Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jumping Headlong into the Abyss

Well, except for one more final to proctor on Wednesday, I’m done for the semester. Correction: there’s always the grading. But once final grades are submitted, I’m home free until summer session begins, and a colleague and I have arranged our schedules in the Writing Center so that each of us has to work only three weeks of the six-week term. Needless to say, I am stoked!

And now it occurs to me that, once fall semester commences, my one year sobriety date will arrive. September 4, to be exact. That was the day I arrived, hungover, at Mountain Vista Farm, having had one last bender the night before. It wasn’t even a big blowout one—some Belgian beer (hey, if you’re going to go out, go out well) and then a bottle or so of wine. I remember I went to bed at midnight feeling fairly buzzed but not out-and-out drunk. Nevertheless, the next morning, eleven hours later when I checked in at the Farm, I still blew a .04.

You tell me how big a problem I had. I wonder sometimes, when I really did feel falling down drunk, what my blood alcohol level was.

It wasn’t unusual for someone to come into rehab intoxicated and blowing a 3- or even a 4-point-something. That’s tolerance for you.

I think of kids who die in hazing accidents because of their BAC. I think of friends I know who occasionally drink to excess and still get behind the wheel of a car. You’d suppose something like a DUI would serve as a wake-up call, but nope. It’s so easy to say, “It was random—I don’t drive drunk all that much, or not very far, so it was just bad luck,” or “if the timing’s right, you can have just two drinks and blow an .08 and get nailed for that,” or “I just forgot to eat something”--and the excuses go on and on.

Denial is a powerful thing. That first step isn’t a step—it’s a terrifying leap. No one wants to make it; no one wants to believe they genuinely can’t control their drinking. To admit to being alcoholic is tantamount to admitting you know you can’t ever, ever have a drink again. The majority of alcoholics don’t ever get that far. We’ll admit we have a problem; we’ll admit we need to cut back; we’ll admit to just about anything BUT the fact that we can never drink again.

I think to myself, what if I suddenly developed an allergy to chocolate and could never eat chocolate again? That would suck. Still, it wouldn’t freak me out. Yet, facing the fact that I could never drink again Freaked. My. Ass. Out.

“Oh my god, I’ll be so boring!” “I’ll never have fun again!” “Dinners out without wine will be awful.” “Vacation without a cocktail? How could I?” You might as well have told me I’d spend the rest of my life in a rocking chair, frail and ailing, clacking knitting needles all day long. Without alcohol, I believed, my life would be over.

It’s desperation that finally makes you take the leap. It took me 47 years to reach that desperate point. So, finally, I made that jump into the great abyss, the scary unknown of a booze-free life.

I leaped, and I was stunned.

I didn’t fall. I lifted my wings and flew.

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