I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how and when I began to know I had a problem with alcohol. I guess it’s because my youngest are “about that age”, or maybe it’s that I’m “about that age”. Who knows? But the thought has been rolling around up in the old gray matter so you know what that means?
Yep – Imma be writin’ about it here.
As I’ve mentioned before, my very first alcoholic drink was Sloe Gin. I have no idea why that vile substance was even invented and why it remains on the market (does it remain on the market?) but I was dating a guy who wanted to get in my pants and he thought the best way to do that would be to get me drunk.
Yeah I know – class act.
Fortunately his brother was the more virtuous of the two and he volunteered to take me home AND I wasn’t so drunk that I would have consented – but something tells me that consent was the last thing on this guy’s mind.
So ANYWAY, from my very first drink I didn’t know when to stop. I was 16.
In my twenties I remember the thought popping up in my head from time to time (as I recall I was either very drunk or very hungover at the time) and I even voiced it on occasion to either my husband or some very close friends. Those concerns were always met with, “Don’t be silly! You’re fine!” Or, “Oh stop! You’re just having a good time.” Or my personal favorite, “You can’t have a drinking problem because if you do than I do and I KNOW I’m okay.” Really.
So I would file it in the back of my brain until the next time things got out of hand when I would begin to think about it once again.
As the kids started getting older and I began to really drink again, and things with my mom went to shit and then things at work went to shit and I started doing even more stupid shit when I was drinking, the thoughts went from whispers to full out screaming in my head. I was usually able to quiet them by getting them drunk or just sticking my fingers in my ears and singing “lalalalalalala”…you know, mature stuff like that. Sometimes I could even manage to ignore them. For awhile anyway.
They’re persistent motherfuckers.
Then. Then one day I was reading “Dry” by Augusten Burroughs. It was my first real “Drunk Book” and I thought I was reading it as a follow up to “Running With Scissors” cause I’m OCD like that when it comes to books. What I didn’t know was that the Universe brings you what you need if you just pay attention.
There I was, minding my own business when I find myself reading about August’s first AA experience. There in the middle of a perfectly harmless meeting some woman gets up and starts telling her story.
And her story was my story.
As I recall she was a highly functioning alcoholic who held down a job and all the responsibilities of life without anyone outside her own head knowing she had a problem. She had never been arrested. No DUI’s. No job lost. Some of it’s fuzzy in my memory but what I remember most vividly is the her saying that she was always the first to arrive at a party and the last to leave and that she always drank the most. Ouch.
I read that little part of the book over and over trying NOT to see myself in those words. I did not want to be her. I did not want to be reading about me in this book about an alcoholic coming to terms. But it was too late. You can’t un-see something.
I think I read that book in 2004. I didn’t quit drinking until 2010. Those inbetween years were filled with many starts and stops. Many late night discussions. Much soul searching. Lots of tears and even more prayer.
And a lot more denial.
But those words never left me. They stayed with me and nibbled away at my resolve until I was strong enough to battle what was left and put down the wine bottle. Even though I was that woman at the AA meeting, I didn’t have to stay that way. I, like she, could get sober. I could be THAT kind of woman.
Even today, at almost five years “dry” those words cause my stomach to lurch. They still have impact. I can still see “her” image (the one I conjured while reading) in my mind when I think about it.
I am so grateful to the Universe for putting those words in that book in my path. I think I’ll read it again and see what my stomach does this time.