I’ve planned and executed a relapse for over a year. It started in Barcelona in November 2011 when I slipped up after a mere five months of sober time. I admitted that to the people I love most, and I started all over again counting the days. I didn’t drink again until Copenhagen the following year, and while I felt an awful guilt after both occasions, I chalked up the incidents to being out of the country. They didn’t really count.
I picked up again last summer, the second theoretical anniversary of my sobriety. It was, once more, an out-of-town experience. But I drank enough to be wicked to my sisters, with whom I was vacationing, and to feel like utter shit. Still, I never brought it home. That made it ok.
Fast forward. Accelerating signs: the slow withdrawal from NA and AA; the loss (or purposeful relinquishing, I don’t know) of writing as an outlet; the poisonous thinking that alcohol wasn’t really the problem; the good stressors of a new house and a new position at the company I’ve been with for five years.
SXSW is probably the worst possible place for me to go, ever. I went. On the plane, I said to myself that I wouldn’t drink: This is domestic. If you excuse drinking here, you’re done. Don’t fuck up. I did.
I remember a glass of gin with a cucumber prettily placed on the rim, and I remember hating it. I know that I was confused, that I became lost. I know, only from an early-morning phone call from the woman who somehow acquired my credit cards, that she put me in a pedi-cab around 10pm. I am certain that I wandered for hours, but it may have been 5 minutes. It is a mad blur that only an alcoholic recognizes.
I have barely made it through the past three days. The hangover was killer. The shame and guilt have been far worse. I am embarrassed, but not just about slipping. I am embarrassed that I have not been completely honest all along. That everyone believed, with no objection from me, that I was a blazing light of sobriety. I have rationalized and justified my behavior. I have told half-truths.
Writing this down is not something I thought I would do. What I would have preferred is to hole up my house with Sex and The City reruns and a blanket – for a few weeks.
But it feels better to tell. Whether it’ll feel better or worse after I’ve shouted it out here, who knows? I’m chancing it.
It’s a funny (haha?) thing because I have no conscious craving for alcohol. I don’t want it. I just got lax and lazy and believed that it was time to test the waters again. How stupid, you fucking alcoholic. The waters are never safe. I knew that, but I sold myself the same lie over and over again until I halfway believed it, long enough to pick up a drink.
This is my rigorous honesty. This is me admitting that I have a terminal illness. This is me saying that I am shitfaced powerless over alcohol, that I fell down, and that I’m working on getting back up.
“I once heard a sober alcoholic say that drinking never made him happy, but it made him feel like he was going to be happy in about fifteen minutes. That was exactly it, and I couldn’t understand why the happiness never came, couldn’t see the flaw in my thinking, couldn’t see that alcohol kept me trapped in a world of illusion, procrastination, paralysis. I lived always in the future, never in the present. Next time, next time! Next time I drank it would be different, next time it would make me feel good again. And all my efforts were doomed, because already drinking hadn’t made me feel good in years.”
― Heather King, Parched