And Then One Day.
In order to acquire a new perspective, I’ve come to the conclusion, that for me, it is only possible through retrospect. That priceless lens that enables me to weigh and slowly absorb new truths. Especially when it applies to my addiction and how it emerged, why I failed to recognize it, what I did to conceal it, and why I battled so hard to deny it.
I don’t believe I made a conscious decision to pull the curtain down on the truth. Early on, I just wasn’t capable of looking at it honestly. I doubt that anyone just entering recovery is able to penetrate that heavy blanket of fog that shrouds us from an ugly reality that we aren’t yet prepared to deal with. The fog is a smoke screen, it conceals a world of pain and shame that we tried to suppress and couldn’t face alone.
Like so many of us, when I walked through the doors of AA, I was clueless about every aspect of my disease, as well as recovery. I was told that recovery was a process, and as the physical effects of the drug or alcohol left my system, that the fog would slowly begin to lift, and the process could begin, if I chose to stay.
Can’t say that I was convinced. But I did stick around until little miracles began to happen and I was ultimately convinced that I wanted to stay. Every day, and every effort made, to seek a patch of sun beyond the fog, revealed startling truths. And many of those scenarios that flashed across the screen of my past were not only uncomfortable, but painful. They often materialized out of the blue, and without warning. I certainly did not voluntarily summon them. And thank God, they weren’t revealed all at once. That would have been too overwhelming. A few are so vivid that they have stuck with me for over 30 years.
For instance. Whenever I would hear about mothers abusing their children, I would assume my mantle of righteousness and be the first to judge and condemn them. And then one day, early in sobriety, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor and feeling fairly good, when I was suddenly hurtled back to another day when I was doing the same thing, but not feeling so good. I had a headache that nearly blinded me, and I was shaking inside. As I waited for the clock to mark that pivotal moment when 12:pm separates morning from noon, and I could, in good conscious, pop the lid on a beer to alleviate my hangover, my son decided he wanted lunch and stepped on spot that I had just waxed. The ugly, cacophonous expletives that spewed from my tongue that day were nothing short of abuse.
My sister and I lived together for a short while after her divorce. We both were working two jobs. Our evening routine, after we finished up our second job, was to pick up a half of gallon of Chablis at the local drive thru and drain it dry before retiring for the evening. For the longest time I was under the impression that she out drank me. Because she drank out of the largest wine goblet I had. And then one day, both of us in recovery, were discussing those days and I brought that little fact up.
“So,” she said. “You thought I was pulling one over on you by drinking from the larger glass, huh? Were you keeping track of how many small glasses you were belting down to my one?” And yet another truth revealed.
My youngest son was the only one left at home during my heaviest drinking days. And my awareness of how it affected him was soaked in a bottle of amber colored denial. There were, even during my addiction, opportunities to face the truth, but because I was so steeped in denial they evaporated as Suddenly as they appeared, allowing me to seemingly go unscathed. And then one day, it was a few years into my sobriety, I was slammed with an ugly truth that I had been suppressing for years. Randy, my son, was sixteen. I was at one of my favorite drinking events, the Italian Festival, with a friend from my office. The Italian Festival was an outdoor yearly occurrence. It was a three- day drunk fest, at least for those of us who on rare occasions liked to drink with complete abandon. I was well on my way to dropping all inhibitions when I spotted the man I was seeing, prancing down the street with my son’s teacher hanging on his arm. And fast approaching from the opposite direction was my son and a group of his friends. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was shooting darts and spewing some colorful language at the couple when my son and his group spotted my friend trying to calm me down.
“HI Mrs. B. How are you doing? Anything wrong?” Not exactly sure of what was going on, but sensing the situation, they formed a circle around me and my friend, and I immediately settled down. But it was too late. Randy, trying to divert their attention, shot his friends this stupid laugh, sluffing it off. He eyed me with concern.
“You okay, Mom? I could hear the anxiety in his voice as his eyes darted nervously back and forth, from me, to the teacher and my secret lover, who by that time were on their merry way. And If I had recognized that inappropriate laugh at the time, for what it really was; a mask to hide his embarrassment and shame, I ignored it. Another layer of fog lifted.
After about eight months into my Twelve step program, I was still identifying myself in the meetings as an adult child of an alcoholic. I had an impressive list of arguments, rambling around in my head, that would prove I wasn’t an alcoholic. And then one day, I decided to share that list with my sponsor. We met at Howard Johnson’s, a favorite hang- out for recovering souls where we gathered for coffee and ice cream following meetings. I was confident that she would no doubt concur.
Committed to paper the night before, I proceeded to share it. In the left-hand column, I gave examples of what might appear to be a problem, and opposite that, my rationale that disputed that perception.
Yes, I did drink every day. But during the week it was only two or three beers, just to unwind.
Yes. The weekends were all -nighters and I Ieft my teenage son home alone. But my mom and dad lived right next door, and, I would usually Randy at home to check on him. I was, after all, only a ten- minute drive away.
I would pause periodically to allow my sponsor for a response, but nothing was forthcoming. Her silence was deafening. My confidence was being peeled way by the cacophony of my own assertions. If there was chatter going on around us, I couldn’t hear it. The only voice in the place seemed to belong to me.
Rather timidly, I continued with the did nots. I was never arrested. Maybe, because that night when I revved up my car on a chunk of ice and slammed It into downspout on the school gym, the priest didn’t press charges.
I never blacked out. I just couldn’t remember driving my friend’s car home to check on my son, or how I got back to the bar.
And of course, I never had withdrawals. They were just really bad hangovers. Doesn’t shaking on the inside, headaches, and agitation define a hangover?
And still, Jean Anne, my sponsor, said nothing. She just looked at me with an undecipherable expression and allowed the lunacy of what I just said penetrate my denial. I dared not ask her for a response at that point. We parted, and at the following Thursday night meeting, when it came round to me, I said, with conviction, “I am Alice, and I am an alcoholic.”
And then on that day,my recovery began in earnest.