Oy Vay

I knew alcohol was going to be a problem for me the first time I tried it.

I was 11 and found some old whiskey, left neglected in the back of a cupboard at the farmhouse. My mother doesn’t drink at all, my father very rarely—so I’m unsure where it came from, perhaps a gift from a family friend. I unscrewed the cap & drank from the bottle that was sticky with dust. The first taste was like swallowing a lit match. I hated the flavor, the burn—but almost immediately after taking a few slugs of it, felt light, removed from my body. I liked it, wanted to stay in that feeling. I knew then I would find a way to envelope myself in that artificial numbness, like being cast in fire and ice. The abuse might still happen around me, to me…but not caring about it was a victory for me…So I drank.

Every time I came back to that whiskey bottle and drank from it, I refilled the bottle with water-just in case my parents found it and questioned its miraculous evaporation. Eventually, it paled from amber to just the slightest hint of color. At that point, fearing discovery, I dug a hole and buried it, like my problems—the bottle was full of them. But I never forgot about the lightness, the lift, the feeling of withstanding fire.

When I was a 14 year old, looking to escape from my fucked up home life, I began hanging out with some older girls from equally fucked up home lives. My best friend’s mother would let us spend the night at their house and she would ply us with alcohol. Because I would get loud & sarcastic, she thought it was funny to take us out and encourage me to make a fool of myself. I nearly started a fight with a redneck at a local pizza place once while hanging out drunkenly in her company. Another time I danced in the aisles of a Big Lot and harassed the store clerks about the difference between Cheez-Wiz products. That time I was so drunk, by the end, I eventually laid down in the middle of the snack aisle, watching the chips and pretzels spinning in a tornado above me. As an adult now, with my own children, I hate that friend’s fucking mother so much for lighting my escape-seeking brain up with booze. It seems those are the only neurological pathways I can still travel these days…those mental roads to pleasure by way of complete chemical detachment.

Later, in high school, there were many memories of stealing booze from parents of my friends. I had reinvented myself by this point & was actually hanging with the popular crowd. I think we all knew (but just didn’t talk about the fact) that this group was slumming it with me. Though everyone knew something was wrong, no one ever mentioned my circumstances, the abusive, poverty strangled household I lived in…or my dysfunctional family that didn’t want me. I was fun and sarcastic and spontaneous and wild, a novelty, so I was welcomed into the group. Most of my friends came from good, 2 parent family households, stable in suburbia…Their parents were always kind and accepting of me, if slightly pitying. I spent my graduation night with one friend’s family instead of my own, eating hot fudge sundaes & watching movies with them. Their daughter & I repaid them for this kindness by shoving beers down the legs of the over-sized overalls she was wearing for just that purpose…and smuggling the beers down to the beach we both loved…toes in the sand, stumbling about, water splashing our flushed faces.

I began drinking vodka from water bottles in school or showing up to music rehearsals drunk. I had a reputation as a brilliant student & was the top musician of the school. I was driven & smart & just enough class clown to get away with being drunk at school. I remember on one occasion getting so drunk at my friend’s house with her, that we had to call another friend to come pick us up for select choir rehearsal. We drunkenly used a campaign of obnoxious harassment towards our chauffeur to take us for McDonald’s fruit & yogurt parfaits, till she finally went through the drive thru to shut us up. She then dropped us off at rehearsal. I don’t remember much else from that day other than my friend & I loudly announcing our arrival by rolling down the stairs in the chorus room till we were by the choir teacher’s piano…and the teacher laughing at us, “What, are you guys drunk or something?” My friend, Cai, & I just looked at each other, said “oh shit” and burst out laughing.

Oh…and I believe I also took the lid off my parfait, joking held it on the back of my head and yelled that I had a yarmulke.

Oy. Vay.

In hindsight, I wished that I hadn’t hid it. I wished that someone HAD asked about my occasionally erratic behavior and I had been honest…I wish that something had been done about it earlier…perhaps things would not be where they are now. The puzzle of my life would be put together differently. And more complete. At this point, I feel like people glance at me and see me as put together—but if they looked closer, the pieces don’t match, the parts violently jammed together.

