Shining and Hiding-Finding My Roots
“Yesterday incapable of writing even one word. Today no better. Who will save me? And the turmoil in me, deep down, scarcely visible; I am like a living lattice-work, a lattice-work that is solidly planted and would like to tumble down.” Franz Kafka, Diaries, April 8, 1914
Lattice is an intertwined framework designed to be used as a screen or used to display something. I am lattice-work. I am solidly planted, but some days I would like just to tumble down. I wasn’t always this person. Why did I become this person? Because of life and the way I handle it. I took in life and buried it. I am learning how narcissistic and shallow I really am. I thought displaying the sunshine would make me feel loved and happy. When that doesn’t work, I used my life as a screen. The root of my lattice-work began to crumble in the dirt.
168 days ago I took my last drink. Many drinks. It is easy to remember how awful that night was and the consequences from my last drunk. Personal consequences. Loss of respect. Shame. Self-loathing. Not wanting to live. I don’t want to go back to that place. I have proven time and again, it is not a good place for me. Alcohol is not my friend nor even a healthy acquaintance for me.
I am in recovery now, so life is good. Right? I no longer drink. Now, I have to learn to live sober. I have been doing this one day at a time since October 31, 2015. This is what recovery suggests for me to do. Live one day at a time. I am not unique. Every human being must learn to live and cope with life. We all must learn to how to handle relationships, our obligations, our thoughts and just life. We can all descend into a state of feeling that we are going to tumble down.
I share my story with you in these essays because I know many people who do not make it into recovery because they do not think they are a bad enough as an alcoholic. Bad enough. I have found out that bad enough is whatever is unacceptable to me. My last bottom was bad. Compared to some it may not have been so bad. But, it took me to a place I cannot return. I am convinced I will not live through it. That is why there cannot be a next time.
When I first entered recovery in 2004 I looked at others around me who had what I considered “bad bottoms.” Each time I came into recovery, it was always after a bad night. I swore I would not drink again. I was miserable. I did not have trouble every time I drank, but when I did have any trouble I had been drinking. I did not get a DUI. I did not lose any jobs. I did not lose my home. I did not have legal trouble. But, my life became unmanageable for me as I continued drinking. I would have what I thought was my bottom which would always take me back into recovery. I would immerse myself into my program and then I would, once again, compare myself to the others and think, “I’m not that bad.” I would quit working my program because I thought I was different. Or, I would start feeling better and think, “I don’t need a recovery program. I don’t need to do this daily.” Then, I would think I could drink successfully. For a small window of time, I could. Then, the window kept getting smaller and smaller. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. It doesn’t get better. It keeps getting worse and worse as the alcoholic drinks. For me when I started drinking again in May 2015 I drank every day until my last drink October 30, 2015. I drank for many reasons. I drank because I thought I could drink and have fun. I drank because I was sad. I drank because I was depressed. I drank because I was happy. I drank because I got to a place where I could not stop.
I didn’t start out this way. At first, I just had those bad nights that made me question if I was a real alcoholic. I know now if I had continued in my recovery I would not have reached the point I did in October 2015. My life would have had less hurt, and I would not have hurt those around me because of my drinking. But, it took me getting “bad enough” to make me realize that I am a real alcoholic and that I need help. I got help, and I am so grateful.
This is not an eloquent piece, but it is what it is. Each week I have people reach out to me about their drinking. They ask me, I suppose because I didn’t appear to be an alcoholic. I didn’t appear to live an unmanageable life. I was using my lattice-work of life to display a manageable life.
How can I be sure if I am an alcoholic or not? In my experience most people who are not alcoholics do not question this nor do they drink with a fervor that creates chaos in their lives. Most people have a bad incident happen and realize drinking is probably not a good idea for them, or they can take a drink or two and stop. An alcoholic can do neither of these. An alcoholic will continue to have problems and not think that maybe if alcohol is taken out of the equation, my life would be better.
I had a professor in a theater class in college tell me that I would be the type of person who would get a disease and create all sorts of drama around it to make myself the heroine. I have never forgotten this. She said it in jest, but I thought to myself, “for God’s sake, I am in a drama class.” It makes me feel shame and self-loathing that I shine. I think that is why I retreat after I shine. I am ashamed that I have given off so much sun. I just want to learn how to blend in. I am learning in recovery to love myself. To shine and be who I am. I am also not ashamed that I share, if dramatically, my journey as an alcoholic. It is who I am. Recovery works. If I work it. It is a daily journey and a daily walk because I am so flawed. I am flawed, but I am a bright light because God made me that way. I am grateful that I am learning balance in life. I want to be the root that is firmly planted. I want to continue growing.