two uteri, two mamas pregnant, AGAIN, with baby number two

What a long time means September 23, 2008

Filed under: ttc — charlotte @ 8:38 pm

This coming February it will be 17 years since I have had a drink.

Recently I have been considering that my teen drinking career may have been more normal than alcoholic.

I stopped when I was 16. My father was an alcoholic…you know, the kind who slept in the creek sometimes. He got sober when I was 11. I displayed some early behavior indicating that I had problems drinking: wanting to get drunk every time I was around alcohol, stealing weed from my friends, not ever knowing my limits, barfing. But hello? I was stealing before the drinking started, and of course I wanted to drink when it was around, since it was so hard to get. I stopped for those reasons, but mostly I stopped because I made friends with sober people in high school. I went to meetings for a few years, and then I found that I didn’t need them anymore to stay sober. I met S, and she stopped drinking altogether 6 months into our relationship because I asked her to.

Where am I going with this? I always believed that alcoholism was a disease I had, which meant that certainly, I could never, ever, ever drink. I assumed that my teen behavior (for less than a year) and my family history meant I needed to be sober forever, lest the progressive disease catch up with me.

I’m not sure what happened recently but something changed. All of a sudden I told S that she could drink if she wanted to. I started to question my unquestioned beliefs about myself and alcoholism in general. My dad was surely an Alcoholic, capital A, as are many more functional folks. But I decided, and I really can’t be more articulate about it in this moment because my thoughts and feelings about this are incredibly complex layered and detailed, to consider drinking again. As an adult. With guidelines.

What I know for sure is that 17 years without drinking is a long time.  I could have a problem, but most likely I don’t. I find myself surrounded by friends who drink “normally”. By normally I mean sometimes they get drunk and regret it (once a year?). By normal I mean that they monitor their drinking and have made rules for themselves that they generally respect. Some don’t hang out with people that they know they will be a little out of control with. Some have decided not to drink around their kids, in general, or on weeknights and so on. Most have decided not to make drinking a regular (daily) practice of relaxing. I have been quizzing them about their “rules” so I can muddle through if I decide to drink. I know that I probably can’t ever drink without monitoring myself. If I am a giant genetic alcoholic I may find that I make rules I cannot adhere to. I have, of course, considered that this whole attitude change is just more of my justifying addict behavior/thinking, but when I really check in, that is not what is happening.

Current research actually does support people returning to controlled drinking after a period of abstinence. I know that for people in 12 step programs all of my thinking probably sounds blasphemous. I’m not sure that I am explaining myself well, but I suspect that even if I did there is no way NOT to sound justifying. What is really upsetting to me is that I don’t know any on else in this position. No one I know or have even met has been sober so long with such a limited drinking career. I even tried googling this and came up with nothing.

So. What to do.

What are your rules? How do you not use alcohol or drugs in an abusive way? Has anyone ever started drinking again after a long period of abstinence?


16 Responses to “What a long time means”

  1. Amanda Says:

    I didn’t drink throughout high school. I was often the only sober/clean person around. Then I got to college, where I lived in the invite only honors program dorm. Nerds, right? Some of them knew how to party, and out of those, most did it responsibly. I joined in and had way more fun then I would have then if I had been partying with the drunk/high/trippin’ punk rockers in my past. I don’t have rules really. I just make sure I don’t drink more than I can handle. I definitely don’t drink alone. And I do not drink with people that are pushy or routinely drink too much. We have no pressure policies, even if we’re playing a drinking game.
    Drinking is a choice. I chose not to. Now I do. If you decide to and make rules, stick to them.

  2. oneofhismoms Says:

    I don’t know. I dated an alcoholic in my early twenties…you know, she had blackouts, the whole nine yards. So I ended up in some alanon meetings and for a minute I thought maybe I was an alcoholic. I probably stopped drinking for a month. But the truth is, I never hit rock bottom because I just don’t/didn’t sink that low. I, too, have always been nervous about alcohol because my grandparents were alcoholics. Now when I drink, I only have one or two drinks. I’m able to do that. And now I drink wine because I like the taste, not Busch Light because it is the cheapest beer around. I guess my question for you is, what are you going to do if you don’t follow your own rules? If you decide to drink, how will you be accountable to yourself? If you write a post in your “everything sucks” category, are you sure you won’t be drunk while you write it?

