This song is my anthem today! Stay sober. Be grateful. Shake it out!
I’m a double agent. Hm. No. Let’s be real here. It’s more like a triple agent. The fucked up web of lies, deceit, and isolation caused by my disease has turned my life and the people in it into the equivalent of a giant fisherman’s tackle box. Or like one of those plastic containers that keeps your pills separate from one another. There are people from my past that don’t know people in my present. And purposefully so. There ARE people from my past that DO know people from my present and keeping their interactions to a minimum has always been very exhausting. You see, there are things that people from the past know; things that people in the present do not know. And vice versa. It has been a constant struggle keeping people in their compartments and only opening the lids to their sections when necessary. There are other people that I sectioned off where the lid has been kept closed for years. The relationship may be dead for all I know. Friends that have faded into memories. Friends that probably wondered what happened to us or why I disappeared. Maybe some of them can deduce why. Maybe some of them don’t care why.
While I know I’m not really ready, I am very aware of the mess I’m going to have to eventually clean up. And a fucking Swiffer ain’t going to cut it.
My descent into wild and wonderful world of alcoholism started in 2002-ish at the age of 20 when I was just a precious and cute little arrogant asshole. The disease progressed rapidly reaching physical dependency and medical crisis in 2004. Without getting into the details of my hospitalization itself (that is its own post), let’s just say I nearly died at a very very young age (22). My sickness was blatantly public and everyone in my family knew what had happened. I got sober, developed a new circle of friends, artistically explored my sobriety in a very public way, etc. I was an advocate for recovery and no one hesitated talking to me about my own experiences or their own concerns with their own questionable behavior.
Then in 2008, I very casually and without much fanfare, relapsed. Here’s a post about that. My relapse coincided with the end of a relationship and a professional opportunity which required relocation. This is when my life began to fracture and compartmentalize socially and the various sections where I kept certain people began being born. It has gotten quite complex so to break it all down, here is a guide to various social vestibules in my people pill keeper container of a life:
- There are the family and friends that I moved away from due to work who think I am still sober from my first go at recovery. In their minds, I have been sober since February 2005 and if they were to do the math, they would assume I just recently celebrated NINE YEARS of sobriety. That freaks me out and makes me wish it were true. Some of these people (my mom specifically) I’m sure are suspicious or think/know that I have not stayed sober this entire time. If they are, they don’t say anything. And neither do I. These are people I will need to come clean to about my relapse and newfound recovery. They will be disappointed, shocked, or relieved that their fears were finally corroborated and justified and will be happy that I’m finally getting help again.
- There is the very small handful of old and ostracized friends that know about my relapse. I somehow manipulated them into allowing me to drink the way I wanted to even though they initially expressed concern and were terrified by the fact that they saw me suddenly with a beer in my hand at a bar in 2008. They were not happy about it but did very little to stop me. Ultimately, I moved away and in addition to the physical distance that separated us, I emotionally and socially distanced myself from them because they would have made it difficult for me to continue drinking and would have threatened my newly forming relationships by possibly revealing my past. These are the people that I need to acknowledge my relapse to even though they already know. I need to tell them I finally recognize it is a problem and make amends for selfishly choosing alcohol over them and causing them concern. I need to try to repair those friendships where I can.
- There are the NEW relationships formed since relapsing and moving from home in 2008. I fear that this group of people poses the most challenges for me because it means admitting that I formed and developed relationships based on lies. None of them know I had a problem with drinking in the past. This is why none of them know any of my old friends. That was my doing. Specifically, I’m going to have to work through the challenge of discussing with my boyfriend the extent of my prior problem and how life threatening my illness was/is. He knows that I’ve dealt with substance issues but doesn’t know the details about my near death experience and hospitalization which makes my six year dabble with the sauce seem even more irresponsible and fucked up. Yes, it’s a disease and yes, if I had any say in it then it would have never have happened. But it did. And it did impact our relationship. And now I have to tell him how I kept things from him that I never should have. At the same time, there are current new friends that really only need to know that I have a drinking problem now and that I’m getting help. While not cool, my omission about my past prior to knowing them really shouldn’t cause too many ripples. I can’t see any of them being irreparably offended.
