Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sad Songs Say So Much

*** Submitted by Jen

I had postpartum depression but at the time it didn’t occur to me.

I’d had twins, sure, it was hard. People carried on saying they didn’t know how I did it and those were great compliments but I had no choice. My two babies was your one baby, nothing amazing about that. I’d cry all the time. I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know how to bond, didn’t understand the feelings of protectiveness and love I was supposed to have.

I’d be alone too often and I’d yell and swear and cry and feel total remorse and failure. I shouldn’t be a mom, how did I think I could handle this? To top off an already horrible mental situation, Colin and I began having problems and I was able to add ‘woman’ to my failures. I managed to get through dark days knowing that by 4pm the girls would be napping and I could have a glass of wine. 4pm turned into 3pm then 2pm.

Soon days revolved around when I could drink, when I’d finally be able to feel normal, stop being angry, stop crying, start being a mom. With the veil of drink I could enjoy my girls, shower, tidy the house, make dinner, function. ~ I’m not sure when I stopped drinking like that, probably spring when the sun came out. Fresh air improve my state of mind. The girls thrived outdoors and I’d spend days following a routine. I loved walking while they napped, sun on my skin. I still drank but never during the day. I was a closet drinker, just like I was a closet smoker, never in public where one could be judged.

When fall came I went to work. My mom babysat. Early mornings and routine kept my seasonal ‘disorder’ at bay. It felt awesome being back in the city, my career, with adults. Awesome until the girls weren’t sad to see me go or excited at my arrival, and sobbed when my mom left.

Awesome until I began missing firsts.

I quit after 6 months. It was 2007 when I started my first blog. Drinking wasn’t an issue, still, once in awhile I questioned frequency and amounts. Looking back I believe I turned in an addiction (drinking) for an obsession (building a blog/readership). ~ 2008. Those days were consumed with bad choices and people (some literally bad, some bad for me). There was one drinking episode in the latter part of ’08 that should have been my rock bottom but became a jumping off point when everything collapsed at the start of ’09. ~ 2009.

I started using alcohol to self-medicate. This time I wasn’t dealing with PPD or feelings of failure, I was drinking to drown my fuck ups as a morally bankrupt human being. At times it would start as early as morning. I saw therapists this year and hated them. All I did was cry, sign a $150 cheque, book another. I should have been in AA. ~ Most of 2009 and 2010 is blurry. ~ Because of things I couldn’t handle anymore the girls and I left in 2010.

Over the years I’d threatened to leave but never did because I had no money, no place to go. With my brother travelling and room at my mom’s house I left. It didn’t last long but it was good. I think sometimes both partners need a glimpse of life apart to open their eyes. Especially when you have children. The life you’ve built, the togetherness, the friendship, the family. It makes the bullshit less significant. By the end of 2010 I realized the biggest contributor to my unhappiness was that I was an alcoholic and I found support.

That lasted three weeks before deciding moderation worked better. I found a Buddhism study, practiced meditation and felt a strong sense of being grounded, centered and clear going into 2011. ~ Things were amazing last year. Best ever. We moved into a beautiful new space with a backyard and pool and a sense of community – everything I dreamed for my family.

Then out of the blue I crumbled.

The girls went to school, I struggled to find my identity, my doctor ordered me to lose 20lbs, my friends felt far away, I struggled with comparing myself to the wealthy women who live in this neighbourhood. I tried to get back into my career so we could keep up with the Joneses and all I got were rejections.

 For someone who’d had a meaningful career and salary it was a huge slap in the face.

This led to anxiety, insomnia, depression and heavier drinking. ~ I know drinking sucks life from me. It takes me away from mothering, home, relationships, health.

I have a choice and I’ve exercised it whenever my mind has skirted the edges. I’m aware. It is simple: do or don’t. I have a history of alcoholic drinking but I’m not powerless over it. I drink responsibly. I abstain. I drink socially. I do all of the above.

The complicated part is that from time to time I make the decision to float around the numb place at the bottom of a bottle. Lonely and alone in a pool of worthlessness and failure, sadness and hurt, hate and rejection. The fog, it’s strangely comforting like a sad song that takes you back, helps you remember, makes you cry.

I guess that’s why every so often I question what it all means. Having that place, it’s not normal.

I understand and appreciate what it means to be powerless, but I can’t say it. Nor can I say I have a hereditary disease thanks to alcoholic genes. It’s too easy to play a victim card, say circumstance happened and I’m the fucked up result.

Drinking is my choice and choice is power.

I make the decision of whether it will suck away my quality of life, health, happiness and future.

Me. I’m in control here.

Most of the time I forget that


A quick note from Ellie:  I apologize for the longer and longer gaps between posts.  I am currently fighting cancer (and my prognosis is really good - but this last home stretch of chemo and radiation are proving to be physically and mentally very challenging.  I apologize if you have submitted something and it has fallen through the cracks - PLEASE re-submit it.  I'm hoping that in a month or two I'll be back on track.  Please keep sending submissions, too, because I WILL get them up - it may just take a little longer.   Thank you.


