In the last month or so I’ve had a few different people accuse me of glossing over my alcoholism on social media. I’m not sure what that’s all about, exactly. I assume this doesn’t occur to most people and the angry belief that I’m not tweeting/blogging/Instagramming/whatever-ing enough about addiction comes from a place of being Weirdly Focused and/or Overly Invested. But I suppose it’s also true that I talked about it a lot for a while, and then I didn’t.
I have one of those sobriety apps on my phone, the kind that simply tells you how long it’s been since your last drink. At first I launched it all the time and stared at the counter like it held some great secret promise. I’d switch between the days and months view to see what felt longer, as if there was some sort of gaming checkpoint hidden in there. As if you don’t go all the way back to zero if you fuck up.
Today the app says I’ve been sober for 8 months and 22 days. (Or: 266 days.) The numbers seem calmer, more certain. I have no doubt that I will see twelve months on that screen, and that it will keep climbing.
What I didn’t tell you before is that I’d been backsliding for a long time. I was drinking in secret when JB traveled. It wasn’t happening frequently, but it was often enough for me to get progressively worse. I sometimes wonder if part of me engineered the humiliating public events of last June as a desperate way of throwing on the brakes — although perhaps that lends too much control to what was clearly an out-of-control situation.
The first few weeks were as raw and terrible as anything I’ve ever gone through. For days on end I ate sandwiches made from Wonder bread, yellow mustard, and bologna, in some strange attempt to be gentle with myself. (It was like eating something from a half-remembered childhood memory — the wadded-up dough that sticks to the roof of your mouth, the bland hotdog taste of the bologna — and I’ve never wanted it before or since.) I slept too much, I cried too easily, I was convinced I was utterly worthless and my family would be better off without me. I twitched in shame and my heart pounded with anxiety. I was utterly revolted by the person I saw in the mirror.
And slowly it got better. I stopped passively suffering and I started working on healing. Little by little, that suffocating miasma of self-loathing began clearing away. The days added up.
I don’t go to meetings these days, but I still see a counselor. We mostly talk about inconsequential things to start with, then meander around until we get to a subject that feels like it’s tugging on something, and we delve into that. I think of our appointments as my regularly-scheduled emotional spring cleaning. Lifting up rugs and exposing the detritus I’ve swept out of sight.
I belong to a private Facebook group for alcoholics, and while I don’t post there very often, I read it every day. Over and over, I read about people relapsing. For a while I wondered how healthy that might be, whether it created a discouraging outlook that backsliding was somehow inevitable, but I’ve come to believe these stories serve as an important reminder for me. They are, in maybe a morbid sort of way, an ongoing exercise in gratitude.
Last but not least, I’m committed to a fitness routine. I know without a shadow of a doubt that exercise has a direct impact on my mental health. It is, I think, the most critical part of my recovery.
My name’s Linda, and I’m an alcoholic. I will never stop being ashamed of the terrible choices I’ve made. But I’m facing forward now. I’m doing things differently than I did before, and my outlook is stronger. I am hopeful about my future. I’m a thousand times healthier than I was 266 days ago. I fully own what led me to that point, and I’m incredibly grateful not to be there any more.
I feel good, these days. Really good. And I’m glad you’ve been here when I’ve needed to talk. It’s helped me more than you could know.