  3. j Says:

    I’m lucky that no one in my immediate family had a problem with alcohol. My father was Sicilian, first generation American and in raising us adhered to the same kind of exposure to alcohol that he had – which means we were drinking wine (with a LOT of water) from the time we were toddlers.

    There was always an open bar in our house, my parents had occasional parties at which they would have a few drinks – I NEVER saw either of my parents drunk, nor any of their friends.

    I rarely drank in high school, much preferring other stuff (still do,) and found out pretty quick that I’m allergic to beer. I’ll occasionally have a yummy tasting cocktail, and I’ll have a few perhaps one time a year and get “tipsy,” but other than that, drinking isn’t a part of my daily routine.

    As for other things? I don’t get messed up if I have things that need to be done. I don’t get messed up because there are other things going on I’d like to forget about, unless it’s physical pain, which I find is helped greatly.

    I dunno what else to say, but….good luck in figuring this all out. It’s a big undertaking for which you should give yourself a pat on the back.

  4. Co Says:

    I come from a long line of alcoholics… my paternal grandfather, my father, and my brother. I didn’t drink until I was 21. I thought I’d never take a drink. Alcoholism (and mental illness and PTSD from WWII) ruined my grandfather’s marriage and relationship with my father. I never met him because my father hated him so much. When my father was drunk, he sometimes got violent with his family. My dad actually got drunk on the way home from rehab once. He ultimately got cirrhosis at 39 and killed himself. My brother is 32 and a serious alcoholic. Instead of a cup of coffee in the morning, he has a beer. The yellowish tinge of his skin and its dryness already concern me. I worry he won’t even get to 39 before he pickles his liver if he keeps it up. At the present time, he is unwilling to seek help. I think he is afraid of what life sober might mean for him. That makes me sad.

    So, anyway, I always promised myself I would never drink. My mom died of ovarian cancer. That… I might one day get. But even if one has alcoholic tendencies, if one never consumes alcohol, you can’t become an alcoholic, right?

    Well, at 21, I started drinking occasionally and socially. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been drunk in my life. What I came to realize is… I don’t have a tendency toward alcoholism. I think I didn’t get the gene that others in my family did. I can have a drink… and then stop. I can go out to a bar and not have a drink even. I do that a lot when I’m the designated driver or when I am planning to go running the next day or just cuz I don’t always want a drink. Club soda with lime is my staple at weddings and bars.

    I did once upon a time have rules for myself… I would only allow myself one drink, for example, at the beginning of an event and then no more. I’ve actually read that that’s a good policy anyway. Men typically drink 3+ drinks per day before they get cirrhosis (the kind caused by alcohol consumption) but women who drink only 1 drink per day are at just as high a risk of cirrhosis as men who drink 3+. So, not drinking daily is good for me.

    When I did start drinking, here were my rules: no more than twice per week. And not in front of my family. And I only ever drank in social situations. That whole “don’t drink alone” thing.

    I also made a point of not drinking when I was really upset. I didn’t want alcohol to be something I reached for when I was upset. That somehow seemed like a bad road to go down. My rule was… only if it’s social and fun. I can’t say that I still follow that exactly. I did have a glass of wine after every BFN, for example, but I do think it’s wise still for me not to drink when I’m really super upset.

    Okay, I will stop hijacking your comments. It’s possible that you are an alcoholic. It’s also possible that you abused alcohol in your youth, but don’t actually have a physical dependence on it. I would say that if you start drinking again, set some rules, tell S. about them, and see how it goes. Hugs.

  5. I’m all for questioning the whole genetic predetermination idea that permeates pretty much everything in medicine these days (particularly mental health). How are you feeling when S drinks?

