Starting Fresh?

I have recently made the decision to abstain from alcohol. I currently have 2 days and 12 hours alcohol free, which is definitely not the longest I’ve gone without drinking. I don’t normally drink daily, sometimes not even weekly, but I’ve also never kept track of the days. I have never felt that I had a problem with alcohol but looking back on my life I see some patterns that may show otherwise.

I started drinking at 13 when my older sisters and their friends would party and have beers at our house. I started out sneaking them, hiding it from my parents, but got caught after the second time. I did not try to hide it at that point and my mom was one of those moms who figured it was better if we did it at home rather than sneaking out to parties and getting trashed in the woods with kids from school, putting ourselves in dangerous situations. She would buy me wine coolers or Arbor Mist if I asked, expressing her disapproval but still doing it.

I drank as often as I could as a teenager. I met my now ex-husband when I was 15 and we drank every weekend, either at the racetrack or at a friend’s house. I got to the point in high school where I felt that the weekend was wasted if I did not get drunk. I caught myself at that point, realizing that it was toxic and that I should slow down a bit.

I drove drunk for the first time on my ex-husband’s 21st birthday when I was 18. I had recently gotten my first car and we drove it to the bar to celebrate his birthday. I borrowed my sister’s ID, something I continued to do for the next 3 years until I could use my own ID to get into bars. At the end of the night his parents offered to drive us home but I selfishly and stupidly did not want to leave my car in the parking lot of the bar so I assured everyone I was okay to drive and drove us home. I knew as soon as I got on the road that I was drunk and should not be driving but instead of turning around and parking my car I prayed to God to get us home safe and kept driving. Luckily we made it to my parents’ house 20 minutes away without incident.

My marriage revolved around alcohol and partying. Our wedding was one giant party, surprisingly leaving us with lots of leftover wine. We had a party every weekend and lived a block from the local bar so we spent lots of nights there, bringing the party back to our house after the bars closed. Not shockingly, that marriage only lasted 4 years.

After my divorce I spent lots of time with friends at parties, bars, and breweries. I had moved on from drinking only on the weekends to going out on weeknights as well. Taco Tuesday (with margaritas and Coronas), Wednesday trivia night at Diamond Knot brewing, as well as the weekends at my favorite bars on the Hewitt strip in Everett where the owners knew me and would give me free drinks.

I met my son’s father shortly after my divorce and our relationship also revolved around drinking. We would buy a bottle of whiskey or tequila or rum and have drinks whenever we hung out together. We were together for 5 years and it was a very unhealthy and abusive relationship, mostly due to the amount we drank. He spent many nights in jail due to fights we had gotten into when we were drinking. I obviously was sober during my pregnancy but I complained the whole time that all I wanted was a drink or beer.

After my split from my son’s father I remember being excited to be able to buy the beer I wanted and that it would be in the fridge whenever I wanted it, knowing he would not be able to drink it when I wasn’t around. I met my current boyfriend shortly after that split and our relationship also started with drinking. We would BBQ and always had beer or drinks. He was in the Navy and lived over an hour away so on Fridays when he was on his way I would crack open a beer and would continue to drink all weekend with him.

I don’t remember a time that I did not celebrate without alcohol. Every holiday, BBQ, get together, birthday, etc. I have always had drinks. They have all centered around what type of alcohol I wanted to drink to celebrate. Cranberry mimosas for Christmas and Thanksgiving, wine for most every other holiday, beer for BBQs, margaritas every spring and summer, beer for floating the river in the summer, Pink Panty Droppers for big races at the racetrack, champagne just because.

Alcohol has never affected my work, luckily. I have never gotten drunk while alone. I could quit drinking, I just didn’t want to. I’ve never noticed any physical problems due to drinking besides a hangover. I’ve never had alcohol affect my relationships, the other person was just an asshole. These are all things I regularly told myself to justify my drinking. I’m realizing even more now as I put this all out there that I was in denial.

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. We’ve been under quarantine for 2 months due to COVID-19 and haven’t been able to see my family all together in that amount of time. I spent it at a family friend’s house with my family, BBQing and enjoying the nice weather and actually being able to be all together again. I also spent it drinking margaritas. I didn’t feel that I was drunk. I felt like I kept a good buzz going all day but didn’t feel that I was actually drunk. I drove us all home that night and went to bed. I woke up late the next morning, missed my workout I had planned on doing, and my mouth tasted terrible like alcohol fumes. I was exhausted and dehydrated all day at work. I decided at that point that it wasn’t worth it. Drinking the day before was pointless. I would have enjoyed myself just as much without the buzz and the margaritas and I wouldn’t have felt like shit the next day and would have gotten up and had energy to do my workout. Instead I overslept and sat at work all day sipping water and regretting my decisions.

