The Pandemic may be about controlling an outbreak, but in this case, I drove the monkey to the airport myself.
I haven’t told many of my co-workers about my raging alcoholism, because. . . DUH. It’s not that I’m completely ashamed of it, as much as I just don’t lead with it, if you know what I mean. It’s a gigantic part of my story, but it’s not something I just throw out there, willy nilly. Well, wait – maybe I do? I have found that in instances with complete strangers, I find myself talking about my alcoholism quite easily, and that seems to make sense, in that I don’t have anything to lose, really. Of course, the people in my direct life already witnessed the horrific shit show and plummeting bottom of my addiction, but they’ve also seen the changes in the last five years as well, and I’m grateful that they are still around. It’s a minefield to navigate in sobriety, really – who to tell or who not to, and of course, everyone is different on what they want to share, or keep private. I’ve decided that I’m just too tired to hide anymore and way too stupid/lazy/noncommittal to lie about it.
Of course FEAR is the number one reason to keep your mouth shut, but then, how is anyone ever going to get to know you? For me, in order to truly know me, I feel that my alcoholism has to be factored in simply because it is SO MUCH A PART OF ME and it’s not something I’ve tucked away because I’m “cured” – you know? FUCK NO. Remember, there’s no graduation in recovery, it just becomes your blueprint for living.
To be fair, I’ve not had many opportunities in which to mention it. My job is extremely fast paced and there’s not much time for idle chit chat although one could say my natural personality, which is somewhat laced with borderline inappropriate honesty, has “leaked” a wee bit. Through the last 1.5 years, I’ve let some little snippets sneak forth from my lips and of course, they’re telling. BECAUSE THEY AREN’T NORMAL things to say, you know? I have seen their eyes get wide when I accidentally slip with one my past experiences, or little anecdotes. I try really hard not to casually mention incarceration, liver failure or public intoxication, and it’s usually pretty easy to keep that shit under wraps, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve said something ridiculous, and eyebrows were raised. Believe me, it’s not like I’m DYING to tell my story, it’s just that I feel it is necessary to KNOW the story if you truly are going to KNOW me. So let’s start there.
This blog has never been private and I had to know that on some level, someone I know, at some point, would discover it. I just didn’t think I’d lead them to it, and purposely. Every single time I hit the fucking “PUBLISH” button on WordPress my stomach lodges itself into my throat and my heartbeat quickens. I always think “thank God Grandma is dead”, which is a ridiculous thing to think, and it’s ironic really, because besides my dreadful language, I think she’d get a kick out of my recovery. Nevertheless, it’s my shame barometer, really. Would I be comfortable with my sweet Granny reading this particular entry? No? Well, then, it’s probably worth publishing. On the other side of this coin is the veracity factor. I also pause before I publish to fact check my shit and my memory and make sure I stand behind those black and white words in front of me. You have to own it and back it up, because at some point, you’ll be asked to. I will concede to artistic liberties here and there, but the experiences and stories in this blog are my truth, however difficult to admit to myself, let alone tell the world about it. Jesus.
So, back to the story. When the Coronavirus hit in March, my company, like many others, sent us to work from home. Now, I know it doesn’t take Dr. Fauci to explain to y’all that alcoholics aren’t the target group of folks to send home to ISOLATE, right? This was concerning to some folks in my support group because staying at home in isolation was what led me to the Great Red Lobster Collapse of 2015. Sending my ass to stay home without a babysitter and NO JOB and no support network and no meetings to go to, well, this could really set the wheels in motion to wind up yellow and dead. I have a few friends at work that know about my alcoholism, but during the quarantine I desperately wanted to stay in touch with so many, that I decided to roll the dice.
My sponsor has often complimented me on my proactivity and I’m proud of that. I smelled what the wind was blowing and I decided that it was up to me to keep my shit in a pile and the best way to do that is tell people that you have shit. Accountability and connection, yo.
So I decided to “tell” a control group, if you will. Like in science experiments. Yes, I remember science and moreover, I believe in it, but that’s another post for another day. Anyway, I decided that the best way to tell people was to NOT tell people, but let them find out on their own because I’m really tired of trying to control everyone’s reactions, mainly because I FUCKING CANNOT. Hence, my point. I started “following” some of my most trusted work pals on Instagram. Yes, this is how you “OUT” yourself in 2020. Put that shit on INSTA. Now, in the interest of complete transparency, I will admit that I briefly entertained the thought of actually creating a brand new Instagram account and handle and starting from scratch and curating cool and less embarrassing material, but honestly, that seemed a teensy bit more insane than just letting people find out the truth. I’m a drunk, for Christ’s sake, it’s not like I’m a Republican.
