What it Means to be Clean
I’ve always been the type of person that will not do something if I don’t want too...but I guess there’s exceptions to everything. After being hounded month after month for years by my girlfriend, I guess it’s time to finally go. I don’t even know if I have to sign up before for this, hell, I don’t even know where the location is. It’s not even like it’s that big of an issue, almost everyone I know drinks on occasion. Nonetheless, my uncertainties lead me to a half-filled water bottle sitting on my nightstand filled with- whatever, we’ll go with water...I’ll stop tomorrow. Getting out of bed seemed like an even bigger struggle than it is on normal days, my weathered body snapping and cracking with every slight movement, but it isn’t the alcohol...I know it’s not. It’s probably just that I haven’t been eating that great recently. Tripping over empty handles of vodka and dirty clothes, I make my way to the bathroom brushing away the stale taste of pizza and spirits from my mouth. I looked into the mirror and saw tired eyes and a sunken face that didn’t belong to me.
I felt an odd itch on the back of my hand that was resting on the counter, supporting the weight of my upper body. It was a little spider, but I was happy to see him. What I would do to be that small spider, just crawling along, no problems in the world. Must be nice to not have to worry about bills, relationships, work, death; he was just living life in its purest, happiest form. Dread and regret already consuming my whole being as I slide in my unkempt and messy 2010 Volkswagon Jetta. The annoying, repetitive voice of the GPS bounced around in the confines of my skull like a pinball machine during its peak use. I saw the world pass in my peripheral vision in a grim and dark blur, the cold December rearing its ugly head. Not very soothing when you have a pounding headache from the night before.
I arrive. Making my way into the building, I noticed several signs pointing me down the stairs, huh, very helpful. The door made the most conspicuous, high pitched shrill as I cracked it open, causing all fifteen or sixteen people to look me dead in the eye as if I just robbed a bank and they caught me red-handed. Thanks for the warm welcome, friends! Finding the closest seat, I take a sip from my “water” bottle and relax into my chair. This guy shot me a sheepish smile, and welcomed me in a warm voice. He continued to go on and welcomed anyone who would like to share their story. “No judgement zone,” in big, bold, black letters screamed from a post hanging from the brick wall. “Yeah, right,” I could hear myself retort back as if someone just said the same words out loud in a condescending manner.
“Hi, I’m Natalie, and I’ve been an alcoholic for the past 11 years,” a frail, ghastly looking lady began.
“When I was 16 years old, I had my first sip of alcohol, and it has been a part of me ever since. It’s ironic too, because the first sip came from my mother...and she had been enabling me ever since. I would start my morning at 6:00 am, when I woke up for school, have a drink, and drink until I drank myself stupid. I eventually ended up dropping out of high school, never earning a diploma, and I began to sell myself to support my habit.”
And my family thinks I’m bad…
“What!? Sorry if this is personal but how did you not manage to get like, HIV or something…?” A younger woman questioned.
“Well, while I was going through recovery, they test your for that...and because of my reckless decisions, I was diagnosed with HIV and it has greatly decreased my lifespan now because of it. What I learned more than anything, though, was that along the way, when I ran into heroin and cocaine, that began to define me as a person. And I couldn’t stop. I loved the life I lived, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything because as long as I got my fix and my buzz, I didn’t care. I had no obligations. My kids lived with my mother, my home...well, what home? I was free-”
“You were never “free, you just didn’t have anything better to do or anything better to accomplish than drugs and alcohol…” A 40 year old, professional looking man interrupted.
“Hey, at the time, it sure felt like I was, but after my 3rd hospital visit I decided that it was time.”
“whoa, whoa, you did heroin, too! Now that’s actually crazy!” A twenty something year old man yelled in shocked tone from across the room.
My girlfriend should hear these people-
“Yeah, not very proud of it…but I came to realize that no can make you quit. Yeah, sure, people can force you into treatment and keep alcohol out of your house, but you’re always going to find another way until the day comes that you decide to quit, that you decide to get help. And I hit rock bottom. Shit, I was 9 miles past rock bottom. And even then, there is still such a high relapse rate. Using a depressant to help your depression is only going to cause you to become more depressed.”
It’s a wonder this woman is even still alive
“They always cared, they just had a hard time figuring out what to do when I was at my worst. Plus, it didn’t really help that my mom was a recovering alcoholic.”
I eventually zoned out, partially because I was tired. After 5 or 6 more people shared their stories, I was finding it hard to concentrate. Our leader respectfully and kindly wrapped up the meeting and told us all we were welcome to come back for the next one after all, “It’s all about recovery.”
The drive home from the meeting hall was different for me. I don’t know what happened but I just felt as though I gained something. It was almost as though I felt at ease. The world began to slow down around me and I stopped to look around for a second and instead of seeing something so dark and cold, I saw the clouds parting over head and casting sunlight on the deep snow that glistened in a way that I can’t describe. That night, when I parked my car back into its normal spot on my driveway, I walked up to the the front porch and went to unlock the door, but it was already opened. “How could you do this again!?”
I was having a hard time standing still, to keep myself from falling over from an emotion I can’t even explain, just emptiness, hopelessness, and alcohol, I leaned against the closest chair. The sound of my girlfriend’s voice ringing in my ears snapped me out of the little trance I fell into trying to hold myself together. She began to yell, “I saw you at that bar again, with your lowlife friends talking to that hopeless bartender! You ruined everything! I’m leaving tonight, I’m done!”
And just like that, I was alone with only the alcohol to help me recover.