…or more accurately, I stopped doing a thing. Three years, two months and twenty days ago I quit drinking. I mentioned it in yesterday’s “the right shoes” post but kind of buried the headline. Ok, I DID bury the headline.
There was no cataclysmic moment of reckoning, no lightning strike, no “come to (enter name of deity of your choice), no intervention, no job loss, no family drama: I was just tired. Tired and ashamed.
Now I have been tired many times: too much work, not enough sleep, long drives, boring meetings, vacation recovery, etc. But this was the tired of a person who had no energy, no hope, no joy, and no long-range outlook, sunny or otherwise. Everyday was an effort. I often wished I would just go to sleep and never wake up.
During the day someone always pissed me off, pushed my buttons, hurt my feelings, talked down to me. And so, I would plan to drink at them. That would show them, although they would never know. I would plan my box-o-wine stop at one of the three stores on my one and a quarter mile “commute” home. I rotated my stores, so people didn’t think I was an alcoholic because, you know, I was and I am. Towards the end, just thinking about and planning my drinking made me excited and lifted my mood.
My paranoia about drinking didn’t stop at the store. I often worried that the recycling guys knew I was an alcoholic because of how many bottles and boxes I went through each week. Of course, among the thousands of homes where they stopped to collect each week, I knew they were really only thinking about mine. (Oddly, when I stopped drinking, I thought they would notice that too and know I was an alcoholic.)
And then there was the shame. Someone once told me the difference between guilt and shame: guilt is how you feel about something you did, and shame is how feel about who you are. Yes, it was shame. I was a highly accomplished, well-educated and respected member of both my professional and local communities. I participated, I volunteered, I worked, I traveled, I had friends and hobbies and for a long time I was invited to things.
But as my disease progressed, invitations were few and far between. I didn’t care, I just drank at home, a lot. One of those many mornings that I regretfully woke up, I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I stepped closer to the huge well-lit bathroom mirror to look into my own eyes: they were hollow, I was hollow.
Through a series of what I thought were coincidences, I ran into a friend who had recently gotten sober after a relapse of several years. I told her I was thinking about quitting.
She offered to meet me the following Monday at a meeting. And that Monday afternoon, she was there. And that was the beginning of a journey of recovery that has changed my life in ways I couldn’t imagine.
I stopped doing a thing, so I could do, and enjoy, everything else. I stopped doing a thing so I could have a life and I do.