To Megan.

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I was directed to this painful read yesterday.

It’s heartbreaking.

Heartbreaking, because even 12+ years away from my last drink (a plastic cup of warm Chardonnay, which I couldn’t even keep down, because my body was fighting valiantly to keep any more alcohol from braying through my bloodstream), I relate to EVERY GODDAMN THING she writes here. And I suppose I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that I can still easily plug into the memories of how painful, awful, and shitsuckingly BORING it is to be an active alcoholic.

Yes, boring. When you are that dependent on something, your every waking minute revolves around it. Obsessing. Planning. Scheduling. Having “rules” for yourself which keep you from being a real alcoholic. Not drinking before 5. Not drinking at work. Not drinking more than ____ drinks a night (you can easily get around that by drinking out of really big glasses, or continually topping off your drink because – hey – if the glass isn’t totally empty, it’s still only one drink). It’s a second full-time job, one that reaps absolutely no benefits.

It’s lonely, too. This sentence jumped out at me:

I’m upset that I’ve yet again stayed up, alone in my apartment, until the wee hours of the morning, watching music videos on YouTube I’ve seen a million times and sending embarrassing emails, which I type with one eye closed, the other bloodshot and squinting, because I can’t see straight.

I stopped drinking before YouTube was a thing. I can only imagine how much time I would’ve spent watching videos of the drippier New Wave ballads from my formative years and dry-sobbing in front of my laptop, lamenting my lost youth. Or something. As it stands, I spent my time listening to these songs on my stereo, drunkenly fumbling with the 45 sleeves and CD cases, listening to them over and over again until I passed out. Alone. On the crappy little futon sofa while my husband slept in the next room. He actually bought me headphones so he wouldn’t have to listen to this, and thus have some semblance of peace in the midst of my emotional hostage-taking.

Alcoholism gets you where it wants you: alone. Isolated. I drank alone even in a room full of people. That’s the paradox of it – so many of us start drinking because we can’t function around people otherwise. Koester puts it this way: having a few drinks makes it “easier to interact with the world through a filter.” I, like many alcoholics, am wired for isolation. Most people who know me would find that surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of effort for me to go to a party, or to a show, or to any gathering of more than 3 people. Drinking made things easier. Drinking made me funnier, sexier, more creative. Until it just made me drunk. Until it made me prefer the company of my bottle (I certainly wasn’t enjoying my own company). Because to drink the way I wanted to drink required isolation. I couldn’t possibly drink as much as I was drinking around other people. Because they would know I had a problem. So fuck them. Fuck everybody.

Active alcoholism is also an inherently dishonest way to live. We compartmentalize our lives, being one person to one group of people (Wacky! Zany!) and an entirely different person to another group of people (Responsible! Considerate!), while being just one thing to ourselves: drunk.  And we manage this way for a long time, until we (if we’re lucky) come to the realization that we’re broken and in pieces. And then there’s that whole hiding the extent of your drinking from everyone (here’s an Inconvenient Truth™ for you: you’re not fooling anyone). To stop drinking is to face the horrible fact of having to be honest for the first time in…well…for however long you’ve been drinking alcoholically.

Here is the thing that I have learned time and time again in my recovery: DOING something (in this case, being honest) is never as bad as NOT doing it. Because while you’re avoiding the thing you’re afraid of, you’re prolonging the agony, and stacking up more consequences. A sober friend of mine put it to me this way: “When it gets too painful to continue, you WILL change.”

I wish I could sit across some sticky diner table from Koester and tell her that same thing.  But I’ll say this here:

Sobriety is not a death sentence, Megan. Taking away the drink will not take away the central parts of your identity. You don’t even know what those are anymore, because you’ve been drowning them. I’ve read this essay over and over again since last night. I so understand the terror you’re feeling at the very thought of not having that chemical escape hatch anymore. There’s a very palpable grief that happens when you know you have to stop doing this thing that’s NOT EVEN FUCKING WORKING ANYMORE.

You may very well not be ready to stop yet. I hope that changes soon.

It will be work, getting sober. It will absolutely fucking suck at first. But how much more work are you putting into drinking? Think about this.

I’m not the only person out there who read this and 100% related to it. We’re all over the place, and we’re ready to help you when you’re ready to be helped.

What I Don’t Miss…

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I was reading an article in the Globe this morning about President Obama, homebrewer. And it made me a little wistful.

Because I won’t lie. I miss beer. Sometimes – I really, really miss beer.

I miss microbrews. I miss a nice Hefeweizen with a slice of orange in the summer. I miss a pint (or three) of Guinness in the winter. I miss the ritual of the two-part pour.

Most of all – I miss believing that because I knew so much about beer, because I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a Budweiser, that I wasn’t – couldn’t POSSIBLY be – an alcoholic. Alcoholics, after all, aren’t as “discerning” as I was. Right?

I’ll tell you – it’s hard sometimes. Even after ten+ years of sobriety, being in a place like The Burren fills me with a longing that a hundred plates of curry & chips will never assuage. I think, “GOD, I miss Guinness.”

It’s then that I have to remember what I DON’T miss.

I don’t miss waking up with a hangover that I could feel in my back molars.

I don’t miss the prolonged crying/screaming jags I’d have outside of The Burren, TT’s, The Middle East, The Field, or The Phoenix Landing.

I don’t miss the tiny fragment of clarity I’d experience when I’d stop crying/screaming long enough to look into the eyes of whatever guy I’d been involved with and see the moment of realization that he was with a truly crazy, sick young woman, and then the disconnect.

I don’t miss waking up and either having something missing (wallets, keys, sweaters, dudes), or being in possession of something that I’d have no recollection of acquiring (candleholders, table centerpieces, sweaters, dudes).

I don’t miss wondering how much longer I could get away with being a drunk before Kevin would leave me, before I’d lose my job, before I’d have one too many and wind up in the hospital…provided I’d be discovered in time.

I don’t miss some of the really BAD decisions I’d make in order to keep drinking, decisions that endangered me, compromised my morals, sold myself short.

I don’t miss keeping track of what liquor store I’d gone to the day before, so that I wouldn’t go there two days in a row, because I didn’t want the person at the counter to think I was an alcoholic.

I don’t miss the spectacle of far too many ATM receipts in my pocket, all of them accrued in a single evening.

I don’t miss having drinking define me — being afraid to stop drinking because I would lose some crucial aspect of my personality.

So, yeah. I miss beer. But I don’t miss it that much.