We all hear the stories of alcoholics who almost completely ruin their lives before getting sober. They are secretly chugging bottles of vodka, crashing cars, getting arrested, and continuously putting themselves into incredibly dangerous situations. I have addicts like this in my family, and I greatly sympathize with them. I am so proud of them when they finally do hit bottom and get sober. But do we have to experience such acute pain? Is there such a thing as a high bottom drunk?
But what about the alcoholics who have “high bottoms”? These are the people who, from an external view, seem to have a relatively healthy relationship with alcohol. Rather than continuing to speak in general terms, let me touch on my own relationship with alcohol and having a high bottom. I was a binge drinker from the age 17 until I was about 21. The first time I ever got drunk, I fell in love with what alcohol did to me. I went from being the shy and uncomfortable girl to being the witty and charismatic life of the party. Whenever I got drunk I fell in love with the people around me and kept the night going until I was the last person standing. Around age 21 I got my sh*t together, so to speak. I hit a rock bottom at this age, and it became apparent that I had to cut down on my drinking (if you are interested, I speak about some of my bottoms around this age on episode 99 of Recovery Elevator). I quit drinking for a month, and completely reevaluated my relationship with alcohol. Although at the time, I knew I was an addict, I convinced myself that I could continue drinking if I could implement moderation. I valued drinking so much that I forced myself to do this.
Surprisingly enough, I got really good at moderating alcohol. I credit a lot of this to the hangovers. I get incredibly bad hangovers after having only 3 or 4 drinks. The hangovers have become so bad, that as much as I love getting buzzed, even when I am 3 drinks in I often can’t justify having a fourth because I know too well how I will feel the next day. The bad hangovers have been enough to keep me in check with my drinking over the past few years.
I am 24 and although I spent two months at the start of this year sober, I have been continuously drinking for the past 3 years, until recently. During this time I have consistently worked, traveled around the world, paid all of my bills on time, and built and maintained some amazing friendships. I have been able to appear like your typical young adult. A lot of my friends have been in the advertising industry and we worked long hours during the week and spent our weekends partying on rooftops, often ending up at someone’s apartment where we would talk until 3 am about life! (you know the alcohol infused conversations that can miraculously jump from global warming to the illuminati to art, then to the Kardashians, and end up all the way back at the meaning of life?).
Even though everything seemed “fine”, I have continued to return back to this idea of sobriety. I don’t know how to describe it other than by saying there is a part of me that I keep deep inside that just knows I will live a better life sober. I am reminded of this come Sunday morning when I spend the day doing absolutely nothing other than nursing a hangover. I am reminded of this when I look in the mirror and see that my eyes have been drained of any spark they may have. I am reminded by this when I spend a few weeks sober, and notice that my body just starts to glow when I am not making it process alcohol. I am reminded of this when I wake up at 3 am and feel the dread and anxiety that comes after my wine buzz has faded. I am reminded of this when after a night out I awake and feel deeply unlovable. I am reminded of this when I realize I rely on alcohol to make me feel worthy of great relationships. I am reminded of this by all the subtle ways alcohol makes my life a bit darker.
Just as the ways drinking negatively affected my life were somewhat subtle, the ways sobriety impacts my life are also subtle. So far sobriety has not made me lose 20 pounds or get an amazing job or find an amazing life partner. For me sobriety looks like me spending 15 minutes every night stretching while listening to music I love. It’s being able to make plans on both weekend days because I no longer have to have one reserved for nursing a hangover. It’s allowing myself to sit with feelings like loneliness or sadness, without immediately trying to cover them up with a drunken night out. It’s finding the time to exercise 4-5 times a week, something I never had the energy to maintain while drinking. It’s money I’m saving. It’s going to bed knowing I will wake up and be myself, not the exhausted zombie alcohol makes me become.
As my days of sobriety tick by I start to flirt with the idea of drinking again. I justify this by reminding myself that I wasn’t an “out of control drunk”. I have a feeling that other people with high bottoms may do the same. All I can say is that in these moments, you must let these feelings come and go without acting on them. And then in the moments when you do feel good, really let yourself feel that and it will remind you why you are staying sober.
