This is a kick-ass story from a friend of mine. If you see yourself in any of her words, ask for help. You can always come here to find like-minded women who want to help.
The first time I realized I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable, I was thirty two years old and on stage at Peanuts, a strip club in Tijuana, wearing a camouflage g-string that I’d bought at Target. I didn’t travel to Tijuana with the intention of taking off my clothes, but as many alcoholics know, once we take that first drink, things don’t always go as planned.
I’d taken the train from San Diego to Mexico on a Sunday morning with my boyfriend, who I could hardly wait to start a family with. Although he had no job or car, I liked that he could drink as much as I could. Plus, I loved looking at him, so I figured we were a good match.
Tijuana was the perfect spot for our “hair of the dog” Sunday tradition, which mandated beer with breakfast to nurse our hangovers. Like many of our dates (including our first), we hit every bar in our path, ending up at the strip club.
Don’t get me wrong: I loved strip clubs and often suggested we go. In my twenties, I loved being the center of attention and considered stripping as a profession. I loved being naked, and I was good at staying up all night. Unfortunately, I have cellulite, I only wear a bra for the padding, and eight-inch stripper shoes make me six-foot-six. There might be a niche market in the world of stripping for thick-thighed, flat-chested, amazons, but I never had the guts to find out.
We arrived at Peanuts after I had consumed more than enough alcohol to alleviate my hangover. In fact, I could barely walk. It was early, just after noon, and the table at the front of the stage was available, so we took it. I soon spent the rest of my money on beer. With a Budweiser costing a dollar, I’d had least four. But who was counting?
A guy who might have been the manager asked if I’d get on stage and strip with the dancer. I assessed if I was wearing the right undergarments, and if I’d shaved. It was yes to both, so I agreed, but only on the condition that he play Marilyn Manson and give us ten beers.
This last-minute decision left me without a cute outfit to slip out of, and I wasn’t wearing cellulite-reducing heels. My boots were dirty from walking the streets of Tijuana, looking for a pharmacy that offered the best deal on Ritalin, a drug I heard referred to as “legal cocaine”. Also, I’d just eaten a burrito, so my stomach wasn’t flat.
I don’t remember how I got on stage. I imagine it was like that scene where Winnie the Pooh visits Rabbit, eats all the honey, and gets stuck in the rabbit hole as he’s trying to leave. With all his might, Rabbit pushes Winnie’s butt, while Christopher Robin pulls his outstretched arms. My boyfriend was Rabbit and the stripper was Christopher Robin. This was probably not a sexy move.
The details of how I disrobed remain vague. Is it possible to remove jeans, boots, and socks sensually? At least there was no booing, as far as I can remember, and I recall a couple of people cheering wildly. (Okay, maybe that was my boyfriend: one of the upsides of being a rolling-black-out drinker is that our minds create a better reality.)
Within the first few beats of The Beautiful People, I realized that while I had seen many women strip, I didn’t actually know how to do it. Since my clothes were already off, there was, technically speaking, no stripping involved. What was I supposed to do with the remaining three minutes of my song? I did my best to dance around in my underwear and look cute.
I looked to the stripper for help, hoping she would dance with me, but she was balancing her butt on her heels, knees spread wide open as a guy inserted folded dollar bills into the string of her underwear. I thought of doing some floor moves, but I couldn’t figure out how to get down there without squatting and creating multiple fat rolls around my midriff. Instead, I headed for the pole. Big mistake.
I had hoped to climb the pole, perform an acrobatic trick while tossing my hair, then slide into a stunning dismount, landing in the splits. The only thing I could manage was to spin around it like an amateur.
Then, through the thick smoke and strobe lights, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. While Marilyn Manson’s lyrics pumped through the speakers—You can’t see the forest for the trees / you can’t smell your own shit on your knees— I was blindsided by the brutal truth: my life was not going as planned. I did see the forest for the trees and I was an alcoholic. For nearly twenty years, I had used the details of my life to justify my excessive alcohol and drug use. I did well in school, got the job I wanted, had never shot heroine, and had never been in jail. But glimpsing that woman in the mirror, I knew that even my camouflage panties could no longer hide me from myself.
I kept my part of the bargain and danced for the remainder of the song. The free beer took the edge off of my painful introspection, but I needed to go home. After two hours of waiting in line to cross the border, the train ride to San Diego, and a Ritalin-fueled drive back to Los Angeles, I finally got there. It was five o’clock, Monday morning, and I had to be up at six. Coming from a family plagued with alcoholism and drug addiction, my mom often soliloquized, “No matter how drunk you get, in this family, we always go to work the next day. We’re like the Kennedys.” I was too young to know who the Kennedys were, but going to work the next day sounded serious. So that morning, after a brief nap, I did my best to scrub off the smell of beer and stripper, and headed off to my job as a high school teacher.
I didn’t stop drinking after my Tijuana experience, but I tried. I made to-do lists like:
1. Quit drinking.
2. Figure out communication problem in relationship.
3. Water plants on balcony.
I didn’t know how to do any of these, so I made up rules that I thought might help. First, I tried limiting myself to two drinks per night. I only succeeded at this once. Next, I decided to drink only beer, thinking it was the hard liquor that was the problem. When this didn’t work, I attempted to quit drinking by just using drugs. But my willpower failed and within a couple of days I was back to drinking and drugging as usual. The plants on my balcony died. How did I assuage my shame? I drank even more.
