Slippery Slope

I’ve said before that I’m no expert on alcoholism, I’m only an expert on alcoholism and me. In that spirit, that’s how this thing works, right? I share what I find to be helpful and then you can try it or pass it along or alternately think it’s a crock of shit and just discard it altogether.

Some folks wonder how it works with booze infused foods, or of alcohol served in other settings, such as Communion in churches or even “non-alcoholic” beverages. I know some alcoholics that will not under any circumstances ingest any type of alcohol, in any form. Whether it be creme brûlée or a Grand Marnier soufflé. Some argue that there is still a slight amount of alcohol in non-alcoholic drinks so by that determination they take a pass. When you’ve had the bejesus scared out of you due to alcoholism, the wise thing is just to stay away on all levels, if that’s where you’re at. I wholeheartedly agree.  However, I’m not quite as stringent. I personally feel that a creme brûlée will not send me screaming back to the sauce after ingesting one for dessert at a fancy dinner.

Then again, I do know someone that spiraled into the throes of a terrible relapse after years of sobriety due to Creme de Menthe over ice cream.  True story, that’s how it started and while that might sound ludicrous, it happened. It’s just the inkling. The scantly perceptible twinge that we feel in our essence when we think we’re going to get that elusive feeling of forthcoming euphoria or delicious escape. It’s an absolutely blissful feeling and I used to feel that way after an occasional puff of a cigarette long after I had quit.  SOMETHING AWAKENS you guys and that is the beast within every one of us that struggles with addiction.

So, yes, I have eaten a bourbon-infused brownie without knowing it was infused with Satan’s magic elixir and you know what?  It was fine. Did I rush back to the kitchen and shove the entire serving tray into my mouth?  No. Did I want to? Not remotely. And if you think I’m turning down creme brûlée, as in, EVER, then you don’t know me at all.

I am not that skittish about triggers or my sobriety, I thought.  Until recently.

Not so long ago I was in a drug store waiting to pick up a prescription when I was reminded that I was out of mouthwash. I scooted down the aisle and found approximately 27 different types of mouthwash.  Seriously, there was gum disease mouth wash and plaque prevention mouthwash and don’t even get me started on all of the flavors. Vanilla mint?  WTF?  As I perused the somewhat overwhelming selection I noticed some of the labels touted that they were “alcohol free”.  This got my attention. I had never internalized the knowledge that mouthwash includes alcohol amongst its ingredients.

Suddenly it was 2013 and I was 500 miles north in my Grandmother’s bedroom helping her make her bed after having washed her sheets.  I noticed that she had put on a rubber fitted sheet on under her real sheet. This was sad and troublesome because even though she was 104 years old, I hadn’t known she’d been wetting her bed.

Me: “Oh, Grandma.  I’m so sorry.”

Grandma: “Why, honey?”

Me: “The rubber sheet. I didn’t know that you were having accidents.”

Grandma: “Oh, I’m not,” she quipped, “but you know what they say, there’s a first time for everything!”

That entire exchange played out in my brain like a movie as I stood there in the middle of CVS. “There’s a first time for everything.” Suddenly I saw a montage flash before my eyes. . . it started out with me innocently brushing my teeth while absently reaching for the mouthwash and it ended with me passed out in public under feces-stained newspapers at a bus stop with my gums caved in and no teeth while clutching a one-eyed matted cat and a half-empty bottle of mouthwash.

The mantra is “to thine own self be true” and there are a few reasons for that. I immediately lunged for the alcohol FREE mouthwash and ran back to the pharmacy to complete my errand. I do know myself and I also know my sickness. Does it sound completely illogical that a grown-ass woman would someday think it reasonable to down three bottles of mouthwash to get a buzz? It should. But to me, it doesn’t. It sounds like it could happen if I let that insanity get into my head and start listening to the lies it tells me. For me to jump from mouthwash to full blown relapse SOUNDS implausible to every single person I know, save for the alcoholics who are reading this right now and shaking their heads in unison so vigorously that even I can hear it as I type.

Someone once said that while we’re in recovery, our sickness is outside doing push-ups and I believe that whole-heartedly. No one has ever lied to me like I’VE lied to me. I have a hilarious and precious friend who is also retired from alcohol and she succinctly sums it up;

“Today I wouldn’t take a drink if you paid me a million dollars but tomorrow I may just take one for free.”


