Sunday, February 24, 2008

Comments on The Comments

First of all, thanks for all of your warm and fuzzy comments about my drinking post. I think drinking issues strike such a chord with people because pretty much everyone knows someone who has an issue with it. And yet it is so hush hush. Yet another thing I wish we could all be more open about.

I remember I went to a doctor once for a check up and he asked “Do you drink?” and I said yes. He followed up with: “How many drinks do you have?” And I replied in an as casual and offhand manner I could muster, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe three or four.” He was jotting down my answers, sort of talking out loud, and said “Ok, so… three… of four drinks…. a week…” and I was talking per night. I didn’t correct him, because I was at that stage (which lasted a long time) when I was aware enough to be embarrassed but not strong enough to admit I had a problem.

But who has one drink a night? Or just two? If you have two, you might as well have three. If you have three, you might as well commit the evening to drinking. Or so I thought, in my twistedness. If I went to a bar, I stayed for at least one hour and I could drink three beers in an hour. That is why I liked to drink at bars: At home, I could see how long it took to drink a bottle of wine (not long) or a case of beer (not much longer). At a bar, you lose track, and that is exactly the point.

Drinks now are in gigantic portions. Wine glasses are the size of a pond. It seems like half a bottle fits into one glass.

So I don’t have to deal with paragraph transitions, here are some bullets:

• “The addiction also kills the people around the troubled soul:” Exactly. Exactly.

• My brief stint with AA: In the beginning, when I was trying so many different ways I quit, I tried AA. I really, really wanted it to be the magic bullet, because I have heard so many positive things and I am a huge fan of community. Besides, I needed support and AA was the only support group I had ever heard of.

But my AA experience was not so great. One of the first meetings I went to was a complete catastrophe. I felt so out of place, even though we all had this invisible thread connecting us, which I thought would compensate for all differences. The meeting started with sharing and the stories were dramatic, appalling and just plain frightening. To wit:

“Hi my name is Bob and I am an alcoholic. I realized I had a problem when I burned down my house when I was drunk. So I was on the streets for seven years and picked up a nasty crack habit. I was hospitalized twelve times but I still didn’t get the message. It wasn’t till I lost my wife, kids, job, family and friends and went to prison after murdering my cousin did I realize I have a problem. I sobered up in prison and here I am.” The details of his story have been changed because, well, it IS supposed to be anonymous, but that really was the basic gist. Then a homeless man stumbled in, literally, smelling like stale smoke and like he was doused in liters of vodka (I don’t care what anyone says: It does have an odor). He passed out in the aisle. Right in the middle of the aisle. A couple of people helped him into a seat, where he proceeded to hurl insults and yell curses throughout the meeting while lighting cigarettes that the moderator kept asking for him to put out.

Then it was my turn, (HI JENNIFER!) and there I was, terrified and confused (what do I say?!), feeling so out of place in my skirt and cardigan and LL Bean backpack. Hell, I might have even been wearing a pearl necklace. In my head I was thinking “This is so not me” and “I don’t really have a problem. These people are the ones with drinking problems. Not me. No no no.” So for a brief and shining period, AA had the ironic effect. I felt myself sliding backwards. I thought I was so different from those people; I thought I was just a girl who drank to much from time to time and ended up dancing on bars. I was fun! Alive! Exciting! A party girl! Drunks are people that get the shakes when all alcohol has evaporated from their system and who wrap forty ounces in paper bags as they troll the streets.

I did try other AA meetings and I never really found a fit. But, I have to admit, I didn’t try too hard because I found it easier to try to slay this particular beast on my own. I couldn’t say “I’m an alcoholic” to a group when I didn’t even like to use those words in my head. Yes, I realize that is the one of the points of AA, to get used to that and deal with that, but I made it through those difficult first months anyway, with Nicole’s support and by sheer will power. Besides, because of my addidictive personality, I was slightly scared of becoming enveloped in the program. I tend to get hooked on things like that.

