Y’all. It is December 26th and I feel like a weight has lifted. I am reveling in the magic of this morning (with a dash of grief for the death George Michaels to which I say, “F*ck you, 2016”). I woke up, dragged my ass to the gym, made a protein smoothie and then gave myself some space to appreciate the fact that I am not in bed hungover with a slight cough from smoking because I came very, VERY close to that reality.
Everybody who celebrates (and many who don’t) have their own relationship with Christmas. Generally speaking, I like this holiday. I like the music, the baked goods, the warmth. For me Christmas evokes the imagery of fire places, warm sweaters, hot cocoa, and family. Last year was particularly great as I got to spend the holiday season in Rome. This year, however, the hubs and I stayed in the UAE, far away from family and friends and I struggled through the entire day. Here are the three very big thorns in my sober side from Christmas 2016.
With each relapse I’ve had since June 2016, I’m always reminded the next day that my brain is at odds with alcohol. The effects range. I may wake up with the shakes and feeling like I might jump out of my skin, heart racing, and mind a jumbled mess. It is also possible that I will wake up feeling incredibly depressed and have to dig deep just to get out of bed and wash or eat. Sometimes I wake up feeling wound up. I bounce off the walls and want to go, go, go!
Why the Jekyll and Hyde routine? There are two answers to that question…
I’m spending a lot of time these days reading addiction memoirs. After finishing Caroline Knapp’s book, I moved on to David Carr’s Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own. This is a fascinating book conceptually. Carr discusses at length our inability as humans to accurately recall our past. This is particularly true for addicts, so he decided to approach his memoir from the standpoint of a journalist. He interviewed the people from his past to arrive at some closer version of the truth about his life and the days he spent using.
Carr is a phenomenal writer and although I’m only fifty pages in, I am picking up a lot of insights and nuggets of wisdom. I read something today in his book that made me pause and do a little personal unpacking. Carr writes: “But being an addict means that you never stipulate to being an adult. You may, as the occasion requires, adopt the trade dress of a grown-up, showing responsibility and gravitas in spurts to get by, but the rest of the time, you do what you want when you want…
I’ve been having an eye-opening experience with Caroline Knapp’s book, “Drinking: A Love Story.” Before I get started with this train of thought, I will just say that anyone who has or has had a bad relationship with alcohol should read this book. I find myself stopping to highlight and make notes a lot while I read. Often her words sound like conversations I’ve had in my own head. “Me too,” I say.
Yesterday, I read her thoughts on moderation and the self-help trend during the 90’s that she dubs the “moderation movement.” She calls the idea that you can teach or train an alcoholic to moderate her drinking a contradiction in terms. The lack of an inability to moderate is, by definition, what makes us alcoholics. Most of us have never moderated alcohol. She writes, “The struggle to control intake – modify it, cut it back, deploy a hundred different drinking strategies in the effort – is one of the most universal hallmarks of alcoholic behavior.”
I know this behavior all too well, as did Knapp, as do probably a million folks worldwide who experience the same struggles with alcohol that we do. I chuckled a little to myself reading the various examples she gives the reader: switching from hard liquor to beer (me, except it was cider), setting time limits on drinking (ex. I won’t drink before five – also me), and my personal favorite that never worked but was suggested to me by a women’s magazine, “have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol.” The amount of mental energy I have wasted negotiating with myself on alcohol consumption, finding ways to get out of stopping and just change it up a little, is both astounding and laughable. What was I doing? Why do I STILL find myself engaging in this song and dance…