I really only identified out loud as an alcoholic when I quit drinking. Of course I was one long before that happened, but I didn’t admit it and I certainly didn’t say it out loud, let alone with any kind of the pride I carry today.
I had one job 15 years ago. Don’t drink. So I thought, OK, I’ve had enough. After countless attempts and methods, I was finally there. I was ready to surrender. I quit drinking.
And so I did. Day by day. Minute by minute, I didn’t drink. But alcohol is a thief and a liar and I was left with nothing. None of the promises alcohol made me came true.
What was I left with? I was really fucking angry. I was hurt. I was heartbroken. I was lonely. I had to say goodbye to the one constant in my life. Alcohol. The most fucked up thing in my life gave me the most comfort. The thing that ripped my life to shreds was now gone and I was supposed to just deal with it. I blamed all my problems on other people instead of taking responsibility for myself.
I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to make everything better and I wanted it to happen immediately. That’s not even close to how this works.
All my life, I’d tried to be good enough, funny enough, smart enough, pretty enough. All my life I had failed at all these things. When I drank? Well, I was the best at all those things. All my life, I never felt like I quite fit in (I’ve since realized NOBODY FEELS LIKE THEY FIT IN). But back then I didn’t have the confidence to be OK with that. I wanted more.
Alcohol was my savior. Alcohol is a liar and a thief. Alcohol promised me things and I believed. And then alcohol ripped all those things away from me and left me a puddle on the dirty floor.
When I took my first drink, it was euphoric. I felt like I was one of. I felt invincible. I felt beautiful and in control and funny and smart and full of confidence. Then I kept drinking.
What I felt started to change with each consequence. I kept drinking. I kept drinking. I kept drinking.
Suddenly and not at all sudden, I had less than I began with. Way less. Nothing. I felt stupid and foolish and wildly regretful and remorseful and useless and powerless. Which made me want to drink more.
But this time I didn’t.
And so, I WAS ANGRY. I was so incredibly angry. I couldn’t drink and I couldn’t NOT drink so what the fuck. I had to do some really hard work on myself and take responsibility. So I asked for help from people who had what I wanted. And it helped. These people helped. Just listening and paying attention to how they lived their lives HELPED ME. I learned I do not need to attend every argument I’m invited to.
I was in a meeting (after almost 15 years sober, yes I still go to those meetings) and some of my old buddies were there and one guy says, “The first time I heard you say something at a meeting, it was “FUCK YOU!” Laughter erupts by all in the room because that shit is funny. But it also made me wildly embarrassed for my younger self in sobriety. What example was I setting? I was probably 5 years sober at that point. I was really really angry and put upon and wanted everyone to know how angry and put upon I was whether they wanted to or not – guess what – nobody wanted to know.
And then, another guy, that hasn’t been around quite so long said, “I can’t ever picture you being so angry. I love Katy stories. They’re always so filled with joy and hope.”
These two comments solidified that I am exactly where I need to be. It’s taken me almost 15 years to get here, but how thankful am I to still be here. In the joyful portion. Because otherwise, what is the point? If I’m going to stop drinking, I’d better find some joy right? I better be able to bring some goodness to others, otherwise, what is it all for?
I had to be so angry and feel it all in order to let it go. To get to the joy. Because alcohol is a liar and a thief. But it doesn’t own me any longer.
Peaceful. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but sitting in that meeting talking about how angry I used to be and how after several lifetimes in sobriety somehow I feel at peace today, well it became crystal clear. I’m not fighting today. I’m not angry. I’m not screaming obscenities at people. I’m not my own worst enemy any longer. I’m not your worst enemy today.
Normal to me now is waking up early and grabbing my kids and walking out in nature I mean what in the actual hell is going on here? Peace. I used to crave chaos. Distraction. Covering up the disaster that was my life. Now I can breathe. And it’s wonderful.
This is why this great destroyer of lives hurts my heart. This is why I keep talking about it all these years later. So I don’t feel like I’m so alone. So maybe you don’t feel so alone. So I’m not such an island. Sober Island is a lonely place to be sometimes. Sure, there are A LOT of us out here, but to be a sober woman. An alcoholic woman. A fall down drunk woman. There are far more of us out there who will never make it to sober island and I just want you to know it’s so good here. I mean it’s really really shitty at first, but after a while? Paradise. Let go of that shame because shame will keep you out there.
What does normal feel like? Seriously. I’m asking the question. Does anybody really know the answer? I don’t know the answer. But my new normal is waking up clear headed and free. In my own bed in my own home with my own family. That’s a rush that will never ever get old. That is my normal.
The things normal drinkers do. The happy hours. The wine and painting parties. The brunches. The inventions like the wine bra. The coffee mugs that say, “there’s a good chance this is vodka”. I miss out on a lot of that stuff because I don’t drink. But I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
It’s such a fine line. Between there’s a chance that yes, yes it’s definitely vodka and it’s not a cute coffee mug but a huge tumbler and it’s taken on the train in the morning to work. Or worse, while driving somewhere. Which was my last stop before everything stopped and the world was black.
I see the wreckage alcohol causes everywhere. I see it because I know where to look and what to look for. And it finds me. The hurting and desperate people find me. I see alcohol rip families to shreds every single day. Every family member suffers. My burden is to keep sober for myself and my family. And really? That’s not a burden. Would I take a drink today if there were no repercussions? Probably. Let’s all be honest. But those of us who have been to hell know that day won’t ever come and so we carry on. We carry each other. There is no finish line. There is no graduation. There is only one day at a time of eking as much joy out as we can in this life. And if you ever hear me screaming obscenities in a meeting again, take me aside and tell me to knock it off because something ain’t right. And what ain’t right would be me.
Alcohol is a liar and a thief. Those of us who have this affliction where alcohol tells us we are pretty and then beats the shit out us and we go back for more? Well, I understand. I don’t judge you. I am you. Somehow I was granted a reprieve. And I am holding on for dear life. There is room for you here too. I promise. No matter how far down the scale you have gone. There is room for you here on sober island. When you’re ready. It takes a long time. It takes a long long time and it takes hard work and patience and understanding that your life is not going to be drama filled and when your friends ask you what’s new you say, “not much, but it’s all so damn good”, they get it. And you are happy, joyous and free. Really.
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