Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In which I talk about myself a lot, also please contact me if your pissed-in bed did not receive a shout out here.

So I'm in the house. My "room" is the basement of every house of this era that features a massive fireplace, little natural light, and is guaranteed to have had a pool table in it at one point. When I got here, I was assigned to one of the four beds in this room. Also in the basement was another enclosed bedroom. If you grew up in the eighties, you know this room as the bedroom of your friend's older brother who smoked weed and listened to Anthrax and had bootlegged Faces of Death VHS tapes and didn't have a lot of trouble sneaking out at night. In this house, though, it's just another bedroom with two beds.

Long story short: One guy graduated today and one got kicked out for dealing his prescribed buprenorphine. Another guy took it, and that guy got kicked out too. So now I'm sharing the Faces of Death bedroom with A.S., which means that fewer people see my sleepy ass in the air on the way to do an early morning load of laundry. This is a positive development. I mean, for me. I feel bad for the guys that got kicked out and sincerely wish them well.

The foremost thing I'm trying to do by making a record of all of this is to have something to review later for myself. In the last several years, I found myself many times returning to the things I'd written about my first attempt at sobriety in 2007. I erased a lot of old entries in the ensuing drunky-years, and I don't remember why; if it's because they were painful, embarrassing, or contained egregious syntax abuses. What I'm finding now though is that the painful and embarrassing stuff is the stuff I most want to share. Each time I reveal something about myself lately, it takes a little of the load off.

Because, absolutely, the most damage I've done in the last several years was keep secrets. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that works to isolate you, and it's so gradual that you really don't know it's happening until you can take a clear look back at yourself before you mopped yourself into a corner. Also, it becomes so ingrained that you find yourself not only withholding information, but telling stupid lies for NO REASON. To people you care about. About bullshit!

"Today I went running and got my hair cut, and later I'm going to the movies with a friend". No I didn't. Also, no, I'm not. But, you know, at least you won't suspect that I've actually been sitting on my balcony drinking all morning if you think I'm going to the movies at six! Except, of course, that you usually knew I was lying anyway. Since I drunk-dialed you at 11am and all.

This newly recovered aptitude for honesty is a little dangerous. It's like taking a pistol from an amateur marksman and handing him a bazooka saying, "Go to town!". I'm telling on myself in ways that are probably too much information. Like Saturday, for example. I went to an 11:00 AM AA meeting because nobody else in the house was going. Don't get me wrong- I've come to really enjoy my new housemates with few exceptions. But sharing at a meeting with someone who you're going home with is just different than baring all to a roomful of strangers.

The facilitator called on me, and the standard response I'd planned went out the window. I wanted to say, "I'm B, and I'm an alcoholic. My sober date is 01/31/2011. Thank you for calling on me. As I'm so new, I really don't have much to share at this time. However, it's been a blessing to come here and listen to all of you today and for the last week or so. Thank you." What I actually said (I think... I was terrified, and all I could hear was the blood sizzling in my ears.) (More on my new Prozac prescription later), was "Thank you so much I'm new and I'm nervous. Oh! My name is B, I'm an alcoholic, I really like what you said... did you say osmosis? Because all of this is confusing at first... I mean one of the things I really liked was from chapter eight, where it says not to withdraw now that we're re-entering society, and I think you said something about that? You didn't?... confused about the spirituality aspect but thinking I understand it more? Maybe that was the osmosis part and... I have pissed in more beds than I can count... Vegas, Bend, Minneapolis, Missoula... in Myrtle Beach my boyfriend insisted on tipping the housekeeper $20... maybe osmosis, maybe I thought that up. Sorry, I'm nervous!... pissed on my friend E's air-mattress, and all of my boyfriend's beds, and...

... it's been a blessing to come here and listen to all of you today and for the last week or so. Thank you."

And you know, when I should have felt mortified, all I felt was relief. When the room responded, as is its custom, in a chorus of "Thank you, B", I really think I was being thanked for sharing.

The thing about sharing in meetings is that it's imperative. You leave feeling that you contributed, and that other people have a personal interest in your success and your growth. When people feel that way about you, you can sense it, and you naturally care more about them, too. Eventually what you get is a true fellowship (and interestingly enough, isn't that also kind of how friendships work?). At first, though, it's hard. I went to a few meetings before coming here, and shared, sincerely, in one small one. Walking away, it was the lightest I'd felt in ages. I'm eager to become comfortable doing it regularly, but I'm happy to take it one day at a time for now. Or, if the Big Book has its way, forever.

The thing about the truth is that it, too, is imperative. There were dozens of truly affecting things said to me by my closest friends during the morning of my intervention, but one of them was from L, who basically said that the foundation of our relationship was our relentless honesty with each other, whether it was sad, inconvenient, darkly funny, or just plain hilarious. Now that I was out of the truth-telling game, he didn't know where our longstanding, deeply affectionate friendship stood. He nailed it, and it broke my heart. After all, my friendships are the most important things to me in my world, and the same damage has been done to all of them in varying degrees.

But just like that, I started telling the truth, and things started to get better. Later that night, I would call my mom and tell her everything. I had dreaded the thought of this call for ages. But immediately, I started to feel the distance I'd put between us in recent years start to evaporate. Living without the truth will make you crazy. I can't believe it took me so long to figure that out.


March 2 marks my first 30 days of sobriety, and a likely onslaught of navel-gazing about my personal recovery as I get a handle on this system and the program and all that. I thought I should warn you. Writing about this, even the stupid shit, is the best way for me to sort all of this out.

I replied to my friend E's email today (he's the one whose air mattress I pissed on, and he still talks to me. E, if you ever read this, I love you!), and said that it's funny: Ultimately, this program promises to change my life by focusing on selflessness, charity, and service to others. This appeals to me. So it's odd that it initially requires that you think (and THINK and THINK and THINK) about yourself in so selfish a way. "It's all about thinking of me, me, me so that one day my most important priority is you, you, you."

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