***Submitted by Melissa, who blogs at Leaving It All Behind
Recently I was having a conversation with a very close friend about her brother, who is addicted to opiates. We were discussing how he can't seem to get his head in the right place to find a solution - he thinks he's on the right track sometimes, he talks of getting away (hello, geographical cure), and of straightening up - but it's just... all wrong. Poor guy. Anyway, she was telling me how I am not the same as him because I was strong and knew what I had to do to stop drinking. I recognized that I had a problem and I did something about it.
And while I know she was saying that kindly and lovingly and she meant it, I also knew she was wrong. I am no different than he is. No different than any addict. Not then, not now. Put a drink back in my hands and I will turn right back into what I was: a sick, active alcoholic.
When I see other people out in the world struggling with alcohol, drugs, food, cigarettes, on and on and on, I remember to never look at the differences between them and me, but to look for the similarities, to practice infinite compassion. Because I must. Because I know we are all fighting the same fight. Yes, some addictions are a bit more grave than others, no doubt. And some of them wreck our lives harder and faster than others.
But the deep down uncomfortable truths of our lives are, in all likelihood, the same.
The truth is there was a lot of lying. A lot of daily white lies about why I was so tired, why I was so cranky, about how much I drank or didn't drink.
The truth is I carried around a massive amount of shame. Crippling shame. I could never look anyone in the eye when I spoke to them because when I did, I thought they could see right through me to what I was... nothing more than a sick, worthless, disgusting, stinky alcoholic. I felt ugly all the time, inside and out. Certainly not like a valuable human being. And most certainly not like a woman.
The truth is I was abusing my body to a horrific degree. I had sleep problems. Obviously. And skin problems due to constant dehydration. And respiratory problems from all the smoking I did along with my drinking. Stomach and digestive problems so painful they kept me out of work for two-day stretches. Kidney infections and bladder problems. And of course there was the panic and worry over all of those issues, compounding them, making them even worse.
The truth is that sometimes I would get so drunk so fast on any given night that I would throw up and pass out and wake up wondering how I got in bed, if I ate, if I got on the phone with some unfortunate friend and talked their ear off. I probably had dozens and dozens of blackouts in the course of a few years. I blanked them out. I made myself not think about them because when I did, I was immobilized by anxiety.
The truth is I used to bring home alcohol in the evenings and be itching to get into it, and I would drink and drink until I was head-spinning drunk, stuff my face, go to bed in a daze, wake up in pain, promise myself I would stop, berate myself and beat myself up mentally all.fucking.day.long., go home from work... and do it all over again. To paraphrase Tara, it was like living in a nasty version of Groundhog Day. Living the same day, the same awful day, for years on end.
I am constantly spouting joy in this space - and yay! there's nothing wrong with that! - but just because I have had, in my estimation, a very lucky, happy time of it being sober, that doesn't mean I have forgotten these truths. Like I said in my previous post, The Reality Of It, I have to remember the reality so that I have armor against the "I can just have one" mentality, if and when it surfaces in my consciousness.
And if I have to tell the truth now, I am putting them down here in this space not so much for me as for anyone who knew me before, reading this now, who didn't know how bad it was. Which is everyone, really. I was actually angry about that at first, that no one seemed to get it. But then, how could anyone get it? No one was here to see it.
But those are the dirty truths of what my life was. So yeah, I wake up happy as hell every single day now because you can't imagine how damn thankful I am that those are no longer my truths. I feel worthwhile now. I feel feminine. I feel healthy. I feel full of hope and love and laughter. And I am free of shame.
And I will keep fighting the good fight for myself, every single day, to make sure it stays that way.