sobriety - day 16

The first day I had the strength to begin reflecting on my journey...

C Suite Sobriety

11/30/2021 4 min read

Day 16

I stumbled into sobriety. No, it was not an unconscious decision to stop drinking and it sure as hell shouldn't be taken to mean that I wasn't seriously ill and at risk of death because of my relationship with alcohol. In fact, much of the damage is done and I may have already killed myself. If, or more likely when, I am diagnosed with breast cancer, liver disease, kidney disease or a laundry list of other ailments, I know that my decision and choices regarding alcohol use will have substantially contributed to my diagnoses and eventual death.

I had my first Zima at the age of 14. I remember the taste and bottle. BUT, oh I remember that feeling after drinking a full Zima while uncomfortably sitting on a senior boy's lap; when I got up, that feeling of freedom. Freedom from that 14 year old social anxiety that accompanied everything from decisions about what to wear, how to act, how to impress an be cool... the list goes on. All of that melted away the moment I stood up and felt that buzz wash over me. It was both literally and figuratively intoxicating.

I felt more confident, I felt more fun, I even felt pretty. So much so, in fact, that I decided to have my first French kiss that night with a senior football player who adored me, even though I wasn't necessarily interested in him. It was less a French kiss than a clumsy fumbling of tongues and lips and hands that lasted uncomfortably long for me and not long enough for him. That was probably the first of many such similar sexual encounters, getting myself into prostrate positions, being fucked by men in which I had no interest. I would find myself thinking, God when will this be over on the inside, while moaning and groaning on the outside in the hopes that it would make it go more quickly.

Back to Fall 1998. that Zima was followed by three more that night. the group of girls I was out and staying the night with also imbibed, but were clearly not as strong as me when it came to holding their liquor. When we finally made it home for the evening, there was vomit (not mine- even at that first encounter I took pride in holding my booze), calls to parents, angry and disappointed lectures, groundings, punishments, you get it. BUT - damage done.

I drank my freshman year and couldn't imagine a social scene without booze. I snuck sips of booze from home, here and there, never because I really enjoyed the taste but because I would enjoy the basketball game a lot more when I wasn't socially awkward. I wanted to feel good in my pubescents body that was filling out more quickly than I had wanted and I wanted. I wanted to be loosened up enough not to be the Chris - as I had always been: competitive, straight A student, top of the class, leader, example, athlete, etc. These traits all may sound, in retrospect, like the ideal characteristics for a high school freshman. BUT, for me these were all liabilities - they put a target on my back...." she thinks she is better than us.... she thinks she is perfect... she thinks her shit doesn't stink..." I constantly fought my sense of self, tried to break down who I was and rail against my very character and soul.

These external voices were not even the most influential in my youth, as I got these same messages from the earliest of days at home. "I love to hate girls like you," was a frequent statement my mother would utter any time I had an accomplishment, a success, made a team, won an award. When, much later, I attempted to vocalize how this statement made me feel and could have been detrimental to my self esteem and mental health, it was always immediately brushed away with the excuse that "it was only ever meant as a compliment, obviously!" But as you might expect, my five year old self only heard one thing: it was ok to hate me, in fact your own mother would have hated you grown up at the same time! It also gave anyone that treated me like shit a free pass in my mind. The world had a license to dislike, even hate, me for simply being guilty of being me.

So, how to escape this conundrum; how can I try to be anything but me. don't be bossy (i.e., assertive), don't be loud, don't be a leader, don't be yourself. Don't be all the things that, now, I recognize as my greatest assets and strengths.

But this isn't about my fucked up parental relationships, this is about drinking. Of course we all recognize that they are interconnected and are part of the broader story that is me. All of these things, and more, are part of the journey of drinking and subsequent journey of recovery. I could get lost in the fucked up'ery of many moments in my past but I want to focus on those moments that had a significant impact on my relationship with alcohol and my (fingers crossed) road to freedom from its grips. That first sip of Zima, for example, was fucking pivotal. My ridiculously young relationship with wine and acceptance as a wine connoisseur at the age of 16-17 because I worked in the restaurant business. It was not only acceptable, it was part of the job.

Fuck! I was having a shift drink at the age of 16, cracking a bottle of good cab at 18 after serving a 20 top of high end business diners in the private dining room.

Or maybe those moments that didn't involve alcohol early on but were nonetheless telltale signs of how deep and dark my mind could go from an early age - a warning sign that self medication was a likely part of my future.

On my 10th birthday I spent most of the day on the verge of or in tears because I was leaving the single digits. Its not that I particularly enjoyed the age of 9 so much, or that I dreaded 10. The truth was that from a very early age I felt an immense sense of duty to accomplish, to do something of significant, to live a life worthy of gift. At 10 I had missed the chance to be a childhood actress, I had never published a poem, I had never been featured in Highlights' magazine as an author of the month. I knew at that age that my baseline was different, my expectations were not like anyone else's. This drive, this need to prove... this thing inside me that made me different.... that's why people hated me and it was ok according to my only authority figure on such matters.

That first Zima relaxed that drive inside of me, it numbed my intensity. Even today, people tell me I'm "intense" in a way that is not necessarily mocking but is certainly not flattering. Dulling my intensity (i.e., most of the traits that make me, me) was a relief. And it was fucking addictive.