Reflecting on the past usually results in one of three ways:
- You take a trip down memory lane and get all of those warm fuzzy feelings
- You take a trip down memory lane and get stuck in the horror
- You take a trip down memory lane, remember who and what you were and how that made you who and what you are today
Number three is what I experienced when I read one of my first published pieces. I wrote it in 2011 when I was 2 years sober. I still had angst and so much was raw. Reading that essay was exactly what I needed to wrap my head around what I was writing right now. I couldn’t remember my ‘why’ and I couldn’t make sense of how my ‘why’ had changed in almost 8 years.
So I decided to share this piece again – just as raw and unfiltered as it was then. It was exactly what I needed to read.
Fractured Fairy Tale
Riddle me this; what can be your best friend, your constant companion, your faithful lover and the God you eagerly kneel before? If you are as sick as I am, the answer will come quick. Alcohol. This entity wears the guise of your greatest desire. Promises you the wonders of the world and offers immortality. The toll for this fairy tale is so simple and easy. All you have to do is take that first sip.
How did alcohol manage to seduce and enslave me? She wore the guise of vodka, the most versatile liquor on the planet. For the lushes of the world, we thought vodka was our best-kept secret. She has convinced alcoholics for decades that you can indulge with complete abandon and no one will be the wiser. She promises that you can conceal her in any environment. She whispers in your ear that no one will discover your affair because she leaves no physical trace of her presence. Vodka was my succubus. She became the center of my existence. She was my constant companion, my euphoria and the Goddess on my altar. It wasn’t until she started to seep out of my pores, linger in my mouth and entrapped my mind that I knew she was a liar. I knew I was a slave. I was an alcoholic.
As soon as I opened my eyes, every thought that ran through my brain was occupied with anxiety. “Do I have enough?” “Is there enough to get me through the day?” “Will they start to recognize me at the store?” and finally “I hope I don’t have to share”. I prayed for moments of respite. Those precious moments when I salivated over a new half-gallon and relished having a pack of name brand cigarettes. No glass or chaser needed. Oh, how sweet it was to have the perfect balance of alcohol and blood running through my veins. This was my reward.
Welcome to my fairy tale.
When disparaging thoughts crept into my psyche, the voice of my Goddess chilled me to the bone. Her sweet sentiments told me I needed her. I earned her. I had a right to relax and enjoy myself. If I offered any resistance, she dangled shiny entitlements in front of my eyes. “Woe is me!” “I am a victim!” “I am in pain!” “It is my God given right to indulge!”
After all, life isn’t worth living if there isn’t an element of fun, right? Too bad my style of fun was chaos infused with drama.
I have ingested gallons of alcohol over the years, yet I have never had a casual cocktail in my life. I have never nursed a watered down low-carb beer while throwing horseshoes. I have never enjoyed the subtleties of a casual cocktail while lunching with the girls. I had one speed – full throttle. I drank whatever, whenever and with whomever to achieve my purpose. Utter annihilation.
Brief moments of alcohol-induced epiphanies fooled me into thinking I was brilliant, above reproach, socially savvy and invincible. I built myself the most ornate throne on the highest pedestal and ruled a world of shit. I have them all fooled! I am superior! Everything is about ME! My kingdom was centered on my carnal desires. That was my world and in my world, I was a princess. Full of pomp and circumstance – I continually found ways to reinforce my state of delusion.
While I lived in my own little world, I thought the vodka was making it so that I could truly live life. Physically, my body became dependent. I had frequent moments when I experienced too much blood in my alcohol stream. When I slept for longer than 4-6 hours, I woke up one hot mess. Sick, shaking and sweating – I could barely breathe. I would swear on the holiest book in the house that my skin was going to turn inside out. My appearance combined with the physical sensations were something born in the mind of Clive Barker. When did my fairy tale turn into a horror movie?
There was never enough. I didn’t care about my final destination. That’s about as complacent as an individual can become. So complacent they don’t care if they live or die and they certainly don’t take pro-active measures to maintain the sanctity of their life. Unbeknownst to me, my world was going to change drastically. I fought it tooth and nail every single step of the way.
The aftermath of a horrific house fire left me severely injured. I was in excruciating pain and no home existed that I could return to. If I wanted a roof over my head, there were rules I had to follow. The rage that burned inside of me inflicted more scars than the fire left on my shell of a body. I was all 25th Hour, Edward Norton monologue in the mirror. I was pissed off at the world. Pissed off at my family. Pissed off at myself for ending up in a position where I couldn’t manipulate everything to get my way. I had to be dry, not because I wanted to embrace a fulfilling and abundant recovery because I needed the use of other human beings to survive. Unable to support my addiction, I surrendered, not out of willingness but out of defiant necessity. I thought I had this situation under control. I would hold out until I could get the hell out of there and back to the only life I knew, the only life I loved.
I stayed dry for almost 2 years. No program or philosophy motivating me. I just didn’t want to end up at the homeless shelter. Hubris – that bitch – has been striking down people like me for centuries. I was taking this ride for all it was worth and then I lost my preconceived notion of control. Pride, that intoxicating harpy, convinced me to kick my own chair out from underneath me. I didn’t simply slip or stumble. I threw myself into the deepest hold I could find. I opened up my arms to the Goddess who never truly left me. After a week-long binge, I realized there would never be enough. I wished mainlining vodka was an option. I wanted it all! I wanted it now! Then, out of nowhere, a concrete wall of reality decided to run right into my face.
I just couldn’t fucking do this again. I’m old, broken and tired. I was 32 years old. I had inflicted enough damage to my body that I had turned into a senior citizen before my time. I didn’t have another binge in me and my body refused to cooperate with my drinking agenda.
The fire didn’t create the force needed to take sobriety head-on, nor did facing homelessness, asshole men, poverty or the prospect that tomorrow may never come. I looked in the mirror and realized I didn’t know what the fuck to do. I was a vulnerable, terrified, weak little girl who realized the game was over. The cry of anguish was deafening. My vocal cords were soon shot, yet my silent screams continued as I stared at ‘her’ in the mirror. She just knew that there had to be something else. She didn’t seek a world infinitely better than the hell she was living. She just wanted something else. She had become “me” and I could no longer maintain having two faces.
It was at this moment that I fell to my knees in complete abandon. I willingly gave up. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t want this life anymore. I was blessed with a moment of clarity. I wasn’t empowered with a mission nor did the universe bestow some gift of enlightenment upon me. I was stripped naked of everything I have ever known. I bowed my head in defeat. This was my first baby step towards a destination I did not choose. I was offered the mercy of redemption. The journey has begun.
Two years later, I am reminded daily that I am not a saint. I do not seek the status of a martyr simply because I am willing to share my experience, strength, and hope. I do what is necessary to not have my self-inflicted death sentence start again. I have found peace by accepting that what kept me drunk is what keeps me sober. I have to admit that I have no control over either state. For me, to drink is to die. After ten years of being a slave, I’m beginning to dig this “free will” deal; I think I’ll stick around. I embrace the miles to go before I sleep.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there’s some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.