In college, like most people, the drinking problem really became disruptive to my life. I didn’t try to hide it at this point…I spent 4 years in a drunken free fall. I think partly, I thought I would be happy when I got to college and that I would not need the alchemy found in alcohol to transform me into that carefree person. But, while I got away from my parents, the abuse, that environment—all of the toxicity of my past was still  inside of me. I felt bloated with it. And it grieved me to no end. I drank more and more to the point that it kept me in a state of agitated suicidal ideation. While this obviously was difficult for me, I didn’t realize how my drinking problem had become a drinking problem for others too. I would take off at 3 in the morning to take walks across campus when I was very drunk & distraught-despite pleas from my 2 best friends not to do that. On one of these walks, I had the unmistakable creep of fear up my back….a feeling like I was being followed. Out of the corner of my eye, I realized there were 2 people behind me. I tried walking quickly back to my dorm, and turned my head to see if they were still there. I was relieved to recognize the form of my 2 best friends. They were following me from a safe distance to ensure I was ok, scared I would hurt myself or be hurt by someone else in my vulnerable state. I realized they had been doing this every time I did my distraught drunk walk routine. This realization made me sad. My friends loved me more than I probably deserved and it eviscerated me to know my self-destruction hurt them-but I couldn’t turn it off. I couldn’t stop drinking.

As college went on, the parties got wilder, my behavior more risky. I would stand on railings over the 2nd story of our apartment, laughing maniacally, while friends tried to talk me down like I was a kitten stuck in a tree. They eventually would come to physically pulling me down off the railing. Another time, I left a party I was throwing in a complete blackout. I came out of it only when a friend found me watching cars from an overpass, a mile from my house, with no shoes on. I told him stories about each car passing below till finally he talked me into returning to the party. I spent the rest of the night picking glass out of the bottom of my feet. At this point, concerned for my safety, friends went to the counseling center and tried to get something done about me, but no one would help. I was drunk in class. Drunk at my work study. I was drunk while I practiced my secondary instruments for my music ed degree. I would stash bottle after bottle in my music locker, thinking I would clean them out at the end of the year or I would be dead by then—either way, situation handled. (Ironically, my suicide attempt my junior year was one of the only times I was chemically sober…I was just drunk on my own madness by that point, that was the problem.)

After my suicide attempt, my junior year, I had to sign a contract to be allowed back into school. I had to promise not to hurt myself, to remain on meds & in counseling & to refrain from drinking. I tried. I really fucking tried not to drink. I had spent the summer drying out at my professor’s house and was actually sober at semester’s start. But it didn’t last. It never fucking lasts. Every time I try to get sober, I feel like I should be happy to be sober…that I should feel like I’ve gutted through an instinct. Instead all I feel is emptiness. Despair that I still feel lost. Then the violent dreams and flashbacks return, worse and more vivid than before….and, even though I try to white knuckle it through a couple days, I always cave to the elixir. I’ve never been able to go longer than a couple weeks sober…(aside from both my pregnancies where I stayed off the booze.)

Living with Alex, we both just went to hell. Jokingly called ourselves Junkie & Drunkie. We framed it as funny because the picture was sad. But Alex began to realize it was a problem when I couldn’t have sex without being plastered. At first, it could be excused as nerves. Even though, I’d been forced to have sex as a child, he was the first person I allowed to sleep with me as an adult & I was terrified..I feel weird even using the word ‘allowed,’ because I was never able to have sex without my alcoholic crutch. My inability to be intimate without alcohol was taken personally by Alex…as an attack on his desirability, as a negation of our love. Things deteriorated between us…crumbling to sawdust in our angry, clenched hands. As he worsened, I raced him-trying to get to the finish line, so he wouldn’t have to. He hated when I drank, so I drank more to punish him, to escape him. By the time we were done, I was reliant.

Things didn’t improve much with the father of my children….In fact, I only fell further down the rabbit hole. Too many convenient excuses. Too many reasons why. I’ve only become more afraid to approach nighttime without alcohol tugging me down into the quicksand of sleep. I wake up sometimes surprised to find texts of conversations I had with MC that I participated in but am only reading for the first time. And now here I am, 37, and drinking myself to forgetful stardust every night, stomach destroyed, eyes starting to yellow. Because I function at work and raising my kids, I have avoided looking directly in the mirror at my drunkenness. But…

I know it’s going to take me.

