Friday, July 12, 2013


It hasn't been five years since I've seen my mother!

It's been less than that. She came to town for a wedding a while back. Her brother was getting remarried - to a woman about fifteen years younger than him. This bride has also taken my place in the family, incidentally. Dotes on my mother like a long lost daughter. At the wedding, my mother gave a drunken impromptu speech in her honor. Dragged a chair over to the middle of the dance floor, made them turn up the lights, put on her glasses, and read from a crumpled sheaf of handwritten notes.

Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes. About how much she adores this woman. How close they are. I sat at our table, staring at my (nice) uncle and aunt, my husband, my brother, my cousins ... inwardly rolling my eyes, shaking my head. Nice. I guess I deserve it. I'm no longer the doting daughter myself.

Anyway, the bride's a very organized, buttoned-down, Type A person. So you could imagine everyone's shock - especially mine - when she got soooo damn sloshed at her own wedding! I mean, falling down drunk. In her off-white three-quarter length dress and low heels. You've never seen a bride this drunk on her wedding day - not even in the movies. In fact, maybe you've never seen anybody this drunk at a wedding. You'd hear something fall in a corner of the reception room - you'd look over - and sure enough somebody would be helping the bride off the floor.

At the podium, she made a long speech and cried all the way through it. "Dreams do come true!" she declared triumphantly. At 50-ish, she'd never been married. She had brought her old Barbie dolls for some reason. Had them up there at the podium, all bedraggled and limp, shaking them in the air as she talked. The adorable little flower girls - a handful of them - were standing in a clump on the dance floor in their pouffy little dresses, staring up at her, crying and wailing themselves, their fancy ringlets trembling as they looked around in confusion because they couldn't understand why Auntie was sooooo sad. Wow. I find it hilarious when buttoned-down people get so drunk. It's like a personal triumph or something. It shouldn't be. But it is.

Next day there was a brunch at a restaurant. Twenty of us maybe. The bride and groom showed up, none the worse for wear. I'm serious! I was expecting some indication of embarrassment, a headache, a little nod to "Some night, huh?" from the bride. But not one word. Nothing. She was right back to her Type A routine.

Incidentally, this was a post-wedding brunch for an uncle who - if I'll be honest - has always detested me. I think he's never gotten my ... ahem ... free spirit. Before I got published, he was like: "You know, Sheri, you really shouldn't give this writing hobby too much more time. Your brooding years are almost over, you know." Brooding years. Seriously? We're civil to each other  - we always have been - but let's just put it this way, somehow it's fitting he'd bring a surrogate daughter to my mom.

Anyway, I really could've used a glass of wine at that post-wedding brunch - just to take the edge off. It was well past noon and it was brunch after all! What's brunch without a nice glass of something snazzy? But as the waiter circled the table, I heard the others ordering: "Coffee, please." "Me, too." "I'll have an orange juice." "Oh, just water for me, thanks."

I'm like ... this is my family? Come on, people! Have a goddamn drink one a ya! But nobody did. So I ordered a juice myself, absolutely thrilled that I WAS able to sit at a table with my family - all our skeletons rattling quietly in the closet - and not have a drink. Before I started cleansing, that would've been impossible. Maybe I wouldn't have been the only one at the table who ordered a drink, I would've been too self-conscious of my problem for that. But I certainly would've snuck off to the bathroom to pull the bottle of wine out of my purse to get through it.

In fact, one of the low points of my entire drinking career had to do with sneaking off to a bathroom because I was uncomfortable with these people. Years ago, before I started cleansing and just about at the peak of my dependence, my mother was in town and my uncle and his girlfriend (before becoming the bride) took us for dinner. I had already spent all day with my mom and this woman, who was squiring my mother around to different doctors for various reasons. Nothing serious. Checkups and whatnot she'd arranged. See? The doting daughter. So I had already spent most of the day in waiting rooms with this woman, trying to make small talk.

