Six beers, two shots and two packs of cigarettes. That was a typical night out for me in my twenties.  And it wasn’t just once a month, or even every couple of weeks. It was more like three to four times a week. The other nights I was at home slugging beers and watching tv.

At the time, I thought binge drinking was totally normal. I was young, single and had plenty of people to drink with. I worked in sales and there was always someone up to have a cocktail after a long day of making calls. A quick beer after work turned into too many beers, far too often, and lots of nights driving drunk. I positively cringe at that behavior today.

I drank away my feelings. I cried over a broken relationship and the thought that I’d always be alone. I starved myself during the day, because of negative body image, but got wasted at night because vodka tonic calories don’t count. I worried about money and how I’d ever make it on my own but put myself further into debt with every charged bar tab.

Despite the depression that I treated with booze, my twenties were fun. A lot of fun! I enjoyed those nights out and wouldn’t trade the carefree days, but I would certainly put limits on myself and encourage safer behaviors. All of this excess binge drinking has had long-term effects on my memory and it breaks my heart. I don’t remember many specifics about those nights, or even the sober times. It’s like that decade of my life is just gone.

In my twenties, I met my husband, got engaged and married and those events are fuzzy. There was always so much alcohol involved. I hate that. I want to be able to tell beautiful stories about those moments, but I’m often vague and just describe them as amazing days. I wish I could remember the details. I have to settle for the few pictures I have, piecing together memories with snapshots.

My binge drinking days were long before social media, dating apps, and smart phones. There is no humiliating photographic evidence or stupid tweets. For that, I am thankful. Not just for myself, but for my children. I would never want them to stumble across something that casts their mother in an unflattering light or that embarrasses them.

But my story isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s a fantastically happy ending. I am freshly 40 and closing in on 10 years sober. A dramatic foil to my twenties, my thirties were the best of my life and I remember it all! The smell of Purell takes me right back to the hospital with my newborns. “It’s Tricky,” by Run DMC comes on and I’m back in the car with a crabby baby who only stops wailing when he hears that beat. School plays, first days of school, and giant hugs. I am present. I revel in the moment. And I remember it all.

My twenties are part of my story. I can’t and wouldn’t change that. I just wish I remembered them. To say that I am not better off sober, would be a lie. My life is infinitely better without the booze. I am grateful that I realized enough was enough and stopped before something truly life-altering happened.

I am one of the lucky ones. I didn’t get a DUI. I have never been arrested. My children have never seen my fall-on-the-floor drunk. They only know me one way. A mother who unabashedly raps along with the gangsters. A mom who only wears red lipstick and a mostly black wardrobe. The lady who makes the best cracker chicken casserole. They know that I love them, but not yet how much. One day they’ll realize that I gave it all up for them and never looked back.

Colleen Dilthey Thomas is a sister to three brothers, a mother to three sons, a wife to one husband and an expert on absolutely nothing to do with boys. She also has a daughter, she’s not quite sure what to do with her either. Colleen is a Listen To Your Mother St. Louis Alum and her writing has appeared on BLUNTmoms, POPSUGAR, and Scary Mommy. She chronicles the wise words of her sons, the Handsomes, and her own misadventures on her blog, Come On Colleen. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram to join the adventures.

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