I am 24 days sober, and the reason why I stopped drinking this time is not because I hit a low. It’s because I am sick and tired of living a mediocre life. I am tired of being a “functional” alcoholic. I don’t want to go through life just simply functioning through it all- barely squeaking by. I want a life that is good, or possibly, maybe, even great. And I am fully aware that when I am drinking, I’m just not going to push for that. When I am drinking, I am fine settling for mediocre, as long as it means I can order another round.
I’ve been journaling a lot lately, and I recently wrote a love letter to my high bottom. I thanked it for allowing me to have to take responsibility for my sobriety. I am not choosing sobriety because things got so bad they couldn’t get any worse. I am not choosing sobriety to make a partner or my parents feel relieved. I am choosing sobriety because I believe it will lead to a better life. When you get sober at a high bottom, it means you are truly listening to yourself. You aren’t getting sober because the world is telling you to, it’s because you want to, and that is the fuel that will keep going.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a local women’s group, the subject was “Overcoming Our Struggles.”
For three weeks prior to this event, I wrote and rewrote countless versions of what I would say. I have told my story before, always to a group of other recovering alcoholics; never to a room full of “normies.” I vacillated with being 100% transparent about my addiction, or toning it down.
Finally, the night prior to the event, as I started yet another vain attempt at writing my thoughts on paper, I realized I was using an old notebook as a sturdy surface to write upon. When I opened this tablet, the first few pages were filled with the words that follow, written at 6 months of sobriety.
It was exactly what I had been longing to find, to share with this group of local moms. It was an exercise I had done during my first of 12 steps for my AA sponsor: How I came to realize I was powerless over alcohol.
“How did alcohol, my addiction, render me powerless? When exactly did it take over?
It is odd, the irony. Initially the drink gave me pseudo power when I never felt I was enough. Power to gain popularity. Power to use my often intimidated voice. Power to boldly walk in front of my peers; not filled with fear. Alcohol truly served as my personal wolf in sheep’s clothing. This magic elixir, a cure all for my plentiful emotional ailments. My perceived social faux pas and devoted mask to face my biggest foe; self-imposed social scrutiny.
In time, through trial, error and immense pain, this myth of power (lending itself to miscalculated confidence) became my terrifying reality; spiritual chaos.
- I denied myself any amount of genuine success through self-sabotaging; jobs, relationships, and life in general.
- I was full of self-loathing and self-deception.
- My desire to drink overcame and replaced my ideals of love and personal well-being.
- Deprivation of self-care became apparent; directly affecting my self-esteem, my children, jobs, and love relationships.
- Preoccupation with my addiction misguided me through all of my life experiences; hobbies, social interactions, and employment all had to adjust to suit my needs to drink. I would only dine out where there was a diverse selection of beer and wine on the menu.
- Neglect of my children and their life experiences, due to my lack of honest engagement, consistency, and meaningful family moments.
- I became reckless, mixing prescription drugs with alcohol. Ignored my declining liver function and high blood pressure, and began to drive while intoxicated.
- Inconsistent thinking led to irrational decisions about my declining marriage and subsequent failed partnerships post-divorce.
I experienced the death of my life power when I ceased to enjoy my relationships; familial, spiritual, and romantic. When I started not giving a damn if I could recall and celebrate important milestones. When I simply would rather “sleep” under a blanket, behind closed blinds, all day rather than behave like a functioning adult.
The most profound loss of power happened during the last two years of my drinking. When I continued to indulge my addiction, realizing that I would likely die if I didn’t stop. I continued to validate my reasons for doing so. Each day, I would gaze at my reflection, through yellow watering eyes, longing to see someone I recognized. I would often pray for God to just take me, as I would have welcomed death over the lifeless existence I was suffering through. With each morning sunbeam, I realized the disappointment of having to endure another day with the bottle.
Finally, I relinquished all of my life power when I admitted to my own children that I didn’t want to live anymore. In a terrifying moment, they saved me. The two loves of my life, thrust into a situation only the worst nightmares can offer. I made my intentions clear as I held a bottle of pills in my hand.
