I’ve been struggling with something for a really long time. Last week I made a really tough decision. One that has forever changed my status on medical forms. No, I’m not getting a sex change. I went to my psychiatrist to ask for help. I told her I was an alcoholic and told her my plan for temporarily* going sober using Antabuse to help me.
And now I have said it out loud to anyone who cares to know.
I am already mentally ill and get to grapple with people’s constant judgement and opinions and misinformation about what I live with every day. The stigmas are still very strong even for those of us who don’t seem “crazy” to outsiders. They find out and there is just so much judgement about how you should treat yourself, especially with regard to medications. I have not shared my struggle with drinking out loud very much because the last thing I need is to make myself even more vulnerable to people’s judgements.
I am not a drunk. It is very rare that I get drunk. I do not black out. I do not engage in risky behaviors. I do not become belligerent. I do not abuse the people I love and my drinking has not ruined any relationships in my life. The only thing my drinking has abused is my body and self esteem.
And my bank account.
Basically I have developed, over the years, a tremendous tolerance for alcohol. You have ALL heard me say I can drink anyone under the table and this is the sad truth. I will not disclose how much I drink because I don’t need to amaze you with specifics. I am amazing enough without specifics. It all started when I broke my hip. Before that time I loved to drink but I didn’t drink more than is considered within healthy limits and any time I found I was edging up I was able to reign it back in and reestablish healthy parameters for enjoying booze. That changed when I broke my hip because I took one Percoset and it made me feel nauseous. As you all know already – I’m emetaphobic and will do anything to avoid throwing up or feeling like I might. So I wouldn’t take any more pain pills.
Having your acetabulum fractured in five places hurts like a son of a fucking bitch, in case you haven’t experienced it for yourself. Going to the bathroom hurt so much it made me cry every time for the first week.
You know what is a great pain killer? Beer, it turns out, is very effective. It took me two weeks after breaking my hip to go to my doctor to get x-rays. At urgent care they didn’t bother taking them because the fall I described to them “couldn’t cause a break”. I figured I’d just pulled a muscle. When my doctor saw the x-rays she called me and said “You are a really stoic person”
This is the point where it began which is the only reason I am, AGAIN, bringing up my stupid broken hip incident from eight years ago. Yawn. You all know it. That event in conjunction with Philip having just lost his job two days before created a kind of watershed in our life. It was the point at which things took a very bad turn and just kept getting worse. The long string of misfortunes. Selling the house we loved, Philip breaking his arm, my cancer scare, moving out of state and not getting jobs, having a business and closing it down, not fitting in with our community, being more lonely than I’ve ever been in my entire life, feeling isolated, the paxil weight gain on top of the bed-rest + beer weight gain compounded by the extreme depression and anxiety that grew and grew until it all had a momentum I couldn’t handle. Then there was the bankruptcy and the foreclosure and the Hamp loan attempts and one of our only sets of really close friends moving back to the bay area.
Beer got me through all of it. I refuse to say bad things about beer. It calmed me down every night. Made me feel better. Made me feel centered. Plus it tastes great.
One year we had it all back to a healthy place but that was the year before the bankruptcy. The fact that I barely lost any weight when I wasn’t drinking too much and was exercising a hell of a lot and eating really healthily – it ended up sending me back into a spiral of depression. That was before my doc noticed that every year I’d upped my paxil I gained 20 lbs regardless of how much I was exercising or drinking or how healthy my diet was. And, believe me, my efforts to correct all things never ended for long. I kept getting back up off the ground and trying again.
When we moved back here I was so happy, so relieved, and my feeling of belonging was so strong I thought that was all I needed to deal with my drinking and bring it back to a healthy place. But the few months right before we moved back were very dark and I think pushed me beyond what I could fix myself. It was so bad I got internal hemorrhoids. It was so bad, my acute anxiety and desperation, that I was nauseous almost every day with panic. So last year I promised myself that if I couldn’t do this on my own, I would talk to my psych about it. But when it came time to make that decision my mom’s sister threw the first bomb our way. It was too easy to fall into my familiar stress mode. Then mom almost died. And then once more. You all know the story already. This is the only part you didn’t know.
Except that I think you knew. You have all probably known or guessed for a long long time.
Pointing it out would have been the unkind and unhelpful thing to do. Prying me open never works to your advantage when it comes to me. I share so freely most of my thoughts and my journey, what I don’t share I protect with sharpened teeth.
Only I can pry myself open.
I’ve done it before.
I’m doing it now. I’m opening myself up again because it’s the only way I know of letting the light in.
There is so much good in my life right now. So many problems have smoothed out. We get to keep our house. Philip got enough of a raise that I might be able to stay home and dedicate myself to writing novels. My mom is alive and doing really well. I don’t feel alone at all. I have a great support of close friends I see frequently here in my city and I have a large online support. My son is thriving. I’ve been married 20 years and never once hit my spouse with a frying pan.
There are only three things wrong with my life right now. Three things holding me back from achieving everything I’ve been working towards. Three things preventing me from closing the door on that seven year shit-storm.
I’m morbidly obese. My medical record says so.
My obesity fills me with an intense self-loathing and depression.
My drinking is keeping me from losing weight which fuels the desire to drink more.
So I went to my psychiatrist with a plan and said this shit out loud and now substance abuse will always be on my official record and I can’t take it back and I can’t lie on medical forms any more. I will not stop drinking until after my birthday. I can’t see trying it during the holidays. It will just make me more stressed and depressed about myself.
The only way I know how to navigate something this huge is to do it out loud and set it free. So I’ll write about it here for as long as I feel the need. Maybe it will feel heavy around here for a while. You don’t have to stick around and hear all about it. But if you do, try to think of this as a light-seeking adventure rather than a heavy story of human weakness.
And remember, I willfully kept the truth from you all about this to protect myself, but I never lied to myself.
*Do not even dare to shake your head at me. I need to reset myself and if that doesn’t work then I will need to change my plan to some level of permanence.