It’s sort of a funny story now, the way it all went down, when I look back on it alive and sober. Because clearly I wasn’t going to be for much longer, and while that may sound melodramatic, I promise you, it wasn’t.
By about September of 2011, my life had basically turned into a long string of drunken, unhappy, hazy days. I woke up, drank, wrote, slept, ate, drank, passed out, wrote some more, drank, drank, maybe saw a movie or went somewhere in between, drank, went to bed, and did it all over again the next day.
Occasionally, I managed to show up for a freelance gig at an office for a week or two. With the exception of a morning “eye-opener” at home, I didn’t drink during my working hours, based solely on principle (and fear of getting caught). But the minute 5pm hit, I was dying for a drink, so I’d hit a bar ASAP before heading home to continue.
Where was my husband through all this? He was there, dealing not only with me, but with the sudden health decline and subsequent death of his mother. And that’s a whole other post.
Watching those zombies really got to me because all I saw were similarities to myself. I was dead inside and craving nothing but booze, just as they were dead inside (and out) and craving nothing but flesh.
But my point is, he had not abandoned or neglected me. Rather, he was overwhelmed with his own grief (and essentially facing it alone, as I was certainly no longer the supportive mate he had married) and had no idea what to do about me. He was fed up and always looking for reasons to get out of the house. Those days were filled with just as much misery and madness for him. I did not make his life easy, that’s for sure.
Anyway, onto my “rock bottom.” It happened on one particular November night, when, for reasons I still do not know, I wrote this — what I often jokingly refer to as my “Zombie Masterpiece.”
True, I was watching a marathon of The Walking Dead (nerd alert), but why I suddenly decided to be honest with myself about my drinking is still a total mystery to me. My martini was right by my side, and I was drinking it fast and furiously, but I didn’t lie to myself. And that was a first.
Essentially, the post is a short essay about how pitiful my life had become, and how I no longer felt like a human being. I’d become a zombie. A human body that no longer had drive or dreams or energy or excitement. Instead, I was a human body that only felt (faux) drive or dreams or energy or excitement if it was filled with booze.
This is the gist of it in a nutshell, I think:
“My alcoholism is my walking dead. My zombie. My walker. It is turning me into a non-human-being that craves one thing only: alcohol. Obliteration. That cool liquid comfort that becomes more fleeting with each new, substance-addicted day. And as long as I let this continue, I will always drive people away. “
Watching those zombies really got to me that night, because as you can see, all I saw were similarities. To myself. I was dead inside and craving nothing but booze, just as they were dead inside (and out) and craving nothing but flesh. I do hope I didn’t smell like they must have, but I’m sure there were some shower-less days when my scent was God awful.
I wrote the piece in a word document, just for me, because I had no plans to get sober or do anything to change my current situation. By that point, I believed there was nothing to be done except try to live with it or “die trying.” Thoughts of suicide were entering my mind more often and, worse, becoming more realistic. I had started to formulate plans. Plans that could be carried out without much effort, and most likely with success. I live in NYC, remember. Those subway cars run fast.
I wasn’t all that drunk when I wrote the post. I remember writing it. But then things start to get fuzzy: I vaguely remember watching one or two more Walking Dead episodes, drinking a couple more martinis (of course), and doing whatever I did before passing out. (I always managed to brush my teeth and take off my makeup, even though I would have no recollection of this ritual the following morning. I supposed that was the dutiful beauty editor in me.)
But that next morning was, to put it mildly, a doozy. I woke up, Andy was in the shower. I downed my morning gulps of vodka and got up to make coffee. I checked my email and had over 150 messages in my inbox (not my normal number). What the what? I saw that all of the subject lines seemed to express great concern, and a sliver of them were titled: “Comment on your post: “My Name is Susan and I’m an Alcoholic (Though I’d Prefer To Be a Flesh Eating Zombie).”
Holy. Shit. Could I? Did I? Was it possible that I picked my computer back up while I was blacked out and inserted my very private words of pain into a post? And pressed publish?
I went scrambling to my blog site, and BOOM, there it was. With pictures, links and everything. “Wow, Susan. You can still get shit done, EVEN when you’re in a blackout.” That was my first narcissistic thought, of course. And I wasn’t THAT worried yet, because no one read this blog, really. I think I had about five followers tops.
Except, why all the emails? And then, frozen in horror, I realized: I had posted it to every social media platform I was currently on, which included Facebook, Twitter, whatever incarnation Google+ was at that point, and I think even StumbleUpon.
As it turns out, I was in such bad shape at this point that my family was already making plans to try to get me into a rehab (third time’s the charm?), so my social media blast just sped up the process. I wrote the post on November 30, and on December 2nd I checked into the Caron Treatment Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.
I had no fight left in me, and I could not deny my own written words. Sure, I pleaded with my husband not send me away. I’d go to AA, I’d show him all of my hidden bottles and pour it all down the sink. I’d do this, I’d do that. But I knew I wouldn’t really do any of it, and I realized, looking into his loving, incredibly concerned eyes, that I didn’t want to die. So I agreed to go.
What a weirdly disguised blessing, no?
“That was one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard anyone do in a blackout,” one of my counselors said to me. “And rarely does ANYONE do ANYTHING smart in a blackout.”
But clearly, unlike the zombies of The Walking Dead, there was still some semblance of humanity in me, and I am grateful every day that it managed to find a way to express itself that night. It’s almost like that sane part of me used my inebriation and my writing to get the message out. That for a few minutes, it outsmarted my disease and used my vulnerable state of blacked-out liquid courage to say: SHE NEEDS HELP.
And I don’t regret it one bit. Some people tell me I should take that post down: What if someone finds it when they Google you? What if they see it while researching you for a job interview?
All valid points. But I’m not taking it down. I need it there to remind me of where I was, of how close I was to killing myself, and to perhaps help someone else who might read it and resonate with it. I still get messages from time to time from readers who don’t see the date stamp and think it’s current. Some are cries for help, some are lovely, encouraging messages of support. Which tells me that this post deserves the place it currently occupies on the interwebs.
Also, it’s the truth. And as I continue on this journey of recovery, I find that honesty is the key — it helps lift the shame so you can actually ASK for help, use it, and start working on the issues that led you down the rabbit hole to begin with.
So, despite the fact that I outed myself as an alcoholic before I truly accepted it myself (ha!), I am incredibly grateful to whatever it was inside me that got my blacked-out ass up and onto the computer that night.
It certainly wasn’t the plan, but I guess the method doesn’t matter. I asked for help, and I got it.
Read more of Susan’s column on recovery, Bottles Down.
(Photo Credit: Andy Kropa)