This was the final surrender; my rock bottom.
The bittersweet dichotomy:
While I felt powerless, finally giving in with a suicidal admission, I gained a miniscule amount of power back with the exhausted abandonment of my addiction.”
I am grateful today to have survived that bottoming out over two years ago; life is amazing. Sobriety is certainly not perfect, without struggle or void of pain. Life is real. I feel everything, as a living human should. Now worthy of experiencing situations in a lucid state of mind and sitting through feelings I pushed into a corner for far too many years.
My reflection now seems more familiar; I appreciate the person looking back at me with hopeful eyes and frequent serenity in her heart.
My presentation went well. There were moments of old self-doubt, when I was positive I was not connecting with any of these new faces looking back at me. After the event, four women approached me with stories of their own; each with varying degrees of struggle, recovery, and hope.
Use your voice, keep your life power.
Sober Recovery Memes
One of my favorite things to do while traveling is create sober recovery memes. They are all related to my memories of drinking and creating these recovery memes is a great way to add humor to my recovery. I’ve created over 100 sober memes and plan to keep on making these recovery memes as long as I am sober. Well, if I do drink, which isn’t the plan, I’ll continue to make memes about how drinking sucks.
You can see that the rock star in my life is my best friend Ben who is a standard poodle. When drinking, I often skipped his meals, didn’t deliver on promises of taking him on walks and overall was a sub par dog owner. Now things are much different as these sober recovery memes indicate.
Humor in recovery is essential and sober memes is a great way for me to express my creativity and smile. Sure there were tough times in the past when I was drinking, but looking back on these drunken moments and letting go is a big part of my recovery.
Be sure to add plenty of laughter to your recovery and don’t take yourself too seriously.
If you have any sober memes you’d like to add, send them to email@example.com. I found a free meme creator on the app store and I started creating memes. At first I thought it would be difficult creating sober recovery memes but once the creative juices starting flowing, I couldn’t keep up with my mind. Memes, although simple in nature, can be a powerful representation of how amazing sobriety can be. If you’re looking to get sober, I recommend downloading a meme app and creating some sober memes. They are a lot of fun to make.
Yesterday, I eclipsed my first thirty days of sobriety in over twelve years. I stopped drinking on December 5th, 2016 and have remained sober using close accountability and honesty with my wife and listening to 90 RE Podcasts in 30 days. The support, encouragement, and connection with you and your interviewees of this last 30 days have been an immeasurable reminder of the depths I have slipped to at times, but more importantly, the hope of a limitless future without the pull and dependence of alcohol.
Like many, I probably should have hit what others would have viewed as a “bottom” a long time ago.
I am 41 years old and began drinking at age 12. I had the normal occasional weekend parties of going out with friends, finding alcohol, and using in that fashion through high school. This was normal within our social structure and I never questioned alcohol as a problem. I most certainly would have never predicted alcoholism in my future, as I spent the next 10 years only having the occasional beer/s on Thanksgiving, Super Bowls, camping etc.…
After high school, in 1993, I married young at age 18, and alcohol simply did not follow me into the responsibilities of young adulthood. At age 18, I acquired a low end job at an affiliate of the University in my hometown that focused on biology research. I was soon entrusted with lab and research responsibilities that that included genetic research on Downs Syndrome, ALS, and The Human Genome Project. In a ten year stretch, non-college educated, I was an author on three pier reviewed research publications. Professionally, paralleling this at home, I was involved in our local church as a staff Youth Pastor and developing my own small commercial business in the evenings. I was busy.
My wife developed Lupus in her early twenties and her condition was chronic and fairly severe. We had a child when I was 25 and a lot of his care, Dad and Mom duties, were directed to me. Normal life stuff, but by age 28/29 in 2004/2005 I had a wife and child in a big house in an affluent Denver suburb. Multiple income streams, including a growing small business. Little to no drinking… holidays, birthdays, a 6-pack of beer could sit in my fridge for months.