• Closet Alcoholics.: I probably could have maintained my level of drinking for the rest of my life. I might not even have suffered any health repercussions or job issues or friend loss. I had a relative who was an alcoholic who lived a long and healthy life. I see plenty of examples of functioning alcoholics.

When I stopped, some of my friends and family members were shocked that I even had a “problem.” There are people who still offer me drinks, and when I remind them I don’t drink, they go down that road of “Oh, come on! You don’t have an issue! Just have this glass of wine! You’ll be fine!” Now I keep my mouth shut a lot because I don’t feel like defending my choices and convincing people that I was/am in fact an alcoholic.

Like I said, for me, it was just time to stop. I thought about it (and tried in different ways) to stop for years before I managed to do it. So on one hand, you could say I failed myriad times. Or, on the other, you can say I kicked it cold turnkey. Perspective.

The more I slowed down my drinking, the clearer I saw things. For me, I would throw away the chance to have a relationship with Nicole if I continued to drink. And then, a few months into the Not Drinking Life, my nephew was born and I was slammed with a tidal wave of this new and indescribable love. And he, in his tiny little eight pound package, gave me some will power to continue. I wanted to be around for him, to be Super Aunt, to spend time with him. I didn’t want to make Leif compete with a bar.

After a while, a momentum takes over, and, like I said, I just become enraptured with the clarity of life, and feeling feelings instead of numbing them with drinks or twisting them into a falsely positive light after many glasses of anything and drunken talk. (I was so good at that.) Without the fuzzy lens of alcohol I finally was able to look at my life and see what I needed to change.

Which is not to say there aren’t days when I miss it because there are days when I REALLY do.

Could I have lived a life while still drinking? Yes, and functioning just fine, most of the time. But there were scary nights, like when I fell into the Hudson River and almost drowned. Or the night I stayed out till closing and had a borderline dangerous experience with two men at a bar (thank you , stranger who rescued me). And the liquor-fueled evening that lead me to do things in the middle of First Avenue that I wouldn never consider doing sober. All of the liquor-loosened conversations in my previous relationship, I wish I could rewind and erase them. There were good drinking memories, too. But they were fewer and farther between.

For a while though, I was damn happy as an alcholic. And then I wasn’t. Maybe you will get there yourself. If you want to get there, I am sure you can find so many people (who understand) who would help you.

• Children of Closet Alcoholics: Yep. I second that theory that the damage is incredible. Every person I know you has a drinking problem has a parent who had drinking problem. Every single one.

• Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp: I read it and loved it. It should be required reading for all women who even think they may have a drinking problem. I loved her other books too, especially What Women Want, about how a woman’s appetite for food, work, love and pleasure is shaped by culture. It is so sad that she died. Just when she figured life out, she dies.

• Why Hillary: Neither Barack or Hillary are a perfect fit for me politically. But at the end of the day I would LOVE to see a woman in the White House. I was talking with my friend Chris about it and he brought up an excellent point: This very well could be the last time we see a woman make a legitimate run for president in our lifetime. Once upon a time I was idealistic and thought others would be in the running. Maybe Nancy Pelosi but, wow, Madame Speaker has been a bit of a disappointment, no? I think there are fifteen or sixteen female senators, and I only know that because there was recently one of those “Let’s trot out all the ladies” photo opps. Bottom line, again, I want to see a woman running this country. Even republican, such is my desperation. And I feel like that is not going to happen in my lifetime. Sexism, even more than racism, is still very much alive and kicking in our society. Sad. (that a whole ‘nother post.)

Pictured above, this is the cry face Madeline makes when she is sad. Or disturbed by something loud, like the vacuum cleaner or the blender. In this picture, she was reacting to Avery making one of her loud “Arkkgghhllrrr” grunts. Do you think she will be psychologically scared when she remembers how I laughed when she made these faces?


tracer123 said...

No, she will be laughing her head off at the faces you pull, most likely.

K J and the kids said...

All I know is that I NEED a democrat to fill the next role as president of the United States.

She's so sweet.

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