Like Winnie in the rabbit hole, I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t escape. I was stuck, and only death or asking for help would un-stick me. So I decided to kill myself.
In my late teens, I had been hospitalized (institutionalized) for a drug overdose (suicide attempt) and was forced to take Prozac. When the drug kicked in, I felt hopeful and promised myself that I’d never try this again. When I was thirty-one, my stepmother took her own life by overdosing on Morphine, so I knew how it felt to be on the receiving end of such a selfish act. My aspirations for suicide were thwarted by these experiences, so I decided to forgo suicide and get clean.
I began flirting with Alcoholics Anonymous on-line. I took the quiz Is A.A. For You? and learned that four yeses might mean I was an alcoholic. I answered “yes” to all twelve questions. Despite both my psyche and AA telling me I had a problem, I didn’t ask for help, but the seed had been planted: there might be a solution other than ending my life.
After many failed attempts to control my drinking, I found myself in another early-morning, post-cocaine crash, riddled with shame and despair. Before I could talk myself out of it, I called AA. The guy who answered the phone told me there was a women’s meeting that night, and it was being held across the street from my house. The voice in my head told me not to go; my feet took me to the meeting.
I haven’t had a drink in seven years. My first year of sobriety was unpleasant. I recall the third day, reaching for the Vicodin and realizing I had to flush the pills down the toilet. On the twenty-seventh day, my fiancé (yes, after endless nagging, he proposed…without a ring) broke up with me. I had to give him a dollar so he could take the subway to a friend’s house, yet I believed I was losing my only chance at real happiness. By this time, however, I had a sponsor, and she promised that if I stayed sober, my life would get better. She was right.
I worked the steps, and I have been transformed. I no longer lead a double life. My sponsor often reminds me that my alcoholism wants me dead, but it will settle for me miserable, so I’ve learned to ask for help. More important, I’ve learned to offer it. Five years ago, I married a man who can drink just one drink and not crave another, and I’m now the mother of two-year-old twins. Even in my dark moments—like when I’m watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, resenting Camille Grammer and the rest the world because I don’t have the four nannies I deserve—I easily slip back into gratitude, remembering that I’m living on borrowed time, and every minute I get to spend with my children is a gift. Today, when I look in the mirror, I often don’t recognize the person looking back. But instead of shrinking with shame, I can look myself in the eye and smile. I’m no longer trying to hide.
Mr. X said,
check out MY blog bitches!
My Crazy World! C’mon…u follow me…i’ll follow you….u know the drill =)
This DGFI was my fave. I love this girl.
“I had to give him a dollar so he could take the subway to a friend’s house, yet I believed I was losing my only chance at real happiness.”
Alcoholics or not, I think we’ve all been deluded by dudes like these.
Rachel Bailey said,
You are brave and I applaud you for sharing your story! I’m the daughter of an alcoholic who lives with the disease breathing down my neck daily. Your post reminded me of what is possible in all of us. Thank you.
This was my fav, too!! You had me on the edge of my seat through the TJ experience.
So glad you are sober and enjoying life. 7 years is something to be so proud of. Shoot, one day is something to be proud of, and we all know to treasure each and every sober day. Thank you for sharing your story.
I love this post! I felt like I was right there with you in TJ. Thank you so much for sharing such a deeply personal story. And for reminding me to hang on and keep going.
Tara´s last blog post ..Book Review Fridays- Bubblegum Fiction
Thank you, I have always been terrified of Marilyn (Manson)
I hope you have a blog or write in some other fashion because you are one helluva a storyteller.
Congratulations on seven years! And on crafting a heartbreaking, raw and yet ultimately inspirational story.
Dana´s last blog post ..Look
Very good story. Congrats on staying sober.
rebecca´s last blog post ..Sick Days
Christina Tinglof said,
All I can say is “Wow.”
Christina Tinglof´s last blog post ..8 Tips to Parenting Older Sibling to Twins
Congrats on the hard work – great story.
JJ Keith said,
Incredibly well-written. So much wit. I loved this story, especially the happy ending. What Dana said: you need a blog or other avenue for your writing. Seconded!
JJ Keith´s last blog post ..The Sleep Train Has Derailed
My favorite moment in this is “3. Water plants on balcony” which is funny and poignant in the best way possible. The first few paragraphs would make the perfect beginng to a movie. Well done!
Beth, you need to write a book or a blog a diary that you can send to me so that I can read it. Your story made me laugh and cry. That was amazing.
Jen´s last blog post ..His girlfriend is named Lady Swimsalot
So good. Thank you for this story!!!
thanks for your truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. AMAZING & BRAVE share! congratulations on 7 years!
Okay it is rare that I find myself laughing out loud while reading a post about getting sober but that was funny. And I totally relate to much of your story.
7 years is amazing! You are a brave woman. Do you blog? Your writing and humour is great I’d love to read more.
I loved your story and the way you told it. I too have had moments of clarity that I ignored and kept drinking…
You made me laugh.
congrats on 7 years – AWESOME accomplishment1
Oh, I can so relate. Thank god we don’t have to live like that anymore. There is a solution. I too found “it” in AA. You cracked me up. Thanks for writing.