I didn’t know how to not drink. I tried a few times. Twice, to be exact. Both times I lasted a measly three weeks before swandiving back into the bottle. There was always a reason to drink, in my mind, and there was always someone to drink with too. Again, everybody was doing it.
But did everybody feel like I did? Did everybody drink too much when they went out? Did everybody have the same debilitating hangovers the next day, the kind that only get worse with age? Did everybody feel the same shame of wasting yet another beautiful day inside on the couch, crippled in agony, with no intention of leaving the house?
I remember those days well but not fondly. Days I spent in my PJs, unshowered, unbrushed, and undone. Days I had the aches and the shakes. Days my cat wouldn’t even hang out with me. Days I spent reliving the horrors of the night before, over and over and over again, beating myself up for things said and done — if I remembered anything at all.
Days I refused to look in the mirror, avoiding the red-eyed, puffy-faced mess of a woman — someone I once knew but didn’t recognize anymore — staring back at me with disdain. Days I had no food in the house and no choice but to call for delivery, my being not safe for public consumption. And, let’s be real, I couldn’t move had I wanted to brave the outdoors in search of food.
As I became more and more aware of my alcohol dependency, I became obsessed with books written by women in recovery. I bought a bunch from Amazon and read them voraciously, quietly curious to know if I too was an alcoholic. I couldn’t get enough. My appetite for their stories was insatiable because they were all so relatable. They were so me. These women had lived through what I was experiencing. And not only did they live to tell about it, they thrived. Their new lives were better than anything they could have imagined when alcohol was in their lives. When alcohol was their lives.
I wanted to be like these women. I wanted to conquer my demons, enjoy life again, and maybe one day have the courage to tell my own story. But I was still drinking. I hadn’t yet hit my rock bottom. Did I have to? Couldn’t I just change?
No. Unfortunately, the answer was no.
The first day of my sobriety was December 23, 2018. I didn’t wake up IN my bed but ON my bed, and still in my clothes from the day before. How long had I been here? How did I get here? I don’t remember going to bed. I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember leaving the bar… The bar! I was at the neighborhood bar, the one next to Safeway. I try and think back to the last thing I remember.
I remember wanting to check out the local watering hole by my new place and have a beer after my moto ride. Just one, I told myself.
I remember having two beers and breaking my promise.
I remember sitting at the bar, taking it all in while waiting for the Chargers game to start, and eyeing the pool tables.
I remember paying my tab and getting up to leave — one became two, but two was not going to be three.
I remember deciding to stay just a bit longer to play pool, because I really wanted to play pool.
I remember making new friends and taking a shot of tequila with them at the bar.
And then I woke up.
What had happened? Instant panic washes over me as thoughts of what could have happened, and how easily, register. Oh my god. Did someone bring me home? There’s no way I could have made it home by myself, not in the condition I was in. Who brought me home? Did they come inside? Did anything bad happen to me?! OH MY GOD! I feel okay. Am I sure? Yes, yes I’m sure. Pretty sure. Oh my god. You’re SUCH an IDIOT.
I get up slowly to begin searching for clues. My aching head reprimands me for moving and a sharp pain pulses through my puckered brain. I need water. Had I eaten? What time did I leave the bar? I remember I don’t remember. What time was it when I took that shot? It had still been light out, I know that much. Geezus, I blacked out before 5pm?!! What had happened between the time I took that shot and me getting home?
Unable to stand completely upright and looking more like Homo habilis than Homo sapien, I hobble to the kitchen stopping every so often to balance myself and not run into a wall or piece of furniture on my way.
I find a bag of carrots, ripped open in last night’s attempt to get something in my stomach, discarded on the kitchen table. The bag is mangled and the carrots dry, having been out all night. I must have known I was in bad shape, soon to be the victim of another beast of a hangover. But carrots?
I look for more clues. Miraculously, I find my phone and my wallet, with all my credit cards. A welcome relief. I don’t have to go back there, not knowing who may have witnessed what, to retrieve a forgotten credit card.
I feel ill, sick to my stomach. And boy am I, spending the entire day shuffling back and forth between couch and bathroom, thanking God it’s only the 23rd and not the 24th because I’m supposed to fly home for Christmas on the 24th. Thank God I have this day to recover. Thank God I get another chance.
I pay dearly for the “fun” I think I had but can’t remember, and am amazed once again by my body and what it’s capable of. My body kept me alive. My body kept me breathing; I think about how easily I could have died in my sleep, my autonomic nervous system succumbing to the poison its own host had given it. My body woke me up. My body still hasn’t given up on me, although it can only be a matter of time at the rate I’m going.
As if the physical pain I’m experiencing isn’t enough, I beat myself up for being so stupid. For putting myself in a dangerous situation. For overdoing it yet again. When will I grow up? Really, when? I can’t keep doing this. I’m too old for this shit! I’ve said these words before, so many times, but nothing ever changes. Why would this time be any different?
But this time was different. This time really, really scared me and here’s why:
– I takes more than two beers and a shot to get me drunk, no less blackout drunk.
– I’ve blacked out dozens of times before, but not like this. This was immediate; the lights were on and then they weren’t. This was complete, with no figment of anything that resembled even a glimmer of a memory. And, this lasted a long ass time.
– I’ve replayed that afternoon over and over in my head but to no avail. I will never know what happened. I will never know, for certain, if someone put something in my drink. I will never know how I got home.
I don’t believe in God, even though I make promises to him sometimes about never drinking again if he will just make my hangover go away, but something got me home that night. Something was looking out for me. Was it divine intervention? My guardian angel? I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it. Any of it.
What I do know is this can’t happen again. Ever.
I feel incredibly lucky to be alive and to have come out of this experience relatively unscathed. I know much worse could have happened and does happen. My rock bottom was a shallow one but it did the trick and got me to take my sobriety seriously this time.