When I went on my first cleanse (6 months) in the summer of 2003, I kept a journal. (I'm a writer - I've always kept a journal. But it was especially important back then. If you go on a cleanse, it's a good way to vent your feelings - and, of course, to eventually look back and think ... holy fuck, I really used to be fucked up, didn't I?) I want to share an excerpt of an entry from that time because some of you might be thinking: "Oh, this chick. She doesn't know what a drinking problem is. She's not an alcoholic. She never was."
July 17, 2003
Day 5. I told Mark (my husband) yesterday there's a kind of seamlessness ot life when I can't drink. The morning - well, the morning is what it is. I LOVE mornings. Still do. Probably love them even more now that I'm not battling hangovers and guilt.
In the afternoons, a lull moves in, a sort of dullness, a weight. It feels as if things could go either way in the afternoons and I'm just sitting here wondering which way it will be. Usually it tilts downwards from what I've been able to ascertain so far.
The evenings, they fall like a heavy weight on you, like a big wool blanket, something more suitable for the far north than a July evening, something that staves off Arctic chill. Maybe it's not just a wool blanket. Maybe it's more like bear skin (with half the bear still attached) thrown over your shoulders. Your knees start to quake. Your neck aches. You drag your feet to some place to sit down - better yet - lie down. And you wait for sleep.
I'm beginning to see that the world that we know was not invented by alcoholics. I know there have been a few. But for the most part, all the things around us - politics, business, education, religion, afternoon tea - all these things we place so much importance on were probably invented by non-alcoholics. Because alcoholics are too busy getting drunk. What's the point of doing ANYTHING when you can get drunk instead?
I guess artists - a lot of them - have been alcoholic. So they say. We're wooed by that glamorous idea, aren't we? The tortured artist. The creative drunk. I can't be that though - because I have a husband I want to keep. And being an alcoholic embarrasses me because of my past. My mother, you see, was just a simple, messy, common drunk. There were no masterpieces in her closet. No manuscripts tucked away in old trunks. She was just a self-indulgent, undisciplined, immature alkie. The only thing that mattered to her - when I was growing up at least - was having a good time.
I don't know if I inherited that trait from her or just developed it myself when I realized I have an aversion to sobriety. It's boring, slightly uncomfortable, trying, mundane. It irritates me. It's a burden, sobriety. I guess sobriety is not the burden. Life is. Existence is. Drinking is a way of easing the fact that I don't know. Can never know. Why we're here.
I find that I resent the fact that I think about drinking all the time. But then I realized when I was drinking, I was thinking about drinking all the time, too. When would I get the time to go to the liquor store, which one would I go to so they didn't know I was coming in again so soon, where I'd get the money. Where I'd hide the bottles. Pour it. When I'd sneak it. How I'd tuck it away on trips or in my purse. White wine in Evian bottles - that was my secret. Yum.
The thing is - there was that rush, that dopamine rush, at first. But there was rarely ever enough wine. The right amount I mean. I guess when I was a at Linda and Michael's, I had a nice amount. (* L&M are my aunt and uncle, who I love dearly; interestingly, they took me to my first bar; I had my last drinks at their place before my 6-month cleanse). I got drunk but I was so petrified of getting too drunk that I didn't slosh it back every time I was alone in the kitchen or someone turned their back. I CONTROLLED myself. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror when I was washing my hands and and I said: "You are drunk enough. Don't get MORE drunk."
But that was just one occasion. Usually you can't have just the right amount. At least I've never been good at it. Not even in my teens. Definitely not in university. By then it was falling down the stairs drunk. I stopped falling down the stairs after university (though I did stumble down a few last year and wrenched my foot - it still hurts sometimes). And I did hit my head, really hard, against a brick wall when I fell outside a bar on girl's night that time. I remember I was turning 35 that year. "I'm too old for this!" I told myself. But I didn't stop.