As we settled into our ideal home, in the ideal neighborhood, we really started connecting with our neighbors. Weekend drinking, sitting out in lawn chairs, listening to music, watching the kids play started to become the norm. I loved it. My “responsibility bank” was overdrawn and I absolutely loved getting to the end of the week and winding down with friends and neighbors.
In 2007, a handful of us went down to a bar fairly close to home. We were celebrating a friend’s promotion. We had a designated driver, but she began drinking. Me, being the “caretaker” of all things, business, church, family, and now friends, I elected myself to drive us home. This was my first DUI.
Following the legal gymnastics of getting through the DUI process, I did not feel like I had an alcohol problem. In the secrecy of like company, you find out that a lot of people get DUI’s. In fact, the same prominent person who received the promotion, of whom we were celebrating, pulled me aside the next day and told me that he had gotten a DUI, and if his company did not bury it in a drawer, he would not have gotten his promotion. Normal, everyday people got DUIs. The court systems feed off of the DUI revenue…etc.
With my commercial cleaning business thriving, and the difficulties of taking care of everything I was juggling (family, business, and legal). I chose to quit working for the University and stop my research career, something I absolutely loved. I began to realize that just being a small business owner, a janitor, was a tad less fulfilling and weekend drinking in the neighborhood started to bleed into the weekday nights.
In 2008/2009, my 16 year marriage had run its course. I say this somewhat casually, but it was so difficult. I know people would probably assume that drinking played a big role in this divorce, but I can honestly take inventory and say that it didn’t. My wife felt like she had missed out on her younger years, said she felt like she was “35 going on 25”, and wanted new, more youthful experiences. There was infidelity discovered. I was devastated. I am the classic co-dependent, who finds his value in taking care of everybody else, my wife, my clients, my son, and my friends. I was highly functional and admired by everyone, yet all my efforts felt meaningless when publicly your marriage, something you hold dear, is dissolving. It felt like a moral failing. My elevator was about to start go down quickly.
In 2009, I had majority custody of my 8 year old son. My business, consisting of mostly evening work had to be fully staffed, so that I could be home with my son. I dialed everything in responsibility wise to maintain our home, business, and parenting. I had a lot of free time combined with a lot of self-pity. Woe is me, the guy who cares about everyone else, but just gets shit on. My night drinking bled into morning drinking to take the edge off a hangover and by the end of 2010 I was medicating day and night with alcohol just to feel normal. At the end of December 30th of 2010, I had wrapped up the end of month/year accounting for my business and I was going to celebrate at a bar in town. This was “going out” for me, and a rare occurrence. I did my drinking at home.
By the end of this evening, I knew I was too drunk to drive home. I called my cousin to see if she could pick me up. She came into the bar and, not to my knowledge, was already under the influence. I know she had a few more drinks at the bar, but she was my ride home and my only concern was that I was not putting myself in the situation of getting a DUI. Simply, on the way home, my cousin missed a turn and drove us into large rock barrier. I was transported by ambulance with a broken hip, femur, nose, 3 fingers, and torn ligaments in my neck. Hours later at the hospital my BAC was .36. I get it. This was supposed to be my bottom. Your friends and family standing over you in the hospital, your secret is out. Might as well admit you have a problem? My problem, as I saw it, were my first thoughts when I woke up in that trauma unit. “Shit, I’m still here?” I didn’t care if I did or did not have a problem. This is how I was going to get through the pains of life and other people and circumstances did not get to determine how I was going to live it. I was about to undergo serious physical rehabilitation and alcohol was going to help.
It didn’t. In the spring of 2011, just a few months later, I received my second DUI. I was going to pick up my son from school.
So, I know this was supposed to be “my bottom”, but I’d like to make an observation that I have not encountered on any of the Recovery Elevator Podcasts:
When you get a DUI, it can exacerbate drinking. The shame, the anxiety of an uncertain future / jail time, the stigma, the logistics of not driving, the piss tests, court ordered classes, forced AA, community service… Your whole world revolves around fixing this mistake and that mistake is ever-present before you. Second, and we all know this now, no one can make this decision to “How Can I Stop Drinking Alcohol” for you. So, at every turn, within the DUI process the authorities telling you not to do something, you are going to be obstinate. Forced quitting is counter opposed to an alcoholic’s pride.