I’m trying to take it easy on myself. I need to work through these things at my own pace and keep reminding myself that this is not a race. There is time and right now I need to heal physically and deal with the immediate fallout and trauma. But it’s so very hard when you’re on the phone with your mother and you almost blurt out, “I’m 45 days sober today, mom!!!” before catching yourself and thinking, OH SHIT NO I’M NINE YEARS SOBER. NINE YEARS. It’s very hard to be watching a medical show with your boyfriend where they mention pancreatitis and you have to pretend like you don’t know what that is even though it almost killed you. It’s agonizing to have to FUCKING PRETEND that recovery is a new thing to me and that I’m learning concepts for the first time. How incredibly stupid does that sound?? When talking to my boyfriend, I actually think about how I’m phrasing things so I don’t give away the fact that I’ve been through this before and that I already know the drill. I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far. I feel good about it. So good in fact that I almost tell friends things like, “No PAWS symptoms all week, Linda! HIGH FIVE, SUGARMAMA!” Then I bite my tongue. Linda doesn’t even know about me and my problem yet. Also, I don’t actually have a friend named Linda so everyone stop picturing Linda in your head. It’s a waste of time.
I had some people tell me a few weeks back that I should just tell everyone and anyone. People talking to me like I don’t know what it means to be proud of my sobriety. People talking to me like I’ve never walked this walk or assume that I know nothing about advocacy even though I’ve done this all before. And I just have to be okay with that and not let it bother me. Ego shedding underway. They don’t mean anything bad by it and they don’t know me. They’re just trying to help. But just between us girls, know that I DO know what it’s like to proudly scream about my sobriety from the rooftops. I’ve done it. I’ve had that. And if you’ve never experienced it, just know that it feels fucking amazing. And I want it back. I’m going to get it back.
What a difference a fucking day makes. Took melatonin last night and basically bathed in Sleepy Time tea. It took me a while to fall asleep and as I would doze off, I started having very vivid and bizarre head images and mini-dreams that made no sense. I was confronted by things like large vibrating avocados and then I had to jump on trampolines that threw me way too high into the air so when I started coming back down I felt that awful falling feeling you get in your stomach while riding a rollercoaster. This feeling would jerk me awake over and over and went on for about a half hour but once I finally went to sleep, it was good sleep. It was amazing sleep. It was OH YEAH DO ME JUST LIKE THAT sleep. You know the kind I’m talking about. Where it feels so good it might as well be love making. Becoming one with your bed and pillows and sheets. A sexual experience sans the actual sex. An orgasmic symphony of memory foam, down feathers, and Egyptian cotton.
I woke up with Billy Joel’s Piano Man in my head (WTF?) and sang a verse to the BF as he got out of bed and looked at me like I’d lost my mind. The puppy climbed into bed with me and snuggled. I felt like I needed a cigarette and I don’t even smoke. It was as if 100 pounds was lifted from my frame. The closet door swung open and the gospel choir that often serenades me on good days was finally back. Joy to the World this time. Not my favorite but I appreciated the sentiment. Got dressed and walked down the street toward the train with squirrels doing dances around me celebrating my existence and the cartoon blue birds that like to sing me songs on happy mornings fluttered around my head once again. One accidentally shit on my face but I didn’t care. That’s how good I felt.
Feel. Not felt. I’m still feeling good.
And I’m not writing this to brag or gloat! I’m writing it for myself and for YOU to remind us that the bad will pass and the good will come. If you’re having an especially awful day today, read my post from yesterday and then read this one again. This is evidence that even though it might feel like it, it’s not always the end of the world and I have to make a lot of effort to remind myself of that. I might wake up with a migraine and drag myself around all day crying but IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I might find myself forgetting how to do my job or get overwhelmed by things that were once simple but IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I might look up at the sky and see a giant asteroid heading towards me on fire just moments away from impacting the Earth and IT’S NOT. Well… Shit, girl. That’s probably the end of the world so go on and panic about that one right there.
Tomorrow might be amazing. Tomorrow might be fine. Tomorrow might be a disaster. But if I don’t pick up a drink, I have the very real chance of having an amazing day the next day. But if I do pick up a drink, never ending days of misery are certain to follow. I know that. So I’m going to be happy when I can be and when I’m not, that’s fine, too. Just have to weather the shit show until I wake up singing Piano Man once more. Because it WILL happen if I just hold on tight. Love you, Billy. XO
I’m really ready to feel better than I do. This sobriety thing is fucking weird because the ascension from crappy to better than crappy is extremely noticeable. But equally noticeable are the stretches of stagnation and occasional backsliding to less lovely feelings. I’m in the weeds right now and am trying to find my groove again.
