OUR TRUE INDEPENDENCE DAY

On May 6th, 2012, I developed a nasty tooth abscess overnight and woke up in the morning with my face doing its best impression of a fucking beach ball. The boyfriend and I had gone out for dinner the night before with a few friends and I had done it up pretty hardcore. Having pre-gamed before leaving the house, the many carafes of wine at the Greek restaurant down the street did a number on me and instead of OPA!, I was screaming something more along the lines of SDLJKFHHGS. At this point in my drinking career, I had been heavily consuming alcohol since October 2008 which marked the end of my three years of previous sobriety.

As I began to come out of my stupor early Sunday morning, the pain was excruciating. I audibly began moaning and went to the bathroom and stared in horror at myself. Not only did I have one of the worst hangovers I have ever experienced, it felt as if someone were driving a knife into the side of my head. I knew something was terribly wrong but I returned to bed like I always did and rocked myself back and forth trying to will away the pain and suffering. My boyfriend feverishly searched the internet on his phone for directions regarding what we should do. The obvious answer was to go to the dentist but it was Sunday and there were none nearby that were open. The emergency dental places in the city said to either come all the way in OR go to an urgent care/emergency room so they could at least treat the infection. He tried desperately to get me to get up, get dressed, and go. I refused. For hours I lay there in agony because the hangover was so paralyzing that going anywhere at that moment seemed absolutely impossible. I was also terrified about what else the physicians might find out about me and what my boyfriend might be able to deduce from their examination and response to my condition. He was furious with me and after loitering around the gates of Hell for what seemed like eternity, I finally got up and put on clothes.

Somehow I made it to the urgent care and they proceeded to do a normal check up. The doctor and nurse made no effort to hide their terror and seemed borderline disgusted by me. The tooth, which I knew was going to eventually give me problems, was massively infected. My blood pressure was dangerously high. So high that when the nurse took the reading, she looked like she was on a really scary rollercoaster with the ghost of Whitney Houston. She took it FIVE times to confirm the reading and immediately got the doctor. They gave me medication and made me sit still for a long while until it came down. They asked if I drank. I told them not really. They gave me a look that said, “GIRL, PLEASE.” I’m certain I still smelled like shitty bar floor from the night before. They weren’t well equipped to do anything more than triage my situation and I left with a prescription for antibiotics, Percocet, and blood pressure medication. They told me to get in to see a dentist and primary care physician immediately. Which I didn’t do.

Once home, I took a few of the pain pills along with the antibiotics, did a lot of crying, and secretly vowed to get sober because I knew that all of my problems and my inability to take care of myself and my health were a direct result of my disease. Even then, I knew I was an alcoholic. I had spent enough time in recovery previously to not have any delusions about what was actually going on.

I coasted through the first week of “sobriety” high as a kite on pain killers and the infection subsided thanks to the antibiotics. I was so fucking proud of myself that I wasn’t drinking alcohol as I sat glassy eyed on the couch eating pudding and staring at my belly button while in a glorious opioid wonderland. And then the prescription ran out. Luckily, the alcohol withdrawals had already passed for the most part and I hadn’t been on the painkillers long enough to develop a dependency. But I suddenly found myself ACTUALLY dry and not at all happy about it.

Somehow I made it through two entire months without alcohol. I wasn’t doing any work whatsoever on the actual problem. I wasn’t blogging, I wasn’t going to meetings, and I wasn’t touching base with others to remain accountable. I thought I could solve every problem I had by simply keeping alcohol from going down my throat. Even though I had gone through the recovery process before and knew what “dry drunk” meant, I had entirely forgotten how sobriety actually worked. Relapse DOES erase a great deal of visceral knowledge. You can know something in your head but you do forget what that knowledge feels like in your body and in action. I thought I was doing amazingly. I was going to the gym, I was dropping some weight, my blood pressure readings were going down, and I didn’t feel hungover all of the time.

And then it was the morning of July 4th and I was sitting with my boyfriend in our living room feeling good and clear headed and I said, “Let’s make some drinks and celebrate!” He agreed. You’ve got to realize that he had no idea that I was an alcoholic or perhaps didn’t fully comprehend what that meant in the first place. I’m sure he knew my drinking was weird sometimes but I don’t think he had the insight to know that something needed to change. He just thought that I had some health issues and I was being responsible and cutting back.

We made margaritas, watched movies, ate badly, and smoked cigarettes on the front stoop. I distinctly remember sitting there thinking to myself THIS DOESN’T FEEL GOOD. THIS DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT. THIS ISN’T MAKING ME HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I’M GOING TO DIE SOON. I’M GOING TO DIE.

Completely terrified that it was back inside of me, I proceeded to drink even more. That terror turned back into apathy. And I stayed drunk for almost another TWO YEARS before celebrating my TRUE independence day of April 14th, 2014.

