6/28/2021 0 Comments
Amber, the early years
How did I get here? I mean how did I end up HERE? A single mom of two kids under five, drinking two bottles of wine nearly every day. Well, let's go back to the beginning.
I had a pretty "normal" childhood. I grew up in a cute country town right outside San Francisco, CA. My parents were great, loving, and caring parents, and I have an older brother who I did everything with (baseball, Nintendo, bikes). I grew up in the 80's, when kids could play outside with the neighborhood friends until dark and we had no worries. What I didn't know then was that my "normal" childhood was turning me into a people-pleasing, codependent-alcoholic who couldn't feel any feelings other than "happy" or "fine." Like all parents, mine did the best they could. My mom grew up with challenges of her own; an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother. The pair divorced when she was in high school. As for my dad, well he's quiet and reflective, like me. And he's a short-fused hothead, like me!
Because of this interesting family dynamic, I was a timid and shy little girl who believed that my own instincts always failed me and that I couldn't get anything right. My mom assumed the role of Queen Bee, and I learned how to people-please. But I was a little kid and I didn't know any different, so it was "fine." What I learned while growing up was to put on a big smile, whether it was real or fake, and pretend like everything was always so great! :-) I shoved my real feelings down deep inside me, because my parents weren't available to help me deal with them. Failure was not an option. Our family was a special group of over-achievers, and when I failed (which I felt like was pretty often), Queen Bee (mom) stepped right in to clean up the mess. I never had the experience of a natural consequence; it seemed like things just magically worked themselves out. I lived life on Easy Street and I thought it was great!
My family was always really into sports. My brother and I are naturally athletic. We played baseball, soccer, and basketball, and my dad coached our teams. Those were the best memories of my childhood. When I began high school, I signed up for the cross-country team (at the suggestion of a dear friend of mine) in order to get in better shape for the upcoming basketball season. I had no interest in running long distance, but my friend was really cool, and I was a people pleaser. But once I began running I knew I had found my true passion. I was totally hooked! Something about pushing myself physically to the max.. it released all the pressure that was built up inside me. It was such an amazing feeling! For the first time in my life, I had some control. I felt like an animal who was let out of its cage. I was wild and free. Plus, the girls on my team became my best friends. There were 7 of us. We ran together almost every day of the week. That type of special friendship is unique, and can only be found when friends share a common threshold for the pain and misery of their shared activity. We spilled our guts out to each other on the trails, travelling and racing together, and cheering each other on till the very end no matter if we ran fast or slow. (20 years later we are still friends, and some of us still run together!)
Shortly later, but still during my freshman year of high school, I made the varsity softball team (growing up I lived and breathed softball). Those girls were very different from the cross-country girls; they were all older than me and they liked to party. The two team captains invited me to a party to celebrate my making the varsity squad: my right of passage. I remember how exciting it was getting to hang out with juniors and seniors, and meeting all of their friends. I had never been to a party like that before. There were people everywhere and no parents. There was loud music and dancing, and people sitting in the hot tub. They had a keg of beer and bottles of alcohol spread across the counter tops. My friends were already drinking but I hesitated. I didn't know what the alcohol would do to me; I was so out of my comfort zone. They noticed my hesitation and they knew I had never drank before. They pulled me into an empty bedroom with a bottle of peppermint schnapps and a shot glass. They were so enthusiastic about having the pleasure of introducing me to my first drink. One of them said, "just drink it quick, and then you'll start to feel really good." So I drank it quick, and they were right. They were soooo right. The alcohol trickled down through every single cell in my body, and I felt like a brand new person. I felt so alive! I felt confident, more fun, less anxious, and energized. I thought, "give me more of that stuff!" Game. Over. I was freaking hooked. That night, at the delicate age of 14 years old, the trajectory of my life took a dark and twisted turn for the worse. I would be a marathon-running-binge-drinker for the next 25 years.
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