I’m not going to drink today. Not even if my butt falls off. Someone said this in the BFB and I laughed so hard that a little bit came out. And it’s true. I’m not going to drink. I don’t want to. AT ALL.
But you guys, I AM FUCKING TIRED. I don’t know what the hell is going on with my sleep but it’s really starting to make me angry. And it seems like coming off of a weekend is even worse than sleeplessness during the work week. I’m waking up every few hours and have to readjust myself. And when I am sleeping, it never feels like real sleep. It feels like exhausting work. I don’t always remember my dreams but when I do, they almost always involve alcohol. Last night, I also had a dream that my primary care physician prescribed me some kind of really strong anti-anxiety drug. I was really excited about it and kept trying to get the prescription filled but every pharmacy was out of the medication. I remember thinking that the doctor really shouldn’t have prescribed me such a strong mood altering drug given my history but I was happy he did and I wasn’t about to remind him about my addiction issues. Obviously my brain is still like, DUDE GO GET DRUNKY DRUNK DRUNK LOLOLOL XOXO!
Getting out of bed was absolutely terrible and even now I feel foggy, not very chipper, and ready to nap for hours. Unfortunately, I’m at work and can’t. I keep telling myself that this is normal and that everyone I’ve heard from has expressed issues with sleep to varying degrees. But there is another part of me that keeps saying, “THIS SHOULD BE OVER BY NOW!” I mean, it’s been 43 days. I know that’s nothing. I know that’s a blink of the eye, a drop in the bucket. It took me nearly six years to do all of the damage I did. What makes me think 43 days is going to reverse it?
Usually I find it very easy to be grateful for the progress I have made. I’m able to work through the uncomfortable symptoms until the stretches of positive results return. But this exhaustion is mood altering in and of itself. It’s so noticeable and disheartening that I find myself saying, “YOU GOT SOBER FOR THIS?!” Then I tell myself to just shut the fuck up and cool it. No, stupid. Of course I didn’t get sober for this. What kind of dumbass question is that?
But what if this isn’t normal? What if people are telling me it’s normal but really this kind of lethargy is dangerous or a sign of something else being wrong? What if they are just telling me it’s normal because they can’t actually feel what I’m feeling and if they did feel it they would say, “OH SHIT THAT’S NOT NORMAL.” I really should go to the doctor and have them test me out to see if there is anything else going on. At least then I won’t feel stressed out dismissing these symptoms as completely typical of recovery.
I remember waking up mornings during the first 2-4 weeks and thinking, “WOW. I FEEL FUCKING GOOD!” And while I occasionally have those moments now, they seem to be getting fewer and farther between. Like I’m plateauing. Or sometimes even digressing. It seems the further from Day One I get, the more disrupted my sleep gets. Maybe it’s about to turn a corner? Maybe it’s going to take even longer? 60 days? 90 days? A year? I can wait it out. I have to wait it out.
I try my best not to whine. It doesn’t do me any good and it’s also really disgusting and not at all cute. But sometimes you just want to call a world meeting where every other human sits down in a massive auditorium, looks at you, and watches you ugly cry and moan and talk about exactly why your life is awful as you accidentally eat your own snot.
In my old world, this would be drinkworthy. But EVERYTHING was drinkworthy. Thursday was drinkworthy because Friday was the next day. Tuesday was drinkworthy because it wasn’t Monday. Sunday morning was sometimes drinkworthy because you had to wait for laundry and it was beautiful outside. St. Patrick’s Day was drinkworthy even though I’m not Irish and am terrified of leprechauns. Well. Not just leprechauns. Anything under 4 feet, really. Children. Snow White’s friends. I drank over anything and everything and nothing at all. And now you are asking me to NOT drink over things that actually are significant, difficult, and scary?
YES. THAT’S RIGHT. WE DON’T DRINK ANYMORE.
Okay. Not even if we’re really tired and feel like we’re going crazy?
NO, FUCKTARD. NOT EVEN.
Fine. What if someone dies?
THEN YOU CRY.
What if I get in a car accident?
CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY. ALSO, YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A CAR.
Fair enough. What if my relationship falls apart?
EAT ICE CREAM AND GO TO MEETINGS.
What if there is another Hurricane Sandy and I’m stuck at home for an entire week without internet or television or anything to do and I start to die of boredom?
