Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In The Beginning

**submitted by Angelynn, who would like to recognize Maggie, whose post Nine Days Sober helped her decide to seek help.

I was 16 the first time I got drunk. I hadn’t had more than a few sips of beer or a taste of my parent’s cocktails before then. I visited a friend overseas and went out to a bar. I remember diving into my first scotch and soda. I expected to hate the taste but was pleasantly surprised. I quickly felt the effects of that first drink. Intrigued, I asked for another. I don’t recall the number of drinks I actually had that night. I do remember staring at myself in the mirror, smiling and thinking to myself, "I'm drunk," and I liked it.

At 17, I started frequenting bars with a girlfriend. I don’t remember ever seeing her without the evening ending with drinks. Drinking made it easier to relate to other people, my shyness quieted down and I was able to communicate without fear. I envied her confidence and tried to amplify mine by drinking. I felt sexy and in control when I drank.

Fast forward to age 20. My girlfriend and I went to a club to see her boyfriend’s band play. I hadn’t eaten since early that afternoon and drank a few too many beers. Cops were waiting on the streets near the club. Not more than a block away I saw a red light in the rear-view mirror. The lights from the police flooded our car. The officer asked if I had had anything to drink. Without thinking I admitted to a couple beers. He told me to step out of the car and follow him to the side of the road. I don’t recall each sobriety test, but I remember thinking I performed a lot better than what my scores revealed. I registered 0.1 on the breathalyzer. The legal limit is 0.08 and when you’re under 21 it’s 0.04.

was handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car. My girlfriend paged her boyfriend so he could pick her up because she was too drunk to drive. I spent the night in jail. I met several other women while we were waiting to make our phone calls. I remember one woman in particular dressed in a blue skirt suit. She joked about how we should go out for drinks when we got out. I remember just wanting to sleep but not being able to. As the alcohol wore off it was less interesting to sit in a jail cell with no money and no clue what was going to happen next. A small piece of me was thankful that I got pulled over. A night in jail was certainly better than what could have happened if I had continued on to the freeway for the 45-minute drive home.

Thinking about my highs while drinking brought back all the lows. The day after my first experience being drunk was the sickest I had ever been in my life. It was a 12-hour plane ride home with a hangover. It was hopping up to rush to the bathroom to throw up only to have a flight attendant with an attitude growl under her breath that I better not throw up in the cabin. Drinking in bars with strangers led to leaving with strangers that I never got a chance to know. Spending a night in jail meant learning later that the reason I couldn’t get hold of my girlfriend to come pick me up is because she and her boyfriend wanted to “get some sleep.” 

They also used the last few dollars in my wallet to buy themselves breakfast. Those beers cost me over $6000, 2 days of community service (see also: cleaning public restrooms at the fairgrounds), and losing my license for 6 months. The group sessions the court ordered me to take were my first introduction to AA. 

That was 13 years ago.

Sometimes things get a lot worse before they get better. That was certainly true for me. Today I am 10 days sober. I returned to AA last night a different person. This time I walked in those doors willingly and with purpose. Alcohol doesn’t speak for me anymore. I’m learning to say no with an authority I didn’t possess years ago. I’m learning to fight the feeling in the center of my chest that aches for a drink. I’m standing at the edge of a cliff peering over the edge. A glass of wine is just out of reach, dangling over the abyss. If I reach out to it, I will fall. And I don’t think I would make it back.


  1. I am so proud of you :)
    10 days!!!
    And again, what you wrote, so familiar (accept I was never in jail... should have been a few times...)
    Thank you for being so brave to share your story.

  2. Congratulations on your 10 days! that's awesome. There's a better life out there and you are off to a great start.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I could relate to SO MUCH of it. You express yourself beautifully, too.

    I agree that sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. That 'gift of desperation' - we can't get this sobriety thing until we're good and ready.

    And you sound ready. Good for you. Congrats on 10 days - each day it will get easier and easier to stay away from the drink. And, then the feelings come up - so keep talking. You're doing so well.

  4. I know very well that ache in the center of my chest. I too am restarting sobriety after trying controlled drinking. Thanks for your story. Veronica.

  5. First of all, I'm incredibly honored by the first part. I don't know what to say other than thank you for the gift of letting me know that being honest helped someone else. Just as I am certain that your being honest here will help someone else.

    Second, this is so so so so beautiful. I can't tell you how much I appreciate having this backstory to your current struggle. You are a lovely person and I'm so glad I've been given the opportunity to get to know you.

    And I will keep on believing you are lovely until you believe it yourself.

    Well done, my friend. xo

  6. I know that feeling in the center of your chest. I hate that feeling.

    Congratulations on 10 days! Stay away from "the edge" and keep trying to get to solid ground and you'll add to that. We are all here for you.

  7. God I can relate to much of your story. I too drove under the influence, not proud of it but so glad to leave it in the past.

    Congrats on your sobriety. You are worth it. Rooting for you.

  8. Welcome back. And thank you, for sharing your story. :)