I am thankful for the second DUI in so many ways. It forced moderation and I needed that, but I was an adult. I take care of my son, my bills, and my clients. I am functioning on a high level, and in a sick way, I liked the obstacles of the court system… I used to juggle so much more… I can juggle this too.
On July 4th of that same year, one day before I was to have my driving privileges revoked, I met my current wife at a 4th of July BBQ. I hesitated in giving her my phone number because I knew the journey I was about to undergo with all of the legal difficulties and lack of driving. I was embarrassed and ashamed and was content with putting my head in the sand and getting through it. That said, she called a week later, and I was transparent about what I was up against. We went through it together. We were married that following 4th of July, 2012. In many ways, I was able to hit the reset button. Legal problems aside, I looked like a normal drinker again, only because the court requirements, random tests, and eventually car breathalyzer demanded it. You probably know where this is going, but the further I got away from the legal restrictions, the more opportunities I/(now we) had to indulge in drinking more. –ISM (incredibly short memory) Ugh.
The drinking from 2013 – 2016 followed so many predictable patterns that I hear about on your show. We’d make rules and then break them. Only drinking on the weekends… broken. Only spending so much money a week on alcohol… broken. Only drinking at normal social events or holidays… broken. Geographical change (we moved up to a small mountain community) where we could reduce stress, business demands and of course, drink less… nope.
The best part of my story, is that I think I get to be a “high bottom”. It suits my pride to think so.
December 5th, for the most part, is my first attempt to quit drinking. Even with all of the difficulties described above, I never really had an interest in giving alcohol up. This is who I was, it was part of me and I would take the good with the bad.
My “Ah ha!” moment hit me at the end of July in 2016. My wife’s daughter had severe, multiple strokes from complications due to a car accident. I don’t know what it was, but it was the first time in my 40 years that I’d seen someone suffer like that. She was covered in more machines and apparatuses than you could see of her body. She was on blood thinners so that blood could get to her brain. Subsequently, the blood seeped from her mouth and nose. The doctors gave her a 5% chance of making it through the night. She suffered. The people around her suffered watching, especially her Mom.
I guess I had a lot of sober think time over those initial days, combined with an undoubtedly “Higher Power” experience in the hospital. The takeaway was that I could not imagine purposely putting myself in that situation where other people were standing around me. Watching me suffer from the effects of alcoholism and me, in turn, knowing that I had let the people down who loved me the most … especially, for something I should be able to control.
For the first time above all the other reasons that I should have quit earlier, this preview into my future was my moment. I had a conversation with my wife on the grass of the hospital about the way I was feeling, my drinking, how I wanted to have a better and healthier life. How I didn’t want alcohol to be the end of our story. My wife’s daughter recovered with all of the painstaking aftercare that went along with it.
Drinking was cut back considerably in the fall of 2016, but I have to be honest, the mental obsession with when, where, how much… etc. were all there. If there was an event approaching the drinking would start early and end late… I mean days late, you know?
On Sunday, December 4th I had my last drink. No fireworks, no DUIs, no drunken outburst, just a 3 day fog of drinking coming to the end and an honest understanding that I am unable to control alcohol.
Monday, December 5th, I talked to my wife about alcohol and the extent to which my brain was broke. I was not fearful of her lack of understanding or support, just fearful of being the guy who can accomplish anything, but just can’t seem to accomplish finding the breaks once I start drinking.
Again, thank you Paul. I curled up those first 24 hours sick and ashamed. I searched for Podcasts and found RE. I listened to 5 or 6 to get me through the day, and 90 episodes over the last 30 days. You have no doubt been in peoples ears while they tremor. Your interviewees have encouraged someone when skin was like a pincushion and sleep was nowhere to be found. Your voice landed tips in the right moments at the right times during the holidays. For people who cannot get to meetings, you have brought the meetings to them.