OK, YES. THEN YOU DRINK.
NOOOOOOOOO GODDAMNIT! I WAS TESTING YOU. NEVER DRINK! NEVER!
So here’s the thing: I may feel awful today and I may want to crawl into a hole and fall asleep and never come out, but it is this very feeling that should be my motivation to stay sober. Drinking for so long made me feel like THIS. It was alcoholism that brought me to a point physically where normal human existence is HARD. And that’s really fucked up. So I’m going to stand in solidarity with my body and mind. These symptoms are SOS signals. This is me trying to tell me that me is broken and me needs to heal. So like always, I’m not going to ignore this. I’m going to sit in it. I’m going to feel it. I’m going to hate it. And I’m going to embrace it as further evidence that sobriety is the only way out and that today is not the right day to drink.
Last night I faced my first social situation that included people other than my BF. He had written a play over the course of a ten week class which culminated with a presentation for invited guests featuring single scenes from each student’s play. It was an event that I assumed would be low stress and one that I should have little to no problem handling. He invited some of our friends to attend as well and the plan was to grab a bite to eat afterwards. Easy peasy, right? Not. A. Big. Deal. The people he asked to come are people I already know fairly well and there should be no reason for being apprehensive about seeing them. But if you’re anything like me, it obviously cannot be quite that simple. As the day of the event approached, I became increasingly paranoid.
I did everything I could while sitting at work to minimize my irrational fears. But while Anderson Cooper (my logical brain) kept trying to talk me down, the ticker tape of insanity kept scrolling across the bottom of the screen. It read: ….OMG OMG YOU HAVE TO GO TALK TO PEOPLE…. OMG OMG THAT COULD MAKE YOU DIE MAYBE…. OMG OMG NO YOU WON’T DIE BUT YOU MIGHT GET EMBARASSED BECAUSE YOU COULD SOUND DUMB…. OMG OMG WHAT IF THEY ALL DRINK.. OMG.. SHIT.. OBAMA APPROVAL RATING AT 62 PERCENT.. OMG HUH? WAIT, WHAT?…OMG MAYBE I SHOULDN’T GO… OMG KIRSTIE ALLEY REGAINS ALL 60 POUNDS SHE LOST AND UNREST IN THE MIDDLE EAST…… and so on and so forth.
I told myself to shut up. Then I asked myself, “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”
And then I answered myself, “You really want to know the answer to that?”
“No, not really, “ I replied to I.
“Too late,” me said. “Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to walk to the theatre space and on the way you are going to encounter horrible things like rain and crowds of people also walking to places. You’re going to get all sweaty and disgusting because it’s so humid outside and your hair will start to curl and look absolutely disastrous. You’re going to look at yourself in the reflection in the elevator doors as you ascend the 15 stories to doomsday and you are going to attempt without success to make yourself look presentable. When you walk in the room, everyone is going to look at you and scream obscenities because you look so terrible. Out of courtesy, they are going to ask you questions about how your day was and what was going on with you. Because you’re still mentally foggy and often get tongue tied, you are going to reply to them by saying something terribly embarrassing like, ‘I don’t know what my life so I stupid alcoholic hahaha I stupid dumb man shit fuck sorry I like gorilla so do you have banana? and need to pee BYE!’ Then you are going to run out of the room as they throw their shoes at you which is a really big insult in some countries. You are going to cry in the bathroom, splash water on your face, and sneak back into the room as people give you death looks and wonder who invited the incompetent addict. Then more small talk after the reading where you might say, ‘These is good plays, huh!’ while everyone rolls their eyes. Then you’ll go to the restaurant where everyone will order sake or draft beer or chocolate martinis while you sip Thai Iced Tea in the corner of the booth and slump down in your seat hoping no one asks you any other questions or notices you are there. And as they all get more and more drunk, they will completely forget about you. You’ll excuse yourself to the bathroom but no one will notice or care. When you get back, they will all be gone having moved on to another location without bothering to tell you. You’ll make the commute home wondering where your boyfriend disappeared to. That’s what your night is going to be like if you stay sober. ENJOY!”
Some takeaways here:
- I am currently a nauseatingly insecure human being that needs a lot of work.
- In addition to being insecure, I am simultaneously arrogant and my ego is out of control. Why I even had the thought that this night would be all about me, I have no idea.
- My imagined sober self talks like a caveman.
