I always love hitting the double digits when I'm on a cleanse. You really get the feeling things are zipping along. It's like when you were a kid - and you got to junior high or something. Anyway - here's a diatribe I wrote just before starting my first long cleanse ... Sort of explains my aversion to abstinence and A.A.
July 9, 2003
I have a problem with recovering alcoholics. I have a problem with those people who sit in church basements and sip orange juice out of Styrofoam cups and eat cookies from paper plates set up next to the church bazaar coffee terrine at the back. I have a problem with their "innocence." They're often clean-shaven. Their skin is clear. Their eyes are bright and shiny. They smile and laugh a lot. But there's something almost too clean about them. Too happy. Despite the fact that they're all dying inside on and off throughout the day, they're so thrilled with their sobriety. And they should be. They're so proud of it. And they should be. They slink off to coffee shops together and talk about the bad old days, probably with a combination of relief that it's over and nostalgia for the way it was.
I really don't want to be one of those happy, smiling people. Yes, I want to get better. But I always saw my life this way: Champagne on happy occasions (like opening my first carton of my first novel). Wine with dinner. Wine in a cafe in France. I really can't - and don't want to - picture my life without wine. I'll be the first to admit that whatever I have tried to control myself from not drinking two bottles of wine and passing out listening to old Beatles CDs has not worked. So I may have to live my life without wine.
But I don't want to be one of THOSE alcoholics. One of those happy but delicate-looking people who smile like they believe in God. Which most of them do now that they belong to A.A. Chances are, none of them are more than forty-eight hours away from their last church basement anyway, since that's where most A.A. meetings are held. But there's something fragile about them.
Something used to haunt them. And no longer does. Alcohol is like a ghost. It's like a demon. A possessor. It gets in there and takes over and colors everything, every word, every expression, every movement. You become possessed by it when you're a drunk. And when it leaves, it seems as if - and must feel as if - you've lost some part of yourself too. And maybe that's what I recognize in these people - that their demons are gone. And maybe they don't seem as interesting without their demons. Maybe that's why I don't want to be one of those people.
They're probably not like this. When I meet them, I'll probably be fascinated by their depth, their courage, their intelligence. And to tell you the truth, I'd probably enjoy their company a lot more when they were sober than when they were drunk. Eventually, you can say that about every drunk you meet. Or so they tell you.
I just don't want to BE that glowing, vacuous non-drinker in the corner of the party, laughing with the other clean-living family members who 'never touch a drop,' 'never acquired a taste for the stuff,' 'have given it up myself, twenty years ago almost to the day,' or, for whatever other reason have to abstain temporarily. Because they're pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, are on anti-biotics for dental surgery or a bout with the flu or they say with a sad sigh, they're the designated driver for the night.
I still want to be ME. I don't want always to be obsessing about the rawness of 'this new emotion' or the honesty of life without booze. How amazing it is to wake up without a hangover. What food really tastes like. What a relief it is not to have to hide bottles anymore. I'm sure that's all good. But I don't want to ooze all that goodness. Frankly, I know it takes great strength to do that, to tackle the problem, to quit - but it's not strength that comes out of these people, not to me. It's fragility. Because each and every day they have to remind themselves they could relapse at any moment.
I picture mean people - you know, other alcoholics who resent the fact you were able to 'do it' - or maybe just wicked people who are bored with cocktail party conversations, sort of like Valmont in 'Les Liasons Dangereuses' circling the outside of conversations, somehow divining those precarious few holding their mocktails and sodas with lime. Those ones that seem always - even four hours into a party - unrumpled, clean, erect, tidy, in control, glancing at their watches, looking for their partners, widening their eyes: "It's time to go." You want to go up to those people - the same way you wanted to go up to the prissy girls in school - and push them down in the mud. Maybe you want to slip something into their glasses just to see what would happen. Because they seem so vulnerable. Interestingly ... I was that prissy girl in school, for a while anyway.
Maybe that's what drinking did for me when I was in high school. Maybe I stopped being that vulnerable, skinny little blonde who was shorter than everyone, smarter than everyone and developed later than everyone. I don't want to be that meek little girl who must've had a 'kick me' sign on her back because there were whole groups of boys who stayed after school to beat her up. And then when the boys stopped beating her up, the girls started. In a room of people, I was so fragile and weak looking. I think I stood out.
Maybe I still stand out. I don't know. But I think I may have started to drink so much so that not only did I feel stronger - but I appeared stronger too. A little dangerous, out of control. A wild woman. I could fly off the handle at any minute. Look at her, stumbling around the party, flirting with guys she just met, dancing in the middle of the floor by herself, puking out car doors. She's not fragile or vulnerable. She's crazy. She's tough. She's cool.
I still want to be COOL. I guess that's what it boils down to. And I just don't know if recovering alcoholics, coming from their church basements, buzzing on caffeine and empty carbs, are actually cool. Healthy. Strong. Clean. Sure. But are they cool? Because there is something cool about a drunk - at least at some point in their 'disease' before it starts to get ugly. Something about the way they stand, hold a drink, move their heads, touch you, slouch, laugh unabashedly, tell off-color jokes or lean in to whisper intimacies in your ear. "Now don't tell anyone this, but ..." There's something so ... so wild about it. So fun. So cool. I just don't know if I can be that way sober. I just don't know how I'll stand or hold my glass or toss my head. I don't know how my smile will look. Bored and judgmental? Shy and insecure? I wonder, I really do, if I can be cool without a glass of wine.
*btw - it's been seven years since I wrote this entry and guess what? Yes I can be that cool - and I do it twice a year. :)