I wish I could say this post is about how tight my ass is from doing squats- but, alas....it’s not that kind of “high bottom”.
The high bottom I’m referring to is the opposite of a rock bottom. A quick snapshot of my story: I’m 37 years old, and I got sober last year. I was a classic, “functioning alcoholic”. I have a great husband who ironically does not drink, 2 great kids, a house in the ‘burbs, I drive a safe and practical Volvo, and I own a successful business. I have great friends and all-in-all, we have a great life. It’s the quintessential American dream.
I didn’t become active in my alcoholism until about 18 months before I got sober. Sure, I had been slightly crazy in other ways, but once the mental obsession around drinking plus its fast progression happened, I knew exactly what was happening, so I quit quickly after that. They say that as alcoholics the elevator only goes one direction for us: down. And we can get off at any floor. I suppose I escaped at one of the top floors.
Luckily, I saw my father get sober when I was 18 with AA. He was also a functioning alcoholic. Hell, I didn’t even know he was a drunk! I saw my path being the same as his, I knew it was in my DNA, I knew exactly how the story would end if I kept drinking. And it just wasn’t for me.
I vividly remember my first AA meeting. I was wearing designer jeans, my expensive Banana Republic coat and I was at an Alano Club (at that time I thought it was the “Alamo Club”, like it had something to do with Texas). There were homeless people outside and I double checked the address when I saw them. “Surely I don’t belong here”, I thought. “RUN!” my addiction screamed. Just go home, drink some wine and maaaaaaybe try again another day.
Another time I was at an informal book study and a guy looked around and said, “I don’t know about all of you- but when I got sober I was pretty desperate”. Everyone nodded.
Er, nope. Pretty sure I wasn’t desperate.
I would even come to this blog and read stories of women who had humiliated themselves at BBQ’s, or driven drunk with their kids, or had even tried over and over again to get sober and couldn’t stay sober. So much drama. And a strange part of me wanted to relate. I wanted to have a story that was tragic, but not too tragic. A story that was somewhere between good enough for Oprah, but not bad enough to be on Intervention.
I felt like my story wasn’t good enough. Or, should I say “bad enough”. Like people were judging me, thinking that I didn’t belong there because my story was tied up with a pretty bow. And all the while my addiction was like a smarmy attorney- building this case against the notion that I was an alcoholic. “Your honor- my client clearly cannot be an alcoholic. She has no DUI’s, no arrests, no stripping down to her thong at parties while drunk, no blackouts, and as evidence A will show you- her pictures on Facebook clearly show a woman who has it all together.” Case closed.
Bottom line: I felt like there had to be a criteria that was unbearably painful and tragic in order to qualify for being a real alcoholic. Then I could be a part of the club. Then I could qualify for sobriety.
My first sponsor told me that for people with a high bottom- our insides don’t match our outsides. In other words, it’s different for people that clearly have a drinking problem. Everyone knows, drinking is affecting their life negatively and it’s just pretty obvious.
But, for us, very few people, if anyone knows about our alcoholism. We have well put together lives and try even harder because of the addiction. We’re desperate for no one to find out, ashamed of what might happen if its uncovered and feel torn about getting sober. We’ve convinced ourselves we’re “social drinkers”. What will happen on bunko nights? What about wine tasting events? Superbowl parties? What will people think?
For me, I had to get to that tipping point where the pain of being fearful of getting sober coupled with the fear of what people would think was less than the fear of keeping up my drinking progression. It was like a little crack in the door. It was all I needed.
I really don’t think staying sober is harder or easier for anyone. It’s so subjective, how will we ever know anyway? I do know that it’s very slippery to let the ego meander too long in the “Well, my alcoholism wasn’t that bad...” In AA they tell us to listen for the similarities- not the differences. I know for a fact all too well that listening only to the differences will put you on a path opposite of recovery.
All alcoholics have been in a “wasn’t that bad” place. I know in my heart that had I kept drinking, or if I ever go back out, I will end up a tragic, rock bottom story. I will lose my husband. My children will end up in therapy talking about their alcoholic mother. This disease does not give a shit about my designer jeans, house in the suburbs or my high bottom. I am an alcoholic, period.
So, sometimes I don’t feel like I belong. Boo hoo. I can choose to stay there and feel sorry for myself, or remember that my disease is the same as that woman on Intervention. And the guy at a meeting who’s back with a 24-hour chip for the 50th time. The disease will always try to bring me back. So, every day I make the commitment.
One day at a time.