Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Giggle Room

Okay, I feel guilty about something else. I just dragged out Caroline Knapp's book to double-check the wording of those questions when I came across another question that I occasionally answer 'yes' to. Do you sometimes not remember everything that happened when you've been drinking, even though you didn't pass out?

Well, to tell you the truth, yes, there are occasions when I've been drinking that don't remember everything that happened the night before. It does happen sometimes (frankly, it's not a party if you remember everything, goddamnit!)

But as my recovery has progressed over the years, this question has troubled me. In fact, for many years I considered that I answer 'yes' to 3 of those questions, not 2 (which was still an improvement on 13, btw!)

So in my painstaking dedication to honesty about my drinking, I set out on a course to right this wrong, this inability to ALWAYS remember every little thing that happened when I'm partying (particularly on girls' night).

And this is the resolution that I found: HELL, I DON'T REMEMBER EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED WHEN I'M PERFECTLY SOBER.

The truth of the matter is, I "zone out" several times a day, thinking about a book I'm working on, a problem, a trip, a fantasy, a memory, a movie, a song. There have been many times where my husband - or someone else - will reference something from the day or night before that either slipped my mind or never got lodged there in the first place. Even though it was a night "off" and I hadn't been drinking.

Learning that my little memory "dropouts" are not all alcohol-related put my mind at rest. Because it's not a drinking thing. It's a personality thing. Maybe I have to focus more in the moment (I'd like that). Maybe I need some mnemonic devicoes. Or maybe I just need a more interesting life.

Whatever the case, the great leap forward I've made in terms of these drinking "dropouts" is this: at least I don't wake up in a screech of panic because I KNOW I did something terrible the night before, but I'm not sure what it is (i.e. I didn't start a soul-crushing savage fight with my husband - which hasn't happened in years).

In fact, just last night, he had some random praise for the plan: "You're happier now, I'm happier now, we're happier now. It works."

To me that's progress. Incredible progress! Considering I used to have vicious blackouts three or four times a week. Even then, it wasn't the memory loss that bothered me as much as the fact that I knew I was out of control and that blackouts usually signaled my having done something that I'd regret and that I didn't want to face.

Now if I have a memory "dropout" this is what it amounts to: I see a text I don't remember sending - at least not at first, then the pieces fall together. Or maybe I've forgotten someone's name or whether or not the divorce is finalized or something. To me, that's just life. It's always been that way for me and probably always will be. (By the way, my husband knows about my "yeses" and he says that they're so common and general I shouldn't even count them. I'm being too hard on myself.)

But that's okay. I'm not afraid of the truth anymore. Because I'm learning to accept imperfection. In fact, I'm trying to embrace it. Because we will never be perfect. Not even this plan is perfect. But that's part of why it works so well for me. It allows me to be imperfect. It allows me to flirt with "bad."

I think alcoholics and problem drinkers - addicts of all kinds, actually - enjoy riding the edge a bit. There's a part of us that likes being bad sometimes. At least that's the way it is for me. I don't want to be one of those squeaky-clean, 12-step, Big Book-thumping zombies. I want to continue to be a layered, complex person with free will - even if it means I'm not perfect.

So I don't take my imperfections as seriously anymore. Which is another reason this plan works so well for me: it allows for wiggle room. And, more importantly, giggle room.

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