My name is Tara, and I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober since September 16th of 2013.
Apart from alcoholism being one of the many wonderful qualities that makes up who I am—and I mean that—I also happen to be twenty-two years old. I got sober at the age of twenty-one after an eight year battle with this disease.
I had no idea that by experimenting with wine coolers at thirteen, I would completely alter the course of my life. By the blossoming age of twenty-one, I was barely alive from years of use and abuse. I was nothing more than the beer I clung on to. I was a ghost--a lifeless, careless being--who wanted nothing more than cigarettes, cases of Dos Equis, and to be left alone in the void I created with my daily blackouts. After years of dealing with circumstantial traumas such as eating disorders, death, abuse, cancer, prison, and using my body to get what I want, I was ready to give up. I didn't want to live another minute being as devastatingly depressed and lost as I was. Drinking was the only escape from my tormented reality. I spent about three years experimenting, and a solid five years in one seemingly long raging blackout. Once the alcohol stopped working like it used to, I spiraled down into a suicidal state of being. After my last week long blackout, I nearly took my own life.
I wasn’t supposed to be this girl. Like all of you, I didn’t grow up wanting to be the alcoholic train-wreck I was by the end of my drinking. I wasn’t supposed to be the addict of the family, the black sheep of my class. I grew up white, middle class, semi-privileged, and decently popular. I wasn’t supposed to be the one to go through this. I was supposed to go to college, find a husband, and make little babies who would follow in my middle class footsteps. I wasn’t supposed to shack up with the high school drop-out-bad-boy. I wasn’t supposed to end my academic career to begin my drinking career. I wasn’t supposed to be drunk for five years straight. Or, at least, I didn’t think I was supposed to be that girl. Now, after eleven months of sobriety, I’ve come to learn that I’m exactly where I was supposed to end up.
When I first got sober, I was pissed. I cursed God for not allowing me to drink like a normal twenty-one year old. I was angry that instead of going to college classes, I was going to intensive out-patient rehabilitation. At family get-togethers, I had to drink water while everyone else enjoyed their festive holiday drinks. Why couldn’t I just be my age? Why couldn’t I just go out to bars and play beer pong without having to worry about certain death like every other kid my age? I have my entire life to live without alcohol. How the hell am I supposed to do that? Who quits drinking at twenty-one?
Crazy, insane, mentally broken alcoholics—that’s who. I don’t know why I wasn’t able to last years and years past my coming-of-age birthday. My alcoholism only needed eight years to blossom and completely take over. Sometimes I catch myself wishing that I had been able to last longer. “At least until I was out of college,” I thought to myself. It’s funny, the logic of an alcoholic. I’d take a few more years worth of beatings just so I could stay with my drink. But then, once I was out of college, I’d need to drink for a few more years. I’d need to attend fancy cocktail hour with my new young co-worker friends. And what if I met a man who would was interested in dating me? How was I supposed to tell him that I was sober? Would he think I was boring? Lame? Goody-two-shoes? Someone who didn’t know how to cut loose and have a good time? What about going to Vegas? I never even got the chance to run around Las Vegas participating in unadulterated revelry. Who quits drinking before they get to experience drinking at its ‘finest’? Who in their right mind would go to a concert sober?
There’s a million and one scenarios like these, and inevitably, each would be a path to ruin my life—again. I fight with these thoughts constantly. Every day, I wake up and I’m reminded that I’m of the age of partying. The media, Pandora commercials, billboards, today’s music . . . the list is endless. Every day, I have to wake up and walk into a world where I’m expected to drink. I’m not alone in this. Each day, every one of us is forced to walk into a world where we’re expected to drink. If you’re a fun, outgoing woman, you’ll take shots of tequila with your friends on girl’s nights out. If you’re a savvy-business woman, you’ll have a dry martini during a business dinner. If you’re a down-to-earth girl, you’ll have a craft beer with your boyfriend while you watch the Sunday game. If you’re a sophisticated woman, you’ll have a glass of ’93 Cabernet with your steak and lobster dinner.
