I had my last drink on Sunday, March 30, 2014. I was pissed off that day at a friend who was hanging out with some mutual acquaintances. Nobody thought to invite me—or even worse, my monkey mind convinced me that they did think about it and dismissed the idea with laughter—and my feelings were hurt. Normally, I’m a reclusive sort of gal and don’t go out much anyway. I like my own company. Plus, being alone allowed me to drink as much as I wanted without anyone counting my trips back to the wine bottle or tallying up my pile of beer bottles in the recycling bin at the end of the night.
It was a cool spring day, and I had the windows open. As I sat at my desk and tried to work on a writing assignment, I could hear the drunken cackles of these neighborhood friends, hanging out in someone’s back yard. I thought it sounded trashy, unbecoming, especially with the sounds of Foghat and Skynyrd playing in the background. Even if I were invited, I may have stayed for one drink, but I would have begged off because I needed to get back home to my kids (ages 10 and 12). I don’t even really like hanging out with these people, whose ideologies revolve around guns and Harleys, but it was the principle of the thing. In my mind, they were being just plain rude, and I was determined to ruminate over it until my blood boiled.
I immediately visited all the bad places in my mind, which of course outnumber the good places when you drink too much. I’m boring. I talk too much. I don’t talk enough. I’m not funny. I don’t fit in with any group and never have. I don’t have any true friends in this world. If I ever get invited to anything, it’s always out of obligation. I’m an afterthought, sometimes a non-entity. Everyone hates me.
Some people become happy when they drink. Some get mellow and numb. Others get angry and mean. I’ve done all of these in equal amounts, but that night, I was hurt when I uncorked that bottle of wine and full of rage three generous glasses later. This all happened beneath the surface, by the way. On the outside, I calmly snuggled with the kids on the couch for some TV time and got them off to bed at a decent hour. But I wasn’t fully there. I never was when I was drinking.
I finally drifted off around 12:30, fevered and drained of my life force from all that thinking. And I literally had a fever. For months, I had developed a low-grade fever on and off in the evenings. I don’t have health insurance, so I can’t just run off to my doc to get these things checked out. I woke up the next morning, feeling rough, and got the kids off to school. Then I went home and crashed. My head was foggy. My limbs felt too heavy to lift. I was depressed and angry at myself for getting so worked up over nothing the night before. I couldn’t catch my breath. My chest hurt.
Then that annoying voice inside my head said, “Stop drinking and everything will get better.”
Whose voice was it? My higher self? God? My dead mother? Doesn’t matter. I’ve been hearing that voice for a while now, though, and I never believed what it told me. How could everything get better? I don’t even drink that much, I told myself. Drinking actually makes me more relaxed, funnier, more charming. I’d be a total bore in social situations without it, right? No one will invite me anywhere if I’m just going to sit there being my boring, shy self with a glass of water in my hand. Then the previous day’s events came flooding back: I wasn’t invited to the party anyway. Why did I even care about these people with whom I share very little common ground? They actually made me feel quite uncomfortable at times. Why would I want to spend my time with people that I have to anesthetize myself to be around? Was I that desperate?
Yes, I was. On many levels. Desperate to be included. Desperate to be seen as funny and smart and sophisticated. Desperate to avoid feeling like a failure in life.
And I was physically ill, too. It turns out I am severely anemic and deficient in folic acid, B12, and magnesium. Alcohol was slowly depleting my body of what it needed to function, probably for over a year now, and I just recently reached a critical mass of sorts. The fevers, shortness of breath, persistent eyelid twitching, fatigue, and at least a dozen other complaints came on all at once.
I knew I’d have to quit once and for all if I wanted to live. By that, I don’t mean just get my physical health back in check, but I mean truly thrive and reach a place of peace and contentment. To be happy with myself. To have the energy to work toward my goals with consistency.
Rock bottoms are different for everyone. We’ve all heard the more dramatic stories of waking up in the gutter, but hitting bottom can also be subtle and sneak up on you. One day you may wake up in your comfortable bed, finally listen to that voice, and say, Enough.