I don’t consider this instance a relapse. My relapse started in 2008 when THE SIX YEAR HANGOVER began. This was a blip. This was textbook example of getting dry, not getting sober. I stopped drinking out of an immediate and pressing fear for my health but I never stopped with the intent of stopping forever. My fucked up logic assured me that I would just lay off until my health improved and then I would start back up drinking NORMALLY rather than alcoholically. Over the past 80 days, I look back at those two months without alcohol and desperately wish those months could have been these 80 days and that I would be two years sober now. But our stories have a way of writing themselves sometimes. Not even direct evidence that I could stroke out or have a heart attack at the age of THIRTY was enough to get me back in the program for good. And that’s terrifying to me. Terrifying enough to hold you all close and keep going.

This Friday, I plan on celebrating myself and my escape and independence from a monster like none other. And I hope you’ll do the same.

30 comments

  1. I remember being at a party about 10 months before I stopped – drinks were flowing, lines were being cut and we were chain smoking and I stepped outside and said to myself ‘why are you still doing this? this isn’t working anymore’. I knew but it took me almost another year to finally come to my senses. As you say our stories write themselves and at least now we are here 🙂

  2. I love reading your blog. love, love, love it. You are one of my lifelines. I am also doing Belles 100 day challenge and writing a lot. I have 31 days. Life is SO much better. But as I acquire the days, I become more fearful that I will lose THIS. What else do you do to keep your sobriety ? Xo

    1. OMG that’s amazing! If you stay close to others in recovery, you won’t lose this. What else do I do to keep my sobriety: I participate in a gratitude group where I list the things I’m grateful for daily. It really helps put everything in perspective and generally makes me happier. I listed to recovery speaker podcasts. You can find them on the Apple podcast app. I also listen to this podcast called The Bubble Hour. Google it and you’ll find the website.

  3. For me to keep & respect my sober self I’ve kept a diary of how I felt from the very beginning of my sober date till now. When reading back in the very first of days, it keeps me headed in the right direction because that was soo very painful to go through… and to see how far I’ve come! Reading your blog is soo insightful & funny as hell 🙂

  4. The feeling you describe with the toothache and the hangover. I needed this reminder today. Thank you. Your writing is so honest and hilarious as a huge bonus!

  5. Circumstances—if nothing else—have conspired to allow me almost 17 relapse-free years in recovery but that doesn’t mean the ever present possibility of relapse doesn’t terrify me.

    I waited much too long to grasp the benefit of community in recovery but am very thankful to have felt like I’ve found it on the Web but community nonetheless.

    Congratulations on your 80 days and counting. And thank you for blog.

    1. That is AMAZING. Such an accomplishment that currently boggles my mind. So so so very awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and connect. Thank you for being here.

  6. I will be joining you in celebrating myself and my escape and independence from the monster like no other. I have had 2 other sober July 4th’s, but those sober days were short lived because I was not connected at all and trying desperately to get sober in secret. That is a tough (and often unsuccessful) way to reach long term sobriety. Praying this time will be different.

    Congrats on 80 days…almost 3 months! Woohoo!!

  7. It leaves me cold and quite frankly its a marvel to reflect on how much pain and real danger one has been able to stumble through.
    Nearly two weeks sober for me and I have spent lots of time thinking about out of control moments. I used to live on a rural property and after one champagne fueled evening with the neighbors I disappeared into the night in the hope of getting home. Commando rolled a barbed wire fence and zigzagged a looong way across a paddock ( bull paddock of course) using the long grass to hold me upright and then tackled an electric fence on the other side , three times …. anyway its good to hear your stories

  8. Powerful! Thanks for sharing, and congrats on 80 days! Woot woot! I had many years or relapses! I even got to 9 months once and then drank again – 4 years of that crap! Ugh. This is cunning and baffleling disease. Like what you said, you were completely steroids yet to continued to drink more- oh, i can relate!

    But, I am too so very grateful for the sober community, online and in the rooms, you all continue to keep me sober, one day at a time for the last six years! Thank you!

    Btw, my soberversary is April 15th. 😀

      1. HAHAHA. I was COMPLETELY steroids. And how funny that I keep coming across people with sober dates right around the same time as mine! I guess there is something about that time of year that makes people say ENOUGH.

  9. July 4 will be my 60th day sober. It is truly an independance day for all of us working on our final quit! Best to you….

  10. I once treated pneumonia with the prescribed antibiotics, plus vodka and grapefruit juice, because it had vitamin C, it was new year’s weekend, and YOLO. I have 128 days (not yet counting today, since it’s only noon here) and blogs like yours, plus the Bubble Hour and writing every morning (or evening, or whenever things get overwhelming), as well as unconditional support from my husband and a few chosen friends, have helped get me this far. I’m so thankful for people like you who are brave enough to share their story — and then to provide a laugh as well? Bonus! My best friend lives by the words ‘be strong and be grateful’. That’s my independence day wish for all of us.

    1. Hi, Ellen! So happy you are finding your way and that you are in the triple digit club! So awesome. Amazing the things we used to drink through even thought it was the WORST possible choice we could have been making. But we don’t have to do that anymore. Isn’t it fantastic?

  11. Thank you for this. I’ve been following you pretty well from the beginning and have quit 3 times. Independance Day is a great day to stop being dependant and really live.

      1. It is going great. I’ve made a whole week and even stopped drinking coffee the other day. I drink green tea instead and am loving it. I feel so much better and it really was independence day for me here in Canada.

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