The time finally came for us to move the crib-turned-toddler-daybed out of my daughter’s room and clear the way for her new big girl bed. While clearing out the menagerie of clutter that remained from under her bed, I came across a card that I must have given my daughter to play with when she was collecting “credit cards.” It was my therapist’s business card, and on the back, as was typical when I was attending therapy, was a question for me to reflect on before my next session. “What is Normal?”
Growing up, I experienced more square-peg, round-hole situations than I care to recall. Moving, switching from private to public school, changing swim teams to find the right fit kept “normal” seemingly out of reach for me. A career change, divorce, and seven years of therapy later, at the age of 31, I realized that this “normal” that so many of us live in constant pursuit of does not really exist at all.
[Side note: If when you hear the word therapy, you think “I don’t need to pay someone to listen to my problems. I’ve got friends for that, I want to be the first to tell you you’re wrong. There’s a professionalism and unbiased skill that a therapist has when uncovering the root of an issue. Just like content experts don’t make the best teachers, friends don’t make the best therapists.]
I’ve struggled internally with how to write this blog post for a long time. I wrestled with the idea of writing anonymously, but “unnamed” has never been my way about things. My ultimate goal in this is that my experience, strength and hope can inspire, encourage, and support someone who is having a similar struggle. I feel I can do that most effectively with a genuine story, rather than an incognito account. So, without further introduction, I’m taking a deep breath, putting my big girl pants on, and opening up.
Hi. I’m Megan. I’m a mother, a wife, a vegan, a dog lover, a math teacher, and an alcoholic. On March 31, 2012, I admitted my powerlessness over alcohol and this March will mark 3 straight years of sobriety for me. I’ve attended AA meetings, in numerous cities, and the message is the same: The addiction is merely a symptom to an underlying problem.
On August 29, 2010, I gave birth to a baby girl named Maria. Her perfect eyes, toes, and full head of hair illuminated my world like I could not have imagined. Being a mother was going to be the most rewarding, beautiful experience of my life, yet I felt the heavy burden as the life of this child was placed in my arms. Nothing short of divine intervention was going to come between me and protecting my child. Nothing, of course, but the power of an addiction to alcohol, which no human force could ever remove. I remember looking at Maria’s perfect blue eyes and stroking her soft baby skin, while slowly emptying the remaining contents of a bottle of Kettle One vodka I’d stashed under the sink. Alcohol pulled me deeper and deeper into helplessness as it seduced me night after night. That first sip after a hard day dealing with students sent a rush of relief throughout my body. But that relief was short lived when the need for more grew greater and greater.
Everyday, people are touched by the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous. Every profession in the world has been affected by the disease of alcoholism. But as a teacher, I have experienced the anxiety that comes with wondering if AA is truly anonymous. I hesitated so many times to walk through the welcoming doors and admit my powerlessness over a drug that held me down. Fearful that inside those rooms I’d lock eyes with a parent, former student, or colleague who would divulge my secret that I struggled with alcohol. As teachers, we desire control and order. Trying to control my intake of alcohol was something out of my reach, yet the fear of being recognized as a teacher kept me from attending a meeting and seeking real help.
I still attend AA meetings and no longer fear running into school parents or former students. In fact, I’ve become friends with a few that also attend meetings. When I run into former students, I look for ways I can be helpful to them rather than shying away. Along with therapy, I’ve learned to embrace my abnormality. I’m a math and dog-loving, vegan, alcoholic. I’ve been told not to open with that description, but that’s who I am at the core. I don’t fit into many social circles naturally, but I’m fiercely committed to those I call friends. Since I’ve put down my drink, my life has not stopped getting better. And I’ve built a confidence in myself that there isn’t anything I want to accomplish that’s out of my reach.
There’s a lot of cliched “if I can do it, you can do it” rhetoric that follows stories like this, so I’m going to try to go a different route. Social media does a lot of great things, but the glow of perfect Instagram photos and self-congratulatory Facebook statuses seems to tell us to put our best foot forward and discourage us from showing the hurt that lies underneath. Many of us mourned when Robin Williams lost his battle with addiction by taking his own life, but how many of us reached out to the Williams’ in our timelines? The face of addiction isn’t necessarily the homeless person on a bench with a bottle in a bag. Because it’s also the teacher down the hall who holds it together during the day and falls apart at night.
I will be an alcoholic for the rest of my life, and my goal in posting this is to shed light on the deep rooted issues that even the most connected of connected educators hide. If you struggle with addiction, please reach out. Alcohol happened to be my drug of choice, but the many threads of addiction run together under common themes. Please share this post far and wide, especially if you think it would help someone who is struggling with this destructive, life-threatening condition of addiction.
We open our hearts and souls to our children every year, but struggle with opening ourselves to help. We support each other with twitter chats and lesson sharing, but I know that so many fellow educators struggle with similar issues that don’t translate well in 140 characters. But we can’t heal a hurt we keep hidden underneath educational technology and growth mindset posters. Let’s lift each other up in a way that helps us grow from the inside and helps us appreciate our own abnormalities as perfection.