This story is by Rae Lloyd-Lever and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
People milled about awkwardly. A mix of old timers and newbies. Some huddled together with smiles, others sat alone – shrinking at the slightest glance, myself included. There were business men in suits and a young man with his entire face covered in tattoos. It was like rush week for all the rejects from Toyland. The Dixie cup in my hand was scorching, watery Folgers burning my fingertips.
Danny, the AA chair, called everyone to order. He was a beardy fellow, close to 70 with a strange sadness in his eyes that countered the smile on his lips.
“Does anyone have announcements to make?”
A spindly guy named Jeff stood to thank everyone for coming to the 4th of July BBQ, and that there was some bake sale or other the following weekend.
“Thank you, Jeff. Anyone else?” I tuned out when three more hands popped up.
“A moment of silence please before the serenity prayer,” said Danny.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Our voices clashed in a cacophony of apathy and hope. Meetings are for those who are dedicated, for those who are trying, and for those who have to be there upon court appointment.
I ask myself everyday – what makes someone an addict? We all have to deal with this fucked up world together, but some people make it look so easy. Is it all a façade and they’re really popping xanies before their interview, smoking pot to fall asleep, or using Adderall to make it through each day? Probable. Alcohol is my way to tune out the rest of the world. Ignore what is buzzing in my head and forget the feelings that bubble up inside. When my every day makes me feel like I’m drowning in quick sand – a handful vodka sodas make the world sparkle.
I glanced down at the snickerdoodle crumbs that had settled on my jeans and sipped my coffee, while strangers recited the twelve steps from the papers they were handed.
How did I end up here?
Yes, there was a final straw that broke the camel’s back, but my fall from grace was an accumulation of individual snowflakes that turned into an avalanche. I convinced myself I was a social drinker, “I’ll have just one,” or “I can stop whenever I want.” Obviously, that was not the case. Maybe it had been when I first started drinking, but even that would probably be lying to myself. Our whole society is the real problem. Alcohol is a plague. I mean, think about it, being a coke addict might be easier because granny isn’t offering you blow at Thanksgiving. On the other hand, a glass of wine frequently compliments a turkey dinner.
When I started, I would have a drink every night after work, to take the edge off the day. But I got really bad when dad died, two years after Sydney was born. Cancer’s a bitch. My mother was a beauty queen turned housewife, who cared more about her dinner parties than her two girls. Bill, my pops, really raised us. He set the example of how we should live. A self-made man who had a smile that would light up a room. He had integrity, warmth, and love that he gave freely. On the other hand, my mother loved her status more than her kids and would dig her hot pinks nails into my fingers if I said anything unsavory in front of Thelma or Martha.
I tried to forget the emptiness I felt every Christmas on his birthday. Alcohol covered up my depression and created a molten lava that was waiting to erupt. The snowball effect over the years made it so when my sister, Chris, drove me to rehab I had built up such a tolerance that I blew a 0.4 upon arrival – 5 times the legal limit.
It was time for others to take their turn. A woman younger than me introduced herself and began to drone.
I spun my wedding band, the knots in my stomach clenching. What was that final straw? Well, it is pretty clear that drinking day and night doesn’t lead to the most productive life. I’d been missing work, telling my boss that I was sick. Which if you think about it, is true. There’s only so many excuses you can make, and only so many days of PTO in the year. So, I started coming into work drunk. Vodka was my drink of choice, it smells less and looks like water. I watered down my coffee in the mornings. I poured alcohol into fountain drinks hoping I could fool my coworkers into thinking I only had a nasty soda habit. A few more glugs from my flask at lunch, and couple mini bottles when I’d smoke a cigarette. Because if I stopped, then the shakes would start.
Being an alcoholic doesn’t lead to the most productive marriage either. Brett and I married young. We were 24, graduated, liberated, and nothing could stop our love except ourselves. We’d had nine years together – good and bad. Brett was everything I wasn’t. Pure in spirit, timid, loyal, and a saintly quality that I yearned for. An Oklahoma boy who came out to California to escape his wild family only to be trapped by mine. He was a history major turned chef, always following his passion instead of money. I knew the day I met him I would have a child with him. That man whipped up mini mouse pancakes every Saturday and would watch all the cartoons our angel wanted. I think secretly he enjoyed them. They were part of a world that was more innocent than the one we lived every day. He would cower when I was mad. Turn his head when I bellowed about all that was wrong in our lives. I was unable to separate the sadness in my life from his actions. He made sure Syd didn’t hear the broken plates or fowl words that spiraled around me.
On Christmas Day, my volcano imploded. Blood pounded in my head the moment I opened my eyes. Our sweet Sydney squawked with excitement at the coloring sets, Brats dolls, and robotic animal toys that were scattered around our Charlie Brown Christmas tree. At five years old, she still believed in Santa and Brett had dutifully scarfed down two of her M&M cookies, along with a half glass of milk the night before. My sister and mom puttered about the kitchen, nieces and nephews running around with reindeer horns bouncing on their heads. Wrapping paper littered the carpet as I sipped an Irish coffee. Brett could tell I was in a mood but didn’t want to ruin the day for the kids, so he stayed cool. I, however, did not. By lunchtime I was stumbling. A plastered smile turning into tears at random. I was a hurricane of sadness from my father’s absence, and anger from my mother’s actions I had never forgiven.
Our house was close to the Kahili Club – a grungy dive I frequented after work. The keys to my Kia appeared in my pocket and I hopped in, making the five blocks with only one dinged mailbox.
The last memory I have was of the bartender handing me the three shots of well I ordered and my head tipping back to let gravity take over.
Over the past few months I’ve pieced together what my brain blacked out. Brett and Chris found me after a few hours. My sis spotted me in the bathroom with the dullard who ran the karaoke joint across town. Brett caught a glimpse too. After that, Chris drove me straight to Misty’s Ranch – the rehab the next town over. Brett told me he would file for divorce and custody, but I still haven’t seen the paperwork.
Me? I’m taking it day by day. I was able to keep my job while going on medical leave while I detoxed. Valium clouded my brain to stave off potential seizures, but I no longer wake up to pain and trembling fingers. I’m allowed to see Syd – with supervision, and my sister’s finally speaking to me again. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I want to see it.
“My name is Debra and I am an alcoholic.”