In my early days of sobriety I was enjoying brunch with a couple of friends. My one friend has been a close pal of mine since moving to this fair city and the other gal was an acquaintance that I’d met through her. As we enjoyed our omelets they were asking me about my recovery process, having been around for the terrifying hospital stays and my subsequent surgery. I remember feeling victorious and grateful that morning, as if what I was going to order for brunch was the most important decision I was going to make that day. It was heavenly.
Wait, let’s back up a minute. Let me also mention that I had never had more than a single glass of wine in the presence of either of these ladies.
As we were chatting luxuriously over our huge cups of coffee, the conversation naturally turned to my health and assimilation back into polite society. I remember feeling quite lofty and superior as I discussed my progress. That came to a swift ending with one casual comment from my friend’s pal, Julia.
“Yeah, I could tell you were a drunk the very first time we met”.
WTF? How’s that for a bomb lobbed over the bow? As I stammered for a witty retort, she expounded. “You know…! You had the typical paunch that would equate to a dude’s “beer belly” if you were one. Plus, you were just so puffy”.
As I recall I hid my internal reaction fairly well but that comment stuck with me for days…weeks even. If it was that obvious to someone I knew in a casual social circle how apparent was it for the folks that actually KNEW ME?!? Jesus. I had always considered myself a pretty “put together” alcoholic. High functioning, as they say. Sure, I had my occassional mornings of arriving late to work and dashing into a packed elevator with wet hair and reeking of last night’s whiskey shots, but all in all, I thought I covered my tracks pretty damn well.
Notsomuch, evidently. All the shame came flooding back. I didn’t have a secret, after all. The only person I was fooling was myself. The excuses I made, the lies I told, the foxhole prayers…the whole dog and pony show was just a ruse to distract myself from the truth.
I was angry at Julia for her cutting remark, sure. But not for long. It’s difficult to swallow these unattractive truths about ourselves. It’s like the old adage regarding unkind statements, only YOU can make them about YOUR folks, not others. I felt that way with Julia. Who was she to call me out as an alcoholic? ONLY I COULD SAY THAT.
It was a pivotal learning point though. Admitting I had a drinking problem wasn’t near as embarrassing and painful as admitting that others knew I had a drinking problem. Here I thought I was the Sally Field of drunken performances and instead, my audience saw straight through me.
I’m no longer an actress, and I can’t change the past. When stories of my drunken escapades come up, I try to laugh but more often than not I cringe. I wish I could talk to that gal, the gal that I was. But I know what she’d do. She’d flip me a bird and order a shot of Jaegermeister in defiance. Well, make that two shots. One for Julia.