And that, my friends, is the insanity of alcoholism.

The Paradox of Pizza

Best case scenario.

Yesterday I traveled to a rural town in Kentucky to attend a celebration of life ceremony.  Despite the somber purpose for the trip, I was thrilled about spending the night in a hotel solo.  Having a busy life and a husband and kids and whatnot, this is a rare occasion and I intended to take every advantage of the opportunity.  Hog the bed.  Order room service.  Watch something non-sports related on tv.  Read uninterrupted.  You get it.

As I settled into my room I realized that room service wasn’t an option.  This isn’t the Waldorf, y’all.  As luck would have it I found a pizza place that delivers and I placed my order and changed into my comfy sweats for a night of unadulterated solitude.  Heaven.

Not long there was a knock at my door.  When I opened the door there stood a big ole corn fed young buck named Justin.  He was over 6ft tall with curly blonde hair that spilled out from under his ball cap that was emblazoned with a slice of what appeared to be pepperoni pizza.  He presented the box to me with a big smile and exclaimed “here’s your piping hot pizza pie”!   I’d also ordered two 20 oz bottles of water and a Hershey’s creme pie for dessert (don’t you judge me) so I grabbed one of the bags as Justin set the pizza down on my hotel room dresser.  We chatted for a moment about the town and what I felt was their serious lack of streetlights.

“Seriously”, I said.  “This place is impossible to navigate!  Where are the street lights?  Where are the helmet laws?  You wouldn’t catch my old ass careening down these mountains on a motorcycle without one!  I hope these dumbasses are signing their organ donor cards”.   I realized as the words were coming out of my mouth that I sounded like a cantankerous old bag.  This kid was half my age and as I stood  there in my sweatpants, ponytail and glasses I’m sure I looked like some paranoid insane crone that he’d surely have avoided in the grocery store.

I was surprised when he started laughing and nodding his head.  He said I was “his kind of lady” and while flattered, I kind of died a little inside at “lady” but I digress.  He proceeded to tell me that he was off in an hour and he and a few friends were gonna grab some beers and whiskey and “drag the gut” and asked if I’d like to join them.  After clearing up the meaning of that expression, read: “cruise the local strip”, I politely declined but told him I appreciated the invite.

“Well, if you change your mind, you know where I work – give me a call!”  I gave him a fat tip and told him to be safe.

End of story?  You’d think so, wouldn’t you?   Well, you’re probably not an alcoholic. As soon as the door shut I felt a rush of adrenaline hit me like the cold spray from a garden hose.   The logistics of my situation were indisputable.  I had already called and said goodnight to my husband.  I was 150 miles away from my home.  NO ONE would know if I went and had a few with the local yokels.   In fact, I could have an EPIC binge and no one would be the wiser.   JUST ONE NIGHT FOR GOD’S SAKE.  I’ve been sober TWO years now.  Surely I could go out for a couple, right?  Just let my hair down and have some laughs, that’s all.  I mean, I won’t even TOUCH the whiskey – beer only.  These are the things that raced through my head as I stared at the clock and did the math in my head of how long it would take for me to get dressed again and catch Justin before he left work.  I WANT TO DRAG THE GUT.

I wish I could say I’m kidding.  And I know what you’re thinking on top of the initial horror of my mental incapacity…I’m married.  HAPPILY.  What kind of gal would even CONSIDER getting into a vehicle of unknown 20-something dudes to get drunk and DRIVE around a strange town when she can’t find her way out of a paper bag with one end open?  WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!?!

I could literally lose everything…my sobriety, my husband or even my life.  In no parallel universe is this a good idea.  And yet, there I was…heartbeat galloping in my chest at what I envisioned in my delusion as adventursome possibilities.  I’m rationalized that I’m a free spirit, after all.  I cannot be tamed!

In reality this entire dreamed up scenario lasted less than a minute, maybe two.  I settled in with my pizza and The Conjuring and had a perfectly lovely quiet evening.  I told myself that I “still got it” and then laughed at my reflection in the mirror over the dresser.  An almost 50 year old gal in sweats and a Dolly Parton t-shirt wearing nerdy glasses and a ponytail.  Notsomuch glamorous, no.  But sober and staying that way.

For tonight, anyway.