The Found Weekend
The cursor had been blinking for an hour, waiting for me to hit enter. Often I would rise from the desk, go about my night, then return to the desk and consider hitting that button. The moment I did, it would all change. Everyone would know. My privacy would be gone. I didn’t have privacy hangups – after all I have been a blogger for many years and I had just published a rather frank memoir. This, though, was a particularly strong confession I was about to make, in an enormously public place. If I chose to hit ‘enter’, the bell could not be unrung. They would all know.
I was in rehab.
For ten years I was sober. An entire decade of not drinking had been discarded, in one moment. I had weighed the options, the glass of liquor in front of me for a long time, before making the decision to take that first drink in 3650 days. I thought long and hard; and I took the drink. That is how unhappy I was working at the catering company called My Cooking Party. Once that first drink had been consumed, all bets were off. Pat knew, immediately, that I was drinking, though it took him nine days to confront me. I told him that I had gotten off the wagon and would get back on when I was ready. Several times over the next four years I would try to stop, each time believing that I would succeed. I knew I would be able to — after all I had quit cold turkey ten years earlier and stayed clean. I would be able to stop any time I wanted, I was certain of that.
Not so. Turns out I was wrong.
This time quitting was so much harder than the last time. See, the last time I stopped I was in my 30s. I still had a lot of future ahead of me. The Sweater Book was going to be published. I was going to change things, lose some weight, be pretty again, make life better. I had choices, options and possibilities. That was almost fifteen years ago. This time I was in my fifties. Everything I had attempted had failed and I was working as a waiter. I was out of options and my shot at finding any was eluding me, in the extreme. I decided I would have just one more drink and then stop tomorrow. Over and over. The drinking never helped, either. If I had one drink, I had ten. I could put away a bottle of any alcoholic drink in a single, short sitting. Then I would think about five decades of unhappiness and mistakes. And I would weep. Then I would call people and weep some more. What made me weep? You name it. Growing up, my father didn’t like me. In school, the kids were mean to me. At 17 my 30 year old lover abused me verbally and psychologically. I had been mistreated and fired from jobs. I had lost my hair. I had gained weight. Gay men had demeaned me. My husband had cheated on me. My acting career had fizzled. My photography had tanked. Nobody bought my book. The movie I conceived didn’t take off; and this time it wasn’t just my dream – it was the dream of three other people. The pain of injuries had cost me my perfect body. Friends and clients had diminished me by, repeatedly, demanding that I either work for free or work for a fraction of my fee, while they paid other professionals that they hired their full fees. I had had to sell my possessions and my body to pay the bills and I was out of money, out of options and working as a fifty year old waiter for a company that made me miserable. After I left that company I continued working as a waiter for companies that paid me very little money. I was a bona fide failure. I had failed not only myself but my husband and my family. So, yeah, I kept on drinking. And drunk dialing people. I drove away some friends and scared the others. And most of all, my husband was terrified and worried. But I was so busy at my pity party of one that I didn’t notice.
I thought that I was keeping it a secret. I didn’t drink at work, only after work. I didn’t drink at home, only away from home. I made sure that I spaced out my drinking and my time around people, so nobody would be able to tell I was drinking. I lived on peanut butter, bananas, tunafish and mint oil because I was positive they would mask the smell of the alcohol. I was sure people weren’t aware how much I was drinking, even though most of my family and friends did, in fact, know that I was drinking. The brutal truth is that everyone knew I was drinking, when I was drinking, when I was drunk and that I was lying about it. You can’t hide the smell. Even if I wasn’t actively drinking, I was sweating out my last binge. Or I smelled of booze because when I worked catering gigs I would spill it on myself so that I could at least smell it until the event was over and I could drink the dregs of a bottle during breakdown, even the dregs of the glasses I was bussing. And when I would leave home, go drink someplace else, and then come home, my behavior was a dead giveaway. If I was in the homes of my friends and sneaked a drink when they were out of the room, they knew it. I’m a sloppy, messy and mean drunk. And weepy. They all knew it. And they had family meetings when I wasn’t there to discuss what could be done about it. My closest loved ones were conspiring to make me happy, make me sober and make me livable.
Only we all know they couldn’t do it. Only I could do it. And I would have to do it alone.
