In June 2013 I got a text from my biological brother’s (I’m adopted) mom telling me, and everyone on his phone contact list, that he was in jail and to contact Dan (other bio brother) from now on to reach him. When I asked her what happened, she replied “Drugs are bad. M’kay?” I knew he had an alcohol dependency issue, but I didn’t know to what degree or that he was on drugs. So I texted Dan “What happened?” and he replied “Alcoholism”. No details beyond that were necessary; I just knew it was bad.
Alcoholism runs in my family on both sides and quite frankly I’m a lucky little bitch for avoiding it. If I even did. I’ve been a social drinker (I say that heavily) since I was 17 (I’m 37 now) and I’ve been known to throw back a few and get pretty damn tipsy. Oh my if there wasn’t risky behavior, poor grades, lost jobs and not to mention friends and opportunities. I’ve had so much fun, but all while keeping my shit together and managing a really successful life. I guess it was always really important to me to have both. I didn’t think I was an alcoholic, but I always knew I was drinking way too much and too often for it to be safe and healthy. I did muster up the gut to do a couple 30 day no drinking challenges in 2009 and 2010, and those were planned out of guilt in hopes to cut back on my consumption. I completed them with ease but my habits never changed. In fact, I’m pretty sure when they ended I drank enough in the month that followed to make up for lost time. Sheesh! When I heard the news about Lenny I decided to jump on the wagon right then and there for my 3rd attempt. I did it a little for him and a lot for me.
So how did challenging myself to 30 days of teetotalling turn into AA meetings, 5 months of sobriety (officially today as I post this!) and me going on a Hawaiian booze cruise for a friend’s birthday and not even being slightly tempted even though the ticket I paid for included all the booze I could drink?! I’m not sure, but I came up with this analogy:
Imagine I was in this terrible relationship with a very no-good-someone. I loved this person, but they only loved me because they were using me. I guess we were using each other. We would have great times together and most of the time it was really wild and fun. So what made this person so bad? For one they took my money, they stole just a little bit each day so I barely noticed. This person was even sneaky enough to take more as I earned more. I’m embarrassed to guess that it was likely thousands of dollars every year. This person also lied to me. Yes, they told me things about myself and others that weren’t true. When I believed these lies I ended up endangering myself, hurting people I loved and embarrassing myself. I made terrible choices because of the lies I was told. Worst of all this person beat me up and abused me, taking my vitality and energy. I would feel so bad from the abuse that some days I could do no more than lay around and watch TV all day. I would laugh about the abuse, but only with others who were also being abused. I was embarrassed to tell the ones who were too smart for it. I didn’t even know many people who were.
So anyways, I was in this love/hate relationship for 20 years! For some reason I decided to stay, hoping it would get better and it actually did. In fact it got a lot better after we had been together about 10 years. During the last 10 years the stealing reduced a bit, the abuse was not as frequent, and I could usually navigate through the lies enough to keep from yelling, embarrassing myself or putting myself in danger. I do mean usually, but still it was a lot better. I really figured out how to manage this thing! The harm was barely even noticeable at times. Our good times increased too. We had quiet intimate nights and this person really seemed to be helping me instead of hurting me. This person even introduced me to a lot of new people; but they were always good about that! Anyways, we looked really good together at this time in our relationship.
But after 20 years, 10 bad and 10 not so bad, I decided I’d had enough. There wasn’t a fight, or a huge lie or anything remarkably bad that happened. Even though things had gotten better between us, I decided to take a break from the relationship. You know, some time to think and reflect on it all. And then, in honor of that person I was before, the person that was too weak and/or stupid to leave I decided to surprise my old lover by not coming back. And boy were they surprised! Because I had left twice before and had come running back!! And so, when I turned my back on that terrible mean person who used me and abused me for so long, they asked “Why? Things aren’t so bad, why now?” My response was, “I don’t need you anymore” and then I politely said, “Fuck you,” and walked out.
So in case you couldn’t tell, that “person” was booze. I never ended up in a ditch or in jail or on drugs or with any of those heart wrenching stories you hear about in AA. And by the time I quit I didn’t have a “problem” with it. But I guess I did have a “problem” with it. I had a problem with it. It’s a switch in emphasis that you probably can’t read here. Just like I’d have a “problem” with someone in my life who took my money, changed my mind or gave me body aches and took my energy. Changed my mind… what do I mean by that? I’ll get to that in a minute.
Here’s why I kept going past the 30 days. It’s because I cheated. On day 21 I had 2 mojitos (yum!)with a new friend. I thought this new friend didn’t really KNOW me yet because they hadn’t the chance to see how much fun I could be whilst drunk. Ask anyone, I am a riot! I also thought we hadn’t been able to connect yet because we hadn’t been able to laugh like only tipsy friends can. So I said, “let’s get drunk friend!” I spent $22 (on 2 drinks!), woke up with a headache and realized that the fun-o-meter didn’t quiver to the right any more than it had on any of our other outings together. That’s when I realized, I AM fun. Drinking is fake fun. It’s having the fun you wish you could have while sober. I finally realized that drinking was only bringing out something that was already within me. And ever since I have become dedicated to finding that something sans alcohol. Ask anyone that spent Thanksgiving with me this year if I was dancing on a chair, climbing fences or part level 2 of a human pyramid… YES to all three and 100% sober! And geez just imagine if I had just 3 nights a week like that 2 mojito night, (and yes that’s a reasonable equation by my recent standards) that’s $3160 a year on booze! Yuck!
I do not need to drink to calm myself after work. I am calm. I do not need to drink to loosen up. I am loose. I do not need to drink to be brave. I am brave. If I thought otherwise I would be drinking to change my mind, to change who I am. I like who I am. I am discovering who I am, for the first time since I was 17. I quite like me and that’s where I am at right now. I’m better off with out it.
Oh yeah, since I mentioned going to AA, here’s how that went down. I’ve always been super curious about AA meetings (I’m curious about so many things) and have been tempted to sit in on one just to see what they talk about. So wrong! But I figured I was finally allowed now that I was sober! Besides, I had no idea how I was going to meet anyone sober considering drinking had been a cornerstone of my social life since I was a teenager. So I went to one called Bad Brains (for young people) in Waikiki and I was amazed at all the young, vibrant, funny and interesting people there. They were SO friendly and normal and I even got invited out for coffee afterwards. It was so cool to be around adults in the evening, laughing it up and being silly and outgoing, all without drinking. I had never seen such a sight! I kept going for the people and the stories and because it definitely helped me decide to keep going past the 30 days. It was also something to do at night besides going out drinking! I only stopped (after 2 months) because I ended up having to work on the night of the meeting. Sure there are meetings on other nights and I did go to one on another night. But I realized it was that particular group of people that I liked more than anything. I also found that I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic (after careful consideration) and I didn’t really need the meetings to stay on track. But, I’ll likely drop back in again if my schedule ever permits. AA is a really cool thing and I wish more people would walk into those rooms and discover how great sobriety can be. It’s a very special and welcoming place and I’m very thankful it was part of my life for a time.
In conclusion, the reason I don’t drink anymore is because I’m hoping to recover from the damage I’ve done to my body over the years. I’m trying to get healthy and be conscious of what I put into my body. I think when I have a thought of drinking, my brain tells me that it’s expensive and is not good for me and so far that has been enough for me to pass. I’m also enjoying finding out who I really am and stepping up to the challenge of being myself without any sort of dependency on a substance to help me with that. It’s been a fun process and I’d like to see where it takes me. It’s been an adventure thus far! I guess you could say that alcohol dependency had gotten a little too predictable for my taste… go figure!