***Submitted by Cynthia (not her real name)
Let’s start with the basics. I was a model student, an over-achiever, for sure. People said they were envious of me, but I had a hard time reconciling that sentiment due to my overwhelming knowledge that I was, in fact, a FAILURE. Didn’t matter that I had a perfect GPA; I was not okay. I’d been outed with my eating disorder (bulimia) in the most embarrassing way. I’d gone to the local Safeway and stolen: diet pills, a magazine featuring Tracey Gold’s eating disorder, some granola bars. This itself was bad. But, even worse, a lot of people from my high school actually worked there and my apprehension took place in their break room. My grandparents came to get me and I said nothing, because there was nothing to say. My school peers said a lot. I was admitted to an inpatient eating disorder hospital the next day.
Years later, my issue is not eating, it’s alcohol. I’ve always sought to numb. I guess my coping mechanisms reach for what is most available to me, and surely, as a youth, alcohol was nowhere near my reach in a tea-total family. I think the symptoms and behaviors can resemble each other, though.
I am now struggling, as a mother, to curb my alcohol abuse. It seemed like a haven at first. I used to have a beer or 5, or 8, and go to sleep knowing I was “still cool” because, I guess, motherhood renders people uncool – what?
Then came the day when I knew I was alcohol dependent. I had moved from casual “I deserve this” usage. I began buying more wine than ever before. If I could have bought the Nebuchadnezzar, I would have. Instead, I went to Trader Joes. A lot.
That wore thin, I was an angry woman, so angry. Wine just pushed me away from some friends (other drinkers, in fact) and I swore there was in fact, no motherhood bond over wine. I felt in a very real way that things had changed, maybe for the worse.
Wine was no longer my friend. I couldn’t conceal that many spent bottles easily. Vodka seemed like the solution. Calories, fewer. Number of bottles, fewer. Level of buzz, greater. Perfect!
No, none of this has been perfect, at all. I’ve ravaged my health, drunk-dialed everyone I know, continued ruining my health in a wholesale manner.
I should mention that the side of the family that raised me (my parents were divorced) were so tea-totalling that Postum was the hardest drug in my family’s cabinet. Somehow it doesn’t fit with the fact that my other side of family was from Ireland, and drinking was established. Not questioned. Required.
I have gone at most 20 days without drinking. They were important days. I felt healthy and in charge. It was a very liberating experience and I could not believe my good fortune. I felt like a kid awaiting a holiday. My brain seemed to be pushing out with ideas and I was so productive that everyone remarked on it. Then I drank again. What was old, was new. I was a drunk again. In that meantime, a liquor store was built a block away. Perfect! I gave up any pretenses of seeming like a casual shopper; I was the person they might expect to see on a Monday at noon.
I look at my face in the mirror and I still see a pretty woman. Sometime I look inflated and my eyes, dead. However, I do see how that face is and will be compromised in the future. Some days I look like absolute shit and have a mottled complexion and a puffy area around my eyes. Not attractive. I challenge myself by wondering “who knows?”. Truthfully, probably everyone. That is one thing I know about alcoholics – they aren’t so discreet.
Everything gives them away.
I have joined online websites a couple of times, including the message boards. I am envious of these accomplished people. I have put myself in their ranks a few times when I have had 8, 4, 10 days sober. They are full of insight and reflection on the hard times. I love them for that, and their reaching love. I have yet to meet the requirements of a sober person, but I do love the feeling that emanates from someone who really understands my plight, and that of so many others.
I attended my grandmother’s funeral last week. She was made up like a clown, a mannequin, nothing left of the woman I knew so long and loved. It is hard to see that and discount the possibility that I might be next. After all, a fifth of alcohol goes down easy in just a few hours, and that can not be a good thing. I came from a family of tea-totals, so what the hell happened? I am full of reflection, nuisance though it may seem. I want to change. I have not drunk since the day of the funeral, four days ago.
And truthfully, I don’t want to.