When quarantine feels a little too weighty for me–when the stark gravity of living in a horror-filmesque world puts me right on the razor’s edge of true terror–I pause and think how much worse it would be if I was still drinking.
And it always makes me laugh.
Because holy mother of pearl, I was an absolute disaster. And my choices were–at best–highly questionable. The idea of trying to navigate a pandemic that calls for near social isolation, or at the very least not getting all up on people and actually wearing a mask on your face (not like dangling from an ear or around your neck), would’ve just been impossible.
Take my exuberance, strip it of all common sense, and there you have it: me, drunk.
You get a hug! And you get a hug! I don’t know you? Nevermind. Let’s hug!
All that’s assuming I ever made it out of the house. But more likely, it’d be circling in a wicked shame funnel over here: Drink too much. Text people ill-advised things I don’t remember. Be hungover. Despair. Rinse. Repeat.
If this sounds like a shitty coping mechanism, it was. And it’s only funny to me because it’s over. As a friend pointed out sometime during my first year of sobriety (which is hard y’all. So hard), I never have to be that person again.
When I see the memes and quips about drinking to deal with your kids (or your pets or your existential angst) during quarantine. I cringe. Because I know people are for real doing that. And when you’re in that place–of despair and addiction and shame–it seems like there’s nothing else to do. Coping, when you’ve been trying to avoid coping this whole time by doing the backstroke in a fish-bowl-sized margarita (one with Swedish Fish, of course), seems truly impossible.
So, no, quarantine doesn’t make me want to drink. When I quit, I scratched drinking off my menu of coping mechanisms (it was the only thing on the menu at the time, so that made things a little tricky). But I do often think about the things that made me want to drink. Because, while the pull toward oblivion via cocktail might not be there, the desire to skirt uncomfortable, troublesome emotion is very real.
But so is my resolution to work through that shit.
The driving emotion in my drinking was shame. On a deep, cellular level, I believed there was something so wrong with me, so broken & ugly, that if anyone ever saw it, they would reject me outright. I carried this feeling with me all. the. time. I could never be comfortable, because as soon as I allowed myself a deep breath, my inner critic (who is loud and fucking obnoxious) would start in on all the ways in which I was truly hideous.
I had a boyfriend and a best friend at the time. I couldn’t let either get close to me. I shook violently when he touched me and threw up when I even thought about being alone with her.
I was 16 years old. I felt totally alone. And crazy. And irredeemable.
Until I drank.
And then all that bullshit faded away. I drank to feel comforted. To feel whole. And to finally be able to connect with other people.
I drank for relief.
Sometimes, now, when I don’t want to get up in the fives to give myself time to do the psychic & spiritual work that keeps me sober, I think about that raw and broken 16 year old.
When I run up against a resentment I don’t want to let go, that I’d prefer to let fester so I can shore up my righteous indignation, I remember her.
It’s hard, remembering her. Just calling her to mind brings that burning shame to the center of my chest. And an intense desire to flee.
She still makes me cry.
But she also reminds me that there’s still work to be done. Hell, there’s always work to be done. And I honor her and her pain–and help her finally heal–by doing the work.
Even when it’s messy.
Especially when it’s messy.