I’m Andrea and I’m an alcoholic.
Actually, it’s true. It’s kind of a new thing, so I didn’t know how to break it to you all. Honestly, I’m not even sure who reads here anymore. My biggest stats as to date are 95 on October 3. I used to get close to 1000.
I’m not sure if my dip in readers is because sound bytes on Facebook are far more exciting than reading narrative. It’s of course possible that my narrative totally sucks. I mean, the first 4 years of me complaining about tics were amazing, but year 5? Meh. I’ve got no cures for this disorder. I’ve got no answers. I could just drown my sorrows in a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and feel better about it all. But I can’t do that because, like I said, I’m an alcoholic.
My mom might be mortified that I’m publically blabbing about my personal defects to all 3 of you who are reading on a Friday night. (The rest of you? Likely out drinking. In fact, Stink has a friend sleeping over tonight because his mom is going out with girlfriends to party it up. Me and tics, the dog, the Ebay, the coffee, Pip reading, the spouse in his polar bear pajamas… that’s my Friday these days.)
I wasn’t always an alcoholic. I didn’t drink through high school, college or even my wedding.
Then, five years ago, I went to a blogging conference in San Francisco. It was 7am in the morning and I saw some ladies sitting at the airport bar. It seemed like a reasonable enough time to buy a rum and Diet Coke. It cost me ten dollars, but it was the biggest buzz I ever had in my life. Totally worth it.
My descent into loving alcohol was a slow one. It started innocuously enough. A rum and Diet Coke at home every other night. A glass or two of champagne at a wedding. Drinks on holidays with the inlaws.
Eventually it turned into Friday nights with some girls from school. It didn’t seem bad at first. If anything, it was liberating. We all brought food, a bottle of red and let the kids run wild. It was called “Wine and Whine.” It was a place to be a bad ass adult. It was community! And venting! And only the cool moms were invited!
Maybe for the other girls, that was their one night a week of debauchery, but for me, the party continued during the week, too. I was hardly drinking a bottle of wine a day. A few glasses here, a few glasses there. Then it progressed to three and four. I’d stop for a day or two, but I’d always start up again. I would begin to obsess about it more than I wanted to. “It’s not a drinking problem, it’s a thinking problem,” a sober friend told me.
“Of course it’s a thinking problem!” I bitched to a different girlfriend. “I’m a writer! I think!” She made me feel better than that healthy bitch who exercised, never drank and had an amazing career and boyfriend. My drinking companion tsk tsked my fears away. “You know what Italians call wine at lunch, a nap, two glasses of wine at dinner, a walk and then a final glass at the pub? Monday.”
“Yeah! I didn’t have a problem,” I told myself after that conversation. “I was making too much of this.” I did the whole self-congratulations check-list: My nightly drinking didn’t make me miss appointments. I wasn’t stumbling to the PTA meetings. I only drank after 5PM. And really, I drank waaay less than many of my peers.
But inside, I knew it didn’t matter what other people were ingesting. It was too much for me. I knew, because I started darting to the market when my daughter was in ballet… just so I could have
a glass three glasses when the kids were in bed that evening.
I also started hiding the evidence because I didn’t want to catch grief from my spouse.
A few times I’d hide the bottle in the closet. A friend at AA asked if I hid it in my boot. Apparently that’s a really great trick that all the cool lushes do. I’m not a cool lush. I don’t have stories like my friend, Bobbi, who tried to choke her girlfriend one night after lines of coke and a bottle of vodka. I didn’t end up in jail like Frida. And unlike Rita, I didn’t realize I had hit bottom when I woke up to my drug dealer raping me only to forgive him because I wanted to kiss the coke off his lips.
I had what they call a “high bottom.” That meant I stopped before it became a real problem.
Word to the non-alcoholic crowd: They call alcohol a “progressive” disease. And frankly, I didn’t want that. After a few occasions where I put a bottle away over the course of a few hours – by myself – I got scared. I didn’t want to become “that” person. You know… the one who had such a bad stomach the next morning from the acid that I had to pull over in bumper to bumper traffic to use a museum’s rest room.
