Lukewarm vodka sloshes in my pink s’well bottle, which never leaves my line of sight. I’m in the passenger seat of my friend’s car, leaning out the window and taking selfies in the dappled afternoon light. The vodka burns my throat as my friend and I discuss the merit of fast food tacos. Looking at us laughing, two girls on a drive in the beginning of summer, one would never guess that we’re headed to the nearest emergency room.
The date is a May 30th, 2019, and I am having my last drink.
Without going into too much detail, I was miserable and wanted to die. I had originally been adamant on doing the deed on my birthday in July, but I just couldn’t hold out anymore. Not only had I given up fighting my addiction to alcohol, but I was giving it a helping hand.
Fortunately, my friend — a casual acquaintance from an outpatient therapy group we’d both attended — was not about to let me be alone that night. I had already asked her to watch Ruby while I took some time off for “treatment”. (I write this in quotations because I had every intention of following the thread of addiction to its inevitable conclusion that night.)
My friend insisted on driving me to the ER, and I allowed it. What else could I do?
I packed an overnight bag and off we went, water bottle with its hidden contents clutched tightly in my hand — a lifeline (ha!) to the familiar. We waited in the ER for 12 excruciating hours (withdrawal ain’t fun, kids), keeping ourselves entertained with stories about dates gone wrong and bad hospital television. Finally, a bed was found for me in the psych ward of a hospital in Tacoma.
I won’t write about my hospital stay, which is an ordeal of its own. Basically, I got on meds, I got sober, and I haven’t had a drink since. My water bottle is now used for its original purpose — though I still can’t drink out of it without feeling a twinge of nostalgia for the days of chaos. Mental illness is, after all, so easy to romanticize — particularly for its sufferers. How quickly we forget.
When I was an active alcoholic, the thought of going a month — hell, a week — without drinking was unthinkable. If given the choice of sobriety or death, I would choose death without a question.
I’m still alive, albeit questionably so. I never thought I could do it. Life without alcohol is shockingly sublime. But wait! There’s a twist, because sober me is now addicted to vomiting!
The thought of going a month — hell, a week — without vomiting is unthinkable. If given the choice of weight gain or death, I’d choose death without a question.
Sound familiar? Welcome to the personal merry-go-round of being an addict. The ride never stops and the scenery is always changing!
It’s important for me to be honest about my mental health. Recovery is a word I’ve disliked in the past, because it suggests two states of being: sick and well. If I’m not drinking, I must be all better! It’s called black and white thinking, and I am guilty of practicing it. I suspect that it is the reason I failed getting dry four different times before it finally stuck.
Now I know that “recovery” is not a linear process. Fuck ups happen. Guess what? You’re still doing a killer job.
I’m hesitant to post this because deep inside, I don’t feel like I deserve to celebrate a year of sobriety. I like to use the term “sober-ish” to describe myself because I am still an addict in that I harbor a festering hunger for MORE. This is something I am working on in therapy. Maybe one day I’ll be able to exist without the aid of mind-altering chemicals, but today is not that day. And you know what? I’m ok with that.
Cheers to another year of staying alive and celebrating the tiny moments of clarity.