, Dad was there with beer and a shoulder to cry on. He watched me pick myself up and land a job and make something of myself. I saw him through several relationships, another marriage, and most recently a divorce. When I was a single mother, I would head up to Dad’s on the weekend to decompress and drink the weekend away with my buddy. We were buddies.
The thing is, what I have started to realize about my Dad, is that he’s more interested in the alcohol and he always, always puts the woman he’s in a relationship with (and her children) first. Always.
Recently, I let my Dad know that I needed a reciprocal relationship with him. I can no longer be his “drinking buddy”. I no longer want to be on the back burner of his life, second (or third) to alcohol or a woman. I can no longer be there when it’s convenient for him, but can’t count on him to do the same for me. I need him to make an effort. If he wants a relationship with me, then he has to extend some sort of effort: acknowledge and be a part of my and my children’s lives.
Yet, he doesn’t. No matter how much pleading or threats or silent treatment or tears or letters or texts…. he doesn’t. And that hurts.
So going into the Fourth, I couldn’t help but picture my dad, declining our invite, sitting in his little shithole apartment, choosing his beer and the off-chance that his soon-to-be ex-wife might call him. Over me. Over my kids. Over family.
My fuse was lit, but it was slow-burning. It was being contained. Until, that is, my daughter texted.
An hour after her and her fiance were supposed to arrive, I received a text from her letting me know that they didn’t feel up to driving (35 minutes to our house), excuse, excuse, excuse, they were going to check out events in their area, and they simply “weren’t feeling up to it”.
Queue the few strategically placed firework punks onto my already burning fuse. And… explosion.
Like I said earlier, plans change. I get it. I personally bailed on Thanksgiving dinner at my former step-mom’s house because it was one too many places I was being pulled to that year. I get it.
But every single time I’ve seen my daughter in the past couple of months, she has had booze on her breath. The family consensus was that she was too hungover to make it. She’s in her twenties, no kids, holds down a job, owns a house. I couldn’t be prouder. Drinking, even heavily, is her choice.
It just…. compounded. Add my dad, to my daughter, to the numerous friends who no longer reach out, to the friends that say we are going to get together but never follow through…. it was one giant disappointment firework explosion.
I wanted to go back to Carefree Cari, not giving a fuck. I wanted to drown out the pain of, ironically, my close family and friends choosing alcohol over me. Most of all, I wanted to numb the hurt.
Yesterday afternoon was one of the lowest of low points in this journey. BUT, I didn’t succumb. I did cry big, snotty, ugly tears. I did sit with my thoughts and try to reason with myself that I couldn’t change them, I could only change me and my mindset. I did order myself to come up with five things I was grateful for right then: my family that was here, the beautiful day, the fantastic weather, a yummy spread of food/drinks, and how far I have already come. I did receive great big bear hugs from Marty and the kids. BUT, I didn’t drink.
Later that day, my youngest daughter and I were laying side-by-side on chaise lounges by the pool. We were talking about everything and nothing, soaking up the sunshine, enjoying our one-on-one time. I whispered to her, “I almost drank earlier”.
Kenz’s smile faded, she turned to face me, a serious look crossing her face. “Oh, mama,” she said. “I’m so glad you didn’t.”
And that, right there, is what I am going to latch onto. If I had whispered to Kenz, “I drank today”, I know that she would’ve been so very disappointed in me.
I’m a parent. It’s unrealistic to believe that I will never disappoint my kids again. But, I will do everything in my power to spare them from the disappointment associated with alcohol. I refuse to be the one that lights a fuse on their own Disappointment Firework.