Dry Wit: Coming to Grips

Hi. I’m Ruby Bruiseday, and I’m an alcoholic. That’s how these introductions go, right? Today, I’ve been sober for 22 days. Doesn’t sound so long, you say? I beg to differ.

I considered other names for this column: Jane Erred, The Downed and the Blurry, Three Sheets to the Wind in the Willows, Complete Lack of Remembrance of Things Past, Little Winos, A Tale of Two 40s, A Portrait of the Alcoholic as a Young Woman, For Whom the Bar Closes, A Farewell to LiversThe Grapes (and Potatoes and Rice and Hops) of Wrath.

 Of Human BondageBleak HouseAs I Lay Dying. Sometimes the titles don’t need much tweaking to be accurate. 

But I digress.

Before the last 22 days, I can’t remember a time after I turned 21 that I wasn’t drunk or scamming for a drink or waiting to clock out so I could go get a drink or celebrating the fact that I worked for a company that allowed drinking on the job or wondering how I could factor drinking into my other activities. Sure, there were times when it seemed more or less important than average, but basically for half a decade, I’ve been very enthusiastically practicing alcoholism with more or less a steady level of intensity and self-harm.

And somewhere along the way I met a dude who turned into a life partner who started getting really worried about my drinking. Because it wasn’t just that I drank, it was that I drank without stopping. I chugged wine for cripe’s sake. And even though I felt awesome (sort of, sometimes) when I drank, I usually made him feel like shit. The unpredictable mood swings, the overwhelming negativity, and for my partner, of course, Mr. Bruiseday, the uncertainty of knowing when he was going to spend an evening with Ruby and when he was going to spend an evening with Crazy Pinot Monster Lady.

About three weeks ago, we both hit a breaking point. I was tired of feeling shitty and so was he. I had gotten completely trashed on a Wednesday night (started drinking at a work event, continued when we went out, at some point was walking around SoMa in San Francisco with a full, open bottle of wine in one hand) and it was all clearly out of hand. So Mr. Bruiseday challenged me to take an Internet quiz to determine if I was, in fact, an alcoholic. What can I say? He knows my weaknesses. I am a total sucker for Internet quizzes. Right around the time the quiz started asking me things I had never shared with anyone, like, After a night of drinking do you experience sharp pain sensations in your right side? or Do emotional circumstances like stress or depression motivate you to drink more?, I started getting that suspicious, “wait-a-minute!” feeling.

And by the end of the quiz, when I answered something like 23 of 30 questions to the affirmative, I knew it was true: I’m an alcoholic. An alcoholic: like my grandfather, may his rotted soul forever burn in eternal torment, and like that one uncle no one talks to who’s always saying things like, “That car salesman totally Jewed me!” in front of my Jewish best friend right before we went to see The Merchant of Venice worst vacation of my life. Realizing that really made me want a drink or five, but it was like 9:00 in the morning and I knew Mr. Bruiseday was pretty concerned about my well-being, and – seriously – whether or not we should even be together. And that last bit might have been one of the only things in my life capable of tossing the metaphorical bucket of water in my face. I love alcohol; don’t get me wrong. I adore the stuff – obviously. But I love Mr. Bruiseday even more. I mean, who else is willing to watch Doctor Who AND Glee AND The West Wing with me? Who else knows to pick up fancy chocolate the same time he picks up my Nuva Ring from the pharmacy? Who else have I known who builds a mean blanket fort using his Eagle Scout training, buys (and sets up) a personal domain for any project I come up with on a whim, and makes charitable contributions to RAINN?

Nobody, of course. I love this dude. And while it pained me and my liver to hear it, my drinking was really, really hurting him. So that was one serious point against the drinking.

Another serious point against the drinking was, frankly, how much time it was taking. It takes time to drink; after a certain number of drinks, there’s only so much you can do besides laugh at GIFs on Tumblr or yell at your boyfriend about how he’s NOT YOUR DAD JESUS, and that didn’t leave a lot of time for anything else I wanted to do, like read books, or get a puppy and take care of it, or have a conversation with my boss after 7 p.m. that didn’t involve me bemoaning how hard it is to be so smart. Because, I’m rilly rilly rillly…. rill… I’m rilly smart, boss. So that was another major point against the drinking.

