“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
Two years ago today I woke up and told myself, as I did every morning, “Today I won’t drink, today I’ll be sober, today I can make it through”. I was 9 days sober and shaking from withdrawals. I hadn’t slept the night before and didn’t expect I’d sleep tonight or for several more weeks for that matter. This wasn’t the first time I’d quit, I already knew what lay ahead. My pillow was stained with sweat and my head was throbbing. I grabbed the bottle of ibuprofen next to my bed and knocked back 4 using my flavored propel water to wash them down. The room was spinning slightly when I stood up but it wasn’t spinning as bad as it usually did.
After years of drinking every day, I had grown accustomed to waking up with a hangover and beginning the morning ritual of making myself functional. Three-four ibuprofen for the instant headache, two chewable tums or pepto tablets for the stomach ache, followed by a shower to clear my eyes and mind. On the way to work down a 16oz bottle of electrolyte infused water to rehydrate my thirst quenched body and then turn into Cumberland Farms or Dunkin Donuts for my first caffeine boost of the day. Usually by the time I pulled into the parking lot at work the nausea had settled and a quick spritz of axe body spray along with a few tictacs to cover up any lingering smells of alcohol had me ready to go. It was quite an ordeal but I didn’t realize that at the time. In fact I once bragged about my daily routine to my therapist who quickly pointed out that if I was putting in that much work to function then I might have a problem. I fired her the following week.
But today I didn’t need pepto or the tic tacs and my mind was much clearer than it had been in months. Over a week sober and I was starting to feel better physically. However the craving was strong and screaming in the back of my mind. I could almost taste bourbon whiskey on my tongue and quickly reached for a piece of candy because something sweet always seemed to take the edge off a little. I’d never been a smoker but I could finally see the appeal. I was crawling out of my skin and just trying to get through the first half of the day until I could make it to the noontime meeting.
AA was never a program I had been interested in attending. First, it was for real drunks and I was just a kid with a problem. Except I wasn’t a kid, I was 27, and my problem was wrecking my life. And second the program talked about god and some days reminded me of church and I was over them both. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to get sober on my own and the other programs and resources I had used hadn’t helped either. Finally I walked into a meeting and decided to just listen. I’d gone every day for the last 6 days and today would be my 7th day of AA, 9th day of sobriety and I was going absolutely insane. “Just make it until noon, 4 more hours” I whispered to myself as I opened the store I managed and began the work day.
“Hey! Why won’t this guy take my coupon?! Sir… I mean Miss, are you the manager?” An angry customer was looking at me as I walked towards the register. His face a mass of rage and confusion as he struggled to make sure he had been correct to change his “sir” to “Miss”. My short hair, flat chest and neutral clothing threw people off all the time. “How can I help you sir?” I asked as I drew near the front. “I gotta coupon here for 5 bucks off and your employee won’t let me use it!” The man seemed to be in his late 60’s with graying hair and thick glasses that slid slightly down his nose. “May I see the coupon?” I said as I felt my patience already leaving me. He thrust the coupon in my face and since I already knew exactly what the problem was I quickly turned the paper back around so he could read the writing. “This coupon is only for Saturday’s Sir, we have $5 off $25 every Saturday. Unfortunately today is Sunday.” Large bold lettering in the center of the slip read Saturday Only but the gentleman stared at the coupling for several long moments as if willing it to change the day to Sunday. “Hmmmp!” he finally grumped and threw some money on the counter. “All these tricks and fine print, I don’t know why I even bother” continuing to mumble to no one he gathered his items and stalked out of the store. I rolled my eyes at the cashier before checking my phone for the time, 11:45. “Alright I’m running out for lunch, let Tammy know I’m gone ok?” Glenn, the young man who’d just had the pleasure of dealing with our grumpy customer, nodded and bid me a good lunch as I hurried out of the building.
My destination was just down the road and I pulled in with ten minutes to spare. I was a bit confused that there were only a few cars in the parking lot, but then I’d noticed that alcoholics didn’t tend to arrive until 5 minutes before the meeting. And those were the early birds. Still I could feel a knot forming in my stomach as I approached the door and saw the lights off and no movement inside. “The meetings over!” a voice called out to me and I caught sight of two men standing next to a truck talking. “How is it over?” I asked feeling annoyance and panic rise in my voice “it starts at noon!” “Not on Sundays” the taller man replied and I could see he kept his voice cool and calm even while my agitation grew. “On Sundays we hold the meeting at 10. But come back tomorrow and we’ll be here, I promise”. I didn’t need a meeting tomorrow. I needed something today. Tears stung my eyes and I held a cry of anger tight in my throat as I spun away and practically ran to my car.
The moment I opened the door the cry escaped and tears streamed down my face as I broke down completely. “I can’t do this! I can’t do this! Why would they change the time?! Don’t they know new people won’t be aware of the time change!” I was so angry and distraught as I drowned in my self pity. Suddenly the resentment and blame casting filled me once again and it was everyone else’s fault that I had a problem. Everybody else let me down, everybody else hurt me, everybody else deserved to watch me ruin my life because they did this to me. I had yet to learn the value of self responsibility and self honesty. If I had stopped in that moment I would have realized that these feelings were my own fears, my own lack of confidence, my own failings coming to light. But I didn’t take any ownership of my actions. Instead I drove home and quickly poured a drink.
As it always did, one drink became too many to count and the next morning I awoke passed out in my bed. I was wearing the same clothes from the day before and a cup I had apparently fallen asleep holding had spilled its contents all over my blankets. The room reeked of whiskey, or maybe it was just me. I stumbled up the stairs to our shower and sobbed as the water washed over my heaving shoulders. I was so tired and so broken and so hopeless. I remembered bits and pieces from the night before and upon leaving the bathroom I checked my phone to see that I had indeed called the suicide hotline several times the night before. I had to get help. Pulling on a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans I hurried to make the afternoon meeting. It was November 23, 2015. I sat in the meeting and shared my shattered heart with a room full of strangers. It was the beginning of true hope.