Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Dry Drunk

***Submitted by Robin, who is a Co-Moderator at Crying Out Now

Two years ago today, I grabbed the life-ring, backed off the ledge, dialed 911 – whatever metaphor you use for that last whimper, the one that slips out after we think we’re already dead, when we don’t have enough breath or soul left for more than a whisper and it’s pointless because we’re sure no one is listening anymore anyway. But someone is, and what that sound really means is that we’re finally ready, finally able to be helped, to let someone pick us up and begin to glue us back together.

Two years ago today, I went to rehab. And that’s when things got tough.

Stumbling and graceless, I went about getting better. In the rehab center, I fattened up. My roots grew out, the Botox wore off: I was real. I sobbed and I hugged, I snuck onto the internet to run up my credit card and ate another girl’s ice cream and lied about it: I was authentic. I was made women’s section leader so I got to stomp around with a flashlight and ask the other women intrusive questions. I begged everyone in my life to send money so that I could stay and stay and stay, wallowing in the only place I’d felt safe in… maybe in forever. It didn’t hurt that I had a private room with my own bathroom and a door that locked.

But eventually I graduated. And that’s when things got tough.

Inside, I’d learned not only how to let everyone else make my decisions for me but I’d learned to like it and now I not only had to run my own life but I had to run my little daughter’s and my dogs’ and also of course my job and my house and my marriage. I learned pretty quickly though that no one expected much, so as long as I kept breathing and didn’t drink or use I could pretty much meet expectations. I gritted my teeth through the firsts: first Christmas, first sober sex, first phone calls, first stumbling social explanations: no, thank you, I’ll have club soda with lime. At my one-year anniversary my sponsor said nice things about me to a room full of women who still didn’t know me very well and we ate cake. That same week I left my long-suffering job (one step ahead of the axe) and took my daughter out of daycare.

I was ready, at long last, to pick up the pieces of my life. And that’s when things got tough.

I had no idea how to be a stay-at-home-mom, how to not work, how to be broke, how to bother to get up in the morning when the only person who would notice was four years old and happy to lie around in her pajamas. I had to find some sort of part-time work, so that brought the inevitable little indignities of job searching, the small accumulating miseries, death by a thousand cuts. And I had no liquid courage, of course, no false bravado freeze-dried into a little pink pill. For someone who was at long last living an authentic life, I felt awfully out of place, an awful lot of the time. Many moments were happy ones, joyful even, quiet and good, but of course the more authentic the moment the less I knew what to do with it, so I was always dizzy and I never trusted anything my feelings told me. They say a liar never believes the truth, and they are right.

Slowly, I began to figure it out. And that’s when things got tough.

Life settled into a rhythm, with its new freedoms, its new restrictions. This ‘anonymous’ thing brings its own limitations. Where I once tucked away my shameful secrets, the bottles and the pocketfuls of pills, I now hide new secrets, ones I’m assured won’t hurt me, the what-I-do-on-Tuesday-nights and where-I-know-you-from kind. I try to remember to journal, to pray, to read my daily meditations. When I do, it all makes sense but, honestly, sometimes it’s all just more gotta-do’s, more chores.

I’m better at a lot of things now, really truly, although I know enough to never say I’m better better. I confess when I err. I think through the action. I don’t hide from life, living like a roach, sticking to the shadows and trying to stay out from under your feet but never trying to make anything better. My house is neater. I don’t fight with my husband too often; it hurts, now that I can feel it. I know the miracles won’t come until I go out and get them, and I intend to, as soon as I finish work and pick up my daughter and go to the library and get the groceries and fix dinner and give her a bath and read books and can I take a shower now? But, wait, I know there was something I was supposed to do …

Life goes on. My demons and I stepped over the two-year mark, hand-in-hand, going to bed one night and waking up the next morning, no fanfare, like always. And things are tough.


  1. Ah-mazing. Beautifully written and so honest. Congratulations on 2 years!

  2. Happy Birthday! Thank you for your courage and honesty. I'm so grateful to be on this journey with you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

  3. congratulations! you're a brave one!

  4. Thank you for sharing and I appreciate the strength you have passed onto me in the process.

  5. Congrats on 2 years of new life!

  6. Good for you! Those of us in recovery from a seemingly hopeless state of mind & body are miracles & for that I salute "us" for doing the deal together & my Higher Power for keeping us sober today. I sometimes still feel like there should be "more" to my program, my life, my career, my relationships,etc but then I take a step back & ask for the strength & wisdom to do the next right thing today & I truly do trust that all of the pieces of my life are in the hands of the Master & I can relax & trust that he/she is painting a beautiful tapestry that I can't yet see. Like they said when I left rehab 4+ years ago "Trust God, help others & clean house". I admire your honesty about how you feel about your recovery. Thanks for sharing with us. Right there you've done 2 of those 3 things. Now for the "trusting God" part. What do you say?

  7. My mother and my aunt were having lunch several years ago. My aunt was a terrible alcoholic who was then in recovery. Anyway, they're sipping iced tea waiting for the food to come and my aunt asks,"Is this it?" My mom says,"What do you mean?" My aunt goes on,"I mean is this it? Is this what you sober people do everyday. Drink iced tea and go to lunch and act like you're happy about everything?" My mother replies,"Yep, this is it darling."

  8. Amazingly beautiful writing. Congratulations on your two years, and on being able to articulate so much emotion and honesty in this post.