The really sucky part about being sober for this realization was that I had to actually think about it, you know? I had to think about the fact that I was hurting one of the only decent dudes I’d ever known, and I also had to think about the fact that I was apparently of such low self-esteem that nothing but hurting someone else could stop me from drinking myself to death in a style at which I think even F. Scott Fitzgerald would raise an eyebrow. I mean, I think back to that summer I spent unemployed a year after college where I couldn’t make rent but I was still at the bar more nights than not, sucking down (well) vodka and cranberries, and I was practically throwing myself at the super destructive Virgo bartender (me + Virgos = ugh) who comped me free drinks from time to time. Or the time I was dealing with the grief of a death in the family by carrying vodka around in a Nalgene bottle to classes. Or the way I’d become defensive and self-righteous about how much I drank.

So, I quit. It’s awesome how taking the time to be sober can help you make intelligent decisions, right? Like one of those nifty logic puzzles in Freshman Philosophy class: if A = B, and B = C, then A = C. Given A … If Alcohol drinking equals Boyfriend [considering] leaving, and Boyfriend leaving equals all the Creys, then Alcohol drinking equals all the Creys. Given that I am an Alcoholic … Well, you’re smart ladies. You probably didn’t need a logic puzzle, or a morning off of your regular routine, to get to the conclusion it took me five years to draw.

So, three weeks (or so) ago, while we were all discussing how Charlie Sheen said that sobriety is boring, I quit. No more alcohol. Last night, I celebrated three weeks of sobriety with kung pao prawns, Oreo cookies, and a whole lot of Diet Coke, not to mention a giant packet of printed materials from Women for Sobriety, and a puppy we named Luna who we got from a local rescue last weekend. And the truth is, I’ve got a long way to go. I have underlying issues to learn to cope with, and healthy habits to build in alcoholism’s place, and a whole life to create ahead of me that involves reading really great books again, and remembering what happened on Dexter this last season, and a base of trust to rebuild with the guy who let me name our first pet after a Harry Potter character.

The recovery group I’ve joined, Women for Sobriety, has a series of thirteen meditations they encourage you to repeat to yourself every day. The first half of the first one sums up, pretty accurately, the Come to Jesus feeling I’ve been walking around with for the last few weeks. It goes, “I have a drinking (life threatening) problem that once had me.” That once had me. Yeah, all right. So it’s not belligerently insisting to strangers on the sidewalk that you’re fine at 1:00 in the morning with vomit hanging off the ends of your hair, but I think I could get used to this whole sobriety thing.

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

32 replies on “Dry Wit: Coming to Grips”

This is really, really compelling. Thank you so much for sharing and the very best of luck as you head out into new territory.

I’ve had multiple family members who’ve depended on alcohol to get them through life, but only one who’s taken action to stop. He’s gone to AA every day for the past eleven years. He talks about how the one thing that was hardest for him was the fact that he just didn’t know what to do with himself any more because everything he did socially was centred around alcohol and drinking. I understand it’s a big adjustment.

Honestly, the first week or so I just kind of stared into space and ate a lot, and cried, and felt bad, and read about recovery programs, and felt bad some more. Thankfully, I just moved to a new city a few months ago, so while I don’t have a built in support system here (minus Mr Bruiseday) I also didn’t have a fully-ingrained social life entirely based on alcohol. It was a good time to start over, for sure.

I really appreciate the way you phrased your family members’ dependence on alcohol, by the way, because it is – or at least, has been for me – at the heart of it a (very unhealthy) coping mechanism, a way to get through.

I re-wrote the line about dependence about ten times before I hit submit wondering whether or not it was worded correctly. I’m glad it spoke to you.

Do you have any acquaintances who don’t drink? I’m a non-drinker by choice and while there aren’t many of us, I know I appreciate spending times with others who make the same choice I do. No one goads you when you go out for fun and order a pop instead of an alcoholic drink.

I have to reinforce how much I enjoyed your words. Please keep us updated.

I have one coworker who is a non-drinker by choice because he “hates the taste of anything alcoholic” – it all somehow reminds him of Nyquil! So that helps for work functions. Since we’re new to the city, I don’t have many acquaintances at all, but the few I do have are good friends of Mr. B’s who are really, really respectful and kind and encouraging about this decision.

I’ve been paying attention to this as it’s unfolded, and I want to tell you that I’m very proud of you. I’m proud you made the decision. I’m proud you realized that it was hurting BOTH Mr. and you and that both of those things are important. I’m glad that you’ve decided to work on the relationship as well, because even though the hurting him thing wouldn’t be less important if he hadn’t stuck around while you recovered, I hope his support helps you stick it out. I’m proud that you can write about it and that you’re honest about it with us.

