Although it’s been 26 years since my last drink, I am no less a drunk. The passage of time does not diminish this fact. In a strange paradox known only to alcoholics, the years actually fuel the denial that whispers to us, “I really wasn’t that bad.”
The day I put the cork in the bottle of white wine for the final time, I thought my life was over. I would never laugh again, never go to another party, never tell another joke or have another good time.
Life was going to be one long dental appointment, and just a matter of time before I died from the pain and boredom of such a bleak existence.
This couldn’t have been further from the truth, but life can only be understood in the rearview mirror. Point of fact, alcohol had robbed me of my laughter, as it had robbed me of my marriage, my career, my looks … my life.
But for years, it appeared to be otherwise. I had a brilliant career. I was the funniest person you ever met. I was audacious and the life of the party. I could drink you under the table. I could soldier through a wicked hangover (which, if I had today, would send me to the ER).
But ever so slowly, my best friend turned on me. I made a fool of myself on airplanes, bars and hotels in foreign cities. I had lost my moral compass. I began to lose track of time. There were gaps, starting with days and ending in decades.
“I was so drunk” preceded most sentences, as I tried to piece together the events of the night before. “What did I do?” Or worse, “Who did I do it with?” Driving in a blackout, the wrong way on the freeway, drunk-dialing, “black line fever”… telling off clients. I drank to dead parents and living bosses. I created chaos and havoc, just so someone could clean it up. What’s that definition of insanity? I was the poster girl.
I drank to forget the person I had become because of drinking.
I was born into this world wanting more. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. I never fit in. I always felt too fat or too unattractive, or too talkative, or too dumb. But when I discovered booze, there was a brief respite. I never really liked the taste of alcohol, but I sure liked its effect.
From the first time I stole my mother’s vodka, replacing it with distilled water so it wouldn’t separate, I was scamming, stealing, conning or planning my next drink. I drank Slo Gin Fizzes, Kahlua and Bloody Marys. Then in my Hunter Thompson years, I drank Wild Turkey and Cuervo Gold with the worm, right out of the bottle. I was just a girl being one of the boys, ever the self-loathing people pleaser.
And at the end, I was drinking white wine spritzers at 10 a.m., just to “take the edge off” that job interview. I figured if I put seltzer in it, I wasn’t a drunk … the convoluted rationale of the alcoholic.
They say an alcoholic directly affects ten people! Let’s see, by my calculations, there is nobody in the world not affected by the pain the alcoholic inflicts on the ones who love them. Wrap your arms around the drunk and you’re wrapping your arms around the bottle. I now know the anguish of those who tried to help me, and that is real pain.
People ask me, “How did you stop drinking?” My answer is — I have no idea. I know the steps I took, but I have no idea how the obsession was lifted, but it was, and I can only call it a nanosecond of grace. I got to the end of my rope and I let go. It was a flat-out miracle.
Not surprisingly, the further I got away from that last drunk, the more I started to laugh. Color drained back into my black-and-white life. I would spontaneously laugh at the dumbest things. I hadn’t realized my laughter's absence and how much I missed it.
I started collecting the lines that saved my life, and they wound up in three books of aphorisms, which most people tell me they keep in the bathroom.
If we can find humor in a thing, we have already begun to heal. To discover that I was an alcoholic was not only the source of my greatest sorrow, but of my greatest joy.