You know you are an alcoholic when you cough with the simultaneous pull of the tab or twist of the cap to cover the sound. Opening a beer can be intensely stressful when doing it in secret. Well, you think it’s a secret anyway. Who am I fooling? I suppose that would fall under the same category as turning on the kitchen sink in order to guzzle a beer, then rattling some dishes in the dishwasher as I dispose of the evidence, all while hiding behind the large pillar about 2 feet in circumference that is supposedly protecting me from judgmental glares and questioning eyes in the living room. And when the living room is empty, that is the best time to reach into the cupboard for a shot glass and the half gallon glass bottle of tequila. Trying not to make too much noise as I lift it back and forth a foot over my head, because it sits in the most inconvenient place in the kitchen. My heart never fails to beat as though it’s going to shoot right out of chest when I scramble to rinse out and dry the shot shot glass and place the bottle back exactly as I found it (not easy as I am not tall enough to even see fully where it sits, but rather feel). And let’s not forget fighting off the grimace off my face that would surely give away just swallowing a few ounces of Quervo sans salt or lime. Maybe my family would not be alarmed at this. But it’s not even 2 pm. I often start drinking before noon. At this point (the tequila raid) I have either depleted my beer stash or I am trying desperately to stay sober and just lost the fight. They have to know I am an alcoholic, don’t they? I have been told my drinking is not a secret, “Everyone knows when you’re drunk.” Now that’s embarrassing. Maybe I am just paranoid?
This is addiction. It is shame in its purest form.
This cycle of shame and drinking continue like two people playing frog hop. Some people would argue that addiction is a choice. I strongly disagree. Sure, I can choose to pick up that first drink. That was true when I had my first drink at the age of 14. You see, we have a switch in the back of our brain. Healthy people drink or use and the switch is not triggered. They can leave a glass of wine on the table and walk away. What? Addicts such as myself, first, find that crazy behavior, and secondly, upon taking that first drink, without knowing, turn that switch on causing a euphoric feeling. From that moment, every drink and every drug are like a lifeline, a means to an end, the only way we know to feel good. This progresses like any other disease, in turn, becoming less and less of a choice.
In the last year, my alcoholism has become less of a choice and more of a sickness. Alcohol acts as a medicine while at the same time being a poison. My body requires it. Even though it has made me sick, I will become sick without it. At this point I am drinking to maintain a steady wellness. Like a heroin addict needs “just enough” to avoid dope sickness or withdrawal. So until I get medical intervention or build up enough will power to slowly cut back and eventually stop, I will need to keep drinking “just enough” in order to not get violently ill.
I want to insert here that alcohol was the first drug I tried 25 years ago. That is what flipped the switch. Although I felt sick after 3 beers, it was too late. I never looked back. I found what I had been looking for, something to numb the pain of life and keep the outside world just that…outside. Alcohol, surprisingly, is not my drug of choice. Opiates have always been my love. The first time I felt the overwhelming feeling of floating soothe my body, I knew I wanted to hold that feeling forever. Crack shattered my ambitions and wrecked my life in so many ways That drug has caused me significant and life altering grief and trauma. But I could walk away. I have never looked back. I do not have any desire to use crack. I have used meth, ecstasy, LSD, weed, and probably other drugs I cannot remember. Pain pills, however, still call my name. Those, are the prison I cannot walk away. I am on day 2 of detoxing from Vicodin. I have been through this so many times. God, I hope this is the last. I cannot just walk into the local grocery store and buy Oxycontin. I wish I could. I have said countless times, “If I could have 2 Vicodin a day for the rest of my life I would be happy.” Then I would never have to detox. Alcohol, on the other hand, I can attain anywhere. So aside from locking myself in the house and hiding the car keys, I will always have access to alcohol. Alcoholics and food addicts have it the worst. It is always available.
Alcohol makes me hungry so I gain weight. I stopped exercising because I drink so much, I don’t think I could run a block without falling over. A year ago I completed a 12 mile obstacle course. Named the most difficult obstacle course in the world, developed by the Military. What an accomplishment. I felt so good! I signed up for this year’s run, which is next month. I am in no shape mentally or physically to go through with it. I’ll get to that place again. I have to get there. If I give up on myself and give in to this disease I will slowly die, like I am doing now. I will always be an addict, but I can be in remission. It requires strength. Inner strength. I do not feel it, but it must be down there inside of me somewhere, right?
Alcohol also changes my personality. It never used to in a negative way, but my chemistry has changed. I am on medication for Bipolar, major depressive disorder and anxiety, so I should not be drinking at all. I think the Lithium has changed the way alcohol affects me. I never used to become angry. I was always a happy drunk. I could drink all of my friends under the table. Now, I get sad and depressed after too much, and when confronted about how much I drank or told I should stop, I get pissed. I am not proud of that. I feel bad the next day, given I remember acting that way. One thing at a time. Let’s get these Opiates out of my system, then I’ll start cutting back on the alcohol. My doctor said with the amount of alcohol I am consuming daily, it would not be wise to stop while detoxing from pills. That could be more dangerous than the Opiate withdrawal. I do not have a green light to get drunk everyday, however, I need to maintain a certain level of alcohol in my system to not send my body into shock.