I had worked myself into such a tizzy that I honestly considered not going. My BF has been amazingly understanding and although he might not like it, he would let me out of this if I really needed to avoid the situation. But I made the decision to proceed as planned because if I never allowed myself to feel uncomfortable, how would I ever get comfortable? You get sore from lifting weights but get stronger. You run further and for longer periods of times when training for a marathon even though it hurts and is uncomfortable but your endurance improves. You do strange impossible things that feel foreign with your fingers when first learning the piano but eventually muscle memory takes control and it’s a breeze.
I HAVE TO GO THROUGH THINGS. Not around. Not over. Not under. THROUGH.
I got to the reading, small talk was had, I didn’t sound like a caveman, people seemed happy to see me, and the discomfort and apprehension slowly faded. At the restaurant, everyone other than me and BF had something alcoholic to drink. I had Thai Iced Tea. People sipped their sake slowly like total assholes. CHUG THAT SHIT I thought. But it’s their sake and they can do what they want. Someone asked me why no cocktail and I said, “Because the Thai Iced Tea here is amazing!” This satisfied them. The guy next to me finished his sake and then ordered a beer. ATTA BOY I thought. IT’S ABOUT TIME. I made note of these thought processes and reminded myself that this is why I can’t drink. The conversation was easy and enjoyable. No one got trashed. No one suggested more alcohol or another stop. And after some hugs and promises to connect again soon, we were on our way home.
“Let’s pretend I had some drinks tonight,” I told the BF. “What would have happened is this: I would have had my few drinks but would want more. I wouldn’t have listened to what anyone was saying because I would have been so consumed with getting something else. And right now as we sit here on the train, I’d be obsessively checking the time because we’d have to stop at the liquor store. Or 7-11 if it was closed. And I’d go home and have that extra drink or two or three. But I didn’t have those drinks and this night was awesome. I feel so free. I can do anything and not think about THAT.”
He seemed proud if not still slightly confused. It’s hard to get normies to fully grasp what goes through our heads. But he’s working on being there for me as much as he can.
We were out late and I woke up this morning EXHAUSTED. But I had a smile on my face. I had a good time with good people. I felt something I haven’t felt in a long while. I felt connection and joy. I felt cared for and valued as a friend. And I really can’t wait to hang out with my friends again.
Something clicked last night. I’m really doing this.
I remember a time when I was active but trying to cut down. I was having a few drinks at a bar in Soho before attending a film screening with some friends. I thought I would be perfectly fine putting down a couple. In my head, I approached the situation with the expectations of a normal drinker which is absolutely insane because I should have known better but I was always trying to live in the skin of my peers who had completely functional relationships with booze. If Sally can do it, so can I goddamnit. Forgetting the monster that lived inside, I took those few drinks. At first, the burning vodka went down smooth and warmed my belly. My blood suddenly became hot and calming like I was standing under the stream of a steaming shower on a freezing cold winter day. It wrapped its arms around me and made me feel safe, euphoric, and grateful for life, friends, and good times. Perfection. But not for long. The initial glow soon wore off and I could feel the beast stirring from his slumber. I remember thinking OH FUCK. As the others finished their second (my second was already gone) and the film start time drew closer, IT started. The veins in my neck began bulging and throbbing as the searing, hot, alcohol saturated blood coursed through my body like a freight train looking for a way to relieve the building pressure but finding no escape. Extra salty sweat begin pouring from every pore and in an instant, I was completely drenched. My eyes went from perfectly white to bright crimson red and seemed to protrude from my face to get a better view of everything in the room. Looks of panic flashed briefly on the faces of my company. Hair began growing from every follicle on my body converting my already moderately furry exterior to the coat of an animal that would surely be coveted by wealthy Upper West Side ladies who lunch. The alcoholic blood flooded every muscle in my body and the muscles began to grow larger and larger until finally my shirt completely ripped open. Buttons flew off and one hit the bartender in the eye and immediately blinded him and sent him running and screaming down 6th Avenue. I roared like the hungry lion I was and began throwing tables and chairs at innocent and unsuspecting real estate brokers just looking for a calm place to unwind. My friends screamed bloody murder and pointed with shaking fingers as they backed towards the door of the bar desperately searching for an escape.
