Okay, I’ve shared with you, my precious readers, some things that happened in my domestic life which are very personal. And yet these things weren’t too hard to write about or share. This is possibly because the dissolution of my family happened officially in 2007. While it’s not exactly water under the bridge at this point, it’s not such a fragile thing to handle as it was. What I’m writing about today makes me feel very open and vulnerable, like I’m taking a huge risk by revealing it.
In 3 days, on January 7, it will mark 2 years since I’ve given up drinking. Alcohol abuse has plagued me throughout my life, and yet it does not run in my family. It was something I latched onto very early, and did to myself. This paragraph alone makes me feel like I should wait for judging eyes, shaking heads, and faces turning away to other things.
I suppose the best way to write about all of this is to start at the beginning and work my way forward. When I was in my adolescence, I hated my life, and I hated myself. At 15, I wanted to kill myself, but hadn’t the willpower to do it. I started raiding my parents’ unused liquor cabinet at that point, because I figured that if I couldn’t end my life quickly, I’d end it slowly. The big surprise (other than learning that scotch tastes like what I imagine urine does) was that the feeling I’d get from drinking would turn every emotion I had around. I had no more hate, anger, or depression. Life, while drunk, seemed simply wonderful. Instead of being the slow form of suicide I envisioned, it became a crutch. I emptied that cabinet pretty good, and since my parents didn’t touch it, it went unnoticed. My parents also weren’t around a lot. It still seems strange, though, not to have gotten caught looking back at it.
I gave up drinking for the first time in 1990, a month shy of my 19th birthday, when I became startled that a stressful day resulted in a very clear image of a bottle in my head. The image appeared in my mind, accompanied by the thought that it would all be over soon, when I got home to my concubine, the bottle. It frightened me to find myself having that thought.
I’m not sure how long I was “dry”, but I did eventually go back to drinking, because my senses of worthlessness, inadequacy, loneliness, etc., were never addressed. I understand that now, literally as I’m writing these sentences. I’m actually tearing up with this revelation. But onward I must go. This tale has not fully been told.
I remember that I had gotten obliterated every day for 9 months straight with the exception of perhaps 2 or 3 days when I had a cold. I was in my mid-twenties. I worked in the morning, got destroyed when I got home, and would pass out by 8 p.m. I had plenty of time to sleep it off, and so rarely was hungover or ill-effected for work the next day. Of course, we seem to be able to handle that kind of lifestyle when we’re young.
I quit drinking at that time because my boss knew what I was doing. She didn’t stop me in the way you might think. The drinking didn’t effect my work or reliability, and to be honest, she probably had some problems of her own. The reason she induced me to stop was because she called me on Thanksgiving, saying she wanted to wish me a happy holiday before I was too drunk. She didn’t mean it in a negative way, I don’t think, but in a caring way. I believe she may have had a similar destination, although it was because she was a party girl whereas I was avoiding life. She wanted to let me know she cared before I’d be unable to have the conversation.
I’ve mentioned my writing of poems and lyrics in these posts, and I was doing this very extensively back then. 1995 was one of my worst years emotionally, and I can recall this because of how prolific I was that year and what it was I’d written. Anyway, there were a few people at work with whom I shared my writing. About a week after the Thanksgiving phone call, one such friend wanted me to show the poem I’d just shared with her to another coworker. I refused, citing how personal my writing was and that I was very selective of whom got to see it. She said, “What’s wrong with showing people there’re other facets to Jordan besides just being the Shift Leader in the Deli?” I still refused to share the writing, but I started putting the phone call and that conversation together; what if the other facet everyone saw was just Jordan, the drunk? I dumped out the bottle I was drinking when that thought hit me, and every other bottle in the apartment.
I had been sober for over 4 years when I started dating my wife-to-be, at 29. I had made it almost to 5 years, when, strangely enough, Thanksgiving would factor in again. We had gone to the house of friends of my wife’s (then fiance’s) parents. I used to wonder if I’d ever drink again. I thought that because I thought about it so much and wanted there to be a day when I could, it meant that I wasn’t ready to. But at this Thanksgiving, I was surrounded by the woman I loved and her son, their family, and their friends. When I was offered wine, it seemed to me that it was just a celebratory thing, it was for the right reasons and not the wrong ones, and I had no pressure or expectations of having a drink. It frankly seemed inconsequential, so I figured, why not? This seems like the time is right. I didn’t get drunk, I just had a glass of wine. But it awakened that thirst back up. By the time I was married, I was having an occasional beer with dinner if we went out.