We went for lunch at one point and of course! it was the only resto for a ten block radius that didn't have a liquor license. I almost died. We're talking the sort of disappointment reserved for death row inmates who hear at the last minute the governor changed his mind about that pardon. It was the one thing that had gotten me through a whole morning of this strange situation. The idea of a drink at lunch.

I don't know why I had decided to go on the outing without a trusty bottle of wine in my purse. Or maybe I had already finished it.  Anyway, at one point, I just couldn't take it anymore. Especially since we'd be meeting Mr. Brooding Years for an early dinner. So I excused myself from the festivities and dashed (and I mean out-of-breath dashed) to the liquor store.

In my panic, I stupidly settled on a four-pack of strong vodka coolers. Bright blue. I think they were even in glass bottles. It was probably the worst choice I could've made in terms of sneaking. Insane. You hear criminals want to get caught, right? Anyway, I left the liquor store and ran to a woman's bathroom, locked myself in a stall and swallowed back at least one, possibly two, bottles right there. Feeling the alcohol ease my tension. Feeling all the pieces of this bizarre puzzle fit together for me, even just for a minute ... Aaaaah ...

I tossed the empty bottles and took the others in my bag, walking slowly, stiffly, so as not to make any clanking, sloshing noises when I moved. You get very good at 'floating' everywhere when you're sneaking alcohol around with you all the time.

We hit the restaurant. Uncle was there. Fake hugs. More small talk. I ordered a glass of wine. And then another maybe. But I didn't want to order more than that. I was so self-conscious of my 'problem' at that point that I didn't want anyone to see how much I was drinking.

But one or two glasses of wine was just not enough. So I would sneak off to the bathroom and pull out my vodka coolers and swig away. Get a moment or two of peace. Aaaaah. Unfortunately, at that point I was so addicted and so lost in dopamine depression that alcohol rushes didn't last very long. That's because when you're dependent on alcohol, your brain actually starts shutting down dopamine production when you drink. So even if you're drinking a lot, the buzz won't last very long. Every swallow will actually start making you feel worse in a very short time.

Finally, my guilt and shame was getting the better of me. I lived 24/7 in guilt and shame back then btw. So, sitting in a stall in the bathroom, I looked at my last vodka cooler. It was half empty. The guilt, the depression, the bone-melting shame. "Okay, that's it," I said. "That's it. I'm not having the rest of this. I'm just not." Guess I was trying to muster at least a little self-discipline.

I could hear women at the sinks outside so I knew I couldn't walk out to throw a half-empty bright-blue vodka cooler in the garbage right in front of them. Instead ... I checked the sanitary napkin disposal on my left. It was one of those old-fashioned stainless steel kinds bolted to the wall - not one of those new-fangled ones that seem to suck used thingies deep into the bowels of the earth. Just a plain silver container with a brown paper bag for a liner and a hinged lid. It was empty at the time, so that kept the 'ugh!' quotient down to a minimum. And the half-empty cooler bottle fit perfectly. Yay! I tucked it in there, proud of my self-discipline, and went back to the table.

The conversation dragged on. My wine was finished. My depression was settling in. The uneasiness. The fidgeting. The worry. The fear. The insane, intense, uncontrollable craving. GOOD GOD!! I need more! I need more! I mean I need more! I can't even hear things! I can no longer understand words or voices! Just this banging and whirring in my head: More, more, more!! I NEED MORE!

So, yes, I went back to the bathroom. Yes, I pulled that half-empty vodka cooler bottle out of the (thank God) still empty sanitary napkin disposal. And yes, I slugged the rest of it back right then and there. Ahhhh.

With the tenth anniversary of my first cleanse coming up tomorrow, I know my life may not be perfect - but it's much, much better. I have control of my drinking. I can stop when I want to. And - yay! - I can actually hear voices when I'm not drunk.

Definite improvement.

Having lunch with A today! I think there'll be a little wine. But thank God - I won't be fishing anything out of the used pad bin. ;)