A friend raised a debate in the “comments” about alcoholic/non-alcoholic and characteristics that alcoholics have. *To my friend, I hope you don’t mind if I use your example verbatim as I think it’s a very valid one.* Said friend found that he was utterly miserable and saw a few other miserable friends make their way into rehab and then come back out at peace. He drank and did drugs so maybe that can be him, too. But, he didn’t quite have the characteristics that other alcoholics had. What he learned was that alcoholics tend to learn something and then promptly forget, only to have to learn it all over again. This cycle is never-ending and needs constant vigilance…hence the daily meetings, affirmations, etc. But, when he learned something it tended to stick for the most part. He realized that his misery was a result of life without parenting, being taught how to live, how to love, to fight, to grieve. He wasn’t told if who he was was okay, whether it was good or bad and for him, it didn’t turn out too well. To his response I can totally relate and perhaps so can many of you. I started replying directly but realized this is a good 3rd entry so I decided my response could open the door for others to relate and give feedback as well. Thanks Friend.
I understand this debate actually. I did a lot of that with myself and maybe find myself to be a combo deal. I spent an obsessive amount of time watching “Intervention” to make myself feel better about my level of alcoholism. “Phew, I’m not THAT bad…” I am someone who once I absolutely know something it is impossible for me to ignore it. With alcohol, I wasn’t sure I was an alcoholic. People around me didn’t seem to be hurting directly from it so it just seemed like drama that I dredged up within myself. I felt like it was a way I was seeking attention, and maybe it was. I think alcoholic for me may not be the medical definition or classic definition of dependency. I was very willing to give it up, though it was difficult and with many, many failed attempts. I never wanted to depend on it, I just did, whether it be from laziness or not having a clue of what else to do with myself. It was a socially accepted activity that went under the radar of my family and friends because it came across as joining in as opposed to fading out.
And very much like my friend, I did not receive much guidance from my parents. I was constantly learning from their mistakes as they were making them. I was not taught how to find my way through life, or given many tools or values that could serve as an advocate on my shoulder when I was making poor decisions. I was left to my own devices. My parents “didn’t have to worry about me,” and I took that as not caring. They would argue that I had a good head on my shoulders and they trusted I would find my way, but my head was spinning and they didn’t realize that I needed a lot more than they knew how to give. And quite honestly, they were selfish. I think I’m too practical to make blatantly poor decisions like doing hard drugs, robbing banks, or being dishonest. I also have a very “all or nothing” personality that made me afraid of certain drugs. I never thought the easy way in or out of any situation could ever lead to anything worthwhile so I generally didn’t take those routes. My brother has been one to find shortcuts through life that have led him way further behind than where he started so I certainly learned from his mistakes, maybe even more so than he has…which maybe isn’t fair to say. He’s my brother, it’s hard not to come down hard on him. If anything, I am the extreme opposite. If it isn’t hard it doesn’t feel real. I probably tend to make things too difficult, it’s just how I come to accept life, as difficult. What this way of thinking did was make everything seem so hard that it discouraged me to try. I would find reasons why I couldn’t progress in a conventional way, like get a loan for college so I can take classes in things I find interesting. I couldn’t see how I could possibly find the time to work and go to school. I didn’t want to take out loans because I absolutely hated the idea of owing anything. (So I just let my Jeep Wrangler get repossessed and wiped off my credit report 7 years later. Really f*cking responsible.) I became good at talking myself out of doing anything all the time. I settled for just working, working, working which made me lose sight of what I even found interesting anymore. Interests started to feel like daydreams. And daydreams are not practical.
And what came with alcohol was disappointment in myself. I used it as a way to not tend to me. My sense of self-worth was low. I felt talentless, uninteresting, unmotivated and wasteful. Drinking seemed to be a good fit. It was something to do that seemed to go with my mental state. Like now, I feel very sexual and fiery and expressive, so I dance, model and write. I fear that this state of being I am in now will pass me by without seeing where it could go. I have imagined myself 10 years in the future remembering this time at 35 with regret and longing, sad and wistful of a time I could have really gotten to know the woman that I was meant to be. I don’t know for sure because she has never said but, I do think my mother suffered from a loss of some of her womanhood. She was depressed throughout her 30’s, I don’t know if she went through this or not, it seems she did. I don’t think she felt able or empowered to do anything about it. She seemed defeated and resigned to just ignore her calling. Sometimes all I have to do is think of her in these years to be inspired to go forth, even when I think I’m being selfish. It seems equally selfish to throw your dreams away and become depressed and unwilling to love yourself.