I eventually started buying alcohol and hiding it in my closet (my wife and I had separate closets). I would have a six pack in the fridge sometimes, but I’d drink some and smuggle fresh ones from my closet into the six pack so it never looked like I’d touched it. Sometimes my wife would go with my stepson over to her parents, and if it got late, they’d stay over. I looked at those nights as times I could take a “mini vacation” and get lit.
I think I should point out here that I never required alcohol on a physical level, which is why I would be able to quit at various times over my life or could wait until my next opportunity to drink. I never had the D.T.’s. I could get through my day without it, without needing it. It is, however, a very deep emotional addiction. I’m addicted to feeling the way I do when I’m drunk.
I realize this might sound like the typical things addicts will say: “I don’t have a problem”, “I can quit whenever I want”, “I’m not addicted”, “I’m in control”. But there is physical dependency and emotional dependency. I have the latter. I know I very much do indeed have a problem. I can have a single drink today and stop there. I can wait a week or a month and have a second single drink. But eventually I will want to have them more frequently. And I’ll want to not just taste it, but feel a little buzz. And then I’ll want to be drunk. And then sloppy drunk. I CAN stop at any point, my problem is in convincing myself I want to. It becomes a game of “Forever Tomorrow”. “I’ll stop tomorrow, this is the last day.” The next day, “Okay, tomorrow, for sure.” Like I said, the trouble is in convincing myself that I want to stop and not feel that feeling I love so much. Feeling that false happiness I get when I’m in that state and that I don’t feel when sober. I was able to control this emotional addiction when I was married because I had something to lose: my family. It was easier to convince myself then.
However, my family situation ended. In the first year back from Rhode Island, with my stepson raging violently every night once safe from his father’s abuse, there was no thought or ability to drink. We just tried to get through each day. But when my wife and I separated, I drank every day for a month. I continued to do this for most of the next few months until my wife and I “hooked back up” several months later. When she eventually became so depressed that she had to go inpatient several times (her son being cared for in the live-in facilities himself at that point), I drank away in despair for her mental state. When she broke up with me again, guess what I did? Mind you, I firmly believe my wife never knew of my closet drinking. I do not believe this had anything to do with her decision to break up with me either time. I don’t think she’d let me still see her son if she did know.
After the breakup, my drinking continued for a few years, until January, 2010. By that point, I had dug myself into a nice whole financially, jacking up my credit cards, then about $35,000 of total debt, $20,000 of which I had accrued during the marriage, mostly during the last year of it paying for my stepson’s psychological treatment and medicines not covered by my insurance. Plus what I’d charged to keep us afloat that whole year back in Jersey when my wife didn’t work. To add to all of that, from 2008-2010, I not only bought massive amounts of alcohol, I’d buy things online while drunk. I became $55,000 in debt trying to buy happiness.
So, that January two years ago, I realized something had to change financially. I had to stop drinking, for one, obviously, and I’d have to see what I could do about the debt for another. I eventually filed for bankruptcy.
It’s not been an easy road since then. My money is tight, but this is how I have to pay the ferryman (metaphorically) for the lavish cruise I’d chartered. I accept that. That brings my story to the present, 3 days away from 2 years of sobriety. I have to realistically assume I can never drink again, which is sometimes hard to pull off. There are ads all over the television, there are social situations in which drinking is prominent, the temptation is always there.
Like I said, I have to convince myself I don’t want to do it, and just as my family was the reason I’d held myself in check before, my reasons now are that I have an amazing gift in my dog, and she needs me to keep my priorities straight. Plus I’ve worked hard to rebuild this life. I’ve wasted so much of it, but I’m not dead yet. Perhaps I can still find some happiness, REAL happiness in my life, and to do so will require saying no, probably for the rest of my days.