Pissing on Your Foot & Telling You It’s Raining

“No, I’m not drinking,” I would protest or whine or insist or yell or mutter or slur or shout or maintain or report or say or mumble or sputter or whisper or hiss……. or belch or snicker. Depended on the day and who was doing the asking.

“I only had a couple…….” I would counter or insist or demand or swear sincerely or ask or state earnestly or attest or report or mumble or sputter or whisper or hiss…… or belch. Depended on the day and who was doing the asking.

No matter how I said it, one of two things would happen:

The person would call me out on my lie — this was verrrrrry occasionally.

OR (more likely):

Their lips would flat-line, their eyes would squint, their eyebrows would furrow, and – almost invariably – they would fold their arms. Sometimes there would be an additional gesture such as an impatient foot tapping or an irate eye-roll. But usually the lips would straighten into a thin line and the eyes would squint.

People just didn’t have the patience to play the “yes you did”/”no I didn’t” game. The alcoholic or addict always can hold out longer and pull out evidence that would never be admissible in a court of law, typically beginning with the sentence-starter: “Even ask _________ [so-and-so].”

Yes. We had proof positive. And reliable alibis. And charrrrrrrrrrrrm. And puppy eyes.

When I saw the lips flat-line and the eyes squint -or ……….. no, let me derail that train of thought. I would also insist on my abstinence to sometimes two people. Did you ever do that? And BOTH their lips flat-lined and they would make eye contact with one another? Silence that said SO much. That made me feel instantly ganged up on, outnumbered, pissed off, and willing to double my efforts to persuade them to believe me.

Sometimes I would see shoulders slouch back down, eyes soften, a smile ease into the flat-lined lips and warming them. I won them over. But this was rare and I knew it. But I fought that fight every time. Trying to win them over.

I’d take the proverbial piss on their feet and tell them it’s raining. I’d tell them to ignore the temperature – ignore the sunshine and there being NO clouds in the sky – and ask them to ignore the color yellow. It’s raining. It’s supposed to be happening. You’re supposed to have wet feet. Everyone has wet feet this time of year! And they would walk away with their wet feet ska-winching in their soaked sneakers, smiling and thinking this was normal. I persuaded them. Sometimes.

The squint. The flat-lining lips. I kept insisting.

Those empty bottles under the table cloth of the end table? They are someone else’s from before. My staggering? I stood up too fast and my blood pressure is low and how DARE you pick on me about a medical condition I can’t control. The smell on my breath? You’re imagining things.

Oh, yes. I’d boomerang any evidence so they would question their own judgment and sanity, and in the end they would feel guilty for having tinkered with such a nice lady like me.

“You’re as sick as your secrets,” they are wont to say in Al-anon. And they’re right. And I had a million secrets stacked on secrets shoved in drawers between secrets shoved in closets of secrets inside attics of secret basements…… I didn’t know where I kept them all and couldn’t keep them straight.

I realize just exactly how free I am today. I am relatively secret-free. Except the occasional appropriate secret such as what I got you for your birthday (you’re going to love it) and what I did the other night ……… ’cause nice girls don’t kiss and tell. And sometimes they do nothing, but they don’t need to advertise that either.

I am free. I can look people in the eye. I don’t have to hesitate before answering questions, trying to remember what I told them last time or what I told this person’s spouse because I need the lies to be consistent…………. I am not accused of anything. I don’t need a defense today. I’m free. I’m out of the prison of my own making.

They say to “live like someone left the gate open” (and the saying is superimposed over a spritely little puppy in running joyously in midair). I hope to do that. But for now, I’m just happy that I left the gate open and I’m out and about. Free.

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Gateway Drug? Gateway to Rape……..

“Are you f**kin’ confused about why they call it Blow?” He demanded, jerking the mirror over to his side of the table to re-calibrate the lines.

I felt stupid for a second, but the drunken “I don’t care” mechanism mercifully kicked in.  I was too drunk to inhale on cue.   I was horribly drunk, horribly uncoordinated, and whenever I hovered near the mirror  air gushed through my nose and the white powder would splay into specks all over.  I didn’t answer him. I didn’t have an answer.  The guy he was with sat quietly, staring at the table.  He was stoned.  It was in the 80’s that night, and the little black-haired guy kept his black leather jacket on.  He didn’t sweat a bit.  I  never met him before now.

“You can’t HAVE any if you do it again.  $#!t’s expensive.”  His ashy blond eyebrows were furrowed, meeting deep creases at the place where the top of his nose and his forehead converge.  It looked weird.  I was fixated on it.  That and the boil on his chin thinly veiled with the peachfuzz goatee.