It takes a lot of work to admit things like this to yourself, then to others, and then more work still to actively try to fix it for all parties. I have major doubts that the alcoholic in my life will ever realize how much they’ve hurt ME (and that I’ll ever fully forgive them), and while there are days it would make me angry, today I’m just glad that YOU can do better for both yourself and the people in your life.

I read this an hour ago, saw somebody mention the new star ratings elsewhere, and then hightailed it back over here for the sole purpose of giving you 10 stars. Congratulations on reaching 22 days, and thank you so much for sharing this.

Wow, I just read this and then I read it again. I really feel like I can’t even explain my response to this in a comment. It’s so honest and complicated and simple and sad. It actually made me a teeny bit angry with you, because I’ve been the really good partner to an alcoholic and it’s really hard and you can do all the right things (or all the wrong things) and the person still just has no idea sometimes what their drinking is doing to others. I’ve also had my own struggles with drinking — different, I think, than yours, and not really what people might define as alcoholism, but still struggles. Even though I don’t know you, I’m really proud of you for quitting drinking. And I hope more women use the Internet to communicate about the struggles with addiction in such eloquent ways. To me this piece is an example of what anonymous blogging does best: it opens little doors into people’s souls and problems, and it opens channels of communication. And it lets us give you cheers for doing such a good thing for yourself.

Thank you so much for this. I feel like it’s a difficult line to walk, the balance between that self-preservation and self-care that you need in order to focus successfully on your own recovery, and then the care for others that includes acknowledging (to the best of your ability) the damage you’ve done in their lives. It’s really hard to think of yourself as having been abusive – not just to yourself, but to the people you love – though not, I know, as difficult as being on the receiving end. Thanks so much again for your comment- it takes a lot of courage and I appreciate it so much.

Also: Don’t forget that me (and your amazing boyfriend) could have left our alcoholic Others at any time. We did not, (well, eventually I did) on good days because we loved them and on bad days for bad reasons. There is a balance in that too, and I hope what you are doing strengthens your relationship with someone who sounds very good and level-headed.

Thank you, my dear. Yeah, it’s discouraging to see the feeding frenzy some members of the media go on when someone has a substance abuse issue. Would that folks with these problems could more often have the kind of concerned support that encourages recovery, rather than the “rewarding the bad behavior” press that typically comes from pulling a LiLo.

Way to go, Ruby! Years ago, while I was in the throes of enjoying a particular substance entirely too much (to my detriment, of course), a friend of mine who’d already gotten clean asked me a question that truly opened my eyes to my situation. Seeing me with the substance in hand, he asked, “what do you think you’ve done wrong to justify hurting yourself like that?” That made me see exactly how self-destructive I’d become and helped me make the tough decision to quit.

Also, the saying “fake it ’til you make it” helped me remember that it WILL get better (I think the saying is from AA). The other thing that helped, particularly when I was regretting my past bad behavior, is “thank God I don’t HAVE to do that anymore.” That helped me a lot more than simply feeling badly about acting like an idiot, especially with my true love who’s goodwill I took advantage of while I was using. Luckily, my guy loves me and he understood. I’ll bet yours does too or he’d have split when your drinking accelerated… ;)

You showed a lot of strength by making such a life-changing decision, and you deserve a lot of credit for sharing your story. You go, woman!

I know the star things are new (they’re new right? I haven’t just been oblivious), but never have they been so necessary to convey how very good this post is.

And Ruby, I have to say, you’re not rilly rilly smart. You’re really really smart. :)

I tip my hot chocolate to you.

Congratulations, first off, I know what you’re doing is hard because I’m watching my partner go through it too. I found you post incredibly brave and funny (and smart!).

What I’d like to ask is, do you find yourself replacing that time or the consumption? Do you feel like you need a constant distraction or are you drinking 3 pots of coffee a day?

Hey, thanks! To answer your question(s): it’s Diet Coke AND coffee, and I’m drinking tons of both, and as far as distraction goes, yes and no. Yes, sometimes (when stressed and/or exhausted, when I’d normally have felt like I really “needed” a drink), I need to find a way to distract myself. Books help a LOT. I’ve been sleeping a lot more, too. I feel like I still have a lot of healthy coping mechanisms to learn, because alcohol was the way I dealt with ANY negativity – and obviously that just won’t fly right now. But I don’t feel like I need a CONSTANT distraction – just an occasional one.

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