What if you’re sober? What kind of woman does that make you? It’s taken me eleven months of pondering to come up with an explanation for the kind of woman I am post-drink.
If you’re sober, you’re not boring. You’re not lame. You’re not unsophisticated. You’re not a goody-two-shoes. You’re not someone who doesn’t know how to have a good time. (If only people could understand how good of a time us alcoholics have when drinking. People don’t know the definition of having a ‘good time’ unless they’ve been an alcoholic on the loose.)
Us women—us alcoholic women—are beautiful. We are broken, and as such, we are beautiful. We are imperfect in so many ways, yet we’re perfectly positioned to live a life of true blessings. Sobriety is beautiful. It’s honest and it’s intimate; it’s everything drinking used to take away. It’s every ounce of strength we have, out on display, for the entire world to see. It’s the deepest, most raw part of ourselves, being pushed out into the open.
Now, tell me—how many people do you know walk about in their daily lives with their biggest flaw riding on their sleeve? How many people do you know have the courage, the strength, and the patience to give up their sacred confidant, their most reliable friend, and their most trusted lover, and in turn, create a life without their other half? How many people do you know willingly cut off their right arm—their tool for survival—and within a short time, rebuild a life that should be impossible to lead with little to no help from the outside, un-addicted, unaware world?
Alcoholic women. Alcoholic women are the most beautiful, courageous beings on the earth. We go from crap to captivating. We go from assholes to alluring. In every step we take, we must put forth more effort than most. In every word we speak, we must think more cautiously. We’re fighting with ourselves constantly over something that threatens to take away life as we know it. No matter what we do, we’re one move away from utter chaos. We’re one dial spin from ending up right back on the chute, where we’re taken back to square one. In some cases, there will be no ladder to save us.
But, the fact that we’re able to maneuver through life with this deadly blade over our heads speaks to our ability. We’re able to be these broken, damaged, out of control beings. We have the ability to hurt and destroy. On the other hand, we have the ability to rise from the broken glass of drinks and parties past to start anew. We’re able to heal. We’re able to make amends. We’re able to look our shameful and terrible past in the face and not flinch because we’ve learned. We’ve learned to love. We’ve learned to live. We’ve learned what true compassion means. What true sympathy means. What true forgiveness means. And in the end, we learn what true intimacy means. Through the darkness, there is light; a beautiful, wholesome, promising light.
Without our former selves, we’re not able to be the women we are today. And that, in my eyes, was worth my eight years of drinking. I’m thrilled to be sober at twenty-two. I have my entire life to live, to give love, and to make the most of what I’m given. I wouldn’t trade my vantage point for even five seconds on the Vegas strip, slipping and slurring as I enter into meaningless conversations and hopeless hook-ups. God has given me my disease for a reason, and I’m going to use it to my advantage.
Of course, there are bad days. There are days that I want to rip my hair out and drive to the nearest liquor store, drink away my pain, and drown the progress I have made. Sometimes, I still get pissed that I can’t drink like everyone else. I don’t know how long this will occur, but it’s on days like this that I have to breathe. I know that one Dos Equis won’t stay just one Dos Equis. With that first sip, I’ll be gone, mentally and physically. No one will see or hear from me for months, when I finally break down and come crawling out of whatever gutter I was living in—that is, if I’m alive enough to move.
I have to keep breathing. I have to keep on living. I’ve lost my best friend. I’ve lost the only thing that’s been there with me, no matter what blacked out, insane rage I engaged in the night before. For months, I’ve mourned her absence. I miss my best friend. Now, I have to pick up what we’ve ruined together. I thank God for giving me something to pick up, because he so easily could have taken that from me.
I’m supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be broken. I’m supposed to start over. I’m still learning that I’m supposed to be happy. But one day at a time, I’m growing into the woman I am supposed to be. One day at a time, I’m healing. One day at a time, I feel the power of sobriety grow within me.
I can’t imagine anything better.