I feel sad this morning. It isn’t new, feeling sad and writing about sadness; I do that a lot. But, today it isn’t just sadness, or darkness or blindness, that is in my head and on my skin, it is shame. I have written about shame before, in regard to my disease and feeling different, but the shame I feel today has nothing to do with RP; it came long before blindness.
I decided to write about this last night, when I was drunk. Sounds like a bad idea, I know, but I knew I would wake up feeling bludgeoned and ashamed; I knew it was time to write about my drinking, lay bare the shame of it and face some of the reasons I turn to it.
The first time I got drunk, I was 12. I took 2 bottles of wine from my Mom and snuck out in the middle of the night to meet a friend. We went to the field of our local junior high school, and drank a bottle each. We got caught. My mom woke up to find my friend, lying on the bathroom floor, puking. I was passed out on the floor of my room, oblivious to the whole thing. My friends parents were called and the whole thing was a giant mess. The next morning, my Mom told me my friend could have died and that it would have been my fault. I think she was trying to shame me out of drinking again, but it didn’t work.
I’m not going to go through a litany of my drunken experiences; there are too many of them, but I believe the first one is significant because it marks the beginning of a pattern of excess and escape. I learned that night that booze could take me out of my head and make me believe I was someone else, someone better, prettier and less afraid. I learned that under the veil of booze, all the pain drops dead.
When I was 13, my mom got sick and I spiraled out of control. It was like I was on a mission to find all the roads to self-destruction. When she died, 5 years later, I broke apart under the weight of grief and spent years looking for escape. I probably drank the most in those years after her death, but even after I started to find the pieces of myself that had been lost, and try to put them back together, I kept drinking.
Everyone has painful experiences that feel unbearable; I am not unique in feeling pain. But, I think I got stuck in that time of my life when everything was defined by illness and death; a time when I learned to use alcohol as a buffer between myself and life. It kept me tied to the identity of the girl with the dead mom. It kept me from truly grieving and being able to move forward with my life.
As I traversed through my 20’s and 30’s, I kept the booze close. I used it as a buffer, a numbing agent, a celebratory partner and a mask. It became a habit. It made me fat and tired, unreliable and sedentary. It kept me tethered to an identity that I had grown comfortable with. Now, in my 40’s, I feel like I am keeping myself stuck in the escape, making sure I never fully grab onto life. I have so much in my life that is good, so much to be grateful for, so why am I still drinking as if there is an emptiness in me that can never be filled? I can see myself healthier, fitter and with more energy, and I know the booze is keeping me from being that version of myself, but why do I allow it? I am tired of waking up feeling like crap and walking through my life with heavy steps. I am tired of treating myself as if I am worthless, as if I don’t deserve to feel good, to be happy. It is time for me to make a change. It is time for me to emerge.