I run. I do situps, weights, and planks almost every day. I eat a lot of protein and fresh vegetables and grains. I hike beastly trails. I kayak when I can. And I always take the stairs. I wear all the accoutrements of a fit, healthy person—physically and mentally. I smile in all my pictures.
And I drink.
Sixteen years ago was the first time I can remember openly addressing my alcoholism. I told my then husband that I wanted to keep beer out of our apartment. We were consuming about a case of cheap lite beer a night, and I was exhausted.
“Why should I have to change my lifestyle because you have a problem?” He replied. And that was the end of that.
I knew I had a problem before that evening, though. I was a drinker long before my twenty-first birthday; but it was after, when I found my people in bar culture, that I disguised my own habits by surrounding myself with those who drank more and who behaved worse.
That tactic succeeded—more or less—until my thirties, when I started to become the person who drank more, and who behaved worse, than her peers. It became harder for me to root out the foils. Those who did make me appear relatively sober by comparison were one or two blackouts short of falling down the well. Some, by now, have lost their jobs, some have committed suicide. Some have done even worse things.
Now I’m in my forties. Throughout my life I’ve had a few good years of sobriety—my longest stint was two. But those years are so few in a lifetime.
Yesterday, I started seeing a therapist, mainly because my psychiatrist refused to allow me to experiment with “anti-drinking” medications until I proved to him that I was making some kind of real effort to sort out this problem. I even found an addiction specialist, and she told me what I already knew—alcoholism is progressive.
“Your methods for quitting in the past,” she said, “might not work anymore.” And they don’t. I can’t wait around for another inspiring catalyst—a hangover to end all hangovers, or a friend’s going down in flames—to make an effort to address this progressive problem. And oh, how it has progressed! How my habits and state of mind have slowly, but progressively, shifted from too many beers at the bar to too many little bottles of something stronger hidden behind the couch and in the pantry and dresser drawers.
Beer doesn’t do it for me anymore. I might as well drink cola. Both just make me feel fat and bloated and not drunk enough. I like wine now, and gin, and vodka. The buzz is faster, so I can drink them on the sly. I pretend I’m not a drinker now. That way, those who are concerned about me don’t need to worry. Unfortunately, my father can see the real me, one of the people I care the most about not disappointing. A former drinker himself, he knows the signs—the weight gain, the erratic sleep schedule and random outbursts. He gives me my space by pretending he doesn’t see, but he does. He can read me like I can read him, and I read worry and annoyance in his tone and on his face. And I’m an asshole.
But aren’t all us addicts? Don’t we all disappoint? My own sense of morality can’t accept that.
So long story short—I think I’m on my way to the big “R.” Since I am high-functioning, and since I don’t yet show signs of physical withdrawal, my new therapist thinks I can manage to make a change in an outpatient program. Yoga and art therapy with the other drunks three days a week. I can do that. My schedule permits it. My insurance pays for it. It’s time for the big “R.” I can’t even say it. I’ll whisper it… rehaaaab…