The Lost Decade – Part 2 (Wino)

Gonna get me a little oblivion, baby
Try to keep myself away from myself and me

– Counting Crows, Perfect Blue Buildings

When alcohol becomes your crutch, you may have a preference of what you imbibe. I went through phases with mine – especially because it’s easy to think that if you switch from one poison to another, it won’t be so bad.

I began with mixed drinks, in the early days. My favorite was a Margarita recipe that my husband and I had been given: a third tequila, a third triple sec and a third fresh lime juice. No sugary mixers to spoil the taste. I lived on these throughout the first few months after his death. Then I switched to gin and tonic. I loved the sound of the ice in the glass and the smoothness with which it coated my throat, my mind.

I was not immune to the effects of regular, heavy drinking. There were numerous mornings I woke up with raging hangovers and wondered how I had ever made it to my bed the night before. There were some days I woke up on the living room floor, having passed out sometime during the night. My first thought was always “shit, how much did I drink?”, quickly followed by, “how am I going to make it through 8 hours of work before I can have another?”

I would check the level of the alcohol in the house, trying to remember how much I had imbibed the night before, but after the second or third drink, my body was on auto-pilot, weaving the path from my couch to the kitchen to refill my glass. With each round my memory would fade and I would be granted the blissful amnesia alcohol allowed me. Eventually I switched to wine, thinking it would give me more control or at least lessen the amount I drank, but there were countless mornings I would wake up to find two empty bottles from the night before waiting on the counter. I couldn’t even remember opening the second.

This went on for years. Eventually, my body became so addicted I would shake throughout the day. My hands, my legs, every organ inside my body trembled for a taste of the elixir I knew would fix everything. I would sit at work counting down the hours until I could leave, restock what I had finished the night before, and make it back to my condo before my body completely lost control. I think my record for downing a bottle of wine was easily within the first hour of being home.

I shut everyone and everything out. All I cared about was what was in the bottle and how it would make the nightmares go away. I was running from everything but most importantly, I was running from reality, I was running from myself. This was now my life. The girl who had once had such control over her destiny, could look at herself in the mirror without being disgusted by the reflection, the one who believed that life was good, was no longer there. I was simply an empty husk that I filled with glass after glass of my chosen poison of the day.

And this is why I call it my slow suicide attempt. I was chickenshit to just end it, so destroying my body and mind in a slow fashion seemed more apt. I didn’t realize it at first – this desire to die slowly. I knew I wanted to die. I knew all about survivor’s guilt, and all I wished for was that it had been me, and not him, who was lost that April day. But at the same time, I never would have wanted him to go through the pain I was experiencing.

I became talented at knowing exactly how much alcohol I could drink before getting behind the wheel – because some days the only way I could get the shaking to stop was to drink first. I did not drive when reality started to fade, when I was so drunk I couldn’t see straight – instead I created a cocoon in my condo and stayed until I woke up the next morning, wherever in the house that might be. At least I had the sense of mind not to put others’ lives in danger if I attempted to operate a vehicle. I became very clever in hiding my drinking – I had years of practice putting on the facade of perfection, and even when I was trembling inside from withdrawal, I would act as if nothing was wrong, that I wasn’t falling to pieces.

I drank and drank and drank. I went to rehab twice because my body had taken too much over the years and I could no longer control my motor functions. Anytime one is in rehab for a substance, the first few days are a blur. Detox, for me at least, felt like one long nap and when I woke up I was in a locked ward with patients who moved like zombies through the hallways. Because I am bipolar, both stays included in-patient therapy to deal with the co-current diagnosis of my drinking and my mental state. We heard all the lectures. Watched all the scared straight videos. We had our medications administered by a war-weary nurse who doled them out at the proper time of day. We had bedtimes. We were told to go to “meetings”  because that was the only way we would succeed. I went to a few. I ran out almost as quickly as I entered. It was like being in a bar that didn’t serve alcohol – the rooms were simply full of men who preyed on newbies, trying to find someone to fuck. These were not my people. They were strangers who could not understand what my daily torment was.

Therapy, medication, alcohol. The pattern repeated itself over and over again for a decade. It is exhausting, it is deflating. Because it is not who I ever believed I would be. I became a separate entity entirely. To this day, I am still attempting to figure out who I am – from the optimistic girl who had the world on a string, to a tormented hermit living in a shell of self-hatred. I am trying to come to terms with the damage I have done to myself and others. I am trying to love myself again. But the anger underlies all of this, and until that is exorcised, I do not believe I will ever be whole again. Perhaps I will never be whole again.

“We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle

© Sorrow & Kindness

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