A new mother recounts her struggle with alcoholism.
After three and a half years sober, Bydlowska celebrated the birth of her son with a glass of champagne—and then another and another. That party began her relapse into alcoholism: drinking, lying to her loving and patient boyfriend, hiding vodka bottles in her baby’s diaper bag and sock drawer, dropping concerned friends, and blacking out again and again. “I prefer drinking to anything in the world,” she admits, “sex, food, sleep. My child, my lover, anything.” But alcoholism, she writes, “is not drinking, just like hemophilia is not bleeding. You can’t slow down, cut down on your alcoholism. You can’t unlearn its language.” Although she was elated by her child’s birth, wanted desperately to be a responsible mother, and feared that her son would be taken from her if she kept drinking, she simply could not stop. Drinking was not only a desire, but also “a need that’s psychological—sustenance necessary to keep troubling thoughts away. The thoughts of guilt and worry.” Those obsessive thoughts were “never easily distracted,” making her addiction feel like “a body part. I can’t get rid of it any easier than I can cut off my own arm or poke my eye out.” Being an alcoholic also required considerable stealth: drinking where her boyfriend would not see her, staggering purchases at different liquor stores to deflect notice, and always keeping a supply of mints or juice to mask traces of alcohol on her breath. Finally, she agreed to go into rehab when her blackouts put her child in danger. But after rehab, she drank again. Rehab failed her, Bydlowska writes, because she was not desperate enough to want sobriety. Now she is sober at last, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Do I stay sober?” she asks at the end of this painfully honest, insightful memoir; “I’m still here. But how can I be sure of anything else?” Addiction, she knows, is forever.