“WHAT HAPPENED?! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! WHERE DID OUR FRIEND GO?!” they screamed
In a voice that sounded like a deranged Cookie Monster on steroids, I screamed back, “MUST DRINK MORE VODKA! TWO NOT ENOUGH VODKA FOR ME, STUPID!!! NEED FOUR VODKA OR FIVE VODKA. SIX VODKA IS GOOD FOR ME BUT NOT TWO VODKA!!!!!!!!! I DIE IF ONLY HAVE TWO VODKA!!!!!!!!”
At this point, I was directly in their faces and roaring so loudly that their hair blew in the wind tunnel created by the noise I was making and pictures began falling from the walls and people ran screaming in all directions not even bothering to grab their purses and briefcases and coats. Finally the bar was entirely empty and I was alone. I grabbed a bottle of Grey Goose, lumbered to a stool, poured another drink, and stared at myself in the mirror behind the rows of bottles. I truly was an animal. A handsome animal, but an animal nonetheless.
In reality, we actually paid the check and left the bar without incident. I did spend the better half of our second drink trying to figure out a way I could order a third without making us late and also without drawing attention to myself or giving any indication that a third was actually NECESSARY for me and not just desired. I resisted the temptation and instead just sat there stewing and anxiously dreading the next few hours in the dark without the luxury of more alcohol. Incidents like these quickly taught me the importance of securing a drink or two before the actual drinks at the bar. And possibly even bringing a little bit of something in my bag if necessary. But in this situation, I had done neither. About halfway through the movie, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and actually LEFT THE MOVIE THEATER and walked swiftly next door to another bar, ordered a whisky shot and PBR, downed both, and returned to the theater and showed my ticket stub to get back into the film. And believe it or not, about 15 minutes later, I actually considered leaving again and doing the same thing once more. I didn’t. But as soon as that film was over, I peace’d out and went back to my neighborhood where I stopped for three 24 ounce beers at the grocery store since the liquor shop was closed. I spent the rest of the evening drinking properly and reading about the movie we had just watched in case it ever came up in conversation since I didn’t really pay attention to a second of it. And now I can’t even remember what movie it was.
THIS is the story of a single attempt at moderation. THIS is the story that I could retell hundreds of times over and all that would change are the settings, the people involved, and how creative I got in making sure my beast was fed. I think back and I would say that I am ashamed but in all honesty, it’s so crazy to me now that shame doesn’t even begin to cover it. I am ASTOUNDED. I am DUMBFOUNDED. I am AMAZED. How did I possibly have the energy to go through this over and over again for so many years?
I haven’t been sober for very long this time around. 38 days so far. But I’ve already learned so much. And I’ve already come in contact with some people who have asked about moderation as an alternative to abstinence. And all I can really say in response to them and to those occasional small nagging urges I get to pick up a beer (JUST ONE, I SWEAR. JUST ONE) is this: REMEMBER YOUR BEAST. He never goes away. He’s always in there. He’s always ready to kill everyone, EVEN YOU, to get what he needs.
I’ve been having a lot of anxiety lately about my wedding day and how I’m possibly going to get through that whole day/night and honeymoon without having a single drop of alcohol. It seems impossible. It’s really freaking me the fuck out. What makes this whole thing especially bizarre is the fact that I’m not even engaged and there is no wedding scheduled. I look at the boyfriend and think, “Hm. We’re probably, most likely, going to get married eventually.” That thought alone makes me anxious but then I start playing through our wedding in my head. Surely I will need a drink as I’m getting dressed and prepared to be delivered to the church. I don’t know who would deliver me to the church and I say church but I honestly don’t know where gay people go to get married so church is just a placeholder here. Maybe we get married at Disneyland. That’s pretty gay. I don’t know. The point is, I’ll need to be pretty smashed to be able to stand up in a penguin costume and waddle down the aisle with hundreds of people staring at me like I’m the bearded lady. Well, maybe not hundreds. Maybe like 40-50 because mama ain’t rich. I’m referring to myself as mama here, BTW. And let’s say I can make it through the ceremony without being shittyfaced. Fine. But what about the reception?? What about when all of those assholes raise a glass and say something awful and embarrassing about me while pretending it comes from a place of love? “I remember when you used to put on mom’s dress and pretend you were Maude. You were such a little freak. NOW DRINK, FREAK. DRINK!!!” Surely such an uncomfortable situation requires a bit of lubrication, right? And what about when the boyfriend turns into a monster and violently smashes a piece of wedding cake in my face as cameras flash and people laugh and the cake goes up my nostril and makes me choke? That’s supposed to be funny and cute but how in the world am I not going to get pissed off at him for acting so fucking childish if I’m not drunk? Obviously a bottle or two of champagne would turn such a weirdo tradition into FUN FUN FUN. And if I’m sober, I guarantee you I’m going to have choice words for the douchebags that decide it’s totes adorable to throw rice at my face as I run to the car. And I really am not going to be happy with the person who chooses to tie aluminum cans to the back of my vehicle. Feeling like you’re being chased by a maniacal tin man is OH SO ROMANTIC, right??
