***Submitted by Gappy, who blogs over at Gappy Tales.
Alcoholism – you may remember – is something that I have written about before. I wrote about it and then I dropped it. I metaphorically wiped my hands down the thighs of my jeans, sighed and said, “Well there’s that done and dusted. I don’t have to hide anything anymore… good. Now then, what to write about next?” I didn’t want it to define my blog because I don’t want it to define me.
But recovery, I have discovered, requires vigilance. It requires you to not drop your guard. It requires you to remember. The moment you forget and begin to think that you are better – that you have recovered as opposed to being in recovery - is the moment you start to convince yourself that there’s no harm in a teeny weeny little glass of something. After all, you can stop any time you want right? You’ve proved it right? You’re FINE, RIGHT??
I am fine. But I am fine because I’m sober. I realise that to most people this must seem like a no-brainer, but when you have a relationship with alcohol that is as screwed up as mine is, your brain will play all kinds of tricks on you in order to make drinking seem like a good idea again. Like this thought, taken purely at random from a whole big stupid selection that I have had this week: “Wow. A whole eight months in recovery. Surely that deserves a glass of wine or two.” See what I mean? It would be funny if it, you know, wasn’t.
Anyway, last weekend something happened to pull me up short. Something happened which served to remind me to remember. I’m writing a post about it to give myself something to refer back to in times of temptation, and because, in a funny sort of way, writing about my issues with alcohol and knowing that people are reading what I write, makes me feel a little more accountable.
I went to a party. A party at my mothers house. I drank lime and soda and hung out with my younger brother who had also invited a few of his friends. I was nervous. The last party that I had been to at my mothers was almost exactly two years ago. I had been drunk and there had been a scene - a scene which proved to be the catalyst to my deciding that enough was enough and that my drinking couldn’t go on. It took another year of spiraling downhill before I finally accepted that I could not do it alone and needed to ask for support, but I will always remember that night as being the turning point. The point at which I was fully confronted with just how bloody ugly it had all become.
There were to be some of the same people that had been there that night at this party too, and if I’m honest my shame nearly got the better of me and I came within a hairs breadth of not going. But I decided in the end that I was/am not prepared to hide myself away forever. Life goes on in spite of our mistakes and disasters and I’ve as much right to enjoy my life as anyone else. It is a waste of time to live in a past that you cannot change. I knew my family were behind me and wanted me there. I would go.
It went fine almost up until the end. With my lovely brothers supportive arm around my shoulder (“y’alright sis?”) I started to feel more confident, and soon I was chatting to people and having a pleasant enough time. It wasn’t until the party was beginning to wind down that the last guest arrived. It was another friend of my brothers, someone whom I recognised instantly from two years ago. He had already been drinking all day at a family gathering of his own, and over the next hour or so I watched as he sped inexorably towards, then tipped finally and inevitably over, that clear but invisible line that separates drunk but o.k. from no longer in control. You don’t cross that line as many times as I have without developing a sixth sense for where it lies in other people. It is disturbing to view the trajectory through sober eyes, like a car crash happening in slow motion. I could also sense his awareness of me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see his head periodically flicking towards me, like he was just waiting for an opportunity to say something.
In the end it came apropos of nothing. “Do you remember last time we met…” he began, and then – with a nasty glint in his eye - proceeded to describe in lurid detail the events of the party two years previously. I simultaneously felt the floor slide out from underneath me and the contents of my stomach turn to liquid. I honestly didn’t know what to do. When I eventually replied that I didn’t feel it was a particularly appropriate situation in which to be discussing it, he tried another tack and began to rapidly fire very personal questions at me. Where were my two youngest children he demanded to know, and did I really think it was fair on my eldest son to be asleep upstairs when there was the noise of a party downstairs? By this time the room had gone silent.
His verbal attack was so carefully aimed and so vicious, it left me almost speechless. My son was at his grandmothers party for goodness sake, surrounded by family that loved him. He was safely tucked up in bed, fast asleep. The music was playing at a perfectly normal level on the living room stereo and the only person who was dangerously drunk was the man currently and publicly berating me for no other reason than that he had sensed my vulnerability and decided to go for the jugular.
I went to bed feeling both mortified and devastated.
But I have since had some time to process what happened. And I can see that while he certainly embarrassed me, it was his own colours that he truly put out on show. I take comfort in the fact that while I have taken steps to clean up my side of the street, his is still looking decidedly grubby. But mostly I just feel incredibly grateful for my sobriety in a way that I didn’t before. Being sober served me in that situation, and ironically, the situation itself served my sobriety. It reminded me to remember. To remember just how ghastly that place was that he described.
To remember that I never want to go back.