    My wife’s response to excessive drinking in her teens may be helpful. She went to college at 16 (bad idea) and can’t remember most of the three years she was there before she dropped out. I’ll spare you the horror stories. Eventually she quit completely and didn’t drink at all for several years. (She also eventually went back to school and got a PhD in math. She’s a smarty pants)

    But by the time I met her, she was drinking moderately, and has continued to drink moderately. In grad school, that meant weekends, and she had a rule that she alternated beer (no liquor) with water and if she sensed she was getting even close that line, she stopped. These days, we sometimes share a bottle of wine on Friday night, or have a beer with dinner if we manage to get out. I have never sensed she was anywhere close to out of control, and lord knows she was a mess as a teen. People grow up.

  6. bri Says:

    Both my parents were flaming alcoholics in my youth and I saw them drunk and it was scary. It never made me not want to drink, strangely. I went crazy with alcohol on occasion in my teens but not always. I never got into drugs at all. When I go through big bad phases, I drink. When I had the bad job (and my relationship sucked), I went to the bar every night to read and had 1 or 2 beers. Some nights I got drunk. Then nothing for a while. Then I had a nightly vodka and cranberry after my miscarriage. The last time I got drunk was with you! I started drinking again when Beck started sleeping through the night and I have one beer maybe 4 or 5 times a week after I put him to bed. A few times I have had two.

    I don’t have rules (to me, it feels weird to drink and nurse, so that’s the closest I get to a rule – I wait until it will be many hours, but I have broken that rule a few times to no ill effect) and I don’t think I have a predisposition to alcoholism. I don’t even worry about whether Wes and I will get into a one drink to relax every night habit thing. We sometimes do and sometimes don’t. We rarely have more than one drink anywhere anymore and when we do we have fun on two (whoo!).

    Yes, I got blasted in my teens and even did some wildly stupid things when drunk. But I am not an alcoholic at all. I would agree that perhaps you were hasty in your assessment and that trying it would not be the end of the world. There is a difference, in my opinion, between teen craziness and adult drinking that starts to ruin your life or relationships. That said, there is also just a gut feeling to it. I think we know when we are fooling ourselves. You can try and see. I don’t think you will explode into a crazed drinking addict if you have a glass of wine every so often for a couple of weeks and see how it feels. You will know if it is bad news for you.

  7. Kathy Says:

    My parents are both alcoholics. Raging alcoholics in fact. I did not start drinking until 3 weeks before I actually turned 21. I drank so much I puked and then spent the next few months drinking like it was water. Since that period in my life I decided that I would have to monitor my drinking very closely. In the past year I’ve probably had 2 wine coolers, however that could have to do with the fact that I’m 5.5 months pregnant. My general rule is I have no more than one mild drink (beer, wine cooler) while I am responsible for my children. I have no more than three drinks while I’m out with friends or drinking at home with my wife. I do not allow myself to get drunk anymore. The second I feel that buzzed…good feeling…I stop drinking. I’m terribly afraid that I’ll become my parents so I want to make sure I stay in control.
    Good luck!

  8. Calliope Says:

    My uncle is an alcoholic and my father apparently was as well. My only rule I try to adhere to is don’t get drunk. That is more because I am a huge control freak than anything else. I can’t stand to not remember things or be out of control. My rules are if I am drinking at home no more than 2. If I am drinking in public and have to drive no more than 1. If I am out and have a ride no more than 3. But usually I feel tipsy at 2 and have to stop.

    I think questioning this is very interesting. love you.

  9. Pronoia Says:

    I don’t drink much, but mostly because 1) it makes my sinuses swell shut, and if I’m going to do that, I’d like it to be with ice cream and 2) I didn’t drink enough in my teens to get over the fact that it mostly tastes like crap. So, eh. I’m usually the sober ride home. 🙂

    But Ms. P does drink, and her father is a raging alcoholic, and she stopped drinking for a number of years in her early-late 20s because it was clear that whether or not she was An Alcoholic, she was using alcohol in inappropriate ways.

    In other words, I don’t think the theory of trying out alcohol again is necessarily a horrible idea. Ms. P’s drinking is fine, and yours might well be too, because the stuff you cite is in fact not that uncommon in teens.

