Just Below the Surface: My Relationship With Alcohol

I have this frequent nightmare where I’m underwater, just below the surface of a pool. The water is as grey as the skies above, and I’m cold. So cold. There are brown autumn leaves resting on top of the water, gently rippling from the breeze above. Somehow I know that they are from my parents’ Catalpa tree.  I’m in their pool.  I stretch my hand toward the air, but for some reason I can’t reach the space where water and breeze meet.  And throughout the dream I’m calm. Too calm, even though I know I’m drowning.

Awake, I know the dream isn’t real.  But it is.

It starts with the sound of the cork squeaking out of the bottle, making my heart skip with anticipation.  Even as often as I hear it, it still feels forbidden and exciting. As I pour it, the weight of the bottle feels as familiar as that dream, down to the gurgling sound of the pool filling up.

But it’s the first sip that really gets me. The taste of the tart white or bitter red on my tongue. The feeling of warmth that coats my belly, gives me courage and makes me believe I’m funnier. It tells me I’m better with it, and I nod my head yes in agreement. I know I should stop at the bottom of the first glass, but I pour another and sometimes another.  My head is still above water, I think. I keep drinking.

And when I do, it drags me swiftly down. Instead of thrashing to save myself, I go calmly with chagrin upon my face. I know the place it takes me all too well, and I’m comfortable there, despite knowing the extent it holds me back and pushes me down.

At the bottom of my third glass, the numbness comes. Pain, hurt, bills, everything is gone. It’s only me and my stemless glass. Eventually, I sink.

I’m drowning again.

I’ve heard plenty of stories about how my grandfather loved the bottle a little too much. He would come home angry from the bars night after night, frightening my mom into tears.  And my mom started smoking as a young girl. She tried to quit for years, but never could.

Am I addicted? Hell if I know. I know I don’t feel addicted. I feel stuck. And I know I don’t want to be an addict.  I don’t want the blood of an alcoholic, or a smoker, or this ticking time bomb of DNA to define me.  I want my work, my mind, and my kind nature to define me.  I want me to define me.

I am so fucking tired of the cycle.  I’m tired of the headache every morning.  And I’m tired of that nightmare.  I want to dream of blue skies and rays of sunshine instead of grey waters and chill in my bones.  I want to watch my children play with clear eyes, instead of through the fog induced by last night’s choices.

I’m also completely afraid. Afraid of knowing who I am sober. Afraid of regaining control. Afraid of asking for help. Afraid of not drinking. Am I ready to commit to that? Is that what I want? What I need?

That’s it. This is where it ends.  It won’t control me, like it controlled my grandfather.  I will not drown at the bottom of the bottle. It stops today, I swear.

Right after I finish this glass.


I wrote the essay above months ago with editing help from the folks at Yeah Write, but didn’t share it out of fear. And my situation hasn’t changed. I drink at least two glasses of wine five nights out of the week. I hate to read that on paper, but I don’t know how to change. Or where to begin the change. Maybe it this essay will be it. Maybe not. But I have to start somewhere, because I deserve the chance.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

99 thoughts on “Just Below the Surface: My Relationship With Alcohol

  1. This is a really, really powerful piece. When I read this, what I see as the crux of the matter is how you feel about it: not whether anyone else tells you that it’s ok or that you’re drinking within healthy limits, or anything else like that. Realistically, everyone will have their own views on what is, or is not, a healthy amount to drink and it’ll vary significantly depending on the individual. I think the challenge is determining what your view is of how you’re living, and how you respond to your own perception. The thing is, if having a drink or two helps you relieve stress, that’s awesome and it’s a way for a lot of people to handle challenge situations — if you’re not happy about how much you’re drinking though (and it sounds like you’re unsure), it’s not functioning so well as a stress reliever.

    I don’t envy you trying to figure this one out, but I will say this: regardless of whether you have a drink or not, you’re still you. And that’s utterly unique: it’s gift that’s completely beyond compare. Be kind to yourself. This is a beautifully written piece and you really have a gift. I wonder if maybe you can harness that gift and use it more to take the place of alcohol? Regardless, don’t stop writing, whatever you do🙂 I hope you find some peace about this❤

