Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Picture is Worth . . .

*** submitted by Val

The other day I was looking at a picture on our bookcase of me and my husband at the beach. I don’t remember which beach vacation it happened to be, but we look happy and carefree, tan with windblown, salty beach hair. I found myself thinking, “Man, I wish I could still drink like I could then.” Before it was a problem. Before I couldn’t drink “like that.” Before I couldn’t not drink. I thought, “Maybe I could drink like that again. Just enough to be happy. To have fun. To be tan and carefree.”

You see, that is how my disease works. I was tired after a stressful day at work. I was frustrated about the continual clutter that inches its way back into my home every day. My disease saw a chink in my sobriety armor and slipped itself in.

Fortunately, my sobriety has taught me to use my tools. In the second and a half that it took to have those thoughts, I had already played the tape ahead. One drink would quickly send me back to the closet, or the basement, or the garage to hide my alcohol. One drink would trigger that unfathomable obsession of alcohol: when, where, how could I get my next drink. The why is easy; I am an alcoholic.

I look at the picture again with the seriousness and honesty it deserves. As happy as we looked, that vacation was one of many that I ruined by drinking too much. I remember staggering through the hotel lobby, oblivious to the stares of others. I remember dinners missed because I passed out on the bed at 6 pm. I remember the panic attack at 3 am – how would my husband get my body back into the United States? I remember waking up the next day and having a beer for breakfast.

In the picture I am wearing sunglasses. Of course I am – I am at the beach after all! But behind those sunglasses are glassy, bloodshot eyes. Eyes that can’t look at myself in the mirror without a couple of drinks. Eyes that are disappointed that I can’t be the woman I think I should be. I am not the carefree, relaxed woman that I appear to be in the picture. I am a woman who lives in fear. Fear that I will be found out for the fraud that I am. An imposter who is pretending to be a happy and successful woman. Fear that I will be seen for what I am – a drunk.

Yes, even today after a few twenty-four hours of sobriety, my disease can trick me into thinking that it wasn’t that bad. That life would be better with a drink, or two, or . . . My life as a sober woman requires daily maintenance of my spiritual condition. If I let the chinks in my armor get too big or too many, this cunning, baffling, powerful enemy that is alcohol will seep its way back in. I know that to be true. So everyday I get up and work on caring for that armor and caring for the woman inside. The one who can be weak and insecure. The one who also knows that her life is infinitely better without alcohol.


  1. Oh Val...
    At first glance pictures can always be taken at face value, or better, but what's underneath is hard to remember at times. That constant vigilance is the struggle, but it feels good - to keep the disease in check and know it's better without the booze.
    Thank you for this... I can so relate.

  2. Oh, I can really realte to this, especially with beach pictures. The beach is still tough for me at times.

    I wish there was some kind of "truth filter" I could wave over a picture to remind me what was really going on. Or a button I could press that would remind me how I felt most days - stressed, worried, tired, hungover.

    Thanks so much for sharing this - it helps to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.


  3. I can totally relate. The beach - gawd - hubby and I would spend our whole vacation drinking. Buzzed, drunk or hungover was our state. I too, sometimes look at those older pics and yearn for the relaxation I seem to give off. Thankfully then, my sober mind kicks in - and I remember the truth.

    Thank you for your post. :)

  4. There are so many pictures from vacations and otherwise before I got sober that my husband loves of us/me. And all I can see in them is a drunk; the glassy eyes and crooked smile. They may strengthen my resolve, but they also make me so sad. So many good times wasted by being wasted.

    Here's to many more photos with authentic happy memories behind them.

    Thanks for your post.

  5. Val, this is so ... very very close to home. Staggering around hotels (check). Big sunglasses (check). Pictures that don't begin to tell the real story (check, check, and check). Thank goodness we're sharing the real stories now; it's truly our best defense against our disease. Thank you!

  6. This was an excellent & thought provoking piece. It's very easy to forget sometimes. Well done.