Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One Year Sober

Submitted by Anonymous:

One year ago this month, I was in rehab. It sucked and it was totally interfering with my plan to drink myself to death. However, wasn't raising any hell over it. My brain was traumatized by the seizure I'd had during my last withdrawal and so much of the stuff that made me myself was disabled. Smartass comments, rationalization, logical thinking, short-term memory, and even anger and fear were all lost in the fog. I allowed others to lead me and put one foot in front of the other because I couldn't see behind or in front of that.

The first time I had a drink, I was 17. My best friend and I made cocktails not to get drunk or have fun or be social. Rather, we wanted to get used to the taste and the effect of alcohol before we started college. We didn't want to be "that girl" who pukes all over herself or winds up in a stranger's bed and can't remember how, so we experimented with booze as with a very combustible substance. My life at that point was all about control. I had an eating disorder and lived with constant, soul-suffocating anxiety over all the things I could not manipulate.

Within days of arriving at school, I was in love with cheap punch mixed in garbage cans and a guy who treated me like garbage. That relationship really put me in touch with the concept that I was worthless and no matter how hard I tried, things were going to fall apart anyway. My goal in life was to be "that girl" as thoroughly as possible. If I couldn't be perfect, I was going to excel at being bad.

Over the next 8 years, I vacillated constantly between success and failure. I didn't like the middle of the road, so I was always pulling to one side or the other and ending up in a ditch. No matter the circumstances - a promotion at work or a fight with my boyfriend - I could reach my happy place, numb and safe, with a drink. Booze was my port in the storm, my key to the VIP room I felt I'd been locked out of my whole life. I identified very strongly as a drinker; I felt most myself, most comfortable in my own skin when I was holding a cocktail or a cold beer. It was incomprehensible to me that a life without this magic potion could be worth living.

My sponsor tells me I drove 80 miles an hour straight into a brick wall. I never wanted to stop drinking longterm and never made empty "I'll never drink again!" promises to myself, even in the depths of a hangover. When my hangovers started intensifying - including days of throwing up, insomnia, and shaking - I turned my attention towards becoming a more successful drinker, a moderate drinker. The Mythical Moderate Drinker. The Big Book of AA says it is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker to be able to drink normally. The "one glass of wine with dinner," "take it or leave it" mindset was my holy grail. At that point, I was drinking a couple of bottles of wine a night. When I lost my job due to my alcoholism, I drank all day, every day and that's what brought my body to a crisis point, culminating in the seizure that saved my life.

I mentioned earlier that I had planned to drink myself to death. I was not pursuing this goal in any organized way, but I was resigned to dying an alcoholic death if it meant I didn't have to quit drinking. Pouring a drink was the only coping mechanism I had. Without it, I was left with some seriously screwed up brain chemistry (almost entirely attributable to my alcohol consumption) and no idea how to navigate in the world. I was caught in a place where the only thing keeping me alive was simultaneously killing me.

Today, I'm happier than I've ever been. The chronic anxiety and depression I suffered during my drinking life (and even before I started using alcohol to self-medicate) have become manageable. I have coping mechanisms that work. And that has become the acid test, the principle around which I construct my life: What's true is what works.

I don't live in a place of endless contrarian nay-saying anymore. The peace of mind I have found in sobriety is a self-evident truth, regardless of any attempt on my part to logically explain or disprove it. I go to AA meetings regularly and I am developing a spiritual consciousness because that works for me. It is my daily reprieve from an alcoholic death. Simple (and miraculous) as that.

6 comments:

  1. Congratulations on 1 year! That is such a momentous anniversary!

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  2. What a beautiful story, almost a year ago I was in rehab. I too deal with ED and I just identify so much with your journey. Thank you SO much for sharing. This is further proof of p.417, that nothing happens in god's world by mistake, because I truly needed to hear this today. Thank you for your strength and grace.

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  3. Congratulations! You have come a long way and I applaud you, and I thank you for sharing yourself.

    "The peace of mind I have found in sobriety is a self-evident truth"

    That's something I chew over quite a bit, when I wonder whether or not I really have a problem with alcohol, or if I can just "drink normally." The plain and simple truth is that sobriety brings me a peace and contentment I have not known in many years. Self-evident truth indeed.

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  4. Thank you for your "rigorous honesty" This is what it takes. I appreciate the way you talk about coping with depression and anxiety. It's such a grown up concept, isn't it? TO cope. Not wish it away, not dream it away. But do the work and be a grown up. Thanks for snapping me out of some childish magical thinking that's been creeping up on me lately.

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  5. One year - way to go! I occasionally still suffer an anxiety attack, but like you, my depression and anxiety has improved to a great extent since I quit the wine. I just read Craig Ferguson's book (good read if you haven't) and he says he started drinking to become Dr. Jekyll, but the alcohol betrayed him and in the end he was drinking to be Mr. Hyde. I could relate to that on a personal level since I had a serious perfectionism issue. The alcohol was the only way I knew to put up a pretty face for the world. Thank God I don't have to do that today!

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  6. Happy Birthday! I could relate to so much of what you wrote, especially, "...I was resigned to dying an alcoholic death if it meant I didn't have to quit drinking."

    I knew I was an alcoholic and accepted it long before I got sober. Accepting that I would not drink just for the day ahead of me was where I had a problem with acceptance.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It only helps to strengthen my own sobriety.

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