For many years I had a secret dream. A dream I wouldn’t even voice aloud to myself, not even in the voice that lived inside my head.
I felt so undeserving of this dream that I brushed it off when it came up in conversation and made self-deprecating jokes about my inability to handle the task purely to hide just how vulnerable it made me feel to want something I felt so incapable of doing.
It’s been two months since my dream came true with the birth of my daughter, and what began as the most terrifying journey soon became a pleasant and happy experience as I grew with confidence in my own ability and in my relationship with my baby.
As weeks went by I began to miss my autonomy, my friends, my ability to just unwind and not be thinking about sterilising bottles or changing nappies, so last Friday my parents watched our daughter and my partner and I joined my friends on a night out – a night that began in all the ways my drinking history has taught me to avoid.
Unsurprisingly to many, I ended up where those historic sessions always found me; 20 odd vodka redbulls later, not able to tell you my own name – In fact, I was probably in the worst shape I’ve ever been, and that’s coming from someone who has given themselves pancreatitis from drinking.
The day that followed was the most heartbreaking of my life.
It’s a day of new feelings, and of meeting old ones long buried and long forgotten.
I was dizzy, weak, unable to throw up but unable to keep anything down. I couldn’t pick my daughter up without the fear of dropping her. She cried and my partner was the only one who could help her. I couldn’t feed her, change her or bathe her. I couldn’t comfort her and I probably terrified her with the amount of alcohol that was steaming out of my body. My skin was grey, my eyes were bloodshot and my body shook.
I cried most of the day.
I felt physically better the next day (though by no means what you would call “well”), but mentally, I was beginning the sharp descent into the boozeblues.
This is where those old feelings brush up against new feelings.
It has occurred to me in these days that have followed that mentally and emotionally, I am back where I began in motherhood. I don’t have a single ounce of faith in my own ability as a parent as a result of ending up in that same boozetown I swore I had left behind.
If I fell this far already, when I was enjoying our life so much, what am I going to do when we have actual challenges to face?
It seems my confidence is intrinsically linked to my control over my drinking – when I fail at controlling that, I lose any shred of faith in my ability to function anywhere else in life. All I see is how worthless and useless and selfish I am to not be able to stop, even when something so perfect is waiting to see me the next day.
I’ve spent the past few days with my old friends regret, fear, self-loathing and The Whisperer – she’s the one who speaks to people when they’re at their lowest, looking for ways to stop feeling those ugly feelings about themselves – she sits on your chest, fills up your veins, squeezes your lungs and tiptoes through your mind, kicking dust all over the things you find most precious.
Now, when my daughter cries, I can’t say what she needs. Until Friday, I was okay with guessing. Now it feels like everything is a guess. It makes me feel small and not good enough for her.
We’ve been talking a lot the past couple of days, my daughter and I. She’s been smiling at me and laughing. Until Friday, those smiles and laughs were just that – a baby’s smiles and laughs. Now part of me aches because she’s too beautiful for me. She’s two months old and I’ve already let her down.
And now I remember why she was my secret dream, because this is what I knew was in me. This is why I knew I’d fail.
So this is it. This is the memory I need to keep each time I take myself to the bar to buy a drink. I need to remember how this feels, rather than try to forget it.
It’s in the forgetting that we end up having to remember.