I just finished reading Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska and the quote above is from her book.
Wow. I’ll just give you a minute to let that sink in.
I’m sure I’ll wake up tomorrow with another emotional hangover (like I did when I watched 13 Reasons Why) after reading this book and this quote in particular. I’m still early in my recovery at just 121 days and when I read these things or hear stories that I connect with, my breath always catches. I’m not alone. These feelings aren’t unique to me. Then there’s relief because…well, I’m not alone.
My entire life I’ve felt abnormal…not right…like an outsider. I started putting on weight in third grade which never really stopped until I topped out at 285 pounds at 24 years old. Years of angry tears and cursing God and asking WHY CAN’T I JUST BE NORMAL?!
My senior year of high school (and let’s be honest, probably even earlier) was spent sliding down the slippery slope of depression. My first heartbreak in college and realizing I had to figure out my life, and fast, during 4 years of college sent me spinning. In and out of therapy, lots of prescriptions that I filled but never took because WHY CAN’T I JUST BE NORMAL?!?!
As I left college and continued to binge drink and began my career and continued trying to figure out who I was and why my destiny included me being morbidly obese, depression and anxiety kept creeping in. So I had gastric bypass and lost 135 pounds but it turns out, being thin doesn’t necessarily make you feel normal either.
I got married and bought a house with my husband and planned on starting a family. Because this is what normal people do. And I wanted so badly to just be normal.
I had two babies and earned my master’s degree while tending to infants and toddlers and working full-time. The only thing that felt normal at this point was my anxiety. So I started taking the pills that they said would help me and finally, finally, finally after several different tries, found something that gave me some relief. But now…now I was one of those people who has to take a pill to feel normal. Whatever normal is.
I started drinking more as the kids got a bit older and totally bought into the mommy-drinking culture. I DESERVED those 3 glasses of wine. I’m a mom. I’m a normal mom.
My marriage, like many marriages, began to bend under the weight of time and children and a mortgage and jobs and bills and in-laws and life. It wasn’t fun anymore. It wasn’t romantic. It wasn’t normal in my mind. And all I wanted was normal.
Then my dad died somewhat unexpectedly. I was 31. So I pretty much pretended it didn’t happen. Avoided grieving in a healthy way. Avoided dealing with what I witnessed and experienced in his final months. I drank. And drank and drank and drank. Then drank some more. Suddenly I felt normal.
I felt nothing. This must be normal, I thought. Then I gave up on my marriage. Normal, marriage is hard and marriage with kids is harder and so I’m legally married but I’d given up inside, that’s normal. No one’s actually happily married, I thought.
Then I got a DUI. Normal, almost everyone gets one at some point, right? Blacking out is totally normal too. It’s not like I do it all the time. Ok, it’s not like I do it every day. Only on the weekends or special occasions like bridal showers and weddings and summer cook outs and holidays. Maybe once or twice during the week. I told myself this was all normal. I told myself I felt normal. Finally. I BELONGED. I was one of the normal ones.
Now and then this deviant thought would try to make it’s way into my brain. “You’re still not normal. This is not normal.” So I would drink to quiet it. “You’re still sad. You’re still lost. You’re still not normal and this is not normal drinking.” Drink more and more and more to make it stop. I didn’t want to own it.
I kept drinking and fucking up left and right but eventually I couldn’t lie to myself anymore, even if I could keep lying to my family and friends. (Not that they believed me, but they pretended at least.) I couldn’t deny that my drinking was anything but normal. So I continued to embarrass myself, disgrace myself and destroy my relationships because it might not be normal but it sure as hell beat having to feel things and face the fact that I’m just not normal. Until it didn’t.
Then I stopped. And of course there’s so much more to it then simply, “I stopped,” but for now, just know, I stopped. I woke up and I heard again, “You’re not normal” and this time I had to choose to listen instead of try to silence the voice in my head with alcohol. And so I know now that I’m not normal. I can’t say I’ve accepted it yet, but I know it.
I put weight back on after 10 years and two kids. I’m not 285 pounds but I’m not 175 either. I still take a pill daily to lighten the anxiety that courses through my veins and invades my thoughts. I can’t drink anymore. I’m anything but normal. Or am I?