Tuesday, April 24, 2012

One Big Disconnect

Funny thing happened this morning--I opened the fridge to grab a can of Diet Coke to take to work and my eye fell on a 12-pack of Miller Lite. I blinked, looked again, and realized it was Sprite. For a second there, I'd thought Chelle had bought a 12-pack of beer (we do have a Kentucky Derby Day party coming up and are starting to stock the fridge for that, so I understand why I thought I saw what I saw).

But for a fraction of a second, my former life (so to speak) flashed before my eyes. How I used to drink Lite beer like it was water. How I'd go with the crappy diet beer because all I wanted was the buzz, not the calories or carbs, though when you blow through a 12-pack of that stuff, you're getting too many of those things anyway. How my life was structured around episodes of drinking. Drink one day; be hungover the next; drink the next day; be hungover the next. It was probably a blessing that for most of my drinking life I didn't develop the habit of drinking every day or drinking to cure hangovers. No, that didn't go on until the very end, when I would go on weekend-long benders if it happened to be a weekend I didn't have any papers to grade.

Looking back, I don't know how I did it. But when I really think about it, it's clear how I did it. I was simply good at managing negative consequences. If I had to teach the next morning, I simply didn't drink as much and I'd pound a lot of water before I went to bed. I'd still feel like crap, but I could get up and get going and get out of the house. After my classes, I would come home and nap. Then I'd do some work and go to bed early. The next day, when I felt well, I wouldn't start drinking until about 3:00 in the afternoon. I'd be good for the first hour or two and get work and lesson plans done while I was sober. Then it'd be off to the kitchen to make dinner and drink an entire bottle of red wine doing it. After dinner, I'd be worthless.

I did all my serious drinking at home or at the racetrack (Chelle always drove), so I never drove drunk.

I would tell myself, "I'm not an alcoholic--I can hold down a job, I've never had a DUI..." but seriously, if I'd been able to be honest with myself: who can't hold down a part-time job and not get a DUI if they don't drive when under the influence?

My world was a small one.

It is so different being sober. It's so much better being sober. In terms of time, I have much more of it: I work, but also paint, play guitar, blog, read more than I did, and spend much more time engaging people. I do still live a lot in my head (that's just natural to an introvert), but the next day I can remember what I was processing and thinking about. I was evaluated this semester--my first one since getting sober. I never actually got any bad evaluations even when drinking, but this was the first time I've ever had both, much less one, classes in which every last student wrote that they would recommend me. I mean, usually there's at least ONE kid who is vastly displeased with something I said or did. The President of the College poked his head in my office yesterday to say hello and we even joked about that--how that one dissatisfied student would always nibble at the back of your brain like a gnawing mouse.

I spent much of my life feeling a little like a fraud in the classroom, and I suspect it's because I knew damn well I wasn't doing my absolute best job. I'm not at my best if I'm hungover once or twice a week. I wonder how many kids figured out that my headaches were actually just hangovers, or if it took me a while to get graded essays back not because I was thorough but because I was using up too much of my time drinking or recovering from drinking. I wore a facade that I don't wear anymore. I no longer feel like a sham. I actually feel connected to my students.

I feel more connected, period. Connected to people, connected to the real me, connected to my own thoughts, connected to God.

Alcoholism is one big disconnect, a purposeful one. We unplug from life. What a blessing to get plugged back in.

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