What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
After approximately 19 years of living it up by partying like the hot & wild young thing I once was and getting into equal amounts of fun and trouble, I decided to quit drinking on March 4, 2013.
I started drinking recreationally when I was 17 or 18 years old. By 23 or so, I was drinking and doing cocaine (I like to say recreationally as well, but my deviated septum proves otherwise) almost daily. I was living life the way I wanted to, without anyone questioning my actions and having a blast while doing so.
In 2011, while going through the most difficult event in my life to date, I became more reckless with my alcohol consumption and I started to scare myself.
When people go through traumatic experiences, there are so many different ways of coping; since I was already a seasoned partier, and since alcohol and marijuana were the only things that helped me get out of my head, those were my go-tos. I'd been doing both for years so it felt natural and like a no-brainer to stick with what was familiar to me. I drank more in the last two years than I have in my entire drinking career.
"Lived in Bars" by Cat Power really hits home for me.
In all honesty, there were only a handful of times that I genuinely enjoyed myself while I was drinking after 2011; hanging out with friends or BBW-ing while enjoying the sunshine Most of the time I felt downright pathetic because I knew it was becoming more of a crutch for me than anything.
Morning turned into day/evening drinking -- almost always alone, blackouts galore, passing out in public (so embarrassing when it's at friends' rock show!) resulting in your sweet girlfriends having to carry you out of the bar and home to take care of you. I even drunkenly cut off a couple inches of a braid once because I was disgusted with the split ends. Not a good idea when you don't know shit about cutting hair. Or in general, for that matter.
I kept the hair as a reminder of how fucked up I DIDN'T want to get. Yuck, thinking of some of the things I've done while intoxicated makes my stomach turn.
The thing is, in a sick way I was pretty proud of the fact that I was still functioning. Even though I didn't want to, I got out of bed every day, made myself presentable, went to work and paid my bills, despite my growing problem. I may have been falling apart on the inside, but holy shit was I going to keep it together on the surface. Or so I liked to believe.
Once, my therapist told me that I didn't "look" like an alcoholic and I got super excited that I seemed to hide it so well. Messed up, right?
I'll spare you most of the ugly details that led up to what was finally The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back.
The Straw being sweet, delicious booze and the Camel being little old me. But, you knew that.
Trust me, it was ugly.
Just imagine cowgirl boots, a dress that showed tons (Too much? Never!) of cleavage, way too many beers and whiskey shots, a bag of cocaine, and the Mother of all blackouts. And a two day hangover that induced sky-rocketing levels of self-loathing that it was off the fucking charts.
I couldn't stand to look in the mirror without breaking down into uncontrollable sobs. I was physically sick to my stomach, my head was pounding, my hair felt like it was being pulled (not in a good way) and I knew the only thing that would stop me from feeling like this was more booze.
Coming to terms with how this vicious cycle of alcoholism works, in the midst of one of the shittiest hangovers IN YOUR LIFE, is a real eye-opener. All I could think of through the tears, vomiting and dry-heaving was, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF!? THIS ISN'T FUN ANYMORE!"
I was finally ready to commit to stopping drinking once and for all vs. the bullshit other times when I'd make deals with myself like 'No drinking during the week -- weekends only!" I knew deep down that was doing absolutely no good for me since I was celebrating NOT drinking during the weekday by getting wasted on the weekends. I guess we're all capable of rationalizing a warped way of thinking when doing something that is more harmful than beneficial for us.
So far, it's been incredibly difficult but worth it. I love waking up NOT feeling gaggy and nauseous and as if I need to shave my tongue, I feel like I have a growing sense of self-awareness and The Guilt that sometimes has a merciless control over my life doesn't feel as present now that I'm not constantly ripped out of my mind.
But even though I have been alcohol free for over 118 days and counting, I've continued to smoke pot in my free time as a way of coping with stress and anxiety.
In my mind, weed isn't nearly as harmful as alcohol is to me. Yes, I completely understand that it can hinder motivation at times, can be costly, is probably bad in other ways as well, but it's helping with my on-going anxiety issues. I'm somewhat afraid of getting on any sort of prescription medication -- I feel my reasons are valid, so until I can manage my anxiety in other, more healthy ways, I continue to self-medicate by smoking pot.
I can probably qualify for a medical marijuana card since I've suffered from PTSD, but I've held back on moving forward with that because I feel it'll be my excuse to never deal with possibly quitting, something that I'd like to do eventually. Someday.
For now, I like to joke to myself that some of my craftiest work and culinary creations have happened due to my stoner's appetite and desire for all things amazing like pressure cooker pot roast, brick chicken, creamed spinach, homemade profiteroles, chocolate stout cake, pit beef sandwiches à la The Wire, tiramisu, flan and countless other totally non-fattening favorites. I know I am probably just trying to fool myself into believing it's OK for me to continue for a while longer. I'd like to get to the point of being as grossed out by smoking weed as I did of my drinking habits, but I guess I'm just not there yet.
Since I'm not going with the traditional route of doing A.A., which has helped and continues to help countless amounts of people, I feel the path I'm choosing to keep alcohol out of my system is right for me, at this time. Weekly therapy sessions, abstaining from anything with alcohol in it (even my mouth wash is alcohol-free) and support from my friends and family have helped tremendously. I have the option of attending other groups (recovery, women's issues, anger management, etc.) through my counseling program as well, but I've yet to actually stop in on one.
Do I long to be completely clear of mind-altering substances someday? Absolutely. Am I taking baby-steps in getting there? For certain. Am I going to fuck up along the way some more? Probably, but I hope not.