Two Thursdays ago marked the 365th day that I went without an alcoholic beverage. Yep, St. Patrick’s Day. How ironic since I’m Irish-Catholic, am I right? Anyway, 365 is a lot of days for a girl who spent the last ten years as a professional binge drinker.
Nobody ever realizes that their last day of drinking will be their last day of drinking. I remember clearly my last weekend of binge drinking – scratch that. I remember nothing. But it was a bottomless mimosa brunch and I took bottomless quite literally. And then I switched to bottomless glasses of wine. And the rest is history. It’s a miracle that I had about a half of a glass of wine left in the bottle from that night. So after my two-day hangover, I decided to pour the rest of the grape into a glass, polished it off and called it a night. The next day I decided that it was going to be a while until I went out drinking again – at least not until the next weekend.
I had therapy that week and recapped the ounces of the weekend that I remembered. The guilt and shame tied to that weekend were insurmountable. The emotion evoked by the blackout drinking was something I was very rarely able to share with anyone, for fear they’d forcefully pull the bottle of merlot right out of my hands…plus, who likes a girl who can’t handle her alcohol? But I became comfortable enough to disclose how it was negatively affecting me in those therapy sessions. That particular session, my therapist quite simply asked if I could just take drinking off the table altogether, at least for now. Now that’s a pregnant thought. Why didn’t I think of that? But how am I supposed to go to weddings? How am I supposed to be sober at my own wedding? HOW AM I TO LIVE WITHOUT MY WINE?! If you put the cart before the horse…the horse will lay down and take a nap. I don’t know if I used that idiom in the right context, but whatever. Point being, you’ll never get anywhere with anything if you’re trying to rearrange your schedule because you don’t know what traffic will look like on July 19th, 2030.
Something clicked that evening. Divine intervention? A spiritual awakening? I won’t ask questions – all I know is that certain neurons in my brain woke up. Maybe it was my liver…oh, if only my liver could talk. “NononoNONONO, don’t uncork that bottle of— SON OF A BITCH, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!” Now I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ve stayed alcohol free all on my own. I’ve had some outside assistance and therapy that I am astronomically grateful for.
I desperately needed to quit drinking. I wasn’t in trouble with the law, I wasn’t housing a bottle of vodka before work, but it was causing way too much distress. Having an eating disorder with a drinking problem is quite the dichotomy…aren’t I supposed to be terrified of calories? Alcohol calories didn’t count, apparently. Anyway, trying to be in recovery from an eating disorder while tying one on every weekend (and holiday, and non-holiday, and Tuesday evening) is like having two flat tires on the front of your car, replacing one, but not the other and expecting the car to drive just fine.
Having issues with my alcohol intake is something I have been very ashamed of, hence why I didn’t come to the realization sooner…there’s definitely a stigma out there – people with addiction aren’t always accepted – because to a lot of people (I’m guilty of this too), it is seen as simply a choice. Okay, yes. It is a choice for you to say yes or no to the drink or the drug or the compulsive exercise or what ever it may be. But it’s the thought behind that yes or no that is not always a “choice”. Why would anyone ask to be plagued with addiction? I’ve certainly never heard of anyone who has said to himself or herself, “Hmm this vice of mine, do it in copious amounts? Sign me up!” A poignant quote in the mental illness world is, “Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”. Some people are more susceptible than others depending on genes that run in the family. Throw that person into a destructive environment, you’ve got a perfect recipe for addiction.
A friend once used this analogy; “Normal” drinkers, while drinking, have this little, red flag in their brains (I imagine it looks like the end of those Super Mario levels), that says, “Hey, stupid! You’re crossing the line here. Time to chug an ice water and call it a night on the ole’ booze.” People with addiction? Well, somewhere along the line, the little, red flag was bent and broken in half.
The moral of this story is, much like the post I wrote on ED Awareness Week, I really don’t want to carry around the shame anymore. I have a problem with drinking booze. There, I said it. And I hope that in years to come, others don’t have to carry around the shame. We shouldn’t have to hide. We are all human. We all have things in our lives that are ridiculously hard to deal with. Doesn’t matter what it is. Doesn’t mean people with addiction have it worse than anyone else in the entire world. But let’s take a step back and try to be a little less critical. I think if we can break down these barriers, it might help people to help themselves.
And I have to level with you, not having to wake up in the morning with a ferocious, remorse-filled hangover? I’ll continue to sign up for that.