I’m going to talk about the thing that no one wants to talk about. It’s time to bare my deepest pain. Possibly I can help someone else, because when the truth begins to pour out of you, there’s no plug that can stop it. I am an alcoholic, and I am not alone. Millions of men and women are running home on Tuesday nights and draining bottles wine, leaning on the sturdy arm of habit to take the edge off of the dull ache of everyday life, until it’s not so sturdy. There’s an epidemic going on with women right now. Society has glamorized drinking to a level of normalcy, where cocktail-ing has simply become a hobby and a part of adult life. Moms are doing it. Young and old women are doing it. It’s how we bond, it’s how we celebrate. It’s glamorous, it’s fun. It’s killing us. It’s ruining our relationships. It’s breaking our souls.
We can’t have a conversation of excess without having a conversation of control. Addicts don’t look like homeless people on the side of the road. They look just like everyone else. They are everyone else. Addicts are people who are very good at hiding, often hiding from themselves the most. Alcoholism runs in my family, and for years people would tell me to “be careful”, or “not to drink too much, so I didn’t become an alcoholic” As if I had a choice. I grew up very disillusioned, thinking that I was more powerful than alcohol and that I could control a disease. A disease! When someone has diabetes, do they think, “well I’ll just have enough sugar to get a little buzz everyday, maybe a little too much on the weekends for fun. Who cares if it kills me? I need it to deal with my life”
For many years, I was very good at controlling it. I never lost a job or got arrested. Most people never saw me as anything other than a fun-loving party girl. I could be out of my mind and still have the sense to get home safely and calmly making sure every last one of my girlfriends was in the cab. Generally, I would get home from work and I’d start drinking, slowly feeling the stresses of my day slip away. I’d begin to relax, to feel like my problems weren’t so bad, to romanticize, to dream. It magnified my confidence and charismatic personality. I was ambitious, excited and spontaneous when I was drinking. I always thought it brought out a better version of me. I couldn’t see how it was also magnifying my insecurity, shattering my self-esteem and putting me in dangerous and difficult situations with men and with my health, time and time again. In my 20’s, it was all about going out and having a good time, but over time something changed. I was no longer satisfied with just the flutter of escaping for a few hours. I needed more and more of it. I needed it to last longer and if I felt it slipping away, I’d drink more and more to keep that feeling until I couldn’t determine when was too much, and it began to take control of me. Ending each night sick and on the bathroom floor and starting each day with a hangover was no way to live. Sure I was functioning, I wouldn’t allow myself to miss work, or use it as an excuse and so, I persevered. Day in and day out. What I felt was a lot of guilt, shame and fear. Was I afraid I might be a real alcoholic? Absolutely. Did I give myself little challenges and tests to see how bad I really was? All the time. There were so many times I opted to never drink again or slow down after a bender, but at some point, instead of an escape, my drinking became a prison. I had lost control. The line became so blurred that it no longer felt like me making the choice, I was at the mercy of my disease. All the while denying that for me the problem even existed. Wasn’t everyone drinking a bottle of wine or two at a time? Wasn’t this just “adulting” made popular by TV and memes on Facebook?
My relationships were a disaster. I lost friends. I dated the wrong men. I allowed myself to be taken advantage of. I didn’t know what my standards were. I didn’t have boundaries. I wanted so badly to be loved, I took any scraps I could get and then I blamed myself. I shamed myself. I hated the woman inside of me. I manipulated, and I told stories. I spun myself into hurricanes of chaos. Most of all, I told myself excuses and lies about why I needed to keep drinking in order to be a better me. I covered up.
Alcohol had me and I knew it, but I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to do the work. I didn’t want to admit or accept that I had a problem with drinking, and the only way I could be free from the cycle would be to quit all together. I couldn’t just stop. I’d have to untie all of the knots in my noose, and work from the inside out. It felt overwhelming. It didn’t seem possible. I didn’t think I would be fun without it. I thought the drinking me, was the real me. I hadn’t seen that sober girl since she was 18 years old. After I finally felt enough pain and enough loss, I got honest. Looking down the road of my future, I knew there would only be three options for me: death, insanity or recovery. I chose to live.
Everyone drinks. It’s associated with nearly every major, and minor event. When I first got sober, I’d go around saying things like, “Wow, I’ve never done this sober before.” I began to see how much of my time, money and moments were literally wasted behind Rose colored glasses. I began to see how many great nights were blurred by the brush of booze and how many feelings had been tapped when the truth began to flow. I had been using alcohol to cope for so long, I forgot what it really felt like to feel. Clear-headed and present, I feel it all now. I feel the bad, I feel the good and I don’t miss anything. Life is hard and never lets up, but I have grown strong. I have persevered. I have begun to unravel the knots of my past. It takes an effort to keep myself from getting tied up again everyday, but I am doing it.
Here’s the biggest thing I have learned. Pain still comes. If I can be uncomfortable and live in that uncertainty for a few minutes, even if it’s agony… it will pass. It is temporary. I can stand on my own, no longer to lean on the aid of my obsession. I can love from the bottom of my heart, the woman God created me to be without having to change her. I don’t want to take the edge off of my life. I want to breathe it in everyday, fully embracing the limited time I have left here. I have found a love so strong and pure, a partner and true companion on this sober journey, who I never would have found if I was still drinking. We were both looking for something more, for someone who would understand, and someone who wanted to face life, without a filter, without a crutch. When I let go of my control, I found my purpose. I realized it is okay to just be. I found the real me has always been, and will always be enough.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction or the effects of addiction, have hope. There is help. There’s a reason why they call it getting Wasted. It’s a waste of a life, and I’m here to tell you, there is another way.