“Ok,” I muttered, folding my arms.

This wasn’t my first time and I didn’t like being spoken to like I was some amateur.

But how did I get here?

I went to school in the ’80’s at the height of Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign. Believe me when I say the education was there.  Did I say education?  How about:  Scare tactics.  Try heroin and you’ll drop dead.  Try cocaine and you’ll drop dead.  LSD?  You’ll walk out a window.  A 10th story window.  Smoke pot?  Welllll, you won’t die, but life will suck.  That was it in a nutshell.  And saying “no” is such a simple alternative, isn’t it?

I internalized this.  I did believe that sudden death was possible – and I don’t mean the bonus round in a game show.  What I thought was more likely was an instant baboon on your back followed by a life of crime.  So when I was buzzed one night and they were passing stuff around, my inhibitions were down.  It didn’t seem so bad.  Some guy chuckled at my reluctance and said, “It’s not what they tell ya.”

Then?  I didn’t die.  I wasn’t stealing old lady’s purses to feed my new-found hunger.    In fact?  There WAS no new-found hunger.  I walked away unscathed.  So?  The next time they passed it around? I did it again.  And again.  And again.   And I loved it.

Now, ‘mind you …. I didn’t bug OUT if so-and-so wasn’t home and I didn’t scramble to get to _______’s (insert name of local bar with a “powder room”) before last call to stalk some drug dealer.  I didn’t start barking at everyone and I didn’t start fretting about who else might have it and inviting myself to people’s houses unannounced so I could score ….. but I loved it.  And I usually accompanied these freaks who would ultimately drive me out of town – with the caveat that they BETTER have a bottle for me.  Humph. I didn’t understand their fixation on the stuff.

Ultimately I didn’t know what I was putting up my nose.  One night I had some stuff that wasn’t the shade of white I was accustomed to.  Beige isn’t the right word …. but it’ll do.  And it made me itchy and sleepy.  Some other stuff burned the inside of my nose one night and made me freakishly paranoid – did I instantly become [in that one night] one of those people with the skin burned/melted out, the skin that cordoned off one nostril from the other?  I kept tenderly twisting a finger around in there to make sure it was all still there.  I’d frantically look in the mirror and then hide when I heard an unfamiliar voice.  One night there was stuff :  kind of a golden tan with a more velvety(?)  texture …. it knocked me OUT and felt all warm and sleepy like a winter Sunday morning in a fluffy big blanket.  It was a nice big dose of “I don’t CARE.”  If it was what I had been looking for, it would have been bliss and probably an instant habit.  But I wanted to be up there [pointing to the ceiling], not down there [pointing to the floor].

However:  With the exception of a few unpleasant surprises, I thought of it as fun.  I could drink more – way more! – and stay up until the darkness gave way to that periwinkle morning light and that sliver of pink in the distance.  I would go home tired and crash.  I hated sleeping for as long as I did and never being sure if I would wake up in time for my evening shift …. but I loved it.

Getting raped changed that.

A cute guy asked me out.  In the late ’80’s looking like Keifer Sutherland was an outstanding perk.  He wasn’t much of a conversationalist –  with the clarity of hindsight, I’d now say he was dumb.  But at the time, I thought it was cute and perhaps meant I made him nervous.   I only wish he had been more nervous.  He had a house party at his mom’s.  His mom was there in her room upstairs save an occasional swaying stumble to the bathroom; she was a notorious lush.  She would stagger unkempt into traffic in broad daylight.  Everyone knew her and I was unpleasantly surprised to find out she was his mom.   She wandered down in a house dress to have a drink with us.  Her hair was in a compact gray bun with strands of hair fraying out from the sides.  She slurred some unintelligible stuff before pounding a beer and staggering suddenly upstairs for the night.

His friends left one by one.  We had smoked some potent weed.  We drank a lot, mixing drinks with not a care in the world.  It churned menacingly in my stomach, but snorting some coke took care of that.  My thoughts sharpened, but it didn’t pair so well with the weed.  I miserably wondered “why do I always wind up like this?”

I never meant to.  I just meant to feel good and always overdid it.  The switch was on and I could never stop.

When his last friend left, I was glad to be alone with him and get to know him better.  The quiet of the house was pleasant, and I was taken with his shy half-smile.

In an hour, I was running out of the house stifling tears.   My head was extremely clear.  The buzz was GONE.  I knew what happened.  I ran. I stumbled. I slammed the door. I clutched my button-fly shorts which now had the top three buttons missing, ripped off.   Through the screen to the open window I heard his slurry voice chuckle, “Come onnnnnn.  Where ya goin’?”

