There’s a lot of things that changed when I got sober.

I stopped waking up hungover.

I stopped eating whole cloves of garlic to mask the booze on my breath before my husband got home from work.

I stopped ignoring my kids.

I stopped feeling hopeless and helpless and like the only thing I was really good at was hurting the people that loved me over and over again.

I stopped avoiding myself in the mirror.

I stopped watching the news first thing in the morning, looking for any signs of the destruction I may have caused during a blackout.

Eventually, I even stopped smoking.


But some things have stayed the same.


This morning, I reached for my bottled water, unscrewed the cap, and before I took a sip, I cautiously sniffed the contents.

During the very last leg of my drinking days, I began using water bottles to hide the crystal clear vodka I had started to rely on, proud of myself at the time for coming up with such a brilliant plan.

(They don’t call the brutal cycle of active alcoholism insanity for nothing you know).

Now, so many years later, I still cannot bring myself to trust the contents of my water bottles, regardless of where they may have come from.  Straight from the shelf of my local grocery store; fresh out of the package of my Costco-sized case; directly from the hands of my 10-year-old son. It doesn’t matter; I uncap and check them all.

It sounds crazy, I know.

After all, it’s been over 7.5 years since I last replaced the water in my bottles with vodka.

But if you’ve been where I’ve been, you never want to go back there again.

I imagine this little serving of paranoia is here to stay, for the duration of my lifetime.

I welcome it with open arms, my life no longer filled with empty promises and shallow apologies.

Just tiny doses of potentially socially awkward “better safe than sorry’s” instead.


I’ll take it.

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6 Replies to “Alcoholism: I Still Sniff My Water Bottles”

  1. Take it for what it is–your body and mind’s natural defense against going back. I can’t ever thank you enough for your genuine and frank talk about a subject so many regard with shame and taboo. There is another autism blogger that I follow who also has spoken openly about her recovery. Its powerful words, no less powerful, poignant, and life-changing than the words you share on your family’s autism journey.


    daughter of an alcoholic

  2. I do similar things, like double check labels and sniff travel mugs. We must be litter mates! Thank you for being willing to say out loud what is floating around in my head!

  3. Jo you are truly an inspiration to all. I have not been down that exact rabbit hole you were in I was the one 3 doors down using other substances. I got clean long before I had children, I did revisit that hole when my children were very young just to see if I could and I can’t and won’t go back there ever again. When I open a Sweet and Low packet I check the contents, powdered sugar and even super fine baking sugar. Call me paranoid, call me crazy but I have my fair share of demons and they cannot come back into my life.
    It has been 12 years since I was down the rabbit hole and I am thankful for everyday since.

    Be well dear lady and know we share more than just Autism.

  4. awesome 7.5 years! Love the hope you share with all of us … you take the shame away and bring the reality of hope and nobody has to live like that anymore. You are helping those who struggle in silence … autism and active alcoholism together truly suck.

  5. this is awesome. i am coming up on 8 years myself and there are things i still do now that i did when i first got sober, and probably always will. i embrace those things…they remind me what’s waiting for me if i ever make the decision to turn back. thanks for writing this. 🙂

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