“When a woman drinks it’s as if an animal were drinking, or a child. Alcoholism is scandalous in a woman, and a female alcoholic is rare, a serious matter. It’s a slur on the divine in our nature.” ~ Marguerite Duras
I don’t write about it often (or talk about it often, or even think about it often), but I am a recovering alcoholic. I’ve never outed myself properly in writing, except for when I quietly ramble sometimes in my moleskins, so I might as well do the traditional greeting:
Hi. I’m Chrissy, and I’m an alcoholic.
I’ve been sober for longer than I drank actively. On January 25, 2012 I will have twelve years of sobriety. I’m 32 years old. I was 21 when I drank my last drop of wine (because it was wine, and always wine, that used to bowl me over and into pitiful infinity). I don’t shout about my addiction, nor do I actively go to any sort of twelve step support group. To me, talking so publicly about alcohol, talking about the part of me that is feral, wanton, and ill doesn’t soothe me. It keeps the part of me that’s broken center stage in my consciousness. This might not be the right way to recover, but it’s my way, and so far it’s worked. I am of the firm belief that something bigger than myself is guiding me along, and looking out for me. Talking to this personal higher power, and to my husband, has been my healing circle of white, shining light.
But lately I’ve realized that what Gary and I have essentially done, is create a small micro-society all our own. A sober one. One that doesn’t walk through the valley of the shadow of death and war and open bars at weddings. We usually ignore the existence of alcohol. For me at least, the memories are too embarrassing; the taste of red wine still too acrid on my tongue. Entering a world where people drink recreationally is opening up Pandora’s box. Not that I fear that I would drink again, it’s just that I don’t want to remember what it was like when I did.
When I hear people talk about drinking, or mention their plans to pair a certain wine with a certain dish, my thoughts are usually restrained. I don’t mention the green dragon that lives inside of me, that’s been asleep for almost a dozen years. I’m not interested in ruining anyone’s enjoyment. They’re not ill. To them, alcohol isn’t arsenic. It has the capability to turn them into human weapons, if they swallow too much, but usually their experience is positive, their memories warm and festive.
When I drank, it was like swallowing swords. The blade was fast, and cut me cleanly in half each time. Too much was never enough.
Another interesting caveat of being a recovering alcoholic: I can spot my kind out in a crowd. It’s hard to describe, but there’s a sort of self-depreciating bolt that gets loosened in an addict. It gets tightened, and the body and brain can run pretty much normally, but something is still always missing. No, not missing. Something is there. Too much thought, too much feeling, too much craving for sex and pleasure and light and stimulation. The stars are more than stars. The world is never flat. Passion runs through our veins like ivy. We can’t turn ourselves off, and we are never normal enough to enter a society dripping with rum, whiskey, beer, and barrels and barrels of wine the color of blood.