Robin is someone I met online at the Booze Free Brigade . She’s a sister, a soldier, a trudger and one hell of a writer. Read her story and if you relate, just know, we’re all right there with you. She can be found at her blog Life On Its Own Terms.
And by the way, Saturday? I will have one year of sobriety. If you don’t know by now from how much I fucking blab on and on about it, it’s a huge deal to me. Boom.
And now, here’s Robin:
“I have a PhD and a boob job, so I suppose it’s redundant to tell you that I’ve always felt like a misfit. I’m one of those alcoholics for whom booze is only the tip of the iceberg: I was born to be addicted. Far from accepting life on its own terms, I attacked reality with a sledgehammer and a scalpel. In the end, though, life won, as it always does, and I wasn’t undone by anything extreme but by the simplest of nature’s blessings: motherhood.
I grew up in New England, and my parents were Republicans who drank prodigiously but never sloppily and made too much money. My sisters and I spent summers in the islands, skied at Vail for Christmas, and sulked when our parents left us with nannies while they vacationed in Europe. I had just designed my debutante dress – a knockoff of Princess Diana’s wedding dress, I was nuts for her – when it all disappeared in a cloud of divorce, bankruptcy, and suicide. I finished high school while working full time to help pay the bills and then, figuring I’d done my time, disappeared into the first ivory tower that would have me.
My first addiction wasn’t sex or even love but romance, in the purest medieval sense. My boyfriends always lived somewhere else. I felt like a fraud when I tried to do what I thought I was supposed to do, dating and waiting for phone calls and wondering if I could keep a toothbrush in his bathroom. I relaxed only when off-script, meeting a boyfriend for a long weekend in London or Key West; I had the run-through-the-airport-into-his-arms routine down cold.
My husband’s and my first date began and ended in an airport; hell, I tried to have a long-distance marriage. It suffered, of course, but I thought that was the way life went (remember I was raised in a John Cheever novel) so I concentrated on important things like making sure we used cloth napkins and forcing him to go to the opera with me. I got a job as a university professor, bought the boobs I’d always wanted, Botoxed my forehead and launched my own prodigious-but-never-sloppy drinking career.
Then I discovered I wanted a child, a desire my body denied, but adopting from Russia felt comfortably exotic so we went about that. I worked at becoming a mother as hard as I’d worked at anything, ever, but as with most of my goals I had no idea what to do once I achieved it. As had happened when I woke up and found a husband in bed next to me, soon after my daughter came home I found that I was more terrified of her than of anything that had thus far kept me on the right side of drink, so drink I did.
The end came fast for me, but not fast enough to avoid damage. My marriage was drowning, the promise we felt in discovering we liked each other as parents – who knew? – evaporating like alcohol on a stovetop. Finally grounded, my passport filed and my favorite carry-on serving as a diaper bag, I chafed and bled and rattled the bars of my gilded cage, which in no time was completely soaked in alcohol. It was everywhere. Stashed in the top of my closet, the trunk of my car, pockets of my coats. One day in a blackout I apparently started a new email account under an alias and wrote dozens of emails, perfectly spelled and correct in their grammar but nonsensical. To this day I don’t know who all I wrote or why or what I said. I’ve been assured by someone who saw one that I don’t want to know.
So I went to rehab. It was as simple and as catastrophic as that. I learned that separation from my daughter felt like my heart washed up on the beach, parched and scraped and sunburned, plucked at by seagulls. In short: worse than any misery I’d ever known or imagined, particularly sharp because I didn’t expect to feel that way. Still needing to chase some semblance of success I earned my stripes with half-my-age heroin addicts – you took how many Xanax? You rock! – and I danced and fenced with every rule, gained 20 pounds, let my wrinkles come back. It’s a very odd thing to disappear for four solid months, leaving my child in my sister’s care and my husband to foot some outrageously high bills and colleagues scratching their collective heads. It’s just as odd to return to life, sober but dependent as a newborn, realizing that all of my careful machinations had left me at the mercy of nature and people to a much greater extent than if I had just bothered to learn the rules of the game in the first place.”