So, @thepartyissober came out swinging and I hit that little blue follow button and didn’t look back. Well, that’s a total lie because the first time “requested” popped up I quickly realized there was no clandestine way of them NOT finding out, because of their privacy settings. This horrified me but instead of hitting that button again and withdrawing the request, I just shrugged and asked myself, “well, what’s the worst that could happen”?
Naturally, my brain did not disappoint. OH HOW I LOVE TO PLAY THE “WHAT IF” GAME.
“Well, first they are going to look at this stupid Instagram request and see the word “SOBER” in the handle and go WTF- who the hell is this – and then of course they’ll click on the profile and see it’s me and from there it’s really just a satanic game of dominoes – they’ll find these confessions and terrible secrets and they will confirm that I really am a human turd – and not worthy of their time, let alone their friendship. From there they’ll surely agree that I AM AN IMPOSTER after all, and that I truly don’t belong, and then I imagine they’ll move on to my hair being dry and straw-like.”
Well, sure, I thought. That’s totally what’s going to happen, but then a tiny voice inside offered, “What if it doesn’t? What if… they react with kindness? What if… they react with compassion? WHAT IF …they just don’t fucking care?” Oh God, please just let them not care.
While I wasn’t really anticipating any super adverse reactions, you know what I wasn’t prepared for, oddly enough? THE COMEDY. I’m delighted to report that quite a bit of the feedback I’ve received has been pretty hilarious, but it’s also been 100% supportive and that’s been so absolutely amazing and humbling that I get legit teary thinking about it. I don’t know what I expected, and I didn’t give myself much time to think about it, knowing I’d pull the plug on my bravery if I did. It was terrifying, but not scarier than no one ever knowing the real me, and I’m so glad that I leapt. I never played team sports as a kid and you know my ass wasn’t in any real clubs and stuff, so I never really felt part of a bigger group, or cause, but I do now, and I’m so very grateful. Holy shit, people that actually know me, and like me anyway. Family doesn’t even guarantee that. In fact, here’s a recent example – yesterday I asked a co-worker if he was surprised to find out that I was a recovering alcoholic, and his response;
“Girl, the only thing that surprised me is that you’re SOBER. I mean, the way you act and all.”
Now, that’s a high compliment. Thanks as always for reading, and if I work with you, just thanks . . . period.
I’m sure I’ve said this before but I swear this is your best blog yet. Yes, your characteristic humor is alive and well (along with your, shall we say, colorful, language. (I can swear with the best of them now, thanks to you and another dear friend, Emily, who started me off way back in ’93.) Anyway, what really got to me about this particular piece is how incredibly courageous you were in putting it out there ON PURPOSE to people you knew who haven’t really known you that long. Your desire to be truly known overruled your very legitimate concerns and you did it, and I am more than glad to hear about the responses you’ve received. And the ending–you NAILED it, Jen, thanks to your co-worker’s zippy response. That will stick with me for a long time! I love you and am honored to be your friend!
Awww, thanks Kathy! I know you appreciate how stressful it was for me! LOL You know how I love to overthink. Thanks for always being such a sheer force of positivity and love to me. I cherish our friendship!
Jenny. The depth of your post is not lost on me and I hope you know that I consider you brave and strong and one of my hero’s in life. However that said, when I came to “I’m a drunk, for Christ’s sake, it’s not like I’m a Republican.” Me coffee shot out my nose! Love you – truly.
Really good, Jen.
Shout it to the hilltops girl, well done, take a bow. You make me so proud!
PS: I never knew you drank until I saw you sober.
Excellent! Thank God you are just a drunk. I couldn’t take it if you were a Republican. Whatever you do, don’t think for a fucking goddamn second about becoming a recovering cussaholic. NOT fucking happening. I started your serious training in 1982, and I need company carrying it out until 80 (ish?)! I’m not fucking kidding. Love ya, Jenny, and your writing just gets better and better. I’m waiting for your first book! You have a gift.