Many Blessings to you and the RE team for 2017. “We can do this.”
First, I want to say thanks for the podcast. It’s been a huge help on my road to recovery – it’s been 53 days! I’ve been listening to RE since I decided to get sober and only felt compelled to write you after listening to the last episode about cognitive dissonance because it really hit home for me.
My journey has been somewhat interesting (as is everyone’s I’m sure). To start, I’m 29, I live in Weehawken, NJ and commute into Manhattan for work everyday. I live with my girlfriend of two years and our awesome Pomsky puppy named Mylo.
I started drinking when I was about 13, casually stealing beers, wine coolers or whatever I can get my hands on, and started binge drinking around 15. The progression was somewhat slow, but the writing was definitely on the wall – even at a young age. For all intents and purposes I had a great childhood. Loving family, great friends, great high school experience – things were good. I loved sports – especially golf – and played religiously. This allowed me to earn a Division 1 scholarship to Seton Hall University in NJ.
My freshman year of college was unique I’d say. One of my teammates recognized himself as a born again Christian and I grew close to him. I’ve always had a strong faith in God and the question of “why are we here?” is something that burns in me everyday – probably more than most – which has definitely been a driver of my drug and alcohol use. I was attending bible study with other athletes, going to church regularly, reading St. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine in the library on Friday nights, and made the decision to not got drunk anymore – which is an interesting and tough choice for a college freshman. That lasted the entire year until my one teammate from England was graduating and heading back home. I got drunk that night and it was off to the races.
The next 3 years of college consisted of heavy drinking, blacking out, waking up and doing it all over again. Since I hung out with athletes we got access to painkillers on a regular basis so I’d dabble with them every once and awhile and occasionally smoke some weed, but nothing too serious because we got drug tested. I lost interest in golf and built this persona for myself around my group of friends – life of the party. And I liked it and fed into it. At this time, thoughts of being an alcoholic would creep into my mind, but I quickly made them disappear. “I have a 3.7 GPA, I’m a Division 1 college athlete, I never get in trouble, I’m not hurting anyone. Everything’s fine!” – I’d tell myself.
Once I graduated, I had plans to backpack across Europe with one of my teammates. It was 2010 and the job market kind of sucked, and I was in no hurry to go sit behind a desk. Him and I decided to caddy all summer, save up and hit the road. On my second day, I caddied for a man who worked on Wall Street – he offered me a job a week later, and I took it. To this day, it’s one of my biggest regrets.
I fell into “Wall Street life”, and I fell hard. I was 22 at the time. It didn’t take long before cocaine became my drug of choice, and it went hand in hand with the liquor. I’d spend every dollar I made and live paycheck to paycheck just so I can party as much as possible. 4-5 nights a week I was out, but I was young and living the life (so I thought). The cocaine slowly led into pretty much whatever I can get my hands on (Molly, pills, K, whatever). Anything to take me out of reality and into some other stratosphere. I’d ride that high into oblivion – whatever it took. My friends started to slow down and I just hit the gas harder. I switched jobs 4 times during the last 7 years… constantly searching for some change or something to make a difference. Little did I know that it was ME that was the issue.
Things really got out of hand during the summer when I was 27 years old. Looking back, I’m just happy I came out of it alive. I got deep into gambling, won A LOT of money and then lost A LOT of money, didn’t go to work for days at a time, took a trip to Vegas, and it finally culminated with me getting arrested outside of a nightclub in NYC for possession of cocaine. I spent the night in central booking. A fitting end I suppose – since I was simply playing Russian roulette every time I went out. My family found out and led somewhat of an intervention. I decided to go see a therapist and a few months later I met my wonderful girlfriend who filled a huge void in my life. I never had any meaningful relationships. I was guarded, walled off. I’d go from girl to girl never getting close enough to get hurt.
However, all of this was still not enough to quit. I continued to drink and use, however, the incidents grew farther and farther apart, but when I’d go off the rails it would wreak havoc on my life. Finally, on November 12, I had enough. I went out for lunch Friday afternoon (the 11th) and came home the next day at 8am. I missed my niece’s baptism class, my girlfriend and my dog were gone when I got home, and I just sat on my bed and cried. I finally couldn’t take it anymore.