Except I didn’t make it out of the parking garage. It kind of (turn away Mom) slipped out before I got to the restroom. I had to finish my business behind a pole. Thank God the plants were tropical. It’s Los Angeles! I covered up my business with a fancy succulent and did the walk of shame back to the car.
I had hoped that maybe the mess wasn’t too bad. I took a selfie of the back of my pants – careful not to “Post” to Facebook. Um, it was bad. I had to go all the way home to change. That got me mad.
I was angry at God. It had been a terribly stressful year. I was still adjusting to full-time work and my husband’s freelance business. Add in tics and my daughter’s needs, it was too much to bear. I had thought drinking would solve it… take the edge off… but the more I drank, the more I had to drink to feel less. And then the next morning I’d be depressed. You know, because alcohol is a depressant. And then I’d wonder why the Zoloft wasn’t working.
And here’s the thing – feeling less pain also meant feeling less joy. Which, in the car home that day, I was faaaar from feeling.
I shouted out to God, “Why didn’t you give me a sign that maybe I was doing too much?” From the pit of my soul, this was the response I heard from Him. “You SHIT behind a pillar at the Skirball Museum. What bigger sign did you need?”
Two things dawned on me that morning.
1. When you are driving home, with the sun beating into your SUV that smells of human feces, you are no better than anyone else.
2. I needed to stop drinking. It wasn’t worth it.
So really, my bottom hit because of my bottom. And I’m glad.
I’m telling you this story not because I have no shame (sorry, Mom, I really am an over-sharer) but because no matter how much we want something to change, no addiction is going to make it better. In fact, it’s only going to make it worse.
I got lucky. I realized that wine was not my friend before I killed my kids in the car, ended up in jail, ruined my marriage or destroyed my family.
It took 3 months of attending AA to finally get comfortable with my label. But now? I love it. These women I chat with every week are some of the most enlightened, happy, together people I have ever met in my life. They cry sometimes, and they get angry. But they have hope. This hope comes from having a place to share life. A place to do relationship. A place to vent. But unlike Wine and Whine where all I did was vent and stay stuck, I now have a place to be honest and get real. I have safety.
Feeling safe and loved and warm is far better than being packed in cotton from alcohol and anti-anxiety pills. I’m now sober and completely off my Zoloft for the first time in years. It feels exhilarating. I feel like myself. It’s not always pretty – but it’s me. (Well, I look pretty. Sheesh.)
Tics don’t always feel safe.
My marriage sometimes doesn’t feel safe.
My income and not selling this book as fast as I’d hope doesn’t make me feel safe.
But guess what. It’s life on life’s terms. And that has to be enough.
In closing, for those of you who have a glass of wine or two sometimes, that’s totally fine. My ladies at Wine and Whine can do it and that’s their choice. It just doesn’t work for me anymore. I’m lucky that they have never once given me a hard time about it. Now, on occasional Fridays, they drink and I suck down coffee. I don’t make apologies. I’m too bad-ass for that and they are too accepting to need it.
If you’re like me, thinking that wine (or something else) is the only way to get rid of some frustration over what you can’t change, I am here to say that you can do it.
You are strong enough.
You don’t need to numb your soul to soar.
You need to let it out.
Ask my spouse, my mom and some of my closest friends who have seen my emotions zig zag the past few months. That freedom can be ugly, and pissy and uncomfortable while you find new ways of dealing with a new life. But holding onto habits is false freedom. A bear in a cage gets free food and warm blankets, but it’s fake domesticity. A bear is meant to live in the wild. He needs to be free to fight, to socialize, to hunt and to bathe in river streams. So do I. And so do you.
Don’t get sucked into a false life.
What you are holding onto might seem okay, but it could be so much more than okay. It could be AWESOME. You just need to walk into that room and say what you know in your soul is true. That you are not living in a manner that is worthy of your true potential.
That you can do so much more.
That there is joy and peace and so much more laughter than you can ever imagine.
But you just have to be brave enough to take that first step.
I’m Andrea, and I’m an alcoholic.
(And I’m so grateful.)