My skin was red and raw in the shower as I vigorously and almost violently scrubbed my skin with a big bar of Dial.  I sobbed snottily slobbery with hot water pouring down my face.  I could still taste his repulsive kisses.   I wasn’t going to the police.  What would I tell them?  I mean, which illicit illegal ill drug should I START with?    And the underage drinking.   That was a nice aside.   And why the hell didn’t his mother wake up?  She really didn’t hear that? I FOUGHT him.  And then that made it worse and it was happening anyway.  And that made me feel more ashamed – that I quit fighting.  It wasn’t until years into sobriety that I made peace with my instinct for self-preservation.  In that moment I thought he could kill me.  He just hated me and was so powerful.   It started with a kiss that went from zero to passion in three shocking seconds.  I pushed him away.  Smiling, I started with “knock it off.”  And it was all downhill from there.  With all of that Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” in my head, that night I found it sometimes was not an option – no matter how loudly you screamed it and no matter how much you kicked and punched.     But I never said no to anything being passed around when the party was in full swing.

I loved to hate him.  For years, my hate intensified and I loved it.  It felt powerful – like another drug.  The rape happened when I was 18.  When I was 28, I happened upon him in some dive bar I frequented.  I had a friend – a guy  who was always cracking his neck and looking for a fight.  I went over to him and whispered what that guy did to me, and he took care of it.  I took pleasure in watching this eruption of violence outside, pleasure in the bouncer closing the door to the bar with a shake of his head.  He did this when he was going to ignore it, and he would for my neck-cracking/looking-for-a-fight friend.  They were buddies.  So the fight went pretty far and I took such pleasure in watching him stagger stunned down the darkened street with blood and mud all over.  The pleasure was fleeting and was soon displaced with the same hatred I always felt.  I thought revenge would fix this feeling.  I thought the balance of power would shift.

I had to work hard to overcome that resentment I felt for him – and that’s probably a whole OTHER blog, but I’ll say it’s possible.  And that’s something I did for ME and not for HIM.

My point is how tinkering with chemicals not only led to me being with a bad mix of people.  It led me to having clouded judgment and misinterpreting nonverbal cues – such as the look he gave me.  It seemed shy at the time, that half-smile.  Now it seemed more menacing.  Or maybe my memories are changing history – and the facts are fixed.  It’s my access to them that changes.

Drugs led me to resisting pressing charges and seeking justice – real justice, not parking lot justice, not street justice.  I’m not blaming myself (and I hesitate to use the term “blaming the victim.” I am not a victim. The victim mentality is ultra bad for my sobriety).  But I think it’s good for me to feel that much more empowered by sobriety knowing that the likelihood that it will happen again has been fantastically reduced.  I am less vulnerable.  I am not a victim.

Alcoholic’s Anonymous ……

Do I dare write about A.A.?  Sure.

In keeping with their traditions, I am going to remain anonymous.  I do not consider myself to be a spokesperson of A.A. I am not their poster-child. I am just a cog in the wheel.  But it’s hard to talk about my alcoholism without addressing my means of recovery.  So as long as we understand each other, I should proceed.

The life I have today is beautiful.  I never imagined I would have such a beautiful family, such a rewarding career, such love, such contentment …. I can sit in the room with myself and be okay. My life includes spirituality.  I put down the drink a kicking and screaming atheist, so it’s a miracle that my heart has turned.

The life I have today could only be possible with A.A.

I know there are other means of quitting drinking.  Personally, I have met people who just …. stopped.  They maintain a healthy respect for their addiction and they stay sober for eons.  Trust me. It’s possible.  But it didn’t work for me. I needed support.

In AA, I was taught that drinking was not the problem; it was the “solution” and the “solution” stopped working for the problem which was me.  This is where the twelve steps come in.  This is what I needed and this is why I couldn’t do it alone.

Alcoholic’s Anonymous is confusing.  They have meetings.  They have people “sharing” at these meetings.  It appears to be a form of group therapy.  Yes.  A support group.  It IS that, but it is a 12-step program.  For a 12-step program to work, one must work the program.

Initially, I got the support – and I still do.  Here are the suggestions they offered me that I took them up on (and they say A.A. is “suggestions only”):

1.  I have a sponsor

2.  I have a home group

3.  I attend a step meeting

4.  I have a network

5.  I go to meetings

6.  I work the steps

7.  I sponsor people

8.  I pray – “please” in the morning,”thank you” at night

 

This works for me.  A little bit at a time, I have “recovered.”  I don’t like the term “recovered,” because it implies I became the person I was before.  “Recovering” something means to find something that was lost or to restore something to what it once was ….The person I was before was a bitter and angry person who detested herself.  That is not who I am today.  Thank God.