You see, the last time I had quit I had god. I was a devoted pantheist, chanting buddhist chant every day and having regular conversations with god. I had a sense of spirituality, focus and balance. During the years that I had started drinking again, I had transitioned into the life of a militant atheist. I didn’t just not believe in god, I hated god. I hated people who talked about god, I hated the mention of god, I disdained anyone and anything that made mention of god. I was going to have to get sober on my own, which was going to be fuck all of impossible. And I knew it. And I was tired. I’d been tired for a long time; and once you get to be this kind of tired, it’s a deep well out of which to dig yourself. It was fuck all of impossible.
So I stopped lying. To myself and to everyone else. I sat down with my husband, who had been researching recovery programs that didn’t involve god. He found one and showed me the link, so I read it. I liked what I read and I went to my first meeting at the Addiction Center of the hospital. Within a week I knew that I had the right program. Also within a week I was eating bags of candy and chips — anything to keep from drinking. I tried smoking and hated it. I tried sleeping all day and kind of loved it. I was on social lockdown so that I would not be put into uncomfortable positions where I would be drinking. I needed to be away from people and the continual grilling for information. I needed to be on my own and in my group, getting better. I retired from the catering industry because there were too many temptations and I found the work, the guests, the people in charge demeaning. I had come too close to getting drunk on the job too many times and was terrified of having it happen. Getting the liquor on my skin was no longer enough – I was swishing it around my mouth and spitting it out. It was just too close. And not eating at jobs, then drinking during breakdown sent me home freshly inebriated, to the dismay of my husband. It was time and I knew it. I had hit rock bottom.
You can only hit rock bottom when you stop digging.
So I went to that first day of rehab and started digging. I began looking for the reasons I drank. I decided to set ’em up and knock ’em down. And these meetings were incredibly helpful. I began to see things clearly again. I began to talk it out, in my meetings and with my husband. I began to feel like Bulldozer Mosher again. I began to feel clean again. I even began to feel a little hope again, something that I had long since discarded.
On the 11th day I was in a meeting and we were asked to do an exercise in which we listed the five things most important to us. Mine are always the same: spouse, sobriety, family, home, happiness. Everyone listed their top five. The moderator pointed out that nobody had their drug of choice on their list. Well, then. If it doesn’t even make the top five, who needs it? The following day it occurred to me that I spent five decades sweating over everything. If I didn’t care SO much about EVERYTHING, I might never have become an alcoholic. So I decided to put the things that weren’t paramount, of utmost importance, on the list of I Don’t Give A Fuck. On the third day two people who have meant the world to me hurt me, right to the core, the easiest way to get me to drink. They diminished me and made me feel worthless and invisible — my biggest triggers. I was visiting a friend and when he left the room I grabbed the scotch, fully intending one big gulp before he returned. Within moments I put it back, untouched. I would make a different choice. From now on, I would make different choices. I went home proud and smiling.
I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know who I will become next. I know what’s important to me and what I have to do. So I wake up every morning and do it. I focus on my loved ones, the people who have stood by me while I was flailing, because I owe it to them to stay clean. It’s no trick loving someone at their best; love’s loving them at their worst. Well, they’ve seen my worst. It’s time for them to see my best. They’ve seen it before. I just need to remember who that person is and what the best is and bring it forth for all to see.
And that meant everybody. All the people on the Facebook Machine who have been my friends, my fans, my supporters, my family all these years – they deserved to know the truth. They should be told that why I was turning down all their invitations, they should be aware that it was, in fact, not them – it was me. They should know that I’m human and fallible. They should know who I really am. So I sat down and wrote an online confession, explaining the struggle and the journey back into the light. Then I sat there and looked at it for an hour. It was going to open up a barrage of uncomfortable questions and make necessary the destruction of my privacy. It was a difficult decision, one I sweated out for an hour. But wouldn’t it be worth it? Living in the light? Wouldn’t it be worth it? No secrets, no lies? Wouldn’t it be worth it? Having people see you? It was a difficult decision… until it was an easy one. Until it was the right one. Until it was the honest one. For me, it has to be about right and honest, whatever the sacrifice. And it is a sacrifice I was willing to make.
I sat down and looked at the screen one last time, raised my right index finger to the keyboard and felt the plastic of the key.