Although I’m not tying the knot anytime soon, these are the things my mind does when not focused on today. The present. I remind myself that this is all about incremental progress. Get through today without drinking. Then eventually get through a few dinners with friends without drinking. And so on and so forth until life without alcohol is just as enjoyable. Even more enjoyable, maybe. So I’ve heard. So I hope.
I was looking at the boyfriend and I thought to myself, “Oh my God. I told you I’m an alcoholic. I can never drink in front of you again.” Whoa. As if there was a possibility that I could drink again as long as it wasn’t in front of him? Big problem there. I corrected my thinking. “I can never drink again. I mean, I can. But I won’t. Because it will kill me. And I want to be alive.” The idea that I momentarily viewed my boyfriend as a roadblock to being able to drink again really freaked me out. Then I started thinking weird things like, “Ok. But what if I decided I AM going to drink again. What will I tell him? How will I convince him that I’m not an alcoholic after all so he won’t get mad at me??” Oh boy. NO. STOP. And the really crazy thing about all of these thoughts is that I DON’T WANT TO DRINK. I really, truly don’t. I have no desire to go back. But the moment I stop living in the present and start living in the future, my entire groove gets FUCKED. Like royally fucked. And I start seeing the future as miserable and void of fun and enjoyment. And that makes my present go from bright to dismal in the blink of an eye.
And so the goal is and has always been.. TODAY. That’s it. TODAY. NOW. THIS MOMENT.
Easier said than done, I know.
On the way home from work last night, I was totally in the present. I was mentally fantastic, inspired, and calm. Then I got a text that one of my friends had swung by the house to talk with one of my roommates. They would most likely be there when I got home. I went from being in the moment to living in the very near future. Just being fast forwarded TEN MINUTES INTO THE FUTURE totally disrupted my thought process. I started playing it through in my head. I’m going to get home and he’s going to be there and we’ll have to talk. I haven’t talked to this friend since I got sober. I’m worried I don’t know what to say. I’m worried that I’ll seem awkward. That I’ll be uncomfortable. He’s going to be able to tell that something about me is different. He’ll wonder what’s wrong. He might have beers with him. He has on occasion brought beers with him as a friendly gesture and we would all crack one open while chatting and I would sneak away sometimes to down a shot or two because I always have to make sure I have had more alcohol than everyone else. Oh, God. Please don’t let him have beers with him. There is a bar on the way home. If I just stop and have a beer really quick, I’ll seem normal. I won’t be uncomfortable. That’s all it will take.
STOP. What. The. Fuck? How did I mentally and emotionally digress so drastically over the past six years that the thought of mere small talk and chit chat with a friend became a horrifying thing that made me want to drink? But I didn’t drink, obviously. I got home and the friend already had left. And I think I would have been fine and after a few moments I would have realized that my fears were irrational and everything would be okay. But it’s absolutely astounding that something so mundane can suddenly wreak havoc on my brain.
Sometimes you’re forced to think about the future. A friend’s birthday party is coming up. The holidays are about to arrive. There are circumstances that bring us out of the now and into the tomorrow. We can either panic… or we can plan. We can either recoil in fear… or reassess. But there is absolutely no sense in imagining situations that have not and may not even happen.
I really need to stop trying on wedding dresses before I’ve been proposed to. It’s absolutely no good for anyone.
Okay, what exactly the FUCK is wrong with this boiled egg?! It seems like a perfectly normal egg from the outside. You know the type of egg I’m talking about: White, shaped like an egg, acting all egg-like. That kind. So it should be peeling like a normal mother fucking egg. But it isn’t peeling like a normal mother fucking egg and this minor inconvenience is somehow completely destroying my life right now. Eggs should not go around looking like eggs and then not be able to do normal egg things like getting peeled. I’m staring at it right now after picking off dozens of tiny pieces of shell that did everything in their power to stay connected to egg. It is giving me the stink eye and looks like a weird chunk of Swiss cheese. Kind of like my soul. And my breakfast is completely ruined and I’m certain that because of this single stubborn egg, my entire day is going to be shit and this is just another example of how awful my life is. Just eating a mouthful of goddamned protein has to be laden with insurmountable challenges and difficulties. Fuck eggs! Fuck breakfast! Fuck it all!!!!!!
