Young, Professional, Alcoholic
I’d debated whether or not to publish this, but it’s a big part of who I am and how I got where I am today. I’m lucky. Most people don’t figure it out at my age. Most people take 20 years to ruin their lives. I took just four.
What It Used to Be Like
I was 14 the first time I drank. I didn’t get drunk, not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t. There wasn’t any more Kahlua. A few months later at a friend’s house party, I did not have that problem. I got tanked. And it was glorious. I think. I don’t really remember. I do know I was in an awful lot of trouble when my mom picked me up and I puked out of her car window. The hangover was fierce, and my parents felt like that was punishment enough. That and the whole summer grounded.
I never really drank normally I guess. I always liked getting drunk. What was the point of a drink or two? That just built a nice base to work off of, a starting point really, a warm up. I used to joke that when I drank it was both a sprint and a marathon – get drunk fast and stay drunk longest. I could drink any guy under the table. The truth was most people gave up long before me and I was the one who ended up under the table.
In January 2007, barely 25 years old, I went into the doctor and found out that I had drank so hard the night before that both my kidneys were infected, so much so that my doctor said if I had waited a few more hours she would have me in the ER on IV fluids. This did not set off any bells in my head, nor in my doctor’s since I told her that I consumed 5-to-7 drinks per week. No reason to alarm anyone, after all.
There was nothing strange about my drinking to me, and there was nothing strange about the lying I did to cover it up either. I really didn’t think about it. There were always lots of people around me. I didn’t drink alone or everyday, and I didn’t live under a bridge. I was just a 25 year old, going to bars with my friends. So what if I drank a lot? It’s not a crime. It’s what I like to do. Who doesn’t?
‘I’m not going to drink,’ I told myself that morning. ‘I don’t want to leave Pensacola and my dad drinking like they do.’ I couldn’t stop myself though. ‘What’s a beer before I get on the plane?’ I rationalized. Deathly afraid of flying, I have two beers and two pills on the plane. That ought to calm the nerves.
It didn’t. It wasn’t working anymore. I had just started using the pill-and-drink combo to make both work a little better, a little faster, but it wasn’t working at all. I was still scared, scared as all hell. The burly flight attendant asks me if I’m OK. My eyes fill with tears and I order another beer.
By the time I land home I’m in a blackout. I don’t remember much, but I do know that I convinced my ride from the airport to go out to a bar at 4 pm instead of home to my boyfriend whom I hadn’t seen in a week. She never even knew I was drunk. That’s how good (or bad) I’d gotten. People usually couldn’t tell I was drunk, and I’d be in a blackout.
When I get home around 9 pm (for those who are keeping track, I’ve been drinking for 10 hours at this point, not uncommon for vacations), the lights are low and the TV’s off. My boyfriend of four years is sitting on the couch quietly, resolvedly. Jig’s up, I think. He says simply, I’m not doing this anymore. We talk calmly; this was coming, after all. I don’t remember much of it.
I wake up with blinding light streaming through the windows. I have the usual what-did-I-do-last-night greeting from my guilty conscience. It floods back with a wave of nausea. I hit my car on a concrete wall before I drove home. We broke up. I have to move out.
I stare at the ceiling. “My own personal rock bottom,” I say out loud to the ceiling. I know where I’m going.
You see, no one wanted me to be an alcoholic. For the past year, it had been pretty bad. “Do you think I’m an alcoholic?” I would ask my friends, boyfriend, family members. “No, you just need to learn how to have one or two,” they all said. I would try to explain to them that I wasn’t sure I could do that or would want to do that. I tried to tell them it was like a light switch without an off option. Once it was on, it was on. No one understood.
What It’s Like Now
That morning was April 11, 2007. I haven’t had a drink of alcohol or any drugs since. I found a 12-step program and was in a meeting by noon that day. The people I found there were essential to my recovery. I have no doubt that it was they and that program that saved my life, and continue to save it on a daily basis.
It wasn’t easy. There were days I didn’t feel like I could make it. There were days where I wanted to kill myself, where I wanted to lay in bed and never get out, days I thought would never end. There were the memories of terrible actions I thought I’d never live down, and relationships I thought I would never be able to mend. I’ve done both.
I lost my job 10 days into recovery. Two hours later, my car exploded in an irreparable fashion. I had moved out of our townhouse. My boyfriend and I were no longer speaking and I was alone.
Six weeks later I had a new job, a new car, more friends than I could shake a stick at, and a new relationship (uh, not a good idea by the way… but that’s a different story).
I have learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons in the past year or so. I look back at where I was then and I marvel at where I am today. I believe it was grace that allowed me to have that moment of clarity on the morning of April 11, 2007. Nothing was more obvious to me that morning than the fact that I had a problem and needed more help than I knew how to get.
Today, I have a job that pays slightly more than the one I had then. I work at a café part-time for the pleasure of it and to learn the trade I hope to one day make a dream-come-true – owning my own café. I have started two small companies, one of which earns me a decent profit. I am well on my way to owning my own home later this year. I have begun to repair my credit and repay my debt. I love being single and have had the opportunity to date a (small) handful of amazing men. I have the best friends in the whole world, and I am told that I am a much better friend today. I would never have dared to dream this big in my drinking days. I would never have cared if I were an honest-to-god good friend. I do today.
I am a better person for being an alcoholic. My mom once told me that having my sister at age 17 saved her life. I couldn’t really understand what she meant until I admitted to my alcoholism in a room full of people. I wonder if I would be the person I am or would have accomplished the things I have if it weren’t for that life-altering admission. I think we both know the answer to that one.