I know that I will be tempted still. The first float on the river this summer I’m sure I’m going to be craving beer. I know I’ll be tempted at the next BBQ I go to where everyone else is drinking and I’m not. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to have a beer here and there and not keep going until I’m drunk. Maybe I’ll learn to have a healthier relationship with alcohol and I’ll be able to limit myself to ONE drink for a special occasion. But for now I really don’t think it’s worth it. The way I feel in the morning afterwards, the amount of wasted calories I’ve been consuming for years resulting in steady weight gain, the poor decisions I make when drinking just don’t seem to be worth it anymore. Maybe I’ve grown up.

Freedom and Forgiveness

Could you imagine being so unforgiving that you label everyone else as toxic, completely cutting yourself off from relationships with people and being proud of doing so, simply because you are incapable of forgiving and moving forward? Being so incapable of being vulnerable enough to forgive someone after they’ve apologized, demanding respect you haven’t earned and refused to give, and thinking you’re somehow a victim in everything while you rally your troops to help defend you against your “abusers” who have not even done anything to you in all actuality. It must be terrible to be so hateful and to dwell on imaginary pain.

I have spent my entire life, up until a year and a half ago, being abused by my oldest sister. She was physically abusive until I was a teenager, at which point she realized that I could actually hold my own against her considering the fact that I had at least 6 inches on her. She maintained the emotional abuse all throughout the rest of my life. She would taunt me mercilessly as a child, bringing me to tears almost daily. I was picked apart so terribly that I developed major insecurities that affect me to this day. I spoke so fast to be able to just get it over with and get the attention off of myself that people couldn’t understand me most of the time, I did not take care of myself at all as a child because if I showed that I was putting any effort into myself at all I was labeled vain and teased for failing so horribly at making any improvements to my appearance. I was ridiculed for my teeth, my toes which she called rat toes resulting in my never wearing open toed shoes until I was 18, the size of my butt, my hair, the fact that I had to wear her hand-me-down glasses….and that was just the teasing I endured over my appearance. She was also constantly ridiculing me for my taste in every interest I had. Music, movies, friends, etc. I was contemplating suicide by the time I was 9 years old due to the abuse I suffered.

As I grew into a teenager she shifted her focus from debilitating taunting to straight up manipulation. She began inviting me to watch TV with her or sit and listen to music with her in her room, giving the illusion of bonding. The cutting remarks never ceased, though. She was still so hurtful and mean, insulting every decision I ever made, including my choice in friends and my boyfriend at the time. She especially ridiculed anything I did that had not first received her stamp of approval. I had been so starved for love and acceptance from her my entire life and she had beaten my self confidence down so low that I latched onto any seemingly positive attention she showed me. I wanted to please her and impress her, not knowing or not caring that I never could. We were “best friends” for years, throughout my 20’s and into my 30’s, all the while she berated me for my choice in men, my style choices, my parenting style (despite the fact that she did not have any part in raising her own child and I was the one who was there for the first 14 years of his life, not her), my work, etc. She had moved on from the insults to my physical appearance and onto ones about my life choices and my core self. She would treat any boyfriend I had horribly, telling me that they are not good people, that I could do better, etc. Meanwhile, she would be telling them the same things about me behind my back. She and her husband reveled in bashing me if anyone I was dating ever came to them for relationship advice with me.

She never approved of my circle of friends. My childhood best friends who were my only escape from her she despised. My friends I made as I got older she would always find fault with, making up offenses herself as an excuse to badmouth them to me. She slept with many of my male friends, many of my female friend’s boyfriends, and then would tell me that my friends were trying to steal her boyfriends so they were obviously not good people. She would list off everything she disliked about my best friends from childhood. She would tease us as adults about things we did as children, not in an “oh that was so cute and funny” kind of way, but more so trying to embarrass us. She thrived on making people around her uncomfortable and embarrassing them, especially me.

She has fabricated intricate stories of abuse that she suffered at the hands of my parents. She has told anyone who will listen that my parents used to “beat” her and that she was so emotionally scarred by their treatment of her that she now needs therapy. I am 6 years younger than her and from what I saw living in the same household from that time on my parents did not hit any of us. We got spanked with a wooden spoon but that was it, and it was far from a beating. She has created this narrative of a horribly abusive childhood to gain sympathy from others and to be seen as a survivor. She latches onto anyone who has addiction problems, has actually had an abusive childhood, who has been raped or molested, anyone who has been vulnerable in their past or present, and tries to act as some sort of therapist for them, citing her fabricated scenarios of her own struggles to show them that you can overcome anything. She tried to convince my other sister at one point that they had both been molested by their friend’s dad despite it never actually happening. She has hated my mother for years, trying to get me to do the same and turning her nose up at me if she ever knew that I had visited or talked to my mother. She has spread lies around to anyone who will listen about how abusive my mother was towards her, yet I remember her kicking my mother in the stomach when she refused to drive my sister to her friend’s house. She was always horribly abusive towards my entire family.