And I’ll let it just happen…because, I’ve discovered over the years, that, while the future may be changeable, unfortunately, I am not.

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November 13, 2020

This was such a powerful, honest thing to read, thank you so much for sharing it.

 

November 13, 2020

@thecharmquark aww thank you

November 13, 2020

One of my friends mothers was like that mother. She would get us all alcohol when we were 12 and 13 she would party with us and allow us to do really dangerous things. At the time I thought it was so cool, but now looking back it makes me sick.

You know I’m right there with you on the abuse, night terrors, and alcohol, so I’m not going to give advice. What I will say is be kind to yourself. Love you, bae ❤

November 13, 2020

@dancingthrough lol I just left you the same fucking note about understanding you and for you to be kind to yourself. We are such mental twins.

kat
November 13, 2020

When I read this I think of my best friend Jo…. I do understand and I find myself loving you even more! thank you for sharing this

November 13, 2020

@kaliko Aww, thank you for this note and for not judging. I don’t think anyone in my life besides Monika even knows how much I drink. I just don’t see myself drying out without rehab…and I can’t afford it, in more ways than financial.

I hope Jo is managing with the divorce… I know you worry about her.

November 13, 2020

While this is going to sound…naive?…I have faith in you.

It has to be some of the most gawdawful things to ever have to experience in the ways that you were forced to experience in the first place, to which no one should have ever done remotely what was done to you as a child…pile that up by orders of magnitude…and it’s easy to see why you went that route.  Coping.  And they worked, at least in a way.  Your friends sound like they were certainly caring of you in your college years…it’s a good thing to be sure.  It may have been hurtful to them in some way, but it seems far more likely that they were mainly worried about you and not themselves.

None of this will change overnight.  It may never change, considering the source of the rot that was visited upon you at such a foundational age.  BUT…don’t ever count yourself out.  Not fully, anyway.

Got yer back, Sis.  Everyone gets down.  Don’t ever count yourself out.  🙃

November 13, 2020

@tigerhawk thanks for the vote of confidence….

I am not having issues with blacking out again. Just holes filled with time. This alone should be impetus to stop… It embarrasses me that it doesn’t force my hand. I also feel terrible guilt that no matter how much I love my kids, I can’t seem to stop drinking to ensure I’m around for them… That is why I just don’t have a lot of faith in myself.

I don’t know where to even start to stop. I’m just a fucking coward.

November 13, 2020

@thecriticsdarling – …would some similar thing to AA help? I mean, I don’t know anything about anything but…just tossing out some sort of eighth-baked ideas.

November 13, 2020

@tigerhawk I’ve tried. I don’t believe in a higher healing power and I don’t like to talk/share/open up so I’ve never been been successful.

The drunkenness is merely a symptom of a problem I can can’t fix.

Maybe a lobotomy instead of a bottle of front of me? (Than you, Tom Waits.)

November 13, 2020

@thecriticsdarling – Understandable, and it has to be hard as hell to take a first leap anyway.  The Bottle has been a cope and it drowns…it’s not that you’re a coward…it may be just something that works/doesn’t work. Vicious cycle, I’m guessing.

It’ll be found. Just never goes as short as we want it to.

November 15, 2020

It makes me so angry that, in your youth, you were at the mercy of these very bad adults who used you — heedless of the long-term repercussions their exploitation would have on you life. Your uncle and his accomplice were the most vile, surely, but that friend’s mother was also despicable for watering the seeds of alcoholism in a 14-year-old girl, just for her amusement. It may have been said many times before yet it bears repeating again: the lingering consequences borne of what was done to you as a child are not your fault.

I didn’t have my first drink until I was 18 (amidst my first semester of community college), but — as you know from reading some of my old entries — it didn’t take long for me to be bestowed with the nickname “Drunken Ruckus” as a play on DR. There was much inebriated mischief and mayhem, and eventually there even came an arrest. So, though my off the wall inebriated antics did not stem from past trauma (for me it was mostly a means of offsetting nervous social awkwardness), I can identify with looking back and not remembering outrageous nights (remembering, rather, the information that concerned or just pissed off friends/roommates related the next day). I am grateful that you had caring and protective friends who watched your back.

