Well, holy fuck. I survived the past four days and am nearly back to myself. After exactly two months of hard fought sobriety, nature decided to reward me with one of the nastiest flu bugs I have ever had. RUDE. And, yeah, I DESERVE to be rewarded for doing something so monumental and significant like not pouring poison down my throat, right? Because I am the most important person in the world and heaven and earth should stop and take note that I don’t get drunk anymore. Sure, there are people out there curing cancer but look what I just did! I didn’t get shitty and fall down the stairs for SIXTY DAYS. Shouldn’t it be on the news? You know, just before the weather. They should flash my photo on the screen for all of the viewers to see. My face should be surrounded by really bad clip art graphics of confetti and thumbs up signs. The news anchor who only has an accent when she introduces herself (Maria Consuela Guiterrez- Johnson!!!) would enthusiastically deliver the report on my internationally relevant accomplishment: AND THIS JUST IN FROM QUEENS. A SLIGHTLY CHUBBY BUT DEVASTATINGLY HANDSOME MAN, PICTURED HERE, JUST FINISHED GOING TWO MONTHS WITHOUT PUTTING A SINGLE DROP OF VODKA INTO HIS MOUTH. AMAZINGLY, HE ONLY DRANK WATER, SELTZER, AND THE OCCASIONAL CUP OF COFFEE. EYE WITNESSES SAY IT WAS SIMPLY UNBELIEVABLE AND THAT HE HASN’T PUKED ON ANY OF HIS FRIEND’S HAIR IN A FULL TWO MONTHS!
Okay. So 60 days is a big deal. To me. And to you, maybe. Because you know how difficult and life-shifting this all is. But outside of my circle of fellow sober freaks, there wasn’t much fanfare. Because ultimately, alcohol consumption, or lack thereof, really doesn’t matter much to people who don’t have a problem with it. As the day approached, I joked with my boyfriend about celebrating. He was generally supportive and happy for me as he always is. But he didn’t do back flips or buy me an airplane or anything so I was obviously a little hurt. So let me get this straight. I just told you that I haven’t had a cocktail in 60 days. Why the fuck isn’t your head spinning around independently from your body?! Why the fuck aren’t you up and dancing a highly elaborate celebratory jig in my honor? WHY ISN’T THERE LOBSTER ON THE TABLE?! WHERE IS THE FUCKING LOBSTER!?!?! There would be no lobster.
When day 60 finally arrived, what had started as a pesky sore throat the day before had morphed into a raging, destructive, and terrifying flu. I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a truck. A Ford, not a Chevy. I crawled to the bathroom and tried to take a shower but realized about 30 seconds into it that I couldn’t stand to lift my arms above my head to wash my hair. I dried off halfway and got back into bed partially wet. I called out sick from work and spent Friday-Sunday holed up in a dark cave completely miserable. But sober. Some things I learned:
- If you fall asleep with a movie on the TV starring Katherine Heigl and you have a 103 degree fever, Ms. Heigl will turn into a giant cat in your dream and antagonize you incessantly as you sleep while she says whatever lines she is saying in the movie.
- Your bedroom can be both Antarctica and The Sahara Desert simultaneously. And you can hallucinate camels and penguins concurrently. And you can mistake your Chihuahua for Kelly Ripa.
- If you are a recovering alcoholic and feel miserable, you might actually consider drinking alcohol even when you feel like you are dying. Even if your resolve and love of sobriety had been rock solid up to that point. You might still want to drink. I did. Briefly. Fleetingly. The old me would have just gone for it. I would have somehow dragged myself to the store to pick something up. I’d get a nice buzz going and suddenly convince myself that I didn’t feel so bad. The idea that I was home alone for the entire day and could drink without anyone knowing would have invalidated any symptom, hallucination, or chunk of mucous coming out of my nose. I felt awful and what I always did when I felt awful — or felt anything for that matter — was drink. I never thought I’d need to be so on guard while feeling so shitty. But I did. Just a heads up in case ya’ll ever get sick in early sobriety.
- Maybe have someone else walk your dog if you can barely walk yourself to the bathroom. It’s almost summer and the fireflies are out. I’m terrified of bugs and any insect that can make its ass light up is obviously a witch. Stumbled downstairs with the pooch at dusk. Already disoriented and upset that he wouldn’t hurry up and shit, imagine my horror when sudden yellow lights start flashing inches from my face. Needless to say, I picked up the dog and got the fuck out of there FAST.
This was a really good reality check for me. I mean, obviously I’d rather not have had the flu. But there were definitely takeaways from such a nasty experience. It reminded me that life will happen as it happens. There will be disappointments at inconvenient times. Sometimes when celebrations should be happening, we will be mourning or puking instead. And there is not a damn thing you can do about it but ride it out and stay sober.
During a really bad stretch of time on Friday night, I was sobbing in my bed as my boyfriend lay there next to me. I went on and on about how it wasn’t fair and that after all of the hard work I put in staying sober and learning about myself, THIS was the reward. He said — this isn’t verbatim and it could have been one of many hallucinations– but I think he said “Babe. You aren’t sick because you are a recovering alcoholic. You are sick because you are a human.” I don’t remember what I said in response but knowing me, I probably got up defiantly, snorted lots of snot, and screamed, “A HUMAN?!? I’M NOT A HUMAN! WHAT A STUPID THING TO SAY TO ME!” or something equally delusional. But he was right.
I may not get to drink like normal people, but I get to be sick like normal people. And that is NORMAL enough for me, thank you.
I also couldn’t help but taking inventory of how destroyed my body felt when I woke up. I thought, “OH MY GOD. You used to wake up feeling this bad every single day. Sometimes even worse.” I immediately yearned for the past 60 mornings where, to varying degrees, I woke up feeling at least NOT DEAD. Sometimes even fantastic. But never hungover. Never decimated at the hands of my disease. And I wanted 60 more of those days. Maybe 120. Maybe a year. But for now, one at a time.
I’m really not at a place where I can say something like, “Everything happens for a reason.” I wish I could but I don’t know that it’s true. I really don’t think there is a reason a plane crashes and kills 250 people. There is a cause. That’s all. Faulty equipment, pilot error, etc. But I do know that occasionally something happens that seems coincidentally perfect. I’m feeling much better now on my 63rd day sober and while the past few days threw me for quite a fluish loop, I have a renewed value for peace, health, and happiness. I feel renewed at a time where maybe I was starting to take things for granted.
So the moral of the story? If you are feeling yourself start to drift and you aren’t seeing pink clouds, go lick the subway stair railings and see what you can catch. JAY KAY JAY KAY. Don’t. Gross.