So that’s where I was about ten minutes ago: Ready to call it quits over eggs. I stepped back from the ledge by employing a few very basic steps that seem so obvious in hindsight but next to impossible during a mental downward spiral. First, I removed myself from the situation. I threw away the (fucking stupid) egg, got up from my desk, and walked the hallways. I stopped and made a cup of coffee, drank a small glass of water, took some breaths, and accepted the fact that a very hostile and horribly rude boiled egg nearly took my serenity from me and that there was nothing I could do about its defects. Now I’m back at my desk telling you all about it even though it’s a little embarrassing and absolutely ludicrous. I don’t even like boiled eggs that much.
I’m still chalking these periodic crazy spells up to PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) and I’m trying very hard not to let them freak me out. They are becoming less intense and not as frequent. At first, it was very easy for me to spiral out of control mentally to the point where I became fearful and worried that maybe I was totally losing my mind and that nothing would be normal ever again. You know when you put toothpaste on your toothbrush and then put the brush under the water to moisten it and the toothpaste falls off and disappears down the drain? If I was already in a mood or having a bad day, something like that could totally freak my shit out. Typing it makes it seem utterly insane but in the moment, everything collides in a perfect storm of self-pity, despair, and frustration. How DARE that blob of toothpaste leave the room before I was finished with it! Doesn’t it know it’s supposed to be on my teeth and in my mouth? What the fuck is wrong with Colgate? IT’S 2014 AND THEY CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE A TOOTHPASTE THAT STAYS ON YOUR MOTHERFUCKING TOOTHBRUSH!?!?! And so on, and so forth. I can either choose to follow this train of thought down the rabbit hole of illogical stupidity OR I can force myself to act like a normal person would in that situation. Of course these are extreme examples and I choose to mention them because they illustrate quite well how horribly drinking has impacted my way of thinking.
What about when you are feeling fine one moment and then your boyfriend asks, “So how are you doing today?” Suddenly you are forced to take inventory when maybe you just wanted to keep watching Dance Moms like a normal recovering alcoholic. And maybe Abby Lee rubbed off on you a bit so rather than assessing how you are and answering like a normal person, you snap and say, “I’m fine! Why? What is that supposed to mean?!” Somehow in my fucked up, cross wired, fragile mind, I received an inquiry that was rooted in love and genuine concern and completely flipped it over and decided that it was an attack and an underhanded way of telling me that I wasn’t acting normal. How dare you intervene and force me to evaluate my emotions and communicate them with you like a human! I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF WATCHING YOUNG GIRLS BEING TRAUMATIZED BY STANDARDS AND EXPECTATIONS THAT AREN’T HUMAN WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY DRIVE THEM TO DRINK OR MAYBE LOVE MEN WHO DON’T LOVE THEM BACK. SO PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE. AND GOOD DAY TO YOU, SIR.
Then you hand your boyfriend back his head, sew it on for him, apologize and move on. But did you know that if you are verrrry lucky and choose to maybe not open your mouth in response for approximately 2-5 seconds, you can feel the emotional recoil, identify it as abnormal and inappropriate for the situation, and choose to respond more like a person and less like serial killer? It doesn’t work every time and sometimes the bad words and inappropriate responses erupt like projectile vomit before you have a chance to stop them. In that case, it’s my responsibility to clean up the mess. The worst thing I can do is yakk up negative craziness on a person I love and then run away leaving them covered in it. They will eventually leave me. No one likes getting puked on. Well. I’m sure someone somewhere does but that’s gross and not my problem.
Each day that passes has its own challenges. Sometimes I’m very fortunate and somehow avoid any major freak outs. Other times I’m a weird mix of Linda Blair and Gordon Ramsey. But the wonderful part about all of this are those moments where you regain control in challenging situations. When the toothpaste falls off the brush, let it go and apply some more. When the boyfriend inquires about where you are at mentally, take a deep breath and tell him. And when the egg won’t peel, GET REALLY FUCKING MAD BECAUSE THAT’S SO ANNOYING. Then order an omelet.