As the desire to quit drinking quietly grew and gain strength within me, I found myself half-heartedly searching for books and material that would give me the final “big push” to change. I can’t say that any one thing made the difference, but little by little things clicked into place like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. The final piece was no more or less significant than the others, but as it “clicked” everything shifted.
At first it was little snips that caught my attention. In “Memoirs of a Geisha” there was a description of an opium-addicted madam that struck fear into my heart. The whites of her eyes had turned yellow from drug use, yet she was unaware that she’d destroyed her own beauty. It was the first time I wondered if my own vices would ruin my looks.
Oh well. (Glug. Glug. Glug.)
Another image from literature that bothered me came from the ridiculously enjoyable “Colors Insulting to Nature” by Cintra Wilson. The character of Barbette Champlain is an “aging former ballerina – a regal, imperious, chain-smoking spider of a woman with long, emaciated limbs”. That part didn’t bother me so much. In fact, I can see myself as a sinewy old lady one day, minus the smoking. It was two pages on that I hit upon further description of Barbette that I re-read repeatedly and never forgot: a reference to her bony body being interrupted by “an abdomen loosening into a gelatinous, vodka bulb.”
Ewwww. I immediately ran to the mirror and lifted my shirt to inspect my belly. I know it sounds vain but the fear of morphing into Barbette bothered me immensely and kept me mindful of my drinking. I’d shoot a quick sideways glance into the mirror daily as I stepped into the shower and pray nothing gelatinous nor bulb-like would have appeared overnight.
Nope! All good. (GLUG. GLUG.)
“Lucky Man” by Michael J. Fox was primarily about Parkinson’s disease and I’d picked up the book mostly because I had always admired the fellow and maybe had nursed a lingering crush since the 80s. However, a brief portion of the book deals with alcohol addiction and hints at a quiet celebrity network of recovered addicts that I found fascinating. Fox admits to sneaking back to the kitchen during dinners to finish bottles of wine, and I thought of him so very often over the years as I performed a similar routine. I wanted to quit like he did, but I didn’t have a secret network of celebrities to encourage me, so the habit persisted.
Kathy Griffin’s “Official Book Club Selection” (which I enjoyed in audio format – hilariously delivered by the author herself and I suspect yonks better than reading as a book) had a big impact on me because Griffin reveals that she does not drink or use drugs at all. Can you believe that anyone could be that ballsy and funny and STONE COLD SOBER? Whether you are a “Kath-eter” (as she calls her fans) or not, you must admit the woman is gutsy. Whenever I worried that I would be boring as hell if I quit drinking, I reminded myself that Griffin is anything but.
I read a review of Mary Carr’s “Lit” and drove straight over town to purchase it. I thought for sure it would be the book to show me the way. It wasn’t, in all honesty. Poor Mary was just such as damn mess. I wasn’t there; I wasn’t so far gone. If anything it left me thinking I was doing just fine and maybe didn’t need to quit at all. Perhaps I should read it again, as I am now more open to absorbing the lessons others have to offer. It may not have been the miracle book I was looking for, but it was another piece of the puzzle at the very least.
“Unbearable Lightness” by Portia Di Rossi reflects on the star’s battle with anorexia and I listened to the audiobook during my daily elliptical workouts. Those of you with eating disorders will recognize the irony of this, but it was the only quiet time I could find for Portia. I identified with her misguided drive towards perfectionism and her self-disillusionment. This book left me raw and emotional, and looking at myself honestly. It helped me to excavate some childhood wounds and recognize their impact on my current behaviour.
There was a 20/20 episode last year about moms and alcohol – I only recall seeing the commercial for it and that alone was enough to “click” into place yet another realization that I was battling a common problem. You can read a synopsis of the story here: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/moms-secret-habit-coffee-mug-full-wine/story?id=10511256
A simple paragraph in a magazine referenced Rethinking Drinking http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/ and suggested for the first time that one didn’t need to be a full-fledged alcoholic in order to have a drinking problem. I bookmarked that website and visited it many many times to take the same quiz, always getting the same results.
Glug glug gluggity glug. Everything pointed to the same answer and yet I kept drinking. Why on God’s green earth did I keep drinking if I wanted so badly to quit? What was wrong with me? What did I need to find to make the difference?
It was a simple question by a motivational speaker that finally brought it all home: “What is your dream for your life?”
A question so generic it’s almost cheesy, and I was surprised when the answer pressed itself on my heart like a lead balloon: I NEED TO QUIT DRINKING.
It was in realizing how badly I wanted to redefine my life that I was able to sweep together all of the lessons and examples I’d gathered and put them to use. It was then that I began to search others like me on the Internet and found them in great abundance. I took off the blinders and got down to work.
There is no shortage of literature, links, blogs, groups, meetings, and even people already in your life to help. You know it’s all there, right? Thousands, millions have walked this walk before – of course you are smarter, more special and completely different from all of them, but perhaps you could learn from them just a little bit.
Once I swallowed my own pride and accepted that my situation was not special, different, or unique, everything began to change because that is the very shift that offered strength in numbers.
Still, I am walking this path alone in many ways. I did not join AA and yet I respect the program very much (I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest AA’s “Big Book” as recommended reading. I own a copy but have not read it myself, though everyday I read the Twitter feed of others in recovery who share lessons from it and find daily encouragement there). I often listen to AA podcasts as I run or walk my dogs, and I have applied many of the 12 steps to my own recovery. Going it alone is not for everyone, but so far it is working for me. I know if I stumble, there are other ways.
There are many other podcasts and audiobooks that are enjoyable, entertaining, and inspiring for recovering addicts. I was pleasantly surprised by Rob Lowe’s memoire “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” – I enjoyed it as an audiobook read by Lowe and listened to the chapter on rehab repeatedly. “Bossypants” by Tina Fey has nothing to do with addiction or recovery and yet it reminded me yet again that one can be funny and brilliant without being snockered.
Of all the things one needs to listen to in order to get over the hump, it’s that small voice in your own heart. It might be hard to hear because of the committee of voices hollering “never mind” or “you’re fine – leave it alone” or “you loser, you’re a drunk and you’ll always be one” or “you don’t deserve to be happy so let’s have another one”. Ignore them and hear the voice that they are all shouting to cover up. The little voice in your heart that’s whispering over and over again:
“I need to quit.”