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.