This is the story of the last time I drank.
Now, this isn't a dramatic blowout of a drinking story. I don''t even know that I got drunk. Maybe I was drunk-ish; you know, that kind of blurry feeling of lightness, as if you're on the Tilt-o-Whirl on a hot summer day, and you can't keep from spinning (and you don't want to), and you can't keep from smiling that big fun-house grin, and you're almost but not quite coordinated, and oh! You feel grand. Dizzy but grand.
It was that kind of a drunk.
It was my favorite kind of drunk. It was the drunk to which I aspired every time I got drunk. I had a lot of practice flirting with that razor-thin line. I failed in this particular endeavor. Often.
Those days, it seemed as if I failed at this a lot.
It hadn't always been an exercise in failure. It hadn't always been a constant internal battle for white-knuckled control. I had an elaborate set of rules and dicta regardiing my driniking, to ensure victory over my drunks. That the first dictum was "I don't drink" will give you an idea of just how successful I was.
I used that particular argument all too often-- I don't drink... so therefore, this particular drunk is an anomoly, an exception. It doesn't count in the long line of drunks that stretched back way too long away and far ago for me to count. I would remind myself that logical proof didn't depend on truth, but on soundness. The argument was bent, perhaps, but it was sound.
Life started to become unmanageable. Untenable. I started searching for a way out. I started pointing fingers, looking to lay blame on anyone or anything that wasn't me. It was my parents. My family. My past. My pain. Everything would be ok if everyone would just do what I wanted them to. Needed them to.
I flirted with several Twelve Step programs-- none of them AA. I flirted with all their subtly different versions of the Steps. Well, I flirted with the first two of the twelve. I got the powerlessness of the first, mostly understood the God vs. Craziness of the second. And was stopped short by the third: Turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. And so I commenced the Twelve Step two step, bouncing between one and two again and again, flailing and failing at three.
And drinking. And more and more unable to not drink, even when I swore I didn't and swore I wouldn't.
So. The last time. It was August in Chicago, a dark and humid and breezy night. And humid. Did I say humid already? I'll say it again, times six. Remember-- Chicago in August. The night was dense and the air almost liquid. I was helping a friend move into a third floor walk-up apartment. It was a great place-- old world, with lots of wood and built-ins and molding. And no air conditioning. Not even a window unit. We ended around 10:00, sweaty and sore.
"Want a beer?" He called out from the kitchen. I was in the living room, all the windows open, the curtains billowing madly. I could barely move. A beer. I don't drink.
"Sure." I don't drink.
He handed me a bottle, slick with condensation. I took the offered beer (and I remember the weight of it in my hand, the cold of it still), sitting back on the broken-springed couch, and I thought to myself "If I take this, if I drink it, I will be turning my will and my life over to the care of alcohol."
And all the struggle, all the doubt, all the fight left me in a whoosh, and I drank, deep and long. Not only was I ok with that pronouncement, I was sure that I was finally in the place I was always meant to be.
Enslaved, bound to my demons with liquid fire.
And the next day, bleary and hung over and done, another friend, a different friend, loved me enough to tell me "Drink, don't drink, that's up to you-- but you're an alcoholic!" And with those words, I was suddenly freed. I stood on the borders of my own desert, at the edge of a distant and implacable sea, and found, much to my surprise, some internal sense of permission to get help, and so find forgiveness and grace.
I know, one of those immutable truths that I hold in my very center, that miracles abound, that there is redemption, that once we were slaves and now we are free.
c Stacey Zisook Robinson
03 April 2014
- I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.