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I was initially going to write about my belief that A.A. undermines the immensely difficult process of untangling your wants, desires and needs from the tight knot of alcohol dependence by constantly reaffirming its importance to your identity. That was when I was still in the middle of the story.
I am the quintessential addict. My life is spent perpetually chasing ways to chemically alter my brain in the hopelessly Sisyphean pursuit of feeling good. I am 24 and am not a grown-up in any way, shape, or form except for the fact that I can hand a bartender my ID and they will serve me a beverage that transports me to that magical world of faux-adulthood where only the ability to sign a check is required of me to enjoy the adult privileges I utterly abuse.
I drink because I cannot deal with reality and I cannot deal with reality because I drink; much like Chapstick, alcohol is a product that creates the very problem it appears to solve.
That Saturday was typical of my routine: I woke up late, past one in the afternoon, sleeping in simply for lack of a desire to wake up. When a very much estranged ex invited me over to drink shortly after, I replied with my standard “I’m trying not to, but it’s been pretty unsuccessful lately” response, befitting my murky identity as a formerly sober alcoholic who had begun to binge-drink nearly daily again under the flimsily constructed excuse that my drinking was now “social” and largely under control.
“Come be unsuccessful here,” he advised. A friend of his was going to be there too, so I felt comforted in the assumption that this was going to be a legitimate drinking affair, not an excuse for him to take advantage of me.
The promise of oblivion called: The alcohol would be free, and knowing him, more than abundant. Does this make me naïve? Undoubtedly. But the freedom from worrying about judgment from bartenders as I get annihilated alone, the reassurance of drinking safely out of sight of loved ones? I was over in less than 15 minutes.
The details are hazy. As soon as I walked in, shots of an unknown liquor -– I didn’t even think to ask –- were consumed in quick succession.
I am a champ at drinking; it’s a natural talent when you disregard your well-being utterly. We were having fun, though. I remember talking and laughing, and thinking that it was nice to have good conversation.
In my everyday life, I interact with very few people beyond my immediate family and my recent ex-boyfriend, T*, who is still my best friend even though my addiction is what tore us apart romantically.
Before the black-out fully kicked in, one of the last things I remember is being tied up in my ex’s bed and coerced into giving his friend a blow-job. Beyond that I vaguely remember struggling, crying about how I didn’t want a threesome, and –- flash -- I was suddenly clothed while various accusations were slung at me.
“What did you think was going to happen?” is one that really sticks out, because it upset and confused me even at the time. Weren’t we discussing literary theory and Of Montreal and making fun of The Secret? Why was I now being forced into sex I didn’t want, as if that was just the given price for my admission into drunk land?
I thought these things, disassociated from the horror of the acts themselves and instead just insulted that I couldn’t drink in peace without having to worry about being sexualized for it. I thought we were all on the same level; I guess the playing field is never equal when letting go comes with an entirely different set of rules for those of us with vaginas. I felt less than human.
(As an aside, what is it about this fucked up rape culture where a girl drinking voraciously is seen as the equivalent of handing out a free-for-all license to her body? I’m a human being that deals with mental illness in self-destructive ways, not a bunch of orifices for you to poke because you think my reckless treatment of my body somehow cancels out my autonomy over it).
I should have just gone home at that point, but there is no memory of any conscious-decision making on my part. I stupidly drove. More things happened to me. I went places. I cried, and cried, and cried.
I wouldn’t know any of this except I woke up in a stranger’s bed and he told me he had met me at a late-night bar. Evidently, my bawling wasn’t a deterrent. I had gone with him and his friend to the latter’s apartment, where, surprise, his friend began an aggressive altercation with my pants, according to my new bedmate. He took me to his place when he realized how messed up it was that his friend persisted despite me saying no and physically pushing him away.
Of course, that didn’t preclude him from having sex with me, because, as he said, I seemed much more interested in him. How can I argue with that? How do you explain that there comes a point where you are so far gone that any flirtation, no matter how genuine it seems, is null and void?
Meanwhile, T had been tracking me all night because in my bleak mindset I had posted on Facebook, “Seriously going to kill myself. Bye world.” He talked to the bartenders I had talked to, who confirmed I had been crying; he found my car abandoned, unlocked with a window open.
“You can’t keep continuously fucking around with my heart,” he said when I finally called him. “But it’s hard to be mad when I’m just so glad you’re alive.”
My parents echoed similar sentiments. They had searched in the dumpsters and canals near my car for my body. They struggled with opening the trunk, sure I was in there. My mother had to look because my dad couldn’t bring himself to do it. They comforted themselves and each other with the knowledge that they had done the best they could with me. But none of them would have been surprised if I was dead.
I slept for three days, intermittently waking up either shivering or sweating, but always, always shaking. This is going to kill me, I thought, bewildered for once at my body’s very physical reaction to my alcohol consumption. It occurred to me that I was destroying my body in order to get peace of mind, but my mental health wasn’t doing so hot, either.
That’s when I recognized this event for what it was -– my personal rock bottom. Sure, I could sink lower. Much lower. But I didn’t want to. And that was the difference.
I emerged from my room and announced to my parents, “I’m OK now.”
In the aftermath I found out that my ex had had anal sex with me while I was tied up and videotaped it.
“You realize you completely took advantage of my addiction,” I wrote him back, feeling hot with rage.
“Ask if I care,” was his succinct response. That cinched in; I knew I had regained something fundamental that I had been missing for so long. I finally cared.
I realize my wounds are self-inflicted, and for that reason, my story might not necessarily elicit sympathy. All I can say in my defense is depression both demands and perpetuates self-centeredness; there is nothing so real as the anxieties in your head, which twist life into a convoluted maze that is far more confusing and overwhelming than it ever needs to be, simply because they coax you down all the wrong paths, encouraging you to stay isolated and stuck, to choose the path of self-sabotage time and time again so that you never have to leave this comfortable prison and actually deal with the pain of the world outside your head.
This was another one of my utterly circuitous routes, but it’s the one I needed to take to find myself here, outside of myself and blinking at the wreckage left in the wake of my self-destruction.
It’s been two weeks, by far the longest I’ve gone without drinking in more than six months, since my relapse. Soon I’m moving out of my parent’s house to live with a friend in another state, a first for me. I feel hopeful about the future and I am confident I am done drinking.
Last time I quit, I was still in love with alcohol and tortured by its omnipresent absence. But I’m suddenly not the same girl. I was a girl who dug her heels in the ground and refused to give up an emotional crutch fully knowing that it was detrimental to my tenuous mental health, and now I’m a girl who wants to be alive. It’s that simple.