    But I’m concerned about the idea that “normal” drinkers have to put strict limits around their drinking for it to be/stay normal. The “normal” drinkers I know have a drink here or there, sometimes even two or three or four drinks, but their stopping or not-drinking is about alcohol not being center, instead of making rules to keep it in its place. Does that make any sense?

    In practice, they generally don’t drink alone, don’t drink more than one or two at a sitting unless it’s a party or a special night when that’s planned/expected/prepared for, don’t drink every or even most nights. But they aren’t rules, per se, more just how it all falls out.

    I’m happy to talk more about this offline if you’d like….

  10. Kim Says:

    Right now I am pregnant so no drinks, but my rules before I got pregnant definitely included drinking. I would not drink on “school nights” (I only work Mon. thru Thurs. so that was Sunday through Wednesday). And on the weekend, I would never drink if I was driving. If I was out (rarely) and someone else was driving I would have up to three drinks. And if I was at home I would have up to 3 or 4 glasses of wine throughout an entire night. For my tolerance, and with dinner etc., that never got me “drunk.” It was still a bit much sometimes though. And I noticed that I did it more when things were rough in my life or relationship. Looking back, I may have been doing it for the wrong reasons, although I was always just “having a few drinks with friends.”

    Very interesting post. Like Bri said, I think you know yourself and trust in what your gut is saying. It doesn’t sound to me like you had any serious issues, but I respect you for making the decision you did at the time. And I respect you for talking openly about changing that decision now. Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and you will end up going down the right path.

  11. Jenny Says:

    The researchers in my program doing research on adolescent drug exposure would say that IF you were able to stop drinking during adolescence, that most likely your body is not biologically addicted to alcohol and that therefore, if you monitor your behavior, you should be fine to have the occasional drink. Apparently if your brain matures into adulthood while addicted to something like alcohol, your physiology is very likely to revert very quickly to that addiction if you consume that substnce again.

    Personally, I don’t like to drink much because I dont’ like how it makes me feel and I only drink things that are super yummy. Otherwise it just isnt worth it.

  12. E Says:

    i come from a long line of alcoholics: all 4 grandparents and my father (who’s been sober for 20 years). and probably my great gparents as well. but i never met them.

    my parents partied a lot when i was a kid and probably did things that put us kids in risky situations. thankfully nothing bad every happened and they were always “happy drunks.” i honestly, didn’t know that anything was wrong. i thought that’s how parents acted.

    needless to say, when i went to college, i partook in my fair share of alcohol over indulgence. i am pretty sure i had alco. poisoning once my first year of college. after that year i tamed it down a lot. but still drank socially and continue to do so.

    now as a mom, my rule is don’t get drunk. i need to be able to take care of my baby, and i can’t imagine being hung over with him. and as a breastfeeding mom, my rule is time my glass of wine so that it’s after Mr. E is in bed and he won’t need to nurse for a while.

  13. meanmama Says:

    Interesting. Since you’ve been quizzing people on their drinking rules, I’ll chime in. I don’t have any because I guess I’ve never needed any. Actually, that’s not true. Drinking and driving is definitely a rule- not even one drink. Besides that, though, I drink however and whatever I want. There have been periods where I’ve had a drink to take the edge off every night, and then there have been weeks and months where I’ve barely touched alcohol of any kind. I guess it depends on what’s going on and what kind of routine I get into/break out of. There have been a few times in my life when I’ve truly been drunk (a party and 2 New Years Eves), but I’ve never blacked out or vomited – though I think the not vomiting is just lucky.
    Anyway, I feel fortunate that I have been able to be so blase about it. I was also a social smoker for a long time, so I guess I am not easily addicted to things… except for the internet. Seriously. I am so much happier, I find, when my computer is broken. But that’s a topic for another day.

  14. girlranting Says:

    My dad is a Doctor. Strangely enough, he is also an alcoholic. His dad was an alcoholic. I don’t have enough fingers or toes in my body to count the times where he wasn’t there when I needed him thanks to the booze. My mom is the total opposite, she can’t handle her alcohol. Her dad was addicted to prescription medication. She gets drunk with a bottle of beer or a glass of wine. And then she has to go to sleep.

