Welcome to me, circa 2011.
They say a photo is a thousand words. I don't know if I can keep it under a thousand here.
My excuse for this night was that it was St. Patrick's Day. But guess what? It was a Tuesday. It was an excuse.
When you are an addict, you look for an excuse to use. You can restrict it to 'recreational' use, or tell yourself that. Tell yourself you're only going to use on special occasions. Then a weekend. Then you start trying to tell yourself that a Tuesday is a special occasion.
It was the exact same scenario when I quit cocaine in 2008. I had thought to myself that I could use recreationally. I realized that I couldn't. I realized that before I even tried. I had struggled with cocaine use for a year before I quit, and when I quit, I quit for good. Almost.
When I quit blow I still wanted something to fill that void. I turned to alcohol, because it was legal and socially acceptable. I could go to a bar and get drunk, sit at a family dinner and get drunk, go to the beach and get drunk, and there wasn't the same stigma as using drugs at these events. I could buy it in a store. I could justify drinking because it was legal and acceptable. I could abuse it, because for young adults it's acceptable to get wasted. Even on a Tuesday.
I abused alcohol the exact same way that I abused cocaine. It went on for years. I was the life of the party, I was always happy and giggling. I was so outgoing and bright and had no problem starting up a conversation with a total stranger, thanks to liquid courage. By nature I am a shy and anxious person, while on the other hand I am outgoing as well. It's a real conundrum! Booze helped me solve that riddle. I started to like myself more when I was buzzed, tipsy and drunk, and forgot to love myself at all sober. That's right. I had to get drunk to care about my well-being. It was about four years into the abuse when I realized that I could no longer look myself in the mirror.
I hated myself sober.
I grew to hate myself drunk.
My anxiety crept up on to me so slowly that I never saw it coming. The booze stopped working. I was anxious when I woke up in the morning hungover, I was afraid to check my phone to see what drunk things I had texted friends or exes. I couldn't own a phone that accessed Facebook, because I would be constantly posting drunk photos or status updates. Then the anxiety got so bad, the liquor couldn't shake it. I started to drink more and more. It took getting hammered before going to an event for me to feel comfortable, and then drinking more and more while I was out.
I had a breakdown in 2014. I think my body gave out and I had enough. I lost my job and I was afraid to leave my house. I was on a wait list to see a psychiatrist and I drank the whole time, trying to keep myself level and keep my emotions in check. My psychiatrist asked about my drinking and I lied to her and told her I didn't have a problem.
I had a problem. It was becoming apparent.
During that time I was diagnosed with a type two bipolar disorder. Suddenly everything preceding that moment made sense. The manic highs where I would avoid sleep, the depression where I would live on a couch for weeks at a time. The poor decisions. The drug abuse and drinking. And the self-esteem.
If cocaine is a stimulant, alcohol is a depressant. But they sort of go hand in hand and work the same way. Cocaine will deplete your serotonin and leave you depressed. Alcohol will work as a black cloud, causing a constant depression you need to drink your way out of. After years of abuse and an undiagnosed mental illness, I had really fucked myself over.
I didn't even quit drinking straight away! I drank for another two months or so after being put on my medication. That was a definite mistake.
On December 23rd, 2014, I went all out. I bought a 1.5L bottle of shiraz and I drank it before I even went out. I was sitting at home. It was a Tuesday. I was watching television, reading, writing, a normal night at home called for a liter and a half of red wine. My friend phoned me, they were having a party. He picked me up, and we stopped at the liquor store. I bought another bottle. I downed the thing in nearly an hour. He drove me home before 11, and we stopped at the liquor store again. Bottle number three. Remember, I was already three liters of wine deep.
But damned if I didn't drink the third bottle.
Four and a half liters of wine.
I sat on my couch and I cried and I cried about everything there was to cry about. Looking back, I was sad for myself. I didn't want to live. I didn't want to be myself anymore. December 23, 2014 was the worst night of my life that I can recall, and believe me, after that much wine, it's all a bit of a blur. I will never forget that sadness. It was a sadness that followed me around and alcohol amplified it.
I'm grateful that it did. That was the last time I've had a drink. The hangover the next day was excruciating - it lasted the better part of three days. I missed Christmas dinner with my family, my hangover was still so bad.
I haven't had a drop since. I've stayed on my medication. I've stayed sober, and clean.
I had to learn to love myself all over again. Looking back, I don't know that I ever really did. During my teenage years I struggled with self-esteem and drug abuse issues. Loving myself was never a real priority for me. I started by finding hobbies I could take pride in. I started playing guitar, I wrote a book, I started up Tattered. I went to the beach every single night with a cup of peppermint tea, listened to music and let the thoughts of the day wash away. I started singing in the shower. I went out without makeup and learned to love the face in the mirror. I read inspirational books and got into the habit of having a coffee and a cigarette each morning in the sun while I read and shared inspirational quotes. I started meditating and collecting healing stones. I took a break from the party scene.
It hasn't been without its struggles. Three months into my sobriety, St. Patrick's Day was on a Tuesday. I went out, and to a bar. I ordered a ginger ale and gave myself one hell of a pep talk. It was so hard being in a bar with drunk people everywhere, but I was going to do it. It was karaoke night. So I went up and did karaoke - the first time I had ever done sober karaoke. Remember how I said I'm shy? I was able to sing in front of people easy if I had at least a six pack under my belt. I sipped on my ginger ale and I sang my heart out. When I was done I had another accomplishment under my belt.
That's how I feel every time I go out, now. Shows and parties aren't a problem anymore. I associate things in my mind, "The last time you saw this band play you were sober, you got this." I remember everything. I always have my car keys, I always have to drive myself home. I get a sense of pride when I spent two dollars at a bar the whole night on ginger ale. I'm not afraid of my bank balance the next day, or any sent text messages. I can breathe a lot easier. Even though I do still experience anxiety going out, it's nothing compared to how it was before.
I can look at myself in the mirror and love myself. I don't need to wear a mask of makeup. I don't have to have glazed eyes and an unfocused drunken leer to find myself attractive or lovable. I don't look for acceptance in booze or lovers. For the first time in forever, I love myself, and have consistently each day more and more since I broke up with booze.
I haven't yet defined my relationship with alcohol, and I'm not focusing on it right now. I'm more concerned with defining my relationship with myself, first and foremost. In a lot of ways it was easy to quit, it just made sense. When I think about being sober forever, it terrifies me. But when I think about drinking again, that scares me even more. I think that gives me a good perspective into my addiction. I know that AA says you have to admit you're powerless to it, but I'm not. I don't want to be afraid of alcohol. I don't regret the time in my life that I spent drinking or using, because I think I love myself more for overcoming the things that I have. I have more of a sense of pride because I know where I've been.
And now you do too.