The new year can be a different circle of hell on the internet for an addict. The holiday season is bad enough, what with the world drinking all over the place like we do on April Tuesday afternoons or whenever, and all of those ads for parties and presents with bottles as phallic symbols or vaginas or boobs wrapped in tinsel and ribbon. Everyone pretending to be alcoholics and calling it a-wassailing, basically. Drink drink drink whooo!
But normal people can do this. Complain about hangovers as temporary states of affairs, and alcohol calories as a time-limited indulgence, not a dietary staple. Because then it's January, and they--we're--supposed to give it up. Just stop. Don't do that drinking thing anymore. What are you thinking, with all of that eggnog and whatever else your lush ass has been pouring down its throat since Thanksgiving like you're allowed to just pour such things down your throat without a calendar-driven expiration date?
And it's not just drinking. People are giving up sugar now, too. Pouring the gluten, if there is any left anywhere, down the trash chute with the turkey and figgy pudding remnants. No more dirty food, either. Everyone is clean eating. Plus definitely no more shopping, I don't even care about those e-mail subject lines from all of your favorite retailers in January, about killing winter blues with fire and your debit card.
Stop it. Stop doing all of the things that you did with reckless abandon in December, when you were allowed. Except do the things you're supposed to start now. Because you're supposed to start working out like a lunatic. The worldwide warning went out that it's January, and that means yoga and spinning and treadmilling as if your very life depends upon it. (There is no space in yoga, all of everyone's dirty mats are touching because happy new year!)
It's insanity, is what it is. It could drive a regular person to drink, and for sure an alcoholic like me, who never needed any excuse anyway.
All of the years I lived in active alcoholism on the internet (oh, to erase caches and delete whole years of digital babble, if only) I tried to play along, mostly because I felt like I had to, and if I did, maybe that meant I didn't have a problem. Because a big part of being a slave to addiction, for me, was pretending -- that things were okay when they weren't, that I was just like you, my friend who could drink one glass of wine and "be done" or "not be in the mood" for more, who could actually be motivated enough by the promise of weight loss to cut down, or, more unthinkable, even stop.
What in the actual hell? What does that even mean? I can't even buy one green pepper, as an old roommate noted who pointed out that I needed two of everything, it didn't matter what. Two, like my vegetables or butter pats or what have you needed a buddy. Certainly my drinks did. They needed a whole tribe, a murder of glasses of wine. When people have one drink, I look on in awe, like how did you happen?
I haven't had any drink of any kind for 18 months, which is a long time for a person like me. And this holiday season was almost weirder than last year's, which was my first one sober in my adult life. This one was, if this were a Friends episode, The One Where We're Really Not Drinking This Was Not a Drill. And after it was over, when January 1 rolled around, and the people who'd been posting themselves with goblets and steins full of pure, unadulterated alcohol for two months, and also cookies and slabs of various barks and the like, started going full-on Whole 30 clean eating CrossFit sign up that I realized the difference between (probably almost all of) them and me. (Although I'm not equating alcohol addiction with food or exercise issues, which is another post.) I also remembered how upset I used to get when I realized that even if I wanted to? I couldn't stop what I was doing on January 1 any more than I could have stopped it on any other day until I was ready. I used to negotiate mentally with the South Beach diet induction phase -- like, how could this work for me except for the no wine part? The answer for me, unfortunately, was not more treadmill time. Tried that. Wine is a sugar-saturated weight loss impeding asshole, basically, one that I could absolutely not give up.
Because I needed it. It wasn't a choice. And I believe (although I am not a sugar or addiction or anything scientist, just a person with an experience) that if you are a true addict, you won't necessarily be able to stop doing it, whatever it is, either, because the internet says. It doesn't mean you are a worse person than your Facebook friend who is down to gnawing at the fairy dust in the air in front of her because she's cut out that devil gluten AND wine (oh, how blithely they're all "no wine for 30 days," hahaha) and emojis and joy. Until alcohol had kicked my ass the exact amount it needed to to kick down the door of my "I can't" to some version of "I can, I think, maybe", or at the very least "I have to because I'm going to die soon if I don't and somehow I don't think I really want to all of a sudden, wow, crazy", I couldn't have done it. Maybe some people can. I'm sure there are stories somewhere of someone's sobriety kicking off with a dare, but mine sure didn't. The stories I read just made me angry, and sad, and looking at a failure in the mirror who'd go to 90 minutes of hot yoga and then home to an empty apartment and a thwarted plan not to pour two bottles of wine down my throat.
I didn't really want to do that dance anymore, not after it started hurting so badly, and I suspect that no one else does either. I believe that to my core. And I believe that now from a place where I read these yearly January marches to dietary minimalism and vice reduction and know that not even the best intentions and solid gold wishes could have made me successful at them. I want to hug anyone who is reading along and feeling like she should be able to be better, that her insides should look more like other people's outsides, that a hashtag and an Instagram challenge should save her from herself. I'd go back and hug me, if I could, although that sounds weird so maybe not. All I have today is the knowledge that my recovery didn't turn on a calendar page, which is good to know because it means I get it, that I'm strong now, that I always was, really, I was just walking the road until a miracle dropped down into a hellish day in July and said I was done.