I lived 5 minutes from her for 3 years. She would monopolize my time to keep me from spending it with my boyfriend, my son, other members of my family, or any of my friends. She was always trying to talk me into breaking up with my boyfriend. She very much tried to isolate me from him, my friends, and the rest of my family, including our middle sister. She never liked if my middle sister and I were close. She always tried to drive a wedge between us. If I was on good terms with one, I could not be on good terms with the other. In September 2018 I moved about a half hour away from her and much closer to my parents and middle sister. She went into a panic and her scrutiny of every aspect of my life increased. I began spending more time with our middle sister and it was so refreshing spending time with someone who was actually supportive and wanted to do more than just sit in their living room getting drunk. We went hiking, spent time with our parents, spent time with my son and niece, went to the pumpkin patch to get pumpkins for Halloween, began spending holidays together, something we’d never done in all our lives. It was so nice feeling free.

My oldest sister does not drive. She never has. Therefore, I always had to drive whenever she found an event she wanted to attend and invited me to. One weekend after moving she texted asking if I wanted to go to some random concert at a bar an hour and a half away. I was getting ready for bed at the moment and also knew that I would have to be the one driving her and her husband to this bar. I declined and immediately she texted back asking if my boyfriend was keeping me from them. I was flabbergasted. I could not believe that not wanting to attend a concert so far away when I was getting ready for bed could be misconstrued as my boyfriend isolating and abusing me. The following weekend my middle sister and I went hiking with our kids. On the hike we planned to go to the pumpkin patch the following day. Hiking, pumpkin patch, and kids are 3 things the oldest sister would have no interest in doing so it never occurred to us to invite her to attend either event, not to mention the fact that my boyfriend who she had been trying to get me to break up with was included. The next Monday after the pumpkin patch I woke up to 13 text messages. She had created a group message including all 3 sisters telling us that we were deliberately leaving her out of things and that we were too toxic for her so she was doing us a favor and cutting us out of her life. She and my other sister had a couple of back and forth messages resulting in the oldest sister saying “F*ck you” and my middle sister, refusing to be spoken to that way, told her goodbye and blocked her number at that point. Neither of us has spoken to our oldest sister since.

In the past year and a half I have had multiple people Facebook message me or ask me in person what is going on with her due to the Facebook posts she makes disparaging my entire family. I always tell them the truth and that we don’t speak anymore so I have no idea what she posts. On my dad’s most recent birthday my family all went out to dinner together. My middle sister posted a photo of all of us and immediately one of our oldest sister’s friends commented a copy of the photo with our oldest sister poorly photoshopped into it. My sister deleted it, but the friend reposted it, and then posted it again after my sister deleted the second one. After deleting the third photo she blocked the person. Later someone else sent her a screenshot of the comments section on our oldest sister’s post about the incident where she had said she and her friend had spent all night trying to come up with more ways to get to my middle sister. If we are the toxic ones, why are we moving on with our lives and not engaging in these petty antics?

In recent months my oldest sister has moved in on my best friend from childhood who has major problems with alcoholism. My friend and my sister were never close, my friend even telling me that she had actually met up with her at one point recently but came away feeling “not good” as my sister just aggressively told her how to handle custody issues with her son’s father and tried to badmouth myself and my other sister. She admitted she did not want to meet with her again and didn’t feel like she wanted to continue the “friendship”. My sister is a master manipulator though and the relationship is continuing. I made the decision to cut this friend out of my life due to this relationship because I don’t feel comfortable having someone that close to me who knows what my sister has done to me my whole life and still chooses to associate with her. I feel sad about this but the relationship was bringing nothing but stress and sadness to my life anyway and running the risk of my sister being given the chance to try to find anything she could use against me.

It’s terrible having someone so toxic be so close to you for so long. It’s terrible remembering the good times but knowing that they were undercut with manipulation and abuse. It’s terrible losing other friendships and relationships due to the manipulation. But in the end I will be better for it. My circle is getting smaller and tighter and I feel good about the people in my life these days. I’m able to see them clearly for who they are, not who my sister wrote them as in her narrative. I forgive people who can’t see through her. I saw through it but couldn’t be strong enough to cut her out myself. I am thankful that she gave me that gift. The gift of freedom.