Wednesday, October 12, 2011

sober

Three months after Lucy died, I wrote this:

I am both drastically different, and exactly the same. I am exactly the same person living a drastically different life that looks exactly the same. 

In the beginning, I told myself my own story. I had just quit drinking and was going to meetings listening to people's stories of drinking and recovery every night. I stopped drinking and stopped being able to sleep. I tucked into bed, read books about alcoholics who make drastic changes in their life, thought about the layers of lies I told myself through the years about my drinking. Everything was beginning to make sense about me. Alcoholic--that is my tribe name. Now I know. I wondered how I could be here at 37. I felt lost, but on my way to home. And then I would tell myself my own story, in the dark.

Hello. My name is Angie. I am an alcoholic. I took my first drink when I was four.

At four, I blacked out and threw up and asked for more. I was a four-year old sot, a drunk. An alchy, I think. A four year old boozer. I couldn't stop, even then.

It is a family legend. Told around the Thanksgiving table. A party at my grandmother's house, I began drinking wine glasses filled with frozen berries and a Riesling when my aunts, uncles and grandparents walked away from their glasses. All my older relatives thought they were distractedly drinking too quickly. They repeatedly filled up their glasses. I would drain them again. Before long, I became violently ill. After hours of throwing up, I asked for some more berries with juice. And also asked if we could go to McDonald's. I guess I got the munchies. I was four.

There is a man I know who always says that the first time he drank, he drank too much and threw up. To sober him up, his friends gave him coffee, and he threw that up too. And he never drank coffee again. Because alcoholics will keep drinking, even though we are dying.

I was dying spiritually, emotionally, physically.

Beezus is four. She has never seen me drunk. She has never been drunk. She once pointed to the liquor store and said, "Remember that time you bought wine there?"

Yes, I do.

I am sober nine months. Nine months without a drink. I have gone longer without a drink. Still, it means something to me. I had never done the work to get out of the way of thinking that makes me an alcoholic. I have never really comprehended the wreckage of my drinking. I thought it was victimless. I thought I was a drunk Buddha. I thought I could have it all--spirituality and drinking. Looking at God and myself through a bourbon bottle distorted everything. Made it wiggly and aggressive.

For me, those two things are not compatible anymore. Drinking was but a symptom, that is what they say. I believe them. For most of my drinking, I was alone in my apartment.  I stopped going out to bars, because it seemed to get in the way of me drinking the way I wanted to drink. And the writing. ("You know, I'm a writer. I have to go home, because I am working on something.") I started isolating a long time before Lucy died. I thought I should tell you this because I have complained about my friends and my support on this blog. I complained about how alone I felt.

I did that to myself.

Maybe you didn't know that. Maybe you parsed it together through the years. But we used to drink together, my friends and I. Then, I guess, I crossed that invisible line between heavy drinker and alcoholic. Maybe I crossed that line at age four when I stopped drinking like the other four year olds. I didn't realize how isolated I had become. I would treat people like we were having a conversation:

Sure, we'll get together next week.

Six months go by and I would contact them ready to go out. Alcohol exaggerated everything for me--grievances, time, depth of friendships, people's tolerance for my bad behavior. Maybe I stopped hanging out with my friends because I stopped drinking like my friends. Maybe I stopped hanging out with people because I wasn't able to hold it all together, because my alcoholism was seeping through my every move--the self-pity, the resentments, the anger, the depression, the desolation. Maybe I stopped hanging out with people because alcoholism wanted me alone. Isolation is a symptom of this disease, but one not every alcoholic has.

When I got married and had kids, I thought I had kicked all this bad drinking business, if I even had drinking business. I drank infrequently after I had children. But when I did, I drank until I fell asleep, or passed out, whatever your perspective, because I had trouble sleeping. That's what I told myself. Drinking in the last few months before getting sober, I realized that I immediately could not quit. My alcoholism had been doing push-ups during my years of birthing children. It was getting stronger. Sure, I still was accomplishing things. I still had my marriage. I still was parenting. I still was waiting until the kids went to sleep to drink. But those things would have fallen away. Sometimes I think I got sober the day before I lost everything. Not the day before I lost many of my friends, that was a process happening for years that was my first indication that something was seriously wrong with me.The only thing all those friendship break-ups had in common was me.

I thought I was a person who made no impact on the global suffering of the world. How could drinking affect the way I treat people? It seemed as though it didn't. I deserved a drink, for the love of God, because I worked hard, and helped others, and my daughter died, and eff it, because I am an adult. It's just a drink, for the love of God. I had no idea that drinking was simply a symptom of a larger, more profound, spiritual malady. That might sound dramatic, but I am downplaying it.

Today, I am drastically different, and exactly the same. I am exactly the same person living a drastically different life that looks exactly the same. And I am incredibly grateful for that.

10 comments:

  1. Just sending a pat on the back and a hug for taking it day by day. Bravo, sweet lady. xo

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  2. It's frustrating when words don't exactly tell it how it is. When you always feel caught between exaggerating and downplaying at the times you're being the most forthright and sincere. I think you've got it, though, and what you're doing seems difficult and important.

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  3. Just wanted to let you know hoe brave I think you are. 9 months way to go!

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  4. Sobriety suits you Angie, it becomes you. And I hope the fit becomes more and more comfortable.

    xxx

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  5. Reading your words on being an alcoholic and your sobriety touch me deeply every time. Having grown up in a family of alcoholics I have my own memories, my own relationship with the liquid beast. I appreciate your honesty.

    Your story of drinking at 4 reminds me of a little child family member who used to drain the beer cans left around. That child was not me ... but this child as an adult has strong signs of being an alcoholic and it makes me sad. I could see it coming. He could not ... does not.

    One day at a time. I'm proud of you. Nine months!

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  6. I keep reading this and have been sending you congrats in my head, but now I'll do it here--good job on nine months! That is something wonderful.
    xo

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  7. This is my third time reading this beautiful piece. Thank-you for sharing this with us, and for your courage. Lots of love to you!

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  8. Congratulation on nine months +, since you wrote this almost two weeks ago now!

    Like Amy shared, I grew up in a family with alcoholics, so though I do not myself have a drinking problem, I appreciate what addiction can do to a person and a family.

    Though I don't know you well, as a fellow bereaved mom I have visited your blog before. I wish you the best in your sobriety and recovery. I too am proud of you and believe that you can and will do this, one day at a time. xoxo

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