For many years of my adult life, I abused alcohol. I don't talk about this very often, but I've been pretty up front about it—at least, as much as I can bear to be. As a result, people sometimes ask me how I managed to stop drinking. I wish I had an easy answer for them, or maybe even something uplifting about doing a personal inventory and finding inner strength and accepting help from others ... but really, the answer is this: I got pregnant.
Pregnancy did something no amount of counseling, Antabuse, or tearful ultimatums could do: it unequivocally took away the question of whether or not to drink. From the moment the second pink line on that stick appeared, I no longer had a choice in the matter.
When I was still drinking, when I knew I had a problem, I used to feel an angry sort of jealousy over people who could sip their drinks. Leave an inch in the bottom of the glass when they get up from the dinner table. Say, "No thanks, I'm good" when someone asks can I get anyone another beer. Because that was never, ever me. I monitored the level of liquid in my glass with obsessive precision: if I make it last until the appetizer is done, I can get a second glass for dinner. Four bottles sitting in a six-pack holder in our fridge would make me anxious, because oh god that's only two beers each. With each swallow I was looking toward the next, an endless blind groping toward numbness.
I don't know how I ever thought I was enjoying myself.
Then, just a few short months after a shameful set of consequences that happened as a direct result of my drinking, I was expecting a baby, and everything changed. I don't pretend it is a silver bullet. Abracadabra, you're cured!—no, that's not how it works. But what that pregnancy gave me was time. Time off from that endless struggle of deciding whether or not to drink. Months of distance that is so healing in an abusive relationship.
The kind of distance (I'm not going to see him anymore) that can be so hard to achieve when you keep going back (he says he's sorry, it will be different this time), distance that helps you remember that you can get by, you don't need it, and things are actually better this way.
Here is what I learned: I am happier in a thousand ways, in a million ways, than when I was drinking. I don't want to numb this life any longer, I want to remember every moment.
Eventually the glass or bottle that used to hold so much power over me, that used to become the brightest glowing object in the room, with Alice's DRINK ME scrawled all up and down its sides, is just ... an object. It's there, or it's not, but either way, I don't have to worry about it anymore. My own sweating glass of lemonade is calm, benign, I don't feel the need to quickly suck up all its contents until there's only watery ice left, and oh, what a relief. What a blessing. How heavy those chains were that wrapped around my neck, and how good it feels now, how light and how hopeful.
It isn't a course of action I'd recommend ("Looking to quit? Just get knocked up!"). It's nothing I'm proud of. It's just part of my story, one more way parenthood has changed me.