    I started drinking when I was 13, with my dad. It was at a New Year’s party at his buddy’s house. I had been nagging him to let me try alcohol (I wanted to know what all the fuss what about) and he told me that if I wanted to try it, I should try it then, when he could watch over me.

    I can’t even begin to describe how much I drank. I drank tequila, rum, gin, red wine, vodka, beer… If it was there, I drank it. I must have had a total of 20 drinks or so, in a space of 6 hrs. Needless to say, I was VERY drunk.

    Despite the fact that I didn’t get a hangover the next day (not at all, I swear), I decided that it wasn’t quite for me. I would have the occassional sip of wine every once in a while, and from the time I was 16 onwards I became a social drinker. I would have a few beers at parties and what not.

    When I was 20, I started working at a very well known chain restaurant as the back-end cashier (the one not visible to the public, inside the waiter-service-only bar area) and the scene in restaurants here in Mexico is very heavy. Lots of booze and drugs going around. I tried pot there, and also drank more than I care to remember.

    At 21, I decided I didn’t need the pot, so I stopped using it, just like that.

    At 24 I decided I didn’t really need alcohol either, and I would only have a single drink maybe once or twice a year.

    Now, at 30, I drink when I feel like it, alone or in a social setting. My only “rule”, if you’d like to call it that, is to stop drinking when my lips and cheeks start to feel sort of numb. That is how I know I’m starting to get drunk. This happens WAY before I start to slur my speech or lose coordination. At times it happens with less alcohol, at times more. The only reason I have this rule is because I know that if I keep drinking after that point, I’m not likely to stop afterwards and I’ll probably end up puking everything I drank and I hate puking.

    Although I have a history of addiction from both sides of my family, I can thankfully say I’m not addicted to booze, drugs or cigarrettes, and I’ve used all at one point or another.

    I guess after hijacking your comments what I mean to say is that only you know what rules you need to set for yourself. Do what you’re comfortable with. Only you know what you need and how you’re going to react, no one else does.

    P.S. – Sorry for such a long post.

  15. Kathryn Says:

    I think that I had a similar experience to yours! I had never really thought about it, I suppose. In college I started drinking for the first time ever (too much of a nerd in high school). The summer after freshman year, all through sophomore year I drank a lot, all the time. It got to the point of where I would start drinking around 5, not stop until 1 or 2, and have had eight or ten beers (cheap crap, of course). I gained a lot of weight, was crabby all the time and unhappy. I was in a bad relationship at the time and about to transfer to another school, not by my choice.
    After graduation all of my friends left for the summer and I had no one to drink with… so I stopped… I don’t think I drank again for quite a while. Happily, I lost 50 lbs and even though I hated my new school, I didn’t go back to drinking. It was probably a few years even before I would drink more often than once or twice in six months.
    Now, ten years later, I go through periods of time where I have a beer or two with dinner, or a glass of wine. I very rarely will get to the “tipsy” point, and probably only get “drunk” once a year. Then there are times when I can go months without any alcohol because I’m just not in the mood.

    I think that the idea of a bipolar setting for alcohol is silly, Alcoholic… Not Alcoholic… In real life there are a lot more people who fit somewhere in the middle.

  16. Kristen Says:

    I’ve been reading your blog today… really enjoying the topics. Thank you!
    I wanted to comment on this drinking blog… I see that you have been drinking wine now. I say enjoy it! I LOVE having a good glass of wine or a nice cocktail. If you are in to beer at all, try your local breweries. I’m from Michigan and we have 100’s of micro-breweries here, keepin’ it local. We also have many good vineyards here- not as famous as most wine regions, but getting better all the time.
    I’m just saying this to say that there is such a difference between drinking just to drink, or to get drunk and drinking because you are enjoying the taste and flavor, enjoying sharing a toast with your friends and family, enjoying the nectars of natural drinks that people have been making for thousands of years.
    I think you will know right away if you are spiraling down a deep dark hole with drinking. Just promise yourself (and S) that you will be honest with yourself always.
    kristen (daughter, sister, and grand-daughter of alcoholics).

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