Lisa Kruse-Robles is a mother, wife, makeup artist and graphic designer. She is a source in MPR News' Public Insight Network.
It's taken me almost a year to write this last installment to my series of commentaries about being the family of a deployed soldier. I look back on those writings now and can see the steady decline of self throughout.
I have a feeling that some people will look on this installment and find my words deplorable. Others may find hope and strength. I hope for the latter.
Alcoholism is sneaky. It's embarrassing. It's shameful. How could I — the cancer-surviving girl with a beautiful family, lots of friends, and a quirky style — have fallen into its trap?
I celebrated (yes, celebrated, quietly) eight months of sobriety last week. The night of my last drunk was pretty bad ... bad enough that it stopped me from drinking just one more after almost 30 years of drink.
I was a happy, slurry drunk. Not an emotional wreck. I was giggly and goofy. So, why did I stop? Because alcohol became something I planned my day around. Alcohol graduated from a "few beers for fun" to lots of beers for pseudo-fun.
Cheap beer became more than just an enhancement to an evening; it became the evening.
It's all still a sensitive topic for me, because I know I wasn't the best mom, the best wife, or even a good friend for the last few years of it. My main source of shame is on behalf of my kids. I can't imagine what things were like for them when Mommy was hung over. Sure, I made them food and got them to school (most of the time), but I was nonexistent, all the same.
My drinking started earlier and earlier in the day. I wouldn't get sloppy until after the kids were in bed. Then it was time for the par-tay! And that party consisted of me and Facebook. What fun.
I coped with my two cancers through beer. I coped with my husband's deployment to Afghanistan with beer. I drowned myself in beer.
I wonder, are there many other military spouses who find themselves spiraling downward? How many of us keep quiet on the issues that plague us? In truth, I think there are quite a few of us who live in silence — for fear of admitting the truth and feeling the backlash. And trust me, the fear of the backlash is almost worse than the actual thing. I now find freedom in admitting what I did; and that freedom is enabling me to move forward in hope.
The pressure of being a soldier's wife took me by surprise. I'm thoroughly ashamed — as I should be. My poor husband was in the farthest mountains of Afghanistan and had to maintain his focus, while having a feeling that his wife was burying herself. But, the few times we spoke, I would be my cheerful self, not wanting to make things harder for him. I didn't think about his return, though — and how much he would have to face when he got home. Again, I am ashamed.
Yet I am no longer the person stuck in that awful web of disease. I can actually remember my yesterdays — which is new for me.
It will take a long time to work through my addiction, one day at a time. I'm spending my days now being present, being a part of my beautiful family. I can see them now, appreciate them, love them fully. I recognize how the active presence of Mom affects my boys — in a wonderfully good way.
I will lose my family if I choose to drink again. I will lose myself if I make that choice. I need to remember that alcoholism can creep up in the most patient and deceptive way. As long as I remember that, I'm hoping to remain sober.
I'm often amazed at the women I meet in recovery — women I never would have expected to see there. I'd truly thought I was the only one. I've learned to not pass judgment on people for pieces of their life I know nothing about.
I always felt I would be missing out on something big if I weren't buzzed at a party. What would I do for my birthday? Or for New Year's? I couldn't fathom it. Now, I realize I was missing out. By drinking.