Obviously there are still times that I’d love to have a drink. That may be the dumbest sentence I’ve ever typed. Well, no, not even close really, but you smell what I’m stepping in – don’t ya? It will strike out of nowhere, the craving or the damn trigger, as they say. I have grown to hate the word trigger, but find myself using it anyway. I’ve embarked on a morning walk almost every day since March in my quest for sanity and solitude, and the other morning was no different. It sets my tone for the day and I cherish this time. The day is new and my neighbors are still…the smell of honeysuckle is in the air and the curbside flowers all hold the sparkle of dew. Even in the darkest throes of my alcoholism, I was STILL a morning person; a phenomenon that puzzled and stunned many roommates, boyfriends and traveling companions over the years. In the last years of my drinking I would say that I was very much still intoxicated upon waking, hence my carefree mood and affable manner, but minus the fucking productivity. Morning drinking was my absolute favorite thing, at the end of my alcoholic career. Just a little shot of vodka prior to your morning coffee, and you’ve got some glide in your stride, folks. The sky gets a little bluer and the grass a little greener, if you know what I mean. I remember one episode close to my crash, where I got pretty tanked up before a morning Periodontal appointment, but that is a
lawsuit post for another time.
This particular morning I was ambling along, as it was my day off and a brisk power walk just wasn’t on the docket. It was nice to have a more relaxed pace to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the world waking up to another day, and it was indeed a smell that stopped me dead in my tracks and jarred me from my oblivious dream-like cocoon. It was the smell of fresh-cut grass. It hit me like a glorious wave crashing on the beach and immediately my mouth began to water and I could literally taste the nose-stinging effervescence of a just-cracked ice cold bottle of beer. I could almost feel the cool bottle in my hand and imagined the droplets of water running down my fingers after gripping it in both hands to twist open the bottle cap. I could almost taste my victory swig, and moreover, the bubbly and forcibly loud delightful first belch afterwards.
Let’s unpack this a sec. Firstly, let me admit in one hundred percent transparency, that at the end of my drinking I would have tossed back some PAINT THINNER if it were the only thing available. Seriously, I am classy like that. I have full-on picked cigarette butts out of glasses of booze and who knows what left at parties and bars and downed them without shame. BUT, having said that, I was never really a beer gal. I mean, I like beer just fine but I’ve been a vodka gal for the better part of my drinking career. In my opinion, it just bloated me and slowed me down. Now, beer with some shots added, now we’re talking. Again, another post.
Secondly, it’s not like I’ve had years of hot and hard yard work, or I’ve been some low rent /white trash version Martha Stewart out in my garden for decades, either – so it startled me that my reaction was so visceral to the smell of fresh cut grass. I blame marketing. Good marketing, but marketing, nonetheless.
Anyway, here’s where my sober Irish ass sitting in meetings for FIVE YEARS has paid off. In my head, heart and gut, I heard a loud and equally aggressive voice* scream “PLAY THE TAPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH!”
You folks out there in recovery know from what I speak. Or regurgitate, more aptly. Luckily, as we say in the rooms, I have contracted life-saving knowledge via ASSMOSIS, from sitting same said sober Irish ass, in shitty metal folding chairs, in various church basements, while crying and confessing and listening and taking the fucking ARROW OUT of my OWN HEART, for FIVE YEARS and moreover, quite just by (and this is the ridiculous catch you guys) showing up and being present.
Last night I dreamed that I’d been drinking
Same dream I have ’bout twice a week
I had one glass of wine
I woke up feeling fine
And that’s how I knew it was a dream – Jason Isbell
Yes, I actually used something I have learned in recovery to shield myself from self-sabotage. “Playing the tape thru” means thinking about the consequences of your actions before you act, not just romanticizing the initial euphoria of that action, basically. So, while my brain immediately fast forwarded to a ridiculous image** of myself on a wraparound deck in some imaginary (and immaculately kept) backyard blaring Fleetwood Mac while slugging down an ice cold beer, I had to play the tape all the way through. So I did. You know, like a movie in your head. Don’t just stop and rewind all the good parts, yo. Watch it until the bitter end – and boy, was I ever bitter at MY END.
I didn’t even start with the romantic notions of what the initial beer would be like, and the joyful anticipation that came with getting tipsy fast – I skipped right to the part where I’m “coming to” at noon, and I was supposed to be at work at 8:30 am. This happened countless times over the three decades. I jumped right to the part where you attempt to rise and feel such shame, guilt and remorse, that you can barely get out of your own bed. I also thought about the times where I wasn’t getting out of my own bed, either, and that will usually bring about the intermission where I cover my eyes with my hands cause I don’t want to see any more of this scary movie. You want the horrific “perk” of all of this? I don’t know how much I actually don’t remember, and that’s unsettling, to say the least. There were hundreds of times that I couldn’t recount my whereabouts, or recall my actions, that I just don’t let myself dwell on it, anymore. It doesn’t serve me. Just know that I’ve woken up in some dicey and questionable circumstances, y’all, and I don’t do that anymore.
Anyway, it did NOT take long for me to jerk myself out of my reverie and I didn’t let it shake me, or make me question my commitment to sobriety. I stood firm there on the asphalt street in the morning sunlight and felt grateful and moreover, relieved – and I think I even laughed a little. Self-compassion is an amazing thing, you guys. I can’t change the past, but I sure as hell can change how I feel about it.
I can change me, and I have. Clearly, that is work (and shit howdy do I mean WORK) that is constantly progressing. Or at least I hope so. Stay tuned as I’ll be celebrating FIVE years of sobriety this month so I may actually make someone vomit with the upcoming gratitude posts sheer sappiness.
*the voice sounded like Courtney Love, TBH
**I envisioned myself with long loose braids, wearing some cute cut-off denim shorts, with my homegrown herbs in Etsy handmade pots surrounding me, or some bullshit like that. Dammit, Pinterest – you ruin everything.