As I go through my journey, I’m trying to understand my addiction and how/why I ended up here. While I definitely believe there are some genetic factors (my aunt is 10 years sober and my grandfather was an alcoholic) I firmly believe it has a lot to do with emotional connection. While I had a ton of friends my whole life and was always around people – I felt completely alone. My first girlfriend cheated on me at a young age, my great-grandmother died when I was 20, my grandfather committed suicide when I was 23, my uncle died unexpectedly when I was 25, and my Dad suddenly passed away this August. As each event happened, I walled myself off as much as humanely possible. If I never felt vulnerable then I can never get hurt. I’m realizing now that the secrets, the hiding, the lack of vulnerability, the inability to show any emotion, and my thoughts on working/life have been a very significant driver in my drug and alcohol use – along with the genetic dispositions of course.
Addiction is complicated for sure, but I also find it fascinating. I’m excited about being sober and present for the first time in 15 years. I’m currently going to individual therapy, attending a 12 week outpatient program, attending AA, reading, listening to RE and Sober Guy podcast and learning/talking to other sober people as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve finally let go and told my family, girlfriend, and friends my history and it feels like a million pound boulder has been lifted off of me. I’ve got a great support system around me, and I’m grateful for that.
Sorry if this was long! Haha – it’s actually been quite therapeutic. It’s the first time I’ve written all this down. Once again, thanks for what you’re doing. It’s changing lives.
On January 16, at 18 days sober, I got up before dawn and drove 50 miles outside of the city to toe the line for a 25K trail race. I had no competitive goals; I just wanted to enjoy racing again. And…I did. It was invigorating, challenging, and at times even euphoric. It was all the things my addiction has robbed from me over and over again in the past two years. Trail racing is more exhausting than road racing because your brain is perpetually engaged. You’re constantly judging, calculating, balancing. As I ran through the woods, dodging roots and fallen branches and sliding through the mud, I felt more alive than I had in weeks. Maybe I can really kick this, I thought. For real this time.
Two and a half hours later, I finished, covered in dirt and full of joy. Later I discovered I was 6th female, which was a nice bonus, but it wasn’t why I was out there. I left fairly quickly, because there was an after-party for the normal people (the ones who can have a few, call it a day and go about their business) and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle that. Smart decision, right? Yes…but it sucked.
Because in my post-collegiate running career, I’ve learned that I could not only run well enough to sometimes win races, sometimes even win money, but that I could also reward myself with a drink or two after a race or a hard training run.
But slowly, deceptively, that drink became more than two. Eventually it became five or six or seven. Finally, it replaced running entirely, and I didn’t see it happening until it was too late. But I miss those post-race rewards. I still remember the days when that’s truly all they were.
And I haven’t fucking gotten over it.
You’re a freak. Just accept it. You never really grew up. You can’t drink like an adult because you’re just a piece of shit with no self-control, I thought as I drove home after slamming two sodas and saying awkward goodbyes to people.
The thought festered and smoldered in my mind for three days, getting more and more unbearable…but I kept quiet.
I should have told someone. I should have reached out for help. Instead, I buried the thought, ashamed of my inability to be like other people. And eventually I broke, telling myself that an impending snowstorm and the inevitable few days off work was a good reason. This, of course, is a perfectly good excuse for most people, but the reality is there is no excuse in my case. There’s only the ugly, sober truth: I can’t drink. What’s fine for most people is poison for me. It didn’t take long to sink into oblivion, and for nearly a week I became a virtual ghost, completely removed from reality. The aftermath, of course, is never pretty. A more accurate description would be “horrifying.” What I’ve experienced in the past few days is not a hangover. It’s sickness, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I still have hope that I will run again- maybe even compete again, sooner than later. But deep down I know that the bigger problem is that this could eventually kill me, and I don’t want to die.
You can run all you want, but you can’t escape yourself.