I messed up.
I figured I made my commitment public, so I should make my mistakes public too. With the first swallow of champagne at my office Christmas party, I knew I was letting down a lot of people–my family and therapist and doctors, but also you, whoever you are, reading this right now, you who have probably commented on these posts or sent me an encouraging message or shared your own struggle. You’ve done so much to build me up and I owe you honesty.
I got scared and I got impatient. Two weeks ago I became a full-time receptionist for a fun family-owned company, so I attended my first grown-up office Christmas party this weekend. I should’ve been satisfied with the company of my kind coworkers, the retro ambiance of the supper club strung with jumbo sparkling snowflakes and glass ornaments, and the endless Italian food. (Bruschetta. Bread. Pasta. Heaven.)
But I kept eyeing the open bottles of wine and champagne stationed at each place setting, the bulbous glasses of Old Fashioneds and thimbles of limoncello floating past on servers’ trays. I turned down initial offers to fill my neglected wine glass or share in a round of shots. Politely, people asked why not? And I told a half-truth: “Medication,” I said, shrugging. “It kills me, but I’m not supposed to drink.” I didn’t drop the sobriety bomb because I didn’t want to kill the buzz, but more because I wanted to give myself wiggle room. In case I went rogue. In case I chose the thing I want over the thing I need. Because these people don’t see my Facebook feed, and didn’t know me when I went into the hospital, and so far seem to think I’ve got my shit together.
I thought, It’s been almost three months. I get to work (mostly) on time. I pay the bills. I finished a draft of a play. I could have one night, one party. I deserve this, maybe, right?
I thought, I don’t know how to talk to anyone. This could be a bonding thing. I don’t know what to say, I feel so guilty about that thing from earlier I can’t stop thinking about, my insides itch with all this feeling. I can’t stop eating. Shit I’ve gotten fat. I miss champagne, and this is all free. I should be writing, I should be auditioning, why am I not writing right now, like Mindy Kaling was working on The Office when she was 24 and should I even be a writer I mean all of my ideas are OK but who cares and I really want to check my phone but I don’t want to be That Person but I’m not feeling chatty right now and I could fall asleep at this table I wish I could just lube this all up with that Merlot but obviously I’m an alcoholic if I’m thinking about alcohol this much because a normal drinker wouldn’t spend half the night staring at an empty cup with this mopey wistful face but I might as well just get it over with–
So I stuck out my glass.
“Are you sure?” asked the girl next to me, the coworker who lights up at any mention of mineral collecting and always offers me rides.
“Just a little,” I insisted.
“We’re not pressuring you, are we?”
They’re not. I’m pressuring myself, or the pressure is inside me crushing outward, and the alcohol is a problem but the bigger problem is the way I seize it at the slightest stress. Because I’m horking down bread the way I want to be drinking; I’m filling the void with all the carbs in any form that come my way.
Once the glass was poured, I set it down (see look at that self-control) and reconsidered: the acquaintance who hugged me and told me he’s reading this and good job and keep going, the check-in texts I keep getting from new friends who know what I’m going through, the long Facebook message from an old friend giving me her private history in the hope that I can keep pushing.
But still I drank.
And–surprise–I didn’t feel better. Just guilty, and stupid, and disappointed.
I took a few more defiant sips (slowly, deliberately, way too deliberately considering nothing else had my attention) and poured the rest out into the empty martini glass from which I’d drained two mocktails before I broke down for the real deal.
The big failure: sobriety broken. The tiny victory: I didn’t get drunk. Just lucky.
My therapist says one day at a time because the idea of indefinite sober days overwhelms me. To think my own thoughts every waking moment? It’s both a wonder and a terror when your thinking parts are sick. This was the first time since September that I tried to escape my anxious brain, but it may not be the last.
I tell the truth because you, dear reader, keep me accountable and therefore you keep me safe. My transparency is selfish and self-centered but just may save me from another trip to the psych ward, so I keep clicking Publish.