My Disease Just Wants To Party!
Posted on January 30, 2012 by Shannon M.
One of the clearest memories of my childhood is that of my father cautioning my sisters and I that “one of you is gonna get it.” No, he wasn’t threatening us with his backhand or a leather belt (not that there’s anything wrong with that – some kids are asking for it.) It was his way of warning us that the disease of alcoholism runs so deep in our blessed Irish family that you couldn’t throw a head of cabbage down the hallway without hitting a drunk, and my father was dead-set on finding out who it was going to be. But I’ll spare you the suspense. There’s no need to skip ahead to the end of the story, folks, because it’s me…I’m the drunk.
I was a fairly normal girl in the early years. I had sisters, we played house. I was just coasting along until BAM! I was hit with a trifecta of awkward adolescence paralleled only by D.J. Tanner’s mom-jeans/shoulder-pad/perm phase circa 1989. I stood six feet tall with a handsome build, a fiery nest of red hair which I had yet to learn how to properly condition following a perm-phase of my own, and one protruding fang tooth. Let’s just say, self-esteem was not an easy thing to muster. I really had no other choice than to find a way to deal with it. I quickly became a master at strategically controlling situations and being able to redirect attention. It was a smoke and mirrors game – Don’t look at my fang guys, look at my report card! I was fueled by the fear that people would think I was inferior. I made sure to have a perfect grades, excel at sports, and even threw in a little eating disorder so people would talk about how skinny I was. This worked for awhile, but it was exhausting. One day I woke up and realized that “hey, I can just get drunk and all of my insecurities will go away.”
It turns out, growing up in Minnesota farm country is a wonderful place to plant a little alcoholic seedling and watch it grow. Drinking was the only thing on the agenda. I was drinkin’ handle bottles of vodka and pissin’ on sofas by the bonfire before I could drive a tractor, “Yee-hah!” But don’t get the wrong idea, I actually made it look good… it seemed glamorous. Damn, I knew how to party! At least that’s what I heard the morning after. I never really remembered the party, but then again, that’s how I liked it.
The first thirty days of sobriety is not uncharted territory for me. I, like many others attempting to make it on their own in recovery, have been here before. The summer of 2008 was the start of my first bout with sobriety. I had reluctantly agreed to do an inpatient stay at Fairview Medical Center after somehow eeking out a college degree between week-long binges. It wasn’t that I thought I had my drinking under control or thought that I didn’t have a problem, what really turned me off from treatment was that I did not want that label to be put on me. It felt like a failure stamp. I had worked so hard to control others’ perceptions of me, and keep up the facade of normalcy – no matter what disgusting mess was really behind the curtain. But the jig was up. I had to let go and get honest with myself and honest with others. As a result of this surrender, I got my first taste of spiritual wholeness. I felt invincible, full of hope, and unstoppable. I was never going to take another drink. But six months later, I found myself with a glass in my hand. I was contemplating whether or not to take a sip. I realized what I had on the line, but I knew that I had already made up my mind, and I was going to throw it all away.
Ring, ring. Hello?? Why doesn’t anyone want to talk to me when I’m wasted on a Sunday morning? Being drunk is not attractive to me anymore and hasn’t been for a long time. My drinking is not sexy or fun. It’s ugly, and it’s sad. I heard myself saying it, I felt my lips moving, but I could feel that my diseased brain was still in control, hearing these sober words, but stubbornly replying, “There is NO WAY we are going to a meeting tomorrow!” But I didn’t listen this time. I just went.
I walk into the meeting. I do not sit in the back as I have in the past. I sit at a table full of other women and I talk to the person to my right. She is also relatively new to sobriety and asks for my number. She calls me the next day and asks me to call her. Going to meetings and surrounding myself with others who are in recovery has been my life for the last 30 days. I can’t say that it has been the most thrilling or exciting 30 days of my life, but it has been so much more. It has been calm, it has been free of shame, and it has been honest. I can feel myself coming out of my alcoholic brain again, and slowly filling that void. Looking back at that glass-in-hand moment, this whole AA thing starts to make sense. It’s about community and support. Just having one person to call in my situation could have change the last 2 years of my life. I know I have a lot more work ahead of me and a lot more to learn, but I am finally looking forward to a future that I haven’t bothered to picture in a long time, and I am filled with hope.
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