What I Hated About A.A.: 

1.  PRAYER

2.  Higher Power / God

3.  Gratitude (“What the hell is there to be grateful for???”, I mentally screamed whenever someone used the word “grateful.”)

4.  Seems like a CULT (I really thought this, but let me assure you no one asked me to stay away from my family, no one made me do anything I didn’t want to do, and as for brainwashing?  Well, I do think differently today and I assure you it’s an improvement.  They pass a basket and most people throw in a buck.  If you don’t have it?  No judgment.  It’s not some scheme – the money goes to renting the church basements, buying coffee & styrofoam cups, and to A.A. services such as books for newcomers, etc. )

5.  It seemed like a cliche of itself

6.  People helping me!!!  (I wanted to know everything already, I wanted to be independent and not need people!!!  Blehhhh!!!!)

What I Love About A.A.: 

1.  Faith

2.  Friends/Socializing – it’s like what I thought I used to have in the bars, but didn’t really.  If I was upset, the best any of them would do was buy me a shot and secretly wish I’d shut up because I was being a buzz kill.  In AA?  People LISTEN and support!  I can’t get over it.  And if you happen to get to know people and mention that you’re moving?  There are scads of people there.  It’s amazing.

3.  Serenity

4.  Gratitude (gag!!!  I can’t believe I’ve been converted!)

5.  The life skills they gave me (I did not know how to be assertive, how to take care of myself, how to have relationships with other people …. countless things)

6.  A peaceful way of life (the chaos I used to experience constantly is gone.  I can relax today.)

7.  Learning how to have fun without alcohol – and it’s possible!

8.  The steps

9.  My sponsor who is like a new father to me

10.  Getting to know a new me and loving her

 

I’m just feeling like I ought to talk about my own personal experience with it because it’s what helped, but I want to make it clear that I’m not going to push it down anyone’s throat and I’m not considering myself their spokesperson.  I love it and felt like I owed it some more mention.

 

Stop It.

I tried to stop SO many times.  I did, I did!  I promise.

 

Reason #1:  To save my relationship with the man I loved, the man I was with for 7 years.

Reason #’s 2-38:  See above.

Reason #39:  I lost the man above.  I wanted to “show him”  how “good” I was doing.

Reason #’s 40-???:  I couldn’t get buzzed anymore.

Reason #____:  I had my first blackout

Reason #____:  I was getting violent

Reason # ____:  I side-swiped a house while driving my car

Reason #_____:  I spontaneously vomited while driving home.  Being too buzzed to cope with it that night, I went inside and passed out.  The following morning was hideous.

Reason #____:  I lost the place I was living and had to live with mom for a month.  I couldn’t let her see me like that.  The vow to stop drinking lasted for less than one evening.

Reason #___:  I was getting more violent

Reason # ___:  More blackouts.  More accusations of violence, corroborated by blood on my floor

Reason #____:  Domestic violence

Reason # ____:  Court

Reason # ____:  To save another relationship

Reason #_____:  I still couldn’t get buzzed anymore

Reason # _____:  I hated myself

Reason #_____:  My then-husband went to detox.

I was extremely angry inside at him – this was going to screw up EVERYTHING for me!  I couldn’t have it in the house, I couldn’t go to the bars …. I mean, HIS drinking was ruining our marriage, right?  [wink].  On the outside …. I was supportive.  Lip-service was something I could do well.  “Yes, honey.  What ever you need.”  The plan was to get annihilated every minute he was in that detox and …. I’d stop …. when …. he …. got out.

Getting ready to stock my ‘fridge, I had one shoe off and one shoe on.  With shoe in hand, I stared at nothing and thought.  A calm came over me and I thought, “Why don’t I just not drink today.  Like, for practice.”  And that was it.  He left detox AMA and detoxed on beer.  In my sick mind, this made perfect sense to me.  I mean, he was a drunk after all.

I felt shaky.  I couldn’t think.  I kept sensing someone standing very close to me and I’d turn and no one would be there and I’d jump.  Jumpy, jumpy, jumpy.  Why didn’t I go to detox?  Ohhhh, because.  I wanted to drink at the drop of a hat.  I didn’t want to have to sign out of someplace if I changed my mind. I didn’t want some nurse talking me out of it.  Besides.  Detoxes were for alcoholics.