Personal Rock Bottom and Lurking There a While
Six months ago today, I was drunk at a gig. I was playing at a wedding in the middle of nowhere. It was hot, I was wearing a red floppy hat, and I was drinking to avoid conversation. I was sneaking cigarettes behind the Pinterest-wedding-barn. They had the nicest free gin I had ever tasted at their open bar. Free gin and tonic after free gin and tonic and the music got blurrier and blurrier. My playing got sloppier but I thought “Hey, it’s a sloppy big band and it has got to be 100 degrees in the sun and everyone’s toasting anyway.” I had grown jaded and disrespectful in my profession. At the time I was gigging several times per week — weddings, bars/clubs, for the elderly (where I was sober and played my best).
I was getting drunk every day. Usually this would happen at my local dive bar. Or at home on my balcony. Or at a party. Or in the morning. I drank too much before, but from May-August, I was trashed. I was alone. I left the lover I write of so often in May. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder around my birthday in June. When I wasn’t drinking, I was fucking guys who did cocaine and got off on hitting me — way too hard for kinky.
I was used to the way I woke up near every morning: in a cold sweat, with a headache, fatigued, with a stranger, naked.
My meds weren’t working for me, because I was flooding my small body with alcohol. I drove under the influence of alcohol far too many times and I am ashamed of it. I once sobered up at a bar until closing and then fell asleep at the wheel afterward. My parents assumed I was drunk because, by then, they knew me. My car was in the shop for near a month, and I ran out of my antipsychotic. Rather than ask a friend to pick it up for me, I drank to make the chatter in my head stand still. Drinking is not a good substitute for Abilify. After threatening to jump off of my balcony or take all of my meds with all of my alcohol, a good friend drove me to a shitty psych ward.
That psych ward is where I first attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I went because there was nothing to do. But at the speaker meeting, I started to question whether or not I was an alcoholic. I related to the speaker’s dependence, his pain, his lies, his lows and his thirst that went beyond social norms. I had already lied about my daily alcohol intake to the psychiatrist who seemed to want to pry further into my drinking. I insisted it was just me being 22 and having fun. I denied that the worsening tremor was from detox (it was).
I thought about sobriety, but when I got out of the hospital, I kept drinking. I only knew I was an alcoholic at this point. I tried to drink less at times. Sometimes I’d have rules: no liquor. Never drink alone. But I always found a way to break every rule, and I was always drinking a beer or a mint julep by noon soon after my release. Near the end of August, I finished reading Marya Hornbacher’s Madness. I read another less stellar bipolar memoir. I researched being bipolar after I accepted it with less tears. Everything said that alcohol makes your meds not work, getting drunk spins you too high or low, just skip it. I was hospitalized in July, and I decided that the last day of August would be my last day drinking.
On the way back from my gin drinking gig, I thought about what a bore it all was. How I became such an introspective, existential, quiet wallflower when I was drunk at a social event. (At a bar, it’s another story.) New months inspire me, and September was a successful one. I quit drinking and, at the end of that month, quit smoking. I knew I had to quit both, because they fed each other. They made me feel pleasure in killing myself.
At first, I was so thirsty for a beer. Advertisements still get to me, and I have to look away or turn the radio station still. I find them offensive. I wanted to go back to my bar where every bartender knew my usual — or the bar across the street where I played trombone often. I wanted to go in one person and come out a little bit gone. Because I did not accept my reality and my lack of control. I still struggle to accept what reigns are in my hands and what factors guide my life (I’m looking at you, bipolar disorder). For the first two or three months, I was quite bitter about my sobriety. I was always making self-deprecating jokes about the monster I used to be and my lack of self-control. Now, I rejoice in it and the clarity I have found. Triggers are easier to blink my eyes and forget about. I must, however, remember that I am never invincible to them.
But 6 months later, I no longer wake up and think of opening a beer. I don’t dream of whiskey for dessert.
I often have nightmares that I get drunk and everyone becomes disappointed in me, or I drink and ruin everything. I always wake up and look through my texts to see if it happened. My sobriety still feels so, so painfully fragile, and that is why I have started to attend AA meetings recently. I want my sobriety to feel like a brick foundation, not something that I will wash away anytime.
My sobriety is my proudest possesion, but it constantly humbles me. I know that I can’t forget about my lows, because with one sip, I’d be lower still.
This journey has inspired me to take better care of my mind, body, and spirit. I now recognize other addictive behaviors before they become poisonous and swallow me. I could not have done it without the help of my psychiatrist, my father, my sister, my mother, my lover, and my closest friends.
Reward? I think so.
When I come into a bit of money, I intend to splurge on a fine piece of jewelry. I did that for the first three months to keep myself focused, and six months is a very worthy milestone.
My lover, with whom I reunited upon the start of my sobriety journey, is taking me out somewhere nice tonight to celebrate.
I also snatched up some Mario Badescu deals on Hautelook as a little treat to myself. Reviews on the rose+herbal facial mist and glycolic acid toner coming soon. 🙂
Thank you for reading something that is very close to my heart.