As I Lay Drying: A Tale As Old As Time

The author at 20 years old, doing jello shots.

I looked blearily in my bathroom mirror and saw a gray eyebrow hair standing proudly right on my perfectly manicured arch. It was bound to happen. My mother started going gray before she was 28 years old. But where were my three children? Where was my college degree? Where was my career? Where were all the telltale elements that subtle silver hair was meant to give testament to? They were not there. It was simply another genetic marker of time passing. I felt, for the umpteenth time, that I had nothing to show for my body being so weathered, my life being in utter chaos.

It was my 100th day without alcohol.

I don’t need to go into all the cliche reasons I chose to quit drinking. It’s a tale as old as time. Girl meets booze. Girl uses booze as coping mechanism. Girl never learns moderation. Girl self-destructs in the same predictable pattern for years before learning her damn lesson. Plug in the phrase “Why I Got Sober’ into any search engine and you’re confronted with gruesome, embarrassing stories of alcohol abuse. In our culture where extremes are given the highest consideration, those are the stories that get the most bang for their buck. The fall from grace. The journey to recovery. The AA meetings. The Lifetime movie moments of confronting your past to move into the future. Those stories are usually pretty black and white.

However, my peers and I are experts at existing in gray areas. We love drugs, but we’re not drug addicts. We have the uncanny ability to always accommodate our bad habits, while insisting they aren’t bad enough to ruin our lives. The crazy thing about my generation of drinkers is we hit rock bottom and keep going. Most of the sober people I talk to say it wasn’t one quintessential event that dried them out. It was waking up over and over with some combination of shame, confusion, and regret. For me, it was that feeling over and over again for ten years. The first day of 2017, I decided I never wanted to feel that way ever again.

Those first 100 days were some of the most intense of my entire life, almost more than anything I had to deal with in the depths of my drug and alcohol abuse. I confronted years of repressed trauma, had a few serious emotional breakdowns, confronted an eating disorder I thought was long buried. I was also more broke than I had ever been in my entire life, having moved to a new city and all the fun surprises that entailed.

It would be dishonest to say that every day was some fresh new hell. In that 100 days I also got more writing done than last year in its entirety, started getting booked semi-regularly on comedy shows, even started dating a nice man (who is also alcohol-free). There were plenty of life-changing realizations. Plenty of drama. Otherwise, this wouldn’t be much of a blog. However, more often than not I was simply… bored.

I felt deeply the mediocrity of my inner voice after years of drowning it in Jagermeister. My expectations of boundless creativity were quickly thwarted by mundane reality. If my psyche was waking up to renewed potential, it was taking its damn time. Worse, without the demon alcohol the complications of my life didn’t magically resolve themselves. It just kept things escalating from bad to worse.

As I get deeper into recovery, it feels less about grand revelations and more about maintenance. Mine is not the sleek, bullet trainwreck narrative that gets splashed across the homepage of Vice or spun into an HBO miniseries. Most of those stories don’t get the follow-up they deserve, probably because they’re a lot like mine: A muddy, convoluted trek through the pains of introspection, the perils of self-doubt, and the crucial nature of forgiveness. Oh shit, maybe this is an HBO miniseries.

*This entry is Part 1 of As I Lay Drying, an ongoing personal essay project focusing on alcohol abuse and recovery.*