The last time I was drunk I threw a retirement party for my BFF (best friend forever). Their name is Alcohol. Little did that friend know, it was also a goodbye party. I sat by myself with the exact amount of Alcohol I knew would get me drunk enough to FEEL the oblivion I craved and that would be it. To someone who doesn’t carry the disease of alcohol might think it was a strange thing to do, but I didn’t feel resolved. After years of trying to moderate my drinking and a good two years of trying to quit, I still needed to say goodbye. Only insane people refer to Alcohol as person and there are only three possible outcomes to me continuing to drink; incarceration, insanity or death. When I spoke to Alcohol, I asked – what purpose do you really serve me anymore?
My EXPERIENCE with Alcohol started stereotypically as an experimenting teenager. First time I drank I did without knowing what I was doing. It involved chugging straight white rum out of a bottle and blacking out within 30-45 minutes. This also began my journey into reckless behavior as a result of drinking. So, the action of drinking something occurred and then the addiction to that “numbing feeling” of just tossing aside any physical or mental pain took hold; fast.
The reflective part of this story is that my need to escape came earlier than my teens. There were two very clear imprints put upon me in my formative years:
- 1) I had to succeed in education
- 2) I had to look good and be socially “normal’
Did TRAUMA play into this picture? We know the statistics, we know that a large part of us Alcoholics experienced trauma. I was easy to abuse. The abuse came in forms of verbal belittling, comparison to peers, body shaming and sexual assault. The result was, I was insecure, anxious and ugly.
I was also primed and ready for a rebellion. In order to rebel, I needed a tiny seed to cultivate that would create the security I needed to be an individual. This tiny seed took form innocently enough when my dad trying reverse psychology had me try a cigarette when I was entering high school. He thought I would hate it. On the contrary, I asked him why he smoked and he said it “relaxed him.” Do you hear those sirens going off in my head? That was it! Cigarettes. Innocently enough, but I started stealing them and sneaking off to my “alone time” to relax. A pattern of me needing to “relax” was taking form. I was only 14 years old. Who needs to relax at 14 years old?
Now my parents, my family; they have their demons. Alcoholism runs through the genetic bloodline of my dad’s family very heavily. My grandfather died of the disease while I was still getting ready to enter the world. There is mental illness and serious trauma on my mother’s side of the family; depression and anxiety. Of course, all of this is ignored and not spoke of. Growing up, none of this was as obvious as is it today.
So, armed with a heart full of anger and social anxiety I went to college. The minute I got there, it was game on. Alcohol and I established our buddy system and nothing mattered. In college, everyone in my circles ABUSED alcohol and some of us clearly were drinking alcoholically but this was COLLEGE. We were immune to judgment as we were learning how to be responsible young adults! We were just college kids doing college kid stuff. I also had a great network of friend from my hometown that I continued to party with. The only thing that differentiated me from the others; I would outdrink them all. I’d be the last one standing and that wasn’t enough. Only exhaustion would stop me.
Finally, when I moved to New York City and by becoming a “true adult” and geographically leaving behind those bad influences of college and hometown shenanigans, I was most likely going to grow out of binge drinking and risky behaviors- right?
Now, as a fully developed “adult” resulting from my college education and worldly experience (this is sarcasm); I started my career in the safest and most responsible industry there is; the music industry. (more sarcasm) I worked for a major company in the world’s greatest city. I worked among MY people; the dark, the rebellious and the fabulously broken. I don’t recall a day during that time when I wasn’t drinking. Yet, this was my place. This made sense to me. I never realized that I was the only one staying out way past everyone else. I also spent a lot of that time drinking alone. I wasn’t yet 22 years old.
The risks I took during this time could have honestly killed me. Angels were on my side. Alcohol and I had something guiding us because I could have been raped and killed, taken more harder drugs seemingly available at every turn; or I could have gotten lost and forgotten. God knows there are two rivers that line that city that no one would have ever found me. The strangest part of this time – I still made it to work everyday for 7am. I still found time to exercise. I was on top of the world; nothing was stopping me, until I stopped myself and geographically re-addressed my problems.
Fast forward to life changes. Once I realized that career was going to kill me and limit my ability to have a life and the likelihood of me seamlessly moving up the career ladder was pretty bleak; I left New York (geographical shift), I was devastated and had a nervous breakdown but I persevered. I got another corporate gig in the fastest and most lucrative industry – big data (computer science). You see, despite all my boozing all of these years – I was still a smart cookie. I could apply myself to anything and still be successful. Now, 18 years later; I am still “rocking and rolling” in my career choices but I could have easily lost them.
So what happened since? I kept drinking at the same pace, same intensity but I changed types of drinks and the people I surrounded myself with. No more were the rebellious, dark and broody types; I switched to sale-sy and nerdy partiers! I drank more and more; besides the occasional side-eye from family and friends when I’d act up, my appearance and success made me untouchable. I drank sophisticated. I had wine. I had craft beer. I liked fine tequila. How could I be an Alcoholic? I still looked normal. I still got up in the morning, exercised and went to work. Needless to say, my outward appearances may have changed but the constant skirting of the hairy edge of disaster was ever present. I always seemed to continue to get in a car accidents or “get too tipsy” wherein excuses covered up the disease factor. Risks I took did not change. Alcohol was still leading me to dark and outrageous places or courses of action.
AND then there were the physical signs too obvious to ignore but easy to write-off.
Health started to be a concern. I got married, had a child and barreled into year 40. I was paranoid. I thought I always had a lurking disease (other than the obvious one). Shaking became common. Night sweats, drenching the sheets became “peri-menopause” not withdrawels from a night off. I was desperate to get a drink after 24-hours without. Every Monday night was the sweats and by Tuesday evening a race to the local dinner place to get something in me was overtaking my mental ability to think straight. AS MUCH AS I TRIED, will-power was NOT going to help me through my cravings.
My bottom came to me fast. I tried for 2-years to stop drinking. I had no plan of action of than threats from my husband and embarrassment and shame filling my inner core. After playing bumper cars in a parking lot during a black-out; I drove home and despite my elation of “making it,” I realized the consequences could have been so much worse. It had been the first time I had driven drunk in over 12 years or so. Duck -tape fixed my dents but the sense of doom and fallen pride was hovering. So, I began to reach out a little but I also thought I had the solution which was driven by my own self-will to fix it all.
Weeks later, I woke up in my hotel room approximately 4am on the floor, fully dressed from the night before sandwiched between the hotel desk and the bottom of the bed. My contact lenses were still on and my pocketbook was somewhere. I don’t remember how I got on the floor. Blackout scary. So in my drunken haze probably smirked it off albeit I remember the confusion and got properly in my pajamas, cleaned up and went into the comfy bed I should have been in. I brought my phone into bed with me and texted who would be my ‘recovery coach’ for the next couple months. I do not recall what I said but it probably sounded something like “I tried moderation, I tried what I thought would work, WHEN CAN WE MEET? “
August 3, 2015 marks the first 24-hours of my sobriety. Since that day, I am in constant awe of the sober people who I now surround myself with. My new life, my beautiful journey continues. I don’t regret my years with Alcohol. I regret some days not coming to this place sooner; but I realize now my spirituality was always there I just was too busy looking for it within a pattern of mental and physical destruction. I work a rigorous 12-Step program, embrace community and social media support systems and wake up every day remembering to be grateful. I know that my days with Alcohol are over. Life has opened up its realm of possibilities to me based on the experience of others and the evidential proof that alcoholism can be removed while RECOVERY takes it’s place.