It’s been a long time since I’ve gone over 24 hours without leaving the house. This used to be a regular thing for me. A couple years ago, I was living in the Boston area and working from home and would often go days at a time without going outside. The weather was a bitch, but I can’t just blame the weather. It’s not like New England shuts down in the winter. I’ve had a tendency to isolate since I can remember. Sometimes, I’d drink at home, but often, I’d just hide there, blocking out the overwhelming world. My two poles of existence were intoxication or isolation. I knew very little in between.
I tried really hard to stop drunk dialing. (And drunk emailing, which I include under the same banner of shame.) I deleted numbers from my phone. I downloaded Gmail Goggles and diligently completed math problems before sending late-night emails. I paid $.99 for Don’t Dial, an app that scrambles the numbers of certain contacts after a certain hour. I was sure that technology would eventually save me from myself, although it didn’t work that way. I could do basic math problems drunk, just as I could write coherent but damaging emails. And I had to decide when to activate Don’t Dial, which basically meant deciding when to get dunk. I rarely decided when to get drunk. I’d decide to have a couple drinks, and next thing I know, I’d be calling my professor’s home number at midnight on a random Tuesday. Continue reading
I’m obsessed with this video for Sia’s “Chandelier.” At first, I couldn’t take in much beyond the brilliant Maddie Ziegler, who is the only reason I watch the otherwise very trashy Dance Moms. This kid is hella talented, and it’s so cool to see her in something more sophisticated than a children’s dance competition.
But on actually listening to the lyrics, it started to dawn on me: this is a song about alcoholism! Sure enough, Sia is sober and doing the 12-step thing. I admire her a lot for revealing this, considering she’s an intensely private person who rarely does interviews. That’s another reason I love the video for “Chandelier”: it’s an ideal collaboration between two artists (one camera-shy and the other visually magnetic) playing to their individual strengths. I also love this live version where Maddie dances and Sia sings the whole song facing a corner. Continue reading
According to AA lingo, my boyfriend is a “normie.” He takes at least an hour to finish a 12oz. beer and rarely wants a second when he’s through. Sometimes, he turns down a drink because it will make him “sleepy.” This is amazing to my own brain, which gets revved up by the first drink. There was a time when one drink had a somnolent effect on me, but I killed that by using alcohol as a sleeping aid one time too many. My boyfriend doesn’t come from an alcoholic family, and his parents didn’t drink when he was growing up. Not because they made a conscious decision to abstain but because buying alcohol didn’t occur to them. It’s like they forgot it existed.
So my boyfriend isn’t an alcoholic. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call him normal. There are alcoholic events outside his range of experience (the biggest being, he’s never had a blackout) but there are also many ways in which our hangups intersect. Just because alcohol doesn’t trigger an omnipotent pleasure response in his brain doesn’t mean he’s free from anxiety and depression. Just because he’s never had a blackout doesn’t mean he never numbs out. He’s more inclined to spend four hours playing the new Sim City than to down two bottles of wine, but he’s no stranger to the negative thought patterns that addicts sometimes view as unique to their disease.
Russell Brand named my blog. I’m not a follower of his, but shortly after Amy Winehouse’s death, he wrote an essay for The Guardian about addiction and their relationship. It’s probably one of the best essays on addiction I’ve read, and I saved it for a long time on a secret Pinterest board, not sure what to do with it, just knowing I identified. There’s one paragraph that hits close enough to knock the wind out of me a little:
All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status, share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but unignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his speedboat, there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they’re looking through you to somewhere else they’d rather be.
I’m very familiar with the air of elsewhere. It permeated my family growing up and characterized most of my drinking life. No matter what happened when I started drinking, whether the night stayed light and happy or devolved into something dark and miserable, one thing remained the same: I wasn’t fully present. When I drink, my focus becomes alcohol: how much there is, how much others are drinking, when and whether it will be acceptable for me to drink more. I thought drinking made conversations flow more freely, but it turns out that’s only true when my glass is full. Once the booze-line dips below the halfway point, it becomes hard to focus on the people around me, unless they’re taking my drink order.