So here we are again. I swear that starting Monday I will start giving updates about babies, jobs, candy junk food, Jessica Simpson and all things frivilous. But today, Friday, here’s a friend from the circle with a tale to tell. You can find her blog here. And feel free to join the Brigade here.
“My story is evolving. I’m aiming for acceptance. I’ll take you back to my first drink. I’m 13 and sitting around a campfire. My best friend and I shared a love of cheesy food. This was not sexy then and it isn’t sexy now. I brought along a can of cheese balls. Cheese balls were fairly new on the market when I was 13. The marketing was fantastic. A big blue can with the Planter’s Peanut Guy on there and orange cheese powdered goodness on the inside. Needless to say, this camping trip was not my first experience with cheese balls, but it was with wine coolers. My friend had some of hers. I had all of mine (one). I also polished off the cheese balls. Somewhere in the middle of the night I began to vomit. I knew. I knew right away. There was no way in hell, if I survived until the morning, there was no way in hell, I would EVER eat cheese balls again. Those things will make you throw up! Thus, the mind of an alcoholic is revealed.
My point is my alcoholic behavior was always with me. To me that is someone who can safely say there is no off button, most of the time; talking too much, eating too much, or drinking too much. I believe I’ve always had no off button and a deep need to not be alone with myself. Food and alcohol quickly became a way for me to focus, calm down. Lastly, I always knew it is a better life when you find things that are easy for you and do them well than try to work at something that doesn’t come easy. Fortunately, or not, I found paths in my life that were both easy (for me) and rewarding in terms of how the world looked at me. I walked into a scholarship to law school and drank most of the way through, until I became pregnant. Then I stopped. No problem. I gained 75 pounds, but didn’t drink a thing. Didn’t drink much in my kids early years either. When I did drink, I was pretty much the life of the party. One of my friends once said that my husband trying to get me to go home was like putting a wet towel on the campfire. I took it as a compliment.
I built a career. That was when I really got into trouble. I had enough money to have weight loss surgery. Until 2 years ago, weight was the real battle. It was the most outward sign of my inward loneliness and “issues”. There is nothing pretty about a really fat drunk either, let me tell you. So, I exercised like crazy and went on a diet, many diets. I didn’t count the calories in the bottles of wine on Friday and Saturday but hey, it was the weekend. When the weight didn’t come off, I did my easy thing and had weight loss surgery. 2 weeks of eating right and not drinking anything or else I could bleed out in surgery. Okay, done! What an awful two weeks. I should have known then that I relied on my 2 crutches (food and alcohol) like a legless person. Why in the hell did I then take one away!! I guess because I didn’t know I was legless with crutches. I thought I liked food and wine, and maybe had a slow metabolism.
Fast forward to life happening and I only have one crutch and still no idea I’m legless. Life was getting very hard. I was getting smaller and feeling pretty good about that. My previously sweet child was turning into a teenager. My father was very ill. My business was doing well (wait, why is that a problem)….because I had enough money to design my life so I could really press down on that one crutch and swing about my merry way. I had no idea I was failing to cope with any and all feelings. There were no big signs like, you drank the paycheck (I had enough money) or the house didn’t get clean (because I had a housekeeper) or the kids were neglected (I did put them first until I didn’t) or I could get fired (I own the business). The problem is that alcohol has this little way of being a toxic depressant. When I started using it as a crutch, it started making me depressed, tired, and stupid. Because of my weight loss surgery, I didn’t really get hung over or throw up anymore. I just felt wiped the next day. I needed a glass of wine at 5pm for energy – get through the evenings. And wine, if you have enough, kills your brain cells and makes you happy. And then I’d want more – more happy!! Then I’m falling asleep at a dinner out with friends. Then I’m slurring in front of my kids at home during family movie night. Then I don’t want to go to a kid’s movie on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong. I went to the kid’s movie. But somewhere inside I knew it wasn’t normal to be happy when it is over so I can have that glass of wine. I was beginning to realize I didn’t have any legs. And let’s carry this analogy to its logical conclusion: as the legless person, it is usually pretty obvious to other people that you” don’t have any”, whether you notice or not, or try to act as if you’re normal.
I read a sentence in Mary Karr’s book Lit that where she quotes someone as saying “Wear a mask long enough, and your face will grow to fit.”. That truth is my profound regret concerning my experience with alcoholism. I either regret that I can’t drink like a normal person or I regret what I failed to do or feel when I was preoccupied with drink. There are so many situations I’ve experienced in the last 20 years or so that I have only experienced with even a little something to drink: New Years’ Eve, the Superbowl, Christmas Eve, Halloween, Weddings, Funerals, Friday nights, Saturday nights, Tropical Vacations, (eventually, Sunday through Thursday nights) that I can hardly think of a situation I can face where not pouring a glass of wine at some point isn’t a departure from the norm. I have been drinking or drunk on Friday nights, week after week. I need to practice sobriety. I need to reclaim those Friday nights until they become the norm, the muscle memory I don’t yet have. I need to wear this sobriety mask long enough that my face grows to fit. I’m inching toward that acceptance that brings willingness and ultimately, freedom.