I want to start this post by telling a story that is really hard for me to tell– and I tell it in hopes that it helps someone else. (And if you'd like to read the post I wrote a year ago today on my one year anniversary, click here.)
In May of 2011 I made my first attempt at sobriety. I made until September 26th of that year. I was active in my recovery, but in hindsight, a few things happened that were slowly chipping away at me. I kept hearing the voice that “I wasn’t that bad”…that I wasn’t like “those people”. Those alcoholics that told their stories, that had been arrested, had DUI’s, etc. The voice whispered that since that wasn’t me, surely I could moderate and drink like a normal person.
On September 26th, 2011 I got into an argument with my husband. We don’t argue often, so when we do, I can tend to slip quickly into this-is-it-it’s-over-he’s-going-to-leave-me land. It’s one of those really vulnerable places for me where I feel I’ve lost control over a situation– a situation that is very important to me.
In that late afternoon, he left the house to go for a drive. I sat at home alone and desperately wanted to drink. I called a friend in recovery. She talked me through it. I sat again alone in my glass case of emotions. I didn’t want to drink because I didn’t want to break my sobriety and have to start over. Plus the shame of relapse was too much to bear. But, I remembered hearing that if you drank enough NyQuil, you could get a buzz. And since it’s not technically “drinking”, it’s like a loophole, right?
10 seconds later I was in the bathroom chugging a bottle of cherry NyQuil.
A few minutes later the buzz hadn’t reached me yet. I then remembered hearing that Vanilla Extract could do the same thing. I went to the pantry and took a drink of putrid tasting Vanilla Extract. I looked closely at the bottle to see that not only had murky sediment gathered all along the bottom, but it had expired in 2005.
And to think I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic.
As I type this, I’m embarrassed to admit this. But, now I understand just how cunning, baffling, and powerful alcohol is to an alcoholic. I didn’t think clearly and rationally at that time. I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m an educated person. I’ve done YEARS of my own personal development. I’m in the helping profession for pete’s sake”. And the reality is that none of that matters at all if you are truly an alcoholic. You don’t get extra credit for that. I don’t care how smart you are. We can’t think our way out of it.
I truly believe I needed that short relapse to prove to myself that I truly am an alcoholic. If the whisper ever comes back that I’m not that bad and maybe not a “real” alcoholic, I think back to my Vanilla haze (as my friend Courtney so lovingly puts it) and I’m back to reality.
And if I’m being really honest, I don’t want to drink like a normal person. I don’t want just one glass of wine. I want at least three. In a big ass glass. And if there’s white and red, I just can’t decide, so I’ll have a few of each.
This is insanity.
I tell my story not for the pats on the back or congratulations, but to show others that even people like me are alcoholics and that there is hope in recovery. I tried to quit by myself back in 2011. I strung together 6 miserable days. It wasn’t until I reached out for help and started a recovery program was I able to not just stop drinking, but stop obsessing on alcohol and being able to feel my feelings without resorting to drinking. <— That is a fucking miracle.
So, if you're that person who thinks you aren't that bad like I did…you may very well be right. You're not that bad right now. But alcoholism is progressive and I can assure you, if you keep drinking, you'll be that bad. I don't know how long it will take. But, for me, I didn't want to wait and find out. I left the movie early because I was SURE the way it was going to end. And if I left and chose another way, I could change the ending.