Part 1: The Booze
On January 5th, 2009, I was having fun. At least I assume I was – I don’t actually remember much of the hours between around 8:30 p.m., when I blacked out from drinking shots of vodka, and around 5 a.m. the next day, when I finally stumbled in my apartment door phoneless and walletless, covered in bruises and with a twisted ankle from tripping repeatedly in my 3-inch heels.
You can’t really describe what it’s like to black out, any more than you can remember the moment you slip from wakefulness to sleep. You can only describe the feelings the next day – the confusion upon realizing you’ve lost minutes and hours of time somewhere irretrievable.
I lost the tail-end of the night a lot – somehow, by the time I was in a cab, my brain knew it was safe to check out, to push me on autopilot through the motions of pulling my keys from the bottom my bag and stumbling up the stairs.
Almost a year earlier, at a party for the education publishing company I worked for, I drank enough from the ever-refilling pitchers of beer to turn the lights out. My co-workers were young people filling seats for a paycheck to fund their real vocations (actor, writer or musician mostly) and it would be difficult to party hard enough to warrant concern.
I found out the next day that I eventually got kicked out of the bar (a not-exactly classy joint where the decorating motif includes bras on the ceiling fan) for showing my breasts, among other unsavory behavior. It’s hard for me to believe that ever happened, although I do remember squatting on the dirty cement of the subway platform and puking onto the tracks, and I can’t deny that I came to on the D train several hours later after riding the train back and forth from Coney Island to Queens who knows how many times.
Miraculously, my purse was still intact and I seemed visibly unmolested. The next day I told the story for laughs, and no one seemed concerned.
Becoming an alcoholic feels the same way -- like waking up in a strange place with no memory of how you got there. I am not this person who passes out on the D train at 4 in the morning, or in a spreading blotch of my own still-wet urine. What went wrong here, you think, as if some obvious culprit – a new medication, your empty stomach -- will step forward to take responsibility for these strange happenings.
I had this experience over and over again – waking up with a start in the middle of the afternoon the day I was supposed to leave for vacation in the morning. Realizing 10 p.m. had somehow spun into 3 a.m. and I have a job interview tomorrow, but isn't it probably better to just stay up at this point? A brief, heart-stopping moment of WTF before you realize you’ve screwed up, really screwed up this time.
I didn’t get in trouble every time I drank, but each time I got into trouble, alcohol was there in the background like a crudely gesturing intruder in a photograph. But the real problem was that I could never predict which time I was headed for. A night that began with a drink could end with a harmless collapse into the soggy safety of my own bed or I could wake up the next day with no idea how I’d gotten home and spend the day puking and doing bumps to stay awake in the work bathroom.
It’s confusing, like finding yourself in a bad relationship that started out blissful – you keep thinking you can work it out, that somehow you’ll find a way back to those romantic few months when you were in love and happy. But not matter what you try, the fights get worse, your lover more irrational, the match more obviously unsuitable.
And when I woke up the morning of January 6th, none of these threadbare explanations, sturdy enough in the darkness of my head, seemed to hold up to the light of another morning in which everything was already all fucked up by the time I opened my eyes.
So nights that used to involve ridiculous shoes and ill-advised shots of something disgusting like Jeagermeister, gave way to Friday nights in church basements. And one day at a time I haven't drank (sweet, delicious) alcohol since. (That's a vintage photo of me drinking up above, shortly before I started to look really bloated and rode hard and hang out in bars by myself. Actually, I think I was hanging out at a bar by myself when that picture was taken. Just chilling by myself drinking in the Photobooth, no biggie.)
I sort of thought getting sober was going to solve all my problems. It did solve a lot of them, but turns out there was was a lot more crazy where my alcoholism came from. Pull up a folding chair, cause I'm gonna tell your asses all about it.