There was an awakening in me that I am so thankful I recognized, even if I did it kicking and screaming. It started around when I was 32-33 yrs old, as a niggling in my belly, a warmth in my chest, like a seed had been planted. Eventually, this feeling grew into a sense of not being able to breathe, like whatever was growing was stealing every breath I took. It seemed that if I didn’t tend to this bit of life that I would die inside myself and turn into a rotten person inside and out. The sense of urgency to nurse this to full life was soon running rampant in me. I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared for this.
My first reaction was to drink MORE, silence it and ignore this calling. I was afraid to fail at changing my ways. What I was doing was already accepted by my friends and family even if, deep down, I didn’t accept myself. I had some pretty embarrassing and shameful moments that I barely remember. I vaguely recall being in a cab and not being able to pay the driver because somewhere between possibly paying the bartender and getting into the cab I had lost my debit/credit card, which I did so many times that my bank said they would have to start charging me for a replacement. I remembering arguing with the cab driver, though I couldn’t tell you exactly what I said. What I do remember is that I wanted him to believe that I was good for it and I insanely pleaded that he come back the following day…as if he would be willing to waste any more of his time and energy. He was totally irritated and just wanted me to get out of his cab. I wouldn’t leave, I somehow really wanted him to tell me that he believed I would pay him back. He was yelling at me telling me I have problems and to just get out. I don’t know why I wouldn’t just get out, I wouldn’t let it go. I also knew that I was coming across as a crazy person. I was doing that thing that happens when you do or say something horrible and immediately wish you didn’t but then something in you just says “fuck it” and you keep going with it, continuing on saying horrible things. It seemed I was doing this more often than I could even tell you I remembered. Eventually the threat of calling the police shoved me out the door. I apologized and told him I’d see him tomorrow. WTF? I still cringe recalling this behavior. I think I was trying to reach a rock bottom. I think I wanted people to tell me that I needed to make the change because just me telling myself didn’t seem to be enough. I think I fantasized about my own intervention with a room full of people who cared. I was blacking out after only a few drinks, it didn’t take much anymore. I would also get dizzy in the shower, not able to bend my head forward without getting nauseous and vomiting a little. There would be a little blood in my vomit, too. That WAS scary. That part was a bit of a secret because it was erring to the side of being a bit more like the people on “Intervention” that I swore I was better than.
I could tell my husband didn’t look forward to seeing me when I got home or just being around me when I was. There was much to our disconnect that I won’t go into now and my behavior was just simply unattractive. We also had our children that could distract us from each other, which was also our main connection and perhaps even our excuse for not finding the time to know each other. And we would later both admit, that without our kids, we may not have much to relate on.
As I mentioned, I had made some feeble attempts to stop drinking before, starting with a month-long cleanse that would only last a few days or no more than a week. I had even looked up locations for AA meetings throughout the city, going as far as walking past them and not having the courage to go in. Finally, I saw a Facebook post from a friend/acquaintance showing he had his 3 months coin for sobriety (I could be wrong about the months.) I had no idea he had been struggling. I messaged him to see if I could go to a meeting with him. I’m not sure why him. I was going to a wedding in Mexico the following week so I knew that I’d have to do it when I got back. I was so nervous to go. I didn’t tell anyone I was going, just my friend I reached out to. I didn’t want it to be a thing I didn’t see through and then have to explain it to anyone. Also, no one else but me seemed to think it was an issue so it felt like it was just for me to deal with. On the day of the meeting I kept trying to find excuses that I could tell my friend to get out of going. He’s so intuitive that I knew he would know I chickened out, though he would have never judged me for it. I did go. Other than writing my girlfriend’s mother a couple of years before, I had never called myself an alcoholic and certainly never said it out loud in front of a room full of people. I didn’t know how meetings went down and when everyone started introducing themselves I panicked. I wanted to run out of the room. My friend saw my fear and assured me I don’t have to say anything, I don’t even have to say who I am. I was one of the last people to go and it was a pretty large turnout. By the time it was my turn EVERYONE had the courage to identify themselves as an addict and it would have been completely obvious that I was chicken shit. I had to remind myself that I was already brave to be sitting there, though it was hard to consider myself as such. Before I knew it, I was saying my name and telling everyone I was an alcoholic. I felt like rainbows must have been shooting out of my mouth and a happy leprechaun was at the other end giving me a thumbs up. The speaker that night was phenomenal. I couldn’t believe he was telling us all his story and that this button-up shirt, wall street, successful, prestigious man was anything like me.
When I got home, I poured myself a glass of wine. I was sitting at the kitchen table sipping it, disgusted with myself for disrespecting that night’s speaker with a toast. Halfway through that glass, I poured it out as well as the rest of the bottle of wine. That was my last sip, my last taste, my last shameful pour…hopefully forever.