I am a few months into my 39th year in this world. I am not sure I have found my place. Like a puppy finds its comfy nook to call home for the night. He spins around a few times, plops down, nuzzles until it feels right, and lets out a sigh… yea, that’s the spot. Is this what life is supposed to feel like? Or are we intended to squirm and wrestle with our goals until we die? What if we don’t have goals, know what they are, or cannot keep up with them because they keep changing? I am as unconvinced with any theory and as confused by how I ended up here and what path to take as I was 20 years ago.
I know I have a tragedy to sift through. My aspiration is to relay it to you. If my only accomplishment in life is purging my experiences into a series of words, I will be complete. My story cannot remain here in front of me, trapped in a keyboard, bound by my lack of technological genius. Memoirs just don’t write themselves. I am sure it come in its own time. I have more living to do. I will not push the process. My story is in a million little pieces. Every piece completely different, yet somehow tied together with a common thread. And, coincidentally, I cannot sew.
I have battled addiction since my adolescence. There are peaks and valleys to my romance with substances. I love being high. I mourn my drugs when they are gone, or when I am forced to abandon them. It is the strongest pull I have ever felt in my life. I imagine an astronaut falling, bracing for the inevitable lack of oxygen, the absence of something so basic, yet so crucial. That is how I feel when I am addicted and am being forced to stop. I do not want to stop. But I must. I have a family who needs me. They express their need for me. I am sure they would be fine without me, except the missing me part. But, I don’t do much anymore except occupy space. I am available for a hug and I can fix a bowl of cereal. My girlfriend takes care of the rest.
So, that circle I just drew for you? Ya, it shocks me too. I am sick, I need help, I don’t want the help because I like to numb my feelings, and getting better is a painful process, I begrudgingly stop using in order to be a present and functional mother. I love my kids, but I feel too sick to be a good mom. I know I am capable. But I am, as always, afraid of failure. I have been through Detox and treatment and suicide attempts so many times. I do not know what it is inside of me that wants to drink and swallow pills. Well, actually, I do. I possess a vexation of spirit so strong, it binds me to the state of being sick. Once I figure out how to manage my tragedy (keeping it to examine and filter, not disposing of it) I will discover a new way to deliver my life to you while not drinking and taking pain pills.
Some being keeps walking into my room, unlocking my shackles, and I snap the locks back together and yell, “Stay the fuck out!”
Many of the worlds greatest artists have not lived beyond the age of 30. We associate incomprehensible genius with eccentric insanity. I think that is accurate. People who take chances and step outside the realm of what is seen as normal, accepted and comfortable are seen as crazy. They are the individuals who break barriers and tear through boundaries. Their souls, however, hold the most pain. All that passion, when contained for too long without an appropriate outlet can cause one to feel misunderstood. This leads to loneliness and frustration. Imaging beating your fists against your head. Imagine having a greatness inside of you which no one can comprehend. A talented individual may be successful and seem normal on the outside when forced to mingle among the rest of us, but they feel like an outcast on the inside. Possible even a failure. They hurt. And before anyone truly sees the signs of depression, they are no longer with us. And we ask “How could she take her own life, she seemed so happy.” Or “She was so successful, everyone loved her art, music, writing…”
Such a tragedy. I recognize the pain I feel inside to be something similar. I am not claiming to be a genius. I am, however, claiming to feel misunderstood. To feel trapped in my own body. I have a story inside of me. I am acutely aware of its power. I sense a growing urgency to get it out of me. If I listen closely, I can hear another world inside my brain acting as a ticking bomb. I believe this is the connection between drinking and my mental illness. My past is haunting me in the way that it needs purging. I am not ashamed of my past, I am grateful for it.
This triangle of the past, numbing the pain with alcohol, and being afraid of the future, is slowly causing me to feel insane in the way I described above. My writing is my art and my outlet. Whether my art is understood is irrelevant. How I feel when I write, why I write, and what I write about is relevant. People think it is so wonderful that I am writing . What a healing process this is for me. That is accurate, however, it does not lessen my pain or take away the craziness in my head. The insanity which screams at me so loud only I can hear it. I may appear to be “getting better” on the outside, but am I really?
Maybe later, in hindsight, being misunderstood by those around me will prove to have been a tolerable place to be trapped. Because then, one day the audience I reach, as far as the ocean is wide, will hear and read my art and “get” me, and everything will fit. Sometimes thoughts and ideas which make no sense in that moment, fall into place like puzzle pieces in my head allowing me to visualize how those nonsensical ideas can become poetic and absolute in the future.