Hi Everyone! Happy New Year! If you’re feeling crappy, if you’re feeling amazing, if you’re feeling despondent, if you’re feeling hopeful…come be with all of us and check in (that’s the Yahoo link for the online support group).
Cecily from Uppercase Woman was one of my early supporters when I started talking about making a decision to quit drinking. When I went on Dr. Oz, Cecily immediately assured me that she’d show up for me in the studio audience – because that’s what we alchies do; we show up for each other. And here she is again; showing up.
Ever since Stefanie asked me to post here (an honor I feel humbled by, truly) I’ve wondered what to write. Because while we have many things in common – we are moms, we are writers, we are happily married to great men, and our toddlers drive us absolutely apeshit, and yes, we are both alcoholics – the way our alcoholism choose to manifest is vastly different.
I often think if my life circumstances were different, perhaps my alcoholism would have made itself known through the elegant stem of a wine glass. Maybe if my father hadn’t walked out on us when I was two. Maybe if my mother hadn’t moved us across the country right before I started high school. Maybe if I hadn’t moved to a major city. Maybe if I’d married the first guy I dated, or the third, or the thirtieth.
But of course, the circumstances of my life are, well, the circumstances of my life. I did start hanging out with older boys that were all drunks when I was in high school, and started drinking with my boyfriend every day. Then I did move to Philadelphia, fall in love with the bar scene, and start spending six or seven nights a week hanging out until closing time. Then I did start hanging out with poets and writers, and we did start doing drugs, and before I knew what happened my last six months of drinking and drugging involved things like street drugs and needles and scary drug dealers and getting fired for stealing and almost dying of a drug overdose.
That is how my disease, my alcoholism, showed itself.
But guess what? The disease? It’s the same disease. It doesn’t give a shit if it comes to you in the form of prescribed pain pills, or expensive wine, a martini glass, or a syringe filled with heroin. It is actually a very close relation of the same disease that shows itself as too much shopping, or overeating, or over exercising, or gambling, or being anorexic. All of these sick, twisted, and it’s-so-sad-when-cousins-marry diseases spring from the same well, and show themselves in one similar way: they are a compulsion, a distraction, and a way to manipulate the universe to our liking. It’s a way to stop feeling our feelings, a way to smooth out the rough edges of the world, and a way to hide our head in the sands so we don’t lose our minds.
There are some basic truths I’ve come to learn about alcoholism and addiction in my fourteen years sober. First of all, it doesn’t discriminate; alcoholism could give a fuck about your background and whether or not you had a good family. It also is immensely self-centered, and doesn’t give much of a shit about your family, the people you love, or the outside world. Alcoholism is also demanding, eventually asking you to give it EVERYTHING, even your life.
There are some other basic truths I’ve come to learn about people like me and Stefanie. We’re smart, we’re creative, we’re wonderfully empathetic, and we are thin-skinned and sensitive. On the flip side, we also tend to be grandiose, self-centered, obsessive, and, well, thin-skinned and sensitive.
Another basic truth? Alcoholism is a family disease. While there might be just one person in your family that drinks alcoholically, everyone in the family is affected. Even the pets (funny how they disappear after that third glass, right?).
But there is good news. It is possible to heal. When I lay on that stretcher in the emergency room on December 21 of 1995 after my overdose, I knew I’d reached a turning point. I could either continue as I had, and wait to die, or I could step down onto the side of sobriety and embrace living. I was on the fence, there, for a while and unable to choose. Eventually, though, I made the right choice, and am alive today to tell you about it.
In a way, I was lucky. My particular version of alcoholism was pretty clean and clear; no one who looked at my life that last year I was drinking had ANY doubt that I was an alcoholic. Everyone knew. So when I got sober, I wasn’t greeted with disbelief; I was greeted with just plain old RELIEF. The entire city of Philadelphia let out a sigh that I wasn’t going to be pinballing through the streets of town any longer.
This made if far easier to accept the truth about my addiction and my alcoholism. It was very simple. I was a falling down drunk, a junkie, and a liar and a thief. Walking into my first recovery meeting was like coming home to my people, and not at all the feeling of being a square peg fitting into a round hole. Life has been a bit better, a bit brighter, each day since I got sober.
I won’t lie. There have been bad days. When I lost my twins at six months pregnant, I seriously considered finding a vat of heroin and taking a little swim. But I didn’t. I went to meetings. I cried. I ate a lot of chocolate. And now? My beautiful daughter, three and a half crazy years old, has never seen me drunk.
God willing, she never will.
Recovery is an option for everyone. It really is. I don’t know if my ramblings have helped anyone, but know this: you are not alone. You are not alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.