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I honor you speaking your truth. I came to a point in my life 5 years ago where I realized that I needed to learn how to stop numbing myself and I stopped drinking for nearly 3 years. It was hard as hell because I wasn’t sure who I would be without armor, without the social lubricant. Two years ago, I decided that alcohol wasn’t my core issue and I now drink (responsibly and without shame) but if I hadn’t taken 3 years to defrost, I would have never been able to reach the point of healing that I’ve reached. Not drinking really isn’t that hard. It’s the work that you have to do on and for yourself that is hard. It’s the soul searching and truth uncovering that’s hard. It’s defrosting your heart and mind that’s hard. It’s learning to feel again that’s hard. And that’s a life-long process whether you drink or not. Follow your heart, abandon labels and take care of yourself!❤

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I think if it concerns you, that’s enough. You know in your heart something is not right or you would not be feeling this way. A lot of your commenters are telling you not to worry, but be careful: our culture doesn’t like when people see any harm in drinking. It’s up to you to decide for yourself. If you feel like you cannot not drink, that is a sign.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your writing is beautiful. I believe it doesn’t matter if it’s 2 glasses or 2 bottles, if it makes you feel uncomfortable then it is a big deal. We all have challenges to overcome, I believe you can do it… I hope you do. Best wishes

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Bravely and powerfully written. I was in the water with you, and pushed the cobwebs from my eyes with you the next morning. I think you know the answer to your question. It seems that you are asking for some help, though? You can get it. xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I can totally relate to your situation. 2 years ago, my husband traveled and kept on extending his trip. I was very upset and lonely so I turned to wine. My mother owns restaurant and has her own wine. One day I snuck out a whole case of white wine and brought it home. I started to drink a glass a day, and the more my husband extended his trip, the more i drank. By the following week it only took me 2 days to finish each bottle, soon I realized I was depressed and slowly turning into an alcoholic. After I finished the case I didn’t drink for months, and when I did it was a glass or 2 max. I hope you are able to stop if that is really what you want, because I have seen alcoholism at it’s worst, and believe me it is not pretty.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You are very brave ! Taking the first steps to share this with every one . Everything will get better soon you will have direction on how to stop everything Will change tremendously. I believe that for you

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Extremely well written! I can completely relate. I come from a family of addiction and I too struggle with it everyday as well. It’s a hard thing to overcome but I know some day I will no longer give it the power to control me. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone and that there are others out there who understand.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. What a beautiful way of acknowledging one’s own weakness! There is so much in all of us that drags us down…..and that drowning is calm. You have explained it so well that even I feel burdened thinking how do I get rid of my unwanted habits. But I will and I know…someday you will too. Since the day I have become a mother, I have taken control of a lot of things and I am reaching inside me a better and a better person. You just need that moment to realize what you want to do! Till then, keep writing such beautiful posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a wonderful piece of writing. I enjoyed the writing and it is thought provoking. I fear anything that might control me. So frequent drinking as part of work (wine buyer, restaurant owner, blogger) and social life is always being assessed and analyzed.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I understand that Life is painful. We probably all forgive U your weakness. But as a child of a alcoholic I will tell U..as U love yourself more than a family U will continue..Love, true Love others, sacrifice for Love us the only way. It was painful to be with a alcoholic father. So painful💔

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m 58 and being sober is so liberating. I went sober six years ago after worshiping alcohol most of my life. I have one word to describe sober….FREEDOM! I wish I would of woke up out of my fog earlier to find that out. Alcohol was my rue for many things. I made a poem to myself about it, but not sure where to share it.I wrote it years ago in some very dark days after looking in the mirror and not liking that person very much. That person is gone now and he is not allowed back into my life. Thank you for your post Danielle. Kevin

    Liked by 3 people

  13. The Alcohol make a human crazy, like this part “I’ve heard plenty of stories about how my grandfather loved the bottle a little too much. He would come home angry from the bars night after night, frightening my mom into tears. And my mom started smoking as a young girl. She tried to quit for years, but never could.”

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Reblogged this on christoff2016 and commented:
    i believe that alcoholism runs in families and is seen as ‘not bad’ by children if the parents constantly take part in it. It appears to be very addictive if used excessively and for a long time and must be stopped in order to prevent prolonged use.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You are human and humans stumble. Don’t feel ashamed or afraid. You have already take care of the first and the most important aspect of healing… ACCEPTANCE… accepting that you need to change something that isn’t good for you or the people who love you. This is not going to be easy and no amount of support can help until you make a conscious decision to change, not just now and not just today but every time you feel your hands searching for the bottle.
    I am in awe of your writing, it’s beautiful and emotive. Maybe you should focus on that, read, write, sing, do something that makes you feel alive and happy!

    Liked by 1 person

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