This Is Virginia Kerr

How I outed myself to find accountability, freedom and joy. A life without alcohol.

Day 33. Sitting at a coffee shop today. I get the value in self awareness…but now that my alcohol filter has been removed from my life..I can’t escape myself. Feelings, self reflection, inner voices are blaring in my head. I need the white noise of other people’s conversations.

When I drank, I drank until I went to sleep. That eliminated the opportunity for me to have to think or hear God or question myself. These days I watch tv, work puzzles and read. I stay off my phone and computer. Hang out in the basement. By myself. I think my husband is hoping that now that I finally finished Breaking Bad last night, I will return to our regular nightly routine of sitting in “my chair,” watching the news with him and going to bed. That also included a glass of wine. I’m still dealing with the loss. We’ll see.

I stay up late. Get up late. Sit with my thoughts. Strategize the day.

Today I am meeting someone. We know each other. Not well. But she reached out and told me she recently started going to group therapy for alcohol addiction. I’m curious. Every day I meet or reunite with someone online. They reach out because they struggle with drinking too. They’re the only ones I feel comfortable talking to.

I often find myself jokingly telling people, “I’m a slow learner,” when I discover thought patterns or bad habits. Now I realize why that is. When your life is filtered by addiction you live in a haze. You learn to just deal with people, annoyances, problems by numbing out and staying distracted. You tune out what you don’t want to hear.

I’ve done it since I was 13. When my dad had his first episode of mania and depression. When I changed schools to the fancy private school in 6th grade I found myself not fitting in for the first time. I was always different but never aware of it.

The reality of having a mentally ill parent in a seemingly perfect, Christian community would cause me to never feel like I fit in again. Ninth grade was really bad. It’s when I first drank.

I knew then that I liked alcohol. Even if I didn’t like who I was with when I drank, I could escape into another room in my head. In a way, I was already drinking by myself.

By 10th grade I was sneaking out to parties to drink on the weekends. Until I got a boyfriend. He didn’t drink. Didn’t like me to. I thought he was controlling. Food was my main hook up back then though. Alcohol was a fling.

Binge eating was another filter. Like the Mono filter..not the Vivid. The high of binge eating is anything but bright and colorful. It just lets you disappear from your thoughts until you’re awakened to reality with an upset stomach surrounded by empty candy wrappers.

I honestly don’t think I would have stopped drinking as soon as I did had it not been for the memories and stories I recount of my rock bottom of binge eating. The shame and self talk is so clear…when that same voice returned with my binge drinking.. I knew there was no doubt I was headed for a really ugly low bottom. Gotta get out while the bottom is still high. Before you hurt someone.

I often hear on sobriety podcasts that if you’re questioning whether you drink too much..you most likely are. For me it wasn’t just about how much I drank it was about how it made me feel. I couldn’t get to the buzz fast enough. In the end, I would pour my Chardonnay into my oversized glass until it was too full to pick up. I’d slurp it down right there on the counter. Pour a couple sips worth more and then take it upstairs.

I drank out of wine boxes for a while so no one could see how much I drank. I collected empty bottles so my husband wouldn’t see them in the trash all at once. He confessed the other day that he knew I had a problem for a while but never said anything because he was afraid it would make me drink more.. and hide it more. He’s right.

Another fantastic way for me to numb out was staying busy. Focused on goals. Projects. Working as hard as possible to prove I am ok. I fit in. I am worthy.

However the “slow learner” wouldn’t realize this until this past year.

I identify with a lot of the stories of high functioning alcoholic women. People pleasers, overachievers, Type As, independent, doers who are always looking for the next project.

Man, do I have project ideas right now. I’m keeping the doer in me restrained. She just unfiltered. No need to slap another one on until we get this figured out.

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