  1. Jen, thanks for sharing honestly how you feel. It is hard. I am powerless once I make the choice to drink, I can only moderate or drink "normally" for a short period of time and then my disease takes over and it's all bad from there. It is a choice and I choose to not drink for today. I don't play the victim card but I know to a select few they think I'm weak and if I wanted to I could control how much I drink. For me it's sort of like Brick for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I drink, I hear and feel the "click" and it's all over from there. I hope you find a solution that you can live and feel peace with.

  2. I can relate to not wanting to admit I'm powerless. For years I attempted control over my life and circumstances with alcohol, drugs and eating disorders. i controlled how much I ate drank or drugged until I was out of control. I blamed past abuse in childhood, unloving parents and a violent husband. Who wouldn't drink? i hated AA the first year I went because I thought I was giving over control to strangers. I came to a point when I realized I could not do it myself. I had to surrender or die. Now I see a choice where I decide just for today for myself I choose not to drink. I choose to walk with other sober women, who have gone through the same struggle. Try AA. Find other sober women to support you.

  3. There is so much I identify with here. So many nights I'd cry and cry when my adorable baby went to sleep, terrified I'd never be able to stop drinking and I'd give my son an awfully toxic and dysfunctional childhood. I am SO grateful for sobriety. For the chance to be the best mom I can be. I love this line of yours: "I know drinking sucks life from me. It takes me away from mothering, home, relationships, health." It sure does. And it sure is nice to have a second chance. Thanks for your bold and honest writing!

  4. I flirted with the idea of moderation, of taking back the power.

    But the tightrope is simply too hard to do.

    Smashed or sober, then there is the mirage of moderation. Moderation is the bit where you can still walk and aren't asleep on the couch yet.

    Good for you for keeping pace with your addiction, but oh, the sweet release of conceding defeat and embracing the loss that is powerlessness. Your call, as always.

  5. Hi ladies,

    First, thank you for your time, words, thoughts and support. I've checked in here many times and have read these comments over and over.

    Second, I have contacted my local Women For Sobriety 'WFS' group, spent a good 30 minutes on the phone with the local coordinator tonight. I will be attending my first meeting on Monday night and then I will attend a women-only AA meeting on Tuesday night with the coordinator of the WFS.

    After sharing this post from my blog with Crying Out Now, I wrote another post and I will share a small part of it:

    "1. Depression

    It resides in me. When I get depressed I do not turn to exercise or heart to hearts with girlfriends or group activities. I turn to alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant so I’m doing myself absolutely no favours there and I’m playing with fire.

    I have to make a plan for depression, I need to understand my triggers (rain, rejection, lack of money) and see it coming, and I need to avoid alcohol, especially drinking alone. I need activity, I need fresh air, I need more girlfriend time and I need more fun.

    2. Control

    I give control over to alcohol. And why wouldn’t I? I spend most of every single day controlling every second with severe anxiety. I’m tired and worn out and the only way I know how to relax is to let alcohol take the wheel so I can chill the fuck out for a little while.

    No more.

    I have to begin dealing with my control issues. I need to take baby steps to let go."


    And in that post, and all of your comments, I am finally admitting I need help. The more I say it and admit it, the more I believe it.

    Thank you all, and thank you Ellie for creating this space.

    Jen xo

  6. Thank you for your courageous share. You really captured the internal struggle in your piece. It isn't always a linear slide downwards. It is often peaks and valleys, times when we feel "cured" and times when we feel hopeless and finished, only to reach another peak to be followed down the road by another valley.

    I drank less amounts and less days toward the end. I was able to wind down my drinking. But I know that if I didn't stop when I did, I would have been back to crazy drinking again before long.

    I wish you peace in your recovery.

    1. Dear Jen,

      Thank you so much for your story. I am particularly pleased to hear that you're going to WFS and AA. AA is wonderful for many, but is not the only way. I, for one, currently go to AA as I need face-to-face support, but my goal is to start a WFS group when I have one year sober. We are not all the same, and our paths to sobriety may not be as well. May you continue on your path until you find what works best for you so you can have a peaceful, sober life. My best to you.

  7. I too appreciate the honesty and beauty in your words. I was most certainly a victim for several years, childhood trauma, major depression. I tried treatment several times with AA and the 12 steps as the foundation. I hung out with a group of women with decades of sobriety and attended meetings everyday. For me this became a set up for personal failure as I continued to relapse and play the victim. I couldn't understand why everyone around me got sober and stayed sober. I really honestly believed I was different, that some how I was incapable of maintaining sobriety. I 100% believed I would die an active addict.

    Turns out I was wrong. I've been sober over 5 years, by Gods grace. God expressed in hundreds of small things, healed relationships, the gift of hope and the realization that I am not that different. Never give up, keep going, it's worth it. The things that feel "overwhelming" today will eventually become manageable. Please continue to share your struggles and your victories.