Body, Bottles Down
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Masking It: The Night I Started Hiding Alcohol

After a six-month, self-imposed period of abstinence from alcohol, drinking crept back into my life — while I was in costume.


(Photo Courtesy Susan Linney)

It was Halloween night, 2009. I was dressed up as a hippie, with a long, blond, knotty-dread-ish wig (topped with a colorful tam) and a floor-length, swirly patterned dress. My husband (then fiancé) matched me as my mate in his own wig and Grateful Dead tee, and we brought along my old Cabbage Patch Kid to complete our peace-and-love family.

After dousing ourselves in Patchouli oil (the scent of which stayed with us for days — don’t ever do this), we were ready to attend a party that one of our friends was throwing.

But before heading out, I grabbed a vodka-filled water bottle and stashed it in my hippie sack. (I know, I know, how very Lohan of me. Trust me, she didn’t invent this trick.)

What can I say? I was in a party mood — perhaps inspired by my peace-drugs-and-love costume. I really wanted to have a few drinks that night, and I didn’t think it would be of any consequence. Hey, I’d just been abstinent for six months, so I knew I could go quite a while without booze. Also, it was a special occasion, everyone else would be drinking and parading around in crazy costumes, blah, blah blah.

But the thing is, I also wanted to keep up my “sober” status. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. To my surprise, I had discovered that people liked me better when I didn’t drink. My husband, my sister, my friends. I personally saw no difference in my behavior, but I liked everyone thinking that I was “sober”; they admired me for it.

The summer prior, so many of my friends would tell me me how awesome it was that I could just hang out and have fun without alcohol — and that self-esteem-deprived part of me wanted to keep that admiration intact. Why give up being able to say I was sober if I didn’t really have to? It was only one night, after all.

ALARM BELLS! MAYDAY! BIG-RED-FLAG ALERT. And ironic how, even during a time of abstinence, I was still so seeped in alcoholic thought and reasoning that I believed I could create my own reality and will everything to go exactly my way.

This, I believe, was the beginning of my true descent into the seriously grave depths of this disease. I definitely drank too much in the past (I entered my first rehab in 2005), but this was the beginning of the real madness. The crazy, deluded thoughts. My “self-will run riot,” as The Big Book says. I mean, I was carrying a bottle full of vodka yet insisting it was water. I was running around claiming sobriety while riding a pretty strong Ketel-One buzz. And it all seemed perfectly acceptable to me. If that’s not alcoholism, than I don’t know what it.

I wasn’t fooling anyone — except myself.

Andy caught on pretty quickly once we arrived at the party. I kept shrugging him off, like, who cares? I just want to drink a little bit without making it a “thing.” Let it be. It’s no big deal.

But of course it was — if not so much the drinking itself then the fact that I was trying to conceal it — and at first, he was pissed. However I wore him down after a short while, as manipulative alcoholics are prone to do. Plus, it was an awesome party. No one, not even Andy, could claim otherwise. Adult-only, booze-fueled and costume filled — it was a total, unadulterated blast. Not to mention that our outfit was a huge hit, and we both played the hippie part perfectly — kind of ditzy, kind of out of it, kind of … slow. Peace and love, man. Peace and love.


(Photo Credit: Andy Kropa)

Nothing awful happened as a direct result of that night. In fact, over the next year I curbed my drinking pretty well because I was so caught up in preparing for our wedding the following November. I did drink here and there, sometimes socially, sometimes in secret. But I remained “fully functional” and could go days, sometimes weeks, without a drink.

Nevertheless, when I look back, I see that Halloween night as extremely significant. It was the first time I thought to hide my drinking — a practice that would eventually become a way of life for me. Even more disturbing, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I didn’t think it was “deceptive” or “wrong” or even “weird.” I was just having fun, kicking back in costume, on my terms and my terms alone.

When I think of the disease of alcoholism as an evil entity, which I almost always do, I think that perhaps it purposely gave me that inexplicable six-month reprieve to fuck with me. Addiction is, after all, a brain disorder in part, one that tells the addict that he or she is not, in fact, sick. It’s the only disease that tells us we don’t have a disease. It lies to us, IN OUR OWN VOICE, which is incredibly confusing and a huge reason why it can have such a masterful hold on its victims.

It’s also progressive, chronic and, to once again quote The Big Book, “cunning, baffling [and] powerful.” It let me have my fun until it found a time when I was truly vulnerable, truly cracked, to turn on me and take over. And along the way, it kept planting seeds, nurturing my brain with grandiose thoughts. My body may not have been physically dependent at that point, but my mind was well on its way to being covertly converted.

So that Halloween night, when I purposely concealed my drinking for the very first time, as harmless it may have seemed to me in that moment, it was all part of the disease’s plan. It was setting me up and getting me prepped for the hell I was to pay not too far in the future.

Scary shit, indeed.


  1. Margie says

    Once again, you’re honesty plus your way with words (“covertly converted” – wow! ) have nailed it!

  2. Sharon says

    You are so brave & honest, Susan. And reading your raw, real life reflections on this awful disease are very illuminating and imagine very helpful to others who might also suffer from the same. There is great generosity in the way you share your personal journey.

    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Thank you so much Sharon, for reading and sharing your thoughts. It means a lot for to me to hear, because while being open about all this stuff truly feels natural (and cathartic) to me — especially after so many years of hiding and lying — I still can’t help but get occasional moments of fear and doubt about it all. Which is natural, I suppose.

      Ultimately, though, I feel like I need to tell this story, and if I make mistakes along the way, so be it. That’s what life’s about and for so long I just remained frozen so as not to make any mistakes at all. At least now I’m taking some chances.

      Thanks again, Sharon!


  3. Nice example of the way our thinking and acting gets distorted by addiction. The untold rationalizing addicts do is amazing.

    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Thanks Marc! I still shiver when I think back at how self-centered and insane my thought process was — and still is, at times. Luckily I’m now learning how to better deal with and identify out my diseased voice, tell it to shut up, and turn my thoughts around. Or, someone will usually point it out to me STAT. 🙂

      Thx again for reading and commenting!


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