Though the wild drunken stories are ultimately sad when considering the underlying issues, sometimes you just have to appreciate the humor of the antics. I recall you regaling me before with the incident of the McDonald’s parfait yarmulke amidst music rehearsal, and it remains a classic.

P.S. Your poetry has been as prolific as it is powerfully poignant as of late. Are they all recent compositions?

P.P.S. To answer your note response from earlier, I have, alas, been slacking terribly with literary and musical pursuits. I’ve been a bit scatterbrained while getting too caught up in ongoing (and nerve-racking) election coverage, plus my job has taken on new, stressful dimensions. But my journey with Don Quixote shall continue!

P.P.P.S. I don’t think I’d ever heard that lovely Cranberries song before.

November 16, 2020

@drbajahi

The story with that mother is even more convoluted than presented here. I started out being friends with her daughter. Later in high school, I dated her son… He was a wonderful, sweet boy and a caring boyfriend-which, of course, meant I was not actually attracted to him. I just wanted to be a part of his family bc mine sucked–so I dated him. The mom knew my own situation was bad and wanted to adopt me and move me in with them. Around this time, I discovered all the abuses that had been perpetrated on HER own kids right under her nose… knowing it would be just more of the same, I decided to stay put in my own house and bide my time till I could get away.  As shit as some of these adults were in my life, I actually consider myself lucky-because I had other adults who were more amazing than the others were shit. I had a lot of teachers help me and keep me on a better path than I prob would have sought out. And I’ve always been blessed with good people as friends…

Yes, I definitely admit I had some fun adventures while wasted. It only really becomes sad in a larger context.I’m a very happy, silly drunk mostly, only very seldom giving way to weeping or being emotional… So there are a lot of good times in memories where I was drinking. It only really becomes sad in a larger context.

MC has been gently pushing me to write more. (Always, in a kind, supportive way…I have met some of his colleagues while we’ve been out on dates and it’s clear he’s talked up my writing to them before… Which always melts my witchy little heart… That he is proud of my work, me.) He’s been submitting and actually winning a few contests here and there. That has also inspired me to work harder. 3 out of the 4 poems posted are new. One poem is a rewrite of a much older poem.

I loved The Cranberries when I was a kid, around the time I started drinking… That album is still a sentimental fave.

Oh God, the election… Ready to put the past 4 years behind us… Not sure how that will happen though without chaos happening first. Eek.

November 17, 2020

@thecriticsdarling Whether winner or first runner up, it would be awesome to read about you entering a poetry or other writing/essay contest. Good on MC for championing your talent!

November 16, 2020

I’m so sorry, hun. Your life kind of set things up this way. 🙁 I truly believe that the fact that my parents partied, and had already figured out what was worth it and not, helped, because I was always able to be honest with them, but they still told me to be careful. And there just wasn’t this novelty with drinking. Also, personally, when I’m not ok emotionally and I drink, I feel numb fro a bit, but then the way back down is so much stronger than the fun of it, so I end up not drinking unless I’m feeling good (now-a-days, anyway. I drank my emotions plenty in my earlier years, even with my great upbringing).

Every drug I’ve tried (which is A LOT of them) has felt that way: the way out of it hurts more than the way into it feels good, so that’s helped keep me away from addiction. Pain killers are probably the hardest thing for me. I’ve never been physically addicted, but there was one point of my life when I definitely was addicted to the habit of taking them. If anything, that would be my kryptonite, but these days I take many measures (I take them occasionally for some old pains) to make sure it’s clear if I end up slipping into it being a problem.

I wish I could help you, but really, this is a very personal thing, and with everything you have been through, it’s really hard not to want to be numb. The thing is, getting sober does make every feeling more intense for a while, because you have numbed stuff for so long that it all comes crashing down. The sad part about it is that, after a long period of intense feelings, things do start to heal, but you’d have to get through that really fucking hard period… That’s why I feel like most people who get to where you are can’t quit without help, because most addicts, with any drug/alcohol, have gotten there due to deep ass painful trauma, and that’s no small thing to overcome “naked.”

Just know that I never judge, but I always wish and hope that you will find your way out of the grasp of things that temporarily numb, but only damage things further. It’s not that you need to change, it’s that you need help freeing yourself